Tag Archives: suspense

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.

“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“.

“The Apple of My Eye” by Mary Ellen Bramwell – Author Interview

Britbear’s Book Reviews is thrilled to feature fellow Black Rose Writing author, Mary Ellen Bramwell in today’s author interview.

cropped high res coverWhen Brea Cass, a young mother, is awakened in the night by the news that her loving husband, Paul, has been shot during a robbery, she is stunned.  Arriving at the hospital to discover he has died shakes her whole world.  When she finally emerges from the fog of her life, it dawns on her that something is amiss in the way her husband died.  What was really going on?

As Brea searches for answers, she discovers things she never knew, things she’s not sure she wants to know.  Delving into the mysteries that surround her brings several questions to the forefront of Brea’s thoughts.  Can I move forward despite heartache?  Am I loved?  Is someone who has made mistakes redeemable?

I asked Mary Ellen with which of the characters in The Apple of My Eye does she most most closely identify?

The main character, Brea. She has moments of weakness, but in the end she is strong and determined to live life on her own terms.

What inspired you to write The Apple of My Eye?

I love book endings that surprise, yet make sense and put a satisfied exclamation point on the book. The idea for the beginning and ending of The Apple of My Eye came, and then it begged to be written.

“A satisfied exclamation point” is a great way to describe a satisfying book ending. How would you describe the genre of The Apple of My Eye? Is this your preferred genre in which to write?

It is a romantic suspense – emphasis on the suspense.  I like writing human dramas filled with mystery. Whether that ends up including a romance becomes apparent as the story reveals itself.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

When I was in 5th grade, my teachers offered an after school creative writing class. I joined it and wrote a story about a tiny girl who lived in a rose. I’ve been writing stories ever since.

So many authors have been writing since childhood, but that doesn’t mean it gets any easier to pen a good story. What is the hardest part of writing for you?

I struggle with slowing down enough to fill out the story. I get anxious to get to my favorite parts.

Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you to write?

They are many and of varied genres: Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice), Richard Adams (Watership Down), James Herriott (All Creatures Great and Small), Markus Zusak (The Book Thief), and the short stories of Oscar Wilde (to name a few).

What a great mix of old and new classic literature.

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

It is ultimately a book about love, hope and forgiveness, so I hope that resonates with my readers.

Writing is a creative process, but it’s also a learning process. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

That sometimes the story weaves itself. I’ve had holes I needed to fill. When inspiration finally came, the new idea wedged itself so perfectly into the text, it was as if it was there all along.

Great advice for those of us who suffer writer’s block–inspiration does, eventually, find it’s way to us. What are you working on now? What is your next project?

I’m writing a book called When I Was Seven. It is a family drama, full of mystery, as seen through the eyes of a seven-year-old boy.

Sounds interesting. One more thing: what question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?

“Who in your life is most critical to your writing?” I would answer – my husband. He has a chronic illness but can work in small spurts. So, he has taken over the running of the household to free me up to write. A close second would be my daughter. She is an excellent content editor, and takes my work from good to great.

Thank you, Mary Ellen, for your candid answers. 

Readers can check back at Britbear Book Reviews for my review of The Apple of My Eye and guest posts by Mary Ellen in the future, but in the mean time, here’s how you can learn more about Mary Ellen Bramwell and her writing:

| Website | Facebook | Amazon Author Page | Goodreads |

DSC_9671 smaller, cropMary Ellen Bramwell has been writing stories since she was ten years old.  After working in other fields and raising five children as a stay-at-home mom, Mary Ellen has returned to her first love, writing, working for magazines while completing her debut novel, The Apple of My Eye.  She resides in Northeast Ohio with her husband, Allen, and her two youngest children.  You can visit her website at www.maryellenbramwell.com.

Buy The Apple of My Eye on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and at Black Rose Writing.

“The Velvet Touch” by Kathy Marvel – Author Interview

Please join Britbear Book Reviews in welcoming Kathy Marvel, author of The Velvet Touch in today’s author spotlight.

