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, September 18, 2020

From The Lake House by Kristen Rademacher (VBT: Book Review / Contest Giveaway)

In association with Virtual Author Book Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for From The Lake House by author Kristen Rademacher!

Book Review

From The Lake House by Kristen Rademacher
Publisher: She Writes Press
Publication Date: July 21, 2020
Format: Paperback - 256 pages
               Kindle - 1628 KB
               Nook - 2 MB
ISBN: 978-1631528668
BNID: 978-1631528675
Genre: Memoir

Buy The Book:

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

Book Description:

Dizzy with grief after a shattering breakup, Kristen did what any sensible thirty-nine-year-old woman would do: she fled, abandoning her well-ordered life in metropolitan Boston and impulsively relocating to a college town in North Carolina to start anew with a freshly divorced southerner.

Dismissing the neon signs that flashed Rebound Relationship, Kristen was charmed by the host of contrasts with her new beau. He loved hunting and country music, she loved yoga and NPR; he worried about nothing, she worried about everything. The luster of her new romance and small-town lifestyle soon―and predictably―faded, but by then a pregnancy test stick had lit up. As Kristen’s belly grew, so did her concern about the bond with her partner―and so did a fierce love for her unborn child. Ready or not, she was about to become a mother. And then, tragedy struck.

Poignant and insightful, From the Lake House explores the echoes of rash decisions and ill-fated relationships, the barren and disorienting days an aching mother faces without her baby, and the mysterious healing that can take root while rebuilding a life gutted from loss.

Advance Praise:

“Over the course of this book, in well-structured, descriptive prose, Rademacher effectively leads readers through a gradually withering romantic relationship that culminates in a tragedy . . . Some of the most painful sections of the book are her loving letters to the little girl whom she held for but an hour, and whom she named Carly. It soon becomes clear that these missives helped to lead her back from a precipice of despair, so that she could finally face her future. A poignant and painful remembrance with comforting messages for the grieving.”- Kirkus Reviews

“Kristen Rademacher’s achingly honest memoir about her losses of place, partner, and much-anticipated baby daughter Carly resonates with courage and an abiding gratitude for the preciousness of life. A truly tender reflection about loss that illuminates the devastating experience of baby loss.”-Janel Atlas, writer and editor of They Were Still Born: Personal Stories about Stillbirth

“From the Lake House is an intimate, inspiring story of surviving in a world where blessings and tragedy walk hand in hand. Written with tender honesty and luscious language, it is a joy to read, even amidst the pangs of heartache and loss. As a bereaved mother, I found myself nodding in agreement with so many of Rademacher’s experiences of life after the death of a child . . . This book is for memoir-lovers and anyone who finds themselves in a turbulent relationship or who has said goodbye to a dearly loved child . . . Rademacher champions solitude for its healing capacities and the wholeness birthed from dogged, hard-earned resiliency. Perceptive and endearing, it is a moving saga of motherhood.”- Alexis Marie Chute, award-winning author of Expecting Sunshine: A Journey of Grief, Healing, and Pregnancy After Loss

“In this beautifully written and poignant memoir, we learn that though people and dreams die, relationships don’t. If we’re attuned, the dead can transform our lives, offering enduring love and guidance―and hope.”- Carol Henderson, author of Losing Malcolm: A Mother’s Journey Through Loss and Farther Along: The Writing Journey of Thirteen Bereaved Mothers

Book Excerpt:

From the Lake House: A Mother’s Odyssey of Loss and Love by Kristen Rademacher

Excerpt from Chapter 17: Shells

As the shuttle van carried us from the airport to the South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island, I leaned my head against the window and stared out at the banyan trees, the pelicans, and the pink houses. My father had gifted Jason and me with a trip to a luxury resort in Florida with the goal to get away and start healing. But I’d packed my bag with hesitation. I’d hardly left my house since returning from the hospital a week earlier; how could I venture as far afield as an entirely different state?

We arrived on the sprawling grounds in the late afternoon and checked in to our spacious villa. From our screened-in porch we could see a dozen tennis courts nestled in the live oaks, and just beyond, the ocean.

“Pretty nice,” I said to Jason. He thumbed through the visitor’s guide in the wicker-filled living room, complete with seashell-filled lamp bases and star shell-themed pillows and throws. Now that I saw where we’d live for the next week, my worry about being far from home eased. I’d be okay.

I sat beside Jason and looked in the glossy brochure featuring photos of happy people playing golf, or swimming in one of the five pools, or getting massages in the spa. There were half a dozen restaurants, miles of beach, and cheerful red trolleys to take these smiling people from one venue to another. This trip must be costing my father a fortune. I doubted I’d ever stay in a place this ritzy again and wasn’t even sure I wanted to. Even if Jason and I had come here for a regular vacation, a financial impossibility, we likely had little in common with its guests.

“Let’s go see the beach,” Jason suggested.

We followed a lush path through the tennis courts that opened onto the chilly and windy beach. A balmy, sunny afternoon would have been nice, but it was January after all, Florida or not. The ocean always energized me, and the first moments on any beach delighted my senses: salty air, roaring surf, soft sand between my toes, and the vast expanse of sparkling water. Whether swimming through the waves on a hot summer day or walking the shore wrapped in fleece, I came alive at the beach. With Jason beside me, I removed my sneakers, let the salty spray splash against my ankles, and waited for that familiar feeling. I may as well have been at the mall. I felt nothing. A steely sky bled into the lead-hued water. Fellow tourists bundled up in sweatshirts were stooped along the
piles of shells dragged in by the tide, searching for treasures. The wind blew relentlessly, flicking my hair into my eyes and knocking seagulls off their spindly legs. I was tired and wanted my feet inside warm socks.

