Book Review: 101 by Tom Pitts—and a Giveaway! @MrTomPitts @DownAndOutBooks

101
Tom Pitts
Down & Out Books, November 2018
ISBN 978-1-94823-538-9
Trade Paperback

A violent, gritty, aptly named novel, about the illegal marijuana and miscellaneous drug trade along Highway 101 on California’s Pacific coast. The action, and there’s plenty of it, rages from Fulton Street in San Francisco to Garberville and surrounding grow sites in Humboldt County. The novel is a deep dive into the weeds—both legal and illegal—that conceal the lives and perambulations of cops, growers, federal agents and ordinary citizens often caught in the cross-fire of brawling drug dealers.

Twenty-five-year-old loose cannon Jerry Bertram offends some drug-dealing bikers. To save his own life and mend his wounds, he races north from the city to a hideout near the small community of Humboldt County. His destination is with an old friend of his mother. Vic has become a very private pot farmer who does not appreciate Jerry’s intrusion. When the bikers, led by a Russian called Vlad the Inhaler, descend on the rural community, chases, murder, violence of several kinds erupts. Several members of local and federal law enforcement agencies also become entangled. Eventually Vic is forced back to the city into a confrontation with several criminal elements.

The story evokes the climate, the physical locations, the people and the culture in a very engaging way. Pace is fast and furious most of the time and the characters are really real. This is not a novel for the faint of heart. Brutal and explicit, there are few redeeming characters or resolutions for most of the cast. Excellent of type.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, May 2019.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

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Giveaway

To enter the drawing for an advance
reading copy
of 101 by Tom Pitts

leave a comment below. The
winning
name will be drawn on
Wednesday evening,
November 20th.
Open to residents
of the US and Canada.

Authors: Keep Your Eyes (and Ears) on the Audiobooks—and a Giveaway! @TheMysteryLadie

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Now, Lauren has added one more hit series to her list with the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries. Set in the quaint West Virginia town of Harpers Ferry, Ice introduces Chris Matheson, a retired FBI agent, who joins forces with other law enforcement retirees to heat up those cold cases that keep them up at night.

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Visit Lauren’s websites and blog at:

E-Mail: writerlaurencarr@gmail.net
Website: http://mysterylady.net/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lauren.carr.984991
Gnarly’s Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/GnarlyofMacFaradayMysteries
Lovers in Crime Facebook Page:
http://www.facebook.com/LoversInCrimeMysteries?ref=ts&fref=ts
Acorn Book Services Facebook Page:
https://www.facebook.com/AcornBookServices?ref=hl
Twitter: @TheMysteryLadie

In 2004, my first book, A Small Case of Murder, came out. That wasn’t so long ago. Believe me!—not when you compare it to when the dinosaurs were lazily grazing in Yellowstone National Park.

Anyway, back to what we want to talk about …

At that time, one of my friends instantly asked when my book would be available in audio. My eyes glazed over and I stammered out, “Eventually.”

This friend only listened to her books on audiocassette. She had a long commute to work and that was when she would listen to her books. She would go through a couple books a week.

Not long after that, I discovered that another friend only did audiobooks. She suffered from extremely bad eyesight. While she wasn’t legally blind, her eyesight was so poor that the only way she could enjoy a book was if it was available in audio.

Mind you, this was before the age of digital downloads. Audiobooks were available on cassette or compact discs back then. I considered myself lucky when a traditional audiobook publisher picked up my first three books to be produced in audio (compact disc and eventually digital download)—until I started receiving my royalty checks. I was lucky if I made over two hundred dollars a year! I would take a few copies of the compact discs to book events—only to have them gather dust. Eventually, I tossed them into the back of my closet, where they still rest.

Flash forward.

Audio Publishers Association Survey: Nearly $1 Billion in 2018 US Sales

“In its annual audiobook sales survey for 2018 released today (July 16). the US-based Audio Publishers Association has announced that audiobook revenue in 2018 grew by 24.5 percent and totaled US$940 million. These figures represent a 27.3-percent increase in unit sales.”

