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Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – The Pinebox Vendetta (plus giveaway)

The Pinebox Vendetta by Jeff Bond Banner

 

 

The Pinebox Vendetta

by Jeff Bond

on Tour May 1 – June 30, 2020

Synopsis:

The Pinebox Vendetta by Jeff Bond

From the author of The Winner Maker and Blackquest 40 comes The Pinebox Vendetta: a genre-bending thriller that combines a love story, cold-case murder mystery, and political blood feud — told over the course of a single breathless weekend.

The Gallaghers and Pruitts have dominated the American political landscape dating back to Revolutionary times. The Yale University class of 1996 had one of each, and as the twenty-year reunion approaches, the families are on a collision course.

Owen Gallagher is coasting to the Democratic nomination for president.

Rock Pruitt — the brash maverick whose career was derailed two decades ago by his association to a tragic death — is back, ready to reclaim the mantle of clan leader.

And fatefully in between lies Samantha Lessing. Sam arrives at reunion weekend lugging a rotten marriage, dumb hope, and a portable audio recorder she’ll use for a public radio-style documentary on the Pruitt-Gallagher rivalry — widely known as the pinebox vendetta.

What Sam uncovers will thrust her into the middle of the ancient feud, upending presidential politics and changing the trajectory of one clan forever.

The Pinebox Vendetta is the first entry in the Pruitt-Gallagher saga: a series that promises cutthroat plots, power grabs, and unforgettable characters stretched to their very limits by the same ideological forces that roil America today.

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller Published by: Jeff Bond Books Publication Date: February 19th 2020 Number of Pages: 264 ISBN: 1732255253 (ISBN13: 9781732255258) Series: Pruitt-Gallagher Saga, #1 Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

