Category: New Authors

Top Picks: 5 Thrilling Crime Books

Each week, Bookstr gives you a look at some of the best novels in a particular genre for your continued reading list.

Today we’ll be recommending 5 thrilling crime books!



5-Dressmaker’s Gift by Fiona Valpy

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After living seven years in France, Fiona Valpy moved to the UK where she notes that “[s]he and her family renovated an old, rambling farmhouse in the Bordeaux winelands, during which time she developed new-found skills in cement-mixing, interior decorating and wine-tasting.”

Well, if her skills at cement-mixing are as any good as her writing skills, then I might need to hire her to fill in that body-sized hole in my backyard (Kidding).


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Her newest novel, released October 1st, follows generations. One is set in 1940s Paris, France. During the Nazi occupation, three young seamstresses seem to be like any other citizen, but all three are hiding secrets. War-scarred Mireille is fighting with the Resistance; Claire has been seduced by a German officer; and Vivienne is involved in something she can’t reveal to either of them.

Talk about thrilling! But it only heats up when we follows Claire’s English granddaughter Harriet two generations later. After arriving in Paris, the city of lights, rootless and adrift, Harriet looks for the truth about her grandmother – and herself – unraveling a dark family history.

A book filled with loyalty, threats of betrayal, and hardship all around, we as readers learn about a city where crime is law and must ask, along with Harriet, if we really want to solve this mystery.

4-The Lying Woods by Ashley Elston

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A ten year wedding and portrait photographer, Ashley Elston knows how to capture a picture. But that’s not all! Elston is also a certified landscape horticulturist, meaning she must have as much fun in her gardens as she does with her titles.


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When his mother shows up at his elite New Orleans boarding school, Owen Foster learns that his privileged life has been funded by stolen money. Now his father has skipped town, millions have been stolen from their once loyal employees’ retirement accounts, and Owen and his mother must deal with the fallout.

Returning back to Lake Cane, Owen is despised by all for his father’s crimes, including a mysterious person out for revenge. Now Owen has a thrilling mystery to contend with, lest he and his mother vanish without a trace.

With a cryptic note from his father, a man named Gus, who offers Owen refuge and seems to know Owen better than he knows himself. The truth is hidden under layers of questions that don’t get answers until the book rockets to the end. On November 13th we’ll get an answer to this universal question: if our past was written by someone else, how can we write a better future?



3-My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

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A Nigerian-UK novelist and writer, Oyinkan Braithwaite came out with her debut novel, and it’s something that you NEED to know about!


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Ayoola is the favorite child, the beautiful one, and her third boyfriend in a row is dead. How could Korede not be bitter? At least she’s practical, knows how to clean blood, her trunk is big enough for a body, and she’s able to keep her sister from posting pictures of her dinner to Instagram when she should be mourning her “missing” boyfriend.

But Korede gets none of the credit, none of the love from her sister.

Now Korede is in love love with a doctor, but the doctor has eyes for Ayoola. It’s a love triangle where one of the participants is a black widow.

Full of deadpan wit, this crime novel is as hilarious and it is horrifying. A mesmerizing debut, it’s frighteningly fun, the finest example of modern noir. It hits shelves November 20th, so don’t miss out on this newest hit!


2-Home Truths by Tina Seskis

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Even though she spent twenty years in marketing before diving in to a career as a writer, Tina Seskis has written novels that have been published in eighteen languages in over sixty countries, teaching us that while the words may change, murder is universal.


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When Eleanor walks into a London police station to report a stalker, Officer Alex is convinced he can protect her from anything and anyone. The sun seems to be shining as they settle into their life together, but the sun doesn’t shine on everyone.

Two hundred miles away, Christie receives a clairvoyant’s warning: ‘Never trust your husband . . .’ and now she can’t help but wonder if Paul is as faithful as he seems.

Ten years after the stalker and Christie receives her warning, both couples are still together, but doubts and resentments have bubbled to the surface, and all four of them question the decisions they’ve made.

