Blood Moon by John David Bethel

Horrifying Suspense!

Blood Moon by John David Bethel, 451 pages, Tell-Tale Publishing Group LLC, December 4th 2016, Genre: Thriller and Suspense. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

This horrifying, violent, gritty thriller isn’t for the faint of heart. This gripping, suspenseful novel terrifies, reminding us of how fragile life is. Blood Moon is about justice delayed and justice denied; based on a real crime that happened in the 1990’s in Miami, Florida. The foreword was written by the survivor of these events and the investigator who helped him, driving home how easy it would be for others to do us harm. Justice does finally come- but not with any help from the Miami police.

Recidio Suarez is a good man, a good husband and father, and a hard-working example of the American Dream. He has survived the trials of life, some of them high risk situations, and has worked hard to build an affluent, comfortable life for his wife and kids. Imperfect as we all are, he nevertheless has always striven to do right by others and treat them fairly. That’s one of the reasons it’s so horrifying when his former protege Dario Pedrajo, a man he trusted, trained, and helped succeed in life, turns on him, getting involved in a plot to kidnap, torture, and extort everything the Suarez family has built. Pedrajo falls in with a bad crowd of criminals, headed by a strip club owner named Blaine Nesbit. With the aid of allies Bob Camarillo and Rector, they kidnap Suarez, holding him at a warehouse for weeks where they torture and maim him. They threaten to rape his wife Lina and torture his kids if he doesn’t sign over his bank accounts, businesses, house, and retirement funds to them. The torture he is subjected to is truly gruesome and a sign of how deeply wicked his kidnappers are. Suarez narrowly survives their clumsy attempt to murder him once they’d acquired his assets. The police chief dislikes Suarez’s attorney due to a past grudge and refuses to allow the case to be pursued. It’s only after the murderous crooks bite off more than they can chew and it can no longer be avoided that the police get involved.

The plot is straightforward with justice eventually dispensed in an unconventional but thoroughly satisfying manner. John David Bethel’s writing is excellent. The characters are relatable and believable. The lack of action and the blaming of the victim on the part of the police burns the reader with anger. The intense and at times unnecessary violence perpetrated by the criminals on their helpless prey horrifies and saddens. How can human beings commit such terrible acts against their fellow men? How can the forces we empower to protect us and obtain justice for us turn a blind eye?

I enjoyed Blood Moon and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys true crime stories, suspenseful thrillers, and gritty, hard-hitting tales.

This book is available at Blood Moon at Amazon.


Killjoy by LeVar Ravel

Witty, cautionary

Killjoy by LeVar Ravel, 188 pages, January 14th, 2014, Genre: Fantasy/Mystery/Suspense. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland

A ‘killjoy’ is a person who takes the fun out of any event they attend. The title is most fitting for the theme of this story. The moral of this tale is to live life to the fullest, with hope, honesty, exuberant feeling, and joy. It’s a lesson mankind always seems in need of as we, throughout our generations, conform and adhere to the ‘correct and proper’ lifestyle du jour.

The assassin, whose true name is never told, is delightful with his many accents, costume changes, and faux personalities. He clearly enjoys satirizing people as well as trying to better understand them and their emotions. He’s the perfect assassin, never leaving a trace, always affecting the appearance of suicide to his victims. Everyone wonders, “How does he do it?” His clients, mostly mobsters, are appreciative and consider him to be the best in his field. He’s made a niche for himself dealing with difficult victims, such as musicians, comedians, politicians- the famous, for whom there can be no hint of foul play.

My favorite character was Elizabeth “Gwen” Orangegrave, the wife of the pseudo-religious mobster Charles Edward Orangegrave. As a young girl, she knew joy and love. Due to hardship, she lost this desire for joy and traded it in for wealth, security, practicality, and success: the things society tells us we should want. The assassin takes a peculiar liking to her also. In the end, she sees what she chose against the backdrop of what she left behind and makes a different choice, a better choice.

I felt the politician Corbin Locke represented what I imagine most of them are really like behind their smiles and speeches. Charles was a bit two-dimensional, but of course, that was sort of the point- that he would contrast the life his wife once knew and represent her choices. Written in third person narrative, the writing was enjoyable and engaging. A novella, the book can be read in about three hours. I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys suspense with a hint of darkness.

