Book Reviews, Murder Mystery, Mystery, Romance

BOOK REVIEW: Not Without Risk (Sarah Grimm)

Not Without Risk

Not Without Risk by Sarah Grimm is an edgy suspense thriller and sizzling romance. Featuring classic cars, police procedure and the outrageous twists and turns of the devious criminal mind, the chemistry between a sexy single detective and his prime suspect brings it all together. If you love cops, murder mystery and romance, you’ll be proud to own this book and read it again and again.

Paige had been a good Boston girl, obeying her parents right up until she balked at law school. Instead, she became a photographer and fell in love with a cop. Just days before the high-end client appointment that will set her career soaring, Paige gets a mysterious call that turns her world upside down – again. Not just because the caller ends up dead, not just because her own life turns out to be in danger from an elusive, game-playing madman, but also because the investigating detective is the cop of her dreams and she doesn’t date cops anymore after her fiance’s death.

Justin was the job. For thirteen years, he’d busted butt and stayed focused to earn his shield and make it home alive every night. Only to lose focus after a tough day on the job and not make it home. Six months later, his first case on his first day back turns out to be his undoing. Not just because he came back too soon and is still wracked with pain that’s exacerbated by job stress, not just because time is running out to solve the case and he can’t do it after reading through the file thirty times, but because his prime suspect is a devastating Boston beauty well versed in investigation tactics who could take his career and his life down with her.

Not Without Risk is the third book by Sarah Grimm that I’ve read and I can hardly wait for more. It’s evident from the start that Grimm has done her homework on police procedurals, classic cars and criminal behavior. And she weaves it all together so beautifully with her distinctive style, letting the romantic tension build between the MCs while the detectives and suspect/victim investigate in the aftermath of the worst kind of murder – a fallen fellow officer. If you bleed blue, get this book and tell all your friends, male and female. It’d be a great gift for anyone on the force and romance lovers alike. Enjoy the free excerpt.

Excerpt

“Sergeant Simmons, I don’t know if Justin has mentioned anything to you about my break-in last night?”

“He did and call me Allan.”

His attention appeared hung up on her face. Suddenly self-conscious, the urge to hide behind her sunglasses flared to life. She’d done her best to camouflage her bruising under a few layers of makeup. Had believed she’d done a credible job. His distraction made her wonder if she shouldn’t have just left it alone.

“Okay. Well, Allan, last night there seemed to be some question about whether or not someone had been in my home. This morning, I received proof.”

“What kind of proof?” Justin ran his hand through his hair and then shoved it into his front pocket in a move she was beginning to understand indicated his level of tension.

Briskly, she unzipped her laptop case. Without glancing at them, she passed the photos she’d printed just that morning to Justin. His steady stream of expletives, spoken under his breath, brought the tiny hairs on her arms to attention.

“Where’d you get these, Paige?”

“When I checked my e-mail this morning, I found them.”

Justin fell silent, a muscle flexing in his jaw as he flipped through the photographs one by one, studying each one individually before passing them to Allan.

“Look at the way the body’s positioned,” Allan said as he studied the first picture.

“Body?” Paige couldn’t stop the shiver that passed through her. “That’s not just any body.”

“It’s you,” Justin growled.

“Yes. You have to stop this guy.” The irony of this latest threat hadn’t escaped her. The fact that this man had used photographs against her—a photographer. “I don’t know how much more of this I can take.”

“The message is clear,” Allan began, taking the remaining photos from Justin and shuffling through them. “He took the time to manipulate her, but left her unharmed.”

“Is it? I’m not certain I’m getting it. If he wants me dead why—” Shock slammed through her system as his words registered. “Wait a minute. What do you mean by manipulated?”

“Did you eat or drink anything out of the ordinary last night?”

“No. No, of course not. Why?”

The expression that settled onto Justin’s face had Paige stepping back. Tension pulsed off of him in waves. His hand fisted against his thigh.

“Why?”

Allan looked up from the photographs in his hands. “These pictures are similar—”

“Frighteningly similar.”

