Book Review—What Has Mother Done

What Has Mother Done Cover

I’m just going to come out and say it. Barbara Petty is a little sneaky. When I began reading What Has Mother Done, the author introduced a story that could easily have been a cozy mystery. Sure, right off the bat, there’s a body. But we’ve got a main character who is wicked-funny with her internal thoughts and asides pitted against the proverbial small town where everyone—and I mean everyone—has a secret.

Petty’s Thea Browne is no ingenue, either. She’s a hard-bitten investigative reporter who has been around the block a few times. When we meet her, she faces the bleak prospect of looking after her recently widowed mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s. During the investigation, Thea is forced to put up with her best friend, Annie, who has gone a little wonky of late. And she must also deal with her sister, Beryl. Yeah, they don’t get along. As if all that wasn’t enough, let’s throw in some hot flashes.

Yes, the story could have been a perfectly respectable cozy mystery. That is until the body count goes up. What Has Mother Done is a first-rate mystery thriller. The characters are engaging—and often frustrating. As Thea goes about trying to solve the mystery of her stepfather’s untimely death, I found my pulse quickening. If you enjoy smartly written scenes of small-town intrigue, violence, and questionable loyalties, then I suggest you check out this excellent novel.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description

In a small Midwestern town, on a cold, blustery March day, a man plunges to his death off a high, rocky cliff, setting in motion a string of events that lead to murders and rips open the long-hidden secrets of the town’s most prominent family…

The man is George Prentice, and the woman the police suspect of murdering him is his wife, Daphne. But Daphne has Alzheimer’s and, as she is likely to be incompetent to stand trial, has not been arrested.

Daphne’s daughter, Thea Browne, is a trained investigative reporter, who is furious that the police haven’t bothered to look any further for a culprit other than her mother. She suspects her stepfather made enemies when meddling in local politics and, according to one of his cronies, George wrote a memoir threatening to “blow the lid off this town.”

As Thea follows her own investigation, she discovers a widening circle of suspects, some much closer to home than she expected. Even her best friend from childhood, Annie Biggs, seems to be keeping a deep dark secret that she refuses to share with Thea.

More murders push Thea to the point where protecting her mother forces her to put her own life on the line to track down a diabolical killer.

Where to Buy

Amazon US
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Pantsing through the Pandemic

Seaside Statue Sitting Man
Courtesy of eltpics

Today, I had the pleasure of being a guest over at The Kill Zone. These guys are first-rate authors. Take a look at my post and decide whether I measure up.

If, as Stephen King likes to say, the road to hell is paved with adverbs, then finishing a novel is paved with mouse traps; and here you are trying to get across that minefield in your bare feet. As writers, we tend to get distracted—a lot. Thanks, Netflix. And then, there’s life. How many of you have said, “If only I could focus exclusively on my writing, I’d finish this damn book, by cracky.” I know I have. Repeatedly over the years, much to the irritation of my long-suffering wife.

Then, a little thing called COVID-19 happened. We were told we had to shelter in place. Sure, there was still Netflix and Amazon Prime to distract us, but we couldn’t go anywhere. What’s a writer to do? Well, like the wily poker player whose bluff was called, I decided to shut up and write. And guess what, I finished the damn book.

Pantsers Are People, Too

I’m a pantser by trade. That means I don’t have a clue where I’m heading when I begin a new book. That’s not entirely true. I do know where I would like to end up, but I haven’t worked out the details. I have a main character in mind, of course. And I’m pretty clear on the conflict arising between the mc’s goal and the thing standing in the way. Other than that, I’m free as a bird when it comes to the plot. I suspect that some plotters look at pantsers as undisciplined children with uncombed hair and sticky fingers. My image of a plotter is a person who dresses impeccably and has an English accent. Borrowing from the wonderfully insane film Galaxy Quest, plotters are Alexander Dane, while pantsers are Jason Nesmith.

The book in question is the third in my supernatural suspense series, Sarah Greene Mysteries. My main character sees ghosts, which tends to get her into serious trouble. Over the course of the three novels, Sarah goes from discovering a mirror that holds the spirit of a dead girl to the entire town pretty much erupting into flames. Now, as a card-carrying pantser, I had no idea how I was going to go from a murder mystery to Armageddon. I had to trust that the characters would get me to my destination. Spoiler alert—going about crafting a novel this way requires you to rewrite. Often. That’s the downside. The upside is, there are lots of opportunities for discovery. And then, there is what I like to call the happy accident, which in my opinion, is a gift from heaven and makes for a better story.

