Meet Roger Peppercorn, Author [Interview]

Roger Peppercorn | Author Interview | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

Things about myself? Well I’m not sure where to begin. I really don’t like talking about myself  *cough* but if I must pontificate about myself at length I will marshal on. It’s funny because as a writer you are of two minds the narcissist and the demur. I say this laughingly because if you give me a mic and an audience of at least one it’s like flipping a switch.  I like to tell stories and make people laugh. It’s what I am best at. I obviously can’t speak for other writers but I would be willing to bet they too are victims of their own hubris. I was raised as a child during the economic downturn that gripped the Western slope of Colorado.

As a child I often spent a lot of time daydreaming. The stories and events that lived in mind were fantastical in nature. As I grew older I often times would watch others and create elaborate fantasies. I wasn’t really all that popular but I did pretty well of fitting in. I wasn’t the class clown or a real show off but I did a good job of framing heroes and villains in stories.

In my mine tween years I started to craft the ability to tell stories. Particularly during English for book reports. But it wasn’t until I took a writing class at a local community college where I really started to write. I don’t recall how many words or pages you were required to crank out daily but I know it felt like a lot. It’s also where I really started to work out scenes and play around with dialogue.

I’ve said this before but the line between good and bad is not always clearly black hat or white hat. It’s this conflict I’ve always been drawn too. To me stories about crime are far more interesting when the actions and words of the characters slide in and out of good and bad behavior. The procedural stuff is a means to bring the story to conclusion but friction between people is what makes a scene really pop on the page.

When I started this book a long time ago it started with the scene in Pea Green Hall. The main thrust of how it is written today holds true to how I saw it in my mind before I wrote it and how it “wrote” are different.

 How long have you been writing for?

Really long and not very long at all. I’ve had a couple of different ideas for stories and have attempted to write them but for a lot of reasons they just never reached the end. That’s the really long side but the short side is about five years. Like I was just saying this novel started with a scene and from there I started to build a story around it. The difference for me is I always had started a story from the start and had tried to walk it through to the end. One seems like a better way than the other but hey, this one scene is how this book got written and published.

What motivates you to write? How did you begin writing?

Honestly the motivation is to get the words and images out of my head. I lived with the first book for about two years in my head and dreams before I set down to write it. Most of the stuff I produce that I really like comes out of living with it for a while. Turning it over and over. Wash, rinse and repeat. This book came about because I just wanted to get it out of my head and on the page to read.

I really got serious about writing when I started my blog. I know, I know everyone has one and some of them are really not good at all I leave them up for better or worse because it’s a way for me to gauge how I am progressing and maturing in the words and how they fit together.

Do you have a writing routine? If so, what’s a typical day like for you?

Because I’m not wealthy my typical day is just like everyone else’s. Get up and go to work come home, hang with the kids and wife. But when it comes to writing I generally write in evenings after the kids have went to bed. My day job takes me on the road so I spend a lot of time in hotels, airports and behind the wheel. The airports and windshield time is where I do a good portion of scene layouts and dialogue.

On nights or weekends when I write there are a few things that for me are a must. First the room temp has to be around seventy five or eighty. I don’t like cool wind blowing on me when I write so no air-conditioning. I don’t like my arms sticking to the top of a desk so a lot of time I have a blanket or a towel to keep me from sticking to the desk.

Like now I am sitting in a recliner with pillows stacked around me to prop up my arms and my laptop is on top of another one. The only thing missing is some type of drink. Mostly I like coffee when I write but booze works pretty good as well.

What was the first thing you did when you found out your book was being published?

I got an email in late fall of 2016. What I remember most is the grin and the satisfaction of all the hard work and slaving over the words, grammar, spelling and formatting had finally paid off. The compliment I got from Leesa at Wallace Publishing was something I will not ever forget.

But as to your question as to what I did. First I showed my wife the letter and then we both toasted the good news and after that had a really nice evening. The details of which I will leave to your imagination. It was a really good day.

What was the publishing process like? How long did it take?

The editing process takes a while to get through especially as an unpublished writer. Wallace did a great job with the particulars of grammar, spelling and punctuation.

I really did feel for them because when I was in high school grammar and English weren’t high on my list of things to succeed at. My girlfriend at the time used to do most of the English work for me which is exactly what it sounds like.

Overall it took about thirteen months and I think we went through two major edits, one minor and one really superficial final edit. But other than grammar and some rewording of some sentences there was only one paragraph we cut. So what you read today is very close to what went to the publisher.