For authors, this means we have an entirely new and growing pool of readers to introduce to our books.

I believe that the audiobook market is where the e-book market was about ten years ago. When my books first came out in e-book, it was a big deal for me to sell any. Now, the lion’s book of my books sales are in e-book, but I have been seeing a gradual increase in sales in audiobooks. Currently, I make more in monthly royalties for my audiobook sales than I do for my print books. Note, that is after splitting my royalties with the producers!

A few years ago, Amazon suggested I make my books available through their company ACX (https://www.acx.com/help/about-acx/200484860 ). Audible, the leading seller of audiobooks, falls under Amazon’s massive umbrella.

In the same way that I independently publish my ebooks through KDP, I essentially self-publish my books in audiobook format—thus, keeping all of my rights. Over the years, I had seen on my royalty statements how many thousands of dollars my audio publisher had been making annually on the sales of my books. So, producing my books in audio myself was quite appealing to me. However, knowing back then that the market was slow, I didn’t want to invest a lot of money into the venture. Frankly, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to invest any money at all.

With ACX, authors have a choice of options for having their books produced:

1.      Share your royalties with the narrator/audio producer. This costs the author nothing, because the audio producer invests the time and expense into producing the book. In exchange, the author agrees to split their royalties for the book’s sales fifty-fifty with the producer. If the book ends up being a flop, then the producer loses out on their investment in the project. However, if the book ends up making thousands of dollars a month in audiobook sales, then the author could end up wondering about what could have been.

2.      Hire an audio producer to produce your book. This option means the author hires the narrator/producer on contract (and pay!) to produce the book. With this option, the author gets to keep all of the royalties for their audio sales. So, if your book makes a million bucks in royalties, it’s all yours! The downside of this option is that you have to pay out a lot of money up front—money that it could take a while to earn back. We are talking thousands of dollars. A friend of mine found a narrator she liked, who refused to work for shared royalties. He would only work on contract with the cost starting at $5000.

3.      Narrate and Produce the Book Yourself. This is not as easy as it sounds. The author has to make sure there is no background noise and the final product does have to pass ACX’s quality control regulations. As the author, I have proofed some of my audio books, thinking they were perfect—only to have ACX pick up a flaw that I had not noticed. Once I read an interview with John Grisham in which he said one of his biggest regrets was narrating one of his books for audio. He thought the end product was awful. As with anything—I prefer to leave it up to the pros.

I opted to share the royalties and let the producers take the financial risk.

Since my books have been coming out in Audible, I have found that I personally enjoy audiobooks more and more. Many book enthusiasts, like myself, will read books in both e-book and audio. (For just a few bucks more, readers can include the audio version of a book with their ebook purchase.) I love to read in bed in the evening. After spending the entire day working on my laptop, my eyes will be tired. So, I’ll switch to the audio version of whatever book I am currently reading to listen to a great book until I fall asleep. With Whispersync, my tablet will pick up my ebook in audio where I have left off in reading.

I’m not the only one. More and more readers (and book reviewers!) are making the switch to audiobooks as APA’s sales figures prove! I know more than one book reviewer who started reading my books in print, then switched to ebook, who are now only reviewing audiobooks.

If you’re an independent author and you haven’t explored this market, then I highly recommend you take a hard look at it. If your books are already in audiobook, then consider booking an audiobook virtual book tour with iRead Book Tours (http://www.ireadbooktours.com/ ). There’s a growing list of audiobook bloggers in search of great audiobooks.

Here’s the way I look at it: Book lovers are book lovers. We come in all different shapes and forms. That means they enjoy their reading in all formats: e-book, print, and audiobooks. Even if fans of one format are a smaller number than another—they are still your fans and deserve the reading experience they enjoy the most! As an author, you’d be negligent to not make your books available in audio!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To enter the drawing for an audiobook
promo code for Ice by Lauren Carr, just
leave a comment telling us when is your
favorite time to listen to audiobooks. In the
bathtub? Commuting? Doing housework?
The winning name will be drawn on
Monday evening, October 21st.

