Monday, July 25, 2016

Michael J. Bowler - A Matter of Time - Review & Giveaway

About the Book

The world's greatest evil stalks the world's greatest ship, and the only one who can stop him hasn't been born yet. Jamie Collins is a junior at Santa Clara University in 1986. He has friends, a professor who mentors him, and a promising future as a writer. Then the dreams begin - nightmarish memories that transport him back to a time and place fifty years before he was born: Titanic's maiden voyage in 1912. When Jamie discovers a foreign cell in his blood that links him to the famous vessel, the two timelines begin to overlap and he realizes an unimaginable truth - something supernatural stalks the ill-fated ship, something that will kill him if he can't stop it first. And the only way to stop it may be to prevent Titanic from sinking. But even if he can figure out a way to do that, should he? What will be the effect on history if he succeeds? And what about the lady he wasn't supposed to fall in love with? As her destiny becomes entwined with his, Jamie discovers the value of friendship, the power of love, the impact of evil, and the vagaries of Fate.

My Review

Yes, this is a story about the Titanic and vampires and other mind-bending plot twists. But what got to me was the spirit of undying love, nestled in the book's pages. I admit I'm an unabashed romantic, and there was just something about the passages, featuring Jamie and Kate that really moved me.

You just have to go with the idea that Jamie is a college student from 1986 who somehow is able to board the Titanic on that fateful night in 1912. While trying to get his bearings, he bumps into Kate, a wealthy young widow, who's below deck, attempting to procure some chocolate ice cream for her son's bedtime treat. It turns out Kate's husband died eight years ago, and she's been on her own ever since she was eighteen, resisting the idea of getting involved with another man … when she locks eyes with Jamie.

The sheer emotion of that moment can be felt in the title line: "It was inevitable that he'd find her one day, it was only a matter of time."

Is it a case of insta-love? Sure, it is. But it's so beautifully written that it makes you want to look past it. Jamie feels like Kate is the one he's been waiting for his whole life. She doesn't do anything to stand out, besides be herself. Beneath her soft, gauzy dress is an inner strength that he can't help but be drawn to. And let me tell you, I've read almost every one of Bowler's novels and this has to be the most touching scene he's ever written.

She's someone he can't have. Jamie always believed that he'd never find someone like Kate, someone who'd love him for a lifetime. Yet they meet at the wrong time under a horrible set of circumstances. It wasn't supposed to happen this way, but it does, and it made my heart ache just reading about it.

I like it when Bowler gets, for lack of a better term, romantic. Although, he never lets us inside Kate's head, the thoughts running through Jamie's are heartbreakingly tender. It's painful to see how perfect they are for each other, only to see them torn apart due to the tragic events of that terrible evening.

But their unexpected reunion? That's when you'll need to keep a box of tissues handy. It's a tearjerker of a moment, reminiscent of "The Notebook," or for that matter, any great love story, grounded in sacrifice. Love is glorious, but it also brings a lot of hurt and pain along with it. But Jamie makes it clear that he's willing to endure whatever fate befalls them. The few precious moments he got to spend with her on the Titanic make it all worthwhile. While after getting separated from Jamie and ending up in a lifeboat, Kate vows to never give up hope at finding him again.

They make the choice to love each other, and it's moving to behold.


A Matter of Time can be purchased at:
Barnes and Noble

Formats/Prices: $2.99 ebook, $12.95 paperback, $14.95-$21.83 Audible
Genre: Historical Fiction, Suspense
Pages: 340
Release: March 2, 2012
Publisher: Outskirts Press
ISBN: 9781432787110
Click to add to your Goodreads list.

