CONGRATULATIONS TO THE 2023 PODCAST OF THE YEAR WINNERS!
CONGRATULATIONS TO THE 2023 PODCAST OF THE YEAR WINNERS!
Book Title: The Girl in the Blue Blazer
Author: Alretha Thomas
Publisher: Diverse Arts Collective
The Girl in the Blue Blazer is a mind-bender that will keep you guessing till the very end.
Set in multiple cities and told over multiple timelines, Alretha Thomas sets the stage while introducing the story’s protagonist and antagonist in the opening scene. Friday, June 7, 2019, in big city California, Pamela, a good looking, strong and independent black woman interviews for a renowned internship at Clifford Investments, a top financial firm, with founder and CEO, Andrew Clifford III. Thomas makes it clearly known that Pamela’s intentions on getting the internship that could change her life is about much more than advancing her career, and that Andrew Clifford III is more than the brash arrogant businessman offering the job. In an alternate opening scene, other characters are revealed. Thomas turns the clock back to Tuesday, June 1, 1993. The reader gets to know Elizabeth and Sandy, two best friends working at a topless bar dreaming of overcoming their present and past challenges of lives filled with trauma and poverty. They too encounter a man that would change their lives forever.
The story weaves back and forth from past to present. This style can be challenging to make work; however, Thomas deftly connects the different narrative timelines as secrets and answers to the questions dealing with the story’s complex main characters are brought to light and the unsuspecting climax is reached.
If you like a book where strong women take on a narcissistic man and the outcome isn’t what you expect, this one is for you.
The Girl in the Blue Blazer…A fast-paced thriller dominated by lies and manipulation, control and influence, and retribution and justice.
Shortly after graduating from USC with a degree in journalism, Alretha soon realized her interest in her major was not heartfelt. Instead of writing news stories, she wanted to write plays and books. Several years later, her church gave her an outlet to fulfill her writing desires through their Liturgical Fine Arts Department wherein Alretha penned twelve theatre pieces—the community response was overwhelming. This led to plays outside of the church, including Alretha’s One Woman, Two Lives, starring Kellita Smith (The Bernie Mac Show), directed by four-time NAACP Image Award Best Director recipient, Denise Dowse. The production garnered rave reviews from critics and audiences.
In between plays, Alretha self-published her first novel, Daughter Denied, in 2008 and has received glowing reviews from readers and book clubs across the country. Representing her book and plays, Alretha has been the guest on many radio shows and television shows including San Francisco Public Affairs show Bay Sunday with Barbara Rodgers on CBS affiliate, KPIX. She was also interviewed by KTLA News Entertainment Reporter, Sam Rubin. In 2011, Alretha self-published her second novel, Dancing Her Dreams Away, and it was also well received. Her third novel, Married in the Nick of Nine, spawned a four-book series that was acquired by Soul Mate Publishing in January 2014. The series has since reverted back to her. In August 2014, Alretha was awarded the Jessie Redmon Fauset Literary Award for her indie novel, Four Ladies Only. In 2016, Alretha created the Detective Rachel Storme Mystery Series: Justice for Jessica, Losing Lauren and A Penny for Her Heart. In 2018 and 2019 Alretha debuted two additional mystery books—The Women on Retford Drive and The Truth About Gretchen, respectively. Her most recent novel is The Girl in the Blue Blazer.
Alretha is also an actress and can be seen in numerous commercials and television shows. She currently plays Anastasia Devereaux on Tyler Perry’s Assisted Living that airs on BET.
Book Title: Dani Capello: Shadows of Men
Author: M.S. Izbicki
Publisher: Highland Entertainment
M. S. Izbicki’s debut novel traverses a wide range of teen fronts with its fusion of multiple genres.
Dani Capello reads like an intense coming-of-age memoir written in the first-person by sixteen-year-old Daniella “Dani” Capello. Dani and her brother were taken in by her aunt and uncle after their parents died. The brother is a secondary character. Dani is anything but a normal sixteen-year-old dealing with the challenges of adolescence—fitting in, getting along with family, insecurities, personal identity, and love. A detail that sets Dani’s dynamic apart is that her uncle is part of a criminal enterprise tied to the mob. Dani isn’t completely oblivious to the shady dealings of family members, but she is unaware of the exact depths of illegality reached.
The supporting cast is introduced when Dani gets sent, unwillingly, to an all-girl Catholic boarding school following a heated argument with a “creepy” family member. While there, she meets her new friends Emma, Whitney, and Madeline. The four girls quickly become close. The foursome does what most kids their age do. They challenge authority, go to parties, sneak around, get into trouble, and…two fall in love. Dani and Emma’s relationship forms gradually throughout the book. Emma is most like Dani—delightfully witty with a nerdy disposition. Combined with the family’s mob ties, the relationship between Dani and Emma plays a central part in the themes and conflicts expressed in the pages. The action accelerates and the plot thickens when Dani returns home “to the mob” with Emma by her side.
Izbicki manufactures a compelling plot and riveting climax to complement her clever cast of appealing female protagonists. The male characters in this tale leave a lot to be desired. Izbicki builds her characters thoughtfully using an abundance of dialogue.
Dani Capello: Shadows of Men is a multi-faceted tale of self-discovery, teen love, and violent crime. Aimed at the young-adult female audience, M.S. Izbicki has created something which may only get better with what seems like the future release of a sequel.
M.S. Izbicki studied the craft of storytelling at Chapman University, where she received a BFA in film production. After a three-year stint playing the role of “starving artist,” she decided money and health insurance had more value than she initially anticipated. Thus, she returned to school and received a boring, parent-approved MBA.
When she’s not writing books, she’s pretending to be a rock star. You can catch her singing lead vocals in her alt. punk band, Cigarette Juliet, and her country band, Myles and Ash.
Izbicki’s other hobbies include drinking gallons of boxed wine, accidentally killing plants, spending time with her two insanely mischievous dogs, and watching endless hours of animal documentaries.
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