Category Archives: suspense

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.

Excerpt from “Breathe” by Christine Grey

Breathe-Final Cover (1)

About Breathe by Christine Grey (from

Dearra comes into possession of the magical Sword of Cyrus just as the evil Breken attack her island home. Though her people succeed in driving their enemy back to the sea, one of the invaders remains behind, left for dead by his cruel kin. Now, Dearra doesn’t know what to be more surprised by, the fact that her sword can speak to her, or that it has imperiously informed her that the handsome Breken warrior is her destiny. The two are bound together by a chain of events that was set into motion a thousand years earlier, and everything they thought they knew about themselves, their history, and their future is about to change.

Buy Breathe on Amazon.

Excerpt from Breathe

Dearra bolted upright at the voice that seemed to come from all around her and inside her head at the same time.

“Who is it? Who’s there?” She meant to speak with authoritative calm, but the words came out in a pitiful squeak.

You really aren’t very bright, are you? came the response, the voice flowing around her and through her.

She leapt from the bed, dropped to the floor, and looked beneath it.

Not even warm, taunted the voice.

Dearra sprang to the window and tore aside the heavy drapery…nothing.

It will come to you. I know you can do this. Connect the dots, girl.

Dearra’s gaze drifted back to her bed and the sword that waited for her on top of the soft coverlet. But it couldn’t be, could it? It was impossible, wasn’t it? Dearra took a small, tentative step back toward the sword. What else could it be? She took another step.

Ah, success! There may be hope for you after all, girl.

Coming to a stop at the bedside, Dearra let her weak knees have their way, and she sank to the floor in shock.

“How are you…? I mean…what are you…? I mean…Wow! You can talk!” The words tumbled from her in a confused jumble.

Yes, yes, very good, girl. You’ve not only managed to grasp the obvious, but you almost succeeded in completing a coherent sentence. Very, very impressive. I can see we’re going to get on famously.

It was impressive, when you considered it, Dearra thought, that without facial expression to assist, one could convey that level of sarcasm.

Thank you; I try.

“Have you always been able to talk?”

Certainly. I am incredibly intelligent, even for my kind.

Your kind? Are there other swords like you?”

Of course not; I am quite unique. And as to ‘my kind’, well, that is a story for another day, if I decide I can tolerate you well enough to share that kind of personal information with you.

Dearra sniffed lightly. “Not too full of yourself, are you?”

The sword paused, as if considering the question seriously before responding. No, I should think I am full of myself just the right amount.

Dearra wrapped her arms around herself as a fit of giggles shook her from head to toe. She slowly regained control, as the events of only an hour ago came flooding back, and a frown creased her brow.

The deep sadness was about to take hold again when the sword spoke brusquely. Now, now, none of that. We have much to discuss and much to do, and curling yourself back into a useless ball on the bed won’t get us anywhere. Unless, of course, you wish to reconsider the whole notion of death by cliff. That would certainly save me a fair bit of trouble.

Dearra scowled at the sword and snapped, “No, I have myself quite under control now, thank you.”

Good. Now, what else would you like to know before we save Darius?

“Well, I guess I would like to know…Wait—who’s Darius?”

Excellent, girl! You grasped that one much more quickly. You’re improving.

Exasperation dripping from Dearra’s tongue as she fought to control her simmering temper, she said, “Could you please just answer the question?”

Darius is the Breken warrior I saved from you earlier today. The one that little man so thoughtlessly clubbed on the head.

Dearra was stunned. “Wait! He lives?” she said.

Wouldn’t make much sense to save him if he were already dead, would it?

Dearra was overwhelmed. The image of the handsome Breken warrior shimmered in her mind. Questions came in a steady stream and her pulse quickened. How had he managed to survive such a vicious blow to the head? How did the sword know he was alive, and why was it so important she save him?

Are you quite finished?

It was amazing how quickly Dearra had gotten used to someone responding to the thoughts she hadn’t spoken out loud. Strangely, it felt like remembering a skill she had been born with and forgotten from lack of use.

Firstly, I have no idea. The Breken have hard heads, what can I say? Secondly, I know a lot of things you don’t and do not feel the need to share the whys and hows of it with you, and lastly, because we need him to get back that little brother of yours so you won’t spend the rest of your life in a useless catatonic state. Oh, and he’s your destiny, which I suppose you may find an interesting piece of trivia, though hardly useful.