“It’s too cold,” I said. “Let’s go.”

Back at our place, Jason collapsed with eyes closed on the sofa while I unpacked the odd array of books we’d brought: humor (David Sedaris), home improvement (green building), and self- help (surviving infant death). In the bedroom, I pulled out my journal and wrote a few lines.

Where am I? Not home with my baby. I’m on an islandin Florida. Two weeks ago I was pregnant, waiting for labor. Now I’m at a resort with a sea-green plastic band around my wrist.

Jason and I eventually visited the nearby deli, ordered sandwiches for dinner, and brought them back to our villa.

“Want to watch TV?” Jason asked.

No, I thought. I hated the blare of TV, and hated in particular Jason’s style of watching, which was to cruise the channels interminably. I’d often complain how he wouldn’t commit to one show. Jason always promised he would, as soon as he found something good. He rarely did. But I was not about to have our same old, tired argument at the South Seas Resort.

“Watch anything you want,” I said, quickly tuned out, and buried my head in a USA Today crossword puzzle.

The next morning, like always, I awoke much earlier than Jason and tiptoed out of the bedroom. From the porch, I noticed vacationers strolling the perfectly manicured sidewalks. Their lean and fit bodies wore tennis and golf apparel: form-fitting colorful jackets, leggings and nylon sweatpants, caps, and unblemished athletic footwear. They held small gym bags and sipped from Styrofoam cups. Coffee. I threw on a sweatshirt and sneakers and grabbed my wallet.

The deli was bustling at seven thirty. After being surrounded by family and friends who had tended to me carefully and cautiously, I liked my newfound anonymity. I perused the menu among strangers as if I were just another wealthy woman vacationing. I wasn’t the woman whose baby had died, whose breasts were still leaking milk, or whose hips were still too full to fit into anything but stretchy pants or one pair of too large, shapeless jeans. I wasn’t the woman who was supposed to be caring for an infant and whose house was filled with baby gear waiting to be packed up. I wasn’t the woman who was ready to end her maternity leave early and return to work because what else was she supposed to do?

Here, I could pretend that my life was intact.

“I’ll take a hot buttered bagel”—I smiled openly at the barista as if I didn’t have a care in the world—“and a cup of coffee with cream and sugar.”

“Coming right up,” he said and smiled in return.

It worked. I could blend in, sound normal, stand in line with strangers, and order a cup of coffee.

I relaxed into a wicker chair on our porch with my drink, buoyed by my
successful solo jaunt. The ocean’s briny aroma wafted through the screen, and I could hear the rhythmic thump of tennis balls on the courts. I read the newspaper, knocked out another crossword puzzle, and started a new knitting project. I felt focused and calm as my needles clicked. Maybe the worst is over, I thought. Chapel Hill, the hospital, and the bassinet at home were all far away, and I couldn’t connect to any of it. Everyone is
expecting me to be weepy and wounded forever, but I am fine. I’m not so different from women who miscarry, and they aren’t crippled by sadness for the rest of their lives.


My Book Review:

From The Lake House is a compelling memoir that follows author Kristen Rademacher's heartwrenching journey of rebuilding her life after two failed relationships, and the devastating loss of her baby daughter, Carly.

Kristen takes the reader on an emotional journey as she recounts the choices and hardships that she went through in regard to her romantic relationships, and the difficult battle to heal and move forward after giving birth to her stillborn baby daughter.

From The Lake House is a beautifully written and very moving memoir that documents the very sobering struggle that Kristen endured while battling the traumatic loss of her baby daughter, and how she finally was able to move forward in her life, while holding the precious memory of Carly with her always. You can't help but feel compassion and empathy as Kristen's story unfolds, it will tug at your heartstrings as her account of this devastating loss changed her life.

From The Lake House is an amazing memoir that will tug at the heartstrings and stir the soul.


About The Author

Kristen Rademacher has lived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina since 2002, which is when she began writing. FROM THE LAKE HOUSE is her first memoir. With a Master’s Degree in Education and a Professional Coaching Certification, Kristen is an Academic Coach and ADHD Specialist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She also leads trainings and presentations at national conferences on the topic of academic coaching.

Author Website
Amazon Author Page

Contest Giveaway

Win A Copy Of 

From The Lake House

This giveaway is for 1 print copy for 3 winners and is open to the U.S. only. This giveaway ends September 19, 2020,midnight pacific time. Entries are accepted via Rafflecopter only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Virtual Book Tour Event

Tour Participants:

Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus Aug 3 Kickoff
Lu Ann Rockin' Book Reviews Aug 4 Review
Andy Amazon Aug 5 Review
Dawn (Linda Lu) Bound4escape Aug 7 Guest Review
Betty Toots Book Reviews Aug 10 Review & Interview
Miller Amazon Aug 11 Review
Becky Sincerely Uplifting Aug 17 Review &  Excerpt
Penelope Amazon Aug 18 Review
Voni VonisView Aug 20 Review
Bee Book Pleasures Aug 21 Review
Amber Amazon Aug 24 Review
Kathleen (Gud Reader) Celticlady's Reviews Aug 25 Guest Review & Interview
Denise Amazon Aug 26 Review
Bookgirl Goodreads Aug 28 Review
Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus Sept 8 Review
Amy Locks, Hooks and Books Sept 10 Review & Excerpt
Kathleen Jersey Girl Book Reviews Sept 18 Review & Excerpt

