C. J. Lyons Reviews

John Kurtze Review of “Watched” by C.J. Lyons
320 Pages
Published by Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date November 4, 2014

C.J. Lyons’, YA Thriller, “Watched” is dark trip through cyberspace and the dangers of the internet. “Watched” has a plot with a gripping heart wrenching story of two innocent teen protagonists being forced to deal with the all-to-real-problems of bullying on the internet. Lyons’ readers see through eyes of Jesse Alexander, a sixteen year old boy dealing with a hacker he has named King. Our second protagonist Miranda is a thirteen year old girl who has had her and her family’s lives turned upside down by the same evil hacker she has named Creep. 

The plot grabs readers on the first page describing the actions of the evil antagonist using his hacking capabilities to search the web for unsuspecting videos, pictures or email messages for the sole purpose of blackmailing the subjects into performing sexual acts. We are introduced to 16 year old Jesse Alexander three years after his father sudden disappearance. Jesse, his mother , and sister, Janey are forced to move into his uncle’s house. King hacks Jesse’s computer taking a fantasy he has written. King has a video of Jesse taken by a trusted relative. King threatens to expose Jesse on the internet. This the beginning of Jesse’s torment, bullying and blackmail. King demands Jesse perform and do unspeakable acts. King threatens to harm his mother and sister. Jesse’s story centers on his need to protect mother and young sister, Janey. Jesse will do anything to keep them safe. 

The second protagonist, Ariel tormented by the same evil hacker who had found on the internet a slumber party video and created photos from the video tried blackmailing her parents threatening to cybersmash (spread the video and photos throughout her school and on the internet.) Her parents refused and “The Creep” (Ariel’s nickname for the hacker) delivered on his threat. Her family was destroyed causing her parents loss of their jobs and Ariel her reputation. The smear campaign changed her family’s life and destroyed Ariel. In her eyes Ariel is no more and she becomes Miranda. Lyons shows her readers through Miranda’s eyes how everything she does focuses on protecting her mother and father and putting an end to the Creep.

The ruthless cyberbully King and his partner’s actions force Jesse to find a way to stop them. Miranda looks for a way to stop “The Creep” and finds Jesse. They realize Jesse’s King and Miranda’s Creep are the same evil hacker. Joining forces gives them hope and they create a plan of action. An intriguing twist of faith, support and trust help Miranda and Jesse implement their plan . 

Lyons’, “Watched” delivers an important story on a real issue of dealing with cyber-predators in the digital world. Her strong characters bring the story to life involving readers to the last page.. This mystery thriller allows the reader to see the plan of action from Jesse and Miranda’s point of view. Lyons’ plot moves so fast and readers get to watch Jesse and Miranda face danger at every twist and turn of the story. The unpredictable intrigue at the end cause readers to sit on the edge of their seats and hold their breath. “Watched.” C.J Lyons once again writes a great YA story that is thought provoking on need-to-be-told issue. I recommend C.J. Lyons’ “Watched” as a must read and a 5 star ranking. 


Fight Dirty

John Kurtze Review of “Fight Dirty” by C. J. Lyons

326 pages

Thomas & Mercer Octorber 7, 2014

“Fight Dirty” is an intense mystery thriller focusing on the events surrounding the death of 14 year old BreeAnna Greene on the day she was released from a private treatment facility for troubled teens.

C.J. Lyons brings two strong protagonists from earlier books, Nick Callahan, a therapist and Morgan Ames, a 15 year old who is the daughter of convicted serial killer. Lyons’ fans know Nick Callahan is FBI Supervisory Special Agent Lucy Guardino’s husband.  Morgan is one of Nick’s clients.  She is working hard to turn her life around and has promised Nick she won’t kill again as she is still dealing with issues having a father who is a serial killer.  Nick’s therapy is helping Morgan but she still is a great manipulator and Nick knows Morgan is far from an angel.  As Morgan’s therapist, Nick is the only person who is aware of what makes Morgan tick and things she fears.