 

Book Review: Death by the Bay by Patricia Skalka—and a Giveaway! @PatriciaSkalka @UWiscPress

Death by the Bay
A Dave Cubiak Door County Mystery #5
Patricia Skalka
University of Wisconsin Press, May 2019
ISBN: 978-0-299-32310-3
Hardcover

Door County Sheriff Dave Cubiak is at a hotel restaurant having lunch with old Doc Bathard, the retired coroner, when screams ring out. Apparently, The Institute for Progressive Medicine is holding its annual conference in the hotel, and a very important man has had a heart attack and fallen down dead. As if this isn’t enough, soon another scream leads Cubiak to another room, where a Hispanic cleaning woman is weeping and pointing to a photo on the wall. Since she’s speaking Spanish, Cubiak doesn’t understand what’s she’s saying, but since this room is also part of the Progressive Medicine Institute’s conference, he’s for darn sure going to find out. When the dead’s man’s autopsy provides suspicion of murder, the hunt is on as Cubiak, Bathard, and Deputy Mike Rowe dig through old history.

The story premise is a sad one–think of the days when lobotomies were performed. In this case, children with disabilities of various sorts were taken from their families and never seen again. What happened to them is only part of the mystery. Finding who is taking vengeance now is the mystery that needs solved. Cubiak depends on solid police work and a bit of intuition to finally discover the culprit.

The setting, on the shores of Lake Michigan and Green Bay, lends itself to mysterious doings. Very atmospheric throughout. The characters are well fleshed out and clear. Cubiak is a deep thinker, compassionate when called for, relentless when it comes to bringing miscreants to justice. The story is fast-paced, well-written and entirely feasible in its outcome.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, August 2019.
https://carolcriggercom.sitelio.me/
Author of Five Days, Five Dead, Hereafter and Hometown Homicide.

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To enter the drawing for a hardcover
copy of Death by the Bay, just leave a
comment below. The winning name will
be drawn Friday evening, September 27th.
Open to residents of the US and Canada.

Book Review: This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger—and a Giveaway! @WmKentKrueger @AtriaBooks

This Tender Land
William Kent Krueger
Atria Books, September 2019
ISBN 978-1-4767-4929-7
Hardcover

Literature fills almost as many needs as there are readers. This novel, solemn, deliberate, moving, is not for the harried or the cynical. Or maybe it is, if the reader is at least willing to consider the mysterious and sometimes mystical forces that surround us. Faith, like awareness of the natural world, is largely a private matter. This novel ultimately raises and thoughtfully considers more questions than it answers. Or not. The book is eminently satisfactory as a fine piece of literature for whatever enjoyment and satisfaction any reader gains from the story, a journey of life and death and misdeeds and love and, perhaps, redemption. Certainly forgiveness.

The journey begins with the difficult abusive lives of three inmates of a hard-scrabble boarding school in rural Minnesota in the midst of the deep depression that engulfed the nation in the nineteen-thirties. Three young men, in their early teens, Albert, Odie and Moses, grow closer in their mutual efforts to resist being smashed under by the persistent and sadistic efforts of the school officials who do not shy away from meting out corporal punishment at the drop of a fork.

When the opportunity a huge storm presents, the three boys collect a girl they all know from a nearby farm and lately orphaned like them, then run away from the school and determine to somehow make their way to Saint Louis. So they have a definite goal, however ethereal.

The adventure and the travelers’ desperate need to stay out of the clutches of the law infuses the story with tension and excitement, and the carefully crafted descriptive passages only add to the forward drive. Here readers will find evangelists, storekeepers, the law, liars, good and bad people and a story that ultimate raises fundamental questions of relationships.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, August 2019.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To enter the drawing for a print
advance reading copy of
This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger,
leave a comment below. Two winning
names will be drawn on Sunday
evening, September 8th. This drawing is
open to residents of the US & Canada.

