audioblurb · must-read · mystery · series

AudioBook Review – Secrets and Lies … plus Giveaway!

Audiobook Blog Tour: Secrets & Lies by Andrew Cunningham

Author: Andrew Cunningham

Narrator: Greg Hernandez

Length: 5 hours 46 minutes

Series: Lies Mystery Thriller Series, Book 4

Publisher: Andrew Cunningham

Released: Nov. 15, 2019

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

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Synopsis

Horrific plane crash, murderous deception, and a deadly chase in the alligator-infested Florida Everglades!

On the afternoon of May 11, 1996, ValuJet 592 plunged into the Florida Everglades. There were no survivors. But something came through the crash unscathed: a small box with huge implications for humankind. And the one man unlucky enough to discover its whereabouts disappeared without a trace.

Now, 20 years later, the mystery of Flight 592 hits close to home for Del Honeycutt and best-selling mystery author Sabrina Spencer. A shocking revelation launches them into the middle of a dark conspiracy, and locating the box becomes a matter of life or death. They are not alone in the hunt for the mysterious package and very quickly learn that others will stop at nothing to find it, eliminating anyone who stands in their way.

With killers hot on their trail, Del and Sabrina must navigate dangers lurking both above and below the swamp waters of the Everglades in order to find the box…and to survive.

I’m the author of novels in several genres, including, mystery, thriller, and post-apocalyptic science fiction. Under the name A.R. Cunningham, I’ve also written the Arthur MacArthur series of mysteries for children.

I was born in England, but have spent most of my life living in the U.S.—including 25 years on Cape Cod before moving to Florida. A former interpreter for the deaf and long-time independent bookseller, I’ve been a full-time freelance writer and copy editor for many years. A 4th-degree Master Black belt in Tang Soo Do, I finally retired from active training when my body said, “Enough already! Why are you doing this to yourself?” I’m married, with two grown children and two awesome grandsons. My wife and I spend as much time traveling as we can, and are especially fond of cruising the Caribbean.

​I have been gratified by the response to my books. When I published Eden Rising back in the spring of 2013, I had no idea what to expect. When I sold my first few copies, I was excited beyond belief that someone was willing to take a chance on it. Numerous books and thousands of copies later, I am still humbled by the emails I get from readers telling me that my books kept them up late into the night.

In October of 2014, Wisdom Spring made me an official Amazon Bestselling author, a thrill I never thought would happen. But it still comes down to being able to bring a few hours of escape to a reader. That’s what it’s all about for me.

I hope you will try my books. Please feel free to email me with your comments.

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Narrator Bio

Author-preferred Narrator of Mysteries & Thrillers

Narrating audiobooks is highly gratifying. I immerse myself into an author’s story in order to bring it to life for the listener. I’ve enjoyed working with Andrew Cunningham for several years. His books are filled with rich characters, and the stories keep me turning the pages.

I also work as a background actor in movies and TV shows.

For more than 20 years, I worked as a radio news reporter and news writer. I spent half of my broadcasting career at ABC News Radio in the Washington, D.C., bureau. I covered all the federal agencies as well as Congress and the White House. I reported on a wide range of stories during my career, including financial and entertainment industry news.

For nearly 24 years, I worked as a federal government spokesman at three separate agencies—National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Mint and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

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5/5 stars

I listened to this story with a sense of glee at being reunited with Del and Sabrina again. It was like meeting up with old friends … but by the end I was happy to be the listener, and very glad not be to shot at!

Secrets and Lies is Seymour’s story. Until now, he’s been the grump in the downstairs apartment with a close bond only with Mo, a fact which bemuses and baffles Del as he’s never even see the two of them together.

Well, now the reason for that bond is revealed, as is Seymour’s true identity. Believe me when I say he’s one dark horse, and very handy with a shotgun. When two guys come to the apartment intent on killing him, it is Seymour who is victorious. His handiwork leaves the two men dead, and Seymour’s secret past can stay hidden no more.

Without giving away the plot, the four residents head for Florida’s Everglades, where twenty years earlier “Seymour” was in the wrong place at the wrong time when a plane crash left no human survivors. But, a box on that flight was recovered …and hidden. Now, “Seymour” wants to collect the box before more loons connected to those who came to kill him at the apartment get their hands on it.

This is a fast-paced story, with so many secrets and lies (great title, eh?) coming out of the woodwork, all leading back to “Seymour’s” old life. The revelations come in droves – his past life was certainly way more colourful than the life he’s been leading since. There’s little – if anything – to compare selling things on eBay to the race for the mystery box and its contents.

This seemed to be a fitting story to connect each of the four characters; they’ve all had major story-lines as individuals, and their relationships have grown stronger. It’s true, Del and Sabrina have a knack for being dragged into a drama; trouble seems to seek them out. But, the story – in fact, the whole series – is not just about solving a mystery. It’s about people: Del’s self-deprecating humour made him seem more vulnerable at times, and he found his strength through others. Sabrina, as an author, found fans everywhere – and I mean everywhere, and her ability to write best-selling mysteries allowed her to read between the lines and see clues that the others took for granted. Mo’s story is developed here, and despite everything that happens, she just wants to be a school teacher. As for “Seymour”, this story reveals a totally different character – a strong man, just and fair, and with a great sense of humour. Who knew?

As always, the narrator brings this all to life, keeps the pace up, lets the listener share in the humour and keeps the flow easy to follow. Once you start listening, then you’ll be hooked.

*** Update *** I was under the impression this was the last in the series , but … apparently there’s a fifth book; available on Kindle or in paperback. It’ll be interesting to see if real reading (and not listening to Greg’s narration) will be as satisfying.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Greg Hernandez. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

Giveaway

Win a $25 Amazon Gift Card

Secrets & Lies Giveaway: $25 Amazon Gift Card
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Jan. 26th:

4 the Love of Audiobooks

Nesie’s Place

Bookriot

Jan. 27th:

Avonna Loves Genres

Comfy Chair Books

Jan. 28th:

Eileen Troemel

Audiobook News Blog

Jan. 29th:

The World As I See It

Jazzy Book Reviews

I’m Shelfish

Jan. 30th:

The Clipped Nightingale

Just 4 My Books

T’s Stuff

Jan. 31st:

Momma Says To Read or Not to Read

Super Booked!

Feb. 1st:

Shalini’s Books & Reviews

Teatime and Books

Page Princess

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Audiobook · blog tour · book review · courtroom drama · emotions · family

AudioBook Review – The Jersey

Audiobook Tour: The Jersey by James Rosenberg

Author: James Rosenberg

Narrator: Brian Avers

Length: 8 hours 44 minutes

Publisher: Allie H Publishing

Released: Nov. 21, 2019

Genre: Family Drama

Dan West wonders which is more important to him: Helping his long-time friend win back his business after being accused of stealing money from the company, or coaching his 11-year-old son’s soccer team trying to win an improbable championship.
Money and prestige don’t motivate Dan. Rather, family, work and coaching soccer are the underpinnings of his life. He revels in the simple joys like hanging out with his wife Jill, mentoring a young lawyer at his firm, and watching the boys connect on three passes before drilling the ball into the back of the net.
Dan always knew to keep it steady – not to get too high or he might get knocked off his perch. And he did, until he and the boys’ soccer team achieved unimagined success. Before he can grasp how good he has it, tragedy rips a hole in his family.
James Rosenberg, author of the bestseller Legal Reserves, strikes a new chord in his exploration of what makes a life and how to put it back together after it is shattered.
The Jersey is a beautifully written, profoundly touching, and relatable story of love, loss, and the redemptive power of a group of motivated 11-year-old kids.

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SONY DSC

James Rosenberg is a 3rd generation trial attorney with plenty of stories to tell.
Inspired not only by the courtroom stories his father and grandfather used to tell him when he was a child, but also by the wild adventures he’s encountered through his own experience as a lawyer. James is fascinated by the intricate, interpersonal dynamics of every trial he’s endured. Whether it’s the raw emotion on display in court, the tension in the air that builds until someone wins, or the impact that a case’s decision has on the parties involved, James is always paying attention and keeping tabs on what’s happening.
In his debut novel, “Legal Reserves”, James flexes his creative muscle outside of the courtroom to share his stories, with a fictional twist, through the eyes of archetypes he knows well. His second novel, “The Jersey,” explores the relationships a family-centric lawyer has with his wife and eleven year old son.
A native of Pittsburgh and a graduate of Taylor Allderdice High School and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, James has been a trial attorney in Pittsburgh for almost 30 years. He started writing legal thrillers as a stress reducer and finds this creative outlet to be a fun and meaningful diversion from his day job.
When he’s not trying cases, he’s either dreaming up his next book idea, spending time with his wife and three kids, or both.

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Narrator Bio

Brian Avers is a dynamic stage & screen actor, with numerous appearances on Broadway, television & film – and prolific creative – having written, directed & produced new works including indie comedy The Weekend, podcast The Buckeye Brothers, and a series of audiobooks releasing through winter, 2019.
An active screenwriter, voice artist & proud mentor for aspiring actors, Brian and his family split time between Brooklyn & Los Angeles.