In “Fight Dirty” readers meet Lyons’ two support protagonists Jenna Galloway and Andre Stone who were introduced in an earlier Guardino story. Jenna and Andre have recently started the Galloway and Stone Security Consultants firm.  Lyons provides readers each character’s backstory.  Lyons’ storyline introduces Nick, Morgan, Jenna, and  her boyfriend Andre.  As Jenna and Andre are asked by Mr. and Mrs. Greene to investigate the why and how of their 14 year old daughter BreeAnna’s death.

In Morgan’s efforts to move forward with her life, she tends to manipulate people to achieve her goals. She works her way into being part of Jenna and Andre’s firm.  As they are dealing with the trust issues, it turns out their investigation has hit a roadblock and they need Morgan to go undercover and infiltrate ReNew, a treatment center for troubled teens.  Morgan agrees to go undercover at the treatment center because she feels BreeAnna deserves justice.

It is amazing how fast events develop while Nick, Jenna, and Andre go to the Greene’s home, Mr. Greene talks Morgan into being admitted to ReNew without Jenna, Andre, or Nick’s knowledge.  Only Nick knows Morgan’s biggest fear and going undercover might be very dangerous for her.

Lyons describes the dangers for children and in particular for Morgan. Readers see through Morgan’s eyes what the children were forced to undergo.  Morgan found the real evils at ReNew.  From the time Morgan was admitted to ReNew, we met one antagonist after another.

This thrilling, mystery and suspense story starts with Morgan’s quest to find justice for BreeAnna. Morgan was determined everyone know what happened to the children, regardless of what she – found the truth was important.

Lyons story helps readers see how friendship, trust, betrayal, and manipulation are all part of the solution of “Fight Dirty.”  The pace this well-developed and well researched story never slows down.  Morgan’s actions help many truths come to the surface. BreeAnna’s death was the catalyst forcing the investigation of circumstances.  As if the readers were in the room with Morgan, “Fight Dirty,” delivers answers and solutions and a surprise ending for the readers.  Lyons earns my 5 star ranking and I am looking forward to her next book in this new series featuring Nick Callahan and Morgan Ames.


Hard Fall

In “Hard Fall,” C.J. Lyons delivers a mystery story full of suspense, action, and thrills as she immediately involves her readers. The protagonist Lucy works hard to put the pieces of her life puzzle back together after almost losing her life two months earlier. The author likes to make life difficult for her protagonists. Lyons is quoted in Kindle Daily Post, “Lucy faces the kind of dilemma that I love torturing characters with: is it okay to do all the wrong things for all the right reasons?”

“Hard Fall” is a thought provoking story showing Lucy Guardino, Supervisory Special Agent Guardino, dealing with both personal family issues and job related problems. Lyons portrays her main protagonist as a passionate FBI agent and a passionate wife and mother. In “Hard Fall” readers see situations unfold through Lucy’s eyes and they are able to listen to Lucy’s thoughts. and understand Lucy feelings. Her world has been turned upside down. The story’s pace accelerates so fast it is like lightning – striking adding suspense and intrigue at every turn. We are able to experience, see and feel Lucy’s reactions.

The FBI is turning their back on Lucy because of the decisions she made two months earlier breaking with FBI protocol to survive and save her family from certain death. Lucy had expected changes, but not the life and career changes facing her on her return to work. She doesn’t intend to let anything stand in her way from doing her job, from helping to heal herself and her family, or from getting her life back. Lucy is driven to prove she can still do her job and be a loving wife and mother to her family. Lyons helps readers understand why Lucy connects her job to her need to protect Nick and Megan and her desire with Nick’s help to resolve the frictions within the family.

Readers see how Lyons uses thought provoking comments to weave social issues throughout her intense mystery. She is a master at transitioning her readers between Lucy’s work and Lucy’s concerns for her family, and her concern for the victims.