Dearra nearly choked. “My what?”

He’s not going to be your anything if we don’t get moving. They’re about to find him. You may want to hurry things along a bit, girl.

Scooping the sword from the bed, Dearra raced from her room and down the winding staircase, past the shocked faces of Daniel and Hugh, and out into the courtyard.

Not knowing what else to do, the men followed behind her. The look they shared clearly conveyed their fear that Dearra had lost her mind, perhaps as a side effect to the terrible loss of Pip. They were not really trying to catch her, just follow her to make sure she wouldn’t hurt herself in her mad dash to Cyrus only new where.

Coming to a skidding halt at the gate, she asked out loud, “Where now? I can’t remember where I was.”

Take the path east out of the castle, cross the stream, and you should hear them. Hurry, girl!

As she sprinted over the bridge, familiar voices came to her. The hatred and anger in their tone made her feet slow to a gentle trot so she could make out what they were saying more clearly.

“Run him through!”

“He’s half dead already.”

“Evil spawn doesn’t deserve to live.”

Dearra felt shock cross her features as she came around the small clump of bushes that had hidden the scene from view. This was not the behavior she expected from the people of Maj. Certainly, they had a right to be angry; their home had been invaded, their lives put in jeopardy, friends and family injured, and dear Pip had been taken from them. This last thought sent a shiver through her. But to speak with such bitter hatred and eager anticipation of the death of another, even a Breken, made Dearra’s blood run cold. Then she saw him and it all clicked together.

Jacob stood back and a little away from the others, but there was no doubt in her mind as to who had stirred the people into this angry mob. Jacob was not born to the isle but had joined them three seasons ago. He seemed a quiet and unassuming addition to their group, but wherever trouble was, so too would be Jacob, usually whispering in someone’s ear. Her father tolerated Jacob, hoping that, eventually, the people of Maj would rub off on him, making him into a useful and productive part of the community. Dearra had her doubts as to their potential for success, but it seemed important to her father so she held her tongue.

Sitting part way up, his back propped against a large stone, Darius held his sword out in front of him. It was a futile gesture; his arm shook so badly from the effort it took simply to hold the sword, there would be no force behind any swing he could manage. His black hair was matted from the head wound he had received from Daniel, and the blood that had run so freely had dried to form a gruesome mask covering the left side of his face. Dearra’s eyes met his for just a moment, but it was long enough to see recognition flitter across his features.

“What’s going on here?” she said evenly, meeting each pair of eyes that looked to her own.

Hugh and Daniel walked around the same cluster of bushes Dearra had passed and moved to stand behind her.

“I said, what’s going on here?” her tone became sharper.

Several of the people dropped their heads. Shame washed over them as they realized what they had been about to do.

Jacob stepped forward, and with no hint of remorse in his voice as he addressed Dearra, said, “We were about to exterminate a pest, Dearra. You’ve been through enough today. Return to the castle, and let us deal with this unpleasant business.”

“No,” she stated simply.

Oh, that’s wonderful, girl. I am sure everything will be fine now.

“You be quiet,” she mumbled. “I can handle this.”

Concerned glances flitted about the assembled group at what appeared to be Dearra speaking to herself. But one set of eyes widened almost imperceptibly as Darius, from his prone position, looked first at Dearra and then to the sword she held.

“I don’t understand, Dearra,” Jacob said, speaking as if to a half-wit. “No? You wish to kill him yourself, then?”

“There has been enough pain today, Jacob. Are you so eager to bloody your hands against this defenseless man? Besides, he may prove useful in restoring my brother to us.”

Very nice, what an excellent notion, girl. Did you think of that all by yourself?

I’m trying to diffuse the situation, Dearra thought. Be still, and let me try to fix this. That is what you wanted isn’t it?

Humph, came the reply.

“Be reasonable, Dearra,” Jacob whined like a child who was not getting his way. “He’s dangerous. Let us put an end to him quickly. It will be more merciful than his kind would be for any of us.”

Hugh stepped forward and put his hand upon Dearra’s shoulder, silencing the sharp retort he knew was coming. “Dearra speaks wisely. This Breken may indeed prove useful in returning Phillip to us. In any case, I will not make a decision that could affect us all in haste. Take him to the keep and lock him in the lower store room. The apples have not yet been harvested; use that room. Bar the door, and put two guards outside.”