Book Review: Jealousy Filled Donuts by Ginger Bolton—and a Giveaway!

Jealousy Filled Donuts
Ginger Bolton
Kensington Books, September 2019
ISBN 978-1-4967-1191-5
Trade Paperback

It’s the Fourth of July and Emily Westhill is loving it. Not only does she get to drive her 1950 Ford “donut car” in the parade, with the King and Queen as passengers, her Deputy Donut Café is providing the donuts for the picnic later in the day. How fantastic can life get for a small-town girl making good?  Of course, it can only go downhill, at least in the immediate future. The Queen, a lovely diva named Taylor, decides that the “donut car” doesn’t meet her high standards and pitches a major fit (after the minor fit about how her hair was done) in front of God and everyone until she gets to ride in an acceptable car. Her best friend has some words to say about Taylor, although not where Taylor can hear her. Then Taylor is killed during the fireworks after the picnic. Emily’s donuts were stacked on a rocket-like firework in order to disguise it, and the rocket was deadly at close range. The pictures provided by a convenient photographer place Emily squarely in the frame, at least for a little while. This kind of in-your-face manipulation ups the ante and Emily becomes determined to find out who killed Taylor as well as why she was picked as the scapegoat.

Emily lives in a small town, with all the ramifications of small town life front and center. She’s a small business owner, sharing Deputy Donut Café with her deceased husband’s father, a former police chief. It’s great to have built-in clientele, and also connections that perhaps another amateur sleuth might not possess. It also means she has demands on her time, demands that can’t be ignored too often or for too long. Not to mention she does have a personal life, albeit one that could use a little help. Anyone who runs a business knows how much of a life it can overtake. Emily does her best within these constraints.

Bolton’s third entry in the Deputy Donut series is pretty good, for being as open to the whole “cops and donuts” humor. She doesn’t succumb to the obvious, although there is humor in the book. This is definitely a character-driven story, and Bolton knows how to drive this wagon. There are plenty of by-ways and side roads, although a perspicacious reader should have no trouble finding her way to the correct solution. The small-town insider solution is shared early enough for astute folks to catch on. And there is knitting involved – not enough to warrant a pattern at the end, to go with the recipes, and still a little bit of needlework is usually a good thing.

Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, June 2019.
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To enter the drawing for a print
advance reading copy of

Jealousy Filled Donuts by Ginger Bolton,
leave a comment below. The winning
name
will be drawn on Tuesday
evening,
August 27th. This drawing is
open
to residents of the US & Canada.

Book Review: Heart of Barkness by Spencer Quinn—and a Giveaway! @ChetTheDog @ForgeReads @recordedbooks

Heart of Barkness
A Chet and Bernie Mystery #9
Spencer Quinn
Narrated by Jim Frangione
Recorded Books, July 2019
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook
Forge Books, July 2019
ISBN 978-1-250-29772-3
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Chet the dog, “the most lovable narrator in all of crime fiction” (Boston Globe) and P.I. Bernie encounter heartache and much worse in the world of country music. They’re both music lovers, so when Lotty Pilgrim, a country singer from long ago, turns up at a local bar, they drive out to catch her act. Bernie’s surprised to see someone who was once so big performing in such a dive, and drops a C-note the Little Detective Agency can’t afford to part with into the tip jar. The C-note is stolen right from under their noses – even from under Chet’s, the nose that misses nothing – and before the night is over, it’s stolen again.

Soon they’re working the most puzzling case of their career, a case that takes them back in time in search of old border-town secrets, and into present-day danger where powerful people want those secrets to stay hidden. Chet and Bernie find themselves sucked into a real-life murder ballad where there is no one to trust but each other.

