Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Sharpe Shooter by Lisa B. Thomas (Book Review / Contest Giveaway)

In association with Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for Sharpe Shooter by author Lisa B. Thomas!

Book Review

Sharpe Shooter by Lisa B. Thomas
Book 1: Cozy Suburbs Mystery Series
Publisher: Independent Self Publishing
Publication Date: March 19, 2015
Format: Paperback - 202 pages
               Kindle - 3996 KB
ISBN: 978-1514114346
Genre: Cozy Mystery

Buy The Book:

Buy The Series: Cozy Suburbs Mystery Series
Book 1: Sharpe Shooter
Book 2: Sharpe Edge
Book 3: Sharpe Mind
Book 4: Sharpe Turn (Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2016)

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours.

Book Description:

Burned-out high school teacher Deena Sharpe is ready for a change. She has no idea a fifty-year-old murder case is about to turn her life upside down.

The Perry County Sheriff’s office has found a skeleton in the closet…literally. When they identify the man’s body fifty years after his disappearance, his family turns to Deena to uncover the truth about his murder. The clock begins ticking when she discovers a mysterious writer is about to implicate the victim in his latest conspiracy theory book. She must channel her inner super-sleuth to solve the puzzle and protect her family name. With the help of her off-beat brother and others from the cozy town of Maycroft, Texas, Deena takes on a quest that leads to more questions than answers.

Sharpe Shooter is the first book in the Cozy Suburbs Mystery Series. With antique shopping, car chases, and ghosts in the night, the story will keep you guessing as you follow Deena on her quest for the truth.

Book Excerpt:

Perhaps I should have had a plan before setting myself up to be fired, Deena Sharpe thought as her eyes traveled around the empty classroom. Thriving just days earlier with busy teenagers, so alive that their youth spilled over into the hallway, the room now seemed like an empty tomb awaiting a sarcophagus.

The tap-tap-tap sound coming down the hallway meant Janice Marshall, the assistant principal, was ready for Deena to vacate the building. No one likes the screeching of fingernails on a chalkboard, but most teachers at Maycroft High School would have chosen it any day over the incessant sound of those clicking heels. Like I always say, Deena thought as the annoyance grew louder, there is something fishy about a woman who can stand on her feet all day in high heels. She is not to be trusted.

Luckily, she would never again have to endure Ms. Marshall’s condescension or shoes.

“How much longer are you going to be, Mrs. Sharpe?” She stood in the doorway as though entering might actually infect her with cooties.

“Oh, just a bit longer.” Deena relished her intentional vagueness. Using her gooiest Southern drawl, she added, “You don’t have to wait for me, dear.”

Ms. Marshall smirked, leaned against the door frame as if she herself were the very foundation of the building, and began occupying herself on her cell phone.

Standing over her desk, the perch from which she ruled her flock, Deena slowed her movements, accomplishing two goals: savoring the moment and bugging her watchman. “Is this how you deal with all teachers when they leave this school? Are you worried I might steal this stapler?” She held it up as a visual aid.

Ms. Marshall rolled her eyes. “No, but this is a special circumstance.”

Still holding the heavy black stapler, Deena contemplated bashing her in the head or shoving it somewhere else. She envisioned the headline in the Northeast Texas Tribune: Ex-Journalism Teacher Bludgeons Assistant Principal with Swing Master II.

She dropped it in the box she was filling to take home.

Deena envisioned herself as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider—always ready to fight the good fight. She called it her Walter Mitty Complex. In her mind, she would kick butt and take names; in reality, she would step aside and apologize. Still, she was always looking for ways to unleash her inner Lara. She even took karate at one time but gave up when she got walloped by a six-year-old warrior princess.

Now, surrendering her classroom keys to the principal’s chief stooge seemed like waving a white flag on her career. She still managed a pained, melancholy smile as she headed out of room 106 and down the hallway for the last time. Surprisingly, she felt no sense of relief, her stomach queasy, her chest tight. Instead, she felt the same foreboding she got every year on the eve of the first day of school.

My Book Review:

In Sharpe Shooter, author Lisa B. Thomas weaves an intriguing cozy mystery tale that easily draws the reader into ex-teacher turned amateur sleuth Deena Sharpe's adventure when she tries to uncover the fifty year old cold case mystery behind her late Uncle Matthew's unexplained disappearance and murder, when his skeleton is discovered in the closet of the Perry County Sheriff's Office. Deena takes the reader along on her amateur sleuth adventure as she tries to clear her family's name and uncover the truth behind her uncle's murder.

This captivating and fast-paced whodunit tale has enough quirky characters, witty humor, drama, intriguing twists and turns, and conspiracy theories that will keep you guessing. Rich in detail and vivid descriptions, the story takes place in rural Maycroft, Texas, a picturesque southern town with a lot of heart and charm. The description of the town and its residents was simply wonderful, there's nothing better than down home country charm and living.

This entertaining cozy mystery tale will keep you engaged as you turn the pages following along with Deena's investigative adventure, and you can't help but get caught up in the drama and calamity that ensues as she tries to solve her uncle's murder. Deena's story unfolds with a wonderful balance of comedy, drama, and suspense that easily kept me guessing, and left me wanting more.

Sharpe Shooter is a riveting cozy murder mystery that will engage you to join in the crazy adventures and trials and tribulations that occur, while providing you with a dose of good ol' southern charm and humor.

Sharpe Shooter is the first book in the Cozy Suburbs Mystery Series.


About The Author

Born and raised in Texas, I always knew I wanted to be a writer. Finally, after thirty-three years as a high school Journalism and English teacher, I dusted off the laptop and released my first novel. Having grown up reading Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, and Agatha Christie, I was drawn to the mystery genre.

With two grown children out of the nest, I live a quiet life with my husband and Peekapoo puppy. Besides writing, I enjoy my grandchildren, photography, traveling, and antiquing (aka. buying and selling used junk). Like my main character, Deena, I have an antique booth and enjoy treasure hunting and reselling vintage finds.