About the Author

Michael J. Bowler is an award-winning author of nine novels—A Boy and His Dragon, A Matter of Time (Silver Medalist from Reader’s Favorite), and The Knight Cycle, comprised of five books: Children of the Knight (Gold Award Winner – 2013 Wishing Shelf Book Awards; Reader Views Honorable mention; Runner-Up Rainbow Awards; Honorable Mention - Southern California Book Festival), Running Through A Dark Place (Bronze Award Winner in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards), There Is No Fear (Finalist – 2015 Wishing Shelf Book Awards), And The Children Shall Lead, Once Upon A Time In America; Spinner (Winner Hollywood Book Festival; Honorable Mention San Francisco Book Festival; Bronze Medal from Reader’s Favorite; Literary Classics Seal of Approval; Runner-Up - Southern California Book Festival; Honorable Mention - Halloween Book Festival; Finalist – 2015 Wishing Shelf Book Awards), and Warrior Kids: A Tale of New Camelot (Honorable Mention in the London Book Festival and The New England Book Festival; Finalist – 2015 Wishing Shelf Book Awards).

His horror screenplay, “Healer,” was a Semi-Finalist, and his urban fantasy script, “Like A Hero,” was a Finalist in the Shriekfest Film Festival and Screenplay Competition.

He grew up in San Rafael, California, and majored in English and Theatre at Santa Clara University. He went on to earn a master’s in film production from Loyola Marymount University, a teaching credential in English from LMU, and another master's in Special Education from Cal State University Dominguez Hills.

He partnered with two friends as producer, writer, and/or director on several ultra-low-budget horror films, including “Fatal Images,” “Club Dead,” and “Things II.”

He taught high school in Hawthorne, California for twenty-five years, both in general education and to students with learning disabilities, in subjects ranging from English and Strength Training to Algebra, Biology, and Yearbook.

He has also been a volunteer Big Brother to eight different boys with the Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters program and a thirty-year volunteer within the juvenile justice system in Los Angeles.

He has been honored as Probation Volunteer of the Year, YMCA Volunteer of the Year, California Big Brother of the Year, and 2000 National Big Brother of the Year. The “National” honor allowed him and three of his Little Brothers to visit the White House and meet the president in the Oval Office.

He has finished writing a novel based on his screenplay, “Like A Hero,” and another book aimed at the teen market. He hopes to find a publisher or an agent for both.

His goal as an author is for teens to experience empowerment and hope; to see themselves in his diverse characters; to read about kids who face real-life challenges; and to see how kids like them can remain decent people in an indecent world. The most prevalent theme in his writing and his work with youth is this: as both a society, and as individuals, we’re better off when we do what’s right, rather than what’s easy.

Links to connect with Michael:
Web Site
Blog Tour Site

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Monday, July 18, 2016

Claudia Riess - Semblance of Guilt - 99¢ Ebook Sale, Review, Excerpts & Giveaway

About the Book

Ellen Davis’s husband left her for another woman. Post-divorce, she’s trying to reassert her independence and lands a job as a reporter for her local newspaper. One of her assignments is covering weekly items on the police blotter, which is how she gets to know Lieutenant Pete Sakura—a handsome, witty Japanese- American Ellen is drawn to immediately.

Another of Ellen’s assignments is interviewing for the paper’s “Around The Town” column, and in this capacity, she meets Graham and Sophia Clarke, newcomers to the community. He’s an administrator at Columbia; she’s his beautiful Greek wife. Ellen and Sophia become fast friends, so it comes as a great shock when Sophia ends up dead.

Sophia Clarke is found murdered, and to all appearances, Ellen is the last person to have seen her alive. When Ellen’s fingerprints are found on the murder weapon, she’s arrested, and evidence steadily mounts against her. Ellen takes matters into her own hands as her romantic feelings for Pete intensify. Closing this case could either save Ellen or lead to her destruction.


Ellen Davis is a female character who challenges what it means to be a woman in today's world. When her husband leaves her for someone else, it makes her question her whole identity. So in order to hold on to a semblance of self-worth, she sets out to forge a new life for herself, vowing never to become dependent on a man again.

But things start out on an awkward foot when her boss at her newspaper job, knowing she's newly single, makes a pass at her, and of course, she wastes no time shooting him down. But fate has other plans for her when she arrives at the police station for one of her assignments and comes face to face with Lieutenant Pete Sakura, a man she finds herself instantly attracted to, much to her chagrin.

