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.

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Inhuman Acts by Brooke L. French (Book Blast Event / Contest Giveaway)

In association with Partners In Crime Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the book blast event for Inhuman Acts by author Brooke L. French!










About The Book




Inhuman Acts by Brooke L. French
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Publication Date: September 29, 2022
Format: Paperback - 309 pages
               Audiobook - 10 Hours 3 Minutes
               Kindle - 995 KB
ISBN:  978-1685130350
ASIN (Audiobook): B0BG6BPGF8
ASIN (Kindle): ‎ B0B1RT5Q48
BNID: 978-1685130350
Genre: Thriller



Buy The Book:
Amazon (Free On Kindle Unlimited)



Book Description:


A deadly, incurable disease creeps silent through Chattanooga. And its victims aren’t random.

When inexplicable human rabies cases appear in Tennessee, disease ecologist Letty Duquesne jumps at the chance to trace the virus back to its source. But the closer Letty gets to finding the outbreak’s origin, the further someone will go to stop her.

With an unwanted promotion threatening to take Letty far from the field work she loves, this outbreak feels like her last chance to make a difference. It’s not something she can ignore, especially now. The spillover of zoonotic diseases to the human population is on the rise and violent animal attacks — like the one that killed her sister — are becoming all too common.

Something in nature has gone very wrong.

Local authorities would rather she go home, but Letty can track a source animal like no one else. With the help of disgraced detective, Andrew Marsh, Letty follows the virus’s epidemiological trail. But her every move is watched. And the source animal is closer than she thinks.

Inhuman Acts is a pulse-pounding thriller. Gripping and intricately paced, Brooke L. French’s debut novel will keep you on the edge of your seat. 



Book Excerpt:



April 7, 2017

A week at sea produced a lot of laundry. It fluttered above Jessa Duquesne as she lay on the foredeck of her parents’ sailboat, soaking up the morning sun. The air smelled of salt, waves splooshed against the hull, and seabirds cried out in the distance. It was everything she loved about a life lived outdoors.

Jessa lifted her head, searching the water for Mark. The ocean glittered, and the NĂ¡pali coast rose in the distance. Razor-sharp crags, each peak edged with green. Beautiful but empty. Just like the sea. No Mark.

She twisted to check their port side and spotted him beneath the surface. His body slid through a seemingly endless expanse of water, all sun-kissed skin and muscle.

Yum.

She’d never planned to marry, never had any interest in men that a one night stand couldn’t fix. At least, not until she’d met Mark. He surfaced for a breath then slipped back under the waves. Something moved behind him, further out. A dark shape, getting closer. Thick body, elongated dorsal fin, maybe eight feet long.

Jessa rolled onto her stomach and undid the shoulder ties of her bikini.

The sandbar shark was probably a female, given the size, and harmless as sharks went. Odd it was out this far from shore, though. Poor thing would probably be lunch for a bigger predator. A great white or a tiger shark. And it shouldn’t have been so close to the surface. Sandbar sharks usually hugged the bottom.

She should go get her camera. Maybe make a note of when she’d spotted it so she could have the data point. She could look up any other odd behavioral patterns when—

Stop it, Jessa.

There would be plenty of opportunities to study marine life when she got back to her office at the university. What she needed to do now was focus on all the wedding planning still left undone. She’d been putting off the worst of it — seating charts and table linens and all the other things she didn’t actually care about — hoping she could pawn them off on her sister. Or, at least, that she and Letty could handle them together this week, powered by a steady rotation of caffeine and wine.

Jessa sighed and shifted on her towel. It couldn’t be helped. Letty wasn’t the type to say no when work called, and it wasn’t like Jessa was sorry to be here. A little get-away with Mark was the perfect use for the week she’d already taken off work. But still…

Seating charts and table linens.

Yuck.

The minutiae danced through her mind, conspiring with the warm press of the sun to lull her into a near-doze…

Ice-cold water dripped onto the small of Jessa’s back, and she jumped with a yelp. “What the—?”

Mark stood over her, a grin on his face, dark hair dripping onto the deck. And her.

“Asshole.” She laughed, using the edge of her towel to wipe the water away while she admired the broad stretch of his chest, the V of his abdomen where it disappeared into the top of his swim trunks. “How was your swim?”

“Lonely.” He pulled a T-shirt from the rigging, where she’d hung it to dry. “Want to go below for a bit?”

She shook her head with a smile. “We’re out of condoms.” They’d used the last one the night before, and the memory brought heat to her cheeks. Even in the cramped confines of the cabin, he was a remarkable lover.

Mark shrugged. “The wedding’s in a month. You wouldn’t even be showing by then.”

His dark eyes sparked with mischief.

“You’re so bad.” Jessa retied the straps of her suit. “I’ll meet you down there. I need to hop in and cool off first.”

Mark helped her to her feet and pulled her close. “Don’t be long.” He pressed a kiss to her lips that tasted like salt water. “We’ve got to return the boat to your dad by four.”

She stepped back, winked at him, and dove off the side.

“Show-off!” he called down after her.

Jessa slipped into the water with barely a splash, like the lifelong swimmer she was. The water brushed a cool relief against her hot skin. Moored as far from land as they were, there was nothing to swim to. She settled for circuits around the boat. After a dozen, she turned onto her back and floated, giving her shoulders a break. The sky was a bright almost unnatural blue. It made a wide crescent against the darker indigo of the sea where the two met at the horizon.

Something brushed her foot.

Jessa stilled her legs, paddling with her arms to keep herself afloat as she searched for the culprit. A light-blue mass swirled below her.

Oh shit.

Ghostly strands reached up, inches from her skin.

Jellies.

And not just any jellyfish — box jellyfish. Large, square bodies with tentacles trailing below. Lots of them. Some as long as ten feet. Each tentacle had as many as five thousand stinging cells. Each one capable of causing excruciating pain and even death.

Don’t panic.

She had to stay calm, keep her wits. Which would be easier if she didn’t know their venom was deadlier than a cobra’s. Her mouth went dry. She turned in a slow circle, her breath tightening with each new jelly she spotted. They pulsed through the water underneath her. A writhing, growing mass.

