Book Review: Justice by Joseph Badal—and a Giveaway! @JoeBadal @suspensemag

Justice
The Curtis Chronicles #3
Joseph Badal
Suspense Publishing, November 2019
ISBN 978-0-578-55928-5
Trade Paperback

A lot of action, a lot of characters, a tight story and several clichés. For anyone looking for an action-packed beach-read here’s one that should fill the bill. The story is tight, cleanly presented and nicely resolved. It spans the Western Hemisphere from the United States to Nicaragua and back.

Mathew Curtis and his wife, Renee, travel the globe. He’s a medical man, a former doctor, who travels the world lecturing about his company’s orthotics products. His wife often travels with him, in part because they have been targeted in the past by a smart but deranged human trafficker.

Lonnie Jackson is a wealthy, evil schemer with a world network of drug dealers and smooth-talking recruiters of young women, ostensibly for low-level but honest jobs in western cities. The reality, of course, is quite different. Jackson blames Matt and Renee for his family’s deaths and has waited years for revenge.

Jackson is living and thriving in Nicaragua. Matt Curtis comes to Costa Rica next door for a medical conference. Jackson plans a vicious kidnapping and murder. Meanwhile in Washington and Bulgaria, plans and events crawl toward a vortex of insane violence. The question is always, will Renee and Matt survive and be reunited?

The pace of the novel is relentless, the writing is strong and spare. For some readers, the patterns will be a problem. The bad guys have rotten teeth and terrible breath, the CIA and most of the U.S. government is corrupt to some degree, the good-looking and smartest, most adept, people are the small group of Matt’s friends, former military men, who come together to help in the direst of circumstances, using all their skills and expertise.

There are a couple of interesting twists toward the end of the story which are truly unexpected. They provide an intriguing basis for later novels, grab reader’s attention and remain just out of reach for fans of this novelist.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, January 2020.
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 a print copy
of Justice by Joseph Badal, leave
a comment below. The winning name
will be drawn on Monday evening,
January 20th. Open to residents
of the US and Canada.

Book Review: Spirit Wind by Marilyn Meredith—and a Giveaway! ‎@MarilynMeredith

Spirit Wind
Tempe Crabtree Mystery Series #18
Marilyn Meredith
Marilyn Meredith, March 2019
ISBN 978-1092112086
Trade Paperback

From the author—

A call from a ghost hunter changes Deputy Tempe Crabtree’s vacation plans. Instead of going to the coast, she and her husband are headed to Tehachapi to investigate a haunted house and are confronted by voices on the wind, a murder, and someone out to get them.

Marilyn Meredith has been writing the Tempe Crabtree series for a long time and this one is every bit as good as those that preceded it and just as fresh. Tempe herself is an appealing police officer but the Native American elements add a special touch, not to mention Tempe’s ability to communicate with ghosts. Not only do we get an entertaining police procedural, we also actually have the chance to learn something about tribal life and customs in today’s world.

This time, a haunted house adds to the allure and spirits play an integral part in the search for a murderer as well as the truth about what happened to a woman who walked out of an earthquake-damaged prison into oblivion. Tempe and her husband, Hutch, intend to help the local police without stepping on toes but soon become potential victims themselves; perhaps the biggest puzzle is figuring out why a spirit is in the house and what it really wants.

Spiritual beliefs often play a part in Tempe’s investigations but they’re particularly important in Spirit Wind and blending them with modern police work, always tempered with the culture of the surrounding area and people, makes for an especially intriguing case and, once again, I was drawn in to a story that’s compelling in many ways. The next Tempe Crabtree mystery can’t come soon enough for me 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2019.

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Giveaway

To enter the drawing for a very gently
used print copy
of Spirit Wind,

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

Spotlight on As the Christmas Cookie Crumbles by Leslie Budewitz—and a Giveaway! @LeslieBudewitz @midnightinkbook

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Title: As the Christmas Cookie Crumbles
Series: A Food Lovers Village Mystery #5
Author: Leslie Budewitz
Publisher: Midnight Ink
Publication Date: June 8, 2018
Genres: Mystery, Cozy, Culinary

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Synopsis

Erin is one smart cookie, but can she keep the holiday
spirit―and herself―alive till Christmas?