“Yes,” Allan agreed. “To the shots we have from the St. John homicide.”

“Leroy.” Nausea rolled in her stomach as she saw him again, stomach down, sheet tangled around his legs.

It hadn’t registered. Not when she opened her email and discovered them, or later as she’d developed them. She hadn’t realized just what about those photographs froze her heart with fear. The thought that someone had been in her home, standing over her bed for God knew how long before she came awake was terrifying enough. But now…

The images shifted in and out of focus—images of her, deep asleep, face buried into her pillow, sheet riding low on her hips. Shock snapped across her nerve endings.

“N-no.” Her gaze swung between the two men. “The similarities don’t mean anything.” They couldn’t mean anything. This put a whole new spin on things. One she couldn’t accept. “I did not sleep through some…” What was the word she wanted? “Person positioning me like the body of one of his victims. That’s just how I sleep.”

Justin and Allan’s swift exchange of looks spoke as loudly as their silence.

“I’ve always been a stomach sleeper. The rest is just coincidence.”

“I believe this goes a step beyond coincidence.”

Buy Not Without Risk at Amazon.

Read my reviews and excerpts of Sarah Grimm‘s

Black Phoenix rock star romance series:

After Midnight and Midnight Heat.

About the Reviewer 

Belinda Y. Hughes is the Louisiana author of Blues in the NightLiving Proof and Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2. She enjoys reading, writing, beading, baking and hiking in the woods with her old dog. Belinda is eager to write in a variety of genres. Follow Belinda on AmazonGoodreads and Twitter.

Disclosure: I am a member of Sarah Grimm’s Street Team. I paid for my copy of this book out of my own pocket. Opinions are my own.

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Cover Art, Free Books, Giveaways, Guest Posts, New Releases, Paranormal, Thriller, Uncategorized, Writing Technique

Guest Post: The Writing Life Broken Down (Rochelle Campbell)

Today’s guest blogger is Rochelle Campbell, author of Fury From Hell, a paranormal thriller about good versus evil. She’s worked for the New York Times and been published in Bartleby Snopes and Lit Art magazines. Rochelle is excited to reveal the cover of her upcoming third novel in this post, as well as sharing her personal insights on the writing process, mentoring writers and how to become a successful author. I have long admired Rochelle’s writing posts on Twitter, so if you want to see how irresistible, engaging tweets are done, be sure to follow her there, at her writing blog and at Goodreads. In addition, Rochelle is graciously doing a giveaway – 7 FREE copies of Fury From Hell, the first installment in the From Hell series! Be sure to enter and share this post with all your book friends. – Belinda

 

What’s your writing process?

My writing process leans towards the left brain once the idea for the story is formed.  However, the initial inspiration for a story is as it should be – very right-brained.

I tend to like a very detailed outline that uses six points.  They are:

            Beginning

            Introduction of Conflict

            Complication of Conflict

            Climax

            Resolution of Conflict

            Ending

 

I flesh out each of the six points with at least a paragraph, or two.  Then, I add a major dramatic question (MDQ) for the story and/or the main character.  This is what the book spins on.  In other words, the theme, or underlying current running beneath the story.  The MDQ addition was something I learned at the Gotham Writers Course I took this past spring.  My instructor, Michael Davis, eloquently taught us that we must give our characters strong enough reasons and inner conflicts to engage them and the reader.

After the crucial portion is written down I focus on the characters, their names and relations to each other within the story world.  This step will often dictate the setting and/or the environment that the story will take place in.

With all of this information, I then feel comfortable enough to begin writing.  With this method, even though I know a lot about the story going in, the story and the characters still move, ebb and flow all on their own, making the writing of the story fascinating.

Have you ever considered anyone a mentor?

My writing mentor is Jacqueline Lichtenberg a phenom in the world of scifi fan fiction.  Ms. Lichtenberg is a Hugo Award Winner for Best Fan Writer (1974), a Locus Award Winner for Best Science Fiction Novel (First Channel, 1981), she coined the term Intimate Adventure and is a Galaxy Award Winner Spirituality in Science Fiction for her second novel, Unto Zeor Forever.  I could go on and on including that Ms. Lichtenberg is the main author of Star Trek Lives! And she is the creator of the Sime~Gen Universe, a large vibrant fanfic community.

