review by Candi Sary
GENRE: Mystery, Romance, Humor
EDITOR: Annie Acorn
COVER DESIGN: Angel Nichols
It’s Christmastime in Birmingham, Alabama. Thirty-something Chloe Carstairs and her mother Amanda are decorators for their high profile Birmingham clients—the kind who spend over $30,000 on Christmas décor. It’s serious business and yet we find these Southern women in a laugh-out-loud decorating disaster in the very first chapter. Décor issues end up being a piece of cake compared to the crisis that follows when two of their clients are murdered. Chloe and Amanda, not the types to sit back and wait for the police to solve the murders, begin their own investigation. The feisty daughter and her good-mannered mother visit suspects’ houses, the gossipy nail salon, a bar and even a local gangster’s restaurant, to gather information. Their snooping gets them into trouble, but that doesn’t stop them from moving forward on their dangerous yet comical journey to catch a murderer.
Amanda and Chloe are an original and amusing duo to take on a murder mystery. Their mother-daughter dynamic initiates some hilarious scenes. “I’m not sure at what age a daughter stops being cowed by that scary Mom look, let’s just say it isn’t thirty.” Despite their sassy remarks and eye rolling moments, there is a sense that these two women could get through anything together. They communicate with a glance and can practically read each other’s minds. What they have is special and heartwarming, and it does manage to shine through from beneath the comedy.
This book has it all—colorful characters, an intriguing storyline, solid writing and tons of personality. Chloe is a fabulous narrator. She is authentic, likeable and genuinely funny. With a keen eye for décor and fashion, she offers witty observations throughout the book, giving the story its spunk. “I had nothing against the guy personally, but working together would be like trying to make low-slung jeans work with granny panties. Not happening.” The mystery makes the book a page-turner. A whole variety of characters appear to have motives, and it’s definitely fun getting caught up in the community’s dirty secrets.
Smart, funny, entertaining, and with the perfect touch of Southern charm, Murder on the First Day of Christmas
is such a delightful read, I have to give it 5 stars.
Buy it on Amazon
Find it on Goodreads
Like it on Facebook
Follow Chloe on Twitter
The Chloe Gets a Clue website
THE REVIEWERCandi Sary, author of Black Crow White Lie, has made the finals in several writing competitions, including the William Faulkner William Wisdom Writing Competition and the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. She lives in coastal Southern California with her husband (while her 2 kids are off at college), and can often be found surfing the waters of Newport Beach. You can find her at www.candisary.com.
review by Amy R. Biddle
FULL TITLE: Baby Bumps: The Almost, Barely, Not-Quite-True Story of Pregnancy, Bed Rest and One Batshit Crazy Family
PUBLISHER: Beyond the Page Publishing
GENRES: Women's, contemporary
There isn't anything funny about pregnancy complications. But when Amy Sprenger talks about her experience in and out of the hospital while a baby is incubating in her belly, it's non-stop laughter. With witty dialogue and amusing side-remarks, Amy turns a nightmarish nine months into a hilarious tale of love and family.
As the first place winner of the 2013 Shirley You Jest
competition, there is no doubt that Baby Bumps is
funny. Amy starts the book wearing a "knocked up" T-shirt and spends most of the book with her pants down and her legs spread... on the exam table, that is. Somehow, she manages to takes her readers through an in-depth explanation of cervix incompetency and surgery procedures, all the while maintaining her laugh-out-loud humor.
Personally, I found the book difficult to keep reading. After the first few chapters, the plot didn't seem to be going anywhere, and I wasn't particularly concerned about the outcome. But the humor kept me reading, and when I got to the last page I found myself smiling and satisfied. I wouldn't recommend the book to absolutely everyone, but it's a hilarious and heartwarming ride for the right readership.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone getting ready to have a baby, or with a loved one who is pregnant. But if you're squeamish about pregnancy, get ready for squeam. The book is geared towards a mature adult audience.
4 out of 5 stars
Buy it on AmazonFind it on Goodreads
THE REVIEWERAmy R. Biddle, co-founder and senior editor at Underground Book Reviews, was raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains and has since made a living on the great blue sea. The Atheist's Prayer, her debut novel, will be published on February 28thg by Perfect Edge Books. You can visit her at www.amyrbiddle.com.
It's here! The Believers: Breeders Book 2 is available on Amazon and Kobo. (Coming soon to B&N and Apple.)
For today only it will be $2.99 and after midnight the ebook price will go up to $3.99 so get your copy now. And drop me a line after you read it. I'd love to hear what you think.