Everyone carries secrets, and these four people have brought their secrets into their marriages. Some small, some not so small, but all of them pile up to a dangerous point. This December 1st will bring all four of these people colliding together.


1-Nine Elms by Robert Bryndza

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His debut thriller, The Girl in the Ice, was a publishing phenomenon that garnered more than three million readers, and his newest novel, set for a December 1st release, shows that Bryndza is back.


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When she caught the notorious Nine Elms serial killer, Kate Marshal was in the limelight with an even brighter future ahead of her, but the lights turned dark when her career ended in scandal thanks to the shocking circumstances surrounding the cannibal murder case.

Fifteen years later, Kate carries the demons of the past on her shoulders. Now a lecturer at a small coastal English university, she learns of a copycat killer. Where everyone else sees absolute horror, Kate sees redemption.

Enlisting her brilliant research assistant, Tristan Harper, Kate goes to catch this new monster. After all, Kate was the original killer’s intended fifth victim…and his successor means to finish the job.

With a masterful level of craft, Bryndza is at the top of his game with edge-of-your-seat suspense, riveting characters, and everything else that makes you remember why you love the crime and thriller genre.




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Have You Read This Oprah-Approved Alicia Keys Memoir?

In 2015 Oprah announced that she and Flatiron Books had started a new imprint that would focus on publishing nonfiction stories called “An Oprah Book,” and nearly four years later, back in March, we got the name of their first imprint title: More Myself by none other than Alicia Keys!



If you recall, the announcement itself was something special. It came out in a YouTube video where Alicia Keys unveiled the cover of her new book, describing it as “part autobiography, part narrative documentary.”

Check out the video below!



Back then, Oprah Magazine noted that “[w]ith this announcement, 2019 seems to be yet another breakout year for Keys” and ABC News quoted Flatiron as saying “the memoir [is] a ‘360-degree perspective’ on [Alicia’s] life, from her childhood in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan to her spectacular, Grammy-winning rise.”

It’s an awesome story, especially considering that Alicia Keys has made great strides in the past few years.




In 2007, her third album, As I Am, had a Hot 100’s number one single “No One” and sold 5 million copies worldwide, according to MTVLater that year, the album earned three Grammy Awards. That same year she portrayed Georgia Sykes in the hit film Smokin’ Aces, a film which also starred Ben Affleck, Ray Liotta, Ryan Reynolds, and Chris Pine.

And now this Oprah-approved Alicia Keys’ memoir has hit a bookshelf near you just yesterday!




Amazon describes it as “[a]n intimate, revealing look at one artist’s journey from self-censorship to full expression.”

Want to get it? Do you? Well join me and click here to get it!




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How to Publish Your Book: Querying

The first step is to write the book. Now that you’ve done it, rewrite it. Now reread it and write it again. Its word shuffle, but not as fun.

Because you’re going to keep repeating over and over again.

When you’ve written it and you’ve waited a week and you’ve read it again and find there’s nothing left you can do to improve it, then you’re ready to start the first step in publishing it.

Now of course you can self-publish it, but if you want to follow the greats and secure a traditional publisher, then you have to start querying. Yes, before you learn about rejections and how to deal with them, you have to query. What is querying?


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Thanks to Gotham Writers, we were able to see a panel where authors…


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…Seth Fried, author of The Municipalists


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…Kody Keplinger, author of A Midsummer’s Nightmare


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…and Joselin Linder, author of The Family Gene, addressed the very topic of querying.

To make this information digestible, we’ve separated this handy-dandy advice in various sections. Scroll down to find what you need, but we advise you read the whole thing. Not only may it help you find your blind spots, but we put a lot of time and effort in this article.






Image Via Ignited Ink Writing LLC


It is a business format. This is a business letter, but you’re also showing off your skills as a writer.


Before you get published, you have to get a literary agent. To get a literary agent, you have to query them by sending them, you guessed it, a query letter.

