Review of Virtually Gone, by Jacquie Biggar

First, I just want to wish my neighbors south of the border a Happy Memorial Day Weekend. I hope you are able to get out and enjoy the holiday, now that things are getting a bit more back to normal.

Today, I’m reviewing Virtually Gone, A Mended Souls Novel, by Jacquie Biggar.  This is number 6 in a series of 8 books written by various U.S.A. Today Best Selling Authors.

What Amazon Says:

From USA Today Bestselling Author, Jacquie Biggar, comes a gripping techno-thriller, part of a multi-author series tied together by an interlocking cast of characters, all centered around the fantastic new promise of high technology and the endless possibilities for crime that technology offers, in a world where getting away with murder can be not only plausible, but easy…if you just know how.

Investigative reporter Julie Crenshaw stumbles upon the case of a lifetime–one that could cost her everything.

When Julie is called on to investigate a string of sexual abuse cases, she doesn’t expect to land in the crosshairs of a serial rapist. Soon she’s in a race to find the facts before a killer makes her the headline.

Detective Matthew Roy is frustrated with his inability to track a rapist terrorizing his city. Added to that, his partner’s reporter girlfriend is dogging his every step and won’t heed his warnings. Time is ticking with the perpetrator escalating his crime to murder. Matt needs to find the killer soon, or chance losing someone he cares for- the question is, how?

My Turn:

The game is afoot in this mountain road twisty, twenty-first century style whodunnit. 

The plot is chock full of red herrings and dead leads that will keep the reader guessing. The technical information is included, but skillfully woven into the plot as to avoid impeding the flow.

Descriptions are equally finessed into the word building with just enough to conjure up the image.

I found Detective Matthew Roy to fit a bit snugly into the chalk outline of “the lone wolf, with a traumatic past and a chip on his shoulder,” however, it works for this story.

Overall, I highly recommend this book.

Four Stars ! 

Meet Jacquie:

Jacquie Biggar is a USA Today bestselling author of romance who loves to write about tough, alpha males and strong, contemporary women willing to show their men that true power comes from love. She lives on Vancouver Island with her husband and loves to hear from readers all over the world!
In her own words:
“My name is Jacquie Biggar. When I’m not acting like a total klutz I am a wife, mother of one, grandmother, and a butler to my calico cat.
My guilty pleasures are reality tv shows like Amazing Race and The Voice. I can be found every Monday night in my armchair plastered to the television laughing at Blake’s shenanigans.
I love to hang at the beach with DH (darling hubby) taking pictures or reading romance novels (what else?).
I have a slight Tim Hortons obsession, enjoy gardening, everything pink and talking to my friends.”

Connect with Jacqui and buy your copy:

Website Facebook Twitter BookBub Pinterest Amazon.com

Review of Ronald L. Powell, Missing in Action, by Shirley H. Slaughter @sharrislaughter

Day two of the kiddos being home for another round of online learning. I must admit, this particular round has not been as difficult as the others. Perhaps we are just all getting more adroit at this thing, as time goes on.

Today, I am reviewing Ronald L. Powell, Missing in Action, by Shirley H. Slaughter

What Amazon says:

My brother dropped out of school and joined the Marines around 1963. By the time our Mother found him (he enlisted without telling anyone) he had been through basic training and was preparing to go to war. He told her in a letter, “Mom, I don’t think I’m going to make it …”
This is a memoir of my brave brother, Ronald Louis Powell, who died under mysterious circumstances along with 57 of his comrades. Nothing was ever said or written about this tragedy.
This is my way of keeping his story alive and bringing some closure.

My Turn:

A heartbreaking account of a beloved brother lost to war and the author’s struggle to come to terms with a brother who never came home. The lack of transparency shown by the government adds more pain and prevents closure for the family.

Deep and personal, this short story draws sympathy for the family and in the end, left me feeling great admiration for the brave men and women who put their lives on the line, in service. I was also discouraged by the lack of concern on behalf of the government to be forthcoming in the facts of his death. A wonderful tribute to Ronald.  Three Stars.

Meet Shirley:

Shirley Harris-Slaughter’s first book highlights her passion for history which led to her first published work, Our Lady of Victory, the Saga of an African American Catholic Community. But she wouldn’t have been able to write that book had she not had the presence of mind to conquer the health crisis she found herself in. She is an advocate for natural health and healing. Any problem that she had to face, she found her way out of it through sheer determination.

