Second Cousin Once Removed by Kenneth L. Toppell- The Write Reads Blog Tour


When Henry Attkinson, divorcee and semi-retired attorney, decided to do
a little research into his family tree, he never expected it to take him on the
adventure of a lifetime. Now, he must unravel the mystery of his strange
second cousin’s past to stay one step ahead of him – and stay alive.
As Henry digs deeper, his predictable life becomes anything but as he begins receiving ominous threats
from his second cousin Shelley and noticing the increasing number of bodies showing up in his wake.
Henry must go on the run, joined by Carolyn Trellis, a woman who stumbled into his life at just the
right – or perhaps wrong -time. Together they must disguise themselves and hop from cities to small
towns along the east coast in an attempt to evade Shelley and pursue justice. Though the chemistry
between them becomes undeniable, Shelley refuses to be forgotten. Henry and Carolyn’s minds and
hearts will be put to the test as they try to untangle Shelley’s past – little do they know they will soon be
facing an even more ruthless villain.
When asked about his writing process, Dr. Toppell stated, “I write without an outline. Therefore, if I
think the story works better in a new direction while I’m writing, I simply go there. I try it out to see
what would catch my reader unaware or surprised.”
Discover the intricate web of mystery and betrayal conjured up by Henry’s seemingly innocuous
genealogy research in Second Cousin Once Removed. With plenty of twists and turns, as well as
Toppell’s dry humor, readers will be engrossed from page one to the end as they try to catch their breath
in this fast-paced, sweaty-palm thriller.


Thank you to the Write Reads for allowing me to be part of the blog tour for this book. It is available for purchase now.

What an interesting premise! The main character in this book is Henry Atkinson, a lawyer who is sort-of retired. He’s looking into his family tree, which ends up being the catalyst for all kinds of trouble. Henry’s second cousin, Shelley, sends some threats and the next thing he knows, Henry finds himself on the run. Enter Carolyn, a woman who gets tangled up in everything at a very inopportune time. She ends up fleeing a dastardly villain along with Henry. Can they survive long enough to bring the bad guy to justice?

The story is told from multiple points of view. That makes me nervous in thrillers, but it works out well in Second Cousin Once Removed. The book moves at a fast clip, and there’s never a boring moment. In fact, it moves quickly enough that the relationship between Henry and Carolyn felt…weird. It didn’t develop so much as pop up out of nowhere. That was just a little blip in the story to me, though, and not enough to dull my enjoyment of the book.

The plot was incredibly unique and well thought out. Who would have thought that genealogy could be so rife with danger? I really liked the pacing of the story, and Henry’s character was a blast to read. If you want a quick, entertaining thriller, pick this book up.


Why is Sherlock Holmes So Popular? It’s Elementary

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Every once in a while, a book character comes along and changes things. Not just for one reader (although that is also a huge accomplishment), but for society in general. This character moves from the page to everyday culture. This is what has happened with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.
Phrases like, “The game is afoot,” and “no s***, Sherlock” are ubiquitous. Almost everyone at least knows who Sherlock Holmes is. Now, the question is: why? Sherlock himself is actually a very unlikable character. He’s too smart for his own good, is constantly making everyone else look less-than-competent, and is less demonstrative of his feelings than others often are. So, what makes this unlikable character so darn likable?

I think a good chunk of his charm is the way he was written. Arthur Conan Doyle was fantastic at bringing his characters to life. He could also craft a mystery like no other. Even though some of the conclusions Holmes comes to border on the impossible, Doyle makes the reader want to suspend disbelief. We like thinking that there is someone out there who can solve the difficult problems and can bring the bad guy to justice. Of course, it does bear mentioning that literary Holmes did not, in fact, solve every case. That only serves to make him an even more interesting character. Contemporary mysteries almost always end with “good” prevailing. Seeing know-it-all Holmes be wrong every once in a while only serves to make him a more three-dimensional character.

Whatever the reason, Doyle’s famous detective has given birth to many books, movies, plays, and TV shows that all aim to do one thing: show their love of Sherlock Holmes. There are books that are at least partially inspired by Holmes, such as Jackaby by William Ritter and A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro; books that include their own versions of the actual characters, such at the Young Sherlock Holmes series by Andy Lane and Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (although, I would never have thought of Mycroft in the way he’s written); and of course, more TV and movie adaptations than you can shake a stick at. Basil Rathbone’s version, and the incredible BBC TV show happen to by my favorites on screen.

At any rate, I’ve noticed something rather odd: it seems that more people are enjoying the things based on Sherlock Holmes than reading the original itself. Honestly, though, I think it’s important to read the original Conan Doyle stories. Aside from the fact that they are fantastic, they will bring a deeper appreciation to the other versions that we all enjoy. If, like me, you have a love of the one and only Sherlock Holmes, I’ve listed a few new takes on the famous detective below. However, if you haven’t read the original Sherlock Holmes, I implore you to give them a go.

– A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Thodora Goss (I haven’t read this one yet)
-The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes edited by John Joseph Adams
Moriarty by Anthony Horrowitz
Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Jackaby by William Ritter
– Young Sherlock Holmes by Andy Lane
Sherlock Holmes- The Improbable Prisoner by Stuart Douglas

Which ones have I missed that I need to read?

Markus by David Odle- ARC Review

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Markus Blue is one of the most powerful men alive. Fire from his hands can destroy armies and his battles are legendary. He is one of a rare breed called the warlock, one of the last of his kind and he is dying. But he must face one more battle, one more challenge or it will mean the end of the world as we know it. (taken from Amazon)

                     Thank you Netgalley for providing me with this book, in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available now.