To start, a query letter is a one-page letter sent to literary agents that’ll get them excited about your potential-book. It should have them go, “Ah! There’s a story I’d like,” and then they request the full manuscript. From there, if they like the manuscript and believe it can make some cash, they’ll sign you, edit it, and send it to a publishing housing.

Querying is the first step.




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Your address should be on the top right of the page. On the top left of the page, the agent’s address.

Note that if you’re not mailing your letter, then you don’t have to worry about the above, but you definitely have to worry about everything that’s about to come next.

Use a personalized greeting to acknowledge the agent. Don’t call them “Sir” or “Madam” or “To Whom it May Concern.” If you’re addressing “Donald Agent,” call them “Mr. Donald Agent,” unless their guidelines say otherwise (We’ll get to those in a bit).

The body of your query letter should be between three to five paragraphs.


Paragraph #1: This is your opportunity to hook the literary agent. Share any connection you have with the agent (you met him or her at a conference, or you’re a fan of specific authors that he or she represents). If you don’t have a connection, then get to the action. Tell them the title and genre of your book. Tell them the word count. Give them what they want.


Paragraph #2: Now you got to summarize your story. Here’s three pieces of advice we got at the panel:


1- “Studying jacket copies is a good idea”

Take cues from The Great Gatsby. It promises money! Jazz! Who wouldn’t want to read a book with money! And jazz!?


2- The reader should be able to “get” the character in one sentence. An example would be, “It’s about the principal of the thing. After all, she doesn’t like him… much.”

Just make sure that you keep the tone consistent with your writing style. You don’t want to sell your agent on your humor and then have them read a depressing thriller.


3- “Treat them like puzzles”

Pick apart the manuscript to its most basic components. You’re taking an 80,000+ word book and paring it down to about, at most, 300 words. You hear that? Your 80,000+ word book has to be pared down in about 300 words. This won’t be easy, but it’ll showcase your talents as a writer.


Paragraph #3: Add your bio, but make sure it’s relevant to writing. Impress your agent with writing awards, your street cred, what you’ve published, but make sure it’s no more than two sentences.

Now you have to make sure this whole thing is one page. Make sure this thing has short, easy-to-understand sentences. This thing is going to be one of hundreds of letters, and your potential-agent is probably going to skim through it.





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Behold the wonders of


With this you can find the right agent quick and easy. Plus, it’s free! Yes, there is a Premium version where you can get more specific search criteria, but if you’re on a budget this is the site for you.

Go through your favorite books, your favorite authors, and find out who their agents were. That’s a start, but don’t get hung up on one agent. Your book might shine out better at a smaller agency. Make sure you do your research.


“Don’t lie.”


Agents follow up on what you tell them. Don’t tell them someone recommended you when they didn’t, they’ll check up on that. And make sure you actually read those books that you tell them you read.

Submit thoughtfully, and query widely y’all.

“Query widely” does not mean give every agent, or even a large group of agents, the same query letter. That’s how you get your query letter in the spam box. Instead, one should tailor their query letter to the agent they are sending them to too. That extra step encourages the agent to take an extra step when looking over your letter.

If you’re writing fiction, don’t talk about the trends in the market, or about the target audience. Sell the story. Unless you’re writing nonfiction, but that’s its own separate beast.


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Remember that the best query letter is one that follows these things which are called submission guidelines. Each agency has their own requirements for query letters. Find them and follow them.




“No one wants your great ideas.”


This is from Joselin Linder, and it’s important to remember that. Yes, you’re giving them a summary of your book and I get it, you’re protective of your book, but don’t be paranoid. No one can duplicate your voice so don’t get worried.




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But odds are you don’t have a clone. Also:


“Things move quickly. You are easily replaced.”


If they ask for x, you have at most 2 days to get back to them.

Also, if you fired the agent who has previous sold your books, or just your first book, you might want to put down that you “parted ways.”

Remember that they only know as much as you tell them.

And for all those who think this is too much work and would rather just self-publish, remember you’re going to have crank out books constantly just to maintain your audience.