1

Jamie Gallagher stood beside the pirate at the skiff’s rail, the African sea thick on his skin. Neither man could see the other in the moonless night, but Jamie smelled the khat the Somali never stopped chewing—sweetly sharp, a scent that made Jamie feel part cleansed and part crazed. “The money is ready,” said the pirate named Abdi. “My men have packed the briefcase.” “Wanaagsan.” Jamie ducked his head in gratitude. “You believe the general will accept a briefcase?” “This is the usual way, yes. It will be checked for explosives with X-ray and IMS swabs.” “Of course.” “Also, the general will insist on verifying the amount before the release occurs.” “His men are going to count ten million dollars?” Jamie asked. The Somali spat khat leaves into the sea. “He has machines. The machines check by weight.” Jamie exhaled, pushing his own breath into the hot, still air. The money would weigh out. The money wasn’t the trick. Abdi continued, “Once the amount is verified, the general will call his people in the jungle by satphone, and they will free your journalist.” “Immediately? I’ll need confirmation from HD before we leave the yacht.” “That is the arrangement.” Jamie mopped his brow. Acting wasn’t his strength, and he hoped his insistence on this procedural point was convincing. In fact, Humanitarian Dialogue (HD) knew nothing about tomorrow. There would be no representative at the hand-off spot, and the French journalist—whose reporting on minority suffrage truly had opened the world’s eyes—would not be freed. This was a regret. But Jamie Gallagher had lived with worse. He said, “I’ll be X-rayed, too?” “Yes.” “Strip-searched?” “At a minimum. You should expect a body cavity search.” “Fine.” In his years advocating for peace and public health around sub-Saharan Africa, Jamie had had his cheeks probed, his neck magnetically combed, and the arches of his feet flayed. “I suppose the general’s in no position to be trusting.” The pirate took a while to respond. Was he eyeing Jamie in the dark? Signaling to his men back on the mothership? Jamie’s statement had been obvious and shouldn’t have invoked offense. Since joining the pirates at Merca, a white beach paradise down the coast from Mogadishu, Jamie had detected hostility—even after paying their exorbitant convoy fee. Abdi himself had been civil enough, but his three young lieutenants, after pointedly using their left hands to shake Jamie’s, had glared at him with undisguised contempt. He understood this. A westerner waltzes onto their ship with unimaginable stores of cash—cash that, in a matter of hours, will bring them into contact with the most wanted war criminal on the planet. Naturally, they resented him. He was what, five years older than them? With his bandanna and dishwater-blond hair? Abdi said, “This is a great risk for us. We have earned the general’s esteem. We do not wish to squander it.” Jamie heard the clench in the man’s jaw. “I assure you, I will comply with every procedure he or you tell me to follow.” General Mahad and these Somali pirates fought on the same side of many issues. Both wanted the ruling Muslims out of Puntland. They didn’t care that the Muslims had remade the conflict-ravaged region into a prosperous enclave, introducing compulsory education and a foodstuff-based living wage. For the pirates, the problem was their strict, Islam-centric brand of law and order, which had made the coastal waters harder to pillage. General Mahad’s beef was simple: the Muslims had replaced him in power. He’d ruled Puntland for a decade, enriching himself and his cronies using any resource available—khat, guns, people. When word of his atrocities leaked, international pressure mounted for a free election. The general agreed after a period of stonewalling, believing he could manipulate the results. When Al Jama-ah won anyway, the general stole all he could in the weeks before yielding control. According to a local guide Jamie trusted, the general toured polling stations his last day with a machete, taking three fingers from each precinct leader. “If I lose next time,” he told them, “you lose the rest.” Though he retained a few loyalist strongholds like the one holding the French journalist, General Mahad himself lived on a yacht, moving constantly to evade capture. The Hague had convicted him last year in absentia. Now Jamie asked, “Who’ll be coming aboard with me?” “Me and Josef,” Abdi said. “We are known to the general.” “Will you be armed?” “No. He will search us, too.” Jamie shuffled in place, the skiff feeling suddenly unsteady beneath him. “I—er, I hope it’ll be okay that I bring a gift. Akpeteshie. I was told it is the general’s favorite liquor?” The pirate groaned pleasurably. “Akpeteshie, yes.” “I thought we might share a drink as a token of good faith.” “The bottle is factory-sealed?” “Yes.” “The general will like this. The general believes in courtesy.” Several retorts came to mind at the ludicrous idea this butcher had any claim on civility, but Jamie swallowed them. He removed a pair of night-vision goggles from his rucksack. Before looking himself, he offered them to Abdi. Abdi waved them off as though the technology were frivolous. Jamie scanned the horizon, right to left, left to right. The skiff’s sway seemed to increase. The eye cups stuck to his sweaty forehead. The smell of khat, which hadn’t bothered him before, grated now, like sugar grit needling into his nose and eardrums. He felt the pressure of this place keenly. Every actor—man, woman, or child—who entered this stretch of ocean would be girded to fight. They must be. Choice never came into it. A shape appeared on the horizon. Jamie thumbed his focus wheel until red blurs resolved to running lights. “The general,” Abdi said. Adrenaline jolted through Jamie. Here was a ghost vessel—a vessel many militaries of the world would board on sight, and one the United States wouldn’t think twice about blasting to smithereens with a drone strike. The yacht grew larger in the greenish display. Jamie screwed on a bulky magnifier lens and was able to make out guards on the gunwale, ambling, AK-47s on their shoulders. The yacht was perhaps twenty meters. Several figures were sprawled out on deck, sleeping in the open for the heat. Jamie raised the goggles, thinking to find the general on the bridge. The cockpit windows were smoked—opaque from outside and surely bulletproof. He panned back down. The craft made a leeward turn, and he glimpsed new figures at the base of the pilothouse. These were prone like the others but smaller—a dozen in a line, little pulled-apart commas. Most of them were still, but one squirmed restlessly. Children. Jamie’s stomach shrank to a cold fist. # He barely slept. Long after rowing back to the mothership and helping Abdi loosely tie up the skiff, and bedding down in the holds beside crates of ammunition and rocket-propelled grenades, Jamie lay awake thinking of those children. He’d known the general had kids, twenty or thirty that he acknowledged. And it shouldn’t have been surprising such a monster would keep family members near, in the cross-hairs of danger. Still, the concrete knowledge of these innocents shook Jamie. His moral clarity waned, like a tower of blocks losing its crosspiece. How will the general’s children move on? What if they fall into the arms of the pirates or the next warlord up? From here, it was no leap at all to obsess about the French journalist. When the exchange was revealed as phony, would the general’s men execute her on the spot? They would blame her, despite the fact that she had played no role whatsoever in the ruse. Renée Auteuil had been raised by a jobless father in Roubaix, the post-industrial husk of a city. She’d worked sixty-hour weeks as a line cook to support them. She’d defied dictators on three continents to achieve the eminence and audience that had prompted General Mahad to snatch her last spring. Now Jamie was putting her in jeopardy, and for what? So that he could feel better about himself? So he could feel absolved? Jamie had chosen Puntland precisely because it was neutral territory in the feud between his family, the Gallaghers, and their conservative arch-enemies, the Pruitts. The two clans had been fighting for nearly three centuries—and while there was hardly a facet of American political, corporate, or philanthropic life their battles hadn’t touched, neither family had much connection to Puntland. As president, Jonathan Pruitt hadn’t carried out any significant dealings with the territory during his term. (His only term, thankfully.) The Gallaghers facilitated relief missions all over Africa, but nothing specially in Puntland. Jamie’s action tomorrow wouldn’t be interpreted as having grown out of the feud, or impacted the feud, or given the Gallaghers some edge in the next midterm elections. This was separate. This was good, a thing nobody could spin or debate. That had been the plan, at least. Now doubts roared in Jamie’s mind. He dug at the roots of his hair, flopping about the damp, creaking boards. The Somalis snored in the adjacent room. Their arsenal reeked of grease and sulfur. Jamie crunched his eyes and pulled his rucksack, which he’d been toting around since freshman year at Yale, down over his head. The thoughts still came, and the guilt. His emotions spiraled and sickened and fought, and finally came to a head. He growled, disgusted by himself, then tore through his rucksack for the shoe that contained, wedged up in the toes, a newsprint photo of a mass grave discovered in northeast Puntland. By penlight, he stared at the image. He seared it into his brain. The open trench of dusted gray bodies. The overlapping femurs. The fleshless faces. The photo was merely one of dozens. Jamie knew the general was well-positioned to continue the slaughter once the collective international eye moved along. “That’s it,” he whispered aloud. “Not one more thought.” # The meeting was to take place twenty minutes after sunrise. Jamie woke, having finally fallen asleep around four a.m., to the Somalis chatting in their native tongue over pieces of flatbread. He dragged himself aboveboard, feeling at once languid and jittery. “Bread?” Abdi offered, tearing a piece from a slab. “Thanks, no.” Jamie reached into his rucksack instead for a piece of biltong, the wildebeest jerky he’d grown fond of. “Has the general been about?” “Yes, Josef saw him. The hat.” Abdi made a sifting gesture above his head to indicate the general’s beret. The day was already scorching, the sky’s blue brilliance broken only by the boiling disk of the sun. The general’s yacht rocked softly in the west, appearing quite large now, its bow sleek and spear-like. “They’re within gun range,” Jamie observed. “Oh yes. We are in their scopes.” As if to prove the point, Abdi raised a hand in the yacht’s direction and laughed. Nobody