Book Review Tuesday: Serang @Virgilante, If Darkness Takes Us @bsmithnovelist, My Baby Wrote Me a Letter @JacqBiggar

Warm and cozy window seat with cushions and a opened book, light through vintage shutters, rustic style home decor. Small cat on window seat, along with coffee cup by pillow, Words Book Review Tuesday superimposed over imageHello, and welcome to my first Book Review Tuesday of December! Bear with me, because I plan to share several books I read in November today and next week. After that, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve pop up on Tuesdays and I know many people go offline until the first of the year. Because I want to ensure the authors have exposure for their hard work, I won’t be reviewing on those days. Hopefully, that makes sense. :)

I’m pleased to say all of today’s books earned 5-Star reviews from me. Now, let’s get started!


Book cover for Serang by C. S. Boyack shows young female monk with shaved head in martial arts poseSerang
by C. S. Boyack

A vivid story that follows an orphan’s path as she matures from a child adrift, to a confident young woman and warrior. Serang is a character from Boyack’s popular Voyage of the Lanternfish tale, but you needn’t have read that book to enjoy this story. It stands on its own, allowing the reader to grow with Serang.

Through the course of the story she learns valuable lessons—many from a wise monk—faces multiple challenges and discovers herself along the way. There is danger and adventure. Heartbreak as well, but there is also plenty of humor, and the ending delivers a beautiful reward. As a reader I loved seeing the growth of Serang’s character. Enjoy this as a backstory to Voyage of the Lanternfish, or as a brand-new tale. Either way, it is a wholly entertaining read!

Amazon Link
Genre: Coming of Age > Travel Adventure Fiction


Book cover for If Darkness Takes Us by Brenda Marie Smith shows high tension utility tower shrouded in darknessIf Darkness Takes Us
by Brenda Marie Smith

I’ve always had a weak spot for apocalyptic novels. What makes this one so intriguing is the author confines the action to a single suburban neighborhood. A solar pulse is responsible for wiping out the power grid, turning life upside down. Bea Crenshaw is a 70ish woman who has her four grandkids for the weekend when the disaster strikes. As the world she knows falls apart around her, she steps up to take charge, not only in protecting her family—teaching them how to function in a world without internet, cell phones, or even refrigeration—but also taking on a leadership role in her neighborhood. Fortunately, Bea has been stockpiling goods for some time, preparing for the day when tragedy strikes, though she never expected it to come from the sun.

The kids vary in age from grade school to older teens, and each are forced to do some serious growing up before the book is over. Bea is a strong character who does what she can in an impossible situation. There are plenty of hardships including balancing the need to help others with caring for your own family. Bea has a huge heart, but she can also be secretive and controlling when she needs to be. She makes a unique MC, especially in a novel of this type. Her oldest grandson, Keno, is also particularly strong, as is neighbor Jack Jeffers. The characters lodge in your heart, including many of the secondary ones who arrive halfway through the book. The pace moves swiftly, and the author’s easy style of writing will keep you flipping pages to find out what happens next. The ending is rather surprising and not one I expected. As an apocalyptic novel this one is unique in its approach and characters, and well worth reading.

Amazon Link
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction > Thrillers > Dystopian Science Fiction


Book cover for My Baby Wrote Me A Letter by Jacquie Biggar shows young woman in front of old manual typewriting, sepia-tone wash over coverMy Baby Wrote Me a Letter
by Jacquie Biggar

This is a beautiful, heart-warming story of family, long-ago secrets, and healing. When Grace Freeman discovers a letter from her mother–a woman who abandoned her, her brothers and her father many years ago–it opens a door to the past and wounds that have never quite healed. Impacting the emotional level even more—Grace is expecting her first child, and her Navy husband is overseas.

I love Jacquie Biggar’s stories. She knows just how to tug on a reader’s heartstrings, and she does it again in this tender short story that touches on so many levels—fathers and daughters, sisters and brothers, fathers and sons, husbands and wives. The warmth in this story is like wrapping yourself in a cozy blanket, then settling in front of a fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa. Sheer bliss!

I particularly enjoyed the thread regarding the names Grace chose for her unborn baby. Each one made me smile and appreciate the effortless warmth in this beautiful tale. A true gem!