Website

  • Tell us about the process of turning your book into an audiobook.
    • I loved the process of turning the book into an audiobook. I felt like The Jersey would transform well into an audiobook as many of the scenes contained drama which would play out well in an audio format. Audible does make it easy. I had 10 auditions with 24 hours of putting the novel up on Audible. Ultimately I had 25 excellent auditions to choose from and many were outstanding. Brian Avers, however, was a touch above. He connected with the story immediately and I think that is evident upon listening to the audiobook. Working with him was a dream. He wrote me involved emails after recording each chapter explaining what he liked about a scene or a character. His investment in the story clearly made the final product what it is.
  • How did you select your narrator?
    • As I said, I had some really good auditions but Brian Avers just stuck out. I think it was his connection to the story. He told me he has a young boy and that helped him relate to the main character in the book, Dan West, and his relationship with his eleven year old son. I think Brian’s ability to voice a variety of parts, including a bunch of eleven year boys, is one of the highlights of the audiobook. I laughed out loud a few times listening to him vocalize the group of boys, and his ability to give each one a separate personality.
  • How closely did you work with your narrator before and during the recording process? Did you give them any pronunciation tips or special insight into the characters?
    • Brian and I worked extremely closely during the recording process. He agreed to send me each chapter as he finished it for my review rather than waiting until he completed the entire audiobook. He would send me each chapter and I would review them and send him my thoughts about how he had handled each chapter. Most times I thought he nailed it and just told him that. For a few of the chapters I offered some suggestions. He was incredibly accepting of any suggestions and incorporated them in the final book. Brian’s supporting emails describing his reaction to some of the pivotal scenes in the book were incredibly rewarding for me. I knew he was the absolute right narrator once he explained his connections to a scene where the boys came to the main character’s house and begged him to rejoin the team as coach. I knew he understood the book and I knew his connection to the characters would enhance the listening experience for anyone who listened to the audiobook.
  • Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?
    • Oh my, yes. This book was incredibly personal for me. There are tidbits in all of the characters from people in my life. The book is set in Pittsburgh which is my home town and if you listen closely you get many nuggets from our neighborhood and city at large. There are references to the Steelers and Pirates, local restaurants and bars and the trial takes place in our City County building downtown.
  • How do you manage to avoid burn-out? What do you do to maintain your enthusiasm for writing?
    • I love writing. I love creating new characters and love to find out what happens to them as they move through a story. My books, so far, always include a major trial. For my other book, Legal Reserves, the trial is based on a real trial I handled many years ago. For The Jersey, I completely made up the trial, but it works. The trial is significant force in the lives of the characters in the book and affects how they react to future events.
  • Is there a particular part of this story that you feel is more resonating in the audiobook performance than in the book format?
    • I do. I think Dan West’s relationship with his son Charley and with the other boys on the soccer team resonates well in book but is even stronger in the audiobook. Brian Avers manages to capture these relationships and his performance is compelling. In his emails to me, during certain scenes, Brian told me he was choking up just as the character was in the story. Brian’s ability to convey these intense emotions is central to why the audiobook truly will resonate with listeners.
  • If this title were being made into a TV series or movie, who would you cast to play the primary roles?
    • If the Jersey were a movie (and I have always thought it would be a great movie), I would have Bradley Cooper play Dan West and Amy Adams, Natalie Portman or Zoe Saldana would be awesome for Jill. Arthur Spinelli would be played by someone who could bring out the kindly/intelligent qualities of a Burt Lancaster.
  • What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?
    • That’s ridiculous. Audiobooks have made books so much more accessible to a wider range of people and have allowed people to “read” while running, commuting and cleaning the house. Anything that increases the audience is great. Listening to a book can be a completely different experience but in no way a cheaper experience.
  • How did you celebrate after finishing this novel?
    • My wife and I went out to dinner. The next day, I went to work. Now I have to get back to working on the next novel.
  • What bits of advice would you give to aspiring authors?
    • Write, Write and then write some more. Don’t worry if it’s any good. Don’t worry about what others think (yet). Then write some more. Then edit, edit, edit.
  • Do you have any tips for authors going through the process of turning their books into audiobooks?
    • Do it. It’s not that hard. It’s not that expensive and the chance to reach a new audience is compelling. Plus, it’s fun. Just today we were on vacation and I went for a long walk on the beach and listened to a few chapters of The Jersey. It was good.
  • What’s next for you?
    • I am working on my next novel about a family torn apart when their son is accused of assassinating the President of the United States. I’m also continuing to try real life cases.

Top 10 List

James Rosenberg’s Top Ten reasons for choosing Brian Avers (over a lot of other really good narrators) to be the voice of the audiobook:
  1. In his audition, it was clear he completely connected with the book.
  2. He kept telling me about his little boy and how that made him feel a kinship with Dan West, the main character, of The Jersey.
  3. Brian is wickedly funny.
  4. Brian has a great repertoire of voices and he uses many for all of the kids in the story, but also for the adults who he is able to characterize by using a variety of intonations.
  5. He was so easy to work with. He was efficient, organized and made the story even better by how he tells it.
  6. Brian made me feel good about the book. We kept going back-and-forth on email after every chapter and his insights into the book as he was narrating it provided me with confidence that this was going to be a great audiobook.
  7. He has so much experience. Not only with audiobooks, but he is an actor, director and producer. Brian gets the business and having his experience made the process so much easier.
  8. He is in demand. I felt lucky that Brian agreed to narrate the book. His schedule was full and he is asked to work on so many different projects, but he agreed to move some things around and got the book done quickly.
  9. He is willing to let his emotions out. There are some emotional ups and downs in the story. Brian brought out the humor at the appropriate times, but also was able to bring out the pain in the story. You can hear him get emotional, but even more important, you can feel his emotions.
  10. I want to work with him again. He is such a professional that he will be my first choice to narrate my next book. I just hope he is able to do it.

The Jersey tells a beautiful story, packed with emotion, humour, fun, and oodles of poignant moments.
The story surprised me, though I’m not sure what I was expecting. Much of the story centred around a reluctant Dan coaching his son’s soccer team, seeing the boys bond and grow together in confidence and ability. I doubt Dan realised how rewarding the job would be, and spending quality time with his boy made it all extra special.

What I loved about this story was the way the author effortlessly moved from family time to Dan’s working life. As an absolute sucker for a courtroom drama, the case Dan and his colleague were working on was right up my street. Defending not only the business but also the reputation and honour of a dear family friend, the case held my attention all the way and I was rooting for them every step. The author even managed to make those scenes emotional.
Without spoiling the story for new readers, what happened to Dan and his family was heartbreaking, and his recovery was understandably slow. But … *** reader warning – keep tissues close by *** … that ending was so touching, so heartfelt and so absolutely gorgeous that even the stoniest heart will melt.
This was a story that I looked forward to listening to, and each time I had to break away, I always returned with renewed interest. The storytelling drifted through various timelines with ease. The narrator brought the whole thing to life – although, I have to admit his “11 year-old boy shriek” was a force to be reckoned with (*shudders*)
A recommended book – whether on the page, but especially in the audio version – to fans of solid family dramas who aren’t afraid to cry 😉

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by James Rosenberg. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

Giveaway

Prize: $25 Amazon Gift Card

The Jersey Giveaway: $25 Amazon Gift Card
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Jan. 23rd:
Locks, Hooks and Books
Viviana MacKade

Jan. 24th:
I’m All About Books
Nesie’s Place

Jan. 25th:
Momma Says To Read or Not to Read
Audiobook News Blog

Jan. 26th:
Comfy Chair Books
4 the Love of Audiobooks

Jan. 27th:
Jazzy Book Reviews
Super Booked!

Jan. 28th:
Just 4 My Books
Eileen Troemel

Jan. 29th:
Teatime and Books
The Clipped Nightingale

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blog tour · contemporary fiction

Blog Tour – A Kind of Family and GIVEAWAY!

Akindoffamily

Welcome to the blog tour for A Kind of Family by Bonnie Meekums. We’ll have loads of exclusive content and a guest post from the author herself, so be sure to follow along!

KofFamily digital cover.jpgA Kind of Family

Publication Date: January 7th, 2020

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: Willow River Press

Forty-something Northern UK psychotherapist and university lecturer Rachel longs for a close family when, a year after their parents die her brother decides to cut off all contact. Out of the blue she meets Fran, a petite, attractive and outgoing community artist who disturbs and excites her. Shortly after this Aggie appears, looking like a relic from the 1960s and with a strong working-class London accent. She takes a strong interest in Rachel’s relationship with Fran. But who is she, and why is Rachel the only one that can see and hear her?

When Fran’s mother dies, the two women discover a family secret that impacts on their decision to try for a baby. But there is more shock and heartache to come, a visit to New Zealand for Fran and a tough decision for Rachel to make before she finally finds her own kind of family. This is a story that challenges traditional ideas about what constitutes family. It is also about overcoming grief, and healing the past; about love, loss, and ultimately hope. You won’t want to put it down.