You can read the rest of the post here.

2020 Indie Book Awards Press Release

NextGenerationIndieBookAwards2
Next Generation Indie Book Awards is the world’s largest book awards program for independent publishers and self-published authors

The Girl in the Mirror: A Sarah Greene Supernatural Mystery by Steven Ramirez has been named by the Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group as one of the best indie books of 2020.

Steven Ramirez’s book is the winner of the Horror category in the 2020 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the world’s largest book awards program for independent publishers and self-published authors. The winners and finalists will be honored June 26 in an online event which will stream live on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NextGenerationIndieBookAwards at 8:00 pm (Eastern Time) and 5:00 pm (Pacific Time).

2020 is the 13th year of the not-for-profit book awards program. Outskirts Press, an independent book publisher which provides services for self-publishing authors, was a Silver Sponsor of this year’s awards.

The Next Generation Indie Book Awards are judged by leaders of the indie book publishing industry, including many with long careers at major publishing houses. Their love of a great read and experience in the publishing arena identify books deserving a wider audience.

In an article at CNN.com titled If it’s cool, creative, and different, it’s indie, journalist Catherine Andrews wrote: “The term ‘indie’ traditionally refers to independent art – music, film, literature or anything that fits under the broad banner of culture – created outside of the mainstream and without corporate financing.” That definition remains true for book publishing.

Independent book publishing companies are independent of the major conglomerates dominating the book publishing industry. Indies include small presses, larger independent publishers, university presses, e-book publishers, and self-published authors.

According to Catherine Goulet, Founder and Co-Chair of the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, “Like other independent artists, many indie book publishers face challenges that the industry giants don’t experience. The indies have to work much harder to get their best books into readers’ hands.”

“Authors and publishers who compete in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards are serious about promoting their books,” adds Goulet. “They aim to stand out from the crowd of millions of books in print.”

According to an October 2019 report by Bowker, publisher of the Books in Print database, the number of titles self-published in the United States grew to over 1.6 million in 2018, an increase of 40% over the previous year. “This trend is likely to continue as the quality of many self-published works now rivals that of traditionally published titles,” according to the report.

Worldwide, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) estimates more than 2.6 million books are now being published in a single year.

To help indie authors and publishers reach a wider audience, the top 70 books in the 2020 Next Generation Indie Book Awards will be reviewed by New York literary agent Marilyn Allen of Allen O’Shea Literary Agency, or one of Ms. Allen’s co-agents, for possible representation in areas such as: distribution, foreign rights, film rights, and other rights.

The awards will be presented on June 26 in an online event which will stream live on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NextGenerationIndieBookAwards at 8:00 pm (Eastern Time) and 5:00 pm (Pacific Time).

This year’s awards event was originally planned to take place at Chicago’s Newberry Library, to coincide with the American Library Association Annual Conference, but was moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other prize-winning books in the 2020 Next Generation Indie Book Awards include:

Top Non-Fiction Books

First Place Winner ($1,500 Prize)

Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks, by QT Luong (Terra Galleria Press)

Second Place Winner ($750 Prize)

The Chimpanzee Chronicles: Stories of Heartbreak and Hope from Behind the Bars, by Debra Rosenman (Wild Soul Press)

Third Place Winner ($500 Prize)

Feast of the Seven Fishes: A Brooklyn Italian’s Recipes Celebrating Food and Family, by Daniel Paterna (powerHouse Books)

Top Fiction Books

First Place Winner ($1,500 Prize)

Lucky-Child: The Secret, by Dr. Chelinay Gates aka Malardy (Tellwell Publications)

Second Place Winner ($750 Prize)

Eve of Snows, by L. James Rice (Twelfth Star Publishing)

Third Place Winner ($500 Prize)

Marlon MacDoogle’s Magical Night, by Sean Covel and Diego Velasquez (Baby Buddha Publishing)

Other Winners

Top books were named as winners and finalists in over 70 publishing categories ranging from Action/Adventure to Young Author.

A complete list of 2020 winners and finalists is available at the Next Generation Indie Book Awards website at indiebookawards.com.