She shifted the direction of her strokes, pulling herself away from them. How many were there? And why were they out now? Box jellyfish were always in the ocean, but Hawaii’s jellyfish tended to come and go with the cycle of the moon. And they weren’t due for weeks, especially not here. She and Mark had dropped anchor off Kauai, nowhere near the beaches of Oahu where box jellyfish were usually spotted.

“Mark?” She called out, but there was no sign of him.

Must be below deck.

She judged the distance to the boat. Maybe fifty yards. It would be easier and faster if she could kick. But she didn’t want to accidentally make contact with the jellyfish. Even one sting could send her into cardiac arrest. Her mouth was so dry, she could hardly swallow. The world shrunk to nothing more than the distance between her and the boat. She treaded water using only her arms, her muscles protesting, tired from the laps she’d done.

Just get to the ladder.

If you get stung, you’ll find the vinegar and douse yourself.

Jessa kept swimming, trying not to move her legs, gliding over the still-growing mass of jellies. Her heart pounded and she struggled to keep herself from hyperventilating. Forty yards, thirty, twenty-five. This was taking forever.

A lightning bolt of pain shot up from her ankle, a radiating burning sting. “Shit.”

Fuck this.

She kicked off, powering toward the boat. Her ankle burning, her jaw clenched tight against the pain.

Another strike, this one on the other leg and higher near her thigh. Like a thousand wasps stinging at once. Sweat broke out on her forehead, and she gasped at the sudden shock of pain, then another struck. And another. Her body seized, her arms freezing in place as the jellyfish wrapped themselves around her. Delicate strands weaving bands of fire across her body. Her heart thundered. The sear of agony blotting out the rest of the world, until it was the one true certain thing left.

Not the only thing.

“Mark!” Jessa forced out the word as her head slipped under the water, a sharp pain slicing her chest. She willed herself to push toward the surface, not to breathe in the saltwater around her. Except it wasn’t water. The jellyfish were everywhere.

A few feet below the surface, she opened her mouth and screamed.

***

Excerpt from Inhuman Acts by Brooke L. French. Copyright 2022 by Brooke L. French. Reproduced with permission from Brooke L. French. All rights reserved.







About The Author




Brooke L. French is a recovering lawyer turned writer who lives with her husband and sons between Atlanta and Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. She spends most of her days gleefully researching and writing about fatal viruses, terrorism, and murder. 

Brooke is likely on numerous watch lists.







Contest Giveaway

Win A $25 Amazon Gift Card





This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for Brooke L. French. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited. The giveaway is for: 1 - $25 Amazon Gift Card






Book Blast Event




Event Participants:


Books, Ramblings, and Tea

Celticladys Reviews

Guatemala Paula Loves to Read

Hott Books

I Read What You Write

Jersey Girl Book Reviews

Kahleena MacCarthy

minkylovesabook7

Mystery Review Crew

nanasbookreviews

Nesies Place

Reading Authors Network

The Book Divas Reads

The Bookwyrm

The Reading Frenzy





Monday, October 3, 2022

Sanctuary by C. L. Tolbert (VBT: Book Review / Contest Giveaway)

In association with Partners In Crime Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for Santuary by author C.L. Tolbert!







Book Review



Sanctuary by C.L. Tolbert
Book 3: A Thorton Mystery Series
Publisher: Level Best Books
Publication Date: July 14, 2022
Format: Paperback - 280 pages
               Kindle - 2182 KB / 318 pages
               Nook - 2 Mb - 305 pages
ISBN: 978-1685121464
ASIN:  B0B5YFSL54
BNID: 978-1685121471
Genre: Mystery / Suspense / Crime Thriller / Legal Thriller


Buy The Book:


Buy The Series: A Thornton Mystery Series
Book 1: Out From Silence
Book 2: The Redemption
Book 3: Sanctuary



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 Tours.



Book Description:

A Thornton Mystery

In Sanctuary, the third book in the Thornton Mystery Series, Emma is back again. This time she’s agreed to represent a former client accused of killing the leader of a suspicious cult in New Orleans.

James Crosby, the charismatic leader of the Japaprajnas, is found dead one late afternoon, his body draped over an iron fence in the courtyard of the nineteenth-century house where he and several cult members work and live. Although police initially presumed his fall was an accident, they quickly discover that James received a lethal dose of a drug before he was pushed from his office balcony.

The next day the police discover a syringe and a substantial amount of the drug which killed James in Stacey Robert’s bedroom. The nineteen-year-old cult member is brought in for questioning, which leads to her arrest. Emma, who had represented Stacey when she was a sixteen-year-old runaway, agrees to take the case.

Convinced she is innocent Emma begins an investigation into the cult and its members. Emma’s questions uncover dangerous secrets, illicit activities, and the exploitation of innocent victims. Emma’s suspicions lead her to the killer’s trail and the case’s final resolution.


Praise for Sanctuary:

“Brace yourself. Deadly personalities, hidden agendas, and long-buried secrets threaten law professor Emma Thornton, after she agrees to defend a terrified young woman accused of murdering the charismatic leader of an oppressive cult. The dark heart of New Orleans has never felt so dangerous.”
- Roger Johns, Author of the Wallace Hartman Mysteries



Book Excerpt:


Chapter Twelve

The French Quarter was home to Stacey. She could relax there. She loved the winding streets, the ancient buildings, the ironwork on the balconies, and the festival-like spirit of Jackson Square. Plus, it was easy to blend in. With at least as many tourists as native New Orleanians, no one stood out more than anyone else. The exceptions ˗ the homeless, the street performers, and artists ˗ were part of the scenery. They blended into the background in a multicolor splash.

She needed money and had been watching the tarot card readers in the square. They made thirty-five dollars a read, plus tips. She could do that. She’d been taught the Celtic spread years ago and still had her deck tucked away with the rest of her stuff. It had taken her a few days to get squared away. Yesterday, she’d found a discarded chair on the street in one of the residential areas of the Quarter. She knew someone who worked at a pizza place right off of Pirate’s Alley, a small street next to St. Louis Cathedral. She’d asked if she could stash the chair behind their dumpster, and he’d agreed to it. That was helpful since she could store her things close to the place where she’d be reading. Now she just needed a small table or a box and a second chair, and she’d be ready.