The thing I liked the most was I was in control and had final say on what went to print. I learned a lot and am still learning a lot about the process of writing and self-promotion.

Are you currently working on anything new?

Why yes I am. Right now I am working on some research and supporting characters for the follow up novel which is titled The Sometimes Long Road Home. It takes place about 18 months after On the Devils Side of Heaven.

Walt is a cop in Fruita and a fulltime single father which he’s never had to be. Not to mention sobriety and just being a responsible adult. For a guy like that it’s a lot to take on suddenly. Ronald is still whereabouts unknown but when he shows up he too is a different character. Jessica is still reeling from her dramatic experience and all in all life in Fruita is a lot different now for everyone. So you get to see how all of this plays out.

Oh and there is a murder or two and some dinosaurs so that makes it interesting.

If you weren’t a writer, what would your career be?

That’s funny.

I wish I was an established writer with the income to go along with it. But I still have one of those “day jobs”. In fact it’s the same job I’ve had for almost twenty years. I work in telecommunications. I travel a good deal which is fodder for the books and occasional blog.

What’s one thing you learned through writing that you wish you knew before you started?

Honestly it’s how much effort marketing and promoting takes. As chic as the title of indie author is you are not the recipient of a larger agency who promote these for you. It takes a long time to build an audience and readership. In the end its worth it because it’s yours for better or worse and no one is a better guardian and promoter than you are.

What is your favorite book, genre, or author?

I have always liked a good adventure and thriller. Books that on its face require you to buy into these worlds where things happen that you know are not believable in reality. Especially in the digital world of today.

James Lee Burke is my all-time favorite author I’ve read just about everything he has written. His world and characters are visceral.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

You have to love the process of storytelling first and foremost. Write the stories you want to read and write for your enjoyment and freedom of movement of the mind and expression. Unless you have the magic ticket to literary freedom and success be prepared for a very long road to getting published. Building an audience and a following takes time, energy and some money on your part. But there are a lot of support on social media that can help. Lastly don’t expect anyone in the “bookstore” business to really help out a lot. You are your own best advocate for your work and your brand

Sometimes stories or scenes just don’t write and when it happens take some time for reflection maybe hit the backspace key a few times and either start again or better yet look for those off beat paths that are adjacent to the one you are working on. But never let it stop the story.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Don’t let anyone tell you not to write. The written word is everlasting and the core of all the arts. Plays, movies and songs don’t exist without words. My fifth grade teacher gave me probably the best advice I still use today. Never use the same word to start a sentence in the same paragraph and take care not to use the word “that” too often.

Other than that no one should tell you how to tell your stories. But when a reader takes the time to give you feedback remove the ego and listen. It will only make you better.

About Roger Peppercorn

Roger Peppercorn has suffered for the better part of his life from wanderlust and this need to see the other side of the horizon has taken him to all parts of the world. The people and backdrop of his travels have served as the inspiration behind his characters and storytelling. As a child, his mother taught him to read and write. His father’s collection of Louis Lamour novels provoked the fantastical images in his mind and the romance of the written word. In the seventh grade, his history teacher brought the characters of a bygone era alive. From that point on, Roger began to hone his skills in storytelling. After high school, Roger took a course in creative writing that was taught by a long haired hippy in a Hawaiian shirt. Roger’s grandmother used to tell tales of traveling across the plains in a covered wagon, the woes of having a son sent off to war, and the larger-than-life man she met at Pea Green Hall who later became her husband. His first two novels “On The Devils Side of Heaven” and “The Sometimes Long Road Home” take place on the western slopes of Colorado, in the sleepy town of Fruita, where he grew up. They center on the strained relationships and sorted histories of three characters – Walt, Ronald and Jessica, and violence that erupts around them. Roger is married and is a father of four beautiful children. He currently calls South Dakota his home.

Connect With Roger Peppercorn

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On The Devil’s Side Of Heaven By Roger Peppercorn [Book Review – Mystery Month]

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On the Devil's Side of Heaven by Roger Peppercorn | Crime Thriller | Mystery | Book Review | RachelPoli.com

I received a free digital review copy from the author’s publicist in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:

With the drop of a judge’s gavel, Walt Walker has finally lost everything. The badge and gun he used to carry and the moral certainty of right and wrong, good and evil that used to keep him grounded. Now Walt, sans gun, gets his badges from an Army Navy store. He spends his days in South Florida, working for a boutique insurance firm as their investigator. He spends his nights in dive bars, trying to forget the mess he has made of his life.