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Excerpt

A cough. Annie cocked her ears in alert preparedness. Rachel was not ‘hearing things’. She looked in the direction of the shadow she had seen earlier, her own pulse assaulting her ears. The cough had seemed to come from the kitchen. Had an intruder got in despite the locked door, or had she somehow forgotten to turn the key? She looked around for something with which she could defend herself if push came to shove. Nothing. She tried to remember the women’s self-defence she had learned in her undergraduate days after a particularly nasty rape on campus. Her brain turned to mush.

Then an older woman appeared on the other side of the door from Rachel’s study into the kitchen, and Rachel’s fear turned to confusion mixed with a fair dose of irritation. It was as if she had come out of nowhere. Rachel could only see the top half of her through the half-glazed door. The old woman’s face looked as if someone had scored deep marks on a dark canvas. Her eyes were like two dark pools that seemed to draw Rachel in despite her wariness. The visitor smiled and raised her eyebrows as if asking to be let in. Sighing, Rachel got up and opened the door as it occurred to her that this must be one of the people who had recently moved into number twenty.

‘Fanks, love. I’m sorry. I must’ve give you such a fright. I don’t mean to. Can I come in?’

Rachel looked beyond the woman to the outer door, which was closed.

She was already in.

Available on Amazon!

Guest PostLife doesn’t have neat edges

By Bonnie Meekums

In March 2011, my husband and I drove across the Pennine hills from west to east, turning right for the long journey south. At Dartford, as we climbed over the bridge I looked to my right, towards where I once lived as a child on the south-eastern river banks of London, wishing for just a moment that I could fold back the years, to see my mother young again.

After that visit, I wrote a short story, crafting recent experience into fiction, about an old woman whose body no longer did her bidding. After reading it aloud, my writing tutor Ian Clayton said, with a softness I will never forget:

‘That’s your mam, isn’t it?’

That short story was later woven into my debut novel, A Kind of Family. I remember not having to do much reworking on that section, unlike others. I sat in front of my screen in tears, reliving that day and my sense of loss for the woman she had once been. Grief was layered like one of her sponge cakes, the jam in the middle being relief that we had managed to coax her out, for a short trip in our car. She sat beside me, no longer big enough for an adult sized seat belt, terrified to be out and yet loving it more with every second. I stopped at a garage when she declared she was thirsty, and bought her a child’s ‘fruit shoot’, because that was the only thing she would be able to hold. Three months later, she was dead. 

All novelists make use of their own experience, inserting themselves into memory and imagined scenarios, creating a patchwork that holds up a mirror to human experience, yet is not autobiography. Still, I would argue that one of our tasks is not to overdo the jam in the sponge. Life doesn’t always work out as we hope. If it did, we would not be able to recognise those times when we feel blessed, or very lucky, or just plain deliriously happy. 

One of the things that helps me enter into the embodiment of emotion, is the work I do when I am not writing. I am a Dance Movement Psychotherapist – a psychotherapist who works with metaphors like ‘sinking into the abyss’, ‘growing apart’, ‘wanting to hold onto what has been’, or ‘treading on eggshells’. All these figures of speech, as Lave and Wenger in their seminal work Metaphors We Live By highlighted, have reference to the body – and what interests me, is their capacity to suggest forms of movement. When those movements become a dance improvisation, the possibility arises that new ways of being can be explored, without having to sit right in the middle of a paralysing whirlwind of emotion. Metaphor also seems to be understood by others (did you intuitively understand my reference to a whirlwind there?), without the need for lengthy explanation. Add to this, the fact that all Dance Movement Psychotherapists must have their own therapy, and you end up with a writer whose capacity for self-analysis on an embodied level is honed. 

Of course, I am not claiming my skill is any more developed than most other writers, but perhaps it has been an easier transition for me, from bland description (which I most certainly have done my fair share of), to close encounters with my characters. 

One other interesting thing about writing is, writers often (especially in their first few novels, until they have worked it all out of their systems) make use of their own unconscious preoccupations. One of mine, I realise, concerns abandonment, and when I look at my early years, that is no surprise. My parents were good enough; I just happened to be hospitalized and in isolation at a crucial time in my childhood. A recent article by Arabel Charlaff, in issue no. 84 of Mslexia Magazine, suggests that writers can learn a lot from psychotherapy theory in order to produce more rounded and interesting characters. Unsurprisingly, she suggests writers ask themselves what early experience led a character to be the way they are. What I am proposing is, that when the writer also understands herself, she can spot when she is using the technique effectively, and when she is overlaying her own story onto another character when it simply doesn’t fit, or when the only story she tells is the broken record of her own sad song. 

I could go on. There are so many instances where my own, or my family’s story has impacted on my urge to write about particular topics, but I will end with a positive one. Twenty-seven years ago, I married a man. At the time we got together, we each had two children. We did not live together before the wedding, because we agreed this had to work; the kids had been through enough. And so, we blindly stepped into the territory of step-family life, holding onto each other for fear of falling and failing. Another child came along two and a half years later. Now, we have seven grandchildren, none of whom will experience any difference in my love for them, though some are genetically related, and others not. For all of them, I am Nana. Together, my husband and I created our own ‘kind of family’. My journey inspired me to write about non-traditional families, from which came the title of the book. I chose not to write about a step family. Instead, there is a same sex couple at the heart of my novel. My hope is, readers will find something of themselves sewn into the pages, will be moved by the characters they get to know, and will feel at the end that all is exactly as it should be. Because life doesn’t have neat edges, but what we create as we stumble along can be far more beautiful. 

A Kind of Family is published on January 7th, 2020, by Between the Lines Publishing.

Links for purchase and pre-order:

Barnes & Noble

Amazon UK

Amazon US

About the Author

bonnie meekums_possible marketing pic - CHOSEN.JPG

Born and brought up in working-class London, Bonnie crossed classes when she went to university in the 1970s, eventually gaining a PhD in arts therapies in the 1990s. In the 1980s she crossed the invisible borders from South to North in England, first living in West Yorkshire and settling eventually in an old mill town near Manchester. A mother, step-mother and grandmother, she also travels annually to New Zealand to be with part of her far-flung family.

Bonnie is well known across the globe within the small professional world of Dance Movement Therapy (DMT). She is sole author of two books on arts therapies, one of which (Dance Movement Therapy, London: Sage, 2002) is on many training course essential reading lists and has sold more than 2,000 copies. She has also published numerous research articles and has been invited to teach in New Zealand, the USA, India, China and many European countries.

Whilst still being active in DMT practice, teaching and supervision, these days Bonnie’s writing focusses on novels and short stories. She also writes a blog about becoming an older woman who rambles (a play on words), to be found at https://mamabonnie.wordpress.com/. Her short creative nonfiction The Story Hunter about how her father influenced her love of stories was featured by the online writing collective Dear Damsels on February 10th 2019. Her debut novel A Kind of Family is published by Between the Lines Publishing in January 2020.

Bonnie Meekums

Blog Tour Schedule

January 20th

Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://readsandreels.com

The Magic of Wor(l)ds (Guest Post) http://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com

Phantom of the Library (Review) https://phantomofthelibrary.com/

January 21st

Tales of a Natural Spoonie (Review) https://talesofanaturalspoonie.com/

My Bookish Bliss (Review) http://www.mybookishbliss.com

January 22nd

Breakeven Books (Spotlight) https://breakevenbooks.com

Just 4 My Books (Spotlight) http://www.just4mybooks.wordpress.com

January 23rd

Where Dragons Reside (Spotlight) https://kernerangelina.live/  

Tsarina Press (Spotlight) https://www.tsarinapress.com

The Genre Minx Book Reviews (Spotlight)  http://www.thegenreminx.com/

January 24th

Dash Fan Book Reviews (Review) https://dashfan81.blogspot.com/

Didi Oviatt (Spotlight) https://didioviatt.wordpress.com

B is for Book Review (Spotlight) https://bforbookreview.wordpress.com

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blog tour · book review · cosy · murder mystery

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – A Messy Affair

A Messy Affair

The only way is murder…

Lena Szarka, a Hungarian cleaner working in London, is forced to brush up on her detective skills for a third time when her cousin Sarika is plunged into danger.

Sarika and her reality TV star boyfriend Terry both receive threatening notes. When Terry stops calling, Lena assumes he’s lost interest. Until he turns up. Dead. Lena knows she must act fast to keep her cousin from the same fate.

Scrubbing her way through the grubby world of reality television, online dating and betrayed lovers, Lena finds it harder than she thought to discern what’s real – and what’s just for the cameras.


Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Messy-Affair-Lena-Szarka-Mysteries/dp/1472126394

US – https://www.amazon.com/Messy-Affair-Lena-Szarka-Mysteries/dp/1472126394

Author Bio

Elizabeth Mundy’s grandmother was a Hungarian immigrant to America who raised five children on a chicken farm in Indiana. Elizabeth is a marketing director for an investment firm and lives in London with her messy husband and two young children. She writes the Lena Szarka Mysteries, featuring a Hungarian cleaner as detective.
http://www.elizabethmundy.com

Social Media Links –

Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @ElizabethEMundy

www.elizabethmundy.com

 

My Review

4/5 stars

What a great idea for an amateur sleuth!