Amazon Link
Genre: 90-Minute Literature and Fiction Short Reads > Family Life Fiction > Contemporary Short Stories


Have you read any of these? Are they on your TBR? Did you have a hard time balancing NaNo and reading, like I did? I can’t wait to get back to my regular patterns, LOL!

Tuesday Book Review: Silent Payback @jaydawes2 #PsychologicalFiction #DetectiveFiction

Hi, everyone, and welcome to my last book review of October. It seems like only yesterday I was lounging by my pool, but in two days I’m going to be handing out trick-or-treat candy. Yet another month has blown by on a whirlwind! Somehow, despite all that fast-forward flash of time, I still manage to slow the hours down long enough to read. Which brings me to today’s review!


book cover for Silent Payback by Jaye Marie shows profiles of two men, one side by side, one with long hair, beard and mustache, other clean cutSilent Payback
by Jaye Marie
This is a polished story that reads easily and moves at a good clip. The author does an excellent job of getting into the minds of her characters and sharing their emotions. Detective David Mallory is tasked with finding a serial killer, but in addition to tracking down the murderer, he must prove himself worthy to his peers while facing the scrutiny of a legendary commander.He’s also struggling with an issue in his personal life, that if exposed, could ruin everything.

The focus on the crime, and the efforts David employs, along with his partner Anna to find the killer before he strikes again, are the strength of the book in this reader’s opinion. I also loved the inclusion of Snow, the commander whose reputation precedes him. He has a quiet strength and dominates every scene he’s in. When the book is focused on crime solving, it’s great.

Somewhere near the halfway point, David’s secret is revealed (although we get hints prior) and the focus shifts to his personal life. His secret is a big one. Clearly, the author intended for it to be a surprise. It’s definitely nothing I would have guessed, but nor is it something I would normally choose to read about. Which could be why that part of the novel doesn’t work for me.

Huge points to the author for deft handling of a delicate situation. At this point it becomes a matter of personal taste, but I found too much of the story focused on the details of David problem. I liked the wrap to the crime. Coupled with the strength of the writing, and the obvious effort the author put into telling this tale, it warrants five glowing stars despite the issues I had.

Amazon Link
Genre: Psychological Fiction > Murder Fiction


Congratulations to Jaye on her new release! I probably won’t be reading much (or as much) during the month of November due to NaNo, but before the year is out, I hope to have several more reviews to share. In the meantime, I wish you happy reading!

Book Review Tuesday: Under the Water by Paul Pen, Under Siege by @ judipost

Warm and cozy window seat with cushions and a opened book, light through vintage shutters, rustic style home decor. Small cat on window seat, along with coffee cup by pillow, Words Book Review Tuesday superimposed over image

Happy Tuesday! I have two books to share this week. One—despite being a bestseller with polished writing from an author I enjoy—earns three stars. The other is a one-hour read from a series I’ve fallen in love with.


Book cover for Under the Water by Paul Pen shows title on watery background with bubblesPaul Pen is a Spanish author whose work is routinely translated into English. My first experience reading one of his novels was Desert Flowers, a highly unique, haunting, yet disturbing story. It’s one that remains with me to this day despite the fact I read it in early 2018. A book like that sets a high bar for anything that follows. When I saw Under the Water, I couldn’t wait to download it.

The story started off with a bang—a family of four moving from Seattle to Boston, traveling across country in an RV, planning to sightsee along the way. We get the idea they are hoping for a new start after a series of misfortunes. The ten-year old son lost his eye in an accident, the teenage daughter’s two pet ferrets disappeared, the mother’s hair is now healthy again after falling out in clumps. Weird, huh? This is when the book is good, offering sketchy details that are never quite filled in.

Then, while night-driving in a secluded area, the husband clips a woman who leaps onto the road. Here, things start to sour instead of kicking into high gear. My first problem was accepting that a family of four traveling across country wouldn’t pack a single flashlight in their RV. An RV! Instead, they rely on their cell phones for flashlights—and, of course, those end up missing.