joined him. The pirate named Josef, taller and broader in the chest than Abdi, loaded the ten-million-dollar briefcase into the first of three skiffs. Jamie stepped in after, fitting his rucksack into the hull—careful of the Akpeteshie inside—and tying back his hair. Abdi took a minute instructing the two men staying back on the mothership. Was he arranging a distress signal? Telling them what to do if shots were fired? Coordinating a double-cross? There was no use worrying. Jamie had placed himself between dangerous people, but dangerous people performed the same calculations benign ones did. The pirates would keep up their end so long as the benefits remained clear: not only cash, but stronger ties with the general and the establishment of a new back-channel to the powerful Gallaghers. The skiff loaded, Adbi yanked the outboard motor’s cord. The engine sputtered alive and settled to a rumbling purr. Josef untied them, flashing a grim thumbs-up to the men staying behind. They charted a course for the general’s yacht. The sea felt choppier on the smaller craft, which didn’t bother Jamie—a lifelong boater and varsity swimmer in college—but did compel him to pull the rucksack protectively into his lap. If the Akpeteshie somehow ruptured against the hull, the mission would be lost. As they neared the general’s yacht, the faces of his guards became visible—wary, textured faces. The carry-straps of AK-47s sawed their necks. Abdi cut the motor and drifted in. A section of railing was unclipped, and a ramp extended from the yacht’s stern. After helping Josef tie up, Jamie slipped the rucksack onto his back and boarded. The Somalis trailed him with the briefcase. “Halkan, ku siin!” said one of the general’s men. Abdi shook his head forcefully at the request—to hand over the briefcase. The guards backpedaled, their formation hemming Jamie and the pirates into a corner of the aft deck. Abdi and Josef walked with their bodies shielding the case as if it contained plutonium. With these uneasy field positions established, the general’s men conferred briefly and parted to form an aisle to the pilothouse. General Mahad emerged. The general wore his full dress uniform: navy blue, epaulets, ribboned medals. He lumbered forward with a mild limp, said to have originated during the Simba rebellion of 1964. He raised his chin to Abdi, then spoke to Jamie. “Welcome to the one and true seat of Puntland, Mr. Gallagher.” Jamie felt the man’s deep, scarred voice in his bowels. “That’s none of my concern. I’m here for Renée.” The general smiled, his lips fat and sly. “How fortunate she is. You are the white knight, eh? Sir Jamie?” The characterization stung, but Jamie pushed on. “I’ve been in touch with Humanitarian Dialogue—their helicopter is ready. Give me a latitude and longitude for the exchange and let’s get this over.” “Your friends have the money?” Every eye on the yacht turned to Abdi, whose knuckles tightened on the briefcase handle. “Ten million,” Jamie said. “Count it if you like.” The general crooked a finger at one of his men, who disappeared to the pilothouse. The man returned with a machine resembling a fax with bill-sized trays. Abdi stepped forward with the briefcase. The man with the counting machine passed a handheld X-ray scanner around the case and swabbed a cloth along each edge. He started for the pilothouse with the cloth, likely to perform a residue test for explosives, but the general stopped him. Then gestured for Abdi to go ahead. When Abdi undid the clasp, the lip snapped open—ten million was a squeeze, even with an oversize case—and a few packets spilled out. The counting began. Now Jamie reached into his rucksack for the Akpeteshie. “I’ve heard tell around campfires,” he began, gathering himself, “that you enjoy a certain Ghanaian beverage.” The general grinned when he saw the bottle, squat, the neck’s glass bowed in the distinctive shape of a baobab tree. “This is true.” “Shall we drink together?” Jamie said. “It’s early, but I find a day started well nearly always ends well.” The general palmed his jaw. There was a risk he would set the gift aside, but Jamie was counting on this subtle challenge to his manhood—in front of his crew, in front of Abdi and Josef. People like the general didn’t back down from such dares. Jamie thought of his old classmate Rock Pruitt who’d downed a fifth of whiskey disproving a frat brother’s claim that prep-schoolers only drank martinis and smoked reefer. “I would quite enjoy that,” the general said. “After the bottle is checked.” Jamie raised a shoulder, feigning indifference as two men seized the Akpeteshie and held it sideways up to the sun, testing its feel in their hands, poking fingernails along the dripped-wax seal. They would find nothing. Jamie’s sister Charlotte Gallagher, founder of internet-of-things giant SmartWidget and the eighteenth-richest person in the world, owned 45 percent of the local distillery that produced Akpeteshie. She had allowed Jamie to follow this lone bottle through the factory. At the final step, just before corking, he’d poured out 150 milliliters of liquor and replaced it with an equal amount of king cobra venom. For fifteen months, Jamie had been inoculating himself with increasingly larger doses of the venom. He had started, after discussing the strategy at length with a Sudanese shaman, with a pinprick diluted in a pint of water. Last week, he had managed eight milliliters of venom—the amount a shot from the spiked Akpeteshie would deliver, depending on the pour—and suffered only dizziness, blurred vision, and severe cottonmouth. When his men were satisfied the bottle was unaltered, the general took a pair of tumblers from the yacht’s fiberglass sideboard. Tumblers, not shot glasses. Eight ounces at least. “To finding a middle, eh?” The general poured each tumbler to the brim. “Two parties can start from opposite ends and, with good sense, find a common understanding.” Jamie’s teeth pulverized each other in the back of his mouth. He’d always found the rhetoric of compromise disingenuous, whether it came from television pundits or the North Carolina Gallaghers exhorting the clan to give ground at the fringes of the abortion debate. To hear it from the mouth of a man like Mahad? Revolting. “To the middle,” he spat. He raised the tumbler to his lips. Calculations whipped around his brain. Eight ounces divided by one point five… Equaled six times the amount of venom his body had previously endured. The liquid was amber, almost orange. As the glass tilted, Jamie imagined he saw currents of venom slithering among the palm wine. His fingers trembled. Some sloshed over the side, but not nearly enough. In his periphery, Jamie became aware of Abdi and Josef arguing with the general’s men. Abdi slapped one empty well of the briefcase. The general’s men shouted. More rushed to the deck from below board. The general balked at Jamie’s tone. “You do not like my toast. That is your right. You are the guest, so make your own.” He smirked about. “We are democratic here, aren’t we?” Jamie ignored the low hoots. “To justice.” He regripped his tumbler. “To justice, and fair treatment for all living things.” The general guffawed, big and toothy. “For ten million, yes. Why in hell not?” Their eyes locked over the tumblers’ rims. Jamie perceived something in the man’s look, some hustler’s instinct, and knew if he faltered now—even for a moment—the trap would be blown. Jamie stared into the lethal brew, waited for bright madness to rise, and drank. The Akpeteshie burned his throat. His jaw felt weak and daggers pressed into his eardrums from inside. Still, he kept his head tipped back and drank it all. The general and several of his men goggled at the feat. When their eyes turned to him, the war criminal downed his, too. “…no, the release! ” Jamie heard behind him. “No money before release!” “We will keep it.” “No, us! We will hold the money.” A guard wearing ripped denim leveled his rifle at Abdi. Josef stepped forward to push aside the muzzle. Another guard drove the butt of his rifle into Josef’s back, crumpling the pirate. Jamie didn’t know how long he and the general had. During his inoculation, the symptoms would begin in about a minute, but he’d never ingested this large a dose. His heartrate zoomed and breath pumped through his chest like air from a bellows—still, this could be the effects of anticipation. “So, um…the release,” he said, feeling a vague duty toward Abdi. “If you…so I’ll call HD and be sure Renée, er…s’all okay with the money…” Words were deserting him. The scuffle on deck was intensifying. Josef had recovered to pounce on the man in denim. Abdi was buried in a furious tangle of fists and churning hips. Jamie didn’t understand the fight. Let them have the money—who cared? He began to feel disconnected from his body, Abdi and Josef blending into other people he’d known in life, Gallaghers and Pruitts, senators and reporters, grad students and business titans, all fighting without reason, finding joy and enemies, grinding their life into the larger sausage. The general unleashed a thunderous whistle and raised his hand for calm. The struggle paused. Every eye turned his way. He began to lower his hand but suddenly couldn’t. His arm convulsed and became some bucking stick-animal beyond his control. His fingers twitched unnaturally. He grasped his throat, staggering back. Froth bubbled in his nostrils. The man who’d retrieved the money scale from the pilothouse pointed at Jamie. “What is this?” Jamie tried answering, but his tongue would not obey, dead and heavy in his mouth. Pain gored his brain. Sweat screamed from his pores, a thousand beads altogether. This wasn’t the outcome Jamie had wanted, but neither was it wholly unexpected. He thought now of life’s best moments. In Burundi, feeling that boy’s skeletal hand squeeze as he sucked a tab of enriched peanut butter. On the vineyard, fourteen years old, swinging his cousins round and round in celebration after his mother—the senior senator from Connecticut and Democratic National Committee chairperson—had succeeded in her long-shot campaign to retake majority control of the Senate. Above all, though, he remembered kissing Sam. Seniors on their last night at Yale, about to go conquer the world, standing together in an entryway. Emotions spiked to the heavens. Their mouths came together in the gentlest, deepest touch he’d known before or since. Samantha Lessing. God, she was it. The life he missed. Half the general’s men were swarming the Somali pirates while the other half moved on Jamie. There was a gap between the two, but it was closing. Jamie willed his tongue back into service. “This was right,” he croaked. “Here, today. This was not a waste.” And he believed this—dashing across the deck through grasping hands, over the gunwale, into the black ocean.