“Hard Fall’s” protagonist has the support of well-developed characters helping in the ongoing investigation. Lyons introduces each support character and their back story helping readers understand their role the story and helping change the direction of the story. Lucy and her team are going after an antagonist, who has eluded law enforcement for decades. Lucy is sure she can bring down the antagonist known as “Daddy” because she has a witness and a victim with evidence.

Implementing twist and turns and misdirection gives readers the feeling they are on a merry-go-round and not sure when or where to get off. Lyons keeps the progress of the story moving forward showing transitions between Lucy, her team, the victim, the antagonist, and her family. Lyons helps readers understand the importance of the conflict going through Lucy’s mind. Lucy is weighing how her actions will effect everyone, including herself.

The creative way Lyons keeps readers’ involvement in “Hard Fall” places readers in the middle of resolving the case. She helps her readers see Lucy seeking justice for the victims of the antagonist. Lyons gives readers a rare insight to how Lucy deals with her good and bad decisions and helps her readers see Lucy dealing with making difficult decisions with the help of memories of talks with her Mom and Dad.

“Hard Fall,” never fails to keep readers off balance and Lyons always delivers an ending no one perceives or has ever thought possible. Lyons’ readers will find “Hard Fall” a great mystery full of suspense and a great 5 star read.



If you are a fan of C.J. Lyons, you will not be disappointed, nor surprised at the fast pace of FAREWELL TO DREAMS: A novel of FATAL INSOMNIA. From page one all the way to the end. I gave this story a 5 star ranking because C.J. earned it one word at a time. Being an ER doctor turned author, no one can tell a story of what goes on in an ER better than C.J. Lyons. She uses her knowledge of the stress of life and death decisions and helps us understand the life of an ER doctor.

Lyons story of an ER doctor, Angela Rossi and strange happenings in her ER room. She meets Detective Matthew Ryder as a patient. Ryder is the new detective assigned to work with the Advocacy Center.

The ER and the Advocacy Center is dealing with attacks of young women who have all been tortured and seem to have mental issues. That is part of Angela’s stress. The next area of her stress is the strained relationship with her family. Angela feels the center of her stress is all symptom’s loss of sleep, loss of appetite, and strange feelings in her hands arm. Angela is ignoring the symptoms for now.

We find even the best laid plans sometimes take on a life of their own. ER Doc, Angela Rossi, meets Detective Matthew Ryder, and while she is treating him and talking about the advocacy centers work, an emergency patient arrives on the ER drive entrance. She has multiple gunshots and is not doing well. C.J uses the arrival of the gunshot victim to insert the first major twist in the story.

Lyons explains how Angela has to use her skills and knowledge to save a dying patient. Rossi cracks the patient’s chest and reaches into her chest and is holding the patient’s heart in her hand. As she lifts the heart all of Angela’s symptoms take over, everything seems to stop, Rossi hears the patient talking to her. In addition to telling Rossi, she forgives her for not saving her life, but the patient tells Rossi about a girl who is in danger.

The message (you will have to read the book) stuns Rossi. Rossi comes back to action finding the Detective Ryder helping her with what needs to be done to keep her breathing. Ryder tells Rossi the patient is a nun at the neighborhood Catholic church just three blocks away. When the crash crew arrives, Rossi gets to work. Ryder starts interviewing the EMT and guards to gather details of how the patient arrived at the hospital ER.

Now all of this action takes place in the first couple of chapters of FAREWELL TO DREAMS. C.J. has always kept us on pins and needles, but this story is going to be the talk of the genre of romantic/mystery/thrillers, because it has something for all of us. This murdered nun becomes the stimulus of the investigation. Suspense builds something is not right at the church, the area around the church, the owners of the businesses, the politicians, two major crime families, and designer drugs.

Rossi comes in contact with unsavory people; Ryder effort to understand her, and her ex-husband and her estranged family are suddenly being inserted into Rossi’s life. Lyons does an excellent job of weaving each of Rossi’s strained family relationships into an important part of the story. Everyone that matters to Rossi seems to expect her to fix things.