Lena Szarka runs her own cleaning business and often gets the run of the property she’s cleaning, so the scope for “investigation” is huge. Keen to protect her cousin, Lena uses the cover of her business to point the eyes of the law towards the real killer of Reality TV star, Terry. I loved the way she offered a free trial to anyone she regarded as a potential suspect. SMART!

The story is well-written and it was so easy to get drawn into the plot as Lena eliminates one suspect after another – her methods always much more successful than her beloved police officer ‘boyfriend’ whose promotion to detective constable would not have have happened without her help – in fact, I sometimes felt sorry for the poor chap, his career seemingly going down the pan if his own investigations were anything to go by.

The author gives us a real flavour of what it means to be working in a foreign country, she shows the rare struggles Lena has with the English language as well as the cultural differences. References to Lena’s life in Hungary, particularly through its food, are sweet and funny … and mouthwatering! Lena proves to be more than just smart,and through witty asides her strong, determined personality shines through.

A most enjoyable read, perfect for the amateur sleuth reader who wants to get stuck into the mystery too. An original premise, a smart and personable leading lady, and a clever mystery to boot.

For more reviews, you know where to go:

As always,

 

blog tour · Contemporary Romance · Giveaways · series

Blog Tour – Headliners

headlinerLucy Parker fans rejoice! Her latest novel is here, and we’re thrilled to share Headliners, book #5 in the London Celebrities series! Read on for an exclusive excerpt, purchase details, and a chance to win a print copy!

Book Cover

Headliners (London Celebrities #5)

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Publication Date: January 20th, 2020

Publisher: Carina Press

He might be the sexiest man in London, according to his fan site (which he definitely writes himself), but he’s also the most arrogant man she’s ever met.

She might have the longest legs he’s ever seen, but she also has the sharpest tongue.

For years, rival TV presenters Sabrina Carlton and Nick Davenport have traded barbs on their respective shows. The public can’t get enough of their feud, but after Nick airs Sabrina’s family scandals to all of Britain, the gloves are off. They can barely be in the same room together—but these longtime enemies are about to become the unlikeliest of cohosts.

With their reputations on the rocks, Sabrina and Nick have one last chance to save their careers. If they can resurrect a sinking morning show, they’ll still have a future in television. But with ratings at an all-time low and a Christmas Eve deadline to win back the nation’s favor, the clock is ticking—and someone on their staff doesn’t want them to succeed.

Small mishaps on set start adding up, and Sabrina and Nick find themselves—quelle horreur—working together to hunt down the saboteur…and discovering they might have more in common than they thought. When a fiery encounter is caught on camera, the public is convinced that the reluctant co-hosts are secretly lusting after one another.

The public might not be wrong.

Their chemistry has always been explosive, but with hate turning to love, the stakes are rising and everything is on the line. Neither is sure if they can trust these new feelings…or if they’ll still have a job in the New Year.

Add to Goodreads

Excerpt

Their boss started turning her pen in circles again. “You are correct in that you’ve both knocked yourselves out of contention for the evening show. That position will be offered elsewhere.”

Sabrina released a long breath, and Nick closed his eyes momentarily.

“So that’s it?” she said, with a slight feeling of unreality. Despite the setbacks since the summer, apparently she hadn’t really expected this to happen. “We’re both out?”

“Of the evening programming, yes. Your nights are going to be considerably more open.” Hania looked past Sabrina again, as the office door opened. “But if you agree to my suggestion, you’re also going to have to start getting up a lot earlier.”

Nick turned his head first, and his entire body went still.

She swung around and was greeted with her own smiling face on a full-length poster board. Her printed image had been placed back-to-back with Nick’s, and someone had done some excessive editing, because she’d never leaned on him in her life.

Her gaze travelled from their glossy heads to the sarcastic advertising copy scrawled across the cardboard: ’tis the season for peace and goodwill. And miracles. Wake Me Up London with Sabrina Carlton and Nick Davenport, weekdays at seven throughout December.

They broke the silence with an unusually united sentiment.

“Oh, I don’t think so.” Sabrina physically retreated from the horrifying prospect.

“I hope that’s a bad joke.” Palpable outrage from Nick. His fingertips were digging hard enough into the arm of his chair that she could see his knuckles flexing. “I don’t mind the odd piece of human-interest filler—nobody wants doom and gloom 24/7 and there are people who deserve recognition—but the morning show has been egregious rubbish for years. If you seriously think I’m going to sit there and smile inanely while people with too much time on their hands argue about—what was one of their scintillating topics, the ethics of putting tutus on puppies?—you can think again. And why am I second billing on the poster?”

“Alphabetical and moral seniority,” Sabrina said breezily. He was so annoyed that she’d recovered a bit of composure in response. She inclined her head towards their chummy-looking cardboard selves. “And it pains me to state the obvious, but you’re literally the poster boy for inane smiles, Troy McClure. Bit late to change your brand now.”

Nick’s jaw had stopped twitching, but his eye picked up the slack.

From her seat close to the offending poster, a member of the social media team cleared her throat. “Er…is the plan to boost WMUL’s embarrassingly shit ratings by turning the set into a Hamlet-style bloodbath? Because it’ll be job well done in any scenario that puts them on the same couch.”

“I’ve worked for the network since I was twenty-one,” Nick said, slipping back into his shield of drawling amiability. It tended to net more wins. One may smile, and smile, and be a villain. “I’ve headlined alone for almost four years, and I’ve made a damn good job of it.”

“Yes, you have,” Hania agreed. “You’re excellent at your job. Witty, tenacious, attractive—the public accolades are spot-on.” Before Nick’s head could expand too far, she continued, “You also humiliated your boss in a public forum. If you wanted to keep your name on the evening billing, you should have exercised some discretion. You’re on such thin ice here that one false step is going to drop you right in it. I hope I’m making myself clear.”

She walked around her desk to sweep a glance up and down the poster board, before she leaned a companionable elbow on it. “Happily for us all, the public is fascinated with your obvious feud. You surmise correctly that Wake Me Up London is in a losing battle where the ratings are concerned. I have a feeling that the two of you could salvage that situation.”

Nick opened his mouth again, and Hania finished, “And you’ve got from the beginning of December until Christmas Eve to prove me right.”

Now Available!

Amazon | B & N | iTunes | Kobo | Google Play

About the Author

Lucy Parker - Author Photo

Lucy Parker lives in the gorgeous Central Otago region of New Zealand, where she feels lucky every day to look out at mountains, lakes and vineyards. She has a degree in Art History, loves museums and galleries, and doodles unrecognisable flowers when she has writer’s block.

Her interest in romantic fiction began with a pre-teen viewing of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (Firth-style), which prompted her to read the book as well, and the rest was history.

Lucy Parker | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Goodreads

One lucky fan can win a print copy of Headliners! Click the link below to enter (US Only)!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Blog Tour Organized By:

R&R Button

R&R Book Tours

Blog Tour Schedule

January 20th

Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://readsandreels.com

Just 4 My Books (Spotlight) http://www.just4mybooks.wordpress.com

The Magic of Wor(l)ds (Spotlight) http://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com

Viviana MacKade (Spotlight) https://viviana-mackade.blog/

January 21st

Tsarina Press (Spotlight) https://www.tsarinapress.com

January 22nd

The Genre Minx Book Reviews (Spotlight) http://www.thegenreminx.com/

The Faerie Review (Review) http://www.thefaeriereview.com

The Bookworm Drinketh (Review) http://thebookwormdrinketh.wordpress.com/

January 23rd

Wordy & Whimsical (Review) https://wordyandwhimsical.wordpress.com/

January 24th

Breakeven Books (Spotlight) https://breakevenbooks.com

I’m into Books (Spotlight) https://imintobooks.com

Cup of Books (Review) https://cupofbooksblog.wordpress.com/

***No Weekends***

January 27th

I’m All About Books (Spotlight) https://imallaboutbooks.com/

My Bookish Bliss (Review) http://www.mybookishbliss.com

January 28th

Misty’s Book Space (Spotlight) http://mistysbookspace.wordpress.com

Tales of a Natural Spoonie (Review) https://talesofanaturalspoonie.com/

January 29th

Where Dragons Reside (Review) https://kernerangelina.live/

Phantom of the Library (Review) https://phantomofthelibrary.com/

January 30th

Magical Reads (Review) https://magicalreads7.wordpress.com/

January 31st

Jessica Belmont (Spotlight) https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/

Dash Fan Book Reviews (Review) https://dashfan81.blogspot.com/

 

As always,

blog tour · book review · Italy · time travel · YA

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – The Violinist’s Apprentice

The Violinist’s Apprentice

A dark journey through time.