Where to Watch the 2020 Book Awards Event

This year’s event will be streamed live online and the public is welcome to watch. To see the 2020 Next Generation Indie Book Awards Presentation, visit https://www.facebook.com/NextGenerationIndieBookAwards at 8:00 pm (Eastern Time) and 5:00 pm (Pacific Time) on Friday, June 26.

June 2020 Highlights and What Happened to May?

Empty Pool
Courtesy of Matt Jiggins

I know, I know. I’ve been trying to get a newsletter out on a monthly basis. And I was doing pretty well there for a while. Then, May hit. Now, a lot of people would defend themselves by offering lame excuses like “I lost track of time” or “Was I supposed to do that?” Not me. I’m guilty, guilty, GUILTY. I messed up. There, I feel better. I hope you do, too. On with the show…

Writing

I have finished writing Book 3 of my Sarah Greene Mysteries series, and the manuscript is off to the editor. Originally, I had planned to publish the novel next year. Well, this one should be out in late 2020. At that time, I also plan to release a box set containing all three books.

For those of you who are Kindle Unlimited subscribers, you can read Books 1 and 2 for free. And speaking of KU, I’ve decided to move all my books to Kindle Unlimited. By the time you read this, everything should be available.

Recommended Reading

Cades Cove Cover

As I said in my review, Cades Cove by Aiden James is one mother of a scary book. If you like ghost stories filled with history and dark magic, check it out. You can read my review here.

The Gun Cover

The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura is a different kind of novel. Reading it, I couldn’t help imagine Holden Caulfield as an angry Japanese man with a weapon. It’s a fascinating story. You can read my review here.

Recommended Viewing

For those of you with a Netflix account, check out Black Spot, a dark thriller set in a French town located near a forest. Maybe it’s the trees, but the inhabitants of this town are seriously messed up.

And for you Amazon Prime members, if you like English dramas, then An Inspector Calls might be your cup of tea. It’s based on the play by the esteemed J. B. Priestley.

Stay well. See you next month, when I try to locate a swimming pool that only allows one person at a time. Peace and love.

Girl Who Reads Review of House of the Shrieking Woman

Hey, check out this Girl Who Reads review of Book 2 in my Sarah Greene Mysteries series, House of the Shrieking Woman. Many thanks to MK French. Oh, and regarding any unanswered questions and clarity regarding the plotline, fear not. Book 3, coming out later this year, wraps up everything nicely and even puts a bow on it.

Girl Who Reads Thrillers Post

House of the Shrieking Woman takes place three months after the first novel, so Sarah is traumatized and dealing with the physical and psychological effects of what had happened. If you haven’t read the first novel, it’s alluded to in the sense that Sarah can see spirits, almost died, and was seriously injured. Others were involved, as well as a hidden room and a cursed object, and all of them are dealing with the trauma in their own way. Some of it is outlined, enough that you can hit the ground running with this one. I like that the trauma is realistically dealt with, that Sarah is in therapy, and is dealing with the fallout. A lot of series have the main character bounce from one event to the other as if nothing happened, and charge right in when something weird and creepy happens. Here, Sarah is cautious and knows that there is danger. It makes her more realistic to me.

Much like in the first book, we have an investigation into the past to explain what might be happening in the present. Charlie and a nun explore Guatemala to figure out what happened to Ana before she emigrated to the United States, and Sarah tries to explore the possible explanations for the dark spirits and self-mutilation in the shelter. As the novel progresses, the mystery deepens and we find out more details that point to demonic possession and malevolent spirits. There is a quiet menace, which becomes more and more creepy over time. It reminds me of movies that involve demonic possession and exorcisms, with the rising tension as everyone gets drawn into it and you fear for who is going to be next. This is especially true in the final third of the book, when things progress rapidly.

To read the rest of the review, as well as see more thrillers, click here.

Book Review—Cades Cove: The Curse of Allie Mae

Cades Cove Cover

Okay, I’ll just say it. Cades Cove: The Curse of Allie Mae, by Aiden James, is one mother of a scary book. Immediately, I became caught up in the story of a man with questionable judgment who, through a seemingly innocuous act, stumbles into a world of sheer mayhem. As a result, he puts not only himself but his family in danger. What starts out as the innocent taking of a souvenir from a magical vacation spot soon turns into an unrelenting reign of terror conducted by the vengeful ghost of a dead girl.