Author Website

Contest Giveaway

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Virtual Book Tour

Tour Schedule:

June 22 – Babs Book Bistro – CHARACTER GUEST POST 
June 22 – FictionZeal – SPOTLIGHT
June 23 – StoreyBook Reviews – GUEST POST
June 23 – Deal Sharing Aunt – INTERVIEW
June 24 – Community Bookstop – REVIEW
June 25 – A Blue Million Books – GUEST POST
June 26 – Island Confidential – CHARACTER INTERVIEW
June 27 – Jersey Girl Book Reviews – REVIEW
June 28 – I Read What You Write – REVIEW, INTERVIEW
June 28 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – SPOTLIGHT

Friday, June 24, 2016

Dead Is Dead by John Lansing (Author Guest Post / Book Review / Contest Giveaway)

In association with Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for Dead Is Dead by author John Lansing!

Author Guest Post

So, you just spent a year of your life writing your first novel, and now you want to know how to proceed. Should you submit to agents, or publishers, or …?

            Hire an editor.

The most important part of the writing cycle for me has been working with a seasoned editor. I’ve been fortunate enough to collaborate with the same man for all three books in my Jack Bertolino series, and there is continuity, and a trust that has developed over time. He understands my protagonist, understands the pacing needed for a successful thriller, and he understands me. It’s never an easy process, but the work always improves with the effort.

            And don’t use a friend who once took an English lit class, or a family member who reads a lot, or your neighbor who’s a substitute teacher. Find a bona fide editor who has studied that specific area of expertise, because your work can flourish with the experience or bomb without it.

            I’m warning you now, be prepared to check your ego at the door, because as good as an editor is, taking notes, or having someone tear into the baby that you’ve created with your blood, sweat and tears, is a rocky process at best. You can scream, and carry on, and call your editor names you wouldn’t commit to print, but when you take a step back, take a deep breath, and start the rewriting process, you usually find a solution that improves your manuscript.

            If it sounds like I’m too familiar with the histrionics, it’s because I’ve been there and back. My girlfriend has had to occasionally peal me off the ceiling of my office when I have, for example, been advised to revisit a subplot that diminishes my protagonist. He was absolutely correct in his assessment, but it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a gut clencher.

            My editor, John Paine, is quick to say that his notes are only suggestions. And I, the author, am the final arbiter. But I’m to the point where I’ll always try to make his notes work before losing my mind and spinning out of control, or rejecting them. You can always go back to your original manuscript if the notes are too far off your original intention.

The bottom line is, a good editor won’t try to reinvent your wheel. He or she will just make the ride smoother, and your novel more powerful. And with power, comes success.

Now you’re ready to go after that agent.

About The Author

John Lansing, started his career as an actor in New York City. He spent a year at the Royale Theatre performing the lead in the Broadway production of “Grease,” before putting together a rock ‘n’ roll band and playing the iconic club CBGB.

John closed up his Tribeca loft and headed for the West coast where he landed a co-starring role in George Lucas’ “More American Graffiti,” and guest-starred on numerous television shows.

During his fifteen-year writing career, Lansing wrote and produced “Walker Texas Ranger,” co-wrote two CBS Movies of the Week, and co-executive produced the ABC series “Scoundrels.”

John’s first book was Good Cop Bad Money, a true crime tome he co-wrote with former NYPD Inspector Glen Morisano.

The Devil’s Necktie, his first Jack Bertolino novel, became a best seller on Barnes & Noble and hit #1 in Amazon’s Kindle store in the Crime Fiction genre. Jack Bertolino returns in John’s latest novel, Dead Is Dead, the third book in his detective series.

A native of Long Island, John now resides in Los Angeles.

Author Website

Book Review

Dead Is Dead by John Lansing
Book 3: Jack Bertolino Series
Publisher: Gallery Books / Karen Hunter Publishing
Publication Date: May 30, 2016
Format: Paperback - 352 pages
               Kindle - 2101 KB
               Nook - 2 MB
ISBN: 978-1501147562
BNID: 978-1501143564
Genre: Mystery / Suspense / Thriller

Buy The Book:

Buy The Series: Jack Bertolino Series
Book 1: The Devil's Necklace
Book 2: Blond Cargo
Book 3: Dead Is Dead

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours.

Book Description:

From the “pulse pounding” (Kirkus Reviews) writer of TV hit Walker, Texas Ranger comes a riveting Hollywood thriller that will keep you captivated until the shocking conclusion.

Retired Inspector Jack Bertolino gets his first taste of the erratic nature of Hollywood when A-list producer, George Litton, options one of Jack’s recent cases for a film.

Jack is engaged as the film’s technical advisor, which stars It Girl Susan Blake. But more importantly, he’s on hand to keep a protective eye on Susan, who’s being harassed by a disturbing cyber-stalker.

But that’s not all that starts to turn Jack’s world upside-down. When a six-year-old girl is shot dead in the living room of her family home, just blocks from where the movie is being filmed, Jack realizes there are threads connecting the movie, the murder, a brutal gang of brothers, and a terrifying body count.

Will Jack be able to find justice for the young girl and keep Susan safe? Or will this be his last and fatal trip to Hollywood?

Book Excerpt:


Day One

Toby Dirk snugged the smooth wooden stock of his Ruger .22 semiautomatic rifle tight against his shoulder. He sighted in on the small Mediterranean stucco house directly across the street. It was one of many vacation bungalows built in the 1950s on narrow lots. Faded pink paint, overgrown shrubs, and tufts of green grass littering the burnt lawn shouted neglect, or poverty, or renters.

In this case it was poverty. The house was clean, but the home’s decline had outpaced the Sanchezes’ bank account. Toby had known the family for years—solid people, Hispanic, struggling to put food on the table. He had no issues with their youngest boy, Juan, dealing dope.

Juan wasn’t his target.

Venice Beach these days was an eclectic mix of million-dollar designer digs and old-school bungalows from a time when rents were low and the neighborhoods were inhabited by immigrants, blue-collar workers, street gangs, and artists. Gentrification was crowding out many of the longtime residents, but the gangs were ingrained. Their members would have to be jailed or hauled out in pine boxes to make way for the upscale clientele looking for a “teardown.”

Toby listened for signs of life in the house he was using as cover, but the precaution was just reflexive. He knew Mrs. Montenegro wouldn’t return home from her deli until after dark. Through her rangy bamboo hedge he had a clear shot of Juan’s driveway and front door.