To say this encounter upends Ellen's dogged determination to remain single is putting it lightly. She's so distracted by the feelings Pete has stirred up inside her that she unwittingly falls into the trap of a much more devious man, Graham Clarke. He just moved to New York and she meets him to conduct an interview for the society column, but things aren't as innocent as they appear. Graham's not interested in having his name in the paper. He's looking for a willing victim to take the fall for the murder of his wife and Ellen, of all people, ends up being charged with a crime she didn't commit.

For the rest of the story, Ellen struggles with the idea of victimhood. She was played for a fool by her husband and now by a smooth talking manipulator like Graham. As she battles her way through an exhausting trial, Pete wants to be there to support her, but she keeps pushing him away, afraid of being duped yet again. Her instincts are telling her that Pete's not like any of the men who've hurt her before, but she keeps refusing to believe it.

All because she wants to save herself. She refuses to be any man's damsel in distress. But the question remains: Can she really find her way out of this alone?


After navigating past the desks, she knocked on the door of the cubicle. No response. The second, more deliberate, rap was answered with an impatient “Come!”

Ellen entered the office and was somewhat taken aback by the sight of an attractive Asian man in shirt-sleeves awkwardly poised by the side of his desk, arms out, legs spread one behind the other, the front one slightly bent, the rear rigidly locked. He looked, she thought, as if he were trying to keep his balance on a skateboard. His attention was fixed on an open book sitting at the edge of his desk. “Give me a second,” he said testily, without taking his eyes off the book and at the same time adjusting the position of his front foot to a more pigeon-toed angle.

“I won’t ask what you’re doing,” Ellen said.

“Smart.” There was a sound of raised voices coming from the outer room. “The door!”

She closed it. “However, maybe you’d like to know what I’m doing?”

He ignored her question. “Damn, I’m not getting it.” He glanced up. “Do me a favor, take a look at number fifty and tell me what the hell is wrong here.”

Ellen approached the desk and peered down at the open book. A two-page spread of photographs showed a man in what looked like an usher’s uniform demonstrating a series of exercises. “Is this tai chi?”

“This is a pain in the ass. Could you look at the picture, tell me where I’m off, please?”

“‘Fair Lady works at Shuttles,’” she read aloud. She looked up from the page at him then back down again. “I see where you are. Figure fifty-A. It says: ‘Elbow bent, your right hand comes to your center line, fingers pinched together…’” She looked up. “For starters, your fingers aren’t pinched together.”

“Just hold the book up so I can see it from a better angle, okay?”

She held the book, show-and-tell style. He went through a variety of disconnected motions, clearly becoming more frustrated. “Shit.”

Ellen had formed a perception of the Japanese male as meditative, controlled, mysterious, soft-spoken, one who quietly went about transcending the material world while politely manipulating it. She had never realized she harbored this fully defined and fallacious stereotype until that moment, as she was looking at what appeared to be its antithesis. “If your phone rings, should I answer it?”

“Forget it.” He dropped the pose, took the book from her and put it back on the desk. “I’m all out of sync.”

“Now I’ll ask. What are you doing?”

“Getting my goddamn yin and yang together. My doctor tells me I have an ulcer and prescribes pills, but I don’t like pills. I’m taking up the eastern approach.”

“But isn’t tai chi Chinese?”

“Yeah, so?”

“‘Sakura’ sounds like a Japanese name.”

“Let me ask you a question. You ever eat chow mein?”

“Well, yes.”

“I rest my case.” He waved her toward the chair on the other side of the desk and dropped down into his own. “Sit.”

She remained on her feet. “I’m Ellen Davis. I was told you had the data for the Chronicle’s ‘Blotter’ column. I’m just here to collect it.”

He threw up a hand. “What’s the point of that column? All it does is stigmatize the poor saps who appear in it. There’s no investigation of circumstances, no disclaimers stating charges could be erroneous. Just a cold-blooded list of citations.”