"The Velvet Touch" by Kathy Marvel

“The Velvet Touch” by Kathy Marvel

In The Velvet Touch, Luke and Allie are a young, newly-married couple living in the suburbs of Colorado, about to start a family together and with what most would describe as a perfect life.  They are so much in love with each other and this new life they have begun, that they are clearly under the impression that nothing can tarnish this wonderful world they live in.  Unbeknownst to Luke and Allie, an intruder is about to make their perfect little world come crashing down around them.  Not only does evil touch them but in fact, it infiltrates their lives.  This evil comes in the form of Velvet – a young woman who is desperate to gain access to Luke and his life – without the burden of Allie.  Even as Luke and Allie begin to realize what is happening, they rationalize and create explanations for unexplainable occurrences simply because they cannot believe what is in fact true – someone has been in their house.  Not only has someone been in their house, but that someone, has spent hour upon hour rummaging through each and every drawer, closet, cupboard, and room.  Who is this person and what does she want?  When will she stop? Or will she?

It was my pleasure to interview Kathy about her book and her writing.

Tell us a little bit about your latest book, The Velvet Touch – release date 12/5/13.

The Velvet Touch is about a young, newly-married couple named Luke and Allie.  They are about to start a family together and have what most would describe as a perfect life.  They are clearly under the impression that nothing can tarnish this perfect world that they live in.  However, an intruder begins to infiltrate their lives and make their perfect little world come crashing down around them.  This comes in the form of Velvet – a young woman who is desperate to gain access to Luke and his life – without the burden of Allie.  Even as Luke and Allie begin to realize what is happening, they rationalize and create explanations for unexplainable occurrences simply because they cannot believe what is in fact true – someone has been in their house.  The book travels back and forth between the Allie’s perspective of what is happening and then Velvet’s perspective of what actually did happen. It is full of suspense with a little romance added to it!

Where did your idea come from – what inspired the story?

The book is inspired by real life events from my life, but as an author, I have taken great liberties in extending and making Luke and Allie’s story their own.  As a first grade teacher, you can look on my wall and find an anchor chart of “Where Writer’s Get Their Ideas.”  It is part of what I teach.  Writers write what they have experienced, memories they have had, people or places they don’t want to forget, things they want to help others understand, etc. Writers write what they know.

Tell us about the characters of Luke and Allie. How did you develop the characters?

Since Luke and Allie’s story is based on experiences from my own life, the two main characters, Luke and Allie, are very similar to my husband and me, but again, I have taken liberties as an author to make the characters their own.  Having lived through many of the experiences depicted in the story, it is my hope that the perspectives are real and insightful.

Velvet’s character was a bit more difficult for me because the way she thinks and what she does is the absolute opposite of me.  I really had to dig deep to try to see her perspective and get it written down.

I enjoyed travelling back and forth between Allie and Velvet’s perspective during the writing process.  It was kind of like writing two books at one time because the story looks a lot different depending on whose eyes you are looking at it through.

How do you decide the names for your characters? Is it a random process or a well thought one?

Names are tough because as a teacher, I have had so many students and so many different names!  This, I am sure, played into the selection of names as certain names remind me of certain students.  Overall, I had to pick sweet names (in my mind) for the Thompson family.  I loved the way Velvet’s name fit so well with the title – I was hooked on my title well before I was very far in the writing process.

How do you write, planning the complete plot beforehand or do you let the book take its course? Take us through your writing process.

Being a teacher of writing, my process very much aligns with what I teach 1st graders.  I start with some form of planning – usually for me that is an outline.  I have the characters and the plot in mind, then work on setting the scene, background information, and character traits. After that, I just need a quiet place and time!  I simply write, write, write!  It takes me quite a while to get started in subsequent writing sessions because I always read what I have written previously before I start writing again – another skill I teach my 1st graders.  Each time a reread, I made revisions and edited along they way and believe me, every time I read my story, I changed it!  If it were up to me, it still wouldn’t be done.  At some point, I just had to say, “I’m done.”

What influenced you in becoming a writer?

It started many years ago when a group of teachers, me included, decided to do a summer book study on “Teaching Writing.”  Then we thought that if we were going to be teaching writing, we should also be writing and shifted our focus to “Teachers as the Writers.”  That is when I truly started writing – because I had to, but… I ended up loving it!  Added to that, we had a local illustrator, Mark Ludy, come to one of our meetings and his excitement lit a fire in me – just to get going and do it!  So I did.

Are there any books that have influenced your writing?