Ronald Jacobs always preferred the title Human Resource Manger to Hitman. But now that he’s retired, he can concentrate on living in the shadows as a respectable gentlemen farmer. Far from the reach and pull of his past life.

Their transgressions are behind them but a chance encounter and a failed assassination attempt sets the two of them on a collision course of violence and retribution. Hunted by contract killers, the law, and corporate bag men, they are pursued across the unforgiving adobes and the sweeping vistas of the Mesa Valley in Western Colorado.

Survival means putting their past in front of them and their differences aside, because in this world the only thing that matters is to cast not others on the devil’s side of heaven, lest you be cast in with them.

My Review:

Book Cover | RachelPoli.com

I like the cover, it’s simple and a pretty picture of a forest. One look at it and for reason I can tell what the genre of the book is.

First Thoughts | RachelPoli.com

This was an instant read for me mostly due to the genre. I enjoy crime and thrillers and this was a little different from what I usually read.

Plot | RachelPoli.com

The plot isn’t a bad one as two old friends – who also happen to be brother-in-laws meet up once more to foil some bad guys’ plans. The plot itself was fairly well executed and certainly fit for a thriller. There was plenty of action involved and it moved pretty quickly.

Characters | RachelPoli.com

I’ll be honest, I couldn’t get into any of the characters. Walt, the protagonist, was a bit of a cliche – he lost his job, got divorced and lost his kids, and he sits in bars all night trying to drink away his problems. It kind of got old pretty fast.

Ronald wasn’t too bad of a character. However, he’s a retired hit-man but I couldn’t picture him ever being a hit-man other than the fact he was good with guns.

Even the group of bad guys. They acted tough, high-and-mighty, and swore a lot, but it seemed like it was all for the sake of them being the “bad guys.” There was no depth to it.

Writing Style | RachelPoli.com

I had a hard time reading the book due to the writing style. The POV switched between the characters. It was third-person omniscient, which is fine, but Walt’s parts were in first-person. So, sometimes I was reading the story along with Walt and other times I was with Ronald or an assassin with a third-party unknown narrator. I wasn’t sure which one to believe and it just made the story confusing, especially trying to piece the parts together.

Overall | RachelPoli.com

This wasn’t a bad book, but it was hard for me to get into. I would have liked to see more consistent storytelling with more in-depth characters. It was hard for me to keep track of, though with the fast-pace action and high crime, you may want to give this one a try.

On The Devil’s Side Of Heaven by Roger Peppercorn gets…
Book Review Rating System | 2 Cups of Coffee | RachelPoli.com2 out of 5 cups

Favorite Quote:

“He was a killer of all killers and he feared no man. But if his wife was mad, he came a-calling just as pronto as any lovesick dog.” –Roger Peppercorn, On the Devil’s Side of Heaven

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The Black Book by James Patterson

Title: The Black Book
Author: James Patterson
Published: 
March 2017 by Little, Brown and Company
Genre: Mystery
How I got the book: I borrowed it from my mom

Summary:

How can you prove your innocence when you can’t remember the crime?

Being a cop runs in Billy Harney’s family. The son of Chicago’s Chief of Detectives whose twin sister, Patty, also followed in their father’s footsteps, there’s nothing Billy won’t give up for the job, including his life. Left for dead alongside his tempestuous former partner and a hard-charging assistant district attorney out for blood, Billy miraculously survives. But he remembers nothing about the events leading up to the shootout. Charged with double murder and desperate to clear his name, Billy retraces his steps to get to the bottom of what happened. When he discovers the existence of a little black book that everyone who’s anyone in Chicago will stop at nothing to get their hands on, Billy suspects it contains the truth that will either set him free…or confirm his worst fears.

My Review:

rp-first-thoughts

James Patterson is a wonderful author, but I don’t read his books enough. My mom raved about this one so I decided to pick it up and give it a try myself.

rp-plot

Billy Harney, the protagonist, gets himself into a lot of trouble. He solves a crime with no true evidence and it’s because of that that people question him. Then he wakes up from a coma. He had been shot and was lucky to be alive. His partner, Kate, and the woman he was seeing, Amy, were not so lucky.

The thing is, Billy has no memory of what happened.

The only thing that can help Billy is finding a little black book that will reveal everything. That, and getting his memory back. He is now framed and accused of four murders, Kate and Amy included. While he can’t remember, he knows that he would never kill anyone.