“It’s supposed to serve as a deterrent,” she said without conviction. “Actually, I don’t particularly like the column myself, but I don’t make up the rules. I’m sorry I messed up your exercise routine. May I have the material, please?”

She became aware of herself as an unattached, uncompromised individual as she once was at Penn. She sensed the boundaries of her being as clearly as she felt the hem of her knit dress pull tightly against her legs with each step she took. It was as if she had never been married, had instead dressed for an interview and walked straight out of west Philadelphia into Morningside Heights.

Mid-block between 109 and 108 Streets, as she was passing a shoe store and scanning the view across the way, her attention was drawn to the bright blue awning of Charlie’s Snack Bar. At that moment the door to the restaurant opened, and a tall young woman with cropped red hair and wearing a tight black turtleneck sweater, clingy black pants and black cowboy boots, stepped out into the daylight. The girl stood aside to allow the man behind her to pass, and as he emerged completely into the sunlight, Ellen recognized Graham. She was about to hail him, when he took a step toward the redhead and Ellen realized he was with her. Unable to tear her focus from the scene or insinuate herself into it, she backed up into the shadow cast by the overhanging eave of the shoe store.

While Graham snapped down and adjusted the removable sun-visors of his eyeglasses, the young woman reached into the breast pocket of his blazer, drew out a pair of sunglasses he must have been holding for her, and put them on, in the process grazing her breasts against his left elbow. The act defined them as intimate friends, yet the distance springing up between them immediately afterward seemed devised to refute it. They stood apart talking to each other, their postures stiff and formal, their not touching as conspicuous as an open embrace.

Ellen watched them as her years at Penn were sucked into a black hole, and all she could remember was her husband Kevin dropping the bomb, telling her he was leaving her. Watching Graham and the redhead across the street was like catching the discovery scene she had missed, seeing it replayed for her benefit, like a burlesque in which she was both captive audience and object of scorn.

Almost at once she felt a connection with Sophia.

Sophia pulled her hands away and struck out at Ellen in one continuous movement, throwing herself off balance and stumbling sideways. She stared in horror at the gouge one of her nails had made on Ellen’s chest, and Ellen, stunned by the violence and not yet feeling the pain, gazed in disbelief at the drop of blood tracking toward the scalloped edge of her white satin bustier.

“Go—get out of here,” Sophia rasped. “I’m afraid what I might do to you. Get out, get out.”

The blood trickled onto the rim of smooth white fabric, forming a small, irregular stain. Ellen looked up at Sophia. The woman she thought she knew had become a trapped animal, her eyes wary-wild.

A sharp pain from the nick in her chest jolted her from her numbing inertia. She moved quickly from the room, feeling the tears coming, holding them back, postponing them as she ran silently down the hall. She descended the steps with blazing deliberation, her pace quick and even, her focus on reaching the door and disappearing into the sheltering night. She could feel her eyes, static-wide in bewildered alarm, betraying her attempt to appear in total control. Still, she focused straight ahead, concentrating on her goal, hearing Anna calling her name but moving through the sound, pacing herself to simulate haste without flight as she sliced through the clear zone of the foyer and pushed open the storm door. Midway across the porch she collided with an incoming guest, all pearls and black silk, the woman’s staccatoed “Shit!” like a gunshot in an open field of combat.

Picking up speed, she hurtled down the bluestone drive, anticipating the sound of the engine starting up even before she could spot her car.


Tuesday, March 13. First day in court. The jury sat knit-browed and entranced, leaning forward so as not to miss a word, not yet settled in their role of deliberative body. To Ellen, they looked as if they’d been caught off guard at the supermarket, a rainbow assortment of shoppers rounded up one afternoon and transported to a box at the opera, best seats in the house.