TEN YEARS LATER

2

Sam slipped out of the WNYC studios at four thirty, waving off cheers of “Have fun!” and “Take me with you!”, hurrying through the lobby, jogging a short block to catch the uptown C. She needed to pick up a daughter and possibly husband in Brooklyn, then be back in Manhattan for the 5:41 p.m. train to New Haven. Reunion check-in closed at eight. If the train arrived on time, she’d make it easy. If not? If any of the dizzying array of pitfalls inherent in teenagers and public transit popped up? Sam guessed they were sleeping on the street. Half an hour later, she hiked three flights of stairs with key at the ready. The apartment was unlocked. “Joss?” she called. “You are packed, yes?” Her daughter’s door was closed, but guitar chords thwanged through. Sam stepped around French bread pizza and a stack of indie music magazines to pound twice. “Not telling you what to wear,” she yelled, “but I suggest a dress or dress-like garment for Saturday night.” The music inside dulled, indicating Sam had been heard. The warning bell had been sounded. She found an oversize duffel bag in the hall closet and tossed in her stuff: toiletries, three-odd outfits for the weekend, Zoom audio recorder. About outfits: Sam both cared and didn’t care. She was forty-three. Her classmates were forty-three, give or take. Nobody should go rocking a prom dress, but they weren’t dead yet either. She brought dark-red sleeveless, plus yellow floral in case of glorious weather. “Leaving twelve minutes!” she said through Joss’s door. “Zero wiggle situation.” Tight timelines didn’t bother Sam—the studio commonly dropped post-production on her for shows that were airing in mere hours. Packing now, she thought pleasurably of the friends she’d see at the reunion. Laurel in from San Francisco. Jen Pereido. Naomi, even though she was still recovering from the birth of her fourth(!) child. From her own daughter’s room came a squeal, streaked with joy. The noise pinched Sam’s heart. Her husband Abe was in there—they’d probably harmonized on some new melody. Which was awesome. Truly. Except that it was 4:48. She opened the door. “I hate to be Yoko, but the time’s come to break up. Leaving in five minutes.” Fourteen-year-old Joss looked up from fingering the neck of her guitar, still grinning. Abe sat cross-legged on the floor with the Yamaha across his knees, a kind of strung-out, hipster Dalai Lama. Both appeared stumped. Sam said, “Yale? My alma mater, where you’ve been dying to go for months?” Joss’s grin vanished. “Dad said you were leaving whenever! Isn’t it like an all-weekend thing? Today’s only Thursday.” “Yes, but in order to check in Thursday night, as I hope to,” Sam said, patiently as she could, “we need to arrive on campus by eight o’clock.” “That’s ridiculous, I’ve barely even looked at clothes.” “Then look quickly. I’m winging it myself.” Joss shot upright, dropping her guitar with a clang against the bed. “I’m not going to Yale on, like, zero notice. You can’t just spring this on me.” “I sprung no thing on no body. We discussed timing last night, and this afternoon I sent your father four texts—every hour, on the hour—reminding him.” “But those go to his phone,” Joss said. “Remember, I don’t have one? Because you won’t let me?” Sam stretched one arm laboriously toward the ceiling, focusing on good breaths. Apparently, they were skimming right over Abe’s not passing along the messages. His long-running campaign to absolve himself of any and all responsibility—waged by a steady pattern of never giving a crap for anyone but himself—had succeeded at last. “Look, we can argue about phones again or we can try to make this train. Otherwise, we basically miss half the reunion. We might as well skip.” This genuinely spooked Joss. Her face hollowed even more deeply than usual. (She’d grown three inches this year, causing Sam to marvel at this moody, suddenly supermodel whose laundry she washed every week.) They’d been talking about the reunion forever, what architecture couldn’t be missed, whether student activists would be around for Joss to connect with. Sam hated to use fear, that blunt-force instrument of the parenting arsenal, but she knew a reasoned argument would produce nothing but gridlock. Joss started packing. Abe, who’d disappeared to the bathroom, emerged now with drawstrings dangling from his sweats. He nodded to a pair of shiny heels in Sam’s duffel. “Somebody’s dressing to impress.” “I haven’t seen these people in twenty years,” she said. “I’m erring on the side of adequate.” Her husband snorted, seeming to take the comment personally. Twelve years older than Sam, he’d been an already-aging rocker when she had met him in her late twenties. Between drugs and alcohol, and having nowhere in particular to be for the last twenty years—no office or classroom mores to adhere to—Abe had aged poorly. His leatherette skin belonged to a person decades older, and beige hair had fled the top of his head for his ears and nostrils. “You’re more than welcome to join,” Sam said, stuffing in a toothbrush. “But we are leaving mucho rapido, so…” He ambled a step away, picked up Joss’s guitar and set it in its case. She heaved the duffel’s halves together to make the zipper zip. “You’re passing, correct? I just want to confirm with a verbal yes or no answer.” Sam knew with four hundred percent certainty that some future argument would hinge on this point—whether or not Abe had been invited. They would be sniping back and forth about Yale, how phony or not phony her friends were, what first-world problems they were finding themselves crippled by, and he would break out his trump card. You were embarrassed. You didn’t want me there, dragging you down. And here it came, earlier than expected. “You don’t have to faux-invite me,” Abe said. “You prefer to go alone. Oh, you’ll tolerate Joss. Joss is an acceptable accessory. Perfectly cool, I get it. I won’t ruin your triumphant return.” Sam again focused on respiration. In, out. In, out. “This is a real invitation,” she said. “Just like the one I offered in April, and in May. You are absolutely welcome at my reunion. Come. Please. Joss would love having you there. Maybe you could jam with Thom—he’s supposed to be playing Toad’s.” As convincingly as Sam delivered these words, her husband was right. The invitation wasn’t real. Abe thought Thom’s music was derivative and had zero interest in strumming out tired chords while Activist Boy preened at the mic for the ladies. If Abe went, he would grump and sulk and criticize, and ruin the whole thing. “Pass,” Abe said. “Thom can play ‘Better Man’ solo. That is where he opens, isn’t it? Pearl Jam? Or is it the first encore?” Sam chuckled with relief. Complicity with ragging on her own friends? Fine. Fine, she’d do it—so long as he stayed home. Their daughter’s voice came through the wall, “What’s the formality situation for Saturday night dinner?” “Less stuffy than a cotillion,” Sam called back, “but expect mosh-pitting to be frowned upon.” As she waited on her daughter, Sam kept tabs on a few text conversations by phone. People were arriving into New Haven and wondering where Demery’s had gone, or at the airport dreaming of hugs on the quad, or annoyed because they had to work tomorrow which royally sucked! Sam grinned at this last but didn’t tap back a response. Abe was watching her, surely guessing what the rapid-fire chimes were about. For Sam to actively join in would risk an argument or, worse, a change of heart. She didn’t think her husband was capable of attending the reunion for spite, enduring a rotten weekend just to play the killjoy. But why push him? Finally, Joss emerged. She had changed into a clingy ankle-length skirt and carried a backpack. “Thank you for hurrying,” Sam said. “Excited?” Joss rolled her eyes but couldn’t completely suppress a smile. Sam clutched her hand. After double-checking the cat dish had food, she slipped on her jacket and pulled her cell charger out of the wall, jamming it into the side of her bag. Abe tilted his head. “Why’re you taking the Zoom?” Shoot. Sam inwardly punched her brain for not packing last night. “Ah…I’m kicking around this audio doc. Just ideas. Might record some clips.” “Topic?” She hated how he asked, all aggressive and pedantic. “I doubt I’ll have time.” She considered lying outright. Joss was watching, though, and the idea of cowering in front of her daughter—who was learning how to relate to others and respond to adversity and be an assertive female—repulsed her. “It’s about pinebox. How it affected our class, et cetera. Of course the vendetta’s been done—this would try to get at it through the lens of our class at Yale. We had one Pruitt, one Gallagher, that death freshman year. Kind of the whole feud in miniature.” She shrugged, pretending to be flip, and started for the door. It was 4:32. Abe asked, “Is Rock Pruitt going to the reunion?” “Dunno,” Sam said. “We didn’t exactly run in the same circles.” “Really? That seems disingenuous given you were bosom buddies there with the immortal Jamie Gallagher.” Sam felt her chest constrict. Let it go, she told herself. Let it go like Elsa. Turn yourself to ice, and everything slides right off. Except she couldn’t. “Jamie despised Rock. You could walk the earth and never find two people with more diametrically-opposed worldviews than Rock and Jamie.” Abe huffed. “Those beautiful people and their worldviews. What rarefied air you’ll be breathing again.” Sam opened her mouth hotly to speak. At the last moment, she stopped and finished zipping her bag instead. She stood tall-shouldered, smiled, and invited Joss to lead the way out. “The audio doc does sound right out of This American Life,” said Abe, evidently unsatisfied with the fight’s resolution. “Who produces that? Must be one of those Yale ninety-sixers working there you could pitch.” She felt like asking how he could possibly believe in mythical Ivy League connections after this life of theirs: Sam’s twelve years bouncing around the periphery of pseudo-academic film, hustling after grants, performing peon tasks in job after job to bulk up a CV so it could sit on her Patreon page getting a half-dozen page views per month. She had finally risen to prominence at WNYC but almost in spite of Yale, which carried significant prima donna baggage in the field. Again, though, Sam restrained herself in front of Joss. “Hey, quick Zoom question,” she said. “You think forty-eight/twenty-four-bit, or forty-four/sixteen is better? It’ll be mostly outdoor clips.” Abe tipped his balding head left, then right. “Forty-eight. File sizes won’t be that different, and at sixteen, the Zoom gets super noisy.” Sam crinkled her nose. “Yeah. Yeah, I guess that’s right. Thanks.” Mother and daughter both pecked Abe goodbye and bounded off to catch a train. Joss seemed to study Sam down the stairs, and she wondered momentarily if her ruse had failed—if Joss understood that Mom had forgotten more about sampling rates than Dad had ever known—and had only made this final query to escape the apartment on a positive note. Other fictions existed between the couple. That Abe respected her managerial position at WNYC. That she believed his vow to start playing shows again—that those freelance audio-tech Fiverr gigs he’d parlayed fairly successfully into income were just temporary and not his professional endgame. That reuniting each night for dinner, they asked about the other’s day with anything like genuine interest. Sometimes Joss would make comments indicating she knew. “Gee, Dad, bitter much?” or, “I’d rather not be involved in this,” swirling her hand as though over a cesspool. Other times, she seemed oblivious, just a regular kid consumed by regular kid stuff. Either possibility broke Sam’s heart. *** Excerpt from The Pinebox Vendetta by Jeff Bond. Copyright 2020 by Jeff Bond. Reproduced with permission from Jeff Bond. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Jeff Bond Jeff Bond is a Kansas native and graduate of Yale University.