This was a long and twisted plot, but pretty easy to follow along and it certainly kept my interest the whole time. Once you thought you and the characters had figured something out, something else would happen. It was suspenseful, real, and twisty.

rp-characters

I did enjoy all the characters. Billy, the protagonist, was my favorite. He seemed to be the only one who had most of his stuff together. He seemed to be the definition of a true cop, despite some cliches here and there (his wife and daughter had died).

All the other characters seemed to be in it for themselves, which made sense. They were all trying to protect themselves in the severity of the case. Kate was a cool character too, though she and Billy seemed to have a falling out towards the end which made me a little sad.

Patti, Billy’s twin sister, who is also a cop, was just an okay character for me. The book opens up with her and I thought she was going to be a protagonist as well, but she wasn’t really. She did have a few big parts, but other than that, she wasn’t in it too much.

rp-writing-style

I loved the way this book was written. It’s broken up into parts, the past and the present. Billy’s parts were told in first person, but he couldn’t remember the past. So we, as the readers, knew what had happened by reading the past, and then when we jumped back to the present, Billy was still trying to piece everything together.

It was a clever way of revealing everything, especially at the end when they all went to court. Everything started to come back to Billy and we learn the major climax through alternating between the past and present within the chapters.

It was clever, easy to follow along, and kept my attention.

rp-overall

This was a great read. If you’re into mysteries or suspenseful reads, this would definitely be a good one to pick up.

The Black Book by James Patterson gets…
5-Star Rating | Book Review 5 out of 5 stars

Favorite Quote:

“It’s easier to focus on someone else’s grief than cope with your own.” –James Patterson, The Black Book

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Underneath by Anne Goodwin

Underneath by Anne Goodwin | Book Review

Title: Underneath
Author: Anne Goodwin
Published: 
May 25, 2017 by Inspired Quill
Genre: Psychological Thriller
How I got the book: I received a free digital copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:

He never intended to be a jailer …

After years of travelling, responsible to no-one but himself, Steve has resolved to settle down. He gets a job, buys a house and persuades Liesel to move in with him.

Life’s perfect, until Liesel delivers her ultimatum: if he won’t agree to start a family, she’ll have to leave. He can’t bear to lose her, but how can he face the prospect of fatherhood when he has no idea what being a father means? If he could somehow make her stay, he wouldn’t have to choose … and it would be a shame not to make use of the cellar.

Will this be the solution to his problems, or the catalyst for his own unravelling?

My Review:

rp-first-thoughts

I read and reviewed Anne Goodwin’s debut novel Sugar and Snails and enjoyed it. When she contacted me about this thriller, and I love thrillers, I was excited to give it a shot.

rp-plot

We follow the first-person point of view of Steve, a man who buys a house and tries to get his life in order. He meets Liesel and they hit it off right away. She moves in with him and together they decide how they should use the cellar. The cellar is used for a few reasons as Steve tries to fix it up. It isn’t until Liesel gives him an ultimatum: They have kids together or she leaves, that Steve decides to use the cellar as Liesel’s own “home.” He doesn’t want kids, but he doesn’t want to lose Liesel.

It’s an interesting premise for a story and I was intrigued by it. However, it was pretty slow-going in the beginning. Nothing really happened until 150 pages into the story and, at that point, there were only about 100 pages left. Still, we did get flashbacks into Steve’s childhood which showcased how he grew up without a father and potentially why he never wants to be a father himself.

rp-characters

The characters were developed well. I felt for both Liesel and Steve and their own inner problems. Liesel wanted kids after her career didn’t work out and Steve just wanted a simple life with the girl of his dreams and it took a sudden turn for the worst.

Liesel was a go-getter from the beginning. When she decided she wanted something, she went for it as best as she could. This included Steve, her career, and then wanting kids. I loved that about her, but since we were in Steve’s head, I knew that Liesel could do better than him. Still, they had a cute relationship with one another.

To be honest, I couldn’t relate to Steve that well. I didn’t care for him as a character, even though he was the main protagonist and antagonist. I sympathized with him for his childhood, but that was about it. There was just something about him that turned me off from him.

rp-writing-style

The story is told to us in parts as opposed to chapters, which isn’t a bad thing. However, there were no timestamps or dates to indicate where we were and when. Time jumps were used an extra space in between paragraphs and flashbacks had a page break, but that was it. This made it a little confusing to read, but the author does write well regardless.

rp-overall

This was a good read, but I do wish the timeline was a little clearer and I felt more for Steve. Still, it was interesting, especially the ending. It makes you wonder what actually happened and whether your interpretation of the book was real or not. In that sense, it was cleverly written.