Now all he needed was a target.

Tomas Vegas would be dropping off a bag of dope to his newest dealer in less than five minutes. Vegas ran his drug business with precision, just like his iron fist. You could set a clock by his daily rounds.

Unfortunately for Vegas, he’d set up Toby’s girlfriend, Eva Perez, for a nine-month stretch on trumped-up drug and weapons charges. She’d been out on parole for three months now, but she was changed. Damaged. Not the same free spirit. It broke Toby’s heart, and it fueled his rage.

Two men in love with the same woman. She had chosen Toby. Gotten his name tattooed on her shoulder in neat calligraphy. Had been pregnant with his child. Toby was head over heels, crazy in love.

Jealousy’s a bitch, he thought, and Vegas was about to pay the ultimate price. Three shots max, to make sure Vegas wouldn’t get up again. If all went according to plan, Toby would soon be paddling out into the Pacific, catching the late-afternoon swells at Sunset Beach.

Toby, twenty-three, had thick, unruly strands of shoulderlength sandy hair held off his face with a black watch cap. A faint shadow of freckles dusted his high cheekbones, set in a chiseled, angular face. His lean body was sinewy with the long ropy muscles of a surfer. His blue eyes were steady and intelligent. He had tested in the top two percentile in the standardized IQ tests at Venice High, and he had been offered a scholastic scholarship to UC Berkeley. He turned it down. All he was interested in was smoking righteous bud and being an outlaw.

He and his two brothers were doing just fine in that regard. If you played by the rules, you were a sucker. It had killed his father, and he wasn’t going down that dusty trail. He didn’t buy into the old saw that life was a bitch and then you die. Toby was sure of one thing and it guided his life choices.

Dead is dead. There was nothing else. No great beyond. No nothing. You created your own heaven and hell in the only lifetime you’d ever know, so grab life with two fists while you were young enough to enjoy it, fuck it, eat it, drink it, or smoke it.


Juan Sanchez peered out of his bedroom door and then silently closed and locked it. He could hear his mother working at the kitchen stove, banging her long wooden spoon against the aluminum pot, filled with enough black beans, garlic, onions, and rice to feed the family for three days.

Juan stooped down beside the only piece of furniture in his room besides his bed, a scarred wooden four-drawer dresser. He pulled out the tall bottom drawer and set it aside on his threadbare rug. On his hands and knees he strained reaching in, and pulled out a tightly banded roll of greenbacks he had taped to the back panel of the dresser. He slid the money into his pocket, then pushed the drawer back onto its chipped plastic runners until it closed.

Juan glanced nervously toward the door, averting his gaze from the wooden crucifix nailed to the wall over his neatly made bed. He stood sentry at his window, waiting for the pounding of his heart to settle and his dealer to arrive.

The sound of Tomas Vegas’s baffled mufflers preceded his arrival in front of the house.

Juan hurried quietly down the hallway, unnoticed by his mother in the kitchen, and into the living room, where his sixyear-old sister, Maria, was struggling to pull a sweater over her Barbie’s head. The bright-eyed girl looked up at her brother with such love and admiration, it washed over Juan like a bucket of guilt. He grabbed the doll from his baby sister, yanked the sweater’s hole over the mop of long blonde hair, and handed it back to Maria. “Gracias, Juan,” she said with an angelic smile. Juan returned a tight grin, nervously tapped the roll of bills in his pocket, and steeled his nerve.

“C’mon, be a man,” he mumbled as he headed out the door.


Toby adjusted the rifle’s sight, mindful of the half-inch play in the gun’s trajectory. He had chosen his .22 because it was quiet and, from this distance, deadly as a viper. The bullets would rattle around in his target’s chest, kill him dead, but he wouldn’t have to worry about collateral damage.

Toby started a silent mantra . . . and slowed his breathing.

As he visualized a tight cluster tearing into Tomas Vegas, an antique electric-blue Ford Fairlane glided to a stop across the street.

Young Juan Sanchez ran out of the house and reached the curb before the screen door slammed behind him.

Vegas slid out of his car with a studied cool and sauntered up to his newest recruit. With icy cool he checked out the houses behind Juan, up and then down Fourth Street toward Rose. He was preening like a fucking peacock, Toby thought.

The young men fist-bumped, exchanged a few words, and Vegas popped the trunk and pulled out a fat brown grocery bag.

Juan nervously dug in his pocket for the roll of cash, and as Vegas thrust the high-grade weed toward his newest dealer, Toby let out an even breath. Now. Yet just as he squeezed off a round, a car sped by, blocking the play.

He jerked the gun at the last second. The high-velocity .22 LR load flew wide, shattering a front window. Toby instantly readjusted, fired, and then again.

Vegas’s face registered surprise as he dropped the bag, ripped open his shirt, stared down at two tight holes in his chest.

Screaming, Juan dove behind the safety of the Ford.

Loose buds of marijuana spilled onto the street.

Tomas Vegas fell to his knees and keeled forward face-first, stone-dead, in the gutter.

Toby Dirk madly grabbed for the spent shells, palming two from the thick grass. Where was the third one? A primal wail drifted from the target house and chilled him for a beat. Why the hell would anyone shed tears for Tomas Vegas? he wondered as he army-crawled toward the back of the Montenegro house. He had to get out of there before the shit hit the fan. When he was hidden from view, he jumped to his feet and leapt the chain-link fence.

Toby dropped the butt of the rifle into a Whole Foods bag he had stationed in the rear for that purpose. He held the warm barrel discreetly under his arm, close to his body, looking like he’d just gone shopping. He walked swiftly up the hill, being careful not to run, but flying with adrenaline. He tossed the bagged rifle into the rear compartment of his matte-black ragtop Jeep, covered it with a spare wetsuit, jumped in and fired up the engine.

The sound of a distant siren could be heard, along with the plaintive screams of a woman. Still puzzled by this reaction—who would cry for a drug dealer?—Toby Dirk sucked in a lungful of air, clicked on Bob Marley, cranked up the volume, and powered away from the scene of his crime.