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The Beach Cottage by Joanne DeMaio (Book Review)

The Beach Cottage by Joanne DeMaio
Publisher: Independent Self Publishing
Publication Date: August 15, 2020
Format: Paperback - 118 pages 
               Kindle - 4922 KB
               Nook - 577 KB
ISBN: 979-8674725985
BNID: 2940162958840
Genre: Women's Fiction

Buy The Book:
Barnes & Noble

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review.

Book Description:

From New York Times bestselling author Joanne DeMaio comes a love story set at a tucked-away cottage by the sea.

For Mack and Avery Martinelli, the summer is their oyster. They can spend all day on the beach, or not. Cruise the dusty beach roads, or never leave their deck overlooking Long Island Sound. Fill their itinerary with excursions on the Connecticut shore, or while away the hours in a shingled cottage. Every decision this week is theirs to make.

Until it's not. Until life as they know it changes -- and suddenly the Martinellis have to face only each other. Face each other in The Beach Cottage and see what they have, or don't have, between them.

Book Excerpt:

My Book Review:

In The Beach Cottage, author Joanne DeMaio transports the reader to Hatchett's Point, a secluded beach in Old Lyme, Connecticut, where newlyweds Mack and Avery Martinelli plan to spend their week-long honeymoon at Mack's family's beach cottage, only to have their plans turned upside down by the Covid-19 pandemic.

After a fairytale wedding with all the bells and whistles, the expensive cost cut into Mack and Avery's honeymoon budget, and Avery didn't envision spending their honeymoon at the beach cottage for seven days, let alone under the stay-at-home orders that were issued when the governor of Connecticut locked down the state due to the pandemic. Avery feels trapped, anxious, and overwhelmed, while Mack is the exact opposite by taking everything in stride. Mack suggests that they take this time to get to learn about each other. The beach cottage is a blessing in disguise, as Mack and Avery take advantage of life slowing down and being in the moment, leaving the world's troubles behind.

In The Beach Cottage, Author Joanne DeMaio easily captivates her readers' attention with this beautifully written novella that captures the reality of the pandemic that Mack and Avery faced, one that we all have been living with since the winter. Through a seamless and flowing storyline, and with a wonderful description of a tranquil beach setting that wraps itself around the reader like a sun-warmed beach towel, the reader follows Mack and Avery as they learn about themselves, and the changes that the pandemic has brought to their new marriage. Mack and Avery easily draw you into their lives with a strong emotional pull, their complexities and flaws are true-to-life, it is easy to relate to them with compassion, empathy, and hope as they struggle to cope with the new normal lifestyle that the pandemic has brought upon them.

I loved reading this compelling and poignant novella. The author realistically described the sign of the times that we've all felt by the changes brought upon us by the Covid-19 pandemic. Mack and Avery's story will take the reader on an emotional roller coaster ride where every gamut of emotion is felt, especially the emotional ending, where the reader is left with a reminder that life can change in an instant, yet hoping for the best.


About The Author

Joanne DeMaio is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary fiction. She enjoys writing about friendship, family, love and choices, while setting her stories in New England towns or by the sea. The Beach Cottage is her newest book. Currently at work on her next novels, Joanne lives with her family in Connecticut.

Author Website
Amazon Author Page

Friday, September 11, 2020

All We Buried by Elena Taylor (VBT: 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 All We Buried by author Elena Taylor!

Book Review

All We Buried by Elena Taylor
Book 1: Sheriff Bet Rivers Mystery Series
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: April 7, 2020
Format: Hardcover - 304 pages
                AudioBook - 8 Hours 51 Minutes
               Kindle - 1089 KB
               Nook - 1 MB
ISBN: 978-1643852911
ASIN (AudioBook): B085864RX2
ASIN (eBook): B07RQH353V
BNID: 978-1643853123
Genre: Mystery

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 Virtual Book Tours.

Book Description:

For fans of Julia Keller and Sheena Kamal, All We Buried disturbs the long-sleeping secrets of a small Washington State mountain town.

Interim sheriff Elizabeth “Bet” Rivers has always had one repeat nightmare: a shadowy figure throwing a suspicious object into her hometown lake in Collier, Washington. For the longest time, she chalked it up to an overactive imagination as a kid. Then the report arrives. In the woods of the Cascade mountain range, right in her jurisdiction, a body floats to the surface of Lake Collier. When the body is extricated and revealed, no one can identify Jane Doe. But someone must know the woman, so why aren’t they coming forward?

Bet has been sitting as the interim sheriff of this tiny town in the ill-fitting shoes of her late father and predecessor. With the nightmare on her heels, Bet decided to build a life for herself in Los Angeles, but now it’s time to confront the tragic history of Collier. The more she learns, the more Bet realizes she doesn’t know the townspeople of Collier as well as she thought, and nothing can prepare her for what she is about to discover.

