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

Monday, February 20, 2017

Child's Play by Merry Jones (Author Guest Post / Book Review / Contest Giveaway)

In association with Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for Child's Play by author Merry Jones!

Author Guest Post

When You’re Smiling

By: Merry Jones

When I began to write Child’s Play, I intended to focus on the assumptions we make about others. We all do it. A stranger approaches and we make instant judgments about him or her. On sight, knowing nothing about this person, we decide in a nano-second whether to be cautious, friendly or generous. Whether to smile. Whether to run.

These decisions are based in part on instinct, in part on cultural cues. In part on the assumptions we make based on wardrobe, style, cleanliness, health, posture, and, in our society with its prejudices, on gender, age, size, beauty, ethnicity and race.

The assumptions we make about others, though, do not apply just to strangers. We also make them about acquaintances and friends. The assumptions we make about people familiar to us were the ones I intended to write about. What would we assume about a neighbor who’d just been released from prison for murder? About an ice cream man being way too friendly with children? About a business contact who was being persistently flirtatious? Or about a somber and silent janitor who was lurking in a corner watching pretty young girls hurrying down a school hallway?   

My intention in Child’s Play was to show that our assumptions, no matter how logical and time-tested, can mislead us. That the evidence upon which we base our judgments isn’t always correct and can, in fact, lead us to false, even dangerous conclusions.

In the process of writing the book, though, I became aware of some of my own assumptions. Having recently moved from the suburbs to a dense urban area, I was tuned into the “dangers” of city life. I moved quickly down the street, eyes focused straight ahead, avoiding contact with strangers. But, writing the book, I became aware of the assumption that made me behave that way, the assumption that strangers were at best in a rush and focused on their own affairs, at worst dangerous.

Once I became aware of my behavior, I changed it. I began smiling at strangers. Meeting their eyes. Often, though not always, getting smiles in return. Connecting, though just for an instant.

Smiling at people sounds like a simple, even trivial act. But it feels amazing. I get smiles back from all ages, all races, all sizes and shapes. From people with walkers, people with shopping carts. From people hurrying, loitering, jogging, or waiting. People wearing business clothes, walking pit bulls, pushing strollers, or, I suspect, pushing other things.

I suppose Child’s Play was the catalyst for me to extend myself to others in this tiny way, opening my gaze to meet the eyes of passing strangers and offering them a smile.

A smile. It seems innocuous, insignificant. It’s a fleeting thing, enduring for a mere moment. But the smile forces me to overcome the tendency to look away from those around me. It reaches across the city sidewalk with a wordless acknowledgment, a greeting, a shot of good wishes from one stranger to another, no matter what we might assume about each other.

Some days, as I walk, I count the number of smiles I get back. I feel them as small victories against urban loneliness and isolation, against fear, against prejudice. Against false assumptions.

Child’s Play, of course, is about much more than assumptions. But for me, writing it made me aware of the invisible walls surrounding so many of us. And it motivated me to poke at those walls, puncturing a few, even for the duration of a smile.    

Book Review

Child's Play by Merry Jones
Book 3: Elle Harrison Thriller Series
Publisher: Oceanview Publishing
Publication Date: January 3, 2017
Format: Paperback - 320 pages
               Kindle - 1566 KB
               Nook - 3 MB
ISBN: 978-1608091911
BNID: 978-1608091928
Genre: Mystery / Suspense / Thriller

Buy The Book:

Buy The Series: Elle Harrison Thriller Series
Book 1: The Trouble With Charlie
Book 2: Elective Procedures
Book 3: Child's Play

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

Book Description:

Since her husband’s murder two years earlier, life hasn’t been easy for Elle Harrison. Now, at the start of a new school year, the second grade teacher is determined to move on. She’s selling her house and delving into new experiences―like learning trapeze.

Just before the first day of school, Elle learns that a former student, Ty Evans, has been released from juvenile detention where he served time for killing his abusive father. Within days of his release, Elle’s school principal, who’d tormented Ty as a child, is brutally murdered. So is a teacher at the school. And Ty’s former girlfriend. All the victims have links to Ty.

