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.

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Scent of Humanity by Margay Leah Justice (Author Guest Post / Book Review)

In association with Pump Up Your Book Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for The Scent of Humanity by Author Margay Leah Justice!

Author Guest Post

10 Things You Didn't Know About Margay Leah Justice 

Let’s do something fun! Everyone seems to love Top 10 lists, so let’s do this. Here are 10 things you didn’t know about me, Margay Leah Justice:

I used to want to be a ballerina and spent most of my childhood in dance class.

I come from a large family and suffer from middle child syndrome.

I’ve had many different types of jobs, one of them as an aerobics instructor.

I didn’t fly in a plane until I was 40.

I am related to some famous (at least around these parts) writers on my maternal grandmother’s side, James Russell Lowell, Amy Lowell and Robert Lowell.

One of my ancestors brought the mills to the states and had a town named after him – Lowell, MA.

I have traveled up and down the eastern seaboard, but have never been to the west coast or anywhere out of the country.

I always dreamed of living in Paris, France someday.

My all time favorite star male is Johnny Depp and female is Julia Roberts.

My first name, though not intentional, is also the name of a type of cat from South America and I discovered this by accident. My older sister was always competitive and kept trying to make bets with me. One day, frustrated, I bet her our allowance that my name would be in the dictionary and hers wouldn’t – and since her name is Anne, I thought I had a pretty good shot at that last part! Imagine my surprise when my name actually was in the dictionary! Won that bet!

So thank you for playing along and Happy Reading!

About The Author

Descended from the same bloodline that spawned the likes of James Russell, Amy and Robert Lowell, Margay Leah Justice was fated to be a writer herself from a young age. But even before she knew that there was a name for what she was doing, she knew one thing: She had a deep and unconditional love for the written word. A love that would challenge her in times of need, abandon her in times of distress, and rediscover her in times of hope. Through her writing, Margay has learned to cope with every curve ball life has thrown her, including the challenges of single parenting, the harsh realities of living in a shelter, coping with the diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, and the roller coaster ride of dealing with a child who suffers from bipolar disorder. But along the way she has rediscovered the amazing power of words.

Margay currently lives in Massachusetts with her two daughters, two cats, and a myriad of characters who vie for her attention and demand that their own stories be told. In her spare time, she is an avid knitter, knitting her way through a stash of yarn that almost rivals her tbr pile!

Her latest book is the romantic suspense/women’s fiction, The Scent of Humanity.


Book Review

The Scent of Humanity by Margay Leah Justice
Publisher: Independent Self Publishing
Publication Date: April 21, 2014
Format: eBook - 522 pages
              Kindle - 1182 KB
              Nook - 588 KB
ISBN: 978-1310300622
BNID: 2940045849425
Genre: Romantic Suspense / Women's Fiction

BUY THE BOOK: The Scent of Humanity

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 Pump Up Your Book Tours.

Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Book Description:

Lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice. In theory. But in one small town, in one family, that theory is put to the test.

Growing up in a rural town in Massachusetts was supposed to be safe, but for Silvie Childs, that safety was shattered by a kidnapping attempt that forever changed her life. Now, nearly twenty years later, that sense of safety is challenged again by the kidnapping attempt on her young niece, and Silvie is left struggling with one question: How can something like this happen twice in one family?

It is a dilemma shared by Nick Fahey, the detective assigned to the case. Arriving on the scene of the abduction attempt, Nick expects to run a routine investigation. Until he meets the victim, the niece of a woman he once considered a dear friend. Unfortunately, these days Silvie Childs can barely stand the sight of him.

Once there was a time when Silvie Childs worshipped Nick Fahey, believing he could do no wrong. Until the accident that nearly killed her brother; the accident that Nick reportedly caused. Coming on the heels of her own near abduction, the accident skewed Silvie’s ability to trust men – especially Nick. But now, with the attempt on her niece’s safety, Silvie finds herself in the untenable position of having to trust Nick to bring the kidnapper to justice.

That trust is severely tested when, after only two months, the case is closed for lack of new evidence. Feeling betrayed by the system in which she works as a paralegal and by Nick, Silvie takes matters into her own hands. Contacting local news stations to generate interest in the case, allowing herself to be filmed hanging sketches of the suspect on telephone poles, she will risk her own safety to protect that of her niece. When her efforts re-open the wounds of her past, she is once again forced to put her trust in the one man who still has the power to hurt her – Nick.

Book Excerpt:

“What’s this?” he asked, cupping her face in his hand and running the thumb along the lower edge of her too-full lips. “A little hint of maturity? Silvie Childs apologizing?”

She nipped his thumb at the jibe, not hard, just enough that he hissed out a breath in reaction. All hint of humor fled from him. He was intent, serious now, every nerve in his body on high alert. “Is that how you want to play it?” he whispered, his voice guttural. “Huh?” He moved a little closer to her, maneuvering her up against the open door. Slipped his thumb between her lips, parting them. “You think we’ve danced around this enough for one day, hmm?”

“I don’t know what you mean.” Her lips brushed against his thumb as she spoke, igniting a spark within him. Interesting.

“Liar,” he said as he dipped his head close enough to replace his thumb with his lips. But he didn’t. Instead, he skimmed his lips along her cheekbone to her right ear, flicked his tongue along the rim of the opening. Into her ear, he whispered, “When you stop lying to yourself, I’ll give you what you want.”

She grabbed the hand he still cupped her face with, the gesture almost – convulsive. Hmm, what was that about? Her breath in his ear sent a shiver throughout his body. “And what,” she whispered against his cheek, “do you think I want?”