Book Excerpt:


Sheriff Bet Rivers leaned back in her chair and gazed out the office window at the shifting light on Lake Collier. Bright sunlight cast up sparkling diamonds as a late-summer breeze chopped the surface—turquoise-blue and silver. The fragment of a song from her childhood teased her mind—silver, blue, and gold. She hummed the tune under her breath.

Red and yellow leaves turned the maple trees in the park across the street into Jackson Pollock paintings. Hard to believe Labor Day weekend ended tonight. Somehow summer had slipped by and fall had snuck up on her as she tended to her new position.

If she had still been in Los Angeles, she’d have been a detective by now. Instead, she was back in her tiny hometown with a job her father had tricked her into taking.

“I need you to cover for me while I get chemo,” he said. “It’s just for a few months. I’m going to be fine.”

With the detective exam available only once every two years, it meant putting her career on hold. But her father had never asked her for anything; how could she say no?

He never said he would die, turning her “interim sheriff” position into something more permanent.

Her father always knew what cards to play. Competition. Family. Responsibility. Loyalty. Collier. A perfect straight. He’d used them all this time, as if he’d known it would be his last hand. No easy way to extricate herself now, short of gnawing off her own foot.

The sound of instruments tuning up pulled her attention to a trio set up at a bench outside the market across the street. The raised sidewalk and false front of the old building made the perfect backdrop for their performance. Collier relied on tourism for much of its income, and the local musicians encouraged visitors to stay longer and spend more.

A beat of silence followed by a quick intake of breath, the unspoken communication of musicians well attuned to one another, and the trio launched into song.

Church of a different sort. Bet could hear her father’s words. I don’t know if there’s a God, Bet, but I do believe in bluegrass.

The music produced a soundtrack to her grief. The banjo player favored the fingerpicking style of the great Earl Scruggs. Loss etched in the sound of three-part harmony, Earle Rivers’s death still a wound that wouldn’t close.

She recognized the fiddle player. She’d babysat him years ago. It made her feel old. Not yet thirty, she wasn’t, but as the last generation of Lake Collier Riverses, the weight of history fell heavy on her shoulders. In a line of sheriffs stretching back to the town’s founding, she was the bitter end.

Looking down at her desk, Bet eyed the new fly she’d tied. The small, barbless hook would work well for the catch-and-release fishing she did, and the bright yellow and green feathers pleased her. The only thing she’d missed while living in California. Surf fishing wasn’t the same.

I should name it in your memory, Dad. The Earle fly. Her grandfather had named him after Scruggs, but her grandmother added the e because she liked how it looked.

Bet imagined her father’s critical response to her work, the size of the hook too dainty for his memorial.

Bet “spoke” with her father more now, four months after his death, than she’d ever done when he lived. Another burden she carried. The conversations they’d never had. Things she should have asked but didn’t.

She took a deep breath of the dry, pine scent that drifted in through the open windows, filling the room with a heady summer perfume. She should get up and walk around, let the community see she was on the job, but her body felt leaden. And it wasn’t like anyone would notice. She could vanish for hours and it wouldn’t matter to Collier; no one required her attention. Not like they had depended on her father. His death still hung over town like a malaise, her presence an insufficient cure no matter what Earle might have believed when he called her home.

Before her father’s illness, she’d had a plan. First the police academy, then patrol officer, proving she could make it in Los Angeles as a cop. She’d envisioned at least twenty years in LA, moving up the ranks—something with Chief in the title— returning home with a long, impressive career before stepping into Earle’s shoes.

Too late, she’d realized he wouldn’t get better. He’d brought her home for good.

Stretching her arms above her head, she walked her fingers up the wall behind her, tapping to the beat of the music. Anything to shake off the drowsiness brought on by the hot, quiet day and long nights of uneasy sleep.

The coffee stand beckoned from across the street, but the sound of the front door opening and the low, throaty voice of the department’s secretary, Alma, stopped her from voyaging out. A two-pack-a-day smoker for almost forty years, Alma sounded a lot like Lauren Bacall after a night of heavy drinking. She’d given up smoking more than twenty years ago, but even now, as she edged into her seventies, Alma’s voice clung to the roughness like a dying man to a life preserver. Bet hoped the visitor only wanted information about the community and Alma could answer.

No such luck. The efficient clop of Alma’s square-heeled shoes clumped down the scarred floors of the hallway, a counterpoint to another set of feet. Bet brought her hands down off the wall and automatically tucked a wayward curl of her auburn hair back up under her hat before Alma arrived, poking her birdlike head around the wooden frame of the door. Gray hair teased tall, as if that would give her five-foot frame a couple extra inches.

“Bet?” Alma always said her name as though it might not be Bet Rivers sitting behind the enormous sheriff’s desk. Bet assumed Alma wished to find Earle Rivers there. She wondered how long that would last. If Bet threw the upcoming election and fled back to Southern California, leaving her deputy to pick up the reins, maybe everyone would be better off, no matter what her father wanted.

“Yes, Alma?” “I think you’d better listen to what this young man has to say.” The “young man” in question could be anywhere under the age of sixty in Alma’s book, and as he stood out of sight down the hallway, Bet had little to go on.

“Okay,” Bet said.

“I think it’s important.” Alma waited for Bet to show appropriate attention. “Okay.”

“Seems he found a dead body floating in the lake.”