Ty’s younger brother, Seth, is in Elle’s class. When Seth shows up at school beaten and bruised, Elle reports the abuse, and authorities remove Seth and his older sister, Katie, from their home. Is Ty the abuser?

Ty seeks Elle out, confiding that she’s the only adult he’s ever trusted. She tries to be open-minded, even wonders if he’s been wrongly condemned. But when she’s assaulted in the night, she suspects that Ty is her attacker. Is he a serial killer? Is she his next intended victim?

Before Elle discovers the truth, she’s caught in a deadly trap that challenges her deepest convictions about guilt and innocence, childhood and family. Pushed to her limits, she’s forced to face her fears and apply new skills in a deadly fight to survive.

Book Excerpt:

I was the first one there.
The parking lot was empty, except for Stan’s pickup truck. Stan was the custodian, tall, hair thinning, face pock-marked from long ago acne. He moved silently, popped out of closets and appeared in corners, prowled the halls armed with a mop or a broom. In fourteen years, I couldn’t remember a single time when he’d looked me in the eye.
Wait—fourteen years? I’d been there that long? Faces of kids I’d taught swirled through my head. The oldest of them would now be, what? Twenty-one? Oh man. Soon I’d be one of those old school marms teaching the kids of my former students, a permanent fixture of the school like the faded picture of George Washington mounted outside the principal’s office. Hell, in a few months, I’d be forty. A middle-aged childless widow who taught second grade over and over again, year after year, repeating the cycle like a hamster on its wheel. Which reminded me: I had to pick up new hamsters. Tragically, last year’s hadn’t made it through the summer.
I told myself to stop dawdling. I had a classroom to organize, cubbies to decorate. On Monday, just three days from now, twenty-three glowing faces would show up for the first day of school, and I had to be ready. I climbed out of the car, pulled a box of supplies from the trunk, started for the building. And stopped.
My heart did triple time, as if responding to danger. But there was no danger. What alarmed me, what sent my heart racing was the school itself. But why? Did it look different? Had the windows been replaced, or the doors? Nothing looked new, but something seemed altered. Off balance. The place didn’t look like an elementary school. It looked like a giant factory. A prison.
God, no. It didn’t look like any of those things. The school was the same as it had always been, just a big brick building. It seemed cold and stark simply because it was unadorned by throngs of children. Except for wifi, Logan Elementary hadn’t changed in fifty years, unless you counted several new layers of soot on the bricks.
I stood in the parking lot, observing the school, seeing it fresh. I’d never paid much attention to it before. When it was filled with students, the building itself became all but invisible, just a structure, a backdrop. But now, empty, it was unable to hide behind the children, the smells of sunshine and peanut butter sandwiches, the sounds of chatter and small shoes pounding Stanley’s waxed tiles. The building stood exposed. I watched it, felt it watching me back. Threatening.
Seriously, what was wrong with me? The school was neither watching nor threatening me. It was a benign pile of bricks and steel. I was wasting time, needed to go in and get to work. But I didn’t take a single step. Go on, I told myself. What was I afraid of? Empty halls, vacant rooms? Blank walls? For a long moment, I stood motionless, eyes fixed on the façade. The carved letters: Logan School. The heavy double doors. The dark windows. Maybe I’d wait a while before going inside. Becky would arrive soon, after she picked up her classroom aquarium.
Other teachers would show up, too. I could go in with them, blend safely into their commotion. I hefted the box, turned back to the car. But no, what was I doing? I didn’t want to wait. I’d come early so I could get work done without interruption or distraction before the others arrived. The school wasn’t daring me, nor was I sensing some impending tragedy. I was just jittery about starting a new year.
I turned around again, faced its faded brown bricks. I steeled my shoulders, took a breath and started across the parking lot. With a reverberating metallic clank, the main doors flew open. Reflexively, I stepped back, half expecting a burst of flames or gunfire. Instead, Stan emerged. For the first time in fourteen years, I was glad to see him. Stan surveyed the parking lot, hitched up his pants. Looked in my direction. He didn’t wave or nod a greeting, didn’t follow social conventions. Even so, his presence grounded me, felt familiar.
I took a breath, reminded myself that the school was just a school. That I was prone to mental wandering and embellishing. And that children would stream into my classroom in just three days, whether I was ready or not.

