In Broad Daylight – A Jess Harding Novel by Seth Harwood

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This is a fascinating story. Jessica Harding is a FBI agent hot on the trail of a serial killer. Five years ago, she was in Anchorage, Alaska, chasing this same nightmare. It was her first time leading an investigation that contained crime scene after crime scene, and too few clues. After months, the scent grew cold and she was re-assigned to California. Now, the killer is back and so is Agent Harding.

This time around she has enough experience to put on a strong front for the benefit of her male colleagues, showing that she knows exactly how she will move this investigation forward. She’s sure something important was missed the first time around and she wants to backtrack as she moves forward, but not everyone thinks that’s a good plan for success. As Jess enters each scene, looking for the slightest psychological whiff of her murderer, she is disturbed to feel him so close. Some scenes raise the hair on the back of her neck, as she recognizes his games. He enjoys throwing off the hunters with meaningless words, phrases, or sentences written with the victim’s blood. He begins to list the names of his victims at the scene and soon Jess finds her own name added to the list. She decides not to report this fact and, although it gives her chills, she is determined to bring this monster down. Once again, the crime scenes start to add up.

Jess is a great character with a lot of drive for her job. It’s the most fulfilling part of her life. I appreciate that she is quietly aggressive and careful to protect her position, hopefully without offending. Also, she has the ability to make a friend when it’s not easy for her and not at the top of her list of priorities. I enjoyed the suspense and the portrayal of Jess as only human, instead of Wonder Woman. Jess is the main player, but there are others in the story that are interesting, even when they only have a small part. There is plenty here to mull over as the story moves on, and the suspense is high. There are a couple of ‘eww’ murder scenes, but the book is well worth the time and anyone who loves catching the bad guy will appreciate this one.

The rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – This is suspense for adults. I don’t know if a teenager would have the patience to wait out an investigation.
  • Level of sexuality – There is some sex. Overall, it definitely is not what drives the story.
  • Is there graphic language? The author conveys the character’s thoughts and actions with very little graphic language. Thank you.
  • Did I laugh? No.
  • Did I cry? No. I felt some sadness and anger for the victims. Their deaths were violent and meaningless.
  • Is this part of a series? Not that I can tell.
  • Level of character development – The characters were great. I didn’t at any time think someone needed adjustment to make this storyline work any smoother.

I give this book ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.

Available here on Amazon

Available here in paperback at Barnes & Noble

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The Eye of Hermes by William Howard

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Yannick DcCullen is a blue and green Trionyx – seven-foot-two, spikes down his back and razor-sharp claws on paws and feet. Buddash Kyo is a Cranitian – skin cheddar-hued and large saucer-shaped eyes on either side of his oblong face. He has his own personal body armor – a scaled protective layer from the back of his head to below his ankles. Then there is Legate Prime Buzz, Diabolox, Dr. Rabun, and Sobek Bokhan, just to name a few. The names and species just kept coming. I only had a vague sense of the storyline, because I was overwhelmed by so many players. Also, there were several goals, individually, involving many characters.

What it comes down to is that these are bugs. Big bugs. Humans barely have a place in this plot and it turns out bugs are just as greed-driven as humans, and just as murderous. If they are not plotting to rob one another, they are plotting the demise of some equally nasty bug. Almost each chapter is a bombardment of some bug fighting other bugs, discussion of their ability to fight, and the body type needed for surviving fights. I was fascinated by the fact that you never want to kill a bug outright, because it immediately births a whole slew of more bugs. Incapacitation works much better, so the best way to handle bugs is to whack off appendages.

This story obviously involved a lot of brain-power from the author and, unfortunately, an awful lot from the readers. I was half-way through the book before I started recognizing who was up to what and why. Sadly, part-way through, the editing broke down and there are several confusing sentences sprinkled about. I decided by the time I neared the end of the book that I was liking the story. However, it took too long for me to appreciate it and the editing did muddy the writing. Is this a good story? I think it can be and some readers may enjoy this buggy tale. If you want to dive deeply into this, bring a roadmap and take notes. However, if you are just plain interested in what bugs may be thinking, this is the book for you.

Oh, don’t ask what the Eye of Hermes is. I barely know myself.

The rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – I’m going to call this sci-fi and the reading age is anybody who likes bugs.
  • Level of sexuality – There were some pleasure bugs, but overall I don’t think they’re too interested in that kind of stuff.
  • Is there graphic language? Some, but it was all spoken in Bug-ese and easily ignored.
  • Did I cry? Are you kidding? These are bugs!
  • Did I laugh? After I finished the book. After all, it’s about bugs!
  • Is this part of a series? No.
  • Level of character development – What can I say? Bugs.

I give this ⭐️⭐️…Bugs!

Available here on Amazon

 

Featured Author: David Z. Hirsch

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David Z Hirsch is the pen name of Maryland physician and author of Didn’t Get Frazzled. He graduated from Wesleyan University, received a medical degree from NYU School of Medicine, and completed an internal medicine residency at Johns Hopkins Bayview. Despite all that, he has never stopped writing and, even more surprisingly, scribbles quite legibly. If you’d like to read his official (fictional) bio, check out his author page on Amazon. It is completely and amusingly absurd.


  1. When did you start writing? I’ve always enjoyed writing but it wasn’t until college that the idea of writing a novel burrowed into my brain and refused to budge. After medical school, I decided to get serious about completing a novel and spent the next decade or so working on it. That project ultimately failed, but I learned quite a bit in the process and started a new novel that would eventually become Didn’t Get Frazzled.

  2. What is your inspiration? Moments that are surprising, emotional, or surreal inspire me. They tend to be the most fertile soil for fascinating stories.

  3. How did you come up with your stories? Many of the stories are based on my own experience, although the book is a work of fiction (despite the assumptions of several reviewers!) While I felt obligated to be true to the emotions of my medical school experience, I allowed imagination and flights of fancy drive the details.

  4. Where is your favorite place to write? I write at my desktop computer at home. Not very exciting, I know, but I’ve tried writing in more exotic locals and learned that I focus better at home.

  5. Do you plan your stories before starting? I create a basic outline to prevent the story from lurching into a ditch but otherwise let my characters have free reign. One of the great joys of writing is to let your characters surprise you.

  6. When did you first consider yourself an author? While I’ve always felt like a writer, I never really felt like an author until I saw my book on Amazon. Holding the paper version was pretty cool, too.

  7. Do you see writing as a career? Writing is my avocation. I know that’s blasphemous to say among writers, but I take my writing as seriously as everyone else. I’ve just accepted the financial limitations.

  8. Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? Figuring out the genre of my own book, apparently. I’ve promoted Didn’t Get Frazzled as medical fiction or commercial fiction and then I win an award in the Humor/Comedy category.

  9. What was the hardest part of writing your book? First drafts. Once I have something on paper – no matter how feeble – I enjoy editing it to a shine.

  10. Can you share a little of your current work with us? My current novel is a magical fiction middle grade novel called Jake, Lucid Dreamer, which I plan to publish under my actual name (secret identity to be revealed!) It couldn’t be more different from Didn’t Get Frazzled. I realize that this is the opposite of what marketers recommend in building a brand, but I have to write what I’m passionate about or else why bother? I’m looking at an early 2018 release and I cannot wait to introduce Jake to the world.

  11. Do you have advice for other writers? Follow your passion and persevere against all odds. If you’re going to fail, you might as well fail doing what you love. And hey, if you don’t fail, even better!

  12. Do you have anything specific you want to say to your readers? Thank you, thank you, thank you. Being able to share my joy, rage, and laughter with complete strangers is the beautiful and fundamental wonder of novel writing.

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Read our review of Didn’t Get Frazzled by David Z. Hirsch, M.D.

Cheerleading can be Murder by Carissa Ann Lynch

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This clichéd, little book begins with cheerleading and ends with cheerleading. The middle of the book – more cheerleading. For those of us who don’t care about cheerleading one way or the other, it might be difficult, dare I say painful, to swallow the life and death stance on cheerleading portrayed in this book.

There are very few characters in the story and none of them are impressive or even likeable. It is written first-person, which makes it harder to read. Dakota is shallow, flighty, will literally do anything to be a cheerleader, and every ounce of happiness in her life is based on making it to the varsity squad her freshman year. Oddly enough, this school doesn’t seem to have a junior varsity anything, and the squad is a meager six girls. No wonder they’re willing to kill each other; they have to go above and beyond to make up what is more like half of a squad.