Underneath by Anne Goodwin gets…
3 Stars3 out of 5 stars

Favorite Quote:

“You’ve got to be prepared to fight for what you believe in.” –Anne Goodwin, Underneath

Underneath by Anne Goodwin comes out May 25, 2017. Preorder the book today!

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Deceived by Heena Rathore P.

deceived

Title: Deceived
Author: Heena Rathore P.
Published: 
Citrus Publishers, June 2017
Genre: Psychological thriller
How I got the book: I received a free digital copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:

How well do you know your loved ones?

A young girl struggling to cope with the murders of her mother and five-year-old brother.
A journalist chasing the ghost of a potential serial killer.
A thirteen-year-old girl who slaughtered her parents.
And a revenge-driven psychopath who is about to destroy everyone’s life.

After 9 years, a young writer is still coping with the brutal murders of her mother and five-year-old brother, as she moves into a house of horrors, unwittingly to start a new life with her lover. Will friends and family be able to redeem Ally out of the impending doom in time? Will her infallible love become the key to the destruction of her already fragile world? Will madness prevail over love; true love over revenge?

My Review:

rp-first-thoughts

The author’s publisher contacted me about reading an eARC of the book among other things for the release. I was excited to work directly with the publicist and when I found out the book was a thriller, I was sold. I love mystery and suspense, so I was eager to give this one a try.

rp-characters

I have to admit that I wasn’t too thrilled with a lot of the characters. Ally was a good protagonist and I was able to relate to her through her anxiety. Her father, Stephen, was a great character too. I loved seeing the dynamic between father and daughter.

Steve, Ally’s cousin, appears to help solve the murders even though he stopped talking to Ally when it all happened. They make up after so many years lost, but that’s it. I expected the two of them to get close again, have a lot of scenes of the two of them figuring out the mystery together, but there was barely any of that. After they made up, they only spoke once in a while and that was it. I almost felt as though there was no point to having them be distant in the first place.

I absolutely love Sam, Ally’s roommate, and Max, Ally’s dog. They were the most loyal, trusting, and caring about Ally and everything else. They were crafted really well, as was the killer. His crazy tendencies was very well done.

One nitpick I have about the characters are the names. Ally’s father is named Stephen and her cousin is Steve. Ally’s boyfriend is named Danny while Steve’s assistant is named Donny. I got used to it after a while, but it did get confusing at times. I kept reading “Danny” as “Donny” if I went too fast and then I found myself wondering why Danny was helping Steve. Nothing major, but I felt as though better names could have been chosen.

 

rp-plot

We follow multiple characters throughout this story, each chapter being a different POV. However, the protagonist is Ally, a young woman still grieving over the murders of her mother and younger brother. She has her roommate and best friend and her father, but she’s mainly just trying to move on with her life.

She ends up meeting a guy, Danny, and moves in with him despite her friends not being too thrilled about it. She then begins to realize that he isn’t exactly who she thought he was.

I thought this was such a clever plot and an interesting twist on the typical stalker-killer. We saw through the eyes of the killer, yet that didn’t give anything away. It leaves room for the reader to figure it all out alongside the main characters.

With that said, I did still manage to figure it out long before the killer’s identity was revealed. Things were just a bit too fishy and there weren’t any red herrings. There wasn’t much else for me to go on so it was pretty easy to figure out who the culprit was long before it was revealed. It was predictable because that was the only lead that was given to us, but the author did a great job not revealing any information.

rp-writing-style

The author has a clever way of getting her words across. I found her writing to be easy to follow along and enjoyable to read.

Alternating POVs was a good choice as well. Sometimes they can get confusing when you’re following multiple characters. Not only were we following four characters-Ally, Steve, her journalist cousin, Elizabeth, the 13-year-old who killed her parents, and the killer himself. Elizabeth was from a different timeline. However, it was all well done and written in a certain order so that you wouldn’t feel lost.

rp-overall

I found this novel to be enjoyable and edge-of-your-seat gripping. The writing style and POVs really made the novel what it is and the killer was crafted so well. The novel ended up being much darker than I thought. Somethings the killer did bothered me a bit, but I also have a weak stomach. So take that as you will.

Deceived by Heena Rathore P. gets…
4-stars4 out of 5 stars

Favorite Quote:

“Denial. It’s the only thing that keeps most of us from losing our sanity.” –Heena Rathore P., Deceived

In other news, I’ve challenged myself to read five books between Sunday, February 19 and Sunday, February 26. Feel free to join me and check out my daily updates on Twitter, Tumblr, and my Bookstagram!