Even though the city required a license and permit for the artists who painted in Jackson Square, there were no such requirements for card readers. But, every once in a while, the Jackson Square artists proposed an ordinance to the City Council to remove the fortune-tellers. So far, they’d been unsuccessful, and recently the readers had come back in full force. They added an ambiance to the area, especially when they burned their incense. She liked the way it smelled.

Stacey glanced at her reflection as she walked by a shop with a large plate glass window. She still wasn’t accustomed to her new look. She’d used some of the money she’d saved to purchase hair color and had dyed her honey blonde hair a dark brown. She’d also cut it much shorter with a pair of cheap scissors in hopes of disguising her appearance. She’d done it herself, and not very well. She didn’t like the jagged ends. But overall, it worked. She had to admit she looked like a different person and thought it was possible to sit in full view in the middle of Jackson Square, conduct tarot card readings, and not be recognized. At least not by the likes of police officers or others who might be looking for her.

She crammed her hand in her pocket, making sure that the wad of dollar bills she’d neatly folded and covered with several rubber bands was still there. One of the problems of not having a place with a door to lock was that you had to carry your valuables with you. She still had some of the money she’d saved from working at the Temple. She was frugal, eating only one meal a day, and that was a cheap one. But she’d been on her own for four days, and her money would run out soon. She hoped her plan to make more money in Jackson Square was a good one.

Stacey avoided shelters. Emma knew everyone in the city who ran them and would look for her at women’s shelters before she’d look anywhere else. But Stacey had found the perfect place to stay about three miles away from the Quarter—a small chapel in the middle of a cemetery in the Bywater District. It was called St. Roch’s and was named after the patron saint of dogs, invalids, and the falsely accused. The cemetery, the street, and the surrounding community were all named after the saint. Locals mispronounced the chapel’s name, calling it St. Roach’s. Even though the structure was crumbling, it still provided the shelter Stacey needed.

St. Roch’s had been built in 1867 by a priest who had prayed to St. Roch during the yellow fever pandemic in New Orleans, asking the saint to spare his community. Ten years later, when no one from his parish had succumbed to yellow fever, he made good on his promise, built the shrine, and dedicated it to the saint. It was a small chapel comprised of only two tiny rooms. One room contained a statue of St. Roch and his loyal dog, and the other room was filled with human prostheses, braces, glass eyeballs, glasses, false teeth, and praying hands, rosaries, and religious figurines, all offered to St. Roch as thanks for healing. Bricks on the ground in that room were inscribed with the word thanks and littered with coins. Over the years, a dusty haze had settled over the various prostheses at the shrine. The walls were crumbling, and a statue of Mary had started to disintegrate. Most people considered the chapel creepy, so creepy, that they avoided it at night, although tourists occasionally visited during the day. Rumor had it that voodoo ceremonies were carried out in the cemetery after dark, although Stacey never saw anything like that. She slept in the tiny room with St. Roch and his dog.

It took between forty-five minutes and an hour to walk to the French Quarter from the chapel, depending on whether Stacey stopped for anything. She woke up early in the morning and left the chapel well before any tourists might arrive. She usually walked to Decatur Street, then down to the Riverwalk Mall, avoiding Esplanade Avenue entirely. She liked the restrooms at the mall. They were clean and usually unoccupied early in the morning. She washed up and brushed her teeth. Once, she’d even shampooed her hair. She carried her bag of dirty laundry with her and would occasionally rinse out her things in the sink. What little makeup and toiletries she needed were easily picked up from department store samples. She walked back to the chapel before dark. At night, the same laundry bag served as her pillow.

By Friday, Stacey had found the second chair, a wooden box tall enough to use as a table, and an interesting scarf someone had stuffed in a Goodwill box along the side of the road. She’d decided to throw it over the makeshift table to give her fortune-telling booth some panache. She was ready for business.

On Saturday morning, Stacey walked to the Quarter, freshened up, grabbed her table and chairs from behind the dumpster at the pizza place, and set up her tarot stand, all before ten o’clock. She was pleased with the location. Only five feet from the steps of the St. Louis Cathedral, it was a prime spot. Tourists swarmed to the cathedral at all hours of the day and were already beginning to mill about. Within fifteen minutes, a middle-aged woman wearing a baseball hat, a neon green bandana, and pink tennis shoes, approached Stacey.

“How much do you charge?”

Stacey stood, her hands behind her back, and smiled. “Thirty-five dollars.”

“How long’s the reading?”

“It’s for fifteen minutes.”

“Okay.” She looked around the square. “Looks like that’s the going rate. But you need a sign. Let’s go.”

She sat down across from Stacey, perched on the tiny seat, and waited for Stacey to shuffle the deck.

Stacey mixed the cards a couple of times, then set the stack in front of the woman.

“Cut the cards into three smaller decks.” She’d noticed a man staring at them from a distance. He was too far away to see clearly. Perhaps he was staring at someone else.

The woman cut the cards.

“Now pick one of the three decks.”

The woman chose one.

Stacey fanned the cards from the chosen deck out in front of the woman and removed the other cards. She thought the man looked familiar. He started to walk toward them. As he approached, she could tell who he was. Raphael. He stopped on the stairs of the cathedral to watch.

“Choose fourteen cards.” Stacey glanced up at Raphael. He hadn’t budged.

The woman carefully chose fourteen cards and handed them to Stacey, who began laying them out in the traditional Celtic cross. The woman had chosen the King of Pentacles as card one, crossed by the Tower. The King of Pentacles, which represented business acumen, was in the position of present influence. And the Tower, which was a card of catastrophic or shocking change, and chaos, crossed the King, indicating the nature of his obstacles. The third card, placed under the cross, was the Death card. Death also represented change, and even occasionally, but rarely, death. Stacey froze. Had the cards picked up on what had happened to James instead of the woman’s situation?

Stacey sensed movement and glanced up. She flinched when she saw Raphael walking toward their table. Raphael stopped about a foot away from where she was reading, stopped, then crossed his arms.