In her quest to beat out all the nasty, petty girls at school, she proves to be even more shallow than them all. For example, someone shreds her uniform and she has a very public melt-down that would make any parent ashamed. She’s not going to live it down anytime soon, but she couldn’t care less in comparison to her trashed uniform. Throughout the entire book she has the maturity of a five-year-old. She takes offense at each little infraction, thinks horrid thoughts about every other girl, throws a hissy when the guy she thinks is a dork, but she might like a little even though she deems him a loser, is spotted kissing some other girl. Thankfully, she’s incredibly superficial and the next day he becomes her boyfriend and she later professes her true love for him.

She’s not the only girl to give teenagers a bad rep. For being such a tiny book, there are numerous instances that made me cringe. The girls are vicious, nasty, have egos that rival Madonna, and take capricious to a new high. They cannot figure out whether they hate each other or they are besties. Within one paragraph, Dakota is going to tear her former best friends’ (there are two and you can safely pick either one in this scenario) hair out and then she is ready to “forgive” said girl for all the ways she wronged her. To clear things up, they all wrong each other over and over, until I had a headache from rolling my eyes.

Supposedly, there is a sociopath who is meant to drive the story and provide suspense. Warning: there is no suspense. Out of seventy chapters, maybe three are dedicated to that individual and they last thirty seconds. The author took the bad guy right out of the book. Then comes the great revelation. It was far from great, although it was a revelation, since any of these girls could have easily been the one slashing tires and killing kittens. That particular character has basically zero action, so it had to be tied up with a bow in a long paragraph at the end that explained why she was crazy. There are no hints and she is given only a cursory description, which I immediately forgot. If you’re looking for a book where you actually have to think and guess, move on.

After everything that happens, Dakota is still so immature that she thinks it is quite a shame that the evil cheerleader is evil, because she could have been great the following year. She tried to kill people, so it would make sense that her cheerleading abilities are inconsequential, but not according to Dakota. As wretched as these teens are, the adults are sorry excuses for parents and teachers. From the mother who spoils Dakota rotten to the coach who goes into graphic detail about kitten innards, they are a disappointment which explains a lot about these kids who are in desperate need of a conscience.

Overall, the writing is very basic and unengaging. It reads like something a teenager wrote and fits perfectly with Dakota’s bipolar thoughts. Don’t let the title fool you; this is not a horror story. This is baby Dean Koontz and lacks suspense completely. I was so disturbed by these teens that the “evil acts” took a back seat. This series came highly recommended, but the only redeeming moment I found was when Dakota ponders why her mother’s sandwiches taste better, just because she makes them. The fact is food made by others, especially a loved one, always tastes better. This was the one poignant moment.

The rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – It’s hardly suitable for teens. I’m thinking more along the line of tweens. Adults should definitely steer clear. As for genre, it’s supposed to be horror, but it falls into the category of underdeveloped stories for teens.
  • Level of sexuality – Zero. If there had been any, I would have been very concerned. I was relieved that they were too busy being jealous and mean to even think about it.
  • Is there graphic language? Nope. They think and act like children, which leaves the dirty words out.
  • Did I laugh? No.
  • Did I cry? Tears of frustration and then tears of joy when I finished.
  • Is this part of a series? Sadly, yes. It is book one of Horror High.
  • Level of character development – What character development? Not only did this book lack plot, suspense, and relatability, it lacked actual characters. Dakota is spoiled and thinks only of herself. That is how it starts and how it ends. Everyone else is a varying level of a clichéd, boring character who lacks a real personality.

I had looked forward to this book. It has great reviews and I was hoping for something to keep me on the edge of my seat. It does have the word horror in the series, after all, so how could it not. The book is tiny, but it took me days to finish. Every time I picked it up I couldn’t bear it and down it went. Finally, I forced myself to finish. The last seven or so chapters are dedicated to the so-called ending and it couldn’t have come soon enough. Then, as an afterthought, the author tosses in a little epilogue that makes the reader rethink what they just read. It was a weak attempt to gain interest and took ten seconds to read. Needless to say, it did not entice me to continue the series. On the other hand, more than a few people have rated it highly. I suspect they might be about twelve years old, don’t have children, don’t know the actual definition of sociopath, are void of real empathy, or more than one of the above. I am sorry to give this ⭐️ star. I’d like to think that the author put forth some effort, but it was dry as beef jerky. One redeeming quality that many amazing indie books lack and I’m happy to point out here – I didn’t come across any typos.

