Book Review: Friend Request by Laura Marshall

Friend Request II

MARIA WESTON WANTS TO BE FRIENDS. BUT MARIA WESTON’S DEAD. ISN’T SHE?

1989. When Louise first notices the new girl who has mysteriously transferred late into their senior year, Maria seems to be everything the girls Louise hangs out with aren’t. Authentic. Funny. Brash. Within just a few days, Maria and Louise are on their way to becoming fast friends

2016. Louise receives a heart-stopping email: Maria Weston wants to be friends on Facebook. Long-buried memories quickly rise to the surface: those first days of their budding friendship; cruel decisions made and dark secrets kept; the night that would change all their lives forever.

Louise has always known that if the truth ever came out, she could stand to lose everything. Her job. Her son. Her freedom. Maria’s sudden reappearance threatens it all, and forces Louise to reconnect with everyone she’d severed ties with to escape the past. But as she tries to piece together exactly what happened that night, Louise discovers there’s more to the story than she ever knew. To keep her secret, Louise must first uncover the whole truth, before what’s known to Maria–or whoever’s pretending to be her–is known to all.

My Thoughts:

When I finished this book, my whole perspective changed about social media and who you accept back into your life after years and years of not hearing from people. I kid you not. After I got through the first chapter I was completely creeped out but I couldn’t stay away. I HAD to know everything that was about to happen. A few times, I had to put the book down because of the suspenseful content. However, that is a good thing, right? I have to admit, I was pretty tense reading this story and as I understand it, this is the authors debut novel. Just, wow! Friend Request is just about the best thriller I have read all year.

The story reminded me how much teenagers can be so cruel and the consequences that come after by that cruelty. Louise boggled my mind as her story unfolds. She is an adult but is still very much stuck in the past and when the past comes a knocking full force, instead of just telling the truth to the police, she creates more danger for herself and the people around her. I’d have to say that is the thrill and suspense of the story however, and it was told really well. There were some twist and turns I didn’t see coming and the ending was so sad but a good conclusion to the story.

I will certainly be more careful what I share to the public!

I have obtained a review copy from the publishers through NetGalley.

I have rated this book four and a half stars.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

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Book Review: The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

The Broken GirlsThe Broken Girls by Simone St. James

Berkley Publishing Group

Berkley

Mystery & Thrillers

Pub Date 20 Mar 2018

Description

Vermont, 1950. There’s a place for the girls whom no one wants–the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It’s called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it’s located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming–until one of them mysteriously disappears. . . .

Vermont, 2014. As much as she’s tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister’s death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister’s boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can’t shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case.

When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations will link the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past–and a voice that won’t be silenced. . . .

My thoughts:

What makes a story? There are several answers to this question. When I read The Broken Girls, several things came to me. Most importantly truth in storytelling and how an author pulls it off. I am all for character development, plot driven stories. They are vital and this story has that but what about truth? Truth in human emotions. Truth in exploring one’s past. Truth in what haunts us. I can honestly say that St. James is an author to follow in these attributes of well-drawn stories. She really connects you to the characters and their story. That is truth. Each character has their own struggles and it brings the plot together in a delicious package of mystery, friendships heartache and meaningful human connections.

I was also delighted to feel a bit creeped out by the small town and the boarding school. The author makes you want to explore the ruins of Idlewild Hall and its past even further. I could easily read another story about the characters and location. Meaning, I didn’t want this story to end!

I can’t really pinpoint which characters stood out to me the most. They were all strong and interesting in this story and I sympathized with them all.

I really like the premise of a journalist who goes to no end to reveal the mystery surrounding her sister’s death and how the present day connects to the past in more than just one way.

I have to say that I feel sorry for the readers who have to wait to read this story when its published. The Broken Girls is truly an amazing story that has captivated me to no end and Simone St. James is my new favorite author! A must read.

I have rated this book five stars!

I obtained a copy of this book from the publishers through NetGalley.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Characters in Motion With Lindsay Downs

Lady Jolene’s antagonists and how she deals with them.

As the oldest child and senior daughter to The Right Honorable, The Earl and Countess of Hampshire, Lady Jolene Markson is supposed to be able to hold her emotions in check. Nothing should upset or worry her.

Well, that’s not entirely true. There are several people and groups which annoy her to no end. Her antagonists.

At the top of this list is the Metropolitan Police Service, the Met.

As with her parents who had to deal with Bow Street and their runners, Jolene finds the Met to be useless for the most part. Frequently she points out they will find a suspect, guilty or not, and claim they have the criminal. More often than not this person hires her to prove their innocence, which she does with great regularity.

When presented with a case Lady Jolene does her best to make sure they, the Met, learn nothing of what she has found. It’s not that she wishes to make them look bad, they can do that without her assistance.

