Book Review – The Secret of Berry Brae Circle by E. M. McIntyre

The Secret of Berry Brae Circle by E.M. McIntyre

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The adventure continues when Abby, Rory, and Finlay return to her time after finding her mother and escaping the caves. When they go home, they find that Abby’s father is now missing and they are the only ones that can save him.

I enjoyed reading this second book of the trilogy. The characters are endearing and it’s fun to see Rory, a medieval teenager, learn about Abby’s present-day world. This is a great read for a YA audience (or anyone who likes to read YA). The story is well written and full of adventure with some interesting characters and twists. The world building is also well done, and I can easily picture the scenes in the book.

I look forward to reading the final book in the trilogy and to discovering the rest of the mystery surrounding Abby.

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A Second Chance to Get it Right by Ronald Bagliere

A Second Chance To Get It Right by Ronald Bagliere

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Alan wakes up in bed beside a woman–his wife. Funny thing is, he remembers dating her in college many years ago and that’s it. Now they’re married and have a six-year-old son, another mystery. To top it all off, he no longer looks like the 60-year-old man he remembers being. In fact, he’s a much younger version of himself. Can he learn from the mistakes of his past in this strange and altered reality?

A Second Chance to Get it Right is the fifth novel I’ve read by Author Ronald Bagliere. I truly enjoyed this story of Alan who is somehow getting a second chance at making the people he loves a priority. This tale runs the gamut of emotions. It’s funny, clever, tender and an overall joy to read. Bagliere knows how to take his readers on an intriguing journey and immerse them into his novels. A Second Chance to Get it Right is a satisfying read from beginning to end.

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Pheobe: The Flagstaff Reunion by Susan Wuthrich

PHOEBE The Flagstaff Reunion by Susan Wüthrich

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bullied most of her life, no one seemed to even notice, or care, when 16-year-old Pheobe disappeared after a party in 1966. But almost 20 years later, she has caught everyone’s attention when she shows up at their high school reunion. And while it seems Pheobe is out for revenge, the truth will soon be revealed.

This is the first book I’ve read from Author Susan Wüthrich, and it did not disappoint. The story caught my attention in the first chapter. While it takes place within two different time periods, it was easy to follow. Well-crafted, Wüthrich brings her characters to life in this intriguing mystery.

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Daeios: 140 Feet Down by Colleen Eccles Penor

Daeios: 140 Feet Down by Colleen Eccles Penor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s 2035 and deadly storms are ravaging Arizona and quite likely the rest of Earth. But the Donovan’s have an escape. Their church group has built an underground bunker and that is where they plan to go for as long as possible. 22-year-old Shea has no plans on living underground with her parents, even though she’ll miss her little sister. On the day they are to leave, Shea’s father asks her to help find her older brother, Jace. Jace is an addict who can’t take care of himself and must go to Daeios. But time is ticking and another storm is on its way. In the eleventh hour, Shea finds her brother, unconscious and strung out. She gets him home in time for the family to leave and ends up going with them to their new underground home. Once at Daeios, it doesn’t take long for Shea to realize things aren’t as they seem. Will she survive living underground with her family? Will she survive living in Daeios: 140 Feet Down?

Daeios is author Colleen Eccles Penor’s debut novel and it’s a good one. The book hooked me right away with its interesting story line and fast pace. The main characters are likeable and the villains absolutely despicable. There’s even an unexpected twist or two.

I did find near the middle of the book that the story lagged. It was at a point where the main character is alone for a few days. For about three or four chapters, I think the author missed the opportunity to get the readers into the character’s head with showing rather than telling. However, after those few chapters, the story and pace pick up again with lots of action that will keep a reader turning the page.

I recommend this action packed post-apocalyptic sci-fi. However, there is some disturbing content so best for readers over 18 years.

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Book Review – The Keepers by Joy Lynn Goddard

The Keepers by Joy Lynn Goddard

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beth has a lot on her hands, running a vineyard and winery with her grandfather. Not only is she trying to keep the family business afloat, but her teenage son seems to find himself in trouble more often than not. And when a nearby business owner suddenly offers to buy her farm, Beth is more determined to make the business work. She’s not going anywhere. Besides, she’s rented out the guest house to a famous author for six months, and they could use the extra income. What Beth didn’t expect was to fall in love. But will a murder on the property ruin her chance for happiness?

This is the second book by Joy Lynn Goddard that I have read and it did not disappoint. The story has a nice flow and it is well written. There are a number of characters in this novel, each with a distinct personality and the author does a great job describing each one. There are also a few surprising twists which make the story even more interesting.

I am quickly becoming a Joy Lynn Goddard fan and recommend this novel.