“This is a private reading.” Stacey stopped laying out cards. Her heart was pounding.

“Interesting that you got the death card, don’t you think?”

“Sir, please leave. This isn’t any of your concern.” She didn’t want him drawing attention to her. She just wanted him to go away.

“I’ll leave. Sorry I interrupted.” He nodded toward Stacey’s client. “Thousand pardons, ma’am.”

“If you haven’t cut into my fifteen minutes, I’m fine.”

“Of course not.” Stacey smiled at the woman. “You’ll get your full reading.” She stood and turned toward Raphael. “We have nothing further to discuss.”

Raphael shrugged. “I’ve been worried about you, and so are a couple of other people. And just in case you thought that new hair color was a disguise, let me just tell you it isn’t. If I know who you are, so will others. They’d be very interested in knowing where you are now and what you’re doing.” He nodded toward the cards in her hand. “Good luck with that.”

“You need to leave immediately.”

Raphael started backing away. “I’ll be back.” He put his hand to his forehead in a farewell salute. “You can count on that.”

Stacey didn’t know if Raphael was threatening or warning her. But she knew she didn’t want him to come back to the Quarter to see her anytime soon.

Stacey glanced back at her client. “I’m so sorry for the interruption. Where were we?” She sat back down. “Oh yes.” She examined the cards. “Has a man in your life undergone a significant change, the end of a relationship, or even a death?”

“No, not that I know of.”

“Alright, well, let’s proceed.” Stacey watched as Raphael retreated across the square and took a right at Pirate’s Alley.

She continued to lay out cards for the woman.

The fourth card, the card of past events, was the seven of swords, the card of deception. As far as she was concerned, that card certainly applied to James. He’d deceived her from the very beginning. She’d fallen for his tricks. She couldn’t see through his deception at first, but she caught on, finally. The fifth card, the card of the present, was the Chariot, the card of courage and movement. She smiled. She was hoping to do something about the mess she’d gotten herself in. At least she wasn’t sitting in jail like a scared rabbit. For the final card in the cross, the card of the near future, the woman had drawn Justice. She held the final card in her hand for a couple of seconds before laying it down in front of the woman. Even though she hadn’t drawn the cards, Stacey still believed they were telling her story, not the woman’s. Justice, the card of fair decisions, gave her comfort.

“The final outcome, Justice, relates to karmic justice. It refers to legal matters as well, but generally, it’s telling you that all actions have consequences. Have your own actions contributed in any way to any of the circumstances you find yourself in today?”

The woman nodded. “I can see that they have. I’m not sure that a man in my life has met any sort of catastrophic end, though. Maybe something’s coming up. I hope not.” She shook her head, reached into her pocket, and handed Stacey three tens and a five. “That was fun. I love getting tarot readings.”

Stacey watched the woman walk off and thought about the consequences of her recent actions. She’d been trying to avoid that for months. It was so easy to blame others. It was also easy to turn a blind eye to what was going on in front of you. She was young, but she wasn’t stupid.

That day she had four other readings, making a total of $175.00. She was stunned. She’d made money at the temple, but they held on to it for her rent and food. So, she’d never had much cash, even though the temple made seventy-five dollars per massage. She packed up for the night, brought her table and chairs back to the pizza restaurant, stashed them behind the dumpster again, and tipped the manager. She was glad she knew the guy. That was the thing about New Orleans. If you knew how to get around, you could make things work for you, even though it could be a dangerous place.

She was starved and decided to treat herself to a shrimp po’ boy from Felix’s on Bourbon. She hadn’t had one in forever, and she felt like celebrating. And now that she had enough cash to last a few days, she could afford it. Plus, she wanted to walk by ETC to talk to the girl who was working in the back of the shop. She didn’t know who it was, and she didn’t care. But she hoped she could work out a deal with her. Pay her a little cash and get her to leave the back door open so she could start sleeping there at night instead of St. Roch’s. The chapel floor wasn’t comfortable, and the cemetery wasn’t safe at night. An option would be nice. It was worth a try.

***

Excerpt from Sanctuary by C.L. Tolbert. Copyright 2022 by C.L. Tolbert. Reproduced with permission from C.L. Tolbert. All rights reserved.




My Book Review:

In Sanctuary, book three of the Thornton Mystery Series, author C.L. Tolbert transports the reader back to New Orleans for another intriguing mystery / legal thriller story that will keep the reader guessing and turning the pages.

When nineteen year old Stacey Robert is arrested for the murder of James Crosby, the charismatic leader of the Japaprajnas, she contacts Emma Thornton, a law professor and director of the Homeless Law Clinic at St. Stanislaus Law School in the city, and asks Emma to represent her. Emma had defended Stacey three years ago when the then sixteen year old was arrested for vagrancy along with other homeless youths. Emma agrees to represent Stacey on a pro bono basis, and is determined to prove that Stacey was setup and is innocent of the murder. 

Emma's investigation into the murder case takes her into the dark inner workings of the Japaprajnas cult. As Emma digs deeper into the murder investigation, she gets too close to the truth about the secrets, the seedy illicit dealings, and the cult's exploitation of innocent people, even though they supposively espouse their group as a sanctuary. There are some dangerous people who will stop her from learning the truth at any cost. Can Emma help save the wrongly accused teen, or will the dangerous individuals destroy everyone and everything that gets in their way?

Author C. L. Tolbert weaves a fast-paced and suspenseful thriller written in the third person narrative that follows Emma as she tries to get justice for wrongfully accused nineteen year old Stacey Robert. I loved reading this action-packed story. The reader will be easily drawn into this well written story with its richly descriptive plot that will keep them guessing as secrets, betrayals, deceit, motives, revenge, and clues are uncovered, while unexpected twists and turns, and a surprising conclusion will leave the reader simply stunned. I especially loved how the author used her prior experience as a defense attorney to weave an intense account of the legal investigation that Emma engaged in her pursuit to vindicate Stacey, and bring the true murderer to justice. 

I would be remiss if I didn't mention how much I enjoyed the rich description of New Orleans. You can't help but want to visit the Big Easy, the author does an amazing job of describing the famous French Quarter landmark, and the various local streets that she called home for many years. 