It’s on a group trip to Rome that something terrifying and mysterious happens, whirling musical Clementina back in time to 17th century Italy. Amidst court intrigue and creaking carriages, Rome becomes a chiaroscuro backdrop to her growing feelings for young violin-maker Antonio Stradivari. But soon he discovers that Clementina is not all she appears. She must surely be a witch. How can she return to the 21st century again? Meanwhile, in an icy corner of the Arctic, a professor plots.

Purchase Links:

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Violinists-Apprentice-Isabella-Mancini-ebook/dp/B0811Y35MV

US – https://www.amazon.com/Violinists-Apprentice-Isabella-Mancini-ebook/dp/B0811Y35MV

Author Bio –

Isabella Mancini is the nom de plume of prolific author Olga Swan, published by Crooked Cat Books. She has a BA Hons (Open) in English Language and Literature and a lifelong love for writing and language. For 12 years she lived in SW France, but returned to the UK in 2017, where she now lives in the West Midlands with her husband and elderly French rescue dog Bruno.

Previous books by Olga Swan:

An Englishwoman in America

From Paradis to Perdition

Pensioners in Paradis

The Mazurek Express

Lamplight

Vichyssoise

3rd Degree Murder

Social Media Links –

Twitter: @IsabellaManci10.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ManciniIsabella1

Facebook Group: Books, Music and the Past

Amazon page for Isabella Mancini: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Isabella-Mancini/e/B08127KJJW/

Amazon page for Olga Swan: https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B013IBD4PU

Giveaway to Win a signed paperback of An Englishwoman in America (Open INT)
*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter link below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

RAFFLECOPTER LINK

My Review

3/5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the author via Rachel’s Random Resources in return for an honest review.

I have to admit this book confused me. The blurb gave no mention of the age of Clementina, or that she was indeed on a school trip to Italy. As such, I was not expecting the story that unravelled. To be honest, had I known it was about a fifteen-year-old girl, I wouldn’t have chosen to read it. That said, there were elements of the story that were enchanting and captivating.

The time slip back to the 17th Century gave way to some gorgeous descriptions of Italy at that time, and Clementina’s confusion and comparisons to her own life were endearing and often funny. The relationship between Tina and Antonio Stradivari developed nicely, despite their different life experience, and had she stayed it would no doubt have led to a romance. I almost wanted her to stay there, the atmosphere of those times was so vividly brought to life. At the same time, I was keen for her to return home to tell her brother all about the trip. Having lost his sight, Tina brought colour to his world. Little did she know that her father and brother, Andrea, were having an adventure of their own.

This story lends itself well to a series as more challenges await. A teacher – Mr Verdegris – gives Clementina a pendant to be used whenever she feels she is in trouble, it will summon the teacher to her immediately while she is in the other time dimension. There she is tasked with finding and bringing back a genuine Stradivarius violin. Prior to Clementina’s quest, her school friend Ruby had been tasked to find the Dead Sea Scrolls, and another girl, Saffron, is destined for the next mission. But who is the intended recipient of these items? Well, running alongside Tina’s story, a professor waits in the Arctic to hear of her success or failure. This subplot delves into the topic of climate change, but as to the full reason behind the girls’ time travel, that was never really clear to me – maybe that becomes more obvious in the next book.

For me, the story was quite complicated to follow due to the subplots running in conjunction with Tina’s time travel. I’m sure this is setting the scene for future books, and will make more sense in due course.

There was no real conclusion, neither in Italy nor back at school; whether the girls will feature again is anyone’s guess. I didn’t feel the blurb correctly set the course for the story, especially in identifying the target audience – i.e. someone much younger than me 😉 and more likely a reader of YA fiction.

The magical elements of the story, the pendant, the time travel, and the backstory of Ruby’s prior challenge, made for interesting reading, and the author did a good job in depicting an authentic image of 17th Century Rome. Not the story I expected, but enjoyable for the time travel aspect and the location.

For more news and reviews, check out these amazing bloggers:

As always,

book review · food and drink · Mediterranean · recipes

Foodie Book Review – The Everything Mediterranean Instant Pot CookBook

300 easy, healthy Mediterranean recipes for the most popular kitchen appliance—the Instant Pot—perfect for anyone following the Mediterranean diet!

The Mediterranean diet is celebrated all over the world for its fresh and healthy ingredients, vibrant flavors, and complex recipes. Following this diet can help you reduce inflammation, avoid disease, and lose weight, making it popular for anyone looking to live a healthier lifestyle.

The Everything Mediterranean Instant Pot Cookbook shows you how to recreate classic Mediterranean meals in under an hour using the much-loved multi-cooker, the Instant Pot. With more than 300 recipes for delicious meals, snacks, and even desserts, you’ll have everything you need to create healthy, fresh, and fast meals every day of the week.

My Review

4/5 stars

I chose to read this book as I live on the Mediterranean coast, and despite not having the actual Instant Pot multi-cooker with which this book is associated, the recipes were too tempting to resist!

Having moved here almost two decades ago, I found (happily) that there were very few fast food places around, and local dishes were readily available, using fresh, healthy ingredients. Times have changed, and the burger restaurants have infiltrated the region, but not at the expense of local, family eateries offering proper food with typical Mediterranean panache.

Admittedly, at home, my go-to dishes stem back to food I ate back in the UK; you cannot deny the power of nostalgia. Eating out, however, is a different story, and I will choose a local, traditional Mediterranean dish over junk food any day.

I am glad to say I found plenty of inspiration in this book to expand my own repertoire and boost my diet with the Mediterranean vibe – lots of fish, olive oil, vegetables and herbs. Some of my favourites, and ones that I’m dying to try myself are:

Tomato & Asparagus Frittata

Baba Ghanoush (aubergine dip)

Skordalia (garlic dip)

Basil Cod Kebabs

Rosemary Salmon

Lemony Chicken Soup

Risotto Primavera

I could go on, there’s so many to choose from!

Is your mouth watering? And none of these are difficult …

Easy to find ingredients.

Simple to make

Tasty and healthy!

There’s a recipe for dandelion greens that caught my eye, but having dogs, I know that the dandelions are “watered” way too frequently for me to ever be tempted to eat them!

The book is obviously intended for the US market, so terminology is occasionally “iffy” – I mean, what on earth is a SLIDER?, but in general the recipes are easy to follow and well laid out. The only downside is reading this on a Kindle doesn’t lend itself to easy navigation. My copy is an uncorrected proof, and there’s no links on the TOC, so that makes for a lot of scrolling through (I’ve bookmarked my favourites 😉 hopefully that’ll work) That said, the final version will no doubt include that option, although I think a print copy would be well worth the cost, if just for the scrummy pictures.

I received an e-copy of this book from NetGalley and have reviewed voluntarily … in between feasting 😉

As always,

blog tour · book review · conspiracies · historical · series · time travel

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Million Eyes

Million Eyes

How do you fight an enemy who has a million eyes?

What if we’re living in an alternate timeline? What if the car crash that killed Princess Diana, the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower, and the shooting of King William II weren’t supposed to happen?

Ex-history teacher Gregory Ferro finds evidence that a cabal of time travellers is responsible for several key events in our history. These events all seem to hinge on a dry textbook published in 1995, referenced in a history book written in 1977 and mentioned in a letter to Edward III in 1348.

Ferro teams up with down-on-her-luck graduate Jennifer Larson to get to the truth and discover the relevance of a book that seems to defy the arrow of time. But the time travellers are watching closely. Soon the duo are targeted by assassins willing to rewrite history to bury them.

Million Eyes is a fast-paced conspiracy thriller about power, corruption and destiny.

Purchase Links

https://elsewhen.press/index.php/catalogue/title/million-eyes/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Million-Eyes-C-R-Berry-ebook/dp/B082QNFPFN

https://www.amazon.com/Million-Eyes-C-R-Berry-ebook/dp/B082QNFPFN

Trailer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOLjecCfNSo

Author Bio 

C.R. Berry caught the writing bug at the tender age of four and has never recovered. His earliest stories were filled with witches, monsters, evil headteachers, Disney characters and the occasional Dalek. He realised pretty quickly that his favourite characters were usually the villains. He wonders if that’s what led him to become a criminal lawyer. It’s certainly why he’s taken to writing conspiracy thrillers, where the baddies are numerous and everywhere.

After a few years getting a more rounded view of human nature’s darker side, he quit lawyering and turned to writing full-time. He now works as a freelance copywriter and novelist and blogs about conspiracy theories, time travel and otherworldly weirdness.

He was shortlisted in the 2018 Grindstone Literary International Novel Competition and has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Storgy, Dark Tales, Theme of Absence and Suspense Magazine. He was also shortlisted in the Aeon Award Contest, highly commended by Writers’ Forum, and won second prize in the inaugural To Hull and Back Humorous Short Story Competition.

He grew up in Farnborough, Hampshire, a town he says has as much character as a broccoli. He’s since moved to the “much more interesting and charming” Haslemere in Surrey.