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Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore – Meet the Authors – #Thriller Carol Balawyder, #Scifi Sandra J. Jackson,#Fantasy Deborah Jay.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Over the summer I will be updating author’s details in the Cafe and Bookstore and also sharing their bios, books and recent reviews with you in this series…

Meet Carol Balawyder

I hold an undergraduate degree with a major on English Literature and a graduate degree in Criminology. I taught Criminology in Police Technology and Corrections programs in Montreal. My area of expertise was in drug addiction and I worked in a methadone clinic with heroin addicts. I helped set up a writing workshop for women in prison and worked in halfway homes and drug rehab centers.

My short stories have appeared in Room Magazine, The Canadian Anthology of Fiction, Mindful.or, Between the Lines and Carte Blanche. I was awarded an honorary mention for a play submitted to The Canadian Playwright Competition.

I manage a blog where I write about: Women Nobel Prize Winners for Literature, Famous Writers’ Desks, Femmes…

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Book Review – Miracles Not Included by C.A. King

Miracles Not Included by C.A. King

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5 stars

Miracles are everywhere; we just need to look around to find them. A chance encounter brings the main characters Chris and Jason together. Their love for each other is strong, but when tragedy strikes, will Chris be able to make it on her own?

Miracles Not Included is a sweet story about love, loss, and finding the strength to go on. This love story is a fast-paced, page turner with wonderful characters. I do wish this book was a bit longer as I found it a difficult to get emotionally invested in the characters despite the touching nature of the story.

This is the first book I’ve read by C.A. King, and I look forward to reading more of her works.

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Book Review – Death on Tyneside by Eileen Thornton

Death on Tyneside by Eileen Thornton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Agnes Lockwood returns to the Millenium Hotel in Tyneside, her childhood home, after visiting her sons in Australia. While she was supposed to stay in Australia a few weeks longer she cuts her trip short. Tyneside has a hold on her and besides, she misses Alan. It was only a few short months ago, that she helped Alan, the detective chief inspector, solve a murder, a string of robberies, and was almost killed in the process. But on her first day back in town, Agnes makes a gruesome discovery while visiting the city park. She’s stumbled across a body, and it looks like Agnes once again finds herself in the middle of a crime scene.

I quite enjoyed this 2nd book of the Agnes Lockwood Mysteries by Eileen Thornton. The mystery was interesting and the twist near the end definitely caught me by surprise. I found both Agnes and Alan endearing. The author did a great job showing the chemistry between them as well as the duplicitous nature of the villains.

If you like straightforward mysteries with unsuspecting twists, you’ll enjoy Death on Tyneside

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Book Review – When the Rain Stops by John Callas

When The Rain Stops by John Callas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Growing up in the ghetto is tough. And when John’s mother sends him off to military school, he is left feeling like he isn’t wanted anymore and so begins his journey into depression.

When the Rain Stops by John Callas is thought provoking, emotional, compelling and despite its serious nature, has a smattering of humour. The author interjects some insight as he tells his real-life story about his early years, the bullying he suffered, the injustices he witnessed, and his attempted suicide.

I noticed while reading this story that there were people who reached out to John, and showed him they cared in every step of his journey. I felt like they were true guardian angels for him, and while John couldn’t see it at first, there was always someone on his side, wanting to help. Thankfully, he came to this realization. He met people who showed him a different way of thinking, and he took that positive energy and turned his life around for the better.

This truly is an uplifting story and I believe this perspective may help someone who is struggling.

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Beyond the Story – Black Sparrow

Two people, from two very different cultures and with two identical suitcases, are bound for Paris – with completely different intentions.

One is a young Muslim woman taking the first steps of independence that will crush her traditional beliefs; the other a city gent with one last assignment before retiring to pastures new. But as surprising events unfold, their lives intertwine.

When a sinister twist brings them together, they will dictate each other’s destinies… and only one of them can survive.

I’m happy to be back with another Character Interview. My guest steps from the pages of A.J. Griffiths-Jones’ novel, Black Sparrow.

SJJ: Welcome! So happy to have you hear. Can you please tell our readers your full name and where you live?

UR: My full name is Uzma Rafiq & I live in North London, UK.

SJJ: Uzma, what a lovely name.

Let’s get to know you better. Please tell us how you’d describe your personality?

UR: I would say that I am creative & out-going with strong family values.

SJJ: You must have come from a close-knit family.

What were you like as a child?

UR: As a child I was quite mischievous, playing tricks on my younger brother & using my pretty face & broad smile to get my own way. I was good at school & loved art class the most. I also enjoyed sports, especially swimming.

SJJ: Sounds like you could wrap people around your finger. I too loved art class, that and biology, a strange mix, I think.

What do you do for a living? Is it your dream job?

UR: I have just left college and plan to pursue my dream job of becoming an artist.

SJJ: That sounds nice. I wish you luck, it’s not always easy to follow your passion.

Do you have any big obstacles that might stand in your way from achieving your goals?