When I read the description for this book, I thought it would be a fantasy adventure, the sort that pits one against many. Instead, this book is a modern story that just so happens to also include vampires, werewolves, and a crotchety once-powerful old man. It was a blast.

The premise was simple: a big, bad vampire rampaging around, causing no end of trouble. Battles ensue. I loved it. It was so much fun! I enjoyed the daylight out of myself. This book pairs well with 90’s nostalgia and popcorn.

There wasn’t a lot of character depth, but with a book like this, there doesn’t need to be. It sounds like I’m just listing negative traits, but what would normally be considered a negative is actually a very good thing in this story. Markus was a fun character with a tough exterior, experience and power to back up his ego, and a hidden soft heart.

Every now and again I have one of those days where the only solution is to watch a movie like Blade. One that’s not heavy on the plot, it’s easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys, and there are cool sunglasses. Markus didn’t have the sunglasses, but in every other aspect it felt like a simple, fun vampire flick. Check it out!

Pulling Strings by Nick DeWolf

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The feeling you’re being watched. Knowing what card is next out of the deck. Guessing what someone’s thinking… and always being right.Or maybe you can move things. Maybe you can hear people’s thoughts. Maybe you can make fire out of nothing. Maybe, just maybe, you’re different. Maybe, you’re psychic. And maybe, there’s a place for you.Rebecca Colt was different, and used her abilities to become the best psychic Secret Agent in America. She traveled the world, hunted down foreign agents, had wild car chases and adrenaline pumping shoot outs. Until one day, in Austin, Texas, when everything went wrong. When a little girl died. When Agent Colt’s life fell apart.Now, she’s sitting around a field office in Kansas, thinking of the good old days, begrudgingly awaiting retirement. She just wants one last shot, one thing to put her back on top for a while.So when people start turning up in hospitals nearby, their minds broken into a thousand pieces, she thinks she’s found just that chance.But once she starts her investigation, every answer she gets only leads to more questions. Things don’t add up. She starts to realize she’s dealing with something bigger and badder and scarier than she’s ever dealt with. It’s not a foreign sleeper agent she’s tracking. It’s a puppeteer, the most dangerous kind of psychic there is.And she has no idea what to do.Or even who it is.But she knows she’s alone.She’s caught.And she’s going to have to fight her way out. (taken from Amazon)

              Thank you to the author for providing me with this book, in exchange for my honest opinion. This book, and others by Nick DeWolf, are available now.

How to describe my feelings about this book? I can’t say I’ve ever read a book that gave me such a physical reaction. I had to set it down on a few occasions because I could feel myself working up to a panic attack (I don’t say this disrespectfully; I have an anxiety disorder). I think I mean this as a compliment. The fact that the author was able to create such a visceral reaction is pretty stinking amazing.

That being said, I didn’t love this book. The main character, Rebecca, had a chip on her shoulder the size of Texas. She’d been through a lot and was tough as nails, but she was kind of a jerk to people that didn’t deserve it in any way, which made her an unpleasant character to read.

While the book has a supernatural premise, it quickly becomes more of an action book than anything else. The idea of the Puppeteer was truly terrifying, and the writing was confident and solid.

If you like heart pounding action, and characters that kick butt, this book is for you.

One Way by Jeff Lane

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Barry Griffith doesn’t know it yet, but tonight is the night fate has chosen to be the night of his death… his murder. At a gas station in the middle of nowhere, late at night, his wife Jenny appears… no car… no coat and looking older than when he saw her last. That’s because this is not the woman he received a good-bye kiss from this morning. This woman has been a widow for over four years and has made an impossible journey back in time to try to stop her husband’s murder. Will they be able to escape the killers or does fate only have one plan… one possible outcome… ONE WAY? (taken from Amazon)

                     Thank you to the author for providing me with this book, in exchange for my honest opinion.

This book was a mixed bag for me. I’ve read time travel books before, but never one that centered around preventing the murder of your spouse, and most definitely not one that was this action packed. This was an emotionally charged thriller, that started quickly and kept on going at a heart pounding pace. However, there were a few things that just didn’t work for me.

I went back and forth on how I felt about the characters of Jenny and Barry. I can’t put my finger on it, but there was something that really bugged me about Jenny. I’ve been thinking it over and I honestly don’t know what. Barry was a bit of a jerk, but I loved that he didn’t suddenly become Rambo while on the run from a deadly threat. He got very lucky, which was much more interesting. I really liked the grief counselor, Dr. Van Der Vehn; he was an fascinating mix of sympathy and selfish professional mania.

There were a few writing choices that I found a bit jarring. The beginning chapters of the book had several sentences foreshadowing future events, worded similarly to “little did they know that the shadow of death hung over…” which isn’t a literary choice that I love.

The other writing issue that I had with this book is one that probably would be completely unnoticed by many people: the use of the word “seizure” instead of spasm or convulsion. There is one example in particular: “There were cords standing out in her neck, and she was shaking like she might go into a seizure at any moment.” The thing is, I have grand mal epilepsy,  and seizures being used as descriptors when the author is discussing stress or fear really rubs me the wrong way. This is just one of my pet peeves, but I wish different wording was chosen.

I did like how the issue of a set path vs. changing your fate was explored. It was fascinating seeing it as the theme in a game of cat- and- mouse.  Incidentally, this has been adapted into a movie, and Jeff Lane also wrote the screenplay. Talk about wearing multiple hats!

While I didn’t love this book, I found it a solid addition to the thriller genre, one with a one-of-a-kind twist.

Have you read this? What did you think?