My Book Review:

Dead Is Dead is the third book in the Jack Bertolino Series, that transports the reader back into the seedy underworld of crime as they follow private investigator Jack Bertolino on his latest investigative adventure.

Author John Lansing weaves a fast-paced crime thriller set in Los Angeles, and written in the third person narrative, that follows the dangerous quest of retired NYPD narcotics detective now private investigator Jack Bertolino as he serves as a technical advisor on a movie set, and in particular as a bodyguard for up-and-coming actress Susan Blake, who has a stalker after her. Jack is also asked to investigate the gang hit on known drug dealer Tomas Vegas, that also mistakenly took the life of six year old Maria Sanchez. Jack's investigation leads him into the seedy underworld of drug cartels and gangs in Ventura and Hollywood, where he finds himself caught up in a dangerous and deadly world that he thought he had left behind.

Dead Is Dead is a riveting and realistic story that is full of intrigue, action, drama, suspense, murder, and dark humor. Jack's latest investigative adventure easily draws the reader in and keeps them captivated and turning the pages. As the reader follows Jack into the shady world of drug cartels and gangs, the multitude of plot twists and turns will keep them guessing what will happen next. Jack takes the reader on a wild ride when his dangerous adventure takes him into the upscale areas and seedy neighborhoods of various California locales. It is a seedy and gritty world of drugs, gangs, and murder ... all in the pursuit of bringing justice for the murder of an innocent little girl, while also keeping actress Susan Blake safe from a psycho cyber-stalker.

With a multidimensional cast of characters who leap off the pages; gritty dialogue and vivid interactions; richly detailed description of various California locales; and a no-holds-barred storyline that keeps the reader sitting on the edge of their seats and holding their breath as the chilling trail of stalkers, gang crimes, drugs, and murders leads up to an explosive climax; Dead Is Dead is one hell of a thrilling story that you won't be able to put down, and it will leave you wanting more!


Contest Giveaway

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for John Lansing. The giveaway begins on May 15th and runs through June 30th, 2016.

There will be TWO (2) winners for this tour. One winner will receive one $15 gift card from (US Only) the other winner will receive Dead is Dead by John Lansing - US Residents may choose either an eBook copy or a Physical version however Winners outside the US will only be eligible for an eBook version.

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Virtual Book Tour

Tour Schedule:

5/16 Guest post @ The Book Divas Reads
5/17 Interview & Giveaway @ BooksChatter
5/19 Showcase @ Sapphyrias Book Reviews
5/22 Guest post @ Books Direct
5/25 Review @ Lets Talk About Books
5/26 Showcase @ Celticladys Reviews
6/01 Review @ Just Reviews
6/02 Showcase @ The Pen and Muse Book Reviews
6/02 Review @ Vics Media Room
6/03 Review @ Mystery Suspense
6/04 Showcase @ Hott Books
6/05 Showcase @ Writers and Authors
6/06 Showcase & Giveaway @ Buried Under Books
6/08 Review @ 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, &, Sissy, Too!
6/09 Review @ Deal Sharing Aunt
6/09 Interview, Review & Giveaway @ Rockin' Book Reviews
6/10 Showcase @ Fiction Zeal
6/16 Showcase @ The Reading Frenzy
6/17 Review @ CMash Reads
6/20 Interview @ Jaquo Lifestyle Magazine
6/24 Guest Post & Review @ Jersey Girl Book Reviews
6/27 Showcase @ Socrates Book Review Blog
6/29 Review @ Curling Up by the Fire

Into the Amish by Erin Brady with Sarah Price (Book Cover Reveal Event)

In association with Goddess Book Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book cover reveal event for Into the Amish by authors Erin Brady with Sarah Price!

About The Book

Into the Amish by Erin Brady with Sarah Price
Publisher: Price Publishing
Publication Date: June 28, 2016
Format: eBook - 255 pages
               Kindle - 706 KB
Genre: Amish Romance

Buy The Book: 

Book Description:

Emily Lawson had everything going for her: a dream job as an attorney in a major law firm, the perfect apartment with spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline, the best place to get a mani and pedi and the ideal man who also happened to be the most sought-after bachelor in New York City. When she says yes to Arthur Carrington II’s marriage proposal, her life is suddenly turned upside down. Not only is Emily a target of an unrelenting paparazzi, but she feels the pressure to live up to the Carrington name and all of the expectations it carries with it, especially those set by her soon-to-be mother-in-law and renown socialite, Dolores Carrington. But when a disastrous turn of events causes her life to fall apart at the seams, Emily finds herself traveling to Lancaster, Pennsylvania to visit her long-lost Amish cousins and put some distance between herself and the life she thought she wanted. It is there among the Amish where Emily discovers what’s really important and the power of family, faith and following one’s dreams. With the help of a handsome stranger, Jonah Miller, Emily finds herself at a crossroads and knows she must make a decision that will ultimately change the course of her life.

About The Author

Erin Brady is a self-confessed romantic comedy addict who hopes to never find a cure. She spends countless hours re-reading Pride and Prejudice and admits to never getting tired of Darcy's britches. She loves watching rom-com movies because, when it comes down to it, she can't get enough of the "girl meets boy and falls in love" stories. Most importantly, she loves to laugh and finds humor in everything from washing dishes to singing karaoke off-key!

Ms. Brady writes chick lit novels and enjoys every minute of it. All of her novels follow the lives of women who, mindfully or not, end up pursuing their dreams while making mistakes and learning to laugh (and fall in love) along the way. Erin admits that her inspiration for her characters often comes from her own circle of friends, despite her friends' protests otherwise.

Currently, Erin Brady has published five novels: And The Winner Is, Shopping Swap, Holiday Gig and One Last Blind Date, and The Twelve-Step Plan. Her sixth novel, Into the Amish, co-authored with Sarah Price will be released at the end of June 2016.

Author Website

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

All Access by Liberty Kontranowksi (Book Release Day Blitz)

In association with Marching Ink LLC, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book release day blitz for All Access by author Liberty Kontranowski!