Ellen sat in a heavy, slat-back chair drawn up close to a long oak table. She was wearing a gray suit and paisley print blouse because Rosenthal had told her to wear something conservative but not somber. The skirt buckled and slid around her waist every time she moved because in the last two months she’d lost ten pounds from under-eating and over-exercising. As she’d taken her seat in the courtroom, she’d snagged her pantyhose on a rough spot on the table leg and felt the rip crawl up her leg, making her feel exposed to the prying eyes in the room. She’d been unable to choose earrings that morning, vacillating between small and large, shiny and dull, gold and silver, fixating on this final aspect of her attire as if she could determine the decision of the jury by choosing the politically correct objects to hang on her earlobes. When Rosenthal blew his car horn in the driveway she’d grabbed for familiarity, the small gold hoops, before allowing herself to be whisked off to the mind-boggling unknown.

Sitting next to her at the oak table, “Try to relax,” Rosenthal whispered in her ear, leaning toward and away from her in one smooth, condensed motion.

Ellen sat back in the chair, her rigid spine meeting hard wood, the word “relax” banned from her body’s vocabulary. Through an impromptu technique of auto-suggestion and deep breathing, she was barely managing to bring under control the strangulating tension in her neck and the explosive blood-humming in her ears. It was not her lawyer’s fault she hadn’t been prepared for Mark Gilbert’s speech. Rosenthal had described the prosecutor’s meticulous approach, but there was no way he could have prepared her for the immediacy of the event: the way Gilbert cocked his left hip as he stood facing the jury; how his dark eyes seemed to glow from some deep passion or conviction; how he flashed her alternating looks of consternation and pity; how he stressed syllables unexpectedly, so that his words jumped against the wall of her chest—“enter the room,” “points of the scissors,” “homicidal violence”; how his brow suddenly furrowed as he reminded the jury—“You and I, we represent the People. We have been charged not to avenge a wrong, but to deliver justice.”


“Come up to the bedroom.”


“Stay the night.”


“Hurry.” She wanted to be taken on the spot, jammed against the table or pinned to the floor, but delay would set the act apart. She could foresee it, her first experience of absolute exposure—the loss of her true virginity on her sex-worn bed. The chaste and devilish nuances of amazing contradiction lifted the event to the peak of desire. He was one step behind her, holding on to her hand as they climbed the staircase. She was aware of every footfall, every breath, every sound of this outwardly conventional drama. She led him down the hall, almost turning in at the wrong doorway, almost forgetting where she slept, his presence casting an aura of unfamiliarity on the surroundings. He caught her hesitation and uttered a short, nervous laugh, sharing her bewilderment.

As they entered her bedroom, it seemed to lose all connection to her past, as if it had come into existence at that very moment just to harbor them.

In rapt silence they helped each other with the shedding of clothes, marveling at the unhurried pace of the ritual, as if their bodies had agreed to temper urgency with curiosity.

They lay on the white comforter, barely disturbing it in their intent exploration, the upheavals taking place inwardly, while over audacious globes and rises and along newly accessible furrows, their fingers, lips, tongues concentrated movement in targeted pressures, exacting exquisite modulations of sensation from each focal point.


Semblance of Guilt can be purchased at:
Barnes and Noble

runs July 1-30, 2016 

Prices/Formats: 99¢ $3.99 ebook, $21.99 paperback, $39.95 hardcover
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 328
Release: April 5, 2016
Publisher: Archway
ISBN: 9781480827851
Click to add to your Goodreads list.

"A determined amateur detective who'll garner fans with her refusal to either back down or give up." -Kirkus Reviews


About the Author

Claudia Riess, a Vassar graduate, has worked in the editorial departments of The New Yorker and Holt Rinehart and Winston. On her first novel, Reclining Nude, Oliver Sacks, M.D. commented: “exquisite—and delicate.” Her second, art suspense Stolen Light earned: “complex and intriguing” —Kirkus Review

Links to connect with Claudia:
Web Site
Blog Tour Site

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Monday, July 11, 2016

Frank Nappi - Welcome to the Show - Review & Giveaway

About the Book

It’s 1950 and Mickey Tussler—the now-famous pitching prodigy with autism and a golden arm—is back for another baseball season in this third installment of Frank Nappi’s critically acclaimed Legend of Mickey Tussler series. Talk of Mickey’s legendary exploits on the field has grown since his improbable debut two years prior, as have the fortunes of Murph and the rest of the lovable ragtag Brew Crew. Now Mickey, Murph, and Lester find themselves heading to Bean Town to play for the Boston Braves.