He lives with his wife and two daughters in Michigan, and belongs to the International Thriller Writers Association.

Catch Up With Jeff Bond On:

JeffBondBooks.com

BookBub

Goodreads

Instagram

Twitter

Facebook!

 

My Review

I hadn’t read anything by this author before but was hooked by the political intrigue promised in the book’s description. The crux of the story revolves around two families with extraordinary political influence and an even greater rivalry. Their desire to control supersedes everything – there are no lengths to which they will not go to retain influence.

Stuck in the middle is Sam, whose own marriage is on its knees, and who sees the reunion of her fellow Yale graduates as a chance to find herself again. Of course, the reunion  is drama-packed, and really shows the true nature of the warring families. For me, as a non-American, the Yale scenes were confusing, so many unexplained acronyms to identify certain groups I had no idea what was going on. Added to the fact that key characters were just so awful, with not a likeable bone in their body, it was difficult to relate to them and understand their anger with the world. 

In today’s political climate, mud-slinging has become common-place, and here it was no different. It also seemed that these people – much like today’s politicos – were never held accountable for their actions. Where was the voice of reason in all of this? I expected more of Sam, assumed her role would be to provide balance …but, no. 

The pace of events picked up in the second half and that old family feud kicked off with a vengeance, highlighting the darker and manipulative side of those wielding the power in politics. As fascinating as this was, at the back of my mind I was waiting for someone to own up to their actions, admit responsibility, and maybe – I know, what was I thinking? – show some contrition. 

Despite the characters’ complete lack of moral fibre, the families’ ingrained ability to deceive, and the cover-ups, I felt compelled to read on, just in case …. It certainly gave me insight into the shenanigans going on behind the scenes during campaign season. It’s probably – at least I hope so – an extreme take on that world. The ending felt incomplete, but maybe that will be resolved in the next book of the series. 

I received a complimentary ARC edition as part of a blog tour review. This is my honest and voluntary review.

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!

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book review · NetGalley · suspense · there's a dog · thriller

Book Review – Tell Me My Name

Tell Me My Name

by Erin Ruddy

When a woman is snatched by an obsessed stranger claiming to be her soulmate, the consequences could be deadly in this suspenseful and darkly twisted psychological thriller … unless she can remember his name.

Ellie and Neil Patterson are eager to settle in to some quality time at their new cottage. It’s the first time in ten years they’ve been alone … or are they?

When a friendly encounter with their new neighbour leads to their violent kidnapping, they awake to a living nightmare. Insisting he is Ellie’s soulmate, the stranger gives her three chances to say his name. If she guesses wrong, it’s Neil who will suffer the consequences. This propels Ellie on a desperate trip down memory lane to dredge up the dubious men of her past.

Only after discovering the man’s true identity and sacrificing her own safety to save Neil does Ellie learn the truth — that everything she thought she knew about her husband and their decade-long love story was a lie.
 

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My Review

4/5 stars

This is a fast-paced suspenseful thriller, and a book that I devoured in no time. The story is set just outside Toronto where married couple, Ellie and Neil, have finally bought their dream house. While the children are away at camp, they spend some long-awaited time together. In recent years they have drifted apart a little, and this alone time gives them space to reconnect. 

All is going well until Hamish, their dog, decides to take a little adventure and explore the area. Oblivious to boundaries, Hamish ventures onto their neighbours’ land. Ellie, in hot pursuit, expects the worst, having been told by the sales agent that her neighbours are not the sociable sort. Yet, when a man introduces himself as Jake Palmer, the grieving widower and her next-door neighbour, she is surprised by his warmth and welcoming tone and – inadvertently -invites him round for dinner.

Jake and Neil seem to get on well that evening, and everything is going well. Ellie and Neil rekindle their romance and the future is looking rosy.

Until Jake arrives the next day when Ellie is alone in the house. His tone has changed, and the charming man of yesterday is not so pleasant. In fact, he is insistent and demanding, and intent on kidnapping Ellie by fair means or foul. 

Later, when she finds herself strapped down and groggy, he reveals his real motives. He merely wants her to remember him, asking her to say his name out loud. It seems simple enough, he clearly knows Ellie, but admits to having changed a lot since those days. And he doesn’t mean he’s grown as a person, or changed his ways, but rather that he’s changed his face. Ellie can’t place him, and when he adds more context to the “game”, she realises that by not naming him he will harm her husband. The stakes are high, and Ellie’s thinking time is limited, plying even more pressure on her. 

As she thinks back, trying to identify who he might be, the tension mounts. It’s a page turner as the reader waits to see if she can tell him his name. If she can’t, what will become of Neil? If she can, what will become of her?  

The concept is so exciting and addictive, I just had to keep reading. However, as the story developed, there were quite a few “convenient” recollections that determined the outcome. And, by 75% in, I had gleaned enough from this foreshadowing to see the twist coming. 

Nonetheless, a great read. Definitely an author whose books I’ll seek out again. 

Many thanks to @netgalley and @dundurnpress for this ARC; I’ve reviewed this honestly and of my own free will.

As always, 

blog tour · book blitz · RABT Book Tours · thriller

Book Blitz – Spider’s Web

 

Thriller
Date Published: November 30, 2018
Publisher: Rowanvale Books
 
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Maggie has been in hiding in the Grid for over three years. Her restlessness convinces Shep to arrange a girls’ weekend at the beach. Things go sideways quickly. In an instant her life is changed. Maggie finds herself across the world and away from her team. Unsure who to trust, she tries to navigate her new reality. Will she be able to choose her future, or will she remain trapped in the web of enemies she created.
 