Ryder is not sure where Rossi is getting her information (Maybe Rossi does not know) but so far she has not been wrong. When he finds out what is going on with Rossi, he is stunned.

While all of these symptoms getting worse, Rossi finally decides to find out what is going on with her health. Lyons does a great job of describing what is going through Rossi’s mind as she goes to see her neurologist. Whatever is causing the problem could be the end of her ER career or not. Her neurologist is a close friend and Rossi knows she will tell her what she needs to know. Rossi’s neurologist explains how Fatal Insomnia might affect her life.

Rossi does not like the tentative answers. Here is where Lyons shows us her writing skills as she takes Angela through much of the drama of bad news but helps her she what she needs to do. You have to read FAREWELL TO DREAMS to know how this fast roller coaster takes the turns, twists, and provides a great surprise ending.

As I have said at the beginning of my review, FAREWELL TO DREAMS is a fast paced medical, romantic, suspense, thriller, a unique fatal illness surfacing, crime families fighting each other, and is true Lyons story of struggle and hope with a great ending. If you are not a fan, you are in for a treat, and I think you will be joining the Lyons fan club.

Everything starts in the ER, and it ends in the ER. I recommend C.J. Lyons, FAREWELL TO DREAMS: A novel of FATAL INSOMNIA as a must read and give it 5 stars.



Before I began reading AFTER SHOCK by C.J. Lyons, I knew it would not be a full Lucy Guardino novel. We find more action and suspense in this novella of 111 pages of Lucy’s adventures than anyone will find in many other suspense stories. Lyons uses the flashback concept to walk the reader through the two time lines filled with suspense, unexpected twists and changes to Lucy’s mindset.
At any given time, the readers know Lucy’s point of view on the case she is working and how the time constraints will affect Lucy’s family. We see Lucy’s family at the center of every moment as Lucy shares what she is thinking. Lyons take the reader down the path with Lyons helping readers see Lucy’s focus on her family and her commitment to her job. These two commitments are the foundation of the storyline. AFTER SHOCK involves us from the first sentence on the first page to the last word in the epilogue.
Lyons brings her readers up to speed on the case closed by Lucy in the KILLING ZONE 15 months ago. The result of bringing down the drug cartel helped establish Lucy as head of the Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement Squad. She established a reputation of facing down the lowlifes bringing them to justice. Lucy’s determination and perseverance helped with her career growth and helped her find more time to spend with her family.
It may have been the job visibility that brought her family life to the attention of some unsavory people. The plot builds suspense and mystery around her family and cases she has wrapped up. Lyons helps readers see Lucy’s family activity as an important part of her day. We see Lucy flashback, as she deals with finding a solution to her problem she visualizes her family gaining strength and determination to keep moving. Lyons gives readers via flashback an understanding of what Lucy has been through and how she deals with the problem.
Not wanting to provide any spoilers with regards to what Lucy is going through, I am certain any reader of Lyons’ AFTER SHOCK, will find suspense, thrills, mystery, and chills running up and down their spine as they read the novel. Fans will find all sorts of excitement as they follow the story to a surprising conclusion.
As I have mentioned, I enjoyed how Lyons tells her story from a fresh point of view made possible by use of the flashback timeline. On every page, we see Lucy Guardino is facing challenges. Lyons reminds her fans our Lucy is strong and has a will to win. It isn’t a coincidence for Lyons to have psyched her fans into looking for and needing action and answers. We turn the last page and find we have lots of questions. Lyons makes it a point to tell us to put her next Lucy Guardino adventure THE HARD FALL on our wish list.
As a longtime Guardino fan, I hope we won’t have to wait long for the release of THE HARD FALL. Some fans will want to hold their breath to see how long they have to wait to find out how Lucy and Nick resolve all the challenges they face. Lucy is fortunate she has a great family, and that is the main reason she will overcome the problems at hand. AFTER SHOCK is Lyons at her best.

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