He nipped her earlobe, smiled at her shocked gasp. Soothing the nip with a flick of his tongue, he murmured, “Oh, I don’t know.” Into her ear, “Think about it.” Sliding his lips along her cheek as he withdrew, he couldn’t resist allowing the tip of his tongue to flit across her lips in parting. When she opened her mouth as if in protest, he warned, “Uh-ah, you’ve got to stop lying to yourself first.”

She slipped her fingers into his hair, grabbing hanks of it to anchor his head and prevent his retreat. He resisted the urge to smile – and to kiss her when she made the overture to him. He merely slipped his thumb back over her lips, using it as a barrier between them. When she cast him a pleading look, he asked, “Do you still hate me?”

“Yes,” she admitted when he slid his thumb away, releasing her lips from captivity. “More than ever.”

He smiled and angled his head, as if preparing to kiss her. “Why?” he asked instead.

“You know why!”

“Mm,” he murmured, accepting that as her answer. “And who do you hate more right now?” He dipped his head a little closer. “Me, because I won’t do what you want – or you, because you want it?”

“Me, all me,” she whispered as she swooped in close and took what she wanted from him. What he allowed her to take from him. Voraciously. Good Lord, he thought moments before she pulled away, shock at her own actions clearly written on her face. Where had she learned to kiss like that?

“Ah, Silvie,” he said, dragging his thumb over her full lower lip before he favored her with a lingering, open-mouthed kiss, “I don’t think you hate me as much as you think you do.” He pulled back before she could respond – to his words or his kiss – and jogged down the three short steps from her front porch to the walkway. “Goodnight, Silvie,” he called over a shoulder. “Lock the door behind me.”

My Book Review:

For Silvie Childs, her traumatic past comes back to haunt her twenty years later with the attempted abduction of her young niece.

For Detective Nick Fahey, the attempted abduction investigation case that he is assigned brings him face to face with a once very close friend with a shared traumatic past.

For both Silvie and Nick, the dilemma of the attempted abduction case brings to the surface their traumatic past, lack of trust, and an undercurrent of personal feelings. When Silvie takes the case into her own hands, can she learn to let go of the past, reach out, and trust Nick like she had twenty years ago in order for them to be able to work together towards getting justice?

In The Scent of Humanity, author Margay Leah Justice weaves a riveting romantic suspense novel that easily draws the reader into Silvie and Nick's story as they work through their painful past and focus on getting justice for the attempted abduction of Silvie's young niece.

Set in the suburbs of Massachusetts, the reader is easily drawn into this riveting story that is full of mystery, suspense, drama, and old heartache. The author does a wonderful job of mixing Silvie and Nick's painful backstory with the suspense of the present and eerily similar attempted abduction case of her niece. This multi-layered and complicated story has enough intriguing twists and turns that keeps the reader guessing and wondering what would happen next as Silvie and Nick put aside their painful past, and learn to work together on investigating the case. You can't help but become captivated by Silvie and Nick's connection and the intensity of the investigation!

With a realistic cast of characters; witty dialogue and dramatic interactions; a richly detailed description of the setting; and a riveting romantic suspense storyline that provides enough thrills and chills until the surprising conclusion, The Scent of Humanity will take the reader one one hell of roller coaster ride!


Virtual Book Tour

Tour Schedule:

Monday, October 6
Interview at Beyond the Books

Tuesday, October 7
Character Interview at The Literary Nook

Wednesday, October 8
Interview at As the Page Turns

Thursday, October 9
Interview at The Writer’s Life

Monday, October 13
Interview at Review From Here

Tuesday, October 14
Character Interview at Pimp That Character

Thursday, October 16
Interview at The Book Rack

Monday, October 20
Interview at Literarily Speaking

Thursday, October 23
Interview at I’m Shelf-ish

Monday, October 27
Interview at Book Marketing Buzz

Wednesday, October 29
Character Guest Post at Fiction Zeal

Thursday, October 30
Book Review at Authors & Readers Book Corner
Book Featured at CBY Book Club

Friday, October 31
Book Review & Guest Blogging at Jersey Girl Book Reviews

Pigeon River Blues by Wayne Zurl (Author Guest Post / Book Review)

In association with Pump Up Your Book Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for Pigeon River Blues by  Author Wayne Zurl!

Author Guest Post

Practical Advise For Novice Writers
By: Wayne Zurl

Okay, here’s where I get to play coach. I’ve been given the opportunity to be didactic, pedantic, and if I’m clever, facetious. If Knute Rockne was a writer, here’s what he’d say about getting published and sharpening your work.

When you begin the process of selling your finished work, follow the accepted sequence. Start looking for representation by an accredited literary agent. Not an easy chore, but worth the effort. Should that fail, don’t take it personally. Rejections are part of a writer’s life.

If the agent search poops out, engage in some healthy catharsis. Go to a soundproof room or the middle of a national wilderness area and curse them out. Scream at the top of your lungs and get the anger out of your system. Call them megalomaniacal, self-styled power brokers, ineffectual, rude, unfeeling, egocentric, sluggards. Photocopy their facial likeness from their website, tack it to an unfinished garage wall or a wide tree trunk, and throw darts at him/her until the steam escapes from your ears and your blood pressure returns to 70 over 120. Then, fix your favorite seasonal alcoholic beverage, retreat to a comfortable chair and say, “Time for plan B.”

What’s that, you ask? Take the same copy of WRITER’S DIGEST where you found those miserable agent’s names and look for all the traditional publishers who will accept submissions directly from a writer and query them.