 
Praise for Spider’s Web:
 
“Shannon Condon is a talented writer who knows not only how to hold your interest but also how to turn up the heat.” – Melinda Hills, Reader’s Favorite
 
 
“Very strong, intelligent female lead character that would give James Bond a run for his money. Very fast paced drama, with lots of twists and double crossing…” – Suzanne Tibbo, Goodreads Reviewer
 
 
 
 
About the Author
 
Shannon Condon lives in North Carolina and is the mother of three boys. She is a graduate of the University of Florida School of Journalism and Communications. Writing has always been her dream.
 
Contact Links
 
 
 
Purchase Links
 
 
 
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blog tour · book review · dual timeline · France · historical · NetGalley

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – The Secret of the Château

The Secret of the Château

Everything is about to change…

1789. Pierre and Catherine Aubert, the Comte and Comtesse de Verais, have fled the palace of Versailles for their château, deep in the French Alps. But as revolution spreads through the country, even hidden away the Auberts will not be safe forever. Soon they must make a terrible decision in order to protect themselves, and their children, from harm.

Present day. When Lu’s mother dies leaving her heartbroken, the chance to move to a château in the south of France with her husband and best friends seems an opportunity for a new beginning. But Lu can’t resist digging into their new home’s history, and when she stumbles across the unexplained disappearance of Catherine Aubert, the château begins to reveal its secrets – and a mystery unsolved for centuries is uncovered…

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B083PNG675

US – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B083PNG675

Author Bio –

Kathleen McGurl lives in Bournemouth with her husband. She has two sons who have both now left home.

She always wanted to write, and for many years was waiting until she had the time. Eventually she came to the bitter realisation that no one would pay her for a year off work to write a book, so she sat down and started to write one anyway.

Since then she has published several novels with HQ and self-published another. She has also sold dozens of short stories to women’s magazines, and written three How To books for writers. After a long career in the IT industry she became a full time writer in 2019. When she’s not writing, she’s often out running, slowly.

Social Media Links –

Website: https://kathleenmcgurl.com/

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KathMcGurl

My Review

As a fan of historical fiction and Kathleen McGurl, I had super high hopes, and was not disappointed. I loved the dual timeline, especially The French Revolution aspect. Combining the story of the family Aubert with the adventure of the British retirees made for a fascinating read, connecting the past and the present through the château in the Alpes-Maritime and the village it overlooked.

The story of the Pierre and Catherine Aubert, the Comte and Comtesse de Verais begins at the Palace of Versailles, as members of the Court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoniette. As the Revolution takes a hold, Pierre and Catherine flee to his family castle and live a relatively quiet life, raising children, and supporting their tenants and the villagers alike. When revolutionary forces move out of Paris in search of Louis’s supporters, the family is placed in danger again. Someone has betrayed them, and they must flee to safety once more.

If only it were so simple. Baying crowds descend upon the château before they are ready to leave. Will they make it to safety? What becomes of the castle?

In alternating chapters (between the events of the 1780s), the author tells the tale of five Brits looking to start a new life together as retirement beckons. During a boozy evening together, the idea is raised about clubbing together to buy a place in France. Was it an alcohol-fueled pipedream, or could it become a reality? One member of the group, Lu, is less enthusiastic than the others but does not want to be the one to shatter everyone’s dreams. And so, the château is purchased. With its many rooms, outlying buildings and towers, there’s a lot of work to be done, but they get stuck in and start renovating. It’s not until Lu’s son Tom comes for a visit that the window without a room is spotted. Lu’s intrigue is piqued. While her husband tends to the garden with his new pet goat, she starts to research the castle. As they settle into their new life, the secrets of the château are gradually revealed.

The opulence of the French Court and the exceptionalism of the nobility is set against the poverty and anger of the working classes. In the modern setting, the village is harmonious and beautifully depicted. The story explodes at great pace, keeping the history alive as the modern-day residents delve further into what might have happened to the castle’s original owners.

If you love a touch of history with your mystery, then this is the book for you. The pages fly by as each chapter reveals a new layer to the characters and their stories.

Another winner for me from Kathleen McGurl.
Thanks to NetGalley, Rachel’s Random Resources and HarperCollins for a review copy which I have reviewed willingly and honestly.

 

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blog tour · book blitz · mystery · RABT Book Tours

Book Blitz – Murder Knows No Boundaries

 

JD Pickens Mysteries, Book 3
Mystery, Murder Mystery
Published: December 2019
Publisher: Gatekeeper Press
 
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Sometimes routine wasn’t always routine as Sheriff JD Pickens, and his deputies learned. What was supposed to be a routine 911 call ended up costing Pickens a deputy and turned out to be a double homicide. One that was outside the realm of humanity. Pickens was forced to divide his team and call for help from two retired homicide detectives. Not since a psychopath went on the warpath with a shotgun had there been such bloodshed in the county leaving scars that would last a long time.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Other Books in the JD Pickens Mystery Series:
 
 
Descent Into Hell
JD Pickens Mysteries, Book 1
Published: July 2017
 
With a population of just twelve thousand, Creek City is a sleepy rural town in Central Florida. Folks live there because life is simple and peaceful; but once dead bodies start turning up, Creek City is anything but.
 
Underprepared and undermanned, the county sheriff’s office scrambles to stop the bloodshed, but the killer is always one step ahead. Sheriff J. D. Pickens, usually a steady hand, loses patience as clue after clue results in a dead end and another corpse turns up. When Pickens gets close to the truth, the killer threatens Pickens’s own family, making this murder investigation personal. Anger, terror, and tenacious police work clash in a surprise ending that will leave readers breathless.
 
Descent into Hell is a thriller that will make you lock your doors and bar your windows. Big cities may be filled with crime, but it’s easier to get away with murder in rural areas. The silence of the countryside is not always comforting; it can also be a reminder of how alone you are—and how unlikely it is that anyone will hear you scream.
 
 
 
 
Murder on Grange Road
JD Pickens Mysteries, Book 2
Published: May 2019
 
Quail hunting in Central Florida was supposed to be an exciting experience. But lately, for Bo Tatum, the owner of Tatum’s Hunting Resort off Grange Road near Lake Azur, it had been a disaster. Instead of his dogs flushing out birds, they’d been digging up human bodies.
 
Sheriff JD Pickens and County Medical Examiner, Dr. Marge Davids, were planning a festive holiday season. But their plans were put on hold thanks to Tatum’s discoveries. Undermanned and ill-equipped in a city and county where such things rarely happened, Pickens and Davids will need to muster all the ingenuity they can to solve the mysteries of the bodies, including getting help from an expert in forensic science.
 
With clues scarce and few leads, Pickens and Davids had to rely on unconventional methods as a last resort. When tempers started to flare during the investigations, Pickens had to use every ounce of patience he could muster to stay calm and in control.
 
 
 
About the Author
 
George Encizo is an award-winning author and has written seven novels. Murder Knows No Boundaries is his latest. Encizo is a retired banker and lives in Tallahassee, Florida. When not writing, he enjoys a cup of coffee on the back porch with his wife surveying their gardens.
 
 Contact Links
 
 
 
 
Purchase Links
 
 
 
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blog tour · book review · Contemporary Romance · summer · there's a dog

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – The Summer of Falling in Love

The Summer of Falling in Love

The thought of having a dog hasn’t crossed Theo Martin’s mind. It’s not that he doesn’t like dogs – he does – but the idea has simply never occurred to him.