Sanctuary has enough drama, tension, action, dark secrets, and unexpected twists and turns that will take the reader on one heck of a thrilling roller coaster ride.


RATING: 5 STARS  







About The Author



After winning the Georgia State Bar Journal’s fiction contest in 2010, C.L. Tolbert developed the winning story into a full-scale novel. Out From Silence was published in December of 2019, and is the first novel in the Thornton Mysteries series. Her second book, The Redemption, was published in February of 2021, and Sanctuary, the third book in the series, was published in July of 2022.

Licensed in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Georgia, C.L. practiced law for thirty-five years before retiring to pursue writing. During her legal career she spent several years teaching at Loyola Law School in New Orleans, where she was the Director of the Homeless Clinic. She also has a Masters of Special Education, and taught in a public school prior to enrolling in law school.

C.L. has two children and three grandchildren, and lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and schnauzer.


This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for C.L. Tolbert. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited. The giveaway is for: 1 - $25 Amazon.com Gift Card (US Only)




Virtual Book Tour



Tour Participants:


08/18 Interview Podcast @ Blog Talk Radio

08/18 Review @ Just Reviews

09/02 1st Chapter Read & Review @ Mysteries to Die For: Toe Tags Podcast

09/13 Showcase @ Book Reviews by Linda Moore

09/14 Showcase @ The Reading Frenzy

09/16 Showcase @ Silvers Reviews

09/17 Review & Podcast @ Books to the Ceiling

09/19 Interview @ The Scribblings of Sarah E. Glenn

09/22 Guest post @ The Book Divas Reads

09/23 Interviews @ I Read What You Write

09/23 Review @ Book Reviews From an Avid Reader

09/25 Showcase @ Nesies Place

10/02 Showcase @ Celticladys Reviews

10/03 Review @ Jersey Girl Book Reviews

10/07 Review @ 5 Minutes for Books

10/07 Review @ Melissa As Blog

10/08 Review @ The World As I See It

10/08 Showcase @ Im All About Books

Review @ Pat Fayo Reviews









Saturday, October 1, 2022

Weekly Book Mail: 9/25-10/1/2022




 This Week's Book Mail


September - The Ripped Bodice Book Box




October - Fresh Fiction Box






November - Partners In Crime Tours - VBT Selection




September - Harlequin Special Edition Collection







September - Authentic Books Special Edition Anniversary Book Box


October - Once Upon A Book Club Sweet Halloween Book Box



October - Book Of The Month Club





October - Harlequin Love Inspired Romance & Suspense Collection












Friday, September 30, 2022

To Catch The Setting Sun by Richard I. Levine (VBT: Book Review)

In association with Partners In Crime Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual boom tour event for To Catch The Setting Sun by author Richard I. Levine!







Book Review



To Catch The Setting Sun by Richard I. Levine
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Publication Date: August 22, 2022
Format: Paperback - 322 pages
               Kindle - 4026 KB
               Nook - 828 KB
ISBN: 978-1509243297
ASIN: B09ZVQB5D1
BNID: 2940160832609
Genre: Crime Thriller



Buy The Book:



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



Book Description:

There’s a killer loose on the island of Oahu. His targets? Young, native-Hawaiian women. But it also appears that he’s targeting and taunting Honolulu police detective Henry Benjamin who knew each victim and whose wife, Maya, had been the first name on that list. In addition to battling his personal demons, this New York transplant’s aggressive style didn’t sit well with his laid-back colleagues who viewed Henry’s uncharacteristic lack of progress in the investigation as evidence that fueled ongoing rumors that he could be the killer. Was he, or could it have been someone within the municipal hierarchy with a vendetta? As it was, after thirteen years on the job Henry had been disillusioned with paradise. His career choice long killed any fantasy of living in a grass hut on a wind-swept beach, being serenaded by the lazy sounds of the ocean and a slack key guitar. Instead, it had opened his eyes to a Hawaii that tourists will never see.


Praise for To Catch the Setting Sun:

“One of the best crime novels I have read in a long time!” - Jon Nakapalau, Goodreads Review

“5 STARS! Psychological warfare reigns within this page turning novel as Detective Henry Benjamin uses his hard hitting, no nonsense personality and methods to try to solve the murders.” - L.B. Griffin, author Secrets, Shame, and a Shoebox

“5 STARS! Levine has crafted a thriller with so many twists and turns, just when think you know what’s going to happen next, a new element of surprise catches the reader like a ten-foot wave.” - L.D. Merkl, author The Last Single Woman In New York City

“5 STARS! To Catch the Setting Sun by Richard Levine is one of the best suspenseful mystery novels I have read! I cannot believe the talent in this writer’s writing. I was hooked from the start…Crime fiction at its best is shown in this novel. I loved the dark, intriguing, yet deadly rollercoaster ride. Richard Levine is now added to my all-time favorites.”- Danielle Urban, Urban Book Reviews

“As you must know, you have a masterpiece with To Catch the Setting Sun. It was amazing, and I liked how you ended it.” - Dianne Rich, editor The Wild Rose Press

“5 STARS! An engrossing mystery where the characters come to life with surprise twists and turns along the way. Loved it!!” - S. Hoffman, Bonaire, Netherlands

“Levine offers a solidly compelling premise for a thriller. The Hawaiian setting, particularly the darker side of paradise–and the target victims, provide a degree of welcome freshness to the storyline. The characters and circumstances are undeniably intriguing and readers will eagerly turn the pages…” - Excerpts from The Booklife Prize Critic’s report



Book Excerpt:


1

When the rock is lifted, the light pours in and
the vermin will scurry in panic.
They always do.
The ancestors still come to me in my dreams to caution that these parasites are as unrepentant and just as predictable
as they have always been.
Yet we must not become complacent. Vigilance is the key
or we fall victim to their treachery.
We are close, we are almost there.
Each new day peels away another layer of the façade. No different than me,
you too can feel the winds of change.
So, take my hand and walk this path with me. Open your eyes and see it as I do.
When we stand tall, strong, and together,
we will weather any storm.
I take comfort in knowing you also know
the day will be soon that the clouds will part,
and our hands will once again be free
to catch the setting sun.