Still no luck? Look for eBook publishers. It’s a lot less expensive for a company to produce a book electronically than make an initial run of 2,500 hard copies. Getting published this way is no free ride, but these people seem to be more amenable to take a chance with a new, unproven author. And most eBook publishers may provide POD (print on demand) options should you want to market your book in paperback. Lastly, or maybe it’s your first choice, self-publish. But be careful choosing a company. Ask for war stories from those who have been there before you. Don’t get caught with a 1,000 prepaid copies of your book getting damp and smelly in your basement and a company that does nothing to assist you in promoting and marketing your books. If you don’t speak legalese, obtain help to read a contract.

No matter where your publishing journey ends, here’s the key—NEVER GIVE UP. If you believe in yourself and objectively think your novel is good enough to be read by others, one way or another you can see your manuscript in print. So, get out there and win one for the Gipper.

Now, here’s a little less inspirational (but still sound) suggestion on how to produce a world-class piece of work. When you think your story, novelette, novella, novel, or epic is finished, when you truly believe you’ve found and corrected all the typos and nits and it’s ready to sell, go back and read it aloud to yourself. Pretend you’re the star of your own audio book. Read it slowly and professionally as an actor would. Then, ask yourself, does it sound good? Do all the paragraphs smoothly transcend to the next? Does each sentence contain the right number of syllables? Does each word flow into the next without conflict? Does it have a pleasing rhythm? Basically, does it sing to you? For a guy who doesn’t dance very well, I have a great need for rhythm in my writing. If you notice any “bumps,” go back and rewrite it. Smooth everything out. If something bothers you now, it will annoy the dickens out of you in the future and someone else will probably notice it, too.

With that accomplished, you’re finished, right? No. Now you’re ready to hand it off to an editor or proofreader—whomever you can afford. A second pair of eyes is essential for ANY writer.


Kathleen, Thanks for inviting me back to your blog and again spend time with your followers. To all those who take the time to read my guest posting, I wish you the best and hope you enjoy the rest of the autumn and have happy holidays and a healthy and prosperous new year.


It is always a pleasure to feature you and your novels on my blog, Wayne. Thank you for the opportunity to host the virtual book tour event for Pigeon River Blues! :)

About The Author

Wayne Zurl grew up on Long Island and retired after twenty years with the Suffolk County Police Department, one of the largest municipal law enforcement agencies in New York and the nation. For thirteen of those years he served as a section commander supervising investigators. He is a graduate of SUNY, Empire State College and served on active duty in the US Army during the Vietnam War and later in the reserves. Zurl left New York to live in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with his wife, Barbara.

Twenty (20) of his Sam Jenkins mysteries have been published as eBooks and many produced as audio books. Ten (10) of these novelettes are available in print under the titles: A Murder In Knoxville and Other Smoky Mountain Mountain Mysteries and Reenacting A Murder and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries. Zurl has won Eric Hoffer and Indie Book Awards, and was named a finalist for a Montaigne Medal and First Horizon Book Award. His full length novels are available in print and as eBooks: A New Prospect, A Leprechaun's Lament, Heroes & Lovers, and Pigeon River Blues.

For more information on Wayne’s Sam Jenkins mystery series see You may read excerpts, reviews and endorsements, interviews, coming events, and see photos of the area where the stories take place.


Book Review

Pigeon River Blues by Wayne Zurl
Book Series: A Sam Jenkins Mystery Series
Publisher: Iconic Publishing
Publication Date: May 31, 2014
Format: Paperback - 258 pages
              Kindle - 1377 KB
              Nook - 3 MB
ISBN: 978-1938844027
BNID: 2940149660490
Genre: Mystery / Police Procedural

BUY THE BOOK: Pigeon River Blues

BUY THE SERIES: A Sam Jenkins Mystery Series

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 Pump Up Your Book Tours.

Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Book Description:

Winter in the Smokies can be a tranquil time of year—unless Sam Jenkins sticks his thumb into the sweet potato pie.

The retired New York detective turned Tennessee police chief is minding his own business one quiet day in February when Mayor Ronnie Shields asks him to act as a bodyguard for a famous country and western star.

C.J. Profitt’s return to her hometown of Prospect receives lots of publicity . . . and threats from a rightwing group calling themselves The Coalition for American Family Values.

The beautiful, publicity seeking Ms. Proffit never fails to capitalize on her abrasive personality by flaunting her lifestyle—a way of living the Coalition hates.

Reluctantly, Jenkins accepts the assignment of keeping C.J. safe while she performs at a charity benefit. But Sam’s job becomes more difficult when the object of his protection refuses to cooperate. 

During this misadventure, Sam hires a down-on-his-luck ex-New York detective and finds himself thrown back in time, meeting old Army acquaintances who factor into how he foils a complicated plot of attempted murder, the destruction of a Dollywood music hall, and other general insurrection on the “peaceful side of the Smokies.”

Book Excerpt:


An oddball named Mack Collinson sat in his mother’s office discussing the upcoming auction of farmland straddling the border of Prospect and neighboring Seymour, Tennessee.

Jeremy Goins, part-time real estate salesman at the Collinson agency, defrocked federal park ranger, and now full-time maintenance man in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, walked into the room and tossed a newspaper on Mack’s lap.

Collinson, a short, dark man in his late-forties, had close-cropped, almost black hair, a single bushy eyebrow spanning his forehead, and a thick beard that covered his face from just below his eyes and disappeared into the collar of his sport shirt.

“You seen this article in the Blount County Voice?” Goins asked.

Mack shrugged. His mother neither commented nor gestured.

Goins sighed and continued, seemingly unimpressed with his male colleague. “’Bout how Dolly’s havin’ a benefit show and that lezzy bitch—‘cuse me, Ma—C.J. Profitt’s comin’ back home fer a week a’forehand.”

