July 20, 2017

“J” Is For Judgment by Sue Grafton

"J" is for Jaffe: Wendell Jaffe, dead these past five years. Or so it seemed until his former insurance agent spotted him in the bar of a dusty little resort halfway between Cabo San Lucas and La Paz.
Five years ago, when Jaffe's thirty-five-foot Fuji ketch was found drifting off the Baja coast, it seemed a sure thing he'd gone overboard. The note he left behind admitted he was flat broke, his business bankrupt, his real estate gambit nothing but a huge Ponzi scheme about to collapse, with criminal indictment certain to follow. When the authorities soon after descended on his banks and his books, there was nothing left: Jaffe had stripped the lot.
But Jaffe wasn't quite without assets. There was the $500,000 life insurance policy made out to his wife and underwritten by California Fidelity. With no corpse to prove death, however, the insurance company was in no hurry to pay the claim. Dana Jaffe had to wait out the statutory five years until her missing husband could be declared legally dead. Just two months before Wendell Jaffe was sighted in that dusty resort bar, California Fidelity finally paid in full. Now they wanted the truth. And they were willing to hire Kinsey Millhone to dig it up.
As Kinsey pushes deeper into the mystery surrounding Wendell Jaffe's pseudocide, she explores her own past, discovering that in family matters as in crime, sometimes it's better to reserve judgment.
"J" is for judgment: the kind we're quick to make and often quicker to regret.
"J" Is for Judgment: Kinsey Millhone's tenth excursion into the dark places of the heart where duplicity is the governing rule and murder the too-frequent result.
J Is For Judgment takes us on an interesting journey with Kinsey. From traveling to Mexico, pretending to be a hooker, getting shot at, and swimming out to sea, there definitely wasn’t any down time for our favorite Private Investigator.

We also got a little peek into the history of Kinsey’s family and actually met some of her family members. We didn’t think there were any of them. She has always been used to being alone, not suddenly she has a lot of family pretty close by. I hope the next book explores her family a bit more, but I also kind of hope that they don’t become super prominent characters. Kinsey has always worked better on her own, and I think it should stay that way. For now, if anything. Having family nearby adds for an interesting wrinkle in the story, though, and I do think it should be explored.

As for her investigator storyline, this one was a bit different because she wasn’t trying to figure out who was guilty for most of the book, she was just trying to prove that someone was alive. Once she gets further into her investigation, we meet one really interesting but messed up family.

The family in this one certainly made for an interesting plot, but they were almost less “exciting” that characters in some of the other books. By less exciting, I mean they didn’t really do a whole lot.

The way this one ended, it makes me wonder if Renata will show up again in another book or not. I’m not sure there would be much of a need for her to, but I am curious about it.

Overall, another solid Kinsey story. There was a lot of action in this one. I think I want one with her interacting more with the people she knows and loves in the next one – maybe even a romance. You never know what Kinsey is going to get into.

4/5 Stars

Memorable Quotes: “The hard thing about death is that nothing ever changes. The hard thing about life is that nothing stays the same.”

“I pictured myself impales on an ornamental shrub. Not a pretty sight, that one – a hard-assed private eye, punctures by a sticker bush.”

“If I didn’t work on behalf of law enforcement, I’d be in jail, I’m sure.”

“I’ve never once downed a hit of NyQuil without shuddering violently afterward. Nonetheless, I’m aware that I harbor all the incipient characteristics of an over-the-counter cold medicine addict.”

“I perched on a bar stool, munching junk food while I sorted through the mail I’d stolen. It’s hard to give up chronic thievery when my crimes net me such a bonanza of information.”

“Please understand: I don’t have the answers. I’m simply posing the questions. God knows I have questions about my own life to answer yet.”

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July 19, 2017

Putting the Readers Back in Charge of Publishing

Hello to any aspiring YA authors out there. This guest post was sent over to me by Sarah at Publishizer! This is a really neat opportunity for you to get your book ideas out there and get people interested. Enjoy!

Imagine a YA publishing process without gatekeepers. One where editors and agents read the manuscripts that readers love, not vice versa. One where anyone with a knack for writing, a passion to succeed, and a little flair for self-promotion, has a fair shot at being published.

All too frequently, this isn’t the case. Books often get rejected for reasons beyond authors’ control. One editor turned down an ultimately successful book by saying, “The girl doesn't, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the 'curiosity' level.” The book in question? The Diary of Anne Frank. Furthermore, according to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, only about 10% of all YA books accepted for publication feature “multi-cultural content.” Clearly, there are some blind spots that need addressing in the publishing industry.

It’s with this vision in mind that Publishizer is launching its YA book proposal contest called Plot Without a Cause. Publishizer is a startup seeking to fill a hole in the publishing industry through crowdfunding. It works like this:

You write the book proposal. You know the book proposal I’m talking about. The one you’ve been daydreaming about for years. The one that just popped into your head last week and you haven’t stopped thinking about since. The one for the manuscript that’s been dearly loved by you but maybe not so much yet by the publishing industry. That one. Then you register (for free!) on Publishizer’s website and post your proposal in the Plot Without a Cause section (again—for free!).

Now this is when you’ll have to start hustling. Crowdfunding runs on pre-orders, so you had better start promoting that proposal. Reach out over social media, post on your blog, email your old roommates—whatever it takes to start building buzz. If you get the most preorders by the time the contest ends, you’ll win $1000 dollars. And if you don’t have the highest number of preorders, don’t worry—you’ll still be queried to major publishers who fit your proposal.