This led to her second book CRAZY! HOT! AND LIVING ON THE EDGE!! She has written a couple of short stories including contributing essays in her Book Club’s Rave Soups Series.

She spends most of her time these days watching movies and episodes of “Suits.”

Connect with Shirley and purchase her works:

Twitter Blog Amazon Author Page

Shirley is also a member of Rave Reviews Book Club

Review of Open, Shut, by Nonnie Jules

Happy Friday! It’s the last weekday of Spring Break (changed from March by the government), due to COVID. As we deal with a third wave, staying home and writing has become more of a priority than ever.

Today I’m reviewing, Open, Shut, A Short Story, by Nonnie Jules. She is the President and Founder of Rave Reviews Book Club.

What Amazon says:

Darcy Lynn has a few problems: her sister, Lola, killed by a drunk driver, leaves her with an eerie message right before her death; her parents are atheists; her father drinks a little too much, and her brother, Bud, is just annoying. But, her most pressing issue is that things are mysteriously opening and closing around her and she hasn’t a clue as to why…or how.

My Turn:

This story is told from the POV of Darcy Lynn after her sister, Lola, was killed. Too young to remember the horrific details of her sister’s death, years later, Darcy seeks answers from Lola’s diary. What she finds is staggering. Her parents, sworn not to divulge a terrible secret to her younger siblings, by Lola herself, had never revealed the whole truth.

But has Lola really left? Soon after her sister’s death, Darcy Lynn experiences strange phenomena that cannot be explained by science, or her atheist parents. Darcy Lynn begins to question her own beliefs and comes to understand that the visible may not be all there is. Open, Shut is an invitation to consider this possibility.  

Nonnie does a great job in the creation of realistic and ordinary characters, who encounter the extraordinary. There is plenty of growth in all of them, a key ingredient for a great story.

The central message was that good things can come from tragedy. The story flows evenly and logically to towards that end. As a man of faith, I really enjoyed this book. I highly recommend it to anyone who has experienced great loss and for those who struggle with the ‘big picture.’ I’m giving this one, FOUR STARS!

Meet Nonnie Jules and connect with her:

Website Amazon.com Twitter Blog

Review of Life Is Like A Bowl Of Cherries, by Sally Cronin @sgc58

It’s the start of another weekend and in the early hours of Saturday morning, my thoughts turn to current events. In a previous blog, I mentioned the light verus the dark side of life, and encouraged my readers to watch for the helpers of this world. These people go above and beyond, to serve others and make this world a brighter place.

Today, I have the prvilege of reviewing and introducing such a person. Though, I suspect, she needs no introduction to most. 🙂 Meet Sally Cronin.

Here’s what Amazon says:

Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet is a collection of short stories with scattered poetry, reflecting the complexities of life, love and loss.

The stories in the collection dip into the lives of men and women who are faced with an ‘event’ that is challenging and in some cases life changing.

Even something as straightforward as grocery shopping online can be frustrating, and a DNA test produces surprise results, the past reaches out to embrace the present, and a gardening assistant is an unlikely grief counsellor. Romance is not always for the faint-hearted and you are never too old for love. Random acts of kindness have far reaching consequences and some people discover they are on a lucky streak. There are those watching over us who wish us well, and those in our lives who wish us harm.

My Turn:

The full name of this book is actually, Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet. I had to shorten it, because when I put this on my website blog, it limits title lengths.

That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of short stories, sprinkled with meaningful poetry, each pertaining to the pervious story.

Flipping the pages into each new chapter, was to be whisked into another era, another life, a 180 degree ‘about face’ into vastly different circumstances; some good, others, less than stellar.   

What remained constant, was the quality of connection I had with every character. They were real people to cheer on, pity, dislike, and congratulate. Valuable life lessons were skillfully interwoven in the fabric of every tale.

I deal with certain faulty world views, due to past experiences. When I first began to read this book, and things were going right for the character, I honestly waited for the other shoe to drop.

 I was pleasantly shocked and pleased when the footwear remained firmly affixed and tied! My thought, Is this all there is? The question was posed in a positive and grateful way. I was very pleased. Why shouldn’t life be like that? Such a refreshing change!

I finished this book with a feeling of happiness and peace. There is still good in this world.

Thank you, Sally, for the salve. I would highly recommend this book to everyone. This is what the world needs.

There is no question that this book deserves FIVE STARS!