People showing deference to her age referred to Collinson’s mother as Miss Elnora. Those who knew her more intimately, called her Ma.

“Lemme see that,” Elnora snarled, screwing up her wide face, one surrounded by layers of gray, arranged in a style the locals called big hair.

“Yes, ma’am.” Anxious to please his employer, Jeremy snatched the newspaper from Mack and handed it to Mrs. Collinson.

The Collinson Realty and Auction Company occupied an old and not very well maintained building on McTeer’s Station Pike just below the center of Prospect. Sixty-five-year-old Elnora Collinson had been a realtor for more than forty years, first with her late husband and now with her son. In either case, Ma represented the brains of the operation.

After allowing the woman a few moments to read the article, Jeremy Goins continued the conversation.

“I hated that bitch back in hi-skoo,” he said. “And I hate her even more now that I know what she is and what her kind means ta the rest o’ us.”

Goins was a stocky, rugged-looking man, approaching fifty, with a liberal mix of gray in his dark brown hair. The gray hair was the only liberal thing about Jeremy Goins.

“I s’pose she’s fixin’ to stay around here and mebbe bring some o’ her pur-verted women friends with her,” Mack said. “This world’s goin’ ta hell when ya got ta be subjectedsta the likes o’ her on the same streets good Christian folk walk on.”

“Amen ta that,” Jeremy said.

When Ma finished reading she snorted something unintelligible, rolled up the paper, and threw it at a wastepaper basket, missing by a foot.

“Boys, this is shameful.” She took a long moment to shake her head in disgust. “Downright shameful.”

Both men nodded in agreement.

“When that girl went ta Nashville an’ become a singer, I thought Prospect was rid o’ her and her kind once’t and fer all. Lord have mercy, but we’re doomed ta see her painted face on our streets ag’in.” 

“Momma,” Mack said, “we ain’t gotta take this.”

He spent a moment shaking his head, too. Then he decided to speak for the rest of the population. 

“Don’t nobody here want her back. Mebbe we should send’er a message if the elected leaders o’ this city won’t. We kin let her know.”

“You’re rot, son. Ain’t no reason why that foul-mouthed, lesbian should feel welcome here.” Ma Collinson, who resembled a grumpy female gnome, sat forward in her swivel chair and with some difficulty, pulled herself closer to the desk. “Jeremy, git me that li’l typewriter from the closet. I’ll write her a note sayin’ as much.”

Goins nodded and moved quickly.

“And Jeremy, afore yew git ta work at park headquarters, mail this in Gatlinburg so as ta not have a Prospect postmark on it.”

Goins stepped to a spot where he could read over her shoulder and said, “Yes, ma’am, I’ll do it.” 

After inserting a sheet of white bond paper under the roller, Elnora Collinson began to type:

Colleen Profitt we know you. We know what you are. All the money you made don’t make no difference about what you have became. You are a shame to your family and the city of Prospect. Do not come back here. We do not want you. God does not want you. 


 The Coalition for American Family Values

That was the first of six messages sent to country and western star C.J. Profitt. The last letter, typed almost two weeks later, said:

CJ Profitt you have not called off your visit to our city. We repeat. You and your lesbian friends are violating God’s Law. You must not come here. If you do you will regret it. The people of this city will not suffer because of you. Your ways are the ways of Sin. Your life is a life of SIN. If you come here YOU WILL suffer and then burn in Hell. Do not show your painted face here again. If you do you better make your peace with GOD. You will face HIM soon enough. Sooner than you think. 

The Coalition for American Family Values


On Friday morning, February 2nd, Mack Collinson slammed the front door to the real estate agency, shrugged off his brown canvas Carhartt jacket, and tossed it on an old swivel chair. He spent a moment blowing his nose in a week-old handkerchief and stormed into his mother’s office.

“Well she’s here,” he said, putting his hands on his hips. “She never done took your warnin’s serious-like.”

Ma Collinson looked at her son over the tops of reading glasses she recently purchased at the Wal-Mart Vision Center.

“This mornin’ Luretta and the kids was watchin’ that Knoxville mornin’ show,” he said. “And there she was—film o’ her at the airport ‘long with some others goin’ ta perform at Dolly’s benefit thing. She never listened ta ya, Ma. Now she’s here.”

At five after nine, a coo coo clock in Elnora’s office struck eight.

Mrs. Collinson pulled off her glasses and tossed them onto the desk. She wrinkled her brow and puckered her mouth in disgust. Elnora did not look happy.

“She’ll be talkin’ ‘bout her ideas and her ways like she always does,” Mack said. “It’s un-natural is what it is. Against God’s way. Why does God let people like her live, Ma? Makes me jest so gat-dag mad. Makes me think we ought ta kill her. Kill her our own selves.”

My Book Review:

After twenty years on the NYPD, Sam Jenkins and his wife Kate leave New York behind to retire in the Great Smoky Mountain small town of Prospect, Tennessee. But his retirement doesn't last long when he accepts the position of the town's new Chief of Police. One would think that this is a cushy position in a sleepy little Appalachian town, and normally it would be ... except for the occasional murders, criminal activities, and mischievious small town antics. And if that isn't enough, the mayor asks Sam to babysit C.J. Profitt, a hometown girl turned famous country music star, who returns home for a charity benefit, only to stoke the fiery ire of a radical rightwing group called The Coalition for American Family Values. The Coalition is against C.J.'s flamboyant flaunting of her "corrupt" lifestyle, it goes against their way of living. A sassy country music star, dangerous threats, numerous murder attempts, and protecting the Dollywood music hall from destruction keeps Sam on his toes, determined to restore peace, law, and order to his Great Smoky Mountain small town.