Disarming him with ease, they picked the young man roughly from the ground, and half dragged, half carried him toward the castle. Dearra trailed a short way behind to make sure they did not get too enthusiastic in their efforts to hurry him along.

Darius’s eyes were everywhere at once. He surveyed his surroundings anxiously, trying to commit to memory any opportunity for escape. What he could do to escape an island, with no boat, and no one looking for him, was a detail he ignored for the moment. At that instant, he was simply grateful to be breathing; he would work the rest out later.

They took him to a room one level below the main keep. It was cool and dry and held the faintest aroma of fruit. He leaned against the dirt wall and slid less than gracefully to the smooth, plank floor. Empty baskets of varying sizes were strewn about in haphazard stacks, waiting to be needed again.

Dearra took one last, long, lingering look, and then firmly shut the door. Jacob volunteered to be one of the guards, and since she could think of no reason to object, she let him have his way. She was comforted, however, when the much milder tempered Bryan stepped forward as the second volunteer.

Dearra’s footsteps echoed through the deserted corridors as she made her way back to her personal chamber. Her thoughts were a twisted mass as she relived, over and over, the moment she saw her brother on the Breken ship, his innocent face pale, and his eyes wide in fear. The cold black, eyes of his captor were too far away to really be visible, yet she knew they had been filled with triumph at his victory over the people of Maj. Then her mind remembered the eyes of another, golden brown, holding her captive and refusing to let her look away, and she shook her head trying to rid herself of the image. Dearra swept up the stairs into her room and dropped the sword onto her bed, unceremoniously. She scanned her room until she found what she was looking for, and made her way to the jumbled pile of objects near the fireplace.

Where do you think you’re going?

“To my father and Daniel, and then back to our strange…um…guest. His wound needs attention,” Dearra explained. She pushed aside a pair of mud-caked pants and a torn vest she kept meaning to repair, and scooped up the bag in which she kept her supply of healing medicines, assorted bandages, and basic medical instruments.

Fine. Leave me here, then. Abandon me. I’ll just wait until you are content to give me your attention once more.

“Yeah,” Dearra responded, distracted. “That would be great, thanks.” Turning back toward the bed, she asked, “Hey, what’s your name?” almost casually.

My name, girl, is ancient. I am descended from… well, never mind that. My name is a thing of power and awe. I am called Brin’du Drak’Tir, the sword said brimming with pride.

Dearra absorbed the name, briefly, finding it cumbersome and awkward in her mouth. “Ok, I’ll just call you Brin,” she responded, pleased with her solution to the problem of the funny name.

Decidedly offended, taken aback that anyone could be so casual about a thing of such monumental importance, the sword shot back, Fine! And I shall call you Big Fuzzy Animal with Antlers.

“Yeah, yeah. Deal,” Dearra said, as she whisked from the room.


Forgetting her plans to speak to her father and Daniel first, Dearra flew through the halls and down the short set of stairs leading to the storerooms. Heart pounding, she came to a stop in front of Bryan and Jacob. They looked at Dearra, and then at one another in confusion.

“Well? What are you waiting for?” Dearra demanded. “Open the door!”

“But, Dearra,” Bryan stammered, clearly at a loss for words.

“Absolutely not!” Jacob stated. “Lord Hugh ordered us to keep watch over the prisoner!”

“So? Keep watch. No one’s stopping you.” Dearra took a step forward and placed a hand on the heavy board barring the door. As she braced herself to lift the board up and out of her way, Jacob’s hand clamped down on her upper arm.

“I said, no, Dearra.”

“Let go of me immediately.” Dearra’s voice was calm and cool, but a bolt of panic swept through her as the grip tightened painfully around her arm. Her temper flared to life. She saw Bryan take a step back, recognizing the golden flames that sprang to life in Dearra’s eyes. Bryan had always been a friend to Dearra, and the look of fear on his face unsettled her where nothing else would have. Though the pain in her arm increased along with the pressure of Jacob’s grip, Dearra took a slow deep breath before speaking in as calm a voice as she could muster under the circumstances, “You’re hurting me.” Dearra’s voice shook with the effort it was costing her to remain in control, but only slightly so.