About The Book

All Access by Liberty Kontranowski
Book 1: The Fangirl Series
Publisher: Marching Ink LLC
Publication Date: June 22, 2016
Format: eBook - 242 pages
               Kindle - 891 KB
ISBN: 978-0997532715
Genre: Romantic Women's Fiction

Buy The Book:

Book Description:

Every fangirl has a fantasy . . . what happens when that “if only” dream comes true?

Though she’s a single mom wedged firmly into thirty-something territory, author Kallie Reagan’s devotion to rock star Niles Russell knows no bounds. To pay homage to her muse, Kallie writes a smokin’ hot novel featuring a hero who looks and acts an awful lot like Niles — and a heroine who may or may not have a smattering of herself thrown in for fun.

When Niles learns about the book and surprise-texts Kallie, the two deliciously complicated creatives become fast friends . . . and so much more. But trying to define a relationship that’s laced with closeted skeletons, half-truths, and constant question marks proves harder than making it big. If they’re going to progress from Fangirl Infatuation to The Real Deal, these two need to give each other All Access to the most important place of all: their hearts.

About The Author

Liberty Kontranowski is a romantic women’s fiction author who adores all things lovey-dovey with a pinch (or more) of hubba-hubba. When she’s not at the keyboard, she’s taxiing around her three boys, knocking back craft beers with the hubs, blogging, fangirling, and dreaming up more fake people. She also spends an inordinate amount of time drinking coffee and dreaming of the day she can bid adieu to far-too-wintry Michigan and move to a place where she can write with her toes in the sand.

Liberty loves to hear from her readers (and otherwise cool people) so give her a yell. You can find her on Facebook at; on Twitter at; and through her blog at

Author Blog / Website

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Calamity Cafe by Gayle Leeson (Character Guest Post / Book Review / Contest Giveaway)

In association with Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for The Calamity Cafe by author Gayle Leeson!

Character Guest Post

Hide and Watch Me!
By Aunt Bess from The Calamity Café by Gayle Leeson

That’s what I tell people who say I’m too old to do this or that. I say, “Hide and watch me!” I’m eighty-two. So what? That’s nothing but a number. I can go and do just about as good as I could thirty years ago.

For my eightieth birthday, I decided I wanted to get in on all this Internet stuff the kids are doing. So I asked for a computer. My niece Jenna—she lives with me, you know—said, “Now, Aunt Bess, you don’t need a computer. You can use mine.”

“Well, I don’t want to use yours,” I said. “I want my own.”

So she and her daughter Amy and my granddaughter Jackie all went in together and bought me this little laptop. That’s what they call it. It’s a computer you can put on your lap. But if you put it on your lap and don’t have a tray or something underneath it, it’s gonna get your legs hot, I’ll tell you that. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing in the winter, but I’d rather not burn up in the summer. That’s why I had Jackie go over to the store and get me this contraption that has a wooden top like a desk and a beanbag bottom. It’s nice. It’s curved to fit around your middle, so you can plop your laptop right down on that desk of a thing and surf around that Internet all day or until a good program comes on, you decide you’d rather be reading, or your battery dies—whichever comes first.

One of the sites I like is the Pinterest. Do y’all have the Pinterest? It’s a wonderful thing. You sign up for an account—for free, they don’t charge you a thing—and they let you make what they call boards. You give these boards names and then you can put pictures up on them. For instance, one of my boards is called People I’ve Outlived. That can be a sad, sad board. It has pictures of Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, Cary Grant, one of the neighbor women, Princess Diana and Robin Williams (those two purt near broke my heart when I added them), and Saddam Hussein. It didn’t really bother me too awful much to put him up on the board. I didn’t know him, and they said on the news that he was real mean.

I have this other board called Things I’d Love to Eat. That’s one of my favorites. If you’ve never been to the Pinterest, they have the biggest bunch of recipes you ever did see. They have recipes for specific diets, foods you can make in a hurry, party foods, and desserts. I love desserts. I’ve pinned me a whole slew of desserts on my Things I’d Love to Eat board. The thing is, Amy and Jackie use that board to see what I might want to have when they come over to cook me and Jenna Sunday lunch.

One time, Amy asked me, “Aunt Bess, you do know there are other foods out there besides dessert, don’t you?”

I told her, “Yes, ma’am, I do, but I’m eighty-two years old. And if I want to have a meal that’s all desserts, by crackie, I’ll have it.”

She laughed and gave me a kiss on the cheek. She’ll be old one of these days, and I’ll remind her of that little remark about the desserts.

About The Author

Gayle Leeson is a pseudonym for Gayle Trent. I also write as Amanda Lee. As Gayle Trent, I write the Daphne Martin Cake Mystery series and the Myrtle Crumb Mystery series. As Amanda Lee, I write the Embroidery Mystery series. I live in Virginia with my family, which includes her own “Angus” who is not an Irish wolfhound but a Great Pyrenees who provides plenty of inspiration for the character of Mr. O’Ruff. I’m having a blast writing this new series!

Author Website
Gayle Trent Author Website

Book Review

The Calamity Cafe by Gayle Leeson
Book 1: Down South Cafe Mystery Series
Publisher: NAL / Penguin Publishing Group
Publication Date: June 7, 2016
Format: Paperback - 304 pages
               Kindle - 1575 KB
               Nook - 1 MB
ISBN: 978-1101990780
BNID: 9781101990797
Genre: Cozy Mystery

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours.

Book Description:

First in a new cozy mystery series featuring Southern cooking that is to die for.

Aspiring chef and small-town Virginia native Amy Flowers is ready to open her own café offering old-fashioned Southern food. But her dream may go up in smoke when someone kills the competition…

Tired of waiting tables at Lou’s Joint, Amy Flowers doesn’t just quit—she offers to buy the place from her bully of a boss, so she can finally open the café of her dreams. Amy can’t wait to serve the kind of Southern, down-home treats and dishes that her grandmother always loved to the kooky cast of regulars at the restaurant. She knows her comfort food will be the talk of the sweet, small town of Winter Garden, Virginia.

At first Lou Lou refuses to sell, but when she seems ready to make a deal, she tells Amy to come see her. Showing up at the eatery ready to negotiate, Amy is shocked to find her former employer murdered. As the prime suspect, Amy will have to clear her name by serving up the real killer—and with Lou Lou’s stack of enemies, that’s a tall order.