In Jewel Bay, all is merry and bright. At Murphy’s Mercantile, AKA the
Merc, manager Erin Murphy is ringing in the holiday season with food,
drink, and a new friend: Merrily Thornton. A local girl gone wrong,
Merrily has turned her life around. But her parents have publicly
shunned her, and they nurse a bitterness that chills Erin.

When Merrily goes missing and her boss discovers he’s been robbed,
fingers point to Merrily―until she’s found dead, a string of lights around
her neck. The clues and danger snowball from there. Can Erin nab the
killer―and keep herself in one piece―in time for a special Christmas Eve?

Includes delicious recipes!

Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // iTunes // Amazon // Indiebound

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About the Author

Leslie Budewitz blends her passion for food, great mysteries, and the Northwest in the Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries and the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, set in Jewel Bay, Montana. Death al Dente won the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure, won the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction, making her the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. The 2015-16 president of Sisters in Crime, she lives in NW Montana.

New York Times bestseller Laura Childs says “Small town charm and big time chills.”

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads

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Giveaway

To enter the drawing for a print copy
of As the Christmas Cookie Crumbles,
leave a comment below. The winning
name will be drawn on Sunday evening,
December 15th. Open to residents
of the US and Canada.

Book Review: Valley of Shadows by Steven Cooper—and a Giveaway! @TheStevenCooper @SeventhStBooks

Valley of Shadows
A Gus Parker and Alex Mills Novel #3
Steven Cooper
Seventh Street Books, September 2019
ISBN 978-1-64506-000-0
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

A cop. A psychic. And a dead socialite. Who killed Viveca Canning and where is the Dali masterpiece that hung on the walls of her estate? So many people had a motive. Phoenix Detective Alex Mills is on the case with the help of his sometimes-psychic buddy Gus Parker. You won’t find another duo like them. And once you hop on the wild ride, you won’t want to get off. Who will survive a doomed flight over the Pacific? Who tried to blow up an art gallery? Who saw Viveca Canning as a threat and shot her twice in the head? Those questions hound Gus and Alex as the case unravels. It’s an art caper wrapped in a murder mystery. The Valley of the Sun becomes a Valley of Shadows, where everyone has something to hide and the truth lies beneath Phoenix in a labyrinth of tunnels and dungeons.

There’s a lot at stake for Gus and Alex. With the case swirling all around them, the future of Gus and his rock n’ roll girlfriend hangs in the balance. For Alex, it’s a test of family loyalties as a health scare for his wife brings him to the breaking point.

A really good crime novel is dependent on two major components, vivid characters and intriguing plot, and there’s no doubt that Steven Cooper‘s Valley of Shadows has both, in spades. I have to say, though, that Mr. Cooper also has given his readers a setting that has to be considered the third and, perhaps most unforgettable, element.

At first glance, Alex Mills is a typical police detective but his friendship with Gus takes things to another level. After all, most of law enforcement looks at psychics with jaundiced eyes, but these two men have moved well beyond any distrust and, in fact, value each other’s contributions to crime solving. In this story, we’re also treated to in-depth looks at their personal lives, adding much to our understanding of them.

As for this particular case, the various threads lead Alex and Gus in a myriad of directions, largely because they uncover so many potential motives for Viveca Canning’s murder. From a simple art heist to greedy children to a cult and everything in-between, all must be considered and proven invalid before they land on the truth. Along the way, the tension continues to rise and I had to keep turning those pages as fast as I could while also wanting to savor the author’s wonderful wordcraft.

I’ve spent just a few days in Arizona but I was struck by how much Mr. Cooper immersed me in the surroundings, the desert sun and sand, the beautiful scenery. Somehow, I feel that this is where Alex and Gus belong and I definitely want to visit with them again.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2019.

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Giveaway

To enter the drawing for a print copy
of Valley of Shadows by Steven Cooper,
leave a comment below. The winning
name will be drawn on Wednesday evening,
December 11th. Open to residents
of the US and Canada.

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.