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The Magnus Covenant by Toni Pike

The Magnus Covenant by Toni Pike book review by Rachel Poli
Via Goodreads

Title: The Magnus Covenant 
Author: 
Toni Pike
Genre: Religious Thriller
How I got the book: I got a free digital copy from the author in exchange for an honest review

Summary (from Goodreads):

The fate of the world is in the hands of one man and the covenant holds the key.

The Reverend Jotham Fletcher is in Rome to give a lecture on his PhD thesis about Simon Magus at the church where he fell to his death beside the Roman Forum. Magus was a cult leader mentioned in the Bible and his libertine sect disappeared by 400 AD.

But did it really die out?

A robed man is pushed from the belltower of the church at midnight and Jotham becomes the prime suspect. His lover Antonella, an expert on ancient documents, has a shocking secret. Rumours fly about a papyrus scroll that mentions Magus. A ruthless Catholic Brotherhood will stop at nothing in their hunt for the Simonian Sect. And a reclusive billionaire has the chance of a lifetime to get his revenge.

Jotham is kidnapped, tortured and on the run. He races from Italy to England to Sweden. But the body count continues to rise and so does the heat in this non-stop thriller that will leave you breathless.

My Review:

The Magnus Covenant was an interesting read, to say the least. The religious aspect of it was a fun twist and created a whole new meaning to the usual standard murder mystery.

Jotham goes on quite the adventure as he tries to figure out what exactly is going on. In the end, you find out the reason behind everything and Jotham, despite everything he went through, realizes that he needs to stop it.

Like Jotham, I felt as though I didn’t really know what was going on in the story. There was no clear motive right off the bat. Being a mystery, that’s fine. We’re supposed to figure that out.

However, I even had a hard time following the characters. There were a lot of page breaks switching between each character’s point of view (especially in the beginning of the book), but the point of views were all third-person. So there weren’t any need for page breaks and sometimes the character switch went to a character who wasn’t part of the main cast, which confused me even more. A lot of characters were introduced at the beginning and it was hard to follow.

The book was a quick read and each chapter was about three pages long. But there were sometimes about five or six page breaks and it made the story jarring to read.

While I liked the characters, Jotham, Antonella, and even Iago at the end, I couldn’t relate to any of them. When someone died, I didn’t care. The dialogue was a bit bland at times so often I had to reread what they said because I found myself not paying attention.

Overall, the plot drew me in. I was curious about where the story was going to end up, who killed who and why. It was a unique thriller and a fun mystery to follow, but I think I would have been into it more with a different set of characters.

The Magnus Covenant by Toni Pike gets out of 5 stars.

Favorite Quote:

“There was a subdued round of applause. It was far too polite, as if they were not there for the lecture but for the fireworks that came afterwards.” –Toni Pike, The Magnus Covenant

About the Author:

After graduating from the University of Sydney, Toni progressed from being a veterinary surgeon to a high school teacher and then a public servant in Canberra, the capital city of Australia. Her husband Jon was in the Air Force and, while raising two beautiful children, they had several years living in England and America. Toni’s main passions are family, writing and travel – in that order.

Connect with the Author:

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When A Story Is That Good

When I lost the Internet in my house last week, I ended up spending my time away from the screens. No video games, no laptop for writing or blogging, I couldn’t even use my phone aside from texting.

I forgot how much I relied on the Internet, but I found other ways to entertain myself. There’s more to life than technology.

I spent a few hours reading an old book I got a long time ago. I remember reading it when I was younger, but I didn’t really remember anything about the actually story or plot.

It was a quick read, so I figured, why not?

A Deadly Game of Magic by Joan Lowery Nixon book review by Rachel PoliI read A Deadly Game of Magic by Joan Lowery Nixon. Nixon wrote mystery, suspense stories. They were quick reads, but they were the type of book that kept you constantly turning the pages. You know, you want to skip to the very end just to see what happens.

I got so into the book. I haven’t read such a thrilling suspense story in a long time. Kris sat beside me re-reading Harry Potter and she tried talking to me a couple of times, but I ignored her every time. I either didn’t hear her, or I decided to finish the paragraph before responding. But then after that paragraph, I would just continue to the next and the next and the next.

Once I got to page 76 in the book, I read a line of narration that said, “A sudden thud shook the back door.”

It’s such a simple sentence. It’s not very descriptive, but it’s described enough.