Social Media Links

Website: https://crberryauthor.wordpress.com

http://millioneyes.co.uk/

https://gregoryferro.home.blog/

https://twitter.com/CRBerry1

https://www.facebook.com/CRBerry1/

My Review

4/5 stars

It’s good to know that this is the first book in a series, because I could read CR Berry’s stories over and over again. The mix of history, conspiracy theories and time travel works sublimely, and the storytelling is so very clever.

The “fun” begins with Gregory Ferro and his blog, in which his seven readers are privy to his “findings” on the death of William II, the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower, the Black Death, and the death of Princess Diana, all of which are connected by this obscure book with the impossible title: “The History of Computer-Aided Timetabling for Railway Systems” by Jeremy Jennings.

When history graduate Jennifer Larson reads one of his posts, she’s intrigued by his theories and arranges to meet him in person in a nearby pub. The meeting doesn’t go as expected, and they part company only to meet again on a train. Ferro tries to avoid her, thinking her rude after she dismissed his ideas previously, but Jennifer apologises and asks if he’s made any progress. Ferro is dying to discuss his findings with someone, and so they later meet up at his home. Jennifer offers to help and they agree to stay in touch.

And that’s when things really go awry … Ferro, it seems, is being watched, and the watchers are concerned he’s getting too close to exposing them, putting their world-altering plans at risk. He has to warn Jennifer. Is he too late? She is a target too, but who is observing them and why?

The story alternates through different timelines to tell the “real” stories of William II, the Princes in the Tower, and of Diana, Princess of Wales. The history is detailed and engrossing, the plotlines are absorbing, and the book connection is fascinating, especially how it is passed on from generation to generation to ensure the Monarchy is safe. Those in control are not willing to let anyone stop them, no life is too precious and absolutely nothing is beyond them.

It’s a tense, fast-paced page-turner of a story, with relatable and believable characters in Ferro and Jennifer. It’ll have you wondering exactly who can you trust. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for the next in the series. 

The author generously also provided a copy of Million Eyes: Extra Time, a collection of twelve time-twisting tales set in the world of the Million Eyes novel.
The stories act as an introduction to the Million Eyes world, exploring themes that are central to the trilogy and offering a unique insight into its time-travelling villains. They focus on side characters who (mostly) do not appear in the trilogy while revealing clues to key storylines in all three books.

As I said at the outset, I could read his stories over and over. This extra book gives me that opportunity. Thank you, CR Berry!

For more news and reviews, take a look at these blogs:

 

As always,

Audiobook · mystery · series

Audiobook Review – A Hole in One (The Glass Dolphin Mystery series #2)

A Hole in One (Glass Dolphin Mystery #2)A Hole in One by Judy Penz Sheluk
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hoping to promote the Glass Dolphin antiques shop, co-owners Arabella Carpenter and Emily Garland agree to sponsor a hole in one contest at a charity golf tournament. The publicity turns out to be anything but positive, however, when Arabella’s errant tee shot lands in the woods next to a corpse.

They soon learn that the victim is closely related to Arabella’s ex-husband, who had been acting as the Course Marshal. With means, opportunity, and more than enough motive, he soon becomes the police department’s prime suspect, leaving Arabella and Emily determined to clear his name—even if they’re not entirely convinced of his innocence.

Dogged by incriminating online posts from an anonymous blogger, they track down leads from Emily’s ex-fiancé (and the woman he left Emily for), an Elvis impersonator, and a retired antiques mall vendor with a secret of her own.

All trails lead to a mysterious cult that may have something to do with the murder. Can Arabella and Emily identify the killer before the murderer comes after them?

My Review

Loved it! This is the second book in the Glass Dolphin Mystery series, and it just keeps getting better. Being familiar with the main characters of Emily and Arabella, I was able to slip straight into the story.
The two women are now working together at the antique shop, The Glass Dolphin, and their skills compliment each other. Emily is keen to promote the business, and the business is a sponsor for the upcoming charity golf tournament.
What starts out as a pleasant day at the golf course, soon goes awry with the discovery of a body in the wooded area near hole number three. It falls to Arabella’s ex-husband to identify the man as his estranged father, with whom he has not had a relationship for over twenty-five years.
The next twist in the tale brings Emily into the mystery, as the victim has been using her ex-boyfriend’s name to rent a place nearby.
Indeed, the plot has thickened …
With her investigative journalist head on, Emily wants to know why the man used Kevin’s name, and for this she needs to – reluctantly – speak with the man who dumped her and spurred her move to Lount’s Landing.
As with book one in the series – The Hanged Man’s Noose – the story has an abundance of twists and moves at a quick pace as clues and evidence are finally revealed.
The characters have both flaws and strengths, and as a result they are engaging and likeable, but not perfect.
I really hope the author has more lined up for this series …and soon 🙂

As always,

 

adventure · blog tour · book review · historical · mystery · NetGalley · thriller · Uncategorized

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – VanOps: The Lost Power

VanOps: The Lost Power by Avanti Centrae Banner

 

 

VanOps: The Lost Power

by Avanti Centrae

on Tour November 4, 2019 – January 10, 2020

Synopsis:

VanOps: The Lost Power by Avanti Centrae

Da Vinci Code meets Tomb Raider in this award-winning thriller that #1 NYT’s author James Rollins called, “Full of action and suspense.”

Spain 1057: During a thunderous battle, the first King of Aragon wrestles Alexander the Great’s priceless Egyptian weapon from the Moors, but finds it holds a terrifying and mysterious power.

A thousand years later, on a hushed, fog-shrouded, Napa morning, gunshots and the sound of breaking glass rip through the silence. Maddy Marshall, an app designer and aikido instructor, and her twin brother, Will Argones, an engineer, quickly run toward the sound. Horrified, they discover a sniper’s bullet has found its human target.

Before the pool of blood on the living room floor is dry, the twins are sent on an arcane quest to recover Alexander’s ancient weapon. Joined by a VanOps covert agent, they soon discover the rifle’s sights are now set on them. No place is safe, a wrong move means death, and even a simple phone call is off limits if they are to survive.

From a medieval Spanish castle, they follow a time-worn trail, starting at a secret warren under the streets of Jerusalem. But if the killer finds the weapon first, it will be used to cripple the United States’ eye-in-the-sky early warning systems, allowing the Russians to swoop in and prey on the vulnerable nation.

Can Maddy learn to wield the power of the dangerous weapon in time to stop the Russian scheme? Failure means the fragile world peace will be forever shattered…

Critical Praise for VanOps: The Lost Power

“Avanti Centrae’s VanOps: The Lost Power opens a tantalizing new series that combines historical mystery and cutting-edge science into a masterwork of international intrigue—with the promise of more to follow. Written with a dynamic, cinematic style and full of action and suspense, here’s a book that defines page-turner. Don’t miss this riveting debut!” ~ James Rollins, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Crucible “Just a good ole’ fashioned rip-roaring adventure from start to finish. Enjoy the ride.” ~ Steve Berry, New York Times best-selling author “A high-stakes, daring adventure charged with suspense and mystery!” ~ Ann Charles, USA TODAY bestselling author of the Deadwood Mystery Series “The writing is superb. Easy to read and captivating. There is a mixture of mystery and action that keeps me turning pages. Readers who like Indiana Jones, or the books by James Patterson, Tom Clancy, and Vince Flynn, will enjoy Centrae’s first installment in her VanOps series.” ~ John Bernstein, Professional Reviewer

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller Published by: Black Opal Books Publication Date: November 9th 2019 Number of Pages: 308 ISBN: 1644371960 (ISBN13: 9781644371961) Series: VanOps #1 Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER 1

Napa Valley, California, June 25, 8:56 a.m., Present Day Through the crosshairs of his long-barreled sweetheart, Ivan scanned the wood-casement window of the vineyard’s stone-walled residence, and waited for his intended target to walk into view. His movements were slow and meticulous. Lying in the loft of an old barn, he calculated range, altitude, temperature, barometric pressure, wind speed, and humidity. His skin was irritated by the coarse hay that surrounded him, but he ignored the sensation and focused on his calculations. Click. He made a minor adjustment on his rifle to account for the drop of the round due to air density. And another for windage. Although misty rivers of fog swirled into gray whirlpools around the winery, the computer enhanced scope of his Springfield EBR allowed him to visually lock onto the home’s large bank of windows. Human movement flickered behind the glass. He didn’t want to pull the trigger. Nevertheless, Ivan waited for the perfect moment, the perfect shot.