Bryan’s eyes popped wide open, and his jaw dropped as far as it could go as he stared at the scene in front of him in disbelief.

Two sounds came to Dearra almost simultaneously, one in her head, the other clearly coming from the other side of the door. The first was easily recognizable.

I’ll bet you wish I was there now, don’t you, Fuzzy? Her sword spoke in an ‘I told you so’ manner that grated on her nerves. And that nickname was going to wear quickly thin.

Who knew the blasted thing could hear her thoughts even when it wasn’t with her?

The second sound was indistinguishable at first, but as it grew in intensity, there could be no doubt the prisoner behind the heavy door was…no, he couldn’t be…but he was. Dearra could clearly hear that the fierce Breken warrior was…growling a low, throaty sound. Jacob hastily loosened his hold, though he did not let go completely.

Things could have gone badly had Daniel not chosen that exact moment to make an appearance at the base of the stairs.

Daniel spoke, and the fierce growl coming from behind the door ceased abruptly.

“Is everything alright here, Dearra?” Daniel’s eyes (and ears for that matter), had assessed the situation rapidly, and if he were to be honest with himself, he had to say that, in this circumstance, he was completely with the Breken.

Jacob took a wise step away from Dearra before speaking again. “Of course, Daniel.” A simpering smile appeared on Jacob’s face as he continued. “Dearra was…confused. She thought to enter the room with the Breken dog, and so, naturally, I had to protect her.”

“Protect her from what, exactly? One injured man against Dearra with the two of you standing guard just feet away? Open the door, Jacob,” Daniel said, daring Jacob to contradict his instructions, “and when you’ve finished with that, please fetch Serah to take your place at watch. You’ve clearly had a busy day and are deserving of some rest.”

“You want Serah, Daniel? Wouldn’t one of the men be better suited to…?”

Daniel raised one brow at the now tongue tied Jacob, who went at once to remove the board barring the way to the prisoner, then turned and left without another word.

“I’ll be right here for you, Dearra. Until Serah arrives.”

“Thank you, Daniel.” Dearra reached out, patted Daniel’s arm in gratitude, and walked into the storeroom turned cell.

A scowl grew on Dearra’s face as she saw no blankets, nor food, nor even water, for that matter, had been brought to the prisoner. She quickly stuck her head back through the door and instructed Bryan to bring some of each to her immediately. Having witnessed Daniel’s ire with Jacob, Bryan didn’t need to be told twice, and was gone almost before Dearra was done speaking. Dearra closed the door before turning back to her patient and lowered herself beside him on the wooden floor. He was large, of course, but seemed smaller than many of the Breken she had seen earlier that day. He was, maybe, only six and a half feet tall. His skin was the beautiful, copper color she remembered from their earlier encounter, though it was harder to see now, with only one small torch lighting the room. His thick, black hair looked even blacker, if that was possible, with the blood matted and dried in the strands. And then there were his eyes, made even more glorious by the flickering light of the torch, that deep, rich brown with flashes of gold. They looked right into Dearra, and her breath quickened, and she had to look away. She busied herself opening her bag, and laying out all of the contents before her to better evaluate what she would need. The young Breken watched her intently as she worked; she could feel his eyes on her as she arranged and rearranged bandages, unguents and salves in a neat row.

Bryan returned with the water, two blankets, and some fresh bread and soft cheese. Dearra handed the young warrior a chunk of bread and some of the chilled water, and dipped a soft cloth in the bowl of steaming water Bryan had brought in anticipation of her needs. He shied away as she reached to begin cleaning his head wound, but then held himself still as she worked. Dearra noticed the pained look on his face and paused.

“What is it?” she asked hesitantly. “Am I hurting you? You can tell me if I am. Please, you look so…strange.”

He didn’t speak, but raised a hand, ever so slowly, and traced the bruise just beginning to show on her upper arm.

Dearra froze at his touch and the jolt running down her arm as his fingers brushed, feather light over the red bloom making itself evident on her pale skin.

“Why?” he asked softly, the deep timbre to his voice strong and menacing in the small room.

“Well…” Dearra spoke the word and had to swallow to begin again, the feel of his hand on her arm making her mouth go suddenly dry. “I have always bruised easily. It’s a terrible nuisance, but I’ve gotten used to it.”