The reflection from scattered tiki torches competed with the moonlight flickering off the rhythmic ripples rolling across the black velvet lagoon. Gentle trade winds, carrying the sweet peach-like scent of plumeria, teased the palm fronds as easily as they tickled the torch lights—clearly a welcomed reprieve from five straight days of stifling temperatures. A catamaran and a couple of small outrigger canoes, their artfully painted fiberglass hulls made to look like the wood of ancient Koa trees, were pulled up along the sandy shoreline. The heavy beat of drums reverberated off the tall palms and set the tempo for a half-dozen pair of grass-skirted hips dancing on the main stage while vacationers laughed, ogled, and stuffed their faces with shredded pork, scoops of lomi salmon, steaming flavored rice wrapped in Ti leaves, thick juicy slices of pineapple, papaya, mango, and freshly roasted macadamia nuts that were all artfully displayed on wide banana-leaf- covered centerpieces. They sat cross-legged in the sand, sipping mai tais from plastic cups made to look like hollowed-out coconut shells, lost in a tropical fantasy that came complete with a souvenir snapshot taken with an authentic hula girl—the perfect paradise as portrayed on the website. The noise from the music, chanting, and laughter drowned out the frantic noise of the nearby kitchen, and it drowned out the desperate pleas and painful cries of Makani Palahia from the far side of the beach at Auntie Lily’s Luau Cove and Hawaiian Barbecue.

****

The hardened steel of the polished blade sparkled when slowly turned a mere few degrees from left to right, back and forth, as if part of an ancient ritual. Makani’s teeth clinched against the foul-tasting cloth that had been forced into her mouth and tied tight behind her head, each time the knife circled back toward her face, each time passing closer, each time pausing for effect. When rested alongside her cheek, she arched as far as her restraints would allow—the plastic zip ties cutting deeper into her wrists. She let out a muffled cry, begging for the whole ordeal to stop. A sadistic laugh from the shadows made her pray to Jesus for the long-lost comfort of her mother—a comfort stolen by the alcohol and drugs that flowed through West Oahu as easily as the tides that washed away the sandcastles from its beaches. To watch her struggle not to gag as her eyes pleaded for freedom fueled an adrenaline rush that fed the flames of her assailant— strong and powerful now, like a sovereign over all that was to be ruled and judged. The blade was pulled from Makani’s golden-brown skin long enough for her back muscles and her bladder to relax, only to make her arch and plead again when it was returned to her tear-stained cheek.

“This is on you, Princess! Brought this on yourself, yeah? It’s a shame, too, because you’re so young and pretty. Of all the others, you’re the one who looks the most like royalty. The ancients would’ve been proud of you. But they’re not, are they? No, they’re not, and you know they’re not. You’ve disappointed all of us with so many of your sins. Are you ready to confess?”

She struggled to reply, but the rag pressed hard on her tongue.

“What’s that? You say something? You look like you got something to say.”

A faceless phantom-like figure stood tall above her, causing her to squint from the intermittent sparkle of what she thought was a pendant. Makani nodded while she strained to make out the image that seemed so familiar to her.

“I’ll loosen the bandana, but I warn you right now, if you scream...” She saw the knife dance again. “But let’s not think about that, okay? We calmly talk story a little, yeah?”

Again, she nodded, almost afraid to speak now that her lips could move freely. A rush of fresh air filled her mouth and intensified the pungent taste that covered her tongue. Her stomach muscles tightened as she gagged.

“P-please, let me go. I d-don’t know you. I don’t know what you want from me.”

“Let you go? I think, I think maybe after you confess. I think maybe I can let you go after we finish our business, yeah?”

“C-confess? What business? Who are you? What d-do you want from me? Why are you d-doing this to me?”

“Why am I doing? I didn’t pick you, Princess. You made that choice. You made that choice when you picked him and rejected our own.”

“P-picked who? Reject you? I d-don’t even know you. How did I...”

“You judged us!” A heavy hand landed across her mouth. “You judged me and our bruddahs and sistas when you chose an outsider. Judge not, lest ye be judged, and today is...today is your judgment day.”

****

Reece Valentine had a hard time keeping his eyes off the third girl from the left—diverting his attention long enough to down another piña colada or attempt to calm the concerns of his fiancée that he wasn’t going to run off into the bush with a native girl. But that didn’t stop him from enjoying the fantasy. With constricted pupils locked onto toned abdominal muscles gyrating within grabbing distance of his imagination, he laughed at the memory of frat house Polynesian-style parties that never came close to the evening’s entertainment.

“Reece, stop staring. It’s embarrassing.”

“Come on, Jules, I’m trying to enjoy the show. We’re on vakay. Where’s your island spirit?”

“I’m trying to enjoy the show, but that’s your fifth drink since the luau started, and you’re beginning to put on a little show of your own. At least stop howling at those girls. People are starting to look at you.”

“Jules, please. I’m just having some fun. It’s not every day we get to enjoy something like this, is it? Seriously, when was the last time we saw a show like this back in Portland?”

“Look, I’m not trying be all salty, but when you ran up on stage to do the hula, did you have to grab that dancer’s waist? And the way you started rubbing on her...geez!”

“Okay, now you’re exaggerating.” He grabbed her and nuzzled her neck.

“Really?”

“It was part of the dance.”

“Okay, so when the male dancers come out and I go running up there, are you going to get mad when I start rubbing myself all over those well-oiled muscular bodies?” She smiled.

“Now you’re the one being silly. Have another drink and chill.”

“Chill? You want me to chill? I think I’ll go for a swim...a naked swim.” She got up and raced down the beach toward the far end of the lagoon.

After a brief moment, as well as a few envious looks from other revelers, Reece went after her.

“Jules! Julie, wait up!” he called, but the alcohol had hindered his ability to maintain a steady balance over the soft uneven contours of the sand. When he fell, he scraped his knee on a piece of coral buried just below the surface. “Damn it! Jules, wait up. I just...damn, I just cut myself.”