It has occurred to his mother though, and when she decides to buy him a puppy because she thinks it will “liven him up a bit”, his life is turned completely upside down and not for the better as far as he’s concerned. But when he discovers that having a cute dog on the end of a lead attracts a great deal of female attention, he soon changes his mind. All kinds of women stop to pet the pup and while they coo over Poppy, they talk to him. A lot. And for Theo, it looks like his love life is taking a very welcome turn for the better.

But what about Josie Wilde, his dog sitter?

Forced to employ someone to walk his dog when he’s in work, he finds himself increasingly attracted to her, but unfortunately Josie’s interest in him appears to be purely professional. As the summer unfolds and he falls head over heels in love with the sweet and vulnerable pup, he finds himself falling for Josie.

For Theo, it’s not so much ‘love me, love my dog’, but more like ‘love my dog, love me, too’. Please…?

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Summer-Falling-Love-uplifting-feelgood-ebook/dp/B086DXQ52Y

US – https://www.amazon.com/Summer-Falling-Love-uplifting-feelgood-ebook/dp/B086DXQ52Y

Author Bio

Liz Davies writes feel-good, light-hearted stories with a hefty dose of romance, a smattering of humour, and a great deal of love.

She’s married to her best friend, has one grown-up daughter, and when she isn’t scribbling away in the notepad she carries with her everywhere (just in case inspiration strikes), you’ll find her searching for that perfect pair of shoes.

She loves to cook but isn’t very good at it, and loves to eat – she’s much better at that!

Liz also enjoys walking (preferably on the flat), cycling (also on the flat), and lots of sitting around in the garden on warm, sunny days.

She currently lives with her family in Wales, but would ideally love to buy a camper van and travel the world in it.

Social Media Links:

Website: https://lizdaviesauthor.wixsite.com/home

Twitter https://twitter.com/lizdaviesauthor

Facebook: fb.me/LizDaviesAuthor1

My Review

Theo is a maths teacher, tired and jaded by the constant demands being placed on him, and seriously wondering if teaching is still for him. With a week to go, he can’t wait for the summer term to end.  When his parents leave him in the lurch with an 11 week-old pup, he’s convinced it’s a joke and they’ll be back any time now to take the sweet little thing from him. But, they don’t return, in fact, they  hot-foot it to Harrogate for a week, leaving Theo with the Cockerpoo, Poppy. When he manages to speak to his mum – now in Harrogate having a jolly old time – he learns the reasoning behind their little joke that isn’t a joke. His mum tells him he’s stuck in a rut and needs to get out more and live life. Poppy is his responsibility now, and having a pup will give him a new purpose, not to mention get him out of the house over the summer holidays.

Theo thinks she’s gone mad, especially as he still has to go to school for one more week. How can he possibly look after a dog, let alone an untrained puppy? He has no option but to find her a new home. But how?

After spending only a few hours with Poppy, he realises he can’t just give her away to anyone. That wouldn’t be fair on her. So, he searches out a company that offers dog-sitting, and hires Josie to look after Poppy until the school term ends, thus giving him time to find her a more suitable home.

Trouble is, Poppy is super cute, and Theo starts to get attached to her. Not just her, though, as he takes quite a shine to Josie too. Could Poppy really be the solution to his mundane life?

If you love dogs, then you’ll love this book. Poppy is adorable, with oodles of fun and energy to keep Theo on his toes. Having a dog opens Theo up to a whole new world. Firstly, there’s all the women stopping him to say hello, and not to mention some less scrupulous dog-nappers, and even some kids in his class who see him out with Poppy and show new interest in school.

This really is an uplifting story, heartwarming and with lashings of the feel-good factor. A sweet, humorous, entertaining read that will tug at your heart strings and make you want a Poppy of your own.
I can’t recommend reading The Summer of Falling in Love enough!

I can’t thank the author enough, coming along with a doggie story at exactly the right time for me. Having just lost my dog after 16 years together, reading had become a bind. I couldn’t focus, read page after page without absorbing a word, until this book. They often say that when you fall off your bike, you need to get straight back on it. Well, this story took me back in time, made me smile, laugh, and cry. It may have mended a teeny piece of my broken heart.

But, enough about me, people go and get this book. You’ll feel better for it, trust me 😉

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blog tour · book blitz · Giveaways

Book Blitz – Return Addresses – plus Giveaway!

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Michael A. McLellan has a new book out in the world! Read on for an exclusive except and a fantastic giveaway — A $20 Amazon gift card, and a copy of Return Addresses! Psst, bloggers and book reviewers! There is also going to be a blog tour June 10th to the 26th, if you’re interested! Visit R&R Book Tours for more info!

New Final FINAL 4Return Addresses

Publication Date: April 13, 2020

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: Mountain Press

“This ain’t your world. You don’t have any friends out here. Not real ones. No one out here cares about nothin’ but where their next drink or fix is comin’ from. That, or they were born too messed up in the head to even understand what friendship is. Remember that. You can’t trust anybody. You can’t rely on no one but yourself.”

Fourteen-year-old Sean Pennington never thought he’d find himself riding on an open train car in the middle of the night. He never thought he’d find himself alone. He never thought he’d be running for his life. In the spring of 2015 Sean Pennington’s world of comfort and privilege is shattered and he becomes a ward of the state. Thrust into a broken foster care system, he discovers the harsh realities of orphanhood. Lonely, confused, and tormented by his peers, he runs away, intending to locate his only living relative; a grandfather he’s never met, who his only connection with is a return address on a crumpled envelope. Enter Andrea, a modern day hobo Sean meets at a California homeless encampment. Andrea travels the country by rail, stowing away on shipping container cars with other transients calling themselves traveling kids. Though battling her own demons, road-savvy Andrea promises to help Sean on his quest, but can she protect him from the unpredictable and often violent world she lives in?

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Excerpt

He saw the tents and the plastic tarp lean-tos too late. He was already underneath the highway overpass. The waning daylight barely penetrated the area, and the makeshift shelters were tucked back away from the road, in the shadows. If he’d seen them, he would have stopped and backtracked to the frontage road he’d passed a few hundred yards back. Breathing heavily, he slowed to a walk and kept his eyes forward. “Hey, dude, what are you running for?” Came a voice from his left. He turned toward the voice. Two men were walking toward him from the group of haphazardly placed shelters about twenty feet from the sidewalk. Gauging that he was less than halfway through, he turned around and started back the way he’d come. The men picked up their pace to a jog and cut him off. They stood on the sidewalk in his path. Sean stopped short of them and they casually walked forward, closing the distance. He was more afraid than he’d ever been in his life. His legs were shaking and he felt sick to his stomach. One of the men was old and had long, matted gray hair that hung to his chest in clumps. His clothes were tattered and filthy. The other was younger, maybe thirty. He was wearing a red hoodie and gray sweat pants that were so dirty they’d turned black in places. He had the hood up and masses of brown dreadlocks spilled out of the sides. The smell of the two men reminded Sean of spoiled food and urine. “What are you running for, kid?” the older man repeated. Sean took a step back. “I…I must have gone the wrong way.” “The wrong way? Ha! You got that right. This is the wrongest way you could go.” The man turned and glanced in the direction Sean had came from. “You got anyone with you?”