To celebrate, The Breeders (Book 1) is currently on sale for $.99 until the 3rd. Tell your friends and neighbors. Also, I'll be giving away signed paperback copies of both books. Enter on my website. BUY IT ON AMAZON (PAPERBACK AND EBOOK)
BUY IT ON KOBOTHE BELIEVERS: BREEDERS BOOK 2
They’ve escaped the Breeders, yet their journey has just begun.
Riley and Clay are once again on the run from the Breeders. The group may have escaped the deranged experiments at the hospital, but as one of the world's last free women, Riley can never be safe. On the road back home, Riley and her crew are captured by a band of savage men. Their destination: the Citadel, run by a bizarre religious prophet named the Messiah. Somehow he knows their secrets. He wants them to join his group of Believers, but only if they’ll drink the baptismal water and swear allegiance.
The problem is there’s something wrong with the water. Something wrong with the people. And there’s human moaning coming from the bottom of a dark crevasse that no one wants to talk about. If they can’t figure out what’s going on, Riley and everyone she loves could become a Believer forever.
J. Frank Dunkin grew up in Marion, Alabama during the heyday of the Grand Ole Opry and the birth of Rock and Roll. To him, the days were golden, nights were sweet, and movies offered escape to the Wild West or South Pacific. Graduating from Auburn University with a degree in Fine Arts, Dunkin served a tour of duty in Korea and worked as art director for small publications before moving into the world of corporate real estate. His stories draw heavily from his own experiences and travels.
Dunkin had been working on a new book when he unexpectedly passed away this summer. Thankfully, his publicist nabbed an interview with him in anticipation of the release of
Bones of My Brother. The following Q&A appears courtesy of his publisher, Two Harbors Press, and A Blue Million Books.
How long have you been writing, and how did you start?
…since I was twelve years old. I was visiting a friend who lived in a rural part of Perry County, Alabama, a redundant description because almost all of Perry County is rural. Noticing that I had not seen his mother all morning, I asked if she had gone shopping or something. He said, “No, she’s upstairs writing.” Now, who knows why this little kid was so fascinated by that, but I was. When she came downstairs later, we talked a bit about her writing, whereupon I promptly went home and wrote a short story about a rookie baseball player. I passed it on to my friend’s mom for a critique, and she graciously ignored my “rookie” writing style to offer praise and encouragement for my enthusiasm. That woman was Mary Ward Brown, who in later years became one of America’s most beloved short story writers. She passed away this year at age 95. How would you describe your book in six words?
Father-son saga - their love stories How did you create the plot for Bones of My Brother?
I realize a lot of writers work from an outline. I tried that, but once I was into the third chapter, the story started leading me where it wanted to go. In “Bones of My Brother,” the plot emerged in such a way that it was necessary on dozens of occasions to go back and fill in essential foreshadowing. In a way you might say this story was written from the inside out, and that the characters themselves demanded a certain plot. How do you get to know your characters?
They talk to me as I write, and coy and shy as they might initially seem, we eventually become good friends. After spending years conversing with these wonderful friends, it is difficult to let them go. Finishing a novel brings both exultation and a great sense of loss. Other than your parents, is the book based on people you know or events in your own life?
It’s hard for anyone to write a short story or novel without drawing from their own experiences and from the personalities of people they’ve known and loved, or maybe even disliked. But in order to make the story a true work of fiction, and often to make it more interesting, it’s necessary to mold your characters to the story itself. In the end, specific personalities, for the most part, become an amalgam of different people the writer has known, and their story, though similar in some ways, is also very different. In some cases this is also necessary with events the author has lived through but not so necessary with settings. Readers who grew up with me will recognize a number of places, even though those places may be named differently in the story. Which character did you most enjoy writing?
Old Jesse, who embodies the true spirit of the story’s central theme. Jesse was a poor, giant, muscular black man with a gentle spirit. In the story, he is both a hero and a philosopher. I patterned his appearance after a true-to-life person I knew in my childhood. Are you like any of your characters? How so?
I am very much like one of the protagonists, Price Hobson. We shared the same type childhoods, both graduated from Auburn University, both were in shopping center development, both lived in a major Midwestern city, traveled constantly, liked our Manhattans shaken with a cherry and twist, both… well, to be honest, I am Price Hobson – although, I will hasten to add that all the other characters are fictional. Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing?