Spending time with two of my favorite detective partners is always such a pleasure and Chet and Bernie have not let me down this time (as if they ever do). This is more than just a man and his dog; this is a crime-fighting duo that is good at what they do because they’re so very much in tune with each other.

***
Speaking of being in tune, the country music world is at the heart of their latest case, specifically investigating a murder with the aim of proving someone’s innocence. Lotty’s career goes back decades and, as Bernie digs deeper with Chet’s unique brand of assistance, they unearth secrets and family issues she never wanted revealed but these long ago truths may be her only way out of jail.
                 ***
As always, Chet tells the story with his usual doggy charm and his own understanding of the strange ways of humans. Naturally, Chet is sure that Bernie can do no wrong but even he is surprised at learning new things about his partner and best friend. For instance, who knew Bernie could ride horses, especially a feisty one named Mingo?

***

As I said, reading a new Chet and Bernie adventure is a pleasure and listening to the story makes it even better. Spencer Quinn creates wonderful personalities and narrator Jim Frangione brings them to life, especially the most loveable dog in bookdom.
***
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2019.
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To enter the drawing for an Advance
Reading Copy of Heart of Barkness
just leave a comment below. The
winning name will be drawn on the
evening of Thursday, August 8th.
Open to the US and Canada.

Book Review: The Time for Murder is Meow by T. C. LoTempio—and a Giveaway! @RoccoBlogger

The Time for Murder is Meow
A Purr N Bark Pet Shop Mystery #1
T. C. LoTempio
Midnight Ink, August 2019
ISBN 978-0-7387-6036-0
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Crishell “Shell” McMillan sees the cancellation of her TV series as a blessing in disguise. The former actress can now take over her late aunt’s pet shop, the Purr N’ Bark, and do something she loves.

While getting the shop ready for re-opening, Shell is asked to loan her aunt’s Cary Grant posters to the local museum for an exhibit. She finds the prospect exciting―until a museum board member, who had a long-standing feud with Shell’s aunt, votes against it. When she discovers the board member dead in the museum, Shell becomes suspect number one. Can she, her Siamese cat Kahlua, and her new sidekick―her aunt’s Persian Purrday―find the real culprit, or will her latest career go up in kitty litter?

A pair of cute felines are part and parcel of this fun cozy but fear not, those of you who cringe at the idea—they don’t really help solve the crime(s) unless you count some judicious nudges and they don’t talk to Shell 😉 That doesn’t mean she doesn’t talk to them; any self-respecting cat person knows that’s a given, right?

When Shell inherited her aunt’s pet shop, she fully expected a quiet life, much less stressful than her former acting world, but she didn’t allow for the animosity she encountered from Amelia Witherspoon. Shell never knew her Aunt Tillie had a feud going with Amelia but, then again, maybe Aunt Tillie wasn’t as invested in the feud as Amelia still is. This crabby woman won’t even allow the local museum to have a showing of the marvelous Cary Grant memorabilia just because the collection belonged to Tillie and Shell is determined to change the woman’s mind. Unfortunately, she won’t get the chance because somebody has done away with the woman and Shell is the popular choice as the murderer thanks to rumors and gossip. Meanwhile, why is the publisher/reporter, Quentin Watson, of the village rag so interested in her shop and why is he pointing the finger at Shell as the killer?

There are a number of likely suspects and, as you might expect, a potential love interest in Detective Josh Bloodgood who wisely doesn’t really believe she’s guilty but my favorite character is Gary, Shell’s former co-star, entirely because…well, you’ll see ;-). The mystery here is a bit lightweight, especially in Shell’s supposed motivation for the murder and I figured out who done it too early, but an appealing cast of characters and a healthy dose of humor make this a nice way to while away a few hours. I’m already looking forward to the next book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2019.

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To enter the drawing for an Advance
Reading Copy of The Time for Murder is Meow
just leave a comment below. Two winning
names will be drawn on Wednesday evening,
August 7th. Open to the US and Canada.