Now Available on Amazon! About the Author Mike Author 1 Michael’s love of books began with Beverly Cleary’s The Mouse and the Motorcycle when he was seven-years-old. Later influenced by the works of John Steinbeck, Harper Lee, Stephen King, James Baldwin, and Cormac McCarthy, Michael developed his style of storytelling. A self-proclaimed blue-collar writer, he draws on his experiences and observations to bring relevant and compelling topics to life. Michael lives in Northern California and when he’s not writing, he can usually be found wandering around the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges. His body of work includes the 2014 novel After and Again, the 2015 novel American Flowers, and the 2017 novel, In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree, as well as various shorts and essays.

Michael McLellan | Goodreads| Twitter

Giveaway: 1st prize is a $20 Amazon gift card and a digital copy of Return Addresses. 2nd prize is a digital copy of the book! The giveaway will run from today to May 21st!

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author resources · book review · writing craft

Book Review – The Secret Powers of the Author Mastermind

Struggle. Doubt. Fear.

Why aren’t your books selling?
How can you improve your craft?
You’re confused, feeling isolated, and not sure what you need to do to take your author career to the next level.

You’re not afraid of the work, just confused about what it is you need to be doing to live the author life.

Enter, the mastermind.

No matter how experienced, independent, and motivated of a writer you may be, forming or joining an author mastermind can accelerate your career and get you past the tipping point. Working with a group keeps you accountable to your goals, gives you support when you’re feeling hopeless, inspires and challenges you to set your expectations higher, and creates a valuable feedback group to push your work to a new level—not to mention opens doors to new marketing opportunities.

Simply put, you’ll write more, write better, and sell significantly more books while having more fun doing it.

Ben Franklin knew the secret. So did J.R.R. Tolkien. And now, so will you. Discover the Secret Powers of the Author Mastermind with J. Thorn.

With 25 years in education and experience guiding thousands of students to new, personal heights, Thorn reveals how to supercharge your career with accountability, collaboration, feedback, support, structure, and more.

Learn how meeting in a small group with dedicated peers can propel you forward in ways you could never achieve on your own.

Whether you’re looking to join an existing mastermind group or start and manage one of your own, the Secret Powers of the Author Mastermind will show you how—written by a professional who is trusted by New York Times bestselling authors like Chris Brogan and Joanna Penn.

Don’t go it alone. Transform from struggling writer to career author by leveraging the Secret Powers of the Author Mastermind.

Purchase today!

My Review

I received an ARC from the author after having heard his podcasts and interviews. And, to be honest, the term “mastermind” meant little to me as an author, but the book’s description piqued my interest.

I tend to buy a lot of “writing craft” books in the hope that the info therein will stick, but I find in many cases the tone of the delivery is a little dry. Not this one! In this relatively short book, Thorn provides a great insight into the concept of masterminds, in a way that is easy to follow and absorb. The tone is conversational and the chapters are short and well-organised. Offering up his own personal experiences, he makes the topic relatable and  – more importantly – doable!

I’ve taken on board a lot of the content, and have discussed some aspects with a few author friends. Everyone seemed to be new to the idea, and also interested in how it could work for them.

The whole concept is explained from the ‘what is’ to the ‘how do I’ and is food for thought for any writer whose intentions is to make a career from their writing.  I can see the value in masterminds for authors, not just for the accountability aspect (which is what I tend to use my writing groups for) but also for the capacity to learn from other members how to bypass or avoid certain pitfalls of the road to publication.

Informative and encouraging!

As always,

 

Audiobook · intrigue · legal · thriller

Audiobook Review – The Murder Game

The Murder Game

by Julie Apple

(Catherine McKenzie writing as Julie Apple)

Blurb

For fans of The Secret History and How to Get Away With Murder comes an exciting new voice in suspense fiction.

Ten years working as a prosecutor have left Meredith Delay jaded and unsure of what she wants out of life. She’s good at her job, but it haunts her. Her boyfriend wants her to commit, but she keeps him at arm’s length. Then Meredith is assigned to a high-profile prosecution involving the violent murder of a fallen hockey star. At first, it appears to be just another case to work. But when her old friend Julian is accused of the murder, it takes on a whole new dimension.

Meredith, Julian, Jonathan, and Lily were a tight-knit group in law school. But now, Jonathan’s defending Julian, and Lily’s loyalties aren’t clear. And when Julian invokes a rare—and risky—defense, Meredith is forced to confront their past.

Has something they played at as students finally been brought to death?
 

My Review

5/5 stars

I loved everything about this – the dual timeline, the court trial ( 🙂 naturally) and the narration. The ending was sublime ….and totally reflected the story’s title. Had it really all been a game? Is there such a thing as the perfect murder?

Meredith Delay  works for the Crown Prosecution Service and has achieved great heights for someone so young. Her commitment to the job is unquestionable, and her personal life has suffered as a result. When her boss insists she take on a high profile murder case where the defendant, Julian, is an old law school friend of hers, she worries her past friendship make her unsuitable to try the case. These worries are compounded further when she learns he is to be represented by her ex-boyfriend, Jonathon. Along with Lily, they’d been a tight-knit group in law school. Is she really the right person to prosecute him? Her boss believes her past connection is an asset, and keen to prove him right Meredith builds her case against Julian. 

Told in alternate timelines between the present day trial and Meredith’s time in law school, the story builds gradually, revealing snippets about each character in a gradual manner, which then come to the fore as the trial progresses. The clues are there, but joining them into a cohesive whole comes later as the story heads towards a delicious ending that had me listening late into the night. 

I was completely hooked and waited for the verdict with baited breath. But there was more to come, and boy was that a gem worth waiting for. It certainly left me wondering if the jury had returned the right verdict, and I totally understand the comparison to How To Get away With Murder. 

This is a cleverly-written, intense legal thriller that I have no qualms about recommending. If you a pacy thriller with intrigue and suspense aplenty, you’ll love this. 

As always, 

blog tour · Contemporary Romance · NA · series

Book Promo – Always Been You

Always Been You

Five thousand miles from his ex, AJ is living with Lisa’s decision to call it quits and leave both him, and Alabama behind. Upon hearing that Lisa is moving forward from their engagement with a new (and handsome!) doctor-boyfriend, AJ is confused and broken at the idea of facing life without his soul mate. AJ finds himself at a cross roads, does he give up all hope of ever reconciling with Lisa and take a chance on love again with someone new? Or is his heart destined to be forever entwined with the beautiful Irish woman he met on the internet… who is now with another man?

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Always-Been-You-Williams-Book-ebook/dp/B082WL6V66

US – https://www.amazon.com/Always-Been-You-Williams-Book-ebook/dp/B082WL6V66

Author Bio – Lasairiona McMaster grew up dreaming of an exciting life abroad, and, after graduating from Queens University, Belfast, that is exactly what she did – with her then-boyfriend, now husband of almost ten years. Having recently repatriated to Northern Ireland after a decade abroad spanned over two countries (seven and a half years in America and eighteen months in India), she now finds herself ‘home’, with itchy feet and dreams of her next expatriation. With a penchant for both travelling, and writing, she started a blog during her first relocation to Houston, Texas and, since repatriating to Northern Ireland, has decided to do as everyone has been telling her to do for years, and finally pen a book (or two) and get published while she tries to adjust to the people and place she left ten years ago, where nothing looks the same as it did when she left.

Social Media Links –

https://www.facebook.com/QueenofFireLas/

https://twitter.com/QueenofFireLas

http://www.lasandcolgotexan.com/

https://www.instagram.com/queenoffirelas/

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