 

Are you reading any interesting books at the moment?

I just completed reading Deborah Harkness’ Book of Life, the 3rd book in the All Souls series.  It is a paranormal romantic thriller with aspects of horror.  To set the stage, imagine the world is inhabited by humans, of course, but in and among us are other creatures that blend in – or try to – witches, daemons and vampires.  There’s a Covenant the governs how these creatures can and should behave with humans and with human affairs.  This series explores what happens when the Covenant is disregarded because of greed, personal gain, jealousy and power.

Currently, I am reading a friend’s children’s chapter book called, “Grandma You’re Dead!”  It is the funniest premise – a 13-year-old girl is visited by her deceased grandmother who needs her grandaughter’s help to solve a 15-year-old mystery.  The catch?  The teenager cannot tell her mother anything, or ask anyone for help!  It is already shaping up to be a sweet read.

 

What are some of the best tools available today for writers, especially those just starting out?

There are a myriad of tools, software, books, journals and periodicals for writers.  For me, one of the best software packages for the creation of stories, and for help in structuring the story is Literature and Latte’s Scrivener.  You can create a story from start to finish using this program and brainstorm ideas with it as well.

The other ‘tools’ I find most helpful are the writer’s chosen writing implements: iPad, computer, pen and paper, laptop, etc.  Yes, I’m being facetious but a writer…writes.  The truly important tool is to find a supportive group of writers who can provide feedback on your work during all stages.  This group can help the new writer develop his/her voice and writing style while allowing the writer to express him/herself without prejudice.

Some great sites for a community of writers who can offer critique of your work are:

Zoetrope.com

WritersCarnival.ca

Wattpad.com

A writer generally develops more quickly when s/he has direct communication and connection with people of like mind.

 

What do you believe contributes to making a writer successful?

A writer is successful because s/he does not stop writing.  It’s as simple as that.  If you love writing, the act of writing, the thought of writing and all of the editing, formatting, grammar rules, punctuation and style usage best practices are all you think about then you are a successful writer.  You cannot call yourself a writer if you do not write or, if you do not read.  I suppose that is the philosophical answer.

The practical answer of what it takes to become a successful writer, in terms of dollars and cents (not, sense J) is a lot of work to develop your social platform.  These days, if you seek literary representation, you will be asked if you have a social media platform and how large it is.  While this may not be  a deal-breaker for most agents, it is a major factor.

On another note, if you are an indie writer and then decide to try to publish the traditional route, your indie book sales will be reviewed and taken into consideration of whether the agent, or the publishing company will want to take you on as a client.  If you book did not sell well, they know they have an uphill battle of creating a platform for you so you can sell books for them.

You can see ‘success’ can mean different things as a writer.  Ultimately, you have to define what you want, set your goals and then judge your success for yourself based upon what you wanted not what someone else wanted for you.

 

What do you love about independent publishing?

As an independent (Indie) author I have the freedom to tell the story I want to tell without having to worry overly much about fitting into a genre, or category.  I also get to choose which book covers will grace the front of my books.  For me, this alone is worth the extra work of creating a book worth reading!   (I hope! J)

Do you have any advice for other writers?

The only advice I can share would be to write the things that bubble out of you and slide through your fingers onto the page, or the screen.

 

Do not second-guess yourself.  Get that first-draft pulled together without any editing from your mind.  Once you have a full first draft, put it away and let it ‘rest’ for about 3 – 4 weeks.  Read other books, watch movies, go on vacation; do whatever but don’t look at your manuscript.

 

Once you’ve let the book rest, read through it with a red pen (or whatever color you’d like).  Adjust the story as you see fit and hen begin working on editing and revising.  Give to your writing group, or writing partner for critique before sending to an agent, or publisher.