Meet Sally Cronin:

I have enjoyed a nomadic existence living in eight countries including Sri Lanka, Malta, South Africa, USA and Spain, before settling back here in Ireland. My work, and a desire to see some of the most beautiful parts of the world in the last forty years, has taken me to many more incredible destinations around Europe and Canada, and across the oceans to New Zealand and Hawaii. All those experiences and the people that I have met, provide a rich source of inspiration for my stories.

After a career in customer facing roles in the hospitality, retail, advertising and telecommunications industry, I wrote and published my first book in 1999 called Size Matters, about my weight loss journey, losing 150lbs in 18 months. This was followed by 11 further fiction and non-fiction books, including a number of short story collections.

My first book release resulted in a radio interview in Spain that led to four years as a nutritional consultant for an English language station, and this was followed by four years with my own health show and Sunday morning show on local radio station in the UK and then as station director, newsreader and presenter for an online television station.

As a writer I know how important it is to have help in marketing books and from 2002 I have been working with authors on their book launches and publicity. At that time it was very much physical book launches and press coverage locally to stimulate national interest.. Today it is very different with a global market via the worldwide web.

As important as my own promotion is, I believe it is important to support others within our community. I offer a number of FREE promotional opportunities on my blog, linked to my social media. If you are an author who would like to be promoted to a new audience of dedicated readers, please contact me via my blog. All it will cost you is a few minutes of your time. Look forward to hearing from you.

Connect with Sally and purchase her books:

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Amazon.com

Amazon.uk

Goodreads

Twitter

The Whole Story Behind my book, Vanished

Last night, I was reading over some of the newer reviews and comments of my novel Vanished. I noticed some understandable trepidation among a few of those who hadn’t read the book. In response, I’ve decided to write this post, explaining the origins of the book, and why I wrote it.

First, though, I wish to thank all of those who took a chance on me, readers who cracked the pages, in spite of the subject matter. I really appreciate you, and I know it couldn’t have been easy to start.

I want to clarify what is NOT in this book; rape, gore, excessive violence (yes, there is violence, but no more than any other action/thriller), injury or death to animals, pedophilia. You only need to ask someone who’s read the book, I’m confident they will attest to this.

If you asked me, ten years ago, to write a book about human trafficking, I would have declared you insane. Times, and people, change.

The truth is, initially, there was no intention of broaching the subject. I wanted to write about Haiti.

You see, my father, upon whom one of the main characters, John Webster, is loosely based, would volunteer to help build homes, churches, and other projects. I remember well, the photos showing the difficult living conditions. There were also the stories, none of which included human trafficking. There are bits and pieces in the novel that were gleaned from his experiences.

The second main character, Tyler Montgomery,  is loosely based on my brother-in-law. The pair actually did make a trip to post-earthquake Haiti, back in October of 2010. I asked if they’d be willing to make a journal of their experiences.

So, here we come to the reasons behind Vanished. Over the years, I’ve been understandably and justifiably questioned as to my choice of topic. In the early days, I always delivered a simple and pat answer about a desire promote awareness. If a problem is ignored, what hope is there to solve it?  At the time, I truly believed my answer to be complete. Cut and dried, no further explanation needed.  

I often mention that 50% of the proceeds are donated to help victims of human trafficking, which they are, and I hope I don’t sound like I’m touting my own horn. That is not my intent.

Yes, all of this is true. However, and this may sound strange, I’ve only recently come to realize it’s not the whole truth. Please let me explain.

Those who are familiar with me, know that I’ve spent the last twenty plus years working as a Correctional Officer in maximum and medium, security prisons.

The last max. was Kingston Penitentiary which opened in 1835 and closed in 2013. It’s now a tourist attraction. I was one of the last to work there. Shortly afterwards, I was transferred to a medium level prison.  

This blog is not evolving into a prison tale. My career was mentioned  because I want to help you understand where I’m coming from.  I also want to emphasize, that Hollywood, and the news, are entities that thrive on sensationalism, because it sells.  

I’ve encountered many traumatic experiences and looked into the midnight eyes of those who looked through, rather than at you. We called them dead eyes.

Fortunately, these are not the majority of inmates. There are some who’ve lead normal lives until something triggered them to act in uncharacteristic ways. What you also had, were many cases of psychological and drug addiction issues.  Oh, and yes, plenty of the inhabitants  had committed unspeakable acts of evil. I’ll spare you the details.

Of course, it wasn’t all bad. I’ve worked with some great staff and have had my share of laughs. I appreciated the strong bonds that developed between my peers. It’s inevitable when you place your life in someone’s hands, and they put theirs in yours.