This kind of story has been told countless times. In lesser hands, it might have been trite. But the author has taken great pains to create a rich world of Appalachian and Native American folklore that lends an incredible depth to the haunting tale of a young Tennessee girl wronged in another century. I particularly enjoyed James’s meticulous description of a Sioux ritual meant to protect the protagonist, David Hobbs, and his family.

If you enjoy novels that harken back to an earlier, less civilized time in America and feature nail-biting scenes of supernatural horror, then I suggest you read Cades Cove: The Curse of Allie Mae. It will be well worth the nightmares.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description

Buried deep in a ravine in the picturesque Smoky Mountains is a very dark secret.

David Hobbs, vacationing with his wife Miriam, inadvertently stumbles upon a small cloth ‘keepsake’ bag and a broken tooth. A human tooth. Miriam begs David to hand the bag and tooth over to park officials, but he ignores his wife’s pleas and secretly keeps the ‘harmless’ items. The action opens a doorway that had been closed for nearly a hundred years and unleashes hell on earth, or at least hell in the lives of David and Miriam.

Following the brutal murder of his best friend in Denver, and unprovoked attack on his oldest son, David desperately seeks to understand why a mysterious teenage girl has chosen to terrorize him and the males closest to him. To prevent further devastation to his family and end the wanton bloodshed, he returns to the enchanted hills of eastern Tennessee, where a terrible truth awaits discovery… one that forces him to face the consequences for the unpaid sins of his ancestors.

Where to Buy

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Amazon UK
Amazon CA

More Reviews

Did you enjoy this review? Check out my other reviews here.

Book Review—The Gun

The Gun Cover

As I read The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura, Holden Caulfield immediately came to mind. Both novels are told in the first person. And both characters are alienated, though Nishikawa gets the prize. He hangs out with friends he is not close to, has sex with girls he cares little for, and attends school because he has nothing better to do. Wandering the Tokyo streets seems to calm him. One night, when he discovers a dead body, his life changes. But it’s the gun lying next to the corpse that intrigues him, and he becomes obsessed.

Chekhov wrote that story elements should not make false promises. If we see a gun at the beginning, then someone must use it. Nakamura takes this principle to heart as he weaves his tale of ever-growing madness. He builds an almost unbearable tension as Nishikawa tries to decide when and where to fire the weapon. In the meantime, the character’s personal relationships continue to suffer. Feelings of hatred emerge, making the threat of violence more palpable.

The Gun is a taut thriller that begs the question, “Was Nishikawa already crazy, or was it the gun that made him so?” If you enjoy nail-biting crime fiction, then I highly recommend this book.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description

A Tokyo college student’s discovery and eventual obsession with a stolen handgun awakens something dark inside him.

On a nighttime walk along a Tokyo riverbank, a young man named Nishikawa stumbles on a dead body, beside which lies a gun. From the moment Nishikawa decides to take the gun, the world around him blurs. Knowing he possesses the weapon brings an intoxicating sense of purpose to his dull university life. But soon Nishikawa’s personal entanglements become unexpectedly complicated: he finds himself romantically involved with two women while his biological father, whom he’s never met, lies dying in a hospital. Through it all, he can’t stop thinking about the gun—and the four bullets loaded in its chamber. As he spirals into obsession, his focus is consumed by one idea: that possessing the gun is no longer enough—he must fire it.

Where to Buy

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA

More Reviews

Did you enjoy this review? Check out my other reviews here.

April 2020 Highlights and We’re All in This Together

Spring Squirrel
Courtesy of Joachim Dobler

Well, we’re carrying on in the Ramirez household. We have food, water, and enough toilet paper to make it through the next couple of weeks—and no one is sick. I sincerely hope you and your families are safe and that you have enough to eat. These are the strangest times I’ve ever lived through. I can’t wait for the world to get back to normal, whatever that means.

Steven with BeretLike many men out there, I’ve pretty much given up shaving. This is me now. What do you think? I’ve been told now that I’ve embraced the natural look, I need to invest in beard oil. Yikes. What happened to the good ol’ days of washing with Lifebuoy soap? Next, they’ll be telling me I have to wear cable knit sweaters.