 

FFH Author Pic2_Aug 2014

 

You’ve told us about your writing process, we touched on indie publishing and resources for writers but we don’t know who you are as a writer.  Can you tell us a bit about you?

 

I have been writing on and off for over 20 years.  To date, the off-writing portion seems to have provided fodder for the writing phase of my career as I currently have, five novel-length works in progress.  Early in my career, I did legwork for The New York Times and freelanced for a number of local and regional newspapers and magazines.  However, my calling – fiction writing – became apparent after my two-year writers’ mentoring course with Jacqueline Lichtenberg in the early 2000’s.  From that course, several short stories emerged that readers and fellow writers urged me to develop into longer works.

After a quiescent decade, story ideas abounded and are being developed and scheduled for bringing into fully fleshed out written form.

Along the way, two short stories have been published by literary journals.  They are

 

Chambray Curtains Blowing in the Wind

[http://www.bartlebysnopes.com/chambraycurtains.htm] and,

 

How Charlie Ray Saved My Life

[http://litartmag.com/issue2/story2.php].

 

Fury From Hell is technically my third full-length novel.  I have read that a writer’s first novel (the very very very first one written on parchment paper because you were in the kitchen cooking when the idea struck…) is rarely ever publishable.  You generally catch on by the 3/4/5th book!  That is, unless you have help.

 

 

Book Blurb:

Fury From Hell is a paranormal thriller about good vs. evil.  Here, the good is in the form of Detective Jennifer Holden, a homicide cop that is haunted by her own personal demons of a murder she committed when she was just a teenager.  The trauma she suffered at the hands of social agency after agency hardened Jennifer into a staunch atheist making her gun and her bank account the only things she truly believes in.

We meet Detective Holden, shortly before she begins working on her first solo murder case.  The victim is Kyma Barnes who was brutally raped and killed. As Kyma’s soul leaves her body, a demon being called by a coven of dark witches at nearby Prospect Park, is drawn to the dying woman by her death throes.  Fury Abatu offers to avenge Kyma’s death.  The price?  The dying woman’s soul.  Kyma gives it gladly to ensure the man who killed her pays dearly.

At the crime scene, Jennifer becomes possessed by Fury Abatu.  Hosts usually die a violent death within weeks of the initial possession.  Detective Holden does not know she is possessed…

With her own demise on the line, Jennifer must fight for her life and her very soul – something she’s not sure she even believes in – to rid herself of the dark force surrounding her and her friends.

Can Jennifer be saved from the demon?  Will she be able to find the faith to believe in something greater than herself and her material things?

Read this first installment of the From Hell series to find out!

 

Where can readers find you?

 

Blog:

http://thenotebookblogairy.wordpress.com/

 

GoodReads:

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3434531.Rochelle_Campbell

 

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/NotebkBlogairy

 

Where can readers purchase Fury From Hell?

 

US: http://www.amazon.com/Fury-Hell-Rochelle-Campbell-ebook/dp/B00NE24S2W

UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Fury-Hell-Rochelle-Campbell-ebook/dp/B00NE24S2W

 

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Book Reviews

Book Review: Sweet Corn, Fields, Forever (R.J. Minnick)

Country music, love, jealousy, secrets, gambling and drugs weave a tangled, murderous web. Diminutive Dr. Mackenzie Wilder and her sweetheart, Detective Lt. Bryan Jamison, are back and hot on the trail. Someone’s killing the family and friends of country music star Tory McCloud, and framing her and her brand-new husband Jason Fields for the crimes. Can they catch the killer before something bad happens to Tory? And who the heck is joyriding in Mackie’s beloved antique wooden boats? Follow the trail from Nashville to rural upstate New York, Charlotte and Las Vegas in this gripping whodunit. Oh, you’re also invited to the quickie Vegas wedding and the Hallowe’en party back at Mackie’s place, so be sure to pack accordingly before you open the book.