The Right to Write – Julia Cameron – taught me that it is OK to take time for myself and do what I love.

Bird by Bird – Ann Lamott – reminds me of perseverance.  It’s easy to be a writer. The hard part is for others to see you as a writer and to actually get published!

I don’t really have any favorite authors but love reading so love all authors in general.  A good book to me means that I can’t put it down and I feel like I am in the story.  I love a book that can make me laugh or make me cry!  That is a well written book in my eyes!

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Just start!  One sentence a day makes 365 sentences – that could be an entire children’s book or a chapter in a novel. Go for it!

Tell us about your other works.

The Seven-Year Bitch And A Little Perspective – 2007:

The Seven-Year Bitch And A Little Perspective takes the reader through the griping that commonly occurs among girlfriends when they have the opportunity to get together.  More often than not, husbands are the focus of such griping.  As women, we all love our husbands dearly, yet we gripe.  The Seven-Year Bitch And A Little Perspective validates women in the minor irritations that they may feel from day to day in their journey through marriage while at the same time, brings a renewed appreciation of their partner.

I wrote The Seven-Year Bitch in the midst of writing The Velvet Touch.  It was an entertaining distraction mid-way through the process of completing the novel.  It is a quick, fun, perspective building, gift book.

Tell us about yourself. What do you do when you are not writing?

I live in Colorado with my husband and two sons.  I am a first grade teacher and have taught for the past twenty years.  I spend my free time writing, reading, running, camping, and watching the many sporting events that my sons are involved in.  I am hopeful that my passion for writing is contagious and is passed on to my own kids as well as every child that comes through my classroom doors.

What are your upcoming works?

I have so many ideas floating around my head on any given day at any given moment – just ask my husband.  He thinks my brain never shuts off.  I think about doing a sequel and/or prequel to The Velvet Touch. I also love teaching – the kids make me laugh every day, so it would be fun to write about some of the fun things teachers get to see each day.  On the other hand, I love romance, so I would love to write a romance novel – I have two characters in mind as well as a partial plot.  I just need to make up my mind at get started!

Here’s where you can read more about Kathy and her writing:

| Website | Facebook | Linkedin |Amazon Author Page | Smashwords | Goodreads |

|Bookbzz.com |Author’s Den |

Author Kathy Marvel

Author Kathy Marvel

Kathy Marvel lives in Colorado with her husband and two sons.  She is a first grade teacher and has taught for the past twenty years.  She spends her free time writing, running, camping, and watching the many sporting events that her sons are involved in.  She is hopeful that her passion for writing is contagious and is passed on to her own kids as well as every child that comes through her classroom doors.



“The Vineyard” – “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” for Adults

The Vineyard by Michael C. Hurley

The Vineyard by Michael C. Hurley

In The Vineyard by Michael C. Hurley, Charlotte regrets never having her deceased daughter baptized. Though she’s petitioned to have it done posthumously,  the Church refuses. She hopes that by committing suicide she will wind up in the same place as her daughter. While visiting old friend, Dory, at her home in Martha’s Vineyard, Charlotte plans to take her daughter’s urn and walk out into the water to drown. She is saved by the mysterious Fisherman shrimp poacher. Dory later has another encounter with the Fisherman when he correctly diagnoses her cancer, of which she is later miraculously cured. Friend Turner has a lackluster blog, but her posts go viral when she starts writing about the enigmatic Fisherman and his lifesaving abilities.

The Vineyard‘s plot is disjointed and winding, but not in a bad way. It reminds me of 1985’s “After Hours” or 2008’s “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist”, where a series of unrelated events eventually converge at the climax. Throughout most of The Vineyard, the only connection between stories is the relationship between the characters. Just when I think Hurley is going to tell me more about Charlotte, he switches to Dory, then to Turner, then back to Charlotte. The story is propelled forward due to Hurley’s excellent writing style which tends toward the literary. Though the climax seems forced and the denouement quite long, the ending is worth the wait.

Michael C. Hurley’s The Vineyard questions the meaning of faith, religion, and belief in a contemporary setting, and suggests that, in a world plagued by famine, war, and global warming, miracles and saviours may still exist, if we are willing to re-shape our traditional definitions of the two.

Mamabear gives this book


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