One good thing came out of this, though. I finally purchased the French Basque hat I’ve always wanted. Yeah, I know. But come on, we’re in a pandemic, for crying out loud.

Writing

I’m making headway in Book 3 of my Sarah Greene Mysteries series. I’m hoping to finish it by the end of the year, God willing. When it’s published, I’ll create a box set.

Sheltering at home means many of you are reading a lot more. For those of you who are Kindle Unlimited subscribers, you can now read The Girl in the Mirror and House of the Shrieking Woman for free.

 

Recommended Reading

One For Sorrow Cover

If you enjoy psychological thrillers that leave you breathless, then One For Sorrow by Sarah A. Denzil may be the ticket. You can read my review here.

Recommended Viewing

For those of you with an Amazon Prime account, check out Fortitude, a dark mystery thriller set in the Arctic Circle. For me, this series is perfect for these pandemic times.

Once again, stay safe. See you next month, when I plan to spin up a face mask-making business. Keep your eyes open for a GoFundMe. Peace and love.

Book Review—One For Sorrow

One For Sorrow Cover

Reading One For Sorrow by Sarah A. Denzil is like getting into the mind of a deeply conflicted, mental patient who must still function in society. Leah Smith is a tragic character whose need to help others while fighting her demons is heartbreaking. When she starts a new job at Crowmont Hospital and is put in charge of a troubled girl named Isabel, who may or may not be a murderer, the road to sorrow is perfectly paved.

Immediately, Leah falls under the girl’s spell, believing her innocent of the brutal murder of a small child. And we fall with the good-hearted nurse. Isabel is an incredible artist and always cheerful. She especially loves drawing birds—magpies in particular. She doesn’t remember what happened all those years ago, and she is grateful when Leah takes an interest in her. Will Leah’s kindness be rewarded in the end?

If you enjoy psychological thrillers with characters who ring true like notes on a piano, I suggest you grab this book. Oh, and one other thing. Beware of magpies.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description

A chilling psychological thriller by the million-copy bestselling author of Silent Child.

Who really killed Maisie Earnshaw?

Within the walls of the high-security psychiatric facility, Crowmont Hospital, reside many violent offenders. To nurse Leah Smith, no matter what, all offenders are patients first and foremost. When Leah is appointed as nurse to Isabel Fielding, she is determined to remain professional despite the shocking crime Isabel allegedly committed in her past.

Years ago, six-year-old Maisie Earnshaw was found face down in a duck pond, her body mutilated. Isabel—at age fourteen, found covered in Maisie’s blood—was convicted of murder.

As Leah spends time with Isabel, she comes to know her as a young woman with a sweet, gentle nature, someone she could never see as a murderer. Leah begins to suspect members of the Fielding family of framing Isabel as a young girl, and she’s not the only one. True crime blogger James Gorden thinks Isabel is innocent too.

Is Leah allowing her own dark past to taint her judgement as she grows closer to her patient? Or has a young woman been unjustly robbed of her childhood?

Where to Buy

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA

More Reviews

Did you enjoy this review? Check out my other reviews here.

March 2020 Highlights and Writing Competition News

Courtesy of DaPuglet

With all the news surrounding COVID-19, I want to say first and foremost, stay safe. If you are sheltering in place, make sure you have plenty of food and water on hand. And try to stay positive. We’ll get through this. Speaking of which, I had planned to set up book signing events—which included attending this year’s Los Angeles Times Book Festival. Well, the festival has been postponed. And that made me reconsider doing other events. So, I’ll most likely look to start setting up these signings again in the summer.

Writing

Previously, I announced that The Girl in the Mirror had won a 2019 Best Indie Book Award (BIBA) in the Paranormal Fiction category. Well, it seems I’m at it again. The first book in the Sarah Greene Mysteries series is a finalist in the 32nd annual IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards Horror Category. These awards are regarded as one of the highest national honors in independent publishing. I’ll keep you posted on the final results. You can see a complete list of the finalists here.

Recommended Reading

The Curse She Wore Cover

What do you get when you combine a homeless girl from New Orleans looking to avenge her best friend’s murder, a time-traveling psychic grieving the loss of his family, and Jack the Ripper? To find out, grab a copy of The Curse She Wore by Jordan Dane. You can read my review here.

Okay, that wraps it up. See you next month, when I’ll be painting Coronavirus-free Easter eggs. Peace and love.