In the latest installment of the Sam Jenkins Mystery seriesPigeon River Blues, author Wayne Zurl weaves another intriguing tale of mystery and suspense that keeps the reader guessing as they follow Sam on his latest madcap adventure.

Author Wayne Zurl engages the reader with a story that has a mixture of humor, intrigue, drama and suspense. His use of the local southern dialect stays true to the setting in the story, the reader feels like they are transported to the town of Prospect. I loved the fun banter that makes up the dialogue in the story, you can't help but get drawn into the story as the characters come to life.

Sam is a sarcastic guy who has no problem saying exactly what he's thinking: his quick wit, sense of humor, friendly banter and sweet flirty side keeps the reader laughing out loud as the story unfolds. And when you add in the sassy and vibrant personality of country music star C.J. Profitt, mixed with the radical rightwing group's threats and crazy antics, the reader is in for a real treat with a storyline that is full of dramatic fireworks!

With a quirky cast of characters; a rich description of the setting and the local dialect; and a suspenseful storyline full of intriguing twists and turns, Pigeon River Blues is an exciting continuation of the thrilling adventures found in the Sam Jenkins Mystery series!

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that author Wayne Zurl utilizes his prior extensive knowledge and experience of police procedure to create a realistic story and series that diehard of mystery / detective fans will crave to read.

Pigeon River Blues and the Sam Jenkins Mystery series is simply an addicting whodunit mystery series that will turn mystery fans into Sam Jenkins fans!


Virtual Book Tour

Tour Schedule:

Monday, September 15
My Life, Loves and Passion – Author Guest Post / Book Review

Tuesday, September 16
Books, Reviews, Etc. – Book Review

Thursday, September 18
Mystery Thrillers and Romantic Suspense Reviews – Book Spotlight / Book Excerpt

Friday, September 19
Black Heart Magazine – Author Interview / Book Excerpt

Monday, September 22
Deal Sharing Aunt – Author Interview / Book Spotlight / Book Excerpt

Tuesday, September 23
Lilac Reviews – Author Guest Post / Book Review

Wednesday, September 24
Bless Their Hearts Mom – Book Excerpt / Book Review

Thursday, September 25
Readalot – Book Review

Monday, September 29
Bound 2 Escape – Book Spotlight

Wednesday, October 1
Gabina49′s Blog / Just Reviews – Book Review
Deal Sharing Aunt – Book Review

Thursday, October 2
FictionZeal – Author Guest Post / Book Spotlight / Book Excerpt

Friday, October 3
Melanie’s Muse – Book Review

Monday, October 6
The Writer’s Life – Author Interview / Book Spotlight

Wednesday, October 8
Book Readers: Mum’s Writings Mystery and More – Author Guest Post / Book Spotlight / Book Excerpt

Monday, October 13
The Story Behind The Book – Author Guest Post / Book Spotlight

Friday, October 17
As The Page Turns – Author Interview / Book Spotlight

Monday, October 20
Jane Reads – Book Spotlight / Book Excerpt

Friday, October 24
Read My First Chapter – Featured Book Excerpt

Wednesday, October 29
Brooke Blogs – Book Review

Friday, October 31
Jersey Girl Book Reviews – Author Guest Post / Book Spotlight / Book Review

The Baker's Men by Donald Levin (Author Guest Post / Book Review)

In association with Pump Up Your Book Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for The Baker's Men by Author Donald Levin!

Author Guest Post

How & What To Learn From Other Writers
By: Donald Levin

You’ve probably heard time and time again that the two best ways to improve as a writer are to write and to read. Everybody can understand why writing a lot helps . . . if you don’t write, you won’t get better, just like if you don’t practice the violin you’ll never improve.

But did you ever wonder how you’re supposed to improve by reading? There are many reasons for that. But in this post, I want to suggest one important strategy for reading other authors that will virtually guarantee you’ll get better. Simply put, that strategy is this: find an author who does well what you want to do, ask yourself what are that author’s strengths, and then analyze the works to discover how the writing accomplishes those strengths.

Here’s an example. One of the big events of the year at the school where I work is a lecture series held every April that brings in a guest writer to give a free public reading. In my former role as chair of the department that hosts the event (I’m now a dean at the college), I was the emcee for the evening, which meant my job was to preside over the gathering and sometimes introduce the writer.

A few years ago the guest author was a certain crime novelist who shall remain nameless. Rarely had our past writers (mostly literary novelists and poets) provoked the kind of passionate public excitement that this writer did. For months before the reading, I was fielding phone calls from the public as their anticipation mounted. They couldn’t wait to see him; his readership idolized him.

To prepare my introduction, I gave myself a crash course in his works, reading through all his series as well as his stand-alone books. As a crime novelist myself, I read with a double vision: looking not only for what I could use in my introduction of him, but also for what I could learn from him for my own writing. After all, he was fabulously successful as an author, and I wanted to discover some of the secrets of his success. In my heart, of course, I hoped I could get some of his magic to rub off on me and my works.

While many aspects of his writing turned me off—his cliched use of sex and violence, for example, as well as the (to me) deadening similarity of plots and situations—I found much to learn from him, both in terms of what to avoid and what to do.

Primarily, what I learned had to do with what I felt were his real strengths: how to create characters that leap off the page, how to manage multiple plot lines, and how to move the story along quickly and effectively.

One of the things that struck me most about the phone calls that came in about him was the fanatical devotion this guy’s readers had to his characters. Where did that come from, I wondered? In my reading, I discovered he has an incredibly deft touch in populating his fiction with people whom his readers recognize from their own lives. He lets his characters talk in voices that are recognizable and real, and he paints thumbnail portraits of how they look and act in ways that resonate with his readership.