In this second book of the Mackenzie Wilder Classic Boat series, the author alternates narration between Tory and Mackie in certain chapters. The complexity of the alternating narrative and the similar naming of the brother-sister country music duo lead to a few slips. In the last line of the Chapter 16 news story, for instance, the State Police are investigating the murder of the surviving sibling Tory, not the late Tyler. In Chapter 4, where Mackenzie is the narrator, there is an abrupt switch to Tory’s storytelling (using .pdf page numbers, it’s p. 25, para 7 in my editorial copy) for two sentences. There are also a few grammar items, like missing opening quotation marks, spaces between words and commas, but only a light sprinkling. The plot, characters, settings and development are all rock solid. I can’t help having read it three times now, and I’ll probably be back for more.

As stated in my previous review of Where the Bodies Lie Buried, I feel the cover art could be improved by substituting the chapter heading classic boat art for the photograph currently in place in the series header. Also, while the posters certainly pertain to the character’s passion for classic wooden boats, in thumbnails they don’t come across well. I can’t make out the words and art in the body unless I blow it up. However, the cowboy hat, guitar and treble clef are just enough to indicate the unique theme of this book. The ideas are good, they just need professional help. A crowdfunding campaign could take care of that and move these books to head and shoulders above the rest, where they rightfully belong.

I’m chompin’ at the bit for book three! C’mon, now…

 

UPDATE 7.9.2014: I’ve just been informed by the author that a) the first draft of book three is completed and b) new copies of books one and two are forthcoming, complete with proofreading and professional cover art. It may be a little while, but they are coming.

DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary editorial review copy. My opinions are my own.

 

Buy Sweet Corn, Fields, Forever at Smashwords

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Book Reviews

Book Review: Where the Bodies Lie Buried by R.J. Minnick

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Fans of JoAnna Carl’s Chocoholic Mysteries, Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen Mysteries with Recipes, Kasey Michaels’ Sunshine Girls Capers and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman will enjoy Where the Bodies Lie Buried by R.J. Minnick as much as I do.

Where the Bodies Lie Buried is the first book in the MacKenzie Wilder Classic Boat Mysteries. Mackenzie, Mackie to her truest friends, is easy to identify with. She was the smart girl with the frizzy hair with a broken home and no boyfriends back in school. Now, she’s a middle-aged childless widow who used her late husband’s life insurance to become a family doctor. Her dream is to go home to rural New York State and restore her parents’ farm, along with some classic wooden boats.

Unfortunately, it’s kind of hard to restore a farm once it’s been designated a crime scene, with no resolution in sight. Skeletons, whether tucked away in a closet, a trunk, the medical examiner’s office, around the farm or all-too-human memories, have a way of complicating things. Particularly if your character of a dad, who’s presumed guilty of the 20yo crime, is no longer alive to defend himself. Add a divorced cop and a brilliant wealthy outsider competing for your attentions, as well as a baseball mom and her cousin blaming you for yet another party’s ancient crimes, and you’ve got Mackie’s welcome home. She could take the easy way out and just leave, but would you?

At first, I found the end of every fifth chapter to be a natural pause. However, from the end of Chapter 16 to the finish, it’s an edge-of-your-seat thriller. The cover art could be a bit better, maybe a photo of an old farm house, barn and flowery fields with the burnt orange boat graphic used in the chapter headings centered above like a publishing imprint, all on a white background, possibly with a different font style and size. At the moment, the words on the cover seem to overwhelm it. There are a handful of punctuation and other minor typos that Word would have caught, and one repeated error that it would have missed (planning versus planing, regarding wood), but they don’t interfere with the quality of the story. I only noticed them as an English major does. Character development, setting and plot are as flawless as the shine on Mackie’s prized wooden boats. I’m looking forward to diving into the next book in the series, Sweet Corn, Fields, Forever.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author. The above opinions are my own.

UPDATE 7.9.2014: I’ve just been informed by the author that a) the first draft of book three is completed and b) new copies of books one and two are forthcoming, complete with proofreading and professional cover art. It may be a little while, but they are coming.

Follow R.J. Minnick:
                                     Smashwords
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