At this point, I was halfway through the story, so I was very much wrapped up in the characters and plot. So of course, I felt for the characters. What was the loud thud? They’re in a huge abandoned home in the middle of a storm, in the middle of nowhere. Of course, the door shaking is going to freak anyone out; especially if someone is trying to break in.

Needless to say, when I read that line, one of the doors in my house slammed shut.

I sat up abruptly on the couch and peered out into the kitchen. I didn’t see or hear anything. I looked at Kris and she was still reading her book as though the sudden slamming didn’t bother her one bit.

I tried to get her to get up and check it out, but she thought I was being nuts and told me there was nothing wrong.

I had assumed the door that slammed was the basement door. Kris said it was the wind, but I said there was no wind anywhere. The windows were closed in the kitchen and there wasn’t anything in the basement. We didn’t even have the fan on.

Then she asked me to get her cookies. I agreed. I was hungry and I the door slamming was nothing, right? Maybe the dog or cat ran into the door or something. They’re both very clumsy and walk into walls all the time.

But if I went into the kitchen, I would have to pass the basement door.

I was already freaked out from the events going on in the book. So even something as small as a door slamming was making me uptight and nervous, especially since that exact thing just happened in the book.

I was brave, though. I went into the kitchen. I peered down the basement stairs, but it was dark. I couldn’t see anything. Either way, I sighed in relief. I was being crazy.

I got the cookies and as soon as I put the step-stool back, I turned around to grab the cookies off the counter.

Then the door to my parents’ bedroom slammed shut.

Even though I had to pass by the basement door and my parents’ bedroom door, I darted back into the living room with a panic yelling at Kris.

There was nothing in the house, and I knew that, but there was definitely something in the house.

Kris laughed at me, but she decided to humor me and check out my parents’ bedroom.

Sure enough, they had a window wide open and the wind was slamming doors closed.

And that’s all she wrote.

Kris and I got back to reading like nothing happened. Except she now enjoys telling people that story because I freaked out.

At least it was a good book.

Have you ever gotten so into a story that you brought it into reality with you? Let me know in the comments!

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The Serenity Stone Murder by Marianne Jones

Via Goodreads
Title: The Serenity Stone Murder
Author: Marianne Jones
Genre: Mystery
How I got the book: I got a free digital copy from the author in exchange for an honest review

Summary (from Goodreads):

The peaceful city of Thunder Bay is shocked when one of its most prominent businessmen is murdered with a stone stolen from a nearby church garden. Visiting the city to attend a retreat, friends Margaret and Louise become intrigued by the circumstances surrounding the murder and quickly find themselves embroiled in the investigation. Will they discover that they’ve stepped into something they won’t be able to walk away from? Will the murderer target them next?

My Review:

This book is a fun, quick read at 198 pages. However, being only 198 pages, a lot more could have been added to it.

We follow Margaret and her friend Louise as they travel away from home for a conference. While there, a murder occurs in the local town.

Margaret and Louise are very fun characters to follow around. They make a friend there and she’s a hoot as well. They were all very enjoyable and I would read anything that involves those characters.

The writing style for the characters and narration was spot on. The whole book flowed well and was very easy to follow.

My only problem is that the story was a bit slow. I thought it may have been because maybe the murder was supposed to be more suspenseful than anything else, but it wasn’t really suspenseful at all. Everything falls into place in the last chapter of the story, which is just eight pages, and there were a lot of side tracks here and there that didn’t really have anything to do with the murder at all.

The motive behind the murder wasn’t very impressive, either. However, the murder weapon was something different (other than guns and knives). Because of that, I found the title to be very clever. 

The Serenity Stone Murder by Marianne Jones gets 4 out of 5 stars.

Favorite Quote:

“Some say it is the most direct path, bypassing the intellect, and going straight for the heart. That’s why music is often called the universal language.” –Marianne Jones, The Serenity Stone Murder

Mystery is a Mystery

It’s hard to explain why we like something. To quote a video game, “I like what I like.” End of story.

But we all have different tastes and interests in things. Why? Because we all have different personalities. Why? Well, I don’t know. You’ll have to ask the universe that one.

Some people like to watch TV more so than read books. Some people like eating sweets more so than salty snacks. Some people prefer the mystery genre over other genres.

But why? What is it about reading about people getting killed and solving brutal murders and crimes that get us excited?

Mystery is a Mystery - Why do you like mystery novels? Rachel Poli

It’s cooler than it looks.

Most TV shows chalk up the law enforcement to be a lot more fun than what it really is in real life. It’s glamorous, it’s humorous. Sure, the characters get into perilous situations, but they always get out of it. They always win.