Includes delicious Southern recipes.

Book Excerpt:

Chapter 1

I took a deep breath, tightened my ponytail, and got out of my yellow Volkswagen Beetle. I knew from experience that the morning rush at Lou’s Joint had passed and that the lunch crowd wouldn’t be there yet. I put my letter of resignation in my purse and headed inside. Homer Pickens was seated at the counter with a cup of coffee. He was a regular . . . and when I say regular, I mean it. The man came to the café every morning at ten o’clock, lingered over a sausage biscuit and a cup of coffee, and left at ten forty. It was ten fifteen a.m.
“Good morning, Homer,” I said. “Who’s your hero today?”
“Shel Silverstein,” he said.
“Good choice.” I smiled and patted his shoulder. Homer was a retiree in his late sixties, and he chose a new hero every day.
You see, when Homer was a little boy, he noticed his daddy wasn’t around like other kids’ daddies. So he asked his mom about him. She told him that his dad had died but that he’d been a great baseball player, which is why she’d named him Homer. When Homer was a teenager, she’d finally leveled with him and said his father hadn’t been a baseball player . . . that he’d basically been a bum . . . but that Homer didn’t need a father to inspire him. Heroes were everywhere. Since then, Homer had chosen a new hero every day. It was like his inspiration. I looked forward to hearing Homer’s answer to my question every day I worked. When I was off from work, he told me who his hero was the day I asked plus the day I’d missed.
I could sympathize with Homer’s desire for a heroic father figure. My dad left Mom and me when I was four. I don’t really remember him at all.
“That apple tree? The one he wrote about? I have one like it in my backyard,” Homer said. “I cherish it. I’d never cut it down.”
“I’m sure the rain we’ve had the past couple of days has helped it grow.You bring me some apples off that tree this fall, and I’ll make you a pie,” I told him.
My cousin Jackie came from the back with a washcloth and a spray bottle of cleaner. She and I had waitressed together at the café for over a year. Jackie had been there for two years, and in fact, it was she who’d helped me get the job.
My mind drifted to when I’d come back home to work for Lou Lou. I’d just finished up culinary school in Kentucky. Nana’s health had been declining for the past two or three years, but it had picked up speed. Assoon as I’d graduated, I’d come home and started working at Lou’s Joint so I could be at Nana’s house within ten minutes if I was needed. I was only biding my time at first, waiting for a chef’s position to come open somewhere. But then Nana had died. And, although I knew I could’ve asked her for a loan to open a café at any time, I wouldn’t have. I guess I got my streak of pride from my mother. But the money Nana had left me had made my dream a reality—I could open my café and stay right here at home.
“Morning, Amy!” said Jackie. “Guess what—Granny says she has a new Pinterest board. It’s called Things I’d Love to Eat but Won’t Fix Because What’s the Point Anyway Since I Don’t Like to Cook Anymore.”
I laughed. “I don’t think they’d let her have a name that long.”
“That’s what I figured. It’s probably called Things I’d Love to Eat, but she threw that last bit in there hoping we’ll make some of this stuff for her.”
“And we probably will.”
Jackie’s granny was my great-aunt Elizabeth, but Mom and I had always just called her “Aunt Bess.” Aunt Bess was eighty-two and had recently discovered the wonders of the Internet. She had a number of Pinterest boards, had a Facebook page with a 1940s pinup for a profile pic, and trolled the dating sites whenever they offered a free weekend.
Lou Lou heard us talking and waddled to the window separating the kitchen from the dining room. She had a cigarette hanging from her bottom lip. She tucked it into the corner of her mouth while she spoke. “Thought Iheard your voice, Amy. You ain’t here for your paycheck, are you?Because that won’t be ready until tomorrow, and you ain’t picking it up until after your shift.”
“That’s not why I’m here,” I said. “Could we talk privately, please?”
“Fine, but if you’re just wanting to complain about me taking half the waitresses’ tips again, you might as well not waste your breath. If it wasn’t for me, y’all wouldn’t have jobs here, so I deserve half of what you get.”
Jackie rolled her eyes at me and then got to cleaning tables before Lou Lou bawled her out.
We deserved all of our tips and then some, especially since Lou Lou didn’t pay minimum wage and gave us more grief than some of the waitresses could bear. That’s why I was here. Lou Lou Holman was a bully, and I aimed to put her out of business.
Speaking of daddies, Lou Lou had been named after hers—hence the Lou Lou, rather than Lulu—and according to my late grandmother, she looked just like him. He’d kept his hair dyed jet-black until he was put into the Winter Garden Nursing Home, and afterward, he put shoe polish on his head. According to Nana, he ruined many a pillowcase before the staff found his stash of shoe polish and did away with it.
Lou Lou wore her black hair in a tall beehive with pin curls on either side of her large round face. Her eyes were blue, a fact that was overpowered by the cobalt eye shadow she wore. She shaved her eyebrows, drew thin black upside-down Vs where they should have been, and added false eyelashes to complete the look.
Today Lou Lou wore a floor-length blue-and-white floral-print muumuu, and she had a white plastic hibiscus in her hair just above the pin curl on the left. She shuffled into the office, let me go in ahead of her, and then closed the door. I could smell her perfume—a cloying jasmine—mixed with this morning’s bacon and the cigarette, and I was more anxious than ever to get our business over with. She sat down behind her desk and looked at me.
I perched on the chair in front of the desk, reached into my purse, and took out the letter. As I handed it to her, I said, “I’m turning in my two-week notice.”
“Well, I ain’t surprised,” she said, stubbing the cigarette into the ashtray.“I heard your granny left you some money when she passed last year. I reckon you’ve decided to take it easy.”
“No. Actually, I’d like to buy your café.”
Her eyes got so wide that her false eyelashes brushed against the tops of her inverted V eyebrows. “Is that a fact, Amy?”
“Yes, ma’am, it is.” I lifted my chin. “I’m a good cook—better than good, as a matter of fact—and I want to put my skills . . . my passion . . . to work for me.”
“If you think you can just waltz in here all high and mighty and take my daddy’s business away from me, you’ve got another think coming,” said Lou Lou.
“If you don’t sell to me, I’m going to open up my own café. I just thought I should give you fair warning before I do.”
Lou Lou scoffed. “You’ve got some nerve thinking you can run me out of business. You bring on the competition, girlie! We’ll see who comes out ahead.”
“All right.” I stood. “Thank you for your time. I’ll be here tomorrow for my shift.”
“Don’t bother. I’ll mail you your final check.”
“I’ll be here,” I said. “I don’t want any of the other waitresses to have to work a double on my account.”
“Suit yourself. But don’t be surprised if I take the cost of putting an ad in the paper for a new waitress out of your salary.”
I simply turned and walked out of the office. I knew that legally Lou Lou couldn’t take her ad cost out of my pay. But Lou Lou did a lot of things that weren’t right. I figured whatever she did to me in retaliation for my leaving wasn’t worth putting up a fight over . . . not now. I’d pick my battles.
I’d also pick my wallpaper, my curtains, my flooring, my chairs, stools, and tables, my logo . . . My lips curled into a smile before I’d even realized it.
“Bye, Homer! Bye, Jackie!” I called over my shoulder on the way out.
“Bye, Amy!” They called in unison.
I went to the parking lot and got into my car. I glanced up at the sign—LOU’S JOINT—as I backed out into the road. The sign was as sad and faded as everything else about this place. If I could convince Lou Lou to change her mind, I’d start with a brand-new sign . . . a big yellow sign with DOWN SOUTH CAFÉ in blue cursive letters. I wanted everybody to know what to expect when they walked into my café—Southern food and hospitality.
I could do so much with this little place. Sure, I could also build a new café, but if I did, I’d also have to buy all-new equipment, get the building wired and up to code, and basically spend a lot of extra money I’d rather save if at all possible. Besides, Lou’s Joint was one of only two restaurants in town, and it was really close to my house—a definite plus once winter rolled in.
When I got home, I went straight to the kitchen. Rory, my little brown wirehaired terrier, met me at the door and followed me. Princess Eloise, the white Persian cat, barely looked up from her post in the living room picture-window sill. I bent and gave Rory kisses and then I got his box of dog treats. We play hide-and-seek with the treats before he eats them. Of course, they’re in plain sight, but we act like they’re hidden.