To Save a Lady by Lindsay GrahamIn the case set forth in To Save a Lady she easily proves to the investigating officer, Thomas Spencer, there was no way his prime suspect, Miss Julia Patrick, could have murdered the young man. He then offers his, without his superiors’ knowledge, assistance in bringing the criminal(s) to justice.

At first Lady Jolene had her reservations about allowing Spencer to partake. Her thoughts change when she notices an affection developing between him and Julia. Eventually Jolene comes to trust him but makes it very clear Spencer is the exception as she will still work to embarrass the Met.

It goes without saying, but I will anyways, her younger brothers and sisters do tend to antagonize her. With them, depending on what they do she usually doesn’t tell on them but deals with the troublesome one on her own.

Without a doubt, though, Lady Jolene’s worst antagonist is none other than The Most Honorable, The Marquis of Lange aka. Brendon.

They had first met years ago and for the most part grew up together. The reason, his parents and her godparents are His and Her Grace, The Duke and Duchess of Clarion.

For Lady Jolene his most annoying trait, sticking his nose into things that aren’t any of his business. He tries to steer her away from possible danger and she constantly resists. Even though they tend to be at each other’s throats at times it is in reality more of a love-hate-love relationship.

She does have one way, and it’s priceless, of keeping him in line. Her collie, Samson. More often than not the dog achieves the desired purpose. Annoy Brendon by his presence.

Well, my good ladies and gentlemen those are the primary antagonists in Lady Jolene’s life. Yes, Stephanie asked for five of them and I presented three. Well, actually more if you were to count her siblings, the officers at The Met along with Brendon and the years of antagonism between him and Jolene.

If I was a nice guy, of course then I wouldn’t be driving my readers crazy with red herrings and cliffhangers I would tell you a secret. Then again, if I did that then it would be a secret. You’ll have to buy To Save a Lady.

Buy Links-

US

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About me-

Lindasy Graham II

I’ve been an avid reader ever since I was old enough to hold a red leather bound first edition copy of Sir Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake in my lap.

So, it only seemed natural at some point in my life I take up pen and paper to start writing. Over time my skills slightly improved which I attribute to my English teachers.

My breakthrough came about in the mid 1970’s when I read a historical romance written by Sergeanne Golon, Angelique. This French husband and wife team opened my eyes to the real world of fiction. Stories about romance, beautiful damsels, handsome heroes and plots which kept me hooked. Of course, being a man, I had to keep my reading hidden from others as that wasn’t appropriate reading for men.

With this new-found appreciation of the written word I took up other books and devoured them as a starving person would a plate of food. I them attempted to write again. I still wasn’t satisfied so I put it aside for years as other events entered my life.

Finally, in the early years of the new millennium I tried again to write and once again met with limited success. At least now I was able to get past the first page or two. Then, in 2006 a life changing event brought me back to my love, I took a job as a security officer. This allowed me plenty of time to read different genres.

My favourite was regency. As I poured through everyone I could get my hands on I knew this could be something I wanted to attempt.

Since 2012 when my debut regency romantic suspense released I was hooked and have, except for a few contemporaries, focused on this genre.

Since 2012 I’ve lived in central Texas. I’m also a member of Romance Writers of America and the Austin, TX chapter.

Where you can find me-

Facebook

Facebook Pages

Twitter- @ldowns2966

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Goodreads

Lindsay Downs-Romance Author

Amazon

Characters in Motion with Meghan Holloway

“Often times the best inspiration comes within us.” Writer Meghan Holloway shares with us how she fleshes out her characters to drive the plot.

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Storytelling is, at heart, an exploration of the human condition. More than evocative imagery or lyrical prose or a captivating plot, a story must have a character at its center in whom I can invest.

Achieving a fully-fleshed character is one of the most challenging aspects in writing. Creating a paragon or a villain is a simple thing, but also a flat and unsatisfying achievement. Building a well-rounded character—humane, flawed, fallible, and nuanced—is a task as formidable as it is rewarding.

We writers tend to be a solitary lot for we pursue a sequestered craft. We are watchers, though, sentinels of interaction, cartographers of existence. It is through this lifelong pursuit of observation that we find the lens through which to view the human experience and the clay with which to build our characters.

When I tell a story, I have a two-fold beginning:  I have a plot arch in mind first or a particular setting and event in history I want to explore; but the key piece that moves this germ from idea to tale is character. The plot is what creates the arc of storytelling; the character is the vehicle in which the reader is transported.

Meghan Holloway

About Author:

Meghan Holloway

“My dearest darling …” That was how my grandfather began all of his letters to my grandmother while he was stationed in Okinawa in World War II. I never knew my grandfather, but I’ve poured over his letters. I used to draw lines up the back of my legs, just as my grandmother had as a young woman whose nylons had been donated to make parachutes, and I’ve endlessly pestered my paternal grandfather for stories of his childhood and service. The worn letters and patiently-told stories cemented my interest in history, especially in the WWII era.