It’s that moment when you sit down in the morning with a cup of coffee to re-read the wonderful section you wrote the previous night only to discover that it is not so wonderful after all; that you’re staring at a piece of prose that breaks a dozen rules of good writing. But still it’s comforting to realize that you can repair the damage, for if you did not understand the rules of good writing, you would never have noticed your mistakes at all. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned for the first time what it means to truly love your work. My business career was quite stressful. It required me to be away from my family a lot, and it seemingly required me to wear an uncomfortable persona, or at least that’s how I perceived it at the time. Writing is precisely the opposite for me. I’ve often sat at my computer for hours on end without ever thinking of food. The stress I undergo when writing is unnoticed until the phone rings, and I find that my voice is almost gone – that I can barely squeak out a “hello” to the person on the other end. But it’s a rewarding sort of stress. It makes me feel that I’m actually accomplishing something worthwhile.Links
Visit J. Frank Dunkin's website
Find Bones of My Brother on GoodreadsDue to the author’s unexpected death, the release of the book has been delayed until early 2014.
Review by Tara Staley
GENRE: Southern, Literary, Family Saga
LENGTH: 435 pages
PUBLISHER: Two Harbors Press
AUDIENCE: AdultA note from the reviewer: Just days after he approved his galley proofs, J. Frank Dunkin passed away. Tragic news because, in my opinion, this author was at the headwaters of a successful literary career.
On the surface, Bones of My Brother
is about real estate guru Price Hobson simply trying to find closure after his father John dies. But there is so much more to this book than parallel father-son stories. It’s about chasing your wildest dreams to the very edge of common sense. Finding your spirituality. Coming to terms with your faults and uncovering dark family secrets. In the hands of less talented writers, tackling such huge thematics in one novel would be considered “biting off more than you could chew”—however I think the late J. Frank Dunkin did a masterful job pulling it all together into one beautifully cohesive book. Bones of My Brother
opens with Price Hobson reminiscing at his father John’s funeral about how much he had wanted to become a writer. But John had convinced him that a business career would be more lucrative. Through alternating father-son narratives, the reader soon learns why John was so dissuasive: His own artistic ambitions tanked in Nashville shortly after WWII. John’s wife Evie was supportive until her husband turned to liquor and seedy bars to deal with the lack of music success. After one final climactic fight, Evie leaves the disillusioned John and heads back home to Alabama. However, little does John know that she’s pregnant with their first child. Only after a traumatic, premature delivery does John relinquish his guitar once and for all, burying it with the tiny boy under the old “Spread Oak.”
Price’s narrative picks up in the year 2001, and it shows that a business career doesn’t necessarily keep tragedy out of life, either. Price’s own wife, Joy, walks out on him after one too many bad business ventures. But when Price learns about his father’s music, he realizes that a famous honky-tonk tune was penned by his dad, not by the artist or label who recorded it and made millions. This sets the stage (no pun intended) for a redemptive legal battle that gives the Hobson family hope once again and leads Price, literally, to the bones of the brother he never knew he had.
The language of this book is stunning, and the dialogue is absolutely masterful. I admire Dunkin for giving both white and black characters a southern accent—characters who are fully three-dimensional, complex and flawed. I especially loved the father, John Hobson, to the point I was a bit disappointed when his chapters ended. I didn’t find Price’s story quite as compelling, but that is a common problem when writing multiple points-of-view. The reader is always going to connect with one voice over another.
If you are a sucker for fine writing, you’ll relish this book. However, it does come at a cost—sometimes the narrative drags, and events unfold a bit too slow. That didn’t bother me, but it might bother commercial fiction fans who prefer quick, light reads. In addition, the hurricane scene at the end felt somewhat surreal, and Rowena’s sudden appearance at the gravesite was just too convenient. The ending was certainly not as pitch-perfect as the rest of the novel, but having said that, I still give Bones of My Brother
a high rating and am happy to recommend it.
Visit J. Frank Dunkin's website
Find Bones of My Brother on GoodreadsDue to the author’s unexpected death, the release of the book has been delayed until early 2014.
THE REVIEWERTara Staley is the author of Conditions Are Favorable, biofic about the Wright brothers during their years experimenting with flight at Kitty Hawk. Her debut novel Need to Breathe was selected as a “LitPick of 2012” by Twitter’s popular forum @LitChat. She lives in NC with her husband and two sons, a cat, and too many cardinals to count.
GENRE: Young Adult Dystopian
PUBLISHER: Tara Brown Publishing (self published)
AUTHOR: Tara Brown
LENGTH: 274 pages
AUDIENCE: Young Adult/AdultTHE RUNDOWN: "It's us and them, Em. There are no regular people anymore."