Previous Publishizer contest participants have gotten interest and landed deals with a variety of traditional publishing companies, including Harvard Square Books, She Writes Press, and Weiser. Publishizer takes a small commission on pre-orders when you choose a publisher at the end.

Every year, thousands of books are rejected by the publishing world for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the book—they’re too mainstream or not mainstream enough, too similar to books already being published or too different from books already being published. Or the literary agent just doesn’t stand to make much money on the deal so they pass on a perfectly good book! Imagine how many brilliant YA manuscripts go unpublished every year thanks to frustrating rejections. Imagine how many hugely talented authors quietly give up on their dreams, just because the gate to a traditional publishing path isn’t open to them.

With their new YA book proposal contest, Plot Without a Cause, Publishizer is seeking to level the playing field. Publishing decisions shouldn’t be based solely on a literary agent’s judgementor how many friends you have in the industry. They should be based on quality of writing and how many readers the book attracts.

Great books get overlooked all the time, and this is an opportunity to show acquiring editors that yours is worth paying attention to. Not to mention the readership and funds you could gain in the process. Crowdfunding (or crowd-publishing, in this case) is growing in popularity and brings a personal touch back to book sales—for readers and publishers. Are you in?

July 11, 2017

Those Girls by Chevy Stevens

Life has never been easy for the three Campbell sisters. Jess, Courtney, and Dani live on a remote ranch in Western Canada where they work hard and try to stay out of the way of their father’s fists. One night, a fight gets out of hand and the sisters are forced to go on the run, only to get caught in an even worse nightmare when their truck breaks down in a small town. Events spiral out of control and a chance encounter with the wrong people leaves them in a horrific and desperate situation. They are left with no choice but to change their names and create new lives.

Eighteen years later, they are still trying to forget what happened that summer when one of the sisters goes missing and they are pulled back into their past.

This time there’s nowhere left to run.

As much of a thriller as it is a deep exploration of the bonds among sisters, THOSE GIRLS is an unforgettable portrait of desperation, loyalty, and evil.
As much of a thriller as it is a deep exploration of the bonds among sisters, THOSE GIRLS is an unforgettable portrait of desperation, loyalty, and evil.

Wow. My initial reaction to Those Girls is ‘Wow’. I feel like that is really all that you can say after reading a book that packs that many emotions into less than 500 pages.

Those Girls deals with a lot of heavy topics. It is hard to take a lot of it in at once because sometimes you just need a break to unpack your brain. We are talking about child abuse, alcoholism, drug use, rape, abduction . . . this book does not take you on a light ride as you travel through its pages. If you are able to handle reading about these topics, it is definitely worth it. If it is hard for you to deal with any or all of them, I would say it is best to skip this one. It is pretty graphic.

The writing is very gripping and really allows you to get sucked in. The book never runs flat, and it moves along at a pretty quick pace. That said, attention to detail is not sacrificed for the pace.

Jessica/Jamie – To me, she was the main character. You could argue that all three sisters together were the main characters, but moreso Jamie. Therefore, she was the deepest of the characters.

Courtney/Crystal – Man, she was frustrating at times, but she was also the most damaged. Sometimes the most frustrating characters are also the ones that you feel the worst for. You root for her until the end, but sometimes that isn’t enough.

Dani/Dallas – She played a good middle ground between the three sisters. It seemed fitting that the epilogue was written from her POV. The sisters were always looking to her for guidance, but we never really got to hear how she felt about anything until then.

Skylar – I was kind of surprised with her half of the novel. I didn’t think that it would jump ahead in time and examine what happened to them down the road and how the story played out. It was a pleasant surprise and definitely added a lot more to the story. She was a good character to get to know. I wasn’t sure how Jamie having a daughter would play out, but I am glad that it worked out okay.

Karen & Patrick – They were just angels. The girls met them once they got to Vancouver, and they changed their lives for the better.

Gavin & Brian – Scum of the Earth. The fact that there are people out there like them is truly terrifying.

Owen & Allen – Angels on the level of Karen and Patrick. I was glad to see Owen later in the novel too.

The investigation – Luckily, I have never been involved in a missing persons investigation. But, my goodness, could these cops have sat on their hands any more than they were? I understand that they need to follow their protocols, but they are a major reason that the ending of this book turned out the way that it did. I was so frustrating every time Jamie and Dallas talked to the cops, I just wanted to throw the book across the room.

The ending of this book is pretty tragic. It could have ended a lot worse, but that almost doesn’t bring any comfort. It was a good ending, just very tragic.

5/5 Stars

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July 9, 2017

A Poisoned Mind by Andre Gonzalez


It started as a subtle whisper. It grew into a roaring, laughing maniac. The voice inside Jonathon Browne’s head grew so loud that it took him over, both mentally and physically. The worst part is he knows who the voice belongs to, but can do nothing to stop it. His mental intruder hijacks his body, takes it to his top-secret government office, and spills blood. With a looming battle within, Jonathon must get control and escape from his own team before they execute him. Will a life in exile be his only choice? Or worse?

Short stories are interesting because they have to move quickly in order for anything to happen. I used to read a lot of them, but I haven’t read one in awhile and I forgot how it was.

You always find yourself saying “how convenient. . .” when there is less conflict than in a full novel.

A Poisoned Mind is a short story spinoff from Andre’s full-length novel Followed Home. I didn’t know this, but I think it fits fine by itself as a stand-alone story.

If you are in to aliens and government agencies, pick it up. You can get it free or super cheap, so there is really no risk to it. It is free as an ebook on Amazon right now.

It is a quick-moving story that you can use to kill some time. It is well written and moves fast.

I am not the biggest fan of extraterrestrial stories, but it was a fun read.

3.5/5 Stars

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