“That’s not what I meant,” he said, and though his hand had dropped back to his side, his eyes never left the mark marring her porcelain skin. “I meant, why did you do it? Why did you challenge him just to come in here?”

“Oh! Well, you needed attention. Your wounds aren’t going to clean themselves, you know.” She was relieved to have such a simple answer to give, though he seemed genuinely startled by her response.

Dearra dipped the cloth in the water again and continued to do what she could to clean the nasty lump at the back of the Breken’s head. She leaned in close in the dim light, to get a closer look, probing as gently as she could to make sure the injury wasn’t more serious than it seemed.

The silence of the room enveloped her, and she couldn’t, at first, identify what had changed. She looked down at the Breken sitting placidly before her, and realized that, in her effort to get a better view, she had provided the Breken with a view of his own—her chest was directly in front of his face. His jaw was clenched tightly, and his eyes stared straight ahead, as though he were completely unaware of what was right before him, but Dearra noticed that the silence she had sensed had been due to the fact that the fierce warrior was no longer breathing in his efforts to remain completely still. She eased back from him and returned to her bag of supplies pretending to not have noticed the awkward moment, but she couldn’t stop the grin that spread across her face when she heard him exhale loudly behind her.

She finished with her task, and after gently covering him in one of the blankets, turned to leave.


Dearra turned back to face him as he spoke. “Yes?”

“Thank you…Dearra.”

His voice was rough and the words were spoken haltingly as if they words he was not used to speaking. She had not introduced herself, but it was not surprising that he knew her name, as at least a dozen people must have used it around him today. Still, it was presumptuous of him to speak to her with such familiarity without her consent.

A small smile lit her face and she said, “You are truly welcome…Darius.”

His eyes flew open wide, as he knew he had definitely not given his name to anyone.

Dearra left the room with a grin on her face. Let him ponder that for a while, she thought.

About the author:

BookChristine Grey lives in Wisconsin with her husband, Dan, and their seven children, three dogs, and two cats. With a family like that, she knows how important it is to escape from reality from time to time! She and her husband have grown their family through foster care adoption and are advocates for helping children find the permanency and support they all deserve. When she isn’t busy chasing children, running a household, or savoring a hot cup of tea, Christine spends her free time creating worlds of magic, romance, and humor.

Here’s how readers can learn more about Christine and her work.

| Facebook | Amazon Author Page | Email | 

ROGERS PARK – Reluctant Anti-hero Saves Himself

rp_rogers-park-cover-201x300.jpgAn absent father. A murder. A witness. A romance. These are the events that define AP English teacher Brian Casey’s life. After having a bag of trash dropped on his head in a Rogers Park alley, Brian meets Rachel and her grandmother. Brian and Rachel strike up a romance and all seems well, but Brian is battling a pill addiction. When he wonders, high, onto the pier and witnesses a murder, Brian’s life is turned upside down.

Mark Pople‘s Rogers Park had me from the first page. The story is quick-paced with plenty of twists that kept me questioning the connections until the very end. Pople’s characters are complex and believable, as is his dialogue, which keeps the reader turning pages. Brian Casey, Pople’s antagonist, starts out a mild-mannered school teacher and transforms into a reluctant anti-hero, saving the lives of those around him out of necessity, rather than out of a sense of nobility. In a world of millennials and Gen Xers fraught with self-absorption, Casey is forced from his comfort zone through circumstance of events. Is it wrong to say that part of the enjoyment while reading was watching him squirm in discomfort at his situation?

Rogers Park is one of the best books I’ve read this year. With a tone leaning toward the literary, realistic characters, and a fast-moving plot, Pople has constructed a contemporary story about overcoming regret and loss in modern-day Chicago, that won’t disappoint.

Mamabear gives this book:


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

The Simulations – What if?

thesimulationsbyjohnforellicoverJohn Forelli’s The Simulations opens with Ray’s interview for a new job running computer event forecasting simulations. He gets the job, but it’s not very interesting. He’d much rather spend the time with new found friend, Bob in the server room, where Bob plays The Sims, surrounded by bikini-clad beauties frolicking in a penis-shaped pool. When Ray develops a fascination with engaged receptionist Delilah, he and Bob begin running increasingly complicated computer simulations with the hope of helping Ray figure out how to woo Delilah away from her fiancé.