My Book Review:

In All We Buried, book one of the Sheriff Bet Rivers Mystery Series, author Elena Taylor transports the reader to the small town of Collier, Washington, for an intriguing mystery story that will keep the reader guessing and turning the pages.

Four years ago, Elizabeth "Bet" Rivers left her small lakeside hometown of Collier, Washington, to become a patrol officer with the LAPD. Six months ago, Bet's father, Collier Sheriff Earle Rivers, called her home to become the interim Sheriff while he battled cancer. When her father suddenly died four months ago, Bet finds herself the Sheriff of the small town, up for election and challenged by Deputy Dale Kovac, and faced with her first homicide investigation. Bet needs to solve this case, and prove that she can follow in her father's footsteps.

As Bet delves into the case of a young female body found wrapped up in canvas and floating in Lake Collier, she soon discovers that her small hometown has deep dark secrets, and the more she learns, the more danger, potential motives, and suspects are added to the list, and one of them is determined to stop Bet before she uncovers and reveals all of their dark secrets.

Author Elena Taylor weaves a fast-paced and suspenseful tale that follows Bet's first homicide investigation as Sheriff of Collier. I loved reading this action-packed story. Bet's first foray into investigating a homicide case as Sheriff kept me intrigued as her investigative techniques were put to the test.

The reader will be easily drawn into this richly descriptive plot that will keep them guessing, as haunting secrets, and unexpected twists and turns are revealed. Bet's small hometown's deeply buried past comes to the surface as family secrets, a growing list of possible suspects, motives, and clues are uncovered. And if that's not enough, Bet has her own buried demons that she needs to face!

All We Buried has enough drama, tension, action, dark secrets, intrigue, a touch of romance, and unexpected twists and turns that will take the reader on one heck of a thrilling roller coaster ride.


About The Author

Elena Taylor lives on the banks of the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River in a town made famous by Twin Peaks. When she’s not writing or working one-on-one with writers as a developmental editor, she can be found hanging out with her husband, dog, and two cats. Her favorite place to be (besides home) is the stables down the road, with her two horses Radar and Jasper.

Author Website
Amazon Author Page

Contest Giveaway

Win A $20 Amazon Gift Card

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Elena Taylor. There will be 2 winners of one (1) Gift Card each. The giveaway begins on September 1, 2020 and runs through October 2, 2020. Void where prohibited. 

Virtual Book Tour Event

Tour Participants:

09/01 Review @ Tome Tender

09/02 Showcase @ Rabid readers book blog

09/03 Review @ Kritters Ramblings

09/04 Interview @ BooksChatter

09/05 Review @ Book Reviews From an Avid Reader

09/06 Showcase @ EienCafe

09/07 Showcase @ Sylv. net

09/08 Review @ Archaeolibrarian - I Dig Good Books!

09/09 Review @ Erica Robyn Reads

09/10 Review @ Jane Pettit Reviews

09/11 Review @ Jersey Girl Book Reviews

09/14 Review @ Reading A Page Turner

09/14 Showcase @ Im Into Books

09/15 Review @ From the TBR Pile

09/15 Review @ Novels N Latte

09/16 Showcase @ Celticladys Reviews

09/18 Interview @ Thoughts in Progress

09/18 Review @ Socrates Book Reviews

09/21 Review @ bless their hearts mom

09/22 Interview @ Blog Talk Radio

09/22 Review @ Just Reviews

09/22 Review @ Wall-to-wall Books

09/23 Review @ Quiet Fury Books

09/23 Review @ The World As I See It

09/23 Review/showcase @ Avonna Loves Genres

09/24 Interview/showcase @ CMash Reads

09/25 Review @ Nina_the_bookworm

09/28 Review @ Nesies Place

09/28 Review @ Quirky Cats Fat Stacks

09/29 Review @ A Room Without Books is Empty

09/29 Review/showcase @ The Bookwyrm

09/30 Guest post @ The Book Divas Reads

Friday, September 4, 2020

Derailed by Mary Keliikoa (VBT: 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 Derailed by author Mary Keliikoa!

Book Review

Derailed by Mary Keliikoa
Book 1: PI Kelly Pruett Mystery Series
Publisher: Epicenter Press
Publication Date: May 12, 2020
Format: Paperback - 232 pages
               Kindle - 560 KB
ISBN: 978-1603817066
BNID: 978-1603817066
Genre: Mystery

Buy The Book:

Buy The Series: PI Kelly Pruett Mystery Series
Book 1: Derailed

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 Virtual Book Tours.

Book Description:

A dying wish. A secret world.

Can this grieving investigator stay on the right track?

PI Kelly Pruett is determined to make it on her own. And juggling clients at her late father’s detective agency, a controlling ex, and caring for a deaf daughter was never going to be easy. She takes it as a good sign when a letter left by her dad ties into an unsolved case of a young woman struck by a train.

Hunting down the one person who can prove the mysterious death was not just a drunken accident, Kelly discovers this witness is in no condition to talk. And the closer she gets to the truth the longer her list of sleazy suspects with murderous motives grows. Each clue exposes another layer of the victim’s steamy double life.

Can Kelly pinpoint the murderer, or is she on the fast track to disaster?