You want to get published and if, God willing, it happens, maybe it’ll be like when Kody Keplinger got her first book published…


Image Via American Libraries Magazine


It was due out in November, but her birthday was in August. Her agent said they should go out for a birthday dinner with her mother.

At the dinner, Kody, her mother, and her literary agent sat down. Birthday dinner!

Then her agent gave her a present.

Kody unwrapped it…


It was her book. Her agent had gotten an early copy of the book and gave it to Keplinger for her birthday!

That could be you. Or you could be like Seth Fried…


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“I’m a live by moment guy… after any amount of success I feel like I’m going to be arrested.”


Either way, you’ll never know until you query. So now that you know what to do, have at it! But you’re probably going to get rejected, a lot, so here are tips on how to handle that.



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Are You a Writer Who Just Got Rejected? Here’s What to Do

If you’re a writer, then you probably have at least two voices in your head, one in each ear. One voice tells you that what you’re writing is the best thing ever, the next Harry Potter/Game of Thrones/Hunger Games. The other voice tells you that you’re a terrible writer and you should just give up.

You suck down those fears and put a smile on your face. You’re a writer, and you have a short story of a novel or maybe you even have both. You submit your work and sit back.




“No, thanks.”

It’s a stab in the gut, and the ‘thanks’ only adds salt to the wound. You suck it up and submit again. Maybe this time you’ll submit to a smaller agency, a tinier magazine. You hit send:

“No, thanks.”

Now what?


The Gotham Writers Conference

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Thanks to The Gotham Writers Conference, we at Bookstr were able to listen in on a lecture given by Kim Laio, author of the essay published on Lit Hub Why You Should Aim for 100 Rejections a Year. Since everyone had a paper and pen, she had the listeners in the audience go through two different exercises. The first exercise was as follows:


  • Writer down your hopes and dreams as a writer


After telling everyone to do this, the room was filled with a long contemplative silence filled only with the soft scribbling of pens and the soft groaning rattles of the radiator. When everyone’s pens were done, and after some time after that, Kim Liao said this:

Now skip a line. Protect your hopes and dreams.

After giving us a clear warning that her next two directions were “worse” then she first direction, she gave us the second:

  • Answer what’s stopping you from achieving those dreams

And then the third:

  • What’s underling these anxieties?


Kim Liao

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She then turned to the audience, asking them what they answered. Don’t fret, the only people who answered were those who raised their hands and were given the microphone. One person told us a story about how they were writing a book about a “terrible cult” and the effects their actions brought upon their family.

A book about cults? Count me in!

She then said she hadn’t told anyone about the book for the longest time because, well, there was a certain personal conflict with the book.

What was the person problem? Her brother.

Her brother was a member of the cult. He left the cult, but became an apologist for the cult.

It was only after this person was able to tell her brother about the book and give him it that she was able to move on. She doesn’t know if he read the book, if he was angry or upset, but he had the book and it was out of her hands.



This story is about the third direction Kim Liao gave us: What’s underling these anxieties?  Turns out the most common reason for anxieties about your hopes and dreams about becoming a writer is this daunting question, “What will happen if you tell the truth?”

See, if you’re a writer, then you probably have at least two voices in your head, one in each ear. One voice tells you that what you’re writing is the best thing ever, the next Harry Potter/Game of Thrones/Hunger Games. The other voice tells you that you’re a terrible writer and you should kill yourself.

Both of these voices are toxic.


Fiction is the truth inside the lie

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Fiction, non-fiction, they all deal with truths. Even if the book takes place on another planet or another dimension, there is always a person connection the writer has with the work. It came from them, and now it’s out there on a bone writer paper written in black ink. It’s literally out there in black and white, and most often we are afraid to show it because of fear.

That right there is a personal rejection. No one has rejected the story except you. If you’re thinking about your worst review, as one person at the conference was, stop that. Any craft, be it writing or construction or electric or running, gets better as you do it more and more. So keep it, and silence the voice that tells you you’re a terrible writer and know that the story you are telling is one that only you could tell.