CHAPTER 2

8:57 a.m. As she headed toward her father’s vineyard, Maddy drove as fast as she dared down a familiar tree-lined Napa country lane. Today, she didn’t recognize the road. It looked eerie and unnatural. The area was draped in sheets of fog from yesterday’s unseasonable rain, and the silver half-light gave the trees an ethereal patina. “Sensei, would you kill someone if you had to?” AJ asked. Surprised, Maddy frowned. “I’m not a sensei yet, remember?” She paused for a moment before she replied to his query. “Where did that question come from?” “We were talking about it in the locker room at the dojo after class. We know aikido is about non-violence, but what if you don’t have a choice?” His voice dropped to a dramatic whisper. “What if it was kill or be killed?” Maddy shook her head. The things children thought about. “I would always look for another way.” She glanced over at AJ, glad she’d brought him along today. His ears stuck out and his face was dotted with freckles. She found him adorable. “Okay. Can martial arts masters light paper on fire with just their hands?” Maddy halted the car at a stop sign and peered through the swirling patchy-dense fog, trying to get her bearings while she figured out how to answer this question. The mist distorted everything. She turned right. Without warning, a smothering mass of black rustling feathers flew toward the car. She flinched in her seat and slammed on the car brakes. Her heart pounded. She stopped breathing and scanned the road ahead of her. After a long moment, she realized with chagrin that she had just scared a bunch of ugly, red-faced black turkey vultures into flight by turning onto a new road after a stop sign. She took a deep breath. It wasn’t like her to be so jumpy. She was, after all, shodan, a first-dan black belt. But the sudden movement of wings, obscured through the morning’s foggy haze, had pulled her off balance. Maddy gave the car some gas and it inched forward down the road. Maddy looked over at AJ. “Are you okay?” AJ laughed. “I’m okay. But that scared you!” “Did not!” Maddy replied, twisting her ponytail. “Did too—I saw you jump! And you smashed on the brakes.” Maddy grinned for a moment at the childish banter and AJ’s creative language. It could be a happy day, in spite of everything. She loved AJ, she and Vincent had even talked about adopting him. Vincent, her former fiancé. Of course, that was before the breakup. Since then, she’d been feeling brittle, and the nightmare last night didn’t help. The dream was gut-wrenching. Although the sensation had faded in the dim light of morning, much of it lingered like a bad relationship. That dream was probably why she was on edge and had jumped at the thrashing wings. She looked at the dash clock—only a few minutes late. Heart still beating faster than normal, she turned down the long shadowy driveway of the once proud vineyard.

CHAPTER 3

9:02 a.m. Up in the old barn, Ivan was close to the target, only seventy meters from the glass curtain that separated him from his quarry. Although the misty morning limited his visibility, he felt confident in his ability to execute the task Baron Sokolov had assigned to him. Ivan recalled much longer-range kills. Two months ago, from a nearby skyscraper, he’d eliminated a traitorous spy during a French soccer match, piercing the man’s forehead as directed. His record was just under two thousand meters, one hundred fifty meters shy of the longest recorded sniper kill in history. But he reminded himself to stay vigilant and cautious, traits that had earned him medals as one of Russia’s most accurate shooters. Being watchful was his nature. It was the silver lining of his disorder, congenital analgesia, which made him insensitive to pain. My gift from Mother, he thought. Ivan wondered where on his body he would mark this job. His left arm was covered in sets of hash marks—scars, where he had marked his kills. He started scarring himself in school to impress the other children, and in time it had become a blood ritual after a task to remind himself to be careful, that he too could die. After this morning, it would be time to add another scar. At one hundred and fifty-five confirmed kills, he had scars on both thighs, both arms, and was running out of room for the marks. Soon he would catch up to the kills his grandmother had recorded during World War II. After Germany had invaded, she had volunteered for the military and had one hundred and seventy-nine confirmed kills to her credit. Impressive. He remembered how she had taught him to shoot when he was young. She had a fondness for killing rabbits and he could still picture their crimson blood sprayed on the bright Siberian snow. However, patience was her favorite lesson and it had served him well. A puff of wind tugged at a windmill in the distance, and the melancholy creak of metal scratching metal disturbed the morning silence. He held his breath and listened for any sound to indicate he’d been discovered. There was nothing further, only an unnatural, muted quiet. Focused on his breathing and the window, he continued to wait for a clean shot. He was tired of killing, but he had to do his job. This last job. Or his son would die.

CHAPTER 4

9:05 a.m. Maddy’s car hit a pothole on the vineyard’s long gravel driveway. It annoyed her that Dad hadn’t said what was so urgent, and she’d been too distracted with the breakup to call him back. As she drew closer to the house, she was irritated to see Will was playing fog-fetch with the dog in the front yard. What is he doing here? Did dad call all the siblings? Bella, too? Will waved, walked toward an obnoxious sky-blue convertible that must be a rental, and opened the trunk. Maddy parked by Will’s car, near the house. She wished Dad would get the place painted. It was overdue and made the house look dilapidated in the gloom. Barking, her dad’s middle-aged golden retriever ran up to the car. “A dog! Can I play with the dog?” AJ asked, true excitement in his voice. “Sure, just don’t head too far into the vineyard,” Maddy replied. “His name is Squirrel.” AJ bounded from the car and ran off, chasing the dog through the murky, fog-bound yard. Will closed the trunk of the Mustang, moved around to the side of the car, and watched AJ and the dog playing. Dressed in his usual style, he wore tan cargo shorts, leather sandals, and a dark-blue Ralph Lauren polo shirt. Ever prepared for disaster, he had a small flashlight hanging from the front of his shorts, and she figured he had a knife in his pocket. He was holding two small travel bags and managed to cradle a book in his hand. Without a doubt, a geeky physics book. Maddy had avoided prolonged contact with Will since their senior year in high school when he had pulled that awful prank. She had turned her back on him then, and her face flushed with the memory. As she opened her car door, she stood and swung her hair out of her face. Then she shut the door and walked over to him. It was so foggy and quiet, she didn’t even hear songbirds. Maddy tried to keep the annoyance out of her voice. “Hello, Will.” After they’d spent time apart, she was always surprised at the strength of their emotional bond. She couldn’t believe he was happy to see her—he had no shame! She had felt some connection to her boyfriends, Vincent included—I hate you right now, Vincent—and sometimes to her students at the dojo. But the connection was always strongest with Will, her twin, like it or not. He felt content now. She had almost missed his charm. Will flashed his irksome, boyish, lopsided grin. “Hey, Maddy, it’s good to see you! Did you have a safe drive?” To meet her, he walked around toward the front of the car. She noted his dark curly hair looked ruffled and a little shorter than the last time she’d seen him. His green eyes looked pinched, as if he were worried about something. Dad sometimes teased that they all had Spanish olives for eyes, but she enjoyed sharing the feature. She just wished she’d been blessed with Will’s long eyelashes, instead of having to create them every day with mascara. Maddy studied Will’s face. She noticed that the scar on his chin was almost hidden by a fashionable new beard that he’d grown since she’d seen him last year at Christmas dinner. The scar was always a painful reminder of the childhood accident that killed their mother. As he put down the bags, he scratched the beard, casually leaned back against the hood of the Mustang, and crossed his long lanky legs. She knew protocol called for a hug, and considered it. Rejecting the idea, she also ignored his worrywart question about the safe drive. “Did you leave Maria in Brazil?” Maddy could tell from his eyes that Will didn’t understand her cold shoulder, and she didn’t care. He had never made amends for that thoughtless stunt back in high school and she wasn’t going to let him off the hook. “No, I brought her with me,” he replied. Remembering her nightmare, Maddy’s gut clenched. She tried to ignore it. “We’ve both been working too hard.” Instead, she lashed out, her voice rising more than she intended. “Was that wise? Bringing her? Do you even know what Dad wants?” Will took a deep breath. “Gee, sis, simmer down. I thought I was the worrier of the family.” He met her gaze. “Maria was up for a change of scenery so we planned a romantic wine-country vacation. You know, the train, mud baths, that sort of thing? We might even stop by Safari West. Besides, you brought company.” He nodded toward AJ. “Who’s the little guy?” “His name is AJ. He’s a foster kid from the dojo and it’s his birthday.” She watched AJ and the dog play a spontaneous game of tag. “Is that all Dad wants with us? A vacation? He sounded concerned on the message he left me. And didn’t mention you’d be here, or Bella. Is she coming? He didn’t even say why he wanted me to come, which just seems odd. Did you talk with him?” “Bella is on her way, but no, we didn’t talk before I came up. I hope nothing is wrong. We just got here and haven’t had a chance to visit much, but he did mention he had some disconcerting news.” He paused. “You feel upset. What are you not telling me? What’s the big deal?” On days like today, Maddy hated that the emotional bond between them worked both ways. She didn’t feel like telling him anything, especially about the dream. Irritated, she looked around for a way out of the conversation but didn’t see one. The sun was hidden, the vineyard foggy and subdued, like it was holding its breath. She clenched her teeth and took a deep breath of her own. “I had a dream last night.” Now his tone sharpened a notch. “What kind of dream?” “A bad one. Maria was in it. I woke up early and it’s stuck with me since.” “Tell me,” he demanded. “I don’t know…there was blood on her face.” She remembered another dream she had when they were six. The night before their mom died. She knew by the look on his face that he was remembering that dream, too. “Blood on Maria’s face—” he frowned, thinking, questioning. “Yes, it was horrible. Splattered like a Pollock painting. I don’t remember much else. But the feeling is still with me.” Her mood picked up a little, having gotten it off her chest. “It’s probably nothing. I just wish you hadn’t brought her.” “Interesting,” he said. “You haven’t had one of those dreams in a while, have you? A real one?” “No,” she said. “It’s been a few years and the last was about a boyfriend cheating on me. The dream ended that relationship.” Will put his hands on his hips. “How is Vincent?” She grimaced. Irritated, Maddy turned and headed up the sidewalk toward the house. Will grabbed the bags and his book, and followed her, his feet padding on the concrete. As they walked, she remembered the lush landscaping that had been here once. It had provided a jumbled, colorful contrast to the acres and acres of straight green vines in the fields. Her father’s landscapers, back when he could afford them, had done well in this entry area. She couldn’t see it, but she inhaled the light scent of gardenia, and she recognized remnants of some sort of native grass, night-blooming jasmine, pansies, and roses. Vincent had brought her roses only three weeks ago. Bastard. “I see,” Will said. “So…maybe this dream was a reaction to whatever is going on there?” “Maybe—” she said. “I hope so.” Then she added, “Let’s go see what Dad wants.”