Available here on Amazon

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

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I wasn’t sure if I should review this book. It has thousands already and was made into a truly horrible movie. Fortunately, I read the book before watching it. For all those people who saw the movie but haven’t read the book, and those who haven’t given it a thought at all, this review is for you.

Samantha Kingston is a snobby, popular – yet despised by many – teenager. Her three best friends are equally superior and they are all hard to like. They are typical teens with complicated home lives that turn them into monsters who mistreat the other kids at school. From the get-go, I disliked each one, including Samantha. The movie Mean Girls describes them perfectly: callous, selfish, unsympathetic, shallow, and they think they are entitled to everything. That all changes, though.

The book starts with Samantha’s death. It’s eloquently written and grabbed my attention right away. Every time she died, my heart ached, and she matured dramatically. When she wakes up that first morning and realizes she is replaying the previous day – much like the infamous Groundhog Day – she finally notices the people around her and takes a deeper look at her friends, family, and fellow students.

These so-called popular girls have made the lives of everyone around them miserable. There are certain characters that are vital to the story, because they open Samantha’s eyes and she recognizes the abuse she doles out. Having once been a loser, she will do anything to maintain her popularity and that means being a nasty individual who follows the queen bee like a thoughtless sheep. Through her death, she is able to see the repercussions of that one day on those who choose not to be a groupie.

Determined to figure out how to survive, she sets about righting her wrongs and dealing with the emotional pain of repeating them over and over. She approaches each day as a test to figure out what she needs to do differently in regards to a specific victim. Multiple tests lead to her feeling better about herself, after all she did just help someone whom she had originally ridiculed or destroyed their relationships. But she’s not surviving. She is missing the purpose behind this cosmic experiment. Needless to say, she eventually figures it out in a great epiphany.

While this book is more young adult, I think the message is something that applies to everyone. Whether you can get through it, due to the whole high school scene which is a bit nauseating, is up to you, but I believe it is worth your while. I sped through this book, eager to reach the end. Would she live? Would she die? Whose life would she alter for the better? For once, I found a book that kept me in suspense. Watching her evolve over a short period of time was heartwarming and the author did a phenomenal job of putting the reader inside her head. It was beautifully written, especially considering the content that was emotionally difficult to read. Thus is high school, though; it’s one long, often discouraging, trial after another.

The rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – It’s not quite fantasy, but it does have that timeline aspect. It’s not time travel, but it’s definitely disruption. It’s aimed for teenagers, but I’m an adult who absolutely loved it.
  • Level of sexuality – They’re teenagers. They think about it a lot and put great emphasis on it. Part of her day and a decision she faces repeatedly, is whether or not to lose her virginity to her drunk, superficial boyfriend. Overall, the level is mid, but that is due to the importance and detail given to sex in general.
  • Is there graphic language? Like I said, they are teenagers, desperate to become adults. There is some, but it’s not excessive.
  • Did I cry? You bet and more than once.
  • Did I laugh? There were entertaining moments that made me chuckle. They were a nice break in an otherwise serious novel.
  • Level of character development – Samantha grows exponentially. She starts out as an obnoxious teenager who follows the cliché popular girl everyone hates, and turns into someone who cares about the people around her and her impact on their lives. Her friends do not evolve, but they are not the ones living the same day over. The author peels the layers away for each one and they become something much deeper and, surprisingly, they are all relatable. I would be interested to find out how they are affected by Samantha’s last time repeating that day.

Considering the high number of books I have read, it means a lot when I say that this is one that will haunt me forever. Will I ever read it again? Probably not, but that does not reflect upon the writing, the story, the characters, or the message. It is cemented in my mind and I will never forget it. I cannot recommend this highly enough, even for readers who cannot stand high school books. This goes beyond the trivialities of high school. The true story is applicable to every person and every stage of life. I gladly give it a rare ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars. The movie will quickly fade from my memory, but the book will live on forever.

Available here on Amazon

Available here on Barnes & Noble