The Simulations is a veritable Groundhog Day of events, as Ray lives and relives his first encounter with Delilah, hoping to find the magic bullet, that specific series of words, phrases, or conversational topics, that will allow him to worm his way into her heart. Ray and Bob are stereotypical slackers, looking for any excuse not to work. Bob is a crass, Cheeto-eating loser, not your typical sympathetic protagonists. Rather the two are more like millennial anti-heroes, which is enough to make tail-end boomers like me cringe. What saves them is Forelli’s narrative. Reminiscent of Charles Yu’s voice in How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, Forelli’s voice is ironic, mostly via sarcasm, which imbues the story with humourous insight and keeps the reader turning pages.

If I had one wish for The Simulations, it would be a good copy edit. The story, characters and dialogue kept me reading, but an old stalwart grammar stickler like me kept on getting hung up on the punctuation and capitalization. I recommend The Simulations, a fun and easy read that will leave you questioning “what if?” at the end.

Mamabear gives this book


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

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“.

Interview with author Rodney Page

Britbear’s Book Reviews is pleased to interview Rodney Page, author of Powers Not Delegated and the upcoming Xerces Factor in today’s author spotlight.

The Xerces Factor FRONT - FINAL - JPEGIn The Xerces Factor…

After several months author Charles Arrington had recovered, but recovery was a relative term; he had lost an eye and his right arm when the bomb exploded in his car. However, he would never overcome the loss of his wife, Myra.

Cassandra Martingale, Charles’s long time live-in personal secretary and housekeeper, is determined that Charles will write again and she transforms herself into a taskmaster. Her rehabilitation and physical therapy regimens are a constant source of irritation, but Charles recovers.

He and his best friend, FBI Assistant Director Jack Flannigan, are puzzled when they discover that Charles’s computer had been hacked by someone inside the federal government, someone very interested in the research for his next book, The Thieves in the Pentagon…Corruption that Threatens Our National Security.

Charles concludes that his book was the reason for Myra’s death. He wrestles with his guilt but recommits himself to discovering his wife’s murderer. Marti Foster, the irreverent twenty-something hacker that Charles hires, brings a refreshing and invigorating presence to the household.

Charles enlists the aid of Irving Witzel, an old friend and civil libertarian, to utilize his vast experience as Washington’s premier authority on the Freedom of Information Act. However, Witzel’s efforts to discover the truth are stymied by the administration’s novel strategy…supplying too much information.

Langston Culpepper, a corrupt procurement officer at the Pentagon, is not content with the millions of dollars already defrauded from the taxpayers. His obsessive greed drives him to try to force Barbara Connor, the CEO of a major defense contractor and his lover, to help him do something far more far more sinister than mere theft…he wants to sell America’s most highly classified technology to a foreign power.

President Marshall Norris and a small but loyal group of fellow pacifists stop at nothing to insure that no one discovers their secret plan to share the new Xerces anti-missile defense system with the nations of the world, allies and belligerents alike. The zealots’ naïve intentions degenerate into an out-of-control spiral of lawlessness and cover-ups to hold on to political power.

Charles’s physical condition improves, but he struggles through periodic fits of depression. The quest to find Myra’s killer seems too much to bear. But with Jack Flannigan’s sometimes tough love and the support of a new romantic interest, Charles perseveres.

After Charles writes a scathing expose’ in the Washington Post he and Jack are forced to flee Washington. At the president’s direction Attorney-General Michael Shadburn fabricates bogus felony charges against the two men and dispatches a contract para-military force to apprehend them…dead or alive. However, FBI Director Ted Grambling intervenes, and the hunters become the hunted. The chase ends in Houston, and the president’s scheme begins to unravel.

Haunted by memories of combat in Vietnam, the president’s ardently anti-war chief-of-staff, Frank Marlowe, finally recognizes the president for what he is…a power-mad politician, not the last best hope for sustainable world peace. In an Oval Office speech written by Marlowe the distracted president inadvertently reveals his unconstitutional intentions to a worldwide audience.

The young Chinese-American engineer, Alan Wah, either delivers the super-secret source code for the Xerces guidance system or his family will die. The FBI’s carefully conceived plan to protect the engineer’s life and capture his handler goes awry on the Texas plains between Houston and San Antonio.

Charles discovers who murdered his wife, but it is not who he suspected.

Welcome, Rodney. On your Amazon page, it says you write in the genres of mystery and thrillers. What draws you to these genres?