I found my first Nancy Drew mystery in a sun-dappled attic at a friend’s house and subsequently fell in love with the grip and tautness of a well-told mystery. I flew an airplane before I learned how to drive a car, did my undergrad work in a crumbling once-all girls school in the sweltering south, spent a summer and fall in Maine picking peaches and apples, finished my graduate work in an all-girls school in the blustery north, and traveled the world for a few years. Now I’m settled down in the foothills of the Appalachians, writing my third and fourth novels, and hanging out with my standard poodle.

Author Links:

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Cover Crush: A Darker Sea: Master Commandant Putnam and the War of 1812 (A Bliven Putnam Naval Adventure) by James L. Haley

 

Cover Crush banner

I am not a cover designer but I can agree that cover layouts play an important role in the overall presentation of stories and I must admit, often times I first judge a book by its cover.

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A Darker SeaAbout the book:

A Darker Sea: Master Commandant Putnam and the War of 1812 (A Bliven Putnam Naval Adventure)

by James L. Haley

400 pages

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons (November 14, 2017)

The second installment of the gripping naval saga by award-winning historian James L. Haley, featuring Commander Bliven Putnam, chronicling the build up to the biggest military conflict between the United States and Britain after the Revolution—the War of 1812.

At the opening of the War of 1812, the British control the most powerful navy on earth, and Americans are again victims of piracy. Bliven Putnam, late of the Battle of Tripoli, is dispatched to Charleston to outfit and take command of a new 20-gun brig, the USS Tempest. Later, aboard the Constitution, he sails into the furious early fighting of the war.

Prowling the South Atlantic in the Tempest, Bliven takes prizes and disrupts British merchant shipping, until he is overhauled, overmatched, and disastrously defeated by the frigate HMS Java. Its captain proves to be Lord Arthur Kington, whom Bliven had so disastrously met in Naples. On board, he also finds his old friend Sam Bandy, one of the Java’s pressed American seamen kidnapped into British service. Their whispered plans to foment a mutiny among the captives may see them hang, when the Constitution looms over the horizon for one of the most famous battles of the War of 1812 in a gripping, high-wire conclusion. With exquisite detail and guns-blazing action, A Darker Sea illuminates an unforgettable period in American history.

My thoughts on the cover:

My good friend and fellow book blogger Erin shared a book at her Flashlight Commentary Facebook Page that caught my eye instantly! I told her I wanted to use the cover for my cover crush. Not only does the cover capture my attention but the history and premise does as well in a big way. I have not read any books by this author and I am trying to figure why I haven’t before!

I am really into American and British History and the time period- so this story is perfect for me. The cover is really powerful and full of color, depth and action. I hope it is as good as it looks and sounds! 

Stephanie M. Hopkins

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Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary. Other great book bloggers who cover crush:

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired Books

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation

Meghan @ Of Quills & Vellum

Book Review: Arrowood by Mick Finlay

Arrowwood new bookReview Arrowood by Mick Finlay

Harlequin (US & Canada)

MIRA

Historical Fiction

Pub Date 18 Jul 2017

Description

1895

London Society takes their problems to Sherlock Holmes. Everyone else goes to Arrowood.

The Afghan War is over and a deal with the Irish appears to have brought an end to sectarian violence, but Britain’s position in the world is uncertain and the gap between rich and poor is widening. London is a place where the wealthy party while the underclass are tempted into lives of crime, drugs and prostitution. A serial killer stalks the streets. Politicians are embroiled in financial and sexual scandals. The year is 1895.

The police don’t have the resources to deal with everything that goes on in the capital. The rich turn to a celebrated private detective when they need help: Sherlock Holmes. But in densely populated south London, where the crimes are sleazier and Holmes rarely visits, people turn to Arrowood, a private investigator who despises Holmes, his wealthy clientele and his showy forensic approach to crime. Arrowood understands people, not clues.

My thoughts:

Sherlock Holmes is not the only private detective in London and if he has competition, it still remains to be seen. Arrowood and Barnett are hard press for a client and when a woman appears at their office seeking help to find her brother, the two detectives reluctantly decide to help her. Before they know it, they find the case more of a challenge than they thought. One of their potential witnesses ends up dead early on in the investigation and things get really heated after that.

Arrowood is an arrogant, silly man in many ways in my opinion. He annoyed me to no end. I have a feeling this might be the author’s goal for this character. As least I hope since I’ve been brutally honest about how I feel about him. The question is Arrowood’s characterization important for the story? There were a few times I wanted Barnett to slap him stupid. Though I have to admit his method in finding clues and questioning witnesses is an interesting one. He seemed to pride himself in being the opposite of Sherlock and had no problems in expressing that-too often in my opinion. Having said that, there were times I felt sympathy for him. Maybe just a little. If it weren’t for Barnett, the story wouldn’t hold much weight for me. I wish Sherlock had come along to shake things up.