Book Excerpt:


Portland, Oregon has as many parts as the human anatomy. Like the body, some are more attractive than others. My father’s P.I. business that I’d inherited was in what many considered the armpit, the northeast, where pickpockets and drug dealers dotted the narrow streets and spray paint tags of bubble-lettered gang signatures striped the concrete. In other words, home. I’m Kelly Pruett and I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

I’d just finished invoicing a client for a skip trace and flicked off the light in the front office my dad and I used to share when a series of taps came from the locked front door. It was three o’clock on a gloomy Friday afternoon. A panhandler looking for a handout or a bathroom was my best guess. Sitting at the desk, I couldn’t tell.

Floyd, my basset hound and the only real man in my life, lifted his droopy eyes to meet mine before flopping his head back down on his bed. No help there.

Another rap, louder this time.

Someone wanted my attention. I retrieved the canister of pepper spray from my purse and opened the door to a woman, her umbrella sheltering her from the late October drizzle. Her angle made it hard to see her face, only the soft curls in her hair and the briefcase hanging from her hand. I slipped the pepper spray into the pocket of my Nike warmup jacket.

“Is Roger Pruett in?” she asked, water droplets splatting the ground.

She hadn’t heard the news and I hadn’t brought myself to update R&K Investigation’s website. I swallowed the lump before it could form and clutch my throat. “No, sorry,” I said. “My dad died earlier this year. I’m his daughter, Kelly.”

“I’m so sorry.” She peered from under the umbrella, her expression pinched. She searched my face for a different answer.

I’d give anything to have one. “What do you need?”

“To hire a P.I. to investigate my daughter’s death. Can you help me?” Her voice cracked.

My stomach fluttered. Process serving, court document searches, and the occasional tedious stakeout had made up the bulk of my fifteen hundred hours of P.I. experience requirement. Not that I wasn’t capable of more. Dad had enjoyed handling cases himself with the plan to train me later. In the year since his death, no one had come knocking, and going through the motions of what I knew how to do well had been hard enough. Now this lady was here for my father’s help. I couldn’t turn her away. I raked my fingers through the top of my shoulder length hair and opened the door. “Come in.”

“Bless you.” She slid her umbrella closed and brushed past me.

After securing the lock, I led her through the small reception area and into my office. A bathroom and another office that substituted for a storage closet were down the long hallway heading to the rear exit. Floyd decided to take interest and lumbered over. With his butt in the air, he stretched at her feet before nearly snuffling my soon-to-be client’s shoe up his nose. She nodded at him before vicious Floyd found his way back to his corner, tail swaying behind him. Guess he approved.

The woman looked in her mid-sixties. She had coiffed hair the color of burnt almonds, high cheekbones, and a prominent nose. She reminded me of my middle school librarian who could get you to shut up with one glance. “Would you like coffee, Ms…?”

“No thank you. It’s Hanson.” She settled in the red vinyl chair across from my dad’s beaten and scarred desk. “Georgette Hanson.”

My skin tingled when she said her name.

“My condolences on your father,” she said.

“Thank you.” Her words were simple, and expected, but her eyes held pain. Having lost her daughter, she clearly could relate.

“How did it happen?” she asked.

I swallowed again. With as many people as I’d had to tell, it should be getting easier. It wasn’t. “Stroke. Were you a former client of my father’s?”

She waved her hand. “Something like that.” She lifted the briefcase to her lap and popped the latch. Her eyes softened. “He was a fine man. You look just like him.”

My confident, broad-shouldered, Welshman father had been quite fit and handsome in his youth. Most of my adult life he’d carried an extra fifty pounds, but that never undermined his strong chin, wise blue eyes, and thick chestnut hair. I’d been blessed with my Dad’s eyes and hair and had my mom’s round chin. But since I’d ballooned a couple of sizes while pregnant with Mitz, I knew which version she thought I resembled. “What were you hoping he could do for you with regards to your daughter?”

“Find out why she’s dead.” Georgette shoved a paper dated a few weeks ago onto the desk and snapped the case lid closed.

A picture of a young woman with a warm smile, a button nose, and long wavy brunette hair sat below the fold on the front page under the headline: WOMAN STRUCK BY MAX TRAIN DIES.

I winced at the thought of her violent end. “I’m sorry. Such a pretty girl.”

“She was perfect.” Georgette pulled off her gloves, her eyes brimming. “The train destroyed that. Do you know what a train does to a hundred-pound woman?” Her voice trembled.

To avoid envisioning the impact, I replaced it with the smiling face of Mitz, my eight-year-old daughter. Which made it worse. If anything ever happened to her… How Georgette wasn’t a puddle on the Formica eluded me. I took a minute to read the story. According to the article, Brooke Hanson fell from the sidewalk into the path of an oncoming MAX train downtown at Ninth and Morrison Street. The police reported alcohol was a contributing factor. “They detained the sole witness who found her, Jay Nightingale. Why?” I set the paper down.

Georgette brushed her hair away from her forehead flashing nails chewed to the quick. “At first, the police thought he had something to do with her fall. He told them he’d seen my Brooke stumble down the sidewalk and teeter on the edge of the curb. Supposedly, he called out the train was coming and she didn’t hear him. He made no effort to get her away from those tracks. When the autopsy showed she’d been drinking, they wrote her death off as an accident, released Mr. Nightingale, and closed the case.”

Their decision couldn’t have been that cut and dry. “How much had she been drinking?”