When civilization as we know it suddenly grinds to a screeching halt, Emma and her father are one of the few people ready. Growing up with a survivalist father, Emma is tough, prepared and willing to turn away from any other human so she can survive. Her father taught her that the only creature she can trust is her pet wolf. The two of them survive alone for years until one day a girl knocks on her secluded cabin door. The tearful girl begs Emma for help; her brother has fallen and broken his leg. He'll die if Emma doesn't help. Going back on everything she was taught, Emma breaks down and helps, opening herself up to finally caring about another person. But, caring about others comes at a price. When Emma learns Anna has been taken by the government to be used as breeding stock, Emma decides to go in after her. There she learns how dark and twisted the government's procedures are. Now she'll stop at nothing to save the other girls who are being used and discarded.
THE RECOMMENDATION: As a young adult dystopian story, this book follows all the rules. There's a steamy love triangle, a kick-butt heroine, and a ravaged world falling apart at the seams. It is clear that Brown has a good grasp of pace and conflict that makes this book a page-turner. It also sells very well, set at a $.96 price point that makes it an easy buy.
There are some issues however that really soured this experience for me. First of all, Ms. Brown could have used a good editor. It isn't rife with errors like some books, but there were many times when sentence structure or awkward phrasing took me out of the book. Nothing awful or unreadable, but it kept happening over and over. The second issue I had was with the main character, Emma. I get that she is a hardened human being. She would have to be to survive in a world with zombies and government abductors. But she's so angry, often without a clear reason. One minute she loves Jake, the next she is furious with him. Then she loves Will, then she's furious with HIM. She sacrifices herself for the girls she meets, but then is also often furious with them. Her range of emotion felt like being in a middle school dance; the drama was exhausting and often not founded. By the end I just didn't like Emma. And this is problem.
Overall, many people enjoyed this book and it is a quick, light read that is entertaining. I think the story provided was worth a buck. But I did not feel compelled to pick up the rest of the story. There are too many spectacular books in the world.
THE RATING: 3 out of 5 stars
THE LINKS: Find it on Amazon
Find Tara Brown on Twitter
Find Tara Brown on FacebookTHE REVIEWERKatie French is the author of The Breeders, a Young Adult dystopian adventure and Eyes Ever to the Sky, a sci fi romance. Nessa: A Breeders Story, a prequel novelette is available in a new anthology on Amazon. Sign up for notifications, follow her @KatielFrench or like her on Facebook.
Calendar of Events
November 15th: Voting begins at 0800 EST
November 22nd: Registration closes
December 12th: Voting closes at 0800 EST
December 13th: Winners are announcedGround Rules
-Fans can vote only once per book
-Fans may vote for multiple books
-Fans must have read and completed the entire manuscript to vote
-Authors are not permitted to solicit votes with giveaways or other rewards
-Tweets will not be counted
-Questions and concerns should be addressed through our contact form1st Place Prize
- Free entry into the 2014 Shirley You Jest competition (a $50 value!)
- Free subscription to the Weekly Newsletter
- Review and interview on Underground Book ReviewsTop 5
The top five finalists will receive a virtual award logo for use on their websites, and gain exposure on Underground Book Reviews on our Winter Gift List.
review by Emily McCord
GENRE: Legal Thriller
SUMMARY: Gripping legal suspense novel
Alex Fogarty, an insurance agent at Rampart Insurance, gets more than he bargained for when he uncovers threads of corruption in a three-car pileup investigation. Fogarty has also wedged himself into desperate financial circumstances through house-flipping. When, after saying too much to an irresponsible journalist friend, he loses his job at Rampart, he decides he has nothing to lose and pursues the scent of treachery as he begins to privately investigate the case. Ultimately he hopes to win a settlement for the undeserving victim of the crash and corruption, the dead driver’s widow.
But the trail leads him straight into the midst of a high-profile divorce case between Luke Hubbard, the CEO of the Fortune-500 company Liberty Industries, and his stunningly beautiful wife, Sheila, who is also the company’s head of HR.
Brad Pitcher, a Harvard graduate and struggling young lawyer is also drawn into the tangle of corruption danger when Sheila hires him as her divorce lawyer. Brad suspects that Luke is as corrupt as he seems and agrees to help the beautiful and intelligent woman gain a seemingly deserved settlement. Frantic and inexperienced, Brad’s legal tactics create just enough pressure to anger whoever is behind the corruption.
As Brad and Alex both creep closer to the solutions of their cases, danger increases. Mysterious bombs explode, key witnesses die unexpectedly, and everyone involved in both cases seems to be more closely related than either Brad or Alex would have initially suspected.