Another strength was the way he handled three, four, and even five interrelated plot lines at a time, juggling incidents from his private detective main character’s personal life with his current cases and his ever-present past that he struggles to outrun. Analyzing his work was like taking a master class in how to move plot threads along. I saw how he started scenes at the optimum moment, how he shaped them for maximum effect, and how he ended them with enough suspense to get the reader to turn the page. I saw how he jumped into a chapter or section using a juicy exchange of dialog, and how he used transitions to get the main character from one place to another most efficiently.

As I sat down to revise my latest mystery, The Baker's Men, I found myself putting these lessons into practice time and again. It’s another reminder of how much we can glean from deeply reading authors who—whether we like their work or not—are at the top of their crafts.

Did all this turn me into a best-selling author? Sadly no. But it did help me improve my books in important ways. And that’s good enough for me. Are there lessons you’ve learned from your favorite authors? I’d be interested in hearing about them.

About The Author

An award-winning fiction writer and poet, Donald Levin is the author of The Baker’s Men, the second book in the Martin Preuss mystery series; Crimes of Love, the first Martin Preuss mystery; The House of Grins, a mainstream novel; and two books of poetry, In Praise of Old Photographs and New Year’s Tangerine. Widely published as a poet and with twenty-five years’ experience as a professional writer, he is dean of the faculty and professor of English at Marygrove College in Detroit. He lives in Ferndale, Michigan, the setting for his Martin Preuss mysteries.

You can visit Donald Levin’s website at


Book Review

The Baker's Men by Donald Levin
Book 2: The Martin Preuss Mystery Series
Publisher: Poison Toe Press
Publication Date: April 20, 2014
Format: Paperback - 338 pages
              Kindle - 821 KB
ISBN: 978-0615968568
Genre: Mystery / Crime Fiction / Police Procedural

BUY THE BOOK: The Baker's Men

BUY THE SERIES: The Martin Preuss Mystery Series
Book 1: Crimes of Love
Book 2: The Baker's Men

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 Pump Up Your Book Tours.

Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club on Goodreads.

Book Description:

Easter, 2009. The nation is still reeling from the previous year’s financial crisis. Ferndale Police detective Martin Preuss is spending a quiet evening with his son when he’s called out to investigate a savage after-hours shooting at a bakery in his suburban Detroit community. Was it a random burglary gone bad? A cold-blooded execution linked to Detroit’s drug trade? Most frightening of all, is there a terrorist connection with the Iraqi War vets who work at the store?

Struggling with these questions, frustrated by the dizzying uncertainties of the case and hindered by the treachery of his own colleagues who scheme against him, Preuss is drawn into a whirlwind of greed, violence, and revenge that spans generations across metropolitan Detroit.

Book Excerpt:

The man hurried along the sidewalk on the other side of the street with both hands clasped on top of his head. He looked like he was trying to keep his scalp from floating away.

“Hold it, baby,” Jared Whalen murmured into his cell phone.

He watched the man lurch past the cooling units of the Foodland, then dodder out of his line of vision. He had parked his scout car in the lot of the Ethiopian restaurant across from the supermarket to make his call.

Burly in his Kevlar and with close-cropped blond hair, Whalen put the cruiser in gear and eased up to the edge of Nine Mile Road. The financial meltdown of the previous year brought a spike in B&Es around Ferndale and neighboring Pleasant Ridge, so they were all warned to be alert for anything unusual.

Case in point: this guy.

As he watched, the man continued down the sidewalk, more or less in a straight line.

Seems harmless, Whalen decided, and settled back. This character might just be a bit tipsy, maybe got over-served at Rosie O’Grady’s down the street and started to walk home. At least he wasn’t lit to the point where he was weaving all over the place so he’d step into traffic and become Whalen’s immediate problem.

“What’s the matter, sugar?” the woman on the phone said. “Nothing more to say to me?”

Whalen smiled at the petulance in her voice. He turned his attention from the man on the sidewalk and pictured her pillowy red lips drawn in the pout he loved. He met her last Valentine’s Day when he stopped her for speeding on Woodward, and one thing led to another and now they were dating. They hadn’t spoken all day because her ex never picked up their kids as he promised he would so she was busy with the two girls. But now they were asleep and she could talk freely.

“C’mon, baby,” he said. “There’s lots more where that came from.”

He went on with her for another ten minutes until the Dispatcher’s voice broke in.

“10-56, 7-Eleven at Nine Mile and Pinecrest. Meet the clerk.”

Whalen sighed. 10-56, intoxicated person. The 7-Eleven was four blocks west of where he was parked. Probably the guy he just saw walking down the street. No big deal, but still.

Reluctantly he said goodbye to his sweetheart and told the police radio, “Unit 1267 responding.”

He swung the cruiser onto Nine Mile toward the convenience store.


“Did you see him?” Nadine Kotter asked.


“Guy I called about. He just took off.”

No one was inside or outside the store. Whalen walked around the side of the building and checked behind the dumpster.

Nobody there.

Out front again, he said, “I don’t see anybody, Nadine. What’s going on?”

Standing in the doorway, she sucked the last of her cigarette and backhanded it onto the blacktop. She was a tough-looking woman with spiked hair bleached white and tattoos of roses twined among her knuckles on both hands. Whalen liked to stop in to say hello and share a smoke on quiet nights.

“Guy comes into the store and starts mumbling some shit about the bakery.” Her words came out in staccato bursts of smoke. “I go, ‘Dude, what are you talking about,’ and he’s all, ‘The bakery, the bakery.’”

“Sunday night,” Whalen said. “Always brings out the wackjobs, Nadine.”