Halfway between the luau and the end of the lagoon, about thirty yards from a thicket of Kiawe bushes, she turned to see him sitting on the beach, nursing his knee, and quite possibly his ego. Julie Chow started to head back when she heard some rustling and what she thought was a grunting sound coming from the direction of the bushes. She stopped to listen, only to hear Reece call out again. She tried to listen once more but heard nothing.

“Jules! Come back.”

“Why don’t you come over here,” she said and took several steps toward the bushes. “It’s dark and deserted down this way.”

“I hurt myself. Come help me.”

With a few glances over her shoulder, she slowly made her way back.

“Serves you right. I think the ancient Hawaiian gods were punishing you just now because of your disrespectful thoughts about one of their daughters.”

“Stop it, will you? My knee is killing me.”

“Such a baby!” she teased. “I’m surprised you can feel anything with all that native juice in you.”

“Stop scolding and come help me,” he begged. She came close enough for him to grab her arm and pull her down to join him on the sand.

“You’re not hurt that bad, you faker!”

“I know, but I had to do something. I couldn’t catch up to you.” He laughed.

“Because you’re drunk, and when you get drunk, you’re horny as hell.”

“You can say that again.”

“I’m being serious.”

“Listen, I got carried away, and I’m sorry. But you’re right, Jules, I’m horny as hell, and you know I’m not interested in anyone other than you.” He leaned in for a kiss, but she pulled away at the last moment. “Hey!”

“There’s a lot of bushes down there.” She pointed. “Wanna go fool around?”

“What? Get naked here on the beach in the middle of a luau? There’s tons of people here.”

“It’s dark. There’s bushes. No one will see us. No one will hear us. Come on, you afraid?”

“They won’t see us, but they’ll definitely hear us.”

“You mean they’ll hear you. I’ll have you screaming so loud they’ll think you’re being murdered.” She jumped on top of him, and they passionately kissed in a long embrace.

“I’ve got a better idea.” He pushed back to catch his breath. “Let’s go back to the hotel, and I’ll show you what going native is all about.”

“And give up a chance to get my hands on all those sweaty, muscular Hawaiian men? Race you.” She took off back to the festivities with Reece in hot pursuit.

****

Makani gagged at the smell of the dirty hand that covered her face—removed only when the couple from the luau got far enough away from the thicket.

“That wouldn’t have ended well for those tourists. Too bad. Would’ve made the night a little more interesting. So, where were we? Oh yes, about your choice, Princess.”

“I d-don’t know what you’re talking about. What ch-choice did I make?”

“You are one very pretty wahine, a very pretty woman, you know that? Yeah, you know you so nani, so beautiful, don’t you? I’ll bet you tease men to get things you want, yeah?”

“If you’re g-going, if you’re going to rape me, then j-just do it already. Just do it and g-get it over with. I won’t tell anyone. Just do it and, and let me go. Please? Please, just let me go.”

Save for the low sadistic laugh she had heard before, there was no immediate reply. Her breathing, fast and shallow now, seemed to make the few stars that had been visible through the branches spin wildly and caused her hands, legs, and feet to feel cold—making the hand that inched its way down the outer portion of her thigh feel uncomfortably warm.

For her tormentor, however, there was pleasure in feeling the gentle contours of muscles toned from many hours of hula as rough callused fingers crept over her thigh, past the knee, and down to her ankle. A brief pause to take in the tremble that was felt moving like a wave through her body, watching her lips press together, and her eyes squeeze tight, elicited a child-like giddiness that had long been forgotten.

Makani tightened again from the sandpaper texture of a tongue across her cheek and a heavy breath in her ear. She realized the warm antiseptic scent now lingering on her face was the smell of whiskey. The hand with jagged fingernails carved a return path up the inside of her leg to her knee, then slowed while continuing up the inner portion of her thigh—teasing, threatening. She cried a little harder.

“Did that hurt, Princess? Take it from me, a true warrior princess doesn’t cry. She’s strong, very strong, and she likes it rough.”

“Please, don’t...”

“What, make love to you? You make me laugh. I’d never soil myself on a sinner.”

She felt the grip tighten around her upper thigh, and in equal response her athletic body tightened just as much.

“I like this. I like how your legs feel. So smooth, so soft. I like how they feel in my hands. It’s so...comforting. I bet the boys like touching them too, yeah? I bet you’d really like me to do more, don’t you? I can tell the thought excites you. I bet you didn’t expect my hands to be this strong and powerful, yeah? Do you feel how strong my hands are? It makes me feel so powerful to hold you like this.”

A low-pitched hiss, then a crackled voice momentarily interrupted. “Central to Detective eight- one.”

“You almost tricked me, Princess!” The anger was as sudden and sharp as the sting she felt from the three- inch welt created when those hands were quickly withdrawn. “You almost tricked me. You were trying to confuse me. Deceitful women like you do that all the time, but I know better.” Again, the blade came into view. “You tried to tempt me with your makeup. I bet you do it to make yourself look young and innocent. But we both know better, don’t we? You tried to deceive me, but you’re not innocent, not innocent at all. You do it special for him, don’t you? Yes, I think you did it to please him. You make me angry. You make the ancestors angry.”

“I d-don’t know what you’re t-talking about. I don’t have a boyfr—”

“Liar!” The voice rose, triggering a shooting glance through the branches, down the beach toward the festivities, afraid they might have been heard. “Don’t make me gag you.”

Again, a radio transmission crackled. “Central to Detective eight-one, do you copy?”

“Who are you?” she asked, again getting a glimpse of the pendant, focusing on the letters H O N O L U L U across its face. She realized it wasn’t a piece of jewelry, but a badge. She tried to narrow her focus— her tears making it difficult to read the number. The radio crackled again.

“Lieutenant Kim to central dispatch, be advised eight-one’s radio hasn’t been working properly. You can reach him on his cell.”

She strained to see the face hidden in the darkness, the voice now mocking the radio call.

“Central to Detective eight-one. Where are you, eight-one? Come save the day, eight-one.”

“Dispatch to Kim, copy that, Lieutenant,” came the static-filled reply.