The captivating story-telling, crisp dialogue, large cast of characters and well-navigated plot will keep readers frantically reading until the very last pages. There is just enough legal jargon included to make the story believable and to keep the curious reader entertained. Good editing work, loose threads that are carefully collected and explained as the book draws to a close, and a well-constructed world of corruption and greed creates a fascinating legal thriller.
No Accident is a thoroughly enjoyable legal thriller. Poor editing seems to be a common standard among self-published e-books, but No Accident is a refreshing exception. The story is well-edited and well-constructed. Plot threads are complicated and the character cast is extensive but Dan Webb does a superb job of bringing the story together and keeping the reader engaged throughout the story.
5 out of 5 stars
But it on Amazon
ABOUT THE REVIEWEREmily McCord is a freelance writer and lives with her husband in Washington, D.C. She blogs about simplicity and creativity at The Orange Slate. She loves to cook and believes that everyone should keep a journal.
Have you self-published a novel with comic elements? Then come on over. This year's Self-Published Novel Competition is open for entry!
What could you win? A review on Underground Book Reviews (priceless) and entry into the Shirley You Jest Book Awards
(a $50 value).
It's free to enter, so what are you waiting for? Check out our guidelines here
Andy Dickenson is a television journalist at ITV Meridian and, before that, a reporter for The Argus newspaper in Brighton.
He's also had two short stories published in comic books: a superhero love story, She'll Never Call, and an alien Darwin adventure, The Origin of the Species.
His first novel, The Last Days, has been hailed as "captivatingly visual... a spellbinding yarn" and "thrilling" by critics and authors alike. Please welcome Andy!KATIE:
We don't often have writers from the UK on our blog. How's the indie publishing world going across the pond? Do you think its similar to the US? Any differences you've found?ANDY:
I'd guess the indie publishing world is in a similar state here as it is there. e-Books are obviously a growing market, the question is how to stand out from the crowd? Some of those early successes did a great job of fulfilling that appetite for reading unpublished material. The challenge now is how to rise above the sheer volume of titles that are out there - which takes either a marketing genius or genuine word of mouth. And that second part, with writers, bloggers and readers all taking part is really exciting.KATIE:
Where did you get the idea for your very creative novel, The Last Days
?ANDY: The Last Days
began life as a comic book I started writing soon after I finished University. The basic premise was to take the classic team-up formula, like the X-Men or The Avengers, and tell this tale about how the world ends. We kept the super powers and the spandex to a minimum, but focused on two teenagers living on the last city on earth. The action and the other heroes revolve around and spin off them. Just like a comic book, it was full of cliffhangers, plot twists and longer story arcs. Then when I decided to write it up as a novel years later, I took one of those story arcs - the murder of one of the major characters - and built the story around it.KATIE:
World Building seems to be a skill of yours. How did you create the world your characters inhibit? ANDY:
I was actually travelling across Canada and through America when I was writing much of the original comic, so some of it was just inspired by watching the world go by. Other elements, such as the scenes in Parliament, have been more heavily researched but I was massively influenced by the movies, comics and books I was into as a kid. I wanted to create something with B-movie sensibilities, which was full of fun and adventure and a little bit of horror, that also had a few things to say about where we could be going ultimately.KATIE:
How does your day job as a TV journalist affect your work as a writer?ANDY:
Well I became a journalist primarily so I could write every day. I think being a reporter forces you to be concise and economical with your language, so that's certainly helped. I also love editing TV and there's a real similarity there with arranging the jigsaw pieces of your plot. You have to entertain, inform and keep up a momentum if you're going to hold an audience in either medium I think. But, more than anything else, I get to meet new characters everyday with different views on life, and that's a constant inspiration source.KATIE:
What's on the docket for you? Any new books coming down the pike? ANDY:
At the moment I'm half-way through my second novel, Water
, a sci-fi thriller for the young adult audience that should be finished next year. I'm hoping to get it published traditionally - The Last Days
came close, so my fingers are totally crossed - then work on the sequel to The Last Days
which I've already sketched out. It will be called Play Me
When you aren't writing what might we find you doing?ANDY:
Well, lets see, as I write I've just finished work and am about to go and play football (soccer to you lot), then I'm off home to the wife, Sarah. We got married last year and share many of the same passions - music, movies and TV (mostly American to be fair, Breaking Bad
and Modern Family
are our favourites at the moment), art and travel when we can afford it. Though Sarah's not quite as keen on football as I am!KATIE:
Thanks, Andy. You can find Andy and his book below:Buy it on Amazon UK.
Find it on GoodReads.
Find Andy on his website.