My Book Review:

Second grade school teacher Elle Harrison's life hasn't been the same since the murder of her husband Charlie two years ago. She tries to move forward with her life by putting her house up for sale, but when the first day of the school begins, Elle's life gets a tad bit more complicated when she discovers the dead body of the school's principal. And if that isn't enough, Elle finds out that there is a hit list, and she's next on the list! When dead bodies start to accumulate, Elle is determined to solve the murder mystery, and find the killer before she ends up as the next victim!

In Child's Play, the third book in the Elle Harrison Thriller Series, author Merry Jones weaves an intriguing thriller that engages the reader in solving the mystery all the while keeping them guessing along the way. This is a riveting tale of murder, mystery and suspense set in Philadelphia, and written in the first person narrative with Elle Harrison taking the reader along for the ride on her zany adventure to uncover the mystery surrounding the school murders.

Mixed with humor, danger, paranormal involvement, potential suspects and enough twists and turns that keeps you turning the pages until the surprising conclusion, you'll find yourself recruited as one of Elle's amateur sleuths on a quest to solve the puzzle of the school murders. The author weaves a masterful tale that takes the reader in many directions: between the murder mystery, Elle's psychological backstory, Elle's relationship with her best friends, and the paranormal activity, you can't help but try and keep up with this fast-paced riveting thriller.

With a quirky cast of characters who are very entertaining: from zany Elle and her hilarious best friends Susan, Becky, and Jenny; to ghostly Charlie who communicates with Elle from beyond the grave; to a host of potential suspects who each have a motive for murder; they keep the reader on their toes wondering who really is the murderer.

With witty and humorous dialogue and interactions; an intriguing storyline that takes the reader on a madcap adventure that alternates between the present with Elle's memory flashbacks to the past; and a richly detailed description of familiar Philadelphia landmarks; Child's Play is a tantalizing whodunit mystery thriller that will engage your imagination to the very end!


About The Author

Merry Jones is the author of some twenty critically acclaimed books, both fiction and nonfiction. Her work has been translated into seven languages. Her previous Elle Harrison novels have been The Trouble With Charlie and Elective Procedures. Jones lives with her husband in Philadelphia.

Author Website
Amazon Author Page

Contest Giveaway

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for Merry Jones. There will be 1 winner of one $15 Gift Cards AND 3 winners of one (1) eBook copy of Child's Play by Merry Jones. The giveaway begins on January 26th and runs through March 3rd, 2017. 
  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Virtual Book Tour Event

Tour Schedule:
01/26 Blog Talk Radio w/Fran Lewis
01/26 Review @ Just Reviews
02/01 Review/showcase @ Books, Dreams, Life
02/02 Review @ Wall-to-wall books - Giveaway
02/03 Review/showcase @ CMash Reads
02/04 Showcase @ The Pen and Muse Book Reviews
02/05 Review @ Book Babble
02/06 Review @ Buried Under Books - Giveaway
02/07 Interview/showcase @ BooksChatter
02/08 Guest Post/Showcase @ The Book Divas Reads
02/09 Showcase @ Mythical Books
02/14 Showcase @ Celticladys Reviews
02/15 Review @ fuonlyknew
02/20 Guest post & Review @ Jersey Girl Book Reviews
02/21 Interview @ Writers and Authors
02/22 Interview @ Jean BookNerd - Giveaway
02/23 Review @ Books Direct
02/23 Review @ JBronder Book Reviews
02/24 Review & Guest post @ Blog Rockin Book Reviews - Giveaway
2/18 Showcase @ Hott Books


  1. Fantastic review! I really enjoyed this book also and planning to read more by this author!!!

    1. Hi Cheryl! Thank you for the kind comment, I appreciate it. :)

  2. Thanks for featuring CHILD'S PLAY! I loved guest blogging for you!

    1. Hi Merry! Thank you for the opportunity to host your virtual book tour event. I really enjoy reading this series, keep em coming! :)