I apologize if I’m rambling, but it was necessary to give some background into what made my brain tick, when I wrote this book.

It took a diagnosis of PTSD, months of treatment, support, and deep reflection, to unravel the ‘other’ reasons for the birth of Vanished.

I have come to grasp the fact that it was also a product of a mind that sought to survive and heal. To find a state of homeostasis and make sense of the tragic and unfathomable.

The famous line from the movie, Saving Private Ryan, often comes to mind. Captain Millar and the Sergeant are discussing the personal cost of getting Ryan home. One of them says: “Someday, we might look back on this, and decide that saving Private Ryan was the once decent thing we were able to pull out of this whole Godawful, shitty mess.”

I’m not comparing myself to these brave warriors, but these are my sentiments, exactly.

The brain is extremely powerful, and I believe that it sensed something was wrong all those years ago, though my conscious mind was oblivious. It’s the frog in a boiling pot analogy. I was being cooked alive, and I didn’t even realize.               

The characters do represent, superficially, my family members. At a deeper level, they are avatars of my hope. Hope for something better, for this world, myself, and my loved ones.

Spoiler alert, Tyler struggles with mental health issues. The issue was  approached from a Stephen King angle because I grew up reading his work.

At the time, I thought it was just a nod to the famous writer, but it’s become clear that my subconscious had put out a 911 call for help. In some ways, I’m Tyler.

Right now, more than ever, the world is hurting. I don’t know your personal stories, but I can sense from many of the comments, that anxiety and a sense of hopelessness rule the day.

Let me tell, there is always hope. I want to assure you that you are not alone. I, along with many others, have been where you are. I’m on the mend, and my family is getting there, too. I cannot reiterate this enough: there is always hope.

Whenever a crisis arises, there are always those who step up and perform selfless acts. I refer to those as helpers, look around, you’ll find them, everywhere. You know what? Look in the mirror and you’ll see one up close.          

Don’t believe me? Listen, if you’ve ever retweeted a post, shared a kind word on a blog, shared a blog, hosted, bought a book, read, and reviewed, made someone laugh or provided information, beta read . . . you get the picture, then you are a helper.  

Yes, those dedicated people who work in the healthcare industry certainly fall into this category. There are so many others, unsung, and unnoticed. They go about the business of helping.

John and Tyler are much more than characters in a book, and the plot is deeper and broader than human trafficking. There is an ugly side to it, just as there is in life, but there is also a positive message. It’s about becoming a helper, doing whatever is within your capacity to  make a positive impact, even if it’s just one person.

This is the true spirit of Vanished.

At the bottom of this post, you will find two links to interviews I conducted with a couple of wonderful helpers, who stood with victims of human trafficking.

On a side note:

I am not downplaying the recent events with law enforcement that have occurred, nor am I saying that problems with racism do not exist, as they do in every environment.

I wish to point out that there are a few rotten apples among the ranks; you’ll find them in every profession; and they should be dealt with accordingly. However, it is very distressing, unfair, and illogical to paint an entire profession based on the actions of a few. Most people involved in law enforcement are decent and ordinary people. They have families and emotions, too.

I was saddened and angered, when I discovered that a certain retailer was selling tee-shirts with the detestable slogan, Blue Lives Murder. Ouch!!  

This is not only disrespectful and generally untrue, but downright inflammatory. These are the things that contribute to PTSD and suicides.

I give my readers the benefit of the doubt, as I am sure that most of you realize this. I still feel compelled to say the following: Amidst all the cries for defunding the police, please try to imagine a world where the dead eyed roam free and amok.

Sends shivers up my spine.

More about me:

Born and raised on a farm near Brockville, Ontario, Mark Bierman’s childhood consisted of chores, riding horses, snowmobile races across open fields, fishing trips to a local lake, and many other outdoor adventures. He was also an avid reader of both fiction and non.

Transitioning towards adulthood also meant moving from the farm and into large urban areas that introduced this “country boy” to life in the big cities.

Drawing on his many experiences as a private investigator and later a Correctional Officer, Mark combines his unique experiences and imagination to create his stories and characters.

Purchase:

Amazon.ca Amazon.com LuLu.com iBooks

I’d love to connect with you:

Website Twitter Facebook Instagram Goodreads

Interview Links:

A Call To Mission Work. An Interview With Madison Wicklam.

They Fight For Freedom