“I know, and this guy seemed pretty jumpy. But then he goes, ‘Police.’ Then he’s back outside sitting in the corner, and in another minute he’s up again and walking away.”

“Which direction?”

“Up Pinecrest.” She pointed around the corner of the store.

“Thing was,” she said, “his head. It was a bloody mess.”

Whalen stared at her.

“I’m serious. Like he took a shampoo in it or something.”

“We’re talking about a stocky black male, dark sweatshirt and levis? Walking kind of like he’s in a daze?”

“So you did see him.”

“Further up the street I did, yeah. There was blood on his head?”

“Uh, hello?” Nadine gave a loose wheezy laugh, like a bag of gravel shifting in her chest. “The whole right side of his face was covered with it.”

The right side . . . the side away from Whalen.

“I thought he might have fallen, maybe hurt himself. Anyway he didn’t seem right so I called it in.”

“Where was he sitting?”

“Over there.” She pointed toward the metal rack that held propane tanks at the far side of the store.

In the white glare from the overhead lights Whalen saw spots on the ground beside the rack. He swept his flashlight beam over the area. Definitely blood.

A second blue-and-white rolled up and another patrol officer stepped out adjusting the gear on her belt. Gail Crimmonds was a substantial woman with dark hair pinned back and skeptical eyes. Whalen filled her in quickly and asked her to take Nadine’s statement.

He jumped into his scout car and wheeled it around the lot and out to Pinecrest.

Thinking: Bakery, blood, police—this is not good.

He eased the car north, scanning the empty sidewalks and pausing at each corner to shine his spotlight down the side streets. When he reached Blair Park, he figured the guy could be anywhere inside the dark grounds so he made a Y-turn back toward Nine. He called Dispatch and asked for assistance to search the neighborhood.

At the traffic light on Nine he took a left and drove east, picking up speed as his unease grew. The only bakery left in Ferndale was the Cake Walk, near the southeast corner of Nine and Planavon. There used to be two but the other one went bust the summer before. Most Ferndale businesses weathered the financial crash but a few, like the other bakery, couldn’t hold on and now there were empty stores like missing teeth around the downtown.

He skidded to a stop in front of the Cake Walk facing the wrong way on Nine. The street was deserted and dark except for the lights at Rosie’s down toward Woodward.

The front selling area of the store was empty, with bare display counters and shelves. The front door was locked.

He saw a light glowing in the rear so he trotted around to the back of the building. The bakery was the third business off the side street, beside two restaurants closed for the night.

He pulled at the handle of the steel rear entrance to the Cake Walk and the door opened.

He drew his duty weapon and stepped inside. A short corridor from the door to the back room ended at a partition that blocked his view.

He heard no sounds except the pounding of blood in his head and the knocking of his heart.

He stood for a moment, quieting his breathing, getting himself ready for what he might find, and looked into the workroom.

Lit by overhead fluorescents, the scene took his breath away.

He struggled to stay upright against the partition. He stood like that until the room stopped spinning.

Then he pulled himself together to call it in.

It was 9:32 on the evening of April 12, 2009.

Easter Sunday.

My Book Review:

Easter Sunday 2009 ... Ferndale Detective Martin Preuss is called out during the evening to investigate an after hours shooting at the Cake Walk Bakery. With one employee murdered, and another seriously injured, is the bakery shooting a random robbery attempt gone wrong? As Detective Preuss conducts an investigation into the shooting, he discovers that there is an intricate web of mystery surrounding the motive, and the possible people who could have been involved in committing the shootings, including local drug gangs and a radical Iraqi terrorist element connection. Balancing the frustrations of the investigation, the treachery and betrayal within his own police department, and his close relationship with his young son Toby, Detective Preuss is determined to solve the case at any cost.

In The Baker's Men, the second book in The Martin Preuss Mystery Series, author Donald Levin weaves a riveting mystery / police procedural tale that follows Ferndale Police Detective Martin Preuss' latest investigative adventures.

Set in the Detroit suburb of Ferndale, The Baker's Men is a fast-paced, action packed, and gritty crime / mystery tale that easily draws the reader into Detective Preuss' investigation of the Easter night bakery shooting.

Author Donald Levin provides the reader with a gripping storyline that has enough mystery, suspense, drama, treachery, betrayal, and intriguing twists and turns that keeps the reader guessing, while weaving an intricate and complicated web of what the motive of the crime could have been, and the a spectrum of possible participants who could have been involved in committing the crime. And if that isn't enough to captivate the reader, the author adds a wonderful touch of sensitivity and humanity into the storyline with the heartwarming relationship between Detective Preuss and his young son Toby, who has Cerebral Palsy.

This is an exciting story police procedural / crime mystery story that has realistic characters; witty dialogue and interactions; rich descriptions of the setting that transports the reader to the suburbs of Detroit; a fascinating in depth behind the scenes look at police procedural and investigative techniques; and a complicated storyline that draws the reader into the criminal world of drug gangs, terrorist plots, and local greed and betrayal. The author provides a story that has a wonderful balance between the crime investigation and the backstory into Detective Preuss' life and investigative style. This is the kind of mystery series that easily keeps the reader captivated, guessing, on their toes, and wanting more!

Even though The Baker's Men is the second book in The Martin Preuss Mystery Series, it can be a standalone read, but why not do yourself a favor and read this riveting series in sequential order so you can follow Detective Pruess on every new investigative adventure!