“You sound like the police.” Georgette lifted her chin and met my gaze. There are many stages to grief. One of them anger, another denial. Georgette straddled both, something I knew plenty about. “Not sure…exactly. You’ll have to check the report.”

I scanned her face for the truth. “You don’t know or you’re afraid to tell me?”

She massaged the palm of her hand with her thumb. “The bartender at the Limbo said she’d had a few before he’d cut her off and asked her to leave. None of that matters because Nightingale’s lying. He had something to do with her fall. He may have even pushed her. At the very least, he knows more than he’s telling.”

My eyebrows raised. The police weren’t perfect, but they had solid procedures in death investigations. They would have explored that angle. “What are you basing that on?”

“My gut.”

A mother’s intuition while undeniable, alone didn’t prove foul play. “Did the MAX operator see Mr. Nightingale next to her at any point?”

“He didn’t even see her because the area wasn’t well lit.”

“Do you have his name?”

“Chris Foley.”

I jotted the information down. “What do the train’s cameras show?”

“There weren’t any. And no passenger statements because the train was done for the night. But Brooke shouldn’t have even been in the vicinity of that train.”

“Where is the Limbo located?”

“Ten blocks from where she was hit.”

A half mile, give or take. “Could she have been heading to catch the MAX to go home?”

“Brooke detested mass transit. The people who ride during the day scared her. She wouldn’t go there at night. Besides, she lived south of town. The train wouldn’t have taken her there.” She sighed. “I’m telling you, she wouldn’t be that far from the bar unless someone…” She closed her eyes.

Georgette talked in circles attempting to make sense of it all, but I had first-hand knowledge of drunk people doing things out of character. Given what she’d described, I could understand why the police had closed the matter. Even so, her devastation gripped my heart. And something had brought her out on this rainy Friday. “What are you holding back, Ms. Hanson? Why do you feel so strongly Mr. Nightingale was involved that you’d come to my dad for help?”

She stared at her hands as if they held the answers. “Brooke had changed in the last year. Become more distant. Not visiting. Missing our weekly calls.” The corner of her mouth turned upward in a sad smile. “We used to go for pie once a month. She loved pie. Apple pie. Cherry pie.” Her smile melted. “One day she was too busy and couldn’t get away. When she did, she didn’t look well. Stressed.”

“Did she say what was bothering her?”

“No. She shut me out, which she’d never done before. Now to have been killed by a train downtown when that Nightingale fellow was close enough to stop it from happening? He’s involved. I can feel it.” She straightened. “Until I know what happened that night, I won’t rest.” Georgette reached into her purse and produced an envelope grasped in her right hand. “Here’s three thousand for you to find the truth. Please say you’ll help me.”

Despite steady work from a few law firms around town, and an adequate divorce settlement, being a single mom often meant more month than money. Georgette was offering twice what I made in a good month of process serving and that would go a long way in taking care of my little girl. Not needing to ever rely on my ex would have been incentive alone, but there was more to it than that.

I’d recognized Georgette’s name the moment she’d said it. At the reading of my dad’s will, his lawyer had handed me a handwritten letter. It was a request from my dad that if a Georgette Hanson ever came to his door asking for help, I should assist and not ask questions why. It had meant nothing at the time. I’d figured it was due to his unending dedication to his clients.

Because Georgette had a connection to my dad in some capacity, that sealed my decision to at least try and help her. While I’d been directed not to ask questions, even he would have needed the obvious one answered before he took her money.

“You said she’d changed. Is there any chance she might have…I mean, was she depressed? Could she have stepped…”

Georgette cut me off. “Stop.” Her eyes grew wide with denial and the damn broke. Tears poured over her cheeks; her shoulders shook, buckling from the weight of her anguish. The anger and determination she’d used as a mask crumbled, and each passing second exposed another layer of her gut-wrenching grief.

I shifted at witnessing her raw emotion, bracing myself against my own around my father, and my thoughts on Mitz. Tears stung my eyes, unsure how to comfort my client when I struggled to do that for myself.

She muffled a wail with the back of her hand and finally drew in deep breaths until the sobs subsided.

I grabbed a box of Kleenex behind me. She already had a handful of tissue ready from her purse. I’d back off the notion of suicide—for the moment. The woman didn’t need any more distress than she’d already endured.

She sniffed hard a couple of times and sopped up her face with the tissue. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.” I swiped under my eyes with my fingers, gaining control over my thoughts. “I’m not sure I’ll uncover anything new, but I will look for you.”

“Thank you.” She composed herself and stuffed the tissue back in her purse for the next inevitable breakdown.

I handed Georgette one of my dad’s old contracts, explaining my hourly rate, and a couple of authorization forms that might come in handy if requesting any case files was necessary.

She signed her name without bothering to read the fine print. She stood, the vinyl chair screeching against the hardwood floor startling Floyd. Her expression softened. “How old are you?”


“Brooke was a couple of years older, but pretty, like you and with the same flowing brown hair and kind eyes.” She sniffed. “I came to Roger because he could get to the heart of things. If you’re like him, you’ll find out what happened to my baby.”

I’d never be as good as my dad, but I did possess his mule-like stubbornness to get to the bottom of things. My ex could attest to that. “I’ll do what I can.”

She nodded. “Brooke was a good girl. She loved animals, ran every morning, and worked for the law firm Anderson, Hiefield & Price. She was the head accountant there.” Her face beamed with pride before her chin trembled again, but she held it together.