Who didn’t want to be a police officer or a detective when they were younger? I know I wanted to be a spy or secret agent when I was a kid. Then I grew up and realized if that ever came true, I’d be cowering behind my partner the entire time.

The world is a scary place. It’s better to follow the main character around in your head and help them solve puzzles while shouting at the TV screen than actually doing so in real life.

The puzzles.

I don’t know about you, but I love sitting on the floor creating a jigsaw puzzle. Or wracking my brain to solve a riddle. I love look-and-find searches whether it’s words or pictures, I enjoy mazes, and I enjoy playing detective games such as the Clue board game or the Ace Attorney or Professor Layton video games series.

Our brains can work in amazing ways and solving puzzles and riddles is just one of those fascinating ways. It’s not easy, you really have to work and think through it. It’s satisfying when you finally so solve a puzzle. You feel accomplished, you feel smart.

I don’t know about you, but if I solve the murder mystery myself before the end of the book, I do a happy dance.

It’s safe.

Whatever you read in a book, whatever you watch on a TV show, you’re safe. It’s not real.

Even if you’re reading a true crime book, you’re still safe in the comfort of your own home. And whatever crime you’re reading about already happened, justice pulled through, it’s over.

I’m sure there are many other reasons why people love mysteries so much. I think, overall, mysteries are great because it’s so interactive with the audience as they try to solve the crime along with the characters.

I could also ask, though, why do you love fantasy so much? Why do you love romance so much? Each answer is going to be different depending on the genre, depending on the person asked.

So…

Why do you love the mystery genre?

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The Murder House by James Patterson

The Murder House by James Patterson book review Rachel Poli
Via Goodreads
Title: The Murder House
Author: James Patterson
Genre: Thriller and Suspense
How I got the book: I bought it

Summary (from Amazon):

No. 7 Ocean Drive is a gorgeous, multi-million-dollar beachfront estate in the Hamptons, where money and privilege know no bounds. But its beautiful gothic exterior hides a horrific past: it was the scene of a series of depraved killings that have never been solved. Neglected, empty, and rumored to be cursed, it’s known as the Murder House, and locals keep their distance.

Detective Jenna Murphy used to consider herself a local, but she hasn’t been back since she was a girl. Trying to escape her troubled past and rehabilitate a career on the rocks, the former New York City cop hardly expects her lush and wealthy surroundings to be a hotbed of grisly depravity. But when a Hollywood power broker and his mistress are found dead in the abandoned Murder House, the gruesome crime scene rivals anything Jenna experienced in Manhattan. And what at first seems like an open and shut case turns out to have as many shocking secrets as the Murder House itself, as Jenna quickly realizes that the mansion’s history is much darker than even the town’s most salacious gossips could have imagined. As more bodies surface, and the secret that Jenna has tried desperately to escape closes in on her, she must risk her own life to expose the truth–before the Murder House claims another victim.

My Review:

This is one of those stories that you just simply can’t put down.

This mystery is certainly soap-opera material. I thought it was going one way and then another and then another.

Detective Jenna Murphy tries to figure out a string of murders by a serial killer no matter what. She’s a headstrong, take-charge character which is the perfect personality for her. She doesn’t let any relationship get in the way of her investigation. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes not so much.

Murphy’s past is something she has repressed and doesn’t really know about it for a while. As far as she’s concerned, it’s all nightmares. It isn’t until she meets a few people here and there that things start falling into place.

I found all the characters to be likable (except the killer of course) and there were a few characters I wasn’t sure whether I was supposed to like them or not. Each character had a purpose and their own unique way of speaking and doing things.

The point of view got confusing at times. It was written in first-person through Jenna’s eyes during some chapters, but other chapters were written in third-person through the killer’s eyes and sometimes through another character, Noah’s, eyes.

The killer was extremely creepy and this is not a book I recommend reading right before going to bed. It sent chills down my spine and I think that’s exactly the way to write a good thriller.

I ended up figuring out all the mysteries (there’s more to it than just, “who’s the killer?”) before the end of the book and I was quite pleased with myself.

The Murder House by James Patterson gets 5 out of 5 stars.

Favorite Quote:

“Don’t worry, your favorite neice still loves you,” I say. “But your favorite detective still thinks you’re a horse’s ass.” –James Patterson, The Murder House

Related Reviews:

Confessions of a Murder Suspect
The Mysterious Affair at Styles

Check out my Goodreads to see what I’m reading next!