This book is presently available at Amazon at Killjoy.

The Wolfe Experiment by R.W. Adams

Tragic and Terrifying

The Wolfe Experiment by R.W. Adams, 288 pages, March 23rd, 2017, Genre: Psychic/Suspense. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

by Leigh Holland

The Wolfe Experiment by R.W. Adams is a suspenseful tale of survival and psychic ability. Written in third person omniscient point of view, we’re shown an aggressive, corrupt world in which only those who have the most destructive weapons matter and decent people are merely tools for those who govern them. This corruption is made possible by those among the masses who support it and those who are indifferent to it, as well as those who individually choose to join corrupt forces for their own ends.

The Wolfes, a married couple doing scientific research into pharmaceuticals to treat bipolar in children, slide down that slippery slope of doing some evil to effect a greater good. However, this is merely what they tell themselves to be able to sleep at night. In truth, they are obsessed with completing their research and will do anything to see it to its fruition. When they cannot acquire young enough subjects for their trials, they experiment on their own children; Ethan from age three and Tilly from birth. However, they no longer seek to treat bipolar kids. Instead, they stumbled on a far more miraculous effect of the drugs they created and seek to perfect them. Tilly falls asleep on a car ride during which Ethan is supposed to keep her awake. Her power activates in her sleep, causing massive damage and killing their parents in a car accident. The siblings are moved around to various homes in the social services system. At each one, an incident occurs due to their psychic abilities, and their worker Sarah must find a new home for them. After a particular incident, the military decides it wants its ‘weapons’ back, as they are a product of their funding of their deceased parents’ research. A cat and mouse race ensues as the kids are on the streets and on the run from the military and its researchers.

This story is tragic. The novel jumps between different scenes in their lives until it reaches its inevitable conclusion. I couldn’t help but feel sadness and sympathy for these children and root for them to find a place where they would find love, security, happiness, and peace. At the same time, I recognized that innocents were being harmed each step of the way as they were forced to survive alone or fight against the aggressors. I often wondered how differently things may have been for them if enough people had known, had cared, and had intervened.

The plot was straightforward but intriguing. Characters were believable, having their own personal or professional motivations. The book was well-written. I enjoyed the storytelling style, especially in regard to showing facets in the lives of the siblings in a more relevant order than strict chronology. I’d recommend this book to those who enjoy science fiction and suspense.

This book can be found at Amazon at The Wolfe Experiment.

Dating A Chance by Natalia Vereshchagina

Quirky, Innovative

Dating A Chance by Natalia Vereshchagina, 232 Pages, Natalia Vereshchagina, 1st Edition, June 9th 2016, Genre: Thriller/Mystery/Suspense. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

by Leigh Holland

Dating A Chance is a compelling, quirky murder mystery unlike any I have ever read. Its author presents an original spin on the murder mystery genre. This book explores deeper ideas such as God, the nature of the universe, fate, choice, luck, and the human cycle within the context of the puzzle being solved.

J-L, a top rated physicist working in a CERN-esque environment, has been working on his theory that particles can be manipulated at the quantum level in order to attract positive events and people into one’s life, if one but knows how. His theory is basically “the Secret” for scientists. J-L is excited as he believes he has successfully cracked the code for mankind to finally be able to draw positivity into their individual lives. Then killer bees attack him and there goes that prospect.

J-L is survived by his shrew of a wife Sylvia and his pregnant girlfriend/secretary Irene. Sylvia wants Irene out of the cottage Irene shared with J-L, but Irene believes she has rights to it as she is going to be the mother of J-L’s child. J-L’s physicist co-workers Andy, William, and Steve come by to check on Irene. When William and Steve come by after work, they discover Irene’s deceased body, apparently a victim of accidental self-poisoning. As the corpses begin to pile up, William and Steve, both obsessed men of science, must work to discover the truth. Are people being murdered and the deaths being made to appear as accidents? Or did J-L unlock the ultimate secret, only to unleash a curse that skips to those he knew in life? Are they next on the list?