After that, the story degenerates into a hot mess, especially when the woman’s reasons for being on the road are revealed. It requires a stretch of the imagination and dedication to stay with the book. Had it been any author other than Paul Pen, I would have probably stopped reading. I wanted mystery. A haunting, disturbing plot like Desert Flowers. Instead I got infidelity and revenge. I’ve read plenty of books with unlikable characters that I found enthralling, but this one fell short. Toss in the fact the opening chapter seems gimmicky and unnecessary after you know the ending, and I can’t give this book more than 3 stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Psychological Literary Fiction >  Spanish & Portuguese Literature


Book cover for Under Siege by Judi Lynn shows fierce looking woman in skimpy warrior outfit holding long knife as if to attackUnder Siege: A Muddy River One Hour Read
by Judi Lynn

The citizens of Muddy River have seen their share of problems. A town populated by witches, vampires, shifters, fae, and other preternatural beings, it’s also a place where locals pull together when trouble surfaces. Lead by Raven, the town’s enforcer and fire demon, along with his mate Hester, a powerful witch, Muddy River has stood up to several diabolical challenges.

In this short read, evil surfaces in the form of mortals who have targeted the town. As always, Raven, Hester, and their friends rise to the challenge, banding together to defend their community, including newly arrived members.

If you’re not familiar with Muddy River, this is a nice introduction to the many diverse people who populate it. A magical world where shifters, vampires, and witches gather at the local pub to discuss the day’s events, or rally around a kitchen table to plot strategy. If you’re already familiar with Muddy River, it’s a time to reconnect with characters who have become family. If you’re new to the town, it’s an excellent glimpse into what makes this series—part paranormal, part cozy mystery, part suspense—such a winning combination. You can read this tale in under an hour, and like a Halloween treat, you’ll find yourself wanting more.
5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Paranormal Mysteries > Witch and Wizard Fiction


Judi Lynn always delivers a good story and I hope you’ll check out her Muddy Series if you haven’t already.

I expected more of Paul Pen’s book. I think of three stars as an average read. Nothing spectacular, but nothing dreadful either. This book was well written, but there were flaws I found hard to overlook. My biggest issue—when the gloss of the mystery was stripped away, I didn’t care for the story. That’s personal taste, and it happens to all of us. I’m sure others will love the book.

How do you feel when a favorite author disappoints you? I will certainly read Paul Pen again. Will you stick with an author after they deliver a story you didn’t care for?

Let’s chat about it.

Book Review Tuesday: The Body in the Gravel @judypost, Tempted by Mr. Wrong @JacqBiggar

Warm and cozy window seat with cushions and a opened book, light through vintage shutters, rustic style home decor. Small cat on window seat, along with coffee cup by pillow, Words Book Review Tuesday superimposed over imageWelcome to another Book Review Tuesday. I’m glad you could pop in and join me. As I type this, it’s dumping buckets of rain outside, and has been for hours. Fall has arrived in Central Pennsylvania. Yesterday, I put pumpkins out, and packed up my summer porch decorations. There was some melancholy involved, as I am a summer gal at heart, but I do have a fondness for autumn. Raven is curled up beside me, and I plan on ending the evening with another book. It’s the perfect cool weather for reading. Which brings me to today’s reviews.


Book cover for The Body in the Gravel by Judi Lynn shows a pile of gravel with feet sticking from the bottom, shovel stuck in gravel near top, cut pug dog looking over the pile, and a house in the brackgroundThe Body in the Gravel
by Judi Lynn

This is the third entry in the Jazzi Zanders mystery series and by now the characters feel like family, especially the leads. Jazzi has a habit of stumbling over dead bodies while working to flip houses with her cousin, and her exceptionally hot Nordic boyfriend, Ansel. This time, the body is delivered in a load of gravel—literally tumbling out of a dump truck. It isn’t long before Jazzi gets to sleuthing, helping her detective friend, Gaff, get to the bottom of “whodunit.” And in this case, there is an entire roster of suspects, each with possible motive.

The murder victim, Darby, was not well-liked or even marginally social. Suffice to say he made a lot of enemies, ticked off a lot of people, and burnt a lot of bridges. The author creates plausible motive for each of the potential murderers, tossing out enough red herrings for plenty of suspicion to lead the reader astray. All of the Jazzi novels have been well constructed and plotted, but I found the murder in this one a level above the rest, just a bit more complex, and that made for great reading.