Good question. When I decided to write my first novel, Powers Not Delegated, I took heed of the classic conventional wisdom: write what you know about. I love history and am a current events junky so it made sense to start there. Also, I’m an avid reader of the genre and infatuated with intricate plot twists and turns.

Does your forty years of business experience figure into your stories? If yes, then how. If no, then why not?

Yes they do, in a couple of ways…

First, in terms of writing style, During my business career I wrote countless business-related documents…business and strategic plans, valuation analyses, operations reports…even a business column for a newspaper and a non-fiction business book. All had several common characteristics: brevity, clarity and succinctness. Though admirable skills, they don’t lend themselves to fiction where character, location and event descriptions are vital to producing engaging narratives. When editing, I, of course, remove a lot of junk and unnecessary words. But I also find myself adding descriptions that make for the richness necessary in a novel.

Second, the years of analytical thinking assist greatly in developing plot lines and characters. I’m a stickler for accuracy and plausibility. Readers want to be entertained, but they also want a book to make sense. Untied loose ends, unexplained character behaviors and nonsensical coincidences detract from the sense of reality I strive to convey.

How did The Xerces Factor project come about?

It was an intentional effort to write a thriller, not a political thriller. It is set in Washington and utilizes espionage, crooked politicians and corruption subplots. However, I wanted to focus more on the characters…how they are personally impacted by the plot rather than vice versa; particularly how the major protagonist deals with his wife’s murder.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

As quaint as it may be: the good guys triumph in the end. Overcoming life’s challenges is a classic and timeless story line. The road is rocky and there are ups and downs, but perseverance, courage and a sense of humor will see you through.

Good vs. evil is a well-known literary archetype. It’s good to know that good can still win once in a while. 

What is your most favourite part of the publishing/writing process? Your least favourite?

Of course, the favorite is writing. The least favorite: editing because it can become an endless process. With each read-through I find things that can be improved. And I am tormented when I send the ‘final’ manuscript to the publisher… knowing a word change here or a rephrasing there would make it better.

At some point we all have to nudge our baby birds from the nest.

What is your favourite motivational phrase and why?

‘It ain’t over till it’s over’…as referenced in #6 above and as I’ve personally experienced, if you ‘hang in there’ a positive outcome is more than likely.

What are your current projects?

Perhaps not an approach I’d recommend for others, but I enjoy working on several projects simultaneously.

Close to completion is The Fourth Partner, a mystery intentionally not set in DC. It features an eccentric detective who solves a cold murder case in coastal Georgia.

Murcheson County is a historical novel that chronicles three families’ (plantation aristocrats, yeoman farmers, slaves) trials, tribulations and interactions in Georgia from 1807 through the Civil War.

Lastly, a yet untitled book about a murder in a mid-size Georgia city in 1962. Though a mystery, the book dwells on the attitudes of the time. Some characters are stereotypical as one would expect in a novel set in the segregated South, but many are not. A very challenging project!

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

Question: Why should I read The Xerces Factor?

Answer: The book is fast-based and plausible. The characters are real, not stereotypical heroes and villains; they’re fallible. Their imperfections, strengths and weaknesses and human reactions to the what engulfs them induce the reader to ask, “What would I do under similar circumstances?”

Thanks, Rodney. I’m looking forward to reading your work. Where can we learn more about you and you writing?

| Blog | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Amazon Author Page | Goodreads |


Full RP shot (1)About Rodney Page…

A Georgia native, Rodney’s business career included a variety of senior management positions and consulting engagements in companies and industries ranging from startups to Fortune 50 firms.

A graduate of the Grady College of Journalism at the University of Georgia, in 2005 Rodney authored Leading Your Business to the Next Level…the Six Core Disciplines of Sustained Profitable Growth, a hands-on guide for companies navigating the perils and pitfalls of a high growth environment.

An avid student of history and political junky, Rodney combined those interests with his lifelong desire to write a novel. His first, Powers Not Delegated, was published in 2012

Rodney’s second novel, The Xerces Factor, will be released in April, 2015. He meshes his knowledge of history and current events to pin a relevant and plausible tale of intrigue inside the Beltway.

Rodney lives in Hendersonville, North Carolina. His passions include hiking, photography, history, reading, and, of course, University of Georgia football.

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.