I scattered the treats in the foyer, hallway, and living room, repeating the word “Hide” each time I dropped one. When I placed the last treat on the marble hearth in the living room, I called, “Seek!” Rory sprang into action, backtracking to find all the treats.
This bought me a good five minutes to wash my hands and get started on an oatmeal pie. Oatmeal pies took a while to make—even when I had a frozen pie crust like the one I was using today—but they were worth it.Nana used to make them. Especially if I was feeling down, I could walk into her house, smell that oatmeal pie baking, and know that everything was gonna be all right.
I took my pie crust out of the freezer and preheated the oven. I got a small mixing bowl, put four eggs in it, and set it on the counter while I gathered the rest of my ingredients.
Lou Lou was right about my nana leaving me some money. The estate had been settled for quite a while, but I didn’t want to rush to spend my inheritance. I’d wanted to wait until I was absolutely sure I knew what I wanted to do.
Nana had a fairly sizable estate, or at least, sizable by Winter Garden, Virginia, standards. I’d always known my grandparents had money, but I hadn’t realized how much Nana did have until she was gone. Of course, she’d bought me my car when I’d graduated high school, and it was brand-new then. I’d been impressed, but I’d thought maybe she’d been saving up for that for a long time. I’d been driving that little car for ten years now, and it was still going strong.
I smiled to myself, remembering the day she’d taken me to buy that car.We’d had to go all the way to Johnson City, Tennessee, but the dealership had given us Virginia sales tax on the vehicle. And the salesman had nearly fainted when Nana had paid cash!
I cracked the four eggs into the bowl and beat them until they were frothy. In a larger bowl, I mixed together sugar, cinnamon, flour, and salt. I then added the eggs. As I was pouring in the corn syrup, my phone rang.I’d placed the phone on the counter and could see that it was Sarah calling.She was one of my best friends. I hesitated, but when the oven clicked, indicating that it had reached 350 degrees, I let the call go to voice mail.I’d get back to Sarah as soon as I got the pie into the oven.
Sarah and I had become close when we were in elementary school, and we’d stayed that way. Her family was like one of those perfect television families. I used to wish I had a big family like hers, and whenever I said something along those lines, she’d assure me that I did—I had her family.
And I had Mom and Nana. They were wonderful. Mom and I had lived in a smaller house on Nana and Pop’s property. Despite her parents’ abundance, Mom had taken as little from anybody as possible. She’d wanted to earn her own way, and she certainly had done that. And of course, Jackie and I had always been more like sisters than cousins, especially since Jackie had never known her dad and her mother had left her with Aunt Bess when Jackie was sixteen.
I poured the oatmeal mixture into the pie shell and slid it into the oven.Then I called Sarah.
“Hey, girl,” she answered. “Did you throw down on the Big Bad Boss yet?”
“Yeah.” I groaned. “Lou Lou was not happy when I offered to buy her café.”
“I’d have loved to have seen the expression on her face!” Sarah laughed.“So . . . plan B?”
“I guess so. I’m nervous about it. It’ll take longer than having a place that I only have to redecorate,” I said.
“But starting from the ground up, you can get exactly what you want.”
“That’s true . . . but it’s kinda scary.”
“I’m sure it is, Amy, but you’ll know what you’re getting every step of the way,” she said. “And you can afford to go with all-new stuff . . . good stuff!”
I laughed. “That’s true. But I have to be smart. I won’t have my salary to live on while the new place is being built. I gave Lou Lou my two weeks’ notice. She didn’t want me to come back at all, but I said I wouldn’t do that to the other waitresses.”
“Well, honey, it’s not like you were making a fortune in that place.”
“I know . . . but what will I do to keep from being bored out of my mind while I’m waiting for my café to be built?”
“You’ll help build it,” Sarah said. “I’ve known you all your life. I can see you jumping right in there with your hammer and nails.”
“You’ve got a point there. Plus, I’ll be getting my permits and all that.Do you think we can get the construction done before winter?” I asked.“How long does something like that take?”
“I’d say it’ll take four to six months . . . and it’s June . . . so, yeah, you can be ready by winter.”
I sighed. “Will people wait that long? I so wanted to go in, take over Lou Lou’s place, shut down for a week or two for redecorating, and then have a grand opening on Independence Day.”
“People won’t wait,” she said, “but they’ll gladly leave Lou’s Joint for something better as soon as that option becomes available to them.”
“You’re right,” I said. “Come over after work and have some oatmeal pie with me.”
“Is that what I smell?” she teased.
She giggled. “I’ll be there!”
“Want some fried chicken, biscuits, and mashed potatoes with gravy to go with it?” I asked.
“I’d be satisfied with just the pie . . . but I wouldn’t hurt your feelings by not eating chicken and biscuits.”
“Good. I’ll see you after work, then.”
Sarah was Billy Hancock’s administrative assistant. In Winter Garden, that meant she was the secretary, bookkeeper, and paralegal to the town’s only attorney-at-law. Billy was about fifty-five years old and had taken over the business from his father, William. Being the only lawyer in town, Billy had plenty to keep him busy, but not so busy that he couldn’t play golf in Abingdon with his friends two afternoons a week. He handled just about everybody’s wills, estates, divorces, and misdemeanor charges. Not that everybody got divorced or had misdemeanors in Winter Garden, for goodness’ sake . . . but there were enough to earn Billy a darned good living, and by extension Sarah too.
I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply. The aromas of the vanilla, cinnamon, and oatmeal were divine. I remembered standing on a chair at Nana’s side watching her make her oatmeal pie at our house one Thanksgiving morning. Nana was strong and sturdily built, and I must’ve been only around five years old, because I felt tiny at her side. She was patiently explaining the pie making step by step. At the time, all I cared about was “Can I lick the spoon?” Now I’d love to have the opportunity to live that day over . . . to take in every detail, every loving nuance of her oatmeal pie preparation. But as the author of Our Town warned, reliving a day gone by might prove to be too painful.
I opened my eyes and wondered briefly if Thornton Wilder had ever been Homer’s hero. I’d have to try to remember to ask Homer.
The pie still had a good thirty minutes to bake, so I went into my fancy room. My fancy room had once been my mother’s bedroom. After Pop died, Aunt Bess moved in with Nana. After Nana died, Mom moved in with Aunt Bess. And then when Aunt Bess started getting forgetful—as in, accidentally leaving the stove on—Mom left her job as a sales associate for a retailer in Bristol to look after Aunt Bess full-time.
Nana’s house was the biggest house in town, which wasn’t saying a lot for the rural community. There were houses in Abingdon and Bristol that would make Nana’s house look small in comparison. Most people in Winter Garden lived in farmhouses or small ranch houses. The people of Winter Garden were generally hardworking and proud. The majority thought it was beneath them to take handouts of any kind, and some lived a meager existence because of that.
Nana’s house was situated on a hill so that a person could sit on the wraparound front porch and see the entire town of Winter Garden. The house hadn’t been built until the early 1980s, when my grandpa had quit working in the coal mines and he and Nana moved here from Pocahontas.
After Mom had moved in with Aunt Bess, I’d remodeled her bedroom.Two of the walls were lined with oak bookshelves—not plasterboard, but real oak. My friend Roger was a construction worker, and he’d built them.There had always been the understanding that Roger would build my café if and when I decided to build. Before I’d given my notice to Lou Lou, I’d spoken with Roger to make sure he could work me in.
Roger had been friends with Sarah, Jackie, and me since we were children. In fact, I’d always thought he and Jackie would make a good couple.
In the center of the fancy room floor was a white velvet fainting couch, and I grinned every time I looked at it. The piece was just so girly and luxurious, and I loved it. I kept the door closed and didn’t let Princess Eloise into this room at all for fear that she’d sharpen her claws on the legs of the couch. It was hard to slip off from Rory, though, so I’d wound up putting a doggie bed beneath one of the windows so he could visit if he missed me when I was in the room. He generally liked to be by my side always. Princess Eloise could take me or leave me. ...