Sit Back

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Now sit back. Remember that voice that tell you you’re writing is the best thing ever, the next Harry Potter/Game of Thrones/Hunger Games? Bring down your expectations. Humble yourself.


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Even the authors of those books didn’t know they were writing something as huge as those. Heck, I’d bet George R R Martin has days where he’d wish Game of Thrones wasn’t as big as it was so the pressure would be off as he finished up Winds of Winter.

Tamper your arrogance, erase your fears

Now you’re ready to submit. Then you get a rejection. And then another one. And then another one after that.

So what do you do?

Well, what do you think that Kim Laio, author of the essay published on Lit Hub Why You Should Aim for 100 Rejections a Year is going to tell you?


Kim Liao

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Get 100 rejections of year

This is how you do that:

  • Set up an excel spreadsheet
  • Set up one column for the number
  • Set up one column for the story
  • Set up one column for the publishing house/agent


Don’t worry, we understand. One-hundred rejections a year? A hundred times of people stabbing you in the gut with that “No, thanks,” as though the ‘thanks’ at the end of that sentence means anything? No, thanks, you go, but don’t reject me now!

According to Kim Liao, she heard this advice from a friend and thought it was the “best advice ever.” By collecting a hundred rejections a year, you’re making it yourself mission. Your goal now isn’t to get published, but to wrap up the rejection list. When you get a rejection now, you can now log it into the spreadsheet and get that rush of a dopamine because you’re productive. That rush, that split second happiness, makes you feel motivated to go and put yourself out there again.

It isn’t about collecting those rejections slips so you know who to stick it to when you make a ton of money, that’s not why Stephen King collected his rejection slips, it’s to give yourself a goal, to turn your disappoint into a mission to keep going and wrap up the rejection list. You’re accepting that you’re going to get rejected and now you’re striving to do so. Odds are at least one person will accept your story. Plus, if you want to be a writer, you have to get used to it.

 “For a writer, it’s mostly rejections.”


Image Via Writer’s Digest


Rejections aren’t all bad. Remember: “The door isn’t closing, the path if shifting.”

Rejections can create relationships. Your expert query letter may prove that while the agent isn’t interested in your current work, he/she might be interested in your work as a writer. They might ask to see something else or, worst case, they now know your name. Your name is out there, like a plane traveling across the beach, and you never know who might see your banner.

At this point in the conference, Kim Liao gave us the audience a second set of direction. With pens and notebooks at the ready, the silence was palpable. These are the sets in full:

  • List 5 or more things you can do in the next year
  • List 4 things you can do in the next 6 months
  • List 3 things you can do in the next 2 months
  • List 2 things you can do this month
  • List 1 things you can do this week

So what’re you waiting for?



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Go on Twitter and search for submission calls. Look for agents and editors, most agents and editors post their emails on their Twitter.


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Maybe you should set up a blog; just remember to “write lots of posts in advance.”


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Set up a writing schedule. A writing schedule isn’t necessary just writing. Put time aside for pitching, writing, and querying. All three of these things have to do with writing, and you have to set time aside for each.



Before you query, take a step back and look at your writing. “Whenever you feel that you’re ready, take a week,” and remember that “[y]our writer’s group can help you solve your problems…not your agent.”


You can only query one agent with one project at a time. If you go back and make changes, odd are that agent doesn’t want to hear about that project anymore.


When you’re ready to submit your work, set up the excel spreadsheet and aim to get a hundred rejections a year. Rejection is a “necessary step,” in the writing process. “It can happen anywhere,” even to the most successful writer.

But keep writing and keep submitting. If you get a rejection, and then another one, and then another one after that, then guess what? You have only three rejections and need ninety-seven more to finish out your list! Odds are you’re going to be surprised because the best thing you write might be the thing people like the best.

And don’t forget: if you’re writing a novel and you go “Now I have an agent! I’m done,” then you’re wrong. You haven’t even gotten started yet, but you’re ready.




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