Virtual Book Tour

Tour Schedule:

Wednesday, October 1
Brenda’s Books and Blog – Author Guest Post

Thursday, October 2
Readalot – Book Spotlight

Friday, October 3
Bound 2 Escape – Book Spotlight

Monday, October 6
Deal Sharing Aunt – Book Review

Tuesday, October 7
Jane Reads – Book Spotlight

Thursday, October 9
Mystery Thrillers and Romantic Suspense Reviews – Book Spotlight

Friday, October 10
My Life, Loves and Passion – Book Spotlight

Monday, October 13
The Writer’s Life – Author Interview / Book Spotlight

Thursday, October 16
Book Readers – Author Guest Post

Friday, October 17
As The Page Turns – Author Interview / Book Spotlight

Monday, October 20
The Story Behind The Book – Author Guest Post / Book Spotlight

Thursday, October 23
Life According To Lina – Book Review

Friday, October 24
Lilac Reviews – Book Review

Monday, October 27
Read My First Chapter – Book Excerpt

Wednesday, October 29
The Crime Scene – Book Review

Friday, October 31
Jersey Girl Book Reviews – Author Guest Post / Book Spotlight / Book Review

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Heart of Christmas by Brenda Novak (Virtual Book Blast Event / Book Spotlight / Contest Giveaway)

In association with Goddess Fish Promotions, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book blast event for The Heart of Christmas by Author Brenda Novak!

The Heart of Christmas by Brenda Novak
Book 7: Whiskey Creek Series
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Publication Date: October 28, 2014
Format: Paperback - 384 pages
              Kindle - 522 KB
              Nook - 408 KB
ISBN: 978-0778316398
Genre: A Small Town Contemporary Romance / Christmas Holiday Theme

BUY THE BOOK: The Heart of Christmas

BUY THE SERIES: Whiskey Creek Series
Book 0.5: When We Touch
Book 1: When Lightning Strikes
Book 2: When Snow Falls
Book 3: When Summer Comes
Book 4: Home to Whiskey Creek
Book 5: Take Me Home for Christmas
Book 6: Come Home to Me
Book 7: The Heart of Christmas
Book 8: This Heart of Mine

Book Description:

Just call her Christmas Eve…

Eve Harmon has always enjoyed Christmas, but this year it reminds her of everything she doesn’t have. Almost all her friends are married now, and that’s what Eve wants, too. Love. A husband and kids of her own. But the B-and-B she manages and even Whiskey Creek, the small Gold Country town where she was born and raised, suddenly seem…confining.

As Eve turns thirty-five, she’s worried that her future will simply be a reflection of her past. She’s dated all the eligible men in the area. There’s no one she could even imagine as a husband—until a handsome stranger comes to town. Eve’s definitely attracted to him, and he seems to have the same reaction to her. But his darkly mysterious past could ruin Eve’s happily ever after—just when it finally seems within reach. Just when she’s counting on the best Christmas of her life!

Book Excerpt:

There was a naked man in her bed.

Eve Harmon’s stomach tensed, and her heart skipped a beat—but she was pretty sure she’d invited him. From the way their clothes were strewn carelessly around the room, it was obvious that, not long ago, she’d been happy to have him with her.

She nearly groaned as her eyes swept over him. What had she done? She didn’t have a boyfriend and she never slept around. She hadn’t been with anyone since Ted Dixon—an old friend who had briefly turned into more a year ago. And before him, it had been much longer. Most people, at least those younger than her parents, would consider her extended periods of celibacy rather pathetic for a woman her age. But she lived in a small town, cared about her reputation and had been holding out for the kind of love that came with a white picket fence.

She just hadn’t found the right guy, and she was beginning to think maybe she never would. The odds weren’t in her favor. Now that most of her friends were married, she didn’t get out all that often.

But she had a lot to be grateful for in spite of her dismal love life, she quickly reminded herself. Although she’d never been the type who wanted work to become her sole focus in life, she liked her job. She ran Little Mary’s, a B and B in a converted Victorian owned by her retired parents. They lived in the house a hundred yards in front of her own small bungalow—when they weren’t traveling in their RV like they were at the moment. Thanks to them, and the quaint, bucolic area where she’d been raised, her life had always been pleasant and safe—and predictable. Absolutely predictable.

Until now.

God, she hadn’t even slept with someone she knew. And since there were only about two thousand people in Whiskey Creek, it was hard to find someone she didn’t.

Shifting carefully so she wouldn’t wake the man lying next to her—she needed to regain her bearings before confronting him—she tried to get a look at his face, but a thunderous headache made it difficult to sit up. That headache also explained how she’d ended up in this predicament. Last night she’d made the mistake of going out to celebrate her thirty-fifth birthday even though her friends weren’t available until tonight, and she’d drunk too much. She’d been determined to do something wild and fun and completely out of character before reaching such a significant age, the age at which some doctors advised against getting pregnant.

Now she was paying the price for her out-of-control evening.

Had they even used birth control?

Briefly squeezing her eyes shut, she sent up a silent prayer that she’d had the presence of mind for that at least. It would be entirely too ironic for someone like her—someone so cautious—to get pregnant because of a one-night stand.

What have you done?

About The Author


New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author Brenda Novak is the author of more than fifty books. A four-time Rita nominee, she has won many awards, including the National Reader’s Choice, the Bookseller’s Best, the Book Buyer’s Best, the Daphne, and the Holt Medallion. She also runs an annual on-line auction for diabetes research every May at (her youngest son has this disease). To date, she’s raised over $2 million. For more about Brenda, please visit:


Contest Giveaways

Win A $100 Amazon Gift Card

Author Brenda Novak will be awarding a $100 Amazon gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour, and a $50 Amazon gift card to a randomly drawn host.

Follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning.

The tour dates can be found here: 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Enter The 12 Days Of Christmas Contest

The 12 Days of Christmas Contest:

Virtual Book Blast Event Schedule