“It might help if I get a better sense of who she was.” I slid the legal pad to her. “If I could get her address, I’d like to start there.”

Georgette jotted the information down and pushed it back to me. She dug into her purse and produced the key. “I haven’t brought myself to go there yet.”

I gave her a sympathetic smile. “Are there family or friends I should start with?”

“Besides my husband, Chester, there’s just her sister, Hannah, who lives in Seattle. They weren’t close.” Georgette cleared her throat. “She never spoke to me about friends or boyfriends. Honestly, with her work schedule, she didn’t have time for any.”

With my own social life lacking, I related. “Do you have her cell? I’d like to check who she had on speed dial.”

She shook her head. “It wasn’t among her belongings.”

What thirty-something didn’t have their phone glued to them? Unless the impact of the train threw it. Another image I pushed away. I rounded my desk and walked her out of my office.

“Please keep in touch on how the investigation is going,” she said.

I assured her I would. She squeezed my arm to thank me as she left. With a twist of the deadbolt, I rested my shoulder against the door and closed my eyes. Mitz would get hugged a little closer tonight.

At my desk, Floyd trotted over and sat at my feet. He rested his chin on my lap while I added a few more notes. His sixth sense of when I needed him never faltered. I tucked the notes, along with a couple of divorce petitions into my bag to serve in between outings with Mitz.

It was early enough to get to Brooke’s place, about twenty minutes away, and to the grocery store so Mitz and I weren’t eating PB&Js for dinner. The faster I got started and found answers, the sooner Georgette could begin healing. If I was lucky, Brooke’s phone would be sitting on her nightstand waiting to be found.

Before getting up, I pulled the letter from my dad out of the top drawer and unfolded the paper. I traced the ruts in the desk we shared with my finger as I read his words. Georgette’s name was there in black and white. I had wanted to ask her more about how she knew my dad, but he’d been explicit in his request. He was a good man, albeit a tough man that I didn’t question. Nor had I ever felt the need to. It hadn’t been easy for him after my mom died, and we became the Two Musketeers. We may have run out of time for him to teach me everything he knew about being a P.I., but I’d learn as I went. I had no other choice. Helping Georgette was the last thing I could do for him. And I would.

“Ready to boogie, Floyd?” I flicked off the lights and Floyd padded behind me down the narrow hall to the backdoor.

We jogged to my yellow 1980 Triumph Spitfire, a gift from my dad when I graduated. “You know the routine, buddy.” Floyd stretched himself halfway into the car, and with a grunt, I lifted in his other half. He tripped over the manual gearshift and settled into the passenger seat as I slunk behind the wheel. The engine started right up, for a change.

Brooke was a couple of years older than me—far too young to die. Was Nightingale involved in her death? Did he know more than he was telling? Or was he just a helpless bystander who could only watch Brooke fall because she was drunk off her ass? I had a feeling I’d be returning the bulk of Georgette’s money after putting in some legwork. With a case the Portland police had already closed and an eyewitness who’d already been cleared, what other possibility was there?

My Book Review:

In Derailed, book one of the PI Kelly Pruett Mystery Series, author Mary Keliikoa transports the reader to Portland, Oregon for an intriguing private investigator mystery story that will keep the reader guessing and turning the pages.

PI Kelly Pruett inherited R & K Investigations from her father Roger, after he suddenly died from a stroke. The past year has been difficult as she grieves her father's death, while also dealing with her ex-husband Jeff, and his meddling mother Arlene.

When Georgette Hanson comes into the agency looking to hire Roger to investigate her daughter Brooke's death, Kelly remembers a letter that her father attached to his will, requesting that she assist Georgette if she needs help without asking why. With her father's request in mind, Kelly agrees to take on her first investigative case.

As Kelly delves into the case, the more she learns about Brooke, the more she discovers that Brooke wasn't who her family thought she was, and that her death may not have been accidental after all. The more information Kelly discovers, the more danger, potential motives, and suspects are added to the list, and one of them is determined to stop Kelly before she reveals the truth of Brooke's death at any cost.

Author Mary Keliikoa weaves a fast-paced and suspenseful tale written in the first person narrative that follows Kelly's first investigation to uncover the truth behind the death of Brooke Hanson.

I loved reading this action-packed story. Kelly's first foray into being a PI kept me intrigued as her investigative techniques were put to the test. The reader will be easily drawn into this richly descriptive plot that will keep them guessing as family secrets, a growing list of possible suspects, motives, and clues are uncovered. And if that's not enough, Kelly also has to deal with personal issues with her ex-husband over the shared custody of their deaf eight year old daughter Mitz, a meddling mother-in-law, the unexpected revelation of a family secret, and a budding romance thrown into the mix.

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


About The Author

Mary Keliikoa spent the first 18 years of her adult life working around lawyers. Combining her love of all things legal and books, she creates a twisting mystery where justice prevails. She has had a short story published in Woman’s World and is the author of the PI Kelly Pruett Mystery Series.

At home in Washington, she enjoys spending time with her family and her writing companions/fur-kids. When not at home, you can find Mary on a beach on the Big Island where she and her husband recharge. But even under the palm trees and blazing sun she’s plotting her next murder—novel that is.

Author Website
Amazon Author Page

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