“I d-don’t know you. I don’t know you at all. I don’t kn-know what you’re talking about. Are you HPD? What do you want from me?”

“You know me,” came the whisper, this time placing the sharp edge of the blade across her costume, cutting just enough material on her shoulder to expose her breasts. “Very pretty.”

“You said you were g-going to let me go. I should be d-dancing at the show. I should be there. They’re going to m-miss me. They’re g-going to come looking for me.”

“Nobody’s going to come looking for you, Princess, nobody.”

The blade methodically moved across her flesh— circling, teasing, drawing blood from a shallow incision across her shoulder. At first Makani felt the sting before the warmth of liquid snaked into the creases of her underarm. Her tears flowed freely now. Adding one more indignity to her suffering, the grass skirt she had always worn with pride was ripped aside, and one more time the knife came to rest across her cheek.

“You know who I am, and you know exactly why we’re here. We all must face judgment for our sins.”

“I don’t know....” She stopped mid-sentence—a dirty index finger pressed to her mouth. She gagged at the vile taste—a cross between a lack of hygiene and her own urine. The finger was forced farther into her mouth and pressed against her tongue. She reflexively bit down, drawing blood and a painful slap to her face. “I don’t know you,” she cried out. “Why are you doing this? P-please let me go! I won’t say anything. I won’t t-tell anyone, I promise!”

“Let you go?” came the angered reply. A vise-like grip squeezed her cheeks, preventing her from speaking. “Not now, damn you! Not after you bit me! Not after you refuse to confess your sins. Do you see how you’ve forced my hand? Now you have to be purified.” Again, her face was slapped.

“I’m sorry, I am. I didn’t mean to bite you. Please? I won’t tell anyone, I promise.” Her eyes, blurred from tears, tried to follow the figure as it moved about— finally catching a glimpse of a face lit by the glow of a freshly lit cigarette. “Oh my God!” She was repulsed at the sight, gagging as the bandana was forced back into her mouth—arching, straining, and kicking against the nylon cable ties when the cigarette was moved closer to the side of her face.

“I know you don’t understand. Nobody does anymore, and that’s the problem. In the old days the people needed to make their peace with the gods so they could be blessed and have a harvest, take fish from the sea, and be protected from evil, from the night marchers, from Pele. Those gods and the ancestors are deeply saddened how our way of life, our history, our culture, and our future have all been dishonored. You, and others like you, have dishonored all of us by mixing pure blood, and there’s only one way for you to be forgiven. You will serve as a message, a warning to others. And with your purification, with your sacrifice, the gods and the ancestors will grant you redemption.”

Makani’s heartbeat pounded in her chest and in her head, making the drums, the laughter, and the applause for the fire-eaters disappear. And just as another cold stinging slice was surgically carved across her throat, she thought she heard her killer recite an ancient prayer while she watched the flickering lights of the luau fade away.

***

Excerpt from To Catch the Setting Sun by Richard I Levine. Copyright 2022 by Richard I Levine. Reproduced with permission from Richard I Levine. All rights reserved.




My Book Review:

In To Catch The Setting Sun, author Richard I. Levine transports the reader to the island of Oahu, for an intriguing dark noir crime thriller that will keep the reader guessing and turning the pages.

Welcome to the island of Oahu, are you ready for the seedy dark side of the Hawaiian island that isn't promoted in the tourist guides? For Henry (Hank) Benjamin, an ex-NY cop and island transplant with thirteen years as a detective with the Honolulu Police Department, he's brash, arrogant, and doesn't put up with any BS, let's just say he's not liked by his brethen on the force. He's been working a serial killer case investigation for the past eight months and getting stonewalled, and worse than that, the killer is taunting him with notes left on the bodies of the young Hawaiian women, and he's determined to find the killer.

Henry's obsession in finding the killer leads him to finding danger around every corner, especially when there is someone who is out to destroy him in order to keep the truth from coming out. Learning that he can't trust anyone, follow along as Henry puts the pieces of the puzzle together and finds out the truth behind young womens' murders.

Author Richard I. Levine weaves a slow-building and suspenseful dark gritty noir tale that follows tough as nails Detective Henry Benjamin as he investigates the sadistic murders of young Hawaiian women, and is determined to find the truth and seek justice. 

The reader is easily drawn into this riveting dark noir crime story with its richly descriptive plot. It is a story that is a tangled web filled with enough drama, secrets, deceit, corruption, motives, suspects, and intriguing twists and turns that definitely keeps the reader guessing until the surprising conclusion.

This was a really intriguing story to read! The story provides a fascinating cast of characters, enough clues to engage the reader, suprising twists and turns, and danger around every corner, especially when there are people who don't want the truth to come out. I found myself so caught up on following Henry's investigative pursuit of putting the pieces of the puzzle together and solving the murders, while also learning about the dark side of Oahu that the tourists don't get to see. Through Henry's obsessive investigation, the truth about the darker side of the Hawaiian paradise is uncovered. I was absolutely stunned by the conclusion! 

To Catch The Setting Sun will definitely take the readers on one heck of a thrilling roller coaster ride.


RATING: 5 STARS 





About The Author



Richard I. Levine is a native New Yorker raised in the shadows of Yankee Stadium. After dabbling in several occupations and a one-year coast to coast wanderlust trip, this one-time volunteer fireman, bartender, and store manager returned to school to become a chiropractor. A twenty-one year cancer survivor, he’s a strong advocate for the natural healing arts. Levine has four Indy-published novels and his fifth work, To Catch The Setting Sun, has just been completed and he’s anticipating a spring 2022 release. In 2006 he wrote, produced and was on-air personality of the Dr. Rich Levine show on Seattle’s KKNW 1150AM and after a twenty-five year practice in Bellevue, Washington, he closed up shop in 2017 and moved to Oahu to pursue a dream of acting and being on Hawaii 5-O. While briefly working as a ghostwriter/community liaison for a local Honolulu City Councilmember, he appeared as a background actor in over twenty-five 5-Os and Magnum P.Is. Richard can be seen in his first co-star role in the Magnum P.I. third season episode “Easy Money”. He presently resides in Hawaii.







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