My Book Review:

Southern cozy mystery fans, boy do I have an entertaining new series for you to add to your reading list!

Welcome to Winter Garden, Virginia!

The Calamity Cafe is an entertaining whodunit story with a southern twist! Author Gayle Leeson weaves an intriguing southern cozy murder mystery tale told in the first person narrative by Amy Flowers, who immediately draws the reader into her story when she finds herself a suspect in the murder of her mean boss, Lou Lou Holman, after finding her dead in the office of her cafe, Lou's Joint. Amy takes the reader along on her amateur sleuth adventure as she tries to clear her name and find the real killer.

This captivating and fast-paced mystery tale has enough quirky humor, drama, and intriguing twists and turns that will keep you guessing. Rich in detail and vivid descriptions, the story takes place in Winter Garden, Virginia, a picturesque southern town with a lot of heart and charm. The description of the town and its residents was simply wonderful, there's nothing better than down home country charm and living. I loved how the author masterfully interwove Amy's dream of opening up a cafe called the Down South Cafe, where her customers would think of it as Southern hospitality in a sweet home town, while also dealing with the trials and tribulations of trying to clear her name, and solve the murder of a woman who had a history of run ins with a lot of people in town.

This laugh-out-loud cozy mystery tale will keep you in stitches as you turn the pages following along with the townsfolk's southern charm and quirky interactions, and you can't help but get caught up in the drama and calamity that follows Amy and friends as they try to solve Lou Lou's murder. Amy's story unfolds with a wonderful balance of comedy, drama, and suspense that easily kept me guessing, and left me wanting more. I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the author includes some delicious recipes at the end of the book that will make your mouth water!

The Calamity Cafe is a riveting southern cozy murder mystery that will engage you to join in the crazy adventures and trials and tribulations that occur, while providing you with a dose of good ol' southern charm and humor. So pull up a rocking chair and set down for a spell with some sweet tea while Amy and the townsfolk of Winter Garden tell y'all their story!

The Calamity Cafe is the first book in the Down South Cafe Mystery Series.


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