I loved the idea behind this book. It’s fresh and unique. The plot was intriguing. The characters came across as educated, proper gentlemen physicists, as obsessed with solving the puzzling deaths as they were with unlocking secrets of the universe. The author’s voice is unique. While sentence constructions were at times lengthy, I often enjoyed the manner in which Vereshchagina put words together. However, I felt that this book could have benefited from further editing. If you like unconventional, innovative angles on murder mysteries, you’ll probably enjoy Dating A Chance.

It is available at Amazon at Dating A Chance by Natalia Vereshchagina .

The Itching Scars by Mohy Omar

The Itching Scars (The Scars Book 1) by Mohy Omar, May 9th, 2017, Genre: Anthologies/Psychological/Suspense. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

by Leigh Holland

The Itching Scars is the first anthology of short stories released by Mohy Omar. It contains three short stories. The anthology currently sells for $2.99 at Amazon and is available through Kindle Unlimited for free reading at the time of this posting. The Itching Scars is a collection of stories tied together by a central theme, namely, that being human is hard and we all carry the scars of our failures and defeats. We can hide the scars, but even so, we know they’re there. They “itch”, affect our choices and behavior, and shape who we are as human beings. Omar excellently weaves this theme throughout three different genres in turn.

The first tale is “To Court Death”. In this story, the narrator reflects on those he has known who have passed into the great unknown. Gritty and dark, our narrator takes us on a journey into the past of these acquaintances and lovers, causing us to wonder where the tale is taking us. What lies at the end is horrifying, and it is only at the end that we see how these deaths linked together in the narrator’s mind.

The second story is “The Space Above, The Space Within”. We’re abruptly thrust into a dystopian future long after the Hate War ended. The authorities are taking Votum’s father to be slain for believing in God; in fact, they are executing him for opposing the ‘truth’ of the regime. Votum wants his father to live, wants to save him, as would anyone. Omar once more builds to a horrifying conclusion.

The final tale is “Under the Rust”. Told in a first-person perspective, this story focuses on a grim conversation between the narrator and a summoned demon. He confesses his sins to the demon. The demon is anxious to get to the root of his worst sin, to remove it from him and take his soul in the process. He wants desperately to unburden himself, but has difficulty admitting to his true crime. The ending is interesting and unexpected.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this anthology.  Much of the narrative style reminded me of the narration from “Sin City”; particularly in “To Court Death”. The most horrifying situations not only chilled me, but made me think about what I might do if I were in that character’s shoes. As the author writes, “They never said being human could be this hard.” As a fan of gritty, grim tales, I was left wanting more. My only complaint was that there were only these three tales in this anthology. I read the collection in forty minutes. I’d recommend this anthology to readers of short stories who love dark tales that examine the underbelly of humanity.

This book can be found at The Itching Scars.

Hidden in The Dark by RaShell Lashbrook

Suspenseful, Tragic

Hidden in The Dark by RaShell Lashbrook, 268 pages, RaShell/Lashbrook, February 8th, 2017, Genre: Psychological Thriller. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

by Leigh Holland

            Hidden in The Dark is a tragic, fierce psychological thriller, carefully woven to incrementally reveal the secrets that demolished a family. Genny and Randall have three adult daughters who no longer speak to Randall. Genny, tired of Randall’s abuse of several decades, decides to leave, sneaking out while Randall is passed out drunk. Her youngest daughter, Raine, whom she sees as the most reliable, picks her up and lets Genny stay with her. Her eldest daughter Lilly assists her in contacting an attorney, setting up her own bank account, and taking other steps necessary for Genny to establish her independence from Randall. Until Genny left Randall, the three sisters rarely spoke to each other or their parents, determined to leave the past behind and create better lives for themselves. Genny’s return to their lives draws them together once more, forcing them to confront each other, their mother, and their own personal demons about their own abuse at the hands of their father. Some will meet with more success than others, with catastrophic consequences.

RaShell Lashbrook portrays her characters realistically, each a victim of horrible and repeated trauma, using their individual, unique strategies they’ve developed to try to cope. The characters display an array of emotions, including guilt, sympathy, blame, self-shame, and rage. Genny was particularly authentic; over the years, the men she sought help from outside the family, such as policemen and pastors, told her the abuse was her fault for antagonizing her husband. When Genny’s friends stood up to Randall, Randall isolated her from them. Without support, Genny focused on keeping as much peace in the house as possible. The self-blame society taught her to feel for her predicament, she placed on her children. The psychological effects from abuse for each character were devastating and carried real world consequences.