UR: The biggest obstacle for me is my culture. My family believe that a young Pakistani woman, such as myself, should have no ambitions outside of the family home, instead only focussing on getting married and starting a family. It’s been very difficult for me to try to break with tradition.

SJJ: I’m sure it must be tough wanting to follow your dreams and please your family as well. I believe you’ve got to live your life to be truly happy, not someone else’s. But maybe sometimes that’s easier said than done.

Tell us something about you that not everyone knows.

UR: I actually have very few close friends that I trust. That might sound surprising, coming from a tightly-knit community, but I have had to be very careful who I tell about my private life & my dreams, just in case anything got back to my parents.

SJJ: Are there any defining moments in your life that made you who you are today?

UR: Last summer I attended art school in Montmatre, Paris & that changed my whole perspective on life. I realised that I had to break free from my father’s rules & become my own person, following my dream.

SJJ: What a great opportunity and I’m sure it did change your life.

Do you have any regrets?

UR: I regret that I have been unable to confide in my mother. We were so close, but had she found out about my intention to become an artist, she would surely have stopped me. I miss my mother very much and know that she will be frantic with worry.

SJJ: I’m sorry your decision changed the relationship with your mother. I hope someday the two of you will be close again.

Is there anyone you look up to, consider to be a mentor, either in the past or right now?

UR: The tutor that I met at art school is my mentor. He is so ambitious and talented, not to mention good-looking, and I would love to be able to sell my artwork as he does. His paintings are incredible, full of colour and vibrance.

SJJ: When you think of all you’ve accomplished, what is your proudest moment?

UR: My proudest moment is standing up for myself and travelling to Paris to follow my dream. I’m not going to let anything stop me.

SJJ: I think that is something to be proud of.

If you could appear in another book, which would it be? How could you contribute to that story?

UR: I would love to appear in ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. It was set at a time when there was a real divide between blacks and whites and, as an Asian woman, I would have liked to help people to understand that we might be different on the outside, but inside we all have the same huge heart and love for our families.

SJJ: OK, Uzma, what’s your idea of the perfect day?

UR: My idea of the perfect day would be browsing the street artists work in Paris, a picnic by the River Seine and then getting dressed up for dinner with my lover.

SJJ: That sounds like a great day for sure.

What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses?

UR: I think I’m strong willed, in that I can stand up for myself and go after something that I really want. However, my weakness is being afraid of being alone. I’m a person who relishes company and feel insecure by myself.

SJJ: I would say you are strong willed too and brave.

What do you like to do for fun?

UR: For fun I like to go shopping with my best friend, trying on clothes and looking for bargains. I also love fun fairs, especially the really scary rides.

SJJ: And after a busy day, what do you do to relax?

UR: To relax I like to read, especially classics, but I also love to help my mother cook traditional Pakistani food.

SJJ: What is your most embarrassing moment?

UR: My most embarrassing moment was arriving in Paris and realising that I’d picked up the wrong suitcase at the airport. My whole life is inside my own case and I don’t know where it is.

SJJ: Embarrassing and frustrating. I hope you get it back.

What are your plans for the future?

UR: I plan to hook up with my boyfriend, but with my computer and address book being in my lost luggage, I need to find him. My phone is dead and the charger is also in my suitcase, goodness knows where. Once I have my belongings, I’ll be moving in with Sylvain & beginning my new life in Paris.

SJJ: Yikes, you really did have some important things inside your suitcase. I hope you track him down.

If a movie was made about your life, who would you want to play you?

UR: If a movie was made about my life, I would want Salma Hayak to play me, she’s so elegant and beautiful.

SJJ: A perfect match, I think.

Uzma, are you happy with the way you told your story?

UR: I’m fairly happy with the way in which I told my story, although I wish that I had been more sympathetic to those I left behind.

SJJ: Well like they say, hindsight is 20/20.

If you could change one thing that happened in your story, would you? Can you elaborate or would it give too much away?

UR: I wish I could change the ending of the story. I can’t tell you what happens but it was devastating for me.

SJJ: I’m sorry it was so devastating but it does sound intriguing.

Thank you Uzma, for joining me on Beyond the Story Character Interviews.


A.J. Griffiths-Jones is a crime researcher & historian from Shropshire, U.K.
She began her writing career in 2015, with the publication of ‘Jack the Ripper’ suspect book ‘Prisoner 4374’ & has since gone on to write a series of cosy mysteries, a standalone crime thriller, a short story book and a crime fiction series set in France.

Before becoming a full-time author, A.J. lived in China for a decade, where she was Language Training Manager for an international bank. She lives with her husband, David, and they currently split their time between England and their second home in Turkey.

A.J. has consulted for various authors and historical publications, including ‘Scotland Yard’s History of Crime in 100 Objects.’ She plans a non-fiction ‘Jack the Ripper’ book next year.



Facebook: A.J. Griffiths-Jones Author Page

Twitter: @authoraj66