Friday, June 8, 2018

Finding AJ by Russ Melrose #Giveaway Blitz & Character Interview!

Survive the infected and find the serial killer ... or die trying.
Finding AJ
by Russ Melrose

My rating: 5 stars

Series: Apocalypse Journeys - Book 2 - STAND ALONE READ
Publication Date: May 8, 2018
Publisher: Russ Melrose
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic Thriller
Print Length: 336 pages
Available from: Amazon
Survive the infected and find the serial killer ... or die trying.

(Authors note. Both novels in the "Apocalypse Journeys" series -- Jacob's Odyssey and Finding AJ -- are standalone novels and do not need to be read in any specific order.)

The world has fallen apart, the FBI gone, but former Agent Jules Vandevelde won’t stop. She can’t. She’s driven to find the psychopathic serial killer known as the Calligrapher.

Her search leads her to the small town of Gideon in Southern Utah. There, amongst the 116 survivors, a serial killer hides in plain sight. There’s only one clue to his identity. Using a scalpel, he inscribes the letters AJ into the abdominal area of his victims--postmortem--in an ancient Chinese text called Tsao, the lettering precise and artistic.

Jules knows the key to finding the Calligrapher lies in discovering the identity of AJ. If she can find AJ, she can find the Calligrapher. But the Calligrapher knows who Jules is. Jules must survive the infected and find the Calligrapher before she becomes his latest victim. 
Finding AJ by Russ Melrose (Apocalypse Journeys, #2)

Finding AJ (Apocalypse Journeys #2)In what could only be called dedication to justice, bull-headed determination and probably an obsession, one agent from the now decimated FBI will continue her quest to find the twisted monster known as the Calligrapher.

Agent Jules Vanedvelde needs a sense of sanity and control in a world now filled with flesh eating zombies, road warriors and danger at every turn. She has the one clue that she hopes will lead her to finding the Calligrapher and the remains of his first victim, the letters “AJ.” Follow her quest for justice and survival in a post-apocalyptic world where law and order falls victim to survival of the fittest for many. Jules knows the Calligrapher is still alive, and she will get her man, because if she doesn’t he will surely get her.

FINDING AJ by Russ Melrose is as much a suspenseful thriller as it is a brittle tale of survival. Share Jules’s memories when the hunt began. Feel the losses she has faced and understand the passion with which she hunts, even as the world around her has collapsed. Is she ready to face her greatest nightmare or will her own blind fury lead her straight into his lair to become his next canvas in blood?

Suspense? I’m in! Post-apocalyptic flesh eaters? Yes, please. The fight for the survival of humanity against all odds? Bring it. To feel as if I were there, interacting with the varied personalities simultaneously gelling and being repulsed on the apocalyptic steroids of stress? Creative genius.

Russ Melrose has added his personal touch to the apocalypse, by going beyond survival, by giving us one heroine who still feels the need to protect and serve by taking down a twisted serial killer determined to continue toying with what is left of humanity.

Action, a little gore, and razor-wire tension throughout! Jules is tough, but not super-human, still, I wouldn’t want to be on her bad side! A great read that bends genres!

Character Interview – Jules

Why does Jules have such difficulty developing relationships of any depth?

It goes back to when Jules was fourteen and her step-father died. Her step-father was everything to her. Jules' relationship with her mother was all but nonexistent (she even refers to her mother as a "ghost" at one point). So, when Jules' step-father died, Jules felt as if she'd been abandoned. She felt alone and would do anything not to have to repeat that experience again. Out of her fear of abandonment, she developed a defense mechanism that led her to shy away from developing close, personal relationships. If you're not close to anyone, you can't suffer the pain of being abandoned.

That's why Jules felt most at home in the FBI. It was a perfect fit for her. Her relationships in the bureau were professional rather than personal. Rather than having friends, Jules had colleagues. Having colleagues fit right into Jules' comfort zone, and she could immerse herself in whatever cases she was working on. Outside the FBI, the few relationships she had were of a casual, convenient nature, nothing more. 

What is Jules' character arc?

Jules' character arc is subtle, but it is there. Since Jules' main focus is on finding the Calligrapher, and the novel only spans about a two-week period, there's not a lot of time for significant changes to occur. On top of that, Jules isn't consciously looking to make changes in her life. But through her experiences, they begin to take shape anyway. During the investigation, she makes a personal connection (not at all sexual) with Beckerman – the special agent in charge of the task force. Beckerman reminds Jules of her step-father. Still, out of a deeply ingrained habit, she keeps her distance and keeps the relationship strictly professional. Something she comes to regret later on.

In Gideon, as time goes by, she gradually begins to connect with the people there on a personal level – at least those that she doesn't see as suspects.

And later in the novel, Jules opens up to Addy (a teenage travel companion from Arizona) about Jules' personal life – though Jules has to be prompted by Addy to do so. But Jules chooses to open up because she feels it might help Addy. This isn't something Jules would have likely done at the beginning of the novel. The final scene of the novel shows just how far Jules has come where her willingness and ability to connect with others is concerned.

With the world having fallen apart and the infected everywhere, why does Jules choose to go after the Calligrapher?

Where her motivation to find the Calligrapher is concerned, justice, a sense of purpose, guilt, and revenge all play a part, though not equally.


Jules' motives are fairly complex. It's about more than seeking justice, though the notion of seeking justice plays a part. When the world falls apart, Jules realizes she still needs a sense of purpose in her life beyond merely surviving. In the past, the FBI had always provided her with a sense of purpose. Now, other than struggling to survive, she has no real purpose. Finding the Calligrapher helps fill that void in her life. But Jules' motives for going after the Calligrapher run deeper. For Jules, finding the Calligrapher has become personal. Sure, she wants to balance the scales for his victims, but more than anything Jules is driven by feelings of guilt and a touch of revenge.



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Russ Melrose's path to becoming a writer has been anything but conventional. Over the years, he's done a bit of everything--a jack of all trades you might say. He spent time in the military, the ASA (Army Security Agency, and yes, it's related to the NSA), worked in business (accounting, assistant buyer, management), taught at a secretarial college, spent time as a letter carrier for the post office, and he even mesmerized a few clients here and there as a hypnotherapist. He also spent time in the blue collar sector (building floors for mobile homes, a job retrofitting military vehicles for the army, etc.). Along the way, he also found time to get degrees (B.A. and M.A.) in English from the University of Utah and Utah State University respectively. And eventually he became a writer.

Writers who've influenced him the most are Dostoevsky, Hemingway, Raymond Chandler, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

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Russ Melrose is giving away:
One SIGNED Print copy of FINDING AJ ~ U.S. Only
Three eCopies of FINDING AJ ~ Intl Where Allowed
Ends June 18, 11:59 PM

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