I enjoyed Hidden in The Dark, a vivid suspense novel. It is an excellently executed tapestry depicting a family’s terror and tragedy. The subject matter is serious, disturbing, and grim. Domestic violence causes more injuries to women between the ages of 15 and 44 than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. There are 3,600 shelters for animals in the United States. There are only 1500 shelters for battered women. I couldn’t put this one down until I’d finished reading it. I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys crime and suspense novels, and psychological thrillers. I look forward to reading more of RaShell Lashbrook’s work in the future.

Hidden in The Dark can be found on Amazon at here.

Interview with J.A. Schneider, Author of “Watching You”

Today I’m interviewing J.A. Schneider, author of “Fear Dreams”, “Her last Breath”, and the upcoming third novel in the Detective Kerri Blasco series, “Watching You”. Thanks so much for the interview today!

Leigh: Tell us a little about yourself.

Hi Leigh, and thanks for inviting me! Okay, I’m happiest being quiet, either reading or writing. Maybe because life before this was a bit tumultuous.

I majored in French Lit, spent my Jr Year Abroad at the Sorbonne; then, six days after graduating got sent with the US-USSR Student Exchange to the Soviet Union where with friends I promptly got arrested for spreading anti-Soviet propaganda – in our ol’ stinky hotel room, we’d been laughing our heads off at their pea-green-colored water, then heard pounding on the door, and, “Vwi aristoveni!” (“You’re arrested!”) Three broad guys in trench coats, no kidding. Our door had been closed! Who knew the room was bugged?

That was smoothed out; then, while hiking in the Caucasus mountains near Sochi with Russian, East German & Bulgarian students, I fell down a ravine and wound up in a Soviet hospital. Sochi doctors were nice, really.

Then came Newsweek, then marriage and children (a soccer mom!), then two books published by Simon & Schuster. Then Kindle and KDP, and I couldn’t be happier. So far, I much prefer going the Indie route. No 18-month-long waits because the editor got laid off & the book spent six months “orphaned” till somebody new got hired & caught up. Traditional publishing is slow and cumbersome!

 Leigh: What other books have you written?

Six medical thrillers in my Embryo series; then, more recently, the three so far in my Detective Kerri Blasco police/psychological thriller series. They are Fear Dreams, Her Last Breath, and Watching You. Plus, years earlier, the two Simon & Schuster books which were kinda my training wheels, plus a non-fiction book written with my husband, a physician, on health and weight loss to avoid or deal with type 2 diabetes.

 Leigh: What draws you to the Psychological Thriller genre?

I’ve always loved Hitchcock. What’s behind the masks people wear – and how not-nice people manipulate others – is scarier to me than any generic crime story.

 Leigh: Who do you picture playing Kerri Blasco in film?

I really don’t know, haven’t thought about it. Someone the camera “likes,” who can seem smart, tough, and tender all at once.

 Leigh: What kind of research do you do and how long do you spend researching before you start to write a book?

I don’t research much. I use Google a lot. The Kerri Blasco stories take place in NYC, where my husband & lived for five years before moving to the ‘burbs, but NYC changes so fast – so I google locations just to make sure they’re still there, see what they look like now. (A block of brownstones I once knew is now a huge Chase Manhattan). Then there’s the police stuff, which I’ve picked up from police detective friends in our Connecticut town…and for the morgue scenes, anatomy etc? My husband helps with that. I hate stopping the writing, so I cheat whenever possible. But that’s where imagination comes in, right? Rimbaud never saw the sea, Stephen Crane never saw a real battle when he wrote Red Badge of Courage.

Leigh: What was it like to write from the perspective of a killer?

Scary, compelling, pulse-pounding. Evil and psychosis do exist in this world. Plus villains are vital. What would Peter Pan be without Captain Hook?

Leigh: What was your favorite childhood book?

The Nancy Drew series. Also Treasure Island.

 Leigh: What is your favorite motivational saying?