The call up is sweet, for all of them have overcome insurmountable odds to get where they are. But life in the major leagues is filled with fast-paced action both on and off the field. The bright lights of Boston hold a new series of challenges, hardships, and life lessons—especially for Mickey, who finds himself a long way from throwing apples into a barrel back on the farm. The three newest Braves have each other to lean on, as well as a new group of fans who are swept away by pennant fever, but balancing everything this new world has to offer may prove to be the greatest challenge of all.

My Review

A character like Mickey Tussler captured my interest right off the bat because I've never read a book about a Major League Baseball player with autism. Autistic people aren't known for being able to express themselves verbally. So author Frank Nappi brings him to life by using the people around him to draw out his personality.

I liked the approach of using several different points of view to tell the story. It allowed me to see Mickey through the eyes of the supporting characters. I was able to grasp a richer picture of his traumatic background and his day-to-day struggles to fit in. It made me realize just how big of a mountain he was trying to climb when his mom kept worrying about how the other guys on the team were treating him, and when he had such a hard time talking to a girl he really liked, my heart just went out to him.

But I think I got an even clearer picture of what Mickey was going through whenever he interacted with his teammates. At first, Ozzy, the star player on the team wanted nothing to do with him, calling him names and going out of his way to be extra nasty to him. Yet after giving the kid a hard time for practically the entire season, Mickey's genuine innocence (and brilliance on the pitching mound) eventually wins over even his harshest critic.

But it's the loyalty of those who are in Mickey's corner from the beginning that's the heart and soul of the book. His manager, Murph, believes in him through all his ups and downs and even puts his own career on the line when he keeps sending Mickey out to pitch, despite his inconsistencies and emotional meltdowns. He knows Mickey has the natural talent, but his ability to handle the distractions that keep coming at him, takes a lot of patience and understanding on Murph's part. And Mickey certainly wouldn't be able to succeed without his catcher, Lester, his battery mate who guides him through each and every game. He's aware of Mickey's weaknesses, yet he chooses to play to his strengths. Even an understanding friend like Lester can't get inside Mickey's head to see what he's thinking, but he does everything in his power to keep Mickey focused on the game at hand, giving Mickey the chance to shine on the field.

And I think that that's what I enjoyed the most about this book - the message that we can all be great despite our disabilities, or flaws, or whatever's holding us back. As long as we're there for other people, other people will be there for us.


Welcome to the Show can be purchased at:
Barnes and Noble

Prices/Formats: $9.99 ebook, $9.99 paperback
Genre: Sports, YA, Special Needs
Pages: 288
Release: April 19, 2016
Publisher: Sky Pony
ISBN: 9781634508292
Click to add to your Goodreads list.




About the Author

Frank Nappi has taught high school English and Creative Writing for over twenty five years. His debut novel, ECHOES FROM THE INFANTRY, received national attention, including MWSA's silver medal for outstanding fiction. His follow-up novel, THE LEGEND OF MICKEY TUSSLER, garnered rave reviews as well, including a movie adaptation of the touching story "A Mile in His Shoes" starring Dean Cain and Luke Schroder. Nappi continues to produce quality work, including SOPHOMORE CAMPAIGN, the intriguing sequel to the much heralded original story and the thriller, NOBODY HAS TO KNOW, which received an endorsement from #1 New York Times bestselling author Nelson DeMille. The third installment of Nappi's Mickey Tussler series, WELCOME TO THE SHOW, was released April 2016, and he is currently working on his next thriller, AS LONG AS WE BOTH SHALL LIVE. Nappi lives on Long Island with his wife Julia and their two sons, Nicholas and Anthony.

Links to connect with Frank:
Web Site

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