I would like to add that I felt there were too many characters in the story. At times, it was a bit of a challenge to keep up. However, I do understand that in order for detectives to solve a case, they must interact and talk to a lot of people. Still…

The ending was satisfactory. In a nutshell, this was just an okay read for me. I expected more…

I rated this book a generous three stars.

I obtained a copy of this book from the publishers through NetGalley.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Interview with Award Winning Author Alison Brodie

Author photo

I’d like to welcome Award Winning Author Alison Brodie to Layered Pages! Alison is a Scot, with French Huguenot ancestors on her mother’s side.

Brodie is an international, best-selling author.  Her books have been published by Hodder & Stoughton (UK), Heyne (Germany) and Unieboek (Holland). 

Hi, Alison! Tell me how you discovered indieBRAG?

It’s hard to miss!  I regularly see the BRAG Awards everywhere on social media: writing blogs for indie writers, and highly-acclaimed books with the BRAG medallion on their covers, etc.

What is your book about?

Brake Failure

Brake Failure is about Ruby, an English debutante who ends up in Kansas City.  Far from home, she transforms from Miss-Perfectly-Correct to criminally insane as she breaks the bonds of her rigid upbringing.  Sheriff Hank Gephart tries to reel her in but she’s out of control and she ain’t hitting the brakes.

Who are your secondary characters in your book?

Ruby’s snobbish step-sister, Claire, who continually belittles Ruby.  Rowdy the stray mongrel.  Idabel, a Survivalist, who teaches Ruby how to shoot a gun and dig a man trap.

Do you take personality traits from real people and use them for your characters?

No.  My characters come into my head fully formed.

Why did you choose to write your story leading up to the Y2K Meltdown?

Because it was fascinating!  This was something that had never happened before in history.  I lived through Y2K in Shawnee Mission, Kansas.  Television reports veered from “Just stock up as if for a tornado” to “run for the hills!!”

Nobody knew what was going to happen when the date on computers changed to four zeroes.  The US government had a command center and spent $150 billion on preparing for Armageddon.  I’m surprised nobody has written about this time in American history.

Why did you choose the romance genre to write in?

I like to write what I, myself, would choose to read.  And I always like a little romance.

Which character in your story are you particular to?

Idabel, the tough Survivalist, who is preparing to battle against hordes of ravaging looters.  When Ruby gives Idabel a box of blonde hair-colorant and cherry lip-gloss, Idabel stares at them wordlessly.  Then she says: “Well, if we don’t survive, we’ll die real pretty.”

How long did it take you to write this story and what was your process?

Off and on for a fifteen year.  I made notes before and during Y2K.  When I got back to England I wrote the skeleton of the story and forgot about it.  I finally wrote it a couple of years ago.  (Sometimes it’s better to write a story long after an event because the things you remember are usually the sharpest, and most interesting.

Where can readers buy your book?

Brake Failure is on Amazon kindle.  I hope to be publishing all my books in paperback by the end of the year.

What is up next for you?

I’m releasing ZENKA on 6 Nov.  Here’s my first review:  “Top of my list for best fiction this year” –Lauren Sapala, WriteCity.

ZENKA is not a romcom.  It is a darkly comic crime thriller/suspense with a hint of romance.  Zenka is a Hungarian pole-dancer, capricious, devious and loyal.  When London mob boss, Jack Murray, saves her life she vows to become his guardian angel – whether he likes it or not.  With shocking consequences.

Is there a message you would like to give to your readers?

I never start my books with a BANG!  I build slowly at first, then gather speed – faster and faster – while injecting twists and turns, until that rug-pulling moment.  I usually have multi-strands in my stories so I make sure that these strands all come together in the end, like someone pulling tight the purse-strings of a pouch.

News Press:

Reviews for her debut, FACE TO FACE: “Fun to snuggle up with” –GOOD HOUSEKEEPING Pick of the Paperbacks.  “Vane but wildly funny leading lady” -Scottish Daily Mail.

Brodie has now gone “indie”.  Here are some editorial reviews for her recent books. 

BRAKE FAILURE: “Masterpiece of humor” -Midwest Book Review

THE DOUBLE: “Proof of her genius in writing fiction” -San Francisco Book Review.

ZENKA  (to be released 6 Nov, 2017): “ZENKA is top of my list for best fiction this year.  If Tina Fey and Simon Pegg got together to write a dark and hilarious mobster story with a happy ending, ZENKA would be the result.”  -Lauren Sapala, WriteCity

Book Links:

Brake Failure – BUY LINKS

Amazon USA

Amazon Uk

Amazon CA

Author Link:

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We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Alison Brodie who is the author of, Brake Failure, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, A Dog for Leo, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

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