“Every writer is terrified.” David Baldacci. All successful authors say what amounts to the same thing; i.e., “Do you have the guts to stay with it?” (Tess Gerritsen), and, “Just keep flailing away at the g-d thing!” (Stephen King)

Leigh: What are some of your hobbies?

I garden with a passion, so have really ugly hands. I battle boulders, grow rose ramblers that reach 20+ feet. Thorns? People ask if we keep big cats. I’ll prune anything that can’t run away. I also love watching good movies with my family, and good TV cop shows; could watch Dexter over and over…

 Leigh: How can readers discover more about you and you work?




Amazon Author Page:

Book Links:

Fear Dreams 

Her Last Breath 

Watching You 



Leigh: Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.

Thank you so much for inviting me, Leigh! I was happy to participate in your beautiful blog!

Readers- don’t forget to check out “Watching You” here in digital at Amazon !

Her Last Breath by J.A. Schneider

A riveting read!

Her Last Breath (Book Two of the Kerri Blasco series) by J. A. Schneider, 249 pages, RGS Media, October 21 2016, Genre: Psychological Thriller. Warning-May Contain Spoilers

“If it were her last breath, she could never harm anyone,” the title character’s husband assures Detective Kerri Blasco. But in this Hitchcock-style psychological thriller, nothing and no one are what they seem. In this second installment of the Kerri Blasco series, author J. A. Schneider once again hits it out of the park.

The book opens with heart-pounding, horrifying action, as Mari struggles to escape a blood drenched scene and to save her own life. She survives with the help of a kind, handsome stranger named Jay. When she awakens, she discovers she is under arrest for murder. Mari has no memory of the evening up until she awoke at the murder scene. Her estranged yet devoted husband Ted, a high-profile defense attorney, arrives quickly and stays by her side through the hastily arranged arraignment. Kerri’s keen instincts kick in, telling her to look further into the case. Caught between two men- her husband who wants her back and Jay, who saved her life-Mari feels conflicted. Realizing she was framed, Mari begins to see even those closest to her as a potential threat. The longer she goes without her memories, the key to the crime, the more Mari’s paranoia mounts. Piecing together the clues, Kerri realizes Mari may be in danger. As Kerri races to find Mari, the suspects collide, leading to a surprising twist ending.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a page turner that I finished in one sitting. I was immediately drawn to Mari’s character, a freelance writer. I sympathized with her precarious situation and building feelings of uncertainty. More of Kerri Blasco’s softer side was revealed, but she remained a stubborn force for good, determined to catch the person responsible. I recommend this book to anyone who loves psychological thrillers with plot twists.

Find other books by J.A. Schneider at J.A. Schneider Author Page.


Book Review: Fear Dreams by J. A. Schneider

Psychological Thriller!

Book Review: Fear Dreams by J.A. Schneider, RGS Media, March 28th, 2016; 240 pages. May Contain Spoilers.

by Leigh Holland

Fear Dreams is a tense, psychological, thrilling mystery. It has the atmosphere of the films “Dominique” and “What Lies Beneath”. The tension builds at a steady but palpable pace. As you delve further into the story, the tension builds, layer after layer, until finally things come to a head and all is revealed-but with a surprising twist.

Written in the third person narrative style, the book follows two central characters, Liddy and Kerri. Liddy is recovering from mild amnesia, a broken rib, and an injured leg after a car accident. Liddy can’t recall anything about the night of the accident, nor does she really want to remember. But her mind won’t let sleeping dogs lie. What Liddy tries to shove away by day surfaces in symbols and fragmented nightmares by night. Liddy fears she is slowly losing her sanity as the dreams begin to enter her waking consciousness.

The major characters are well developed. My favorite character was Kerri because I felt I could relate to her sense of justice. She is a champion for victims who everyone else has given up on; wants justice for victims of violence, especially women brutalized by men, and truly believes in the mission to “protect and serve”. Liddy crosses Kerri’s path when Liddy realizes she has drawn a picture of a missing girl, thinking she saw her on the street. Kerri is the cop assigned to find the missing girl. Together, they work on finding out her fate.

I truly enjoyed this book. Its foray into the depths of an amnesiac recovering her memories was fascinating. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves mysteries and/or psychological thrillers.

Look for this and other J.A. Schneider books at J. A. Schneider on Amazon.