CHAPTER 5

9:15 a.m. Ivan tugged on the two-stage trigger, testing it. He was used to his Soviet bolt-action SV-98, but in the interest of time and ease of entry into the country, he had purchased a black-market rifle in the States. He was pleased with his choice, and glad it had come with a suppressor. The Enhanced Battle Rifle was decent—he tested it out yesterday in an isolated vineyard he found for the purpose. The rifle was a little heavy, but he liked the trigger-shoe modification the prior owner had done, as it gave the pull a more natural feel. He drew his attention back to the wood-casement window and twice glimpsed the oblivious inhabitant, dancing his way to death. A minute ago, the sound of car tires on gravel had come to him through the fog, so his partner, on lookout, should be reporting in. On cue, a voice in his head broke the morning stillness, “Green Prius has parked at the front of the house.” The sniper appreciated that he could hear his partner’s Russian voice clearly through the high-tech device, as he was old enough to remember missions without such advanced technology. “Driver?” he subvocalized the question, also in Russian, into the tiny molar microphone that had been custom formed to fit his teeth. “She’s female, young, maybe thirty. Slim, with an olive complexion. Has sexy long dark hair in a ponytail, and is tall. Pretty tall for a woman. Rape-bait if you ask me. Dressed in jeans and a snug purple T-shirt,” his partner said. On this job, his partner was here as much to keep an eye on him as to help, Ivan knew. The man’s simple mind and cruel nature were evident every time they worked together. The idiot had caused them to run late this morning. This part of the job should have been over an hour ago. Now it was getting complicated. “That’s not what we’re here for,” Ivan hissed. “Maybe. If so, you need to take your shot.” A few beats later his partner continued, “She was talking to the tall man next to the blue sports car. They look alike. Now they’re headed to the front door.” There was a long pause. The sniper adjusted his hold on the rifle, concentrating. He’d read the dossiers on Maddy Marshall and her twin brother, Will Argones. Argones was an engineer, no real threat. But the Marshall woman. A world-class athlete and national ski champion who had been a favorite for Olympic gold, she’d used her lightning-fast reflexes to become a warrior in an unusual martial art. And she was gifted with a keen intelligence. A dangerous combination. In another time and place, he’d have been interested in her as a mate. He swore. Based on his orders, their arrival meant he had run out of time. A low whistle pierced his ear. “Ivan, she’s got long legs. You know I like long legs, right? Why don’t we stick around and have some fun?” “You’re a pig and the baron was clear in our instructions,” the sniper replied, with heat in his tone. “You’re a bore. Oh, she had a kid with her in the car.” “A kid? What kid?” The dossier didn’t mention a child! That wasn’t part of the deal. I may go down in flames if the baron makes me shoot a kid. This target is one thing but— “How do I know what kid? He looks like he’s eight or nine. Red hair, big ears. He’s playing with the dog in the vineyard.” Ivan hoped the kid and dog were off in a different direction. At home, Ivan’s son might be playing with his own dog. But that thought was dangerous. “Just make sure they don’t come this way.” His attention back on the window, Ivan finally got a complete look at one of the other inhabitants: a short, dark-skinned woman. She wore a pale pink blouse above a blue skirt and Ivan prayed she would get out of the way. He didn’t like killing women. However, he knew that, whether he liked it or not, the latter part of the baron’s plan already called for its share of female bloodshed. The older man, near a black sofa, came into Ivan’s sights for a brief moment. It appeared that he and the younger woman were moving into the room with all the windows. Ivan knew it was time. Ivan was glad now they’d chosen a fast getaway car. “I must focus—go get the car ready.” The older man came completely into view. He was tall, clean-shaven, tan-skinned, with owlish glasses. His receding black hair was streaked with gray, and he wore slacks and a white button-down shirt. Yes, finally. But the woman was directly behind the target! Move, he willed to her. Please. This was the best shot he had. Time had run out! He had no choice but to urge her to move at the last minute. He took a slow, steady breath and tugged again on the two-stage trigger. Only this time, it wasn’t a test.

CHAPTER 6

9:20 a.m. AJ and Squirrel, done with the chase and on to a game of fetch, ran around the side yard, enjoying the grass and the feel of morning in the dense, wet fog. AJ loved all things nature. Feeling happy today made him miss his parents. He had vague memories of joyful times when they took him to his grandparent’s Ukrainian dairy farm. When the Russians came and killed his grandparents, his parents and he had fled to San Francisco. Then, one day, his mom and dad had been caught in the crossfire of a convenience store holdup while stopping for milk. That’s what he’d gathered, no one had told him. Since his parents’ death he’d been in foster care, because all of his family back in Ukraine were dead, too. He didn’t like his foster family because they ignored him, but he loved Maddy and did whatever his foster creeps asked so that he could go to the dojo. Maddy treated him the way his mom used to, warm and caring. Today, he was full of pleasure—hanging out with Maddy, getting to chase a dog outside. More than anything, he wanted a real family again. And a dog, just maybe not one named Squirrel. Someday, he’d get a big dog to protect him and name it Rufus, or Damien. AJ threw a stick and tried out the new name, “Damien, fetch!” After several minutes of chasing the stick in the side yard, AJ decided they should play a new game in the rows of vines. “C’mon, Damien,” he called as he ran into the shadows, followed by the panting dog. The morning was blissfully perfect as they ran up and down the rows. Then a loud crack sounded from the direction of the barns, like a tree branch breaking. He called his new canine friend and they headed off to investigate. *** Excerpt from VanOps: The Lost Power by Avanti Centrae. Copyright 2019 by Avanti Centrae. Reproduced with permission from Avanti Centrae. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Avanti Centrae International award-winning author who blends intrigue, history, science, and mystery into nonstop thrillers. Avanti Centrae is the author of the international award-winning VanOps thriller series. An avid world-traveler, she’s studied aikido, been a river raft guide, and thrives on adventure. Her book, The Lost Power, took home a genre grand prize blue ribbon at the Chanticleer International Book Awards, and an Honorable Mention at the 2018 Hollywood Book Festival. She resides in Northern California with her family and German Shepherds.

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My Review

4/5 stars

As a fan of The Da Vinci Code, and basically any puzzle-based mystery, especially those with historical links, then I knew VanOps: The Lost Power would be right up my street. I wasn’t wrong.
A family reunion, at the request of their father, sees twins, Maddy & Will head to Napa, only for disaster to strike immediately with the sound of gunshots. The story is fast-paced, with them coming under fire themselves from the moment the quest is revealed to them by their dying father. A little bewildered by the whole idea of this “Lost Power” that can only be saved by them, they find themselves joining up with an old school friend, Bear, whose presence gives them the benefit of his military training, though he is not exactly what he seems. Fortunately, Bear’s presence also breaks up some of the friction between the siblings. 
Maddy and Will are “interesting” characters. Maddy seems to be able to do anything and everything with ease, and do it well, whereas Will is a bit of a whinger, and is envious of his sister’s strength – both physically and mentally. It comes as no shock, therefore, that when tested, only one of them is up to the task. Weirdly, Maddy harbours a great deal of resentment towards her brother too. Theirs is not a regular sibling relationship, and the reasons for their disconnect are not explored in great deal. Maybe, the next book in the series will be more revealing on that front.
The constant reference to Maddy’s limited Aikido skills does drag at times – as if it is the only reason she manages to complete some of the challenges. Also, some of the situations they find themselves in appear to be a tad far-fetched – the connection with the Spanish Royal Family in particular – but fiction is just that: make-believe, and it’s no more unusual than the plotlines of similar stories. 

This is an action-packed thriller as they cross borders and continents to save the world, testing their relationship constantly. The story is engaging by virtue of its settings and history as well as the quest, and the pure escapism will draw you in, if only to see how it all ends. I’d be interested to see how the series develops. 
I received a copy of this book via Partners in Crime book tours; my thanks to the author and Netgalley also. My review is given voluntarily. 
 
 

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