Toss in Jazzi’s impending marriage, several new secondary characters—along with returning favorites from Jazzi’s family­—AND a few of Ansel’s bristly relatives, and there is plenty to keep you flipping pages, speeding toward the end. I liked the way everything played out and fit together. Flavored with romance, heartwarming scenes, and family dynamics, this is an engaging cozy mystery. George, the pug, is back, as are cats Inky and Marmalade, and there is always something wonderful cooking in Jazzi’s kitchen. She has an ideal life, if not for the dead bodies that seem to show up every time she turns around. Fortunately for readers hooked on this fabulous series, it’s good to know there is more to come! 5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Cozy mystery > Amateur Sleuths 


Book cover for Tempted by Mr. Wrong by Jacquie Biggar shows close up of handsome man with beard scruff, mustached and blue eyes in profile,Tempted by Mr. Wrong
by Jacquie Biggar

New families make for tempestuous days—at least in this story of love denied. When Jason and Tammy-Jo (T.J.) are teenagers their parents marry, making them step-siblings. By the time they’re seniors in high school, they’ve fallen in love, something that doesn’t fly well with Tammy’s father. When he intervenes and sends Jason packing, T.J. turns elsewhere to soothe her broken heart, following the path her father maps out for her by marrying a man destined for success.

Now it’s ten years later, Jason is on an undercover assignment for the SEC and Tammy’s caught in the middle once again. Her husband—who has been wretched to her—winds up murdered on their front lawn. There to investigate both T.J.’s husband and father, Jason has to keep his purpose a secret while reconnecting with his family—and that includes stirring up all the feelings he still holds for T.J.

If you enjoy romantic suspense, this book is one you won’t want to miss. The case that builds against T.J.’s deceased husband puts everyone in danger, including Jason’s team, his mother, step-father, and T.J. herself. Jason and T.J. navigate their feelings for each other with plenty of misunderstandings, matched only by the heat of undeniable attraction. As always, Biggar knows just how far to push her characters before bringing them to the realization they belong together. The interesting spin in this book is the familial connection and the complications it causes. Jason’s relationship with his stepfather, Sam, is bitter and combative, but Sam has a loving, caring marriage with Jason’s mother. A sticky situation that gets fully fleshed out at the end.

A breezy read with polished writing, dialogue that rings true, and characters who lodge in your heart, this is an entertaining read with a feel-good finish. 5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Romantic Suspense


There are so many good books waiting on my TBR, and each day I seem to add more. I’m not sure how much reviewing I’ll be doing in November once NaNoWriMo kicks in, but in the meantime, I always enjoy sharing my selections with you. Thanks again for visiting, and I hope you enjoyed the reviews.

Book Review Tuesday: Viral Blues @Virgilante, Nine Lives @jaydawes2, Here to Stay @mredwards

Warm and cozy window seat with cushions and a opened book, light through vintage shutters, rustic style home decor. Small cat on window seat, along with coffee cup by pillow, Words Book Review Tuesday superimposed over imageHi, Friends! I’m back from Maine and eager to catch up with everyone. I’ll be chatting more about my trip to the Pine Tree State tomorrow, but first, I’d like to share this week’s book reviews. Ready? Let’s dive right in!


Viral Blues
by C. S. Boyack

When nefarious forces tamper with the population’s vaccine supply, substituting lethal viruses in place of inoculations, a group of players with unique gifts unites to bring down the supernatural forces responsible. Think a mash-up of superheroes, zombies, and music, and you’ve got a hint of the fast-paced and highly imaginative story that comprises Viral Blues.

Our group of power players includes an ex-thug who hasn’t lost his knack making people talk, a sexy, brilliant robot girl, a street savvy detective with a habit of evaporating into fog, a girl as handy with pistols as she is fronting a band, and an extra-terrestrial being in the guise of a hat. Yes, a hat.

Boyack gives each of these colorful characters (and more) a chance to shine in his high-octane tale. Our heroes battle hordes of zombies, organized crime bosses, and supernatural bad guys. The action sequences are peppered with near escapes and shoot-outs, and the dialogue flies as fast as the bullets (I love the hat’s snarkiness). Most all of these characters have appeared in other books and novellas Boyack has written, but tossing them together in a melting pot was a stroke of brilliance. I loved watching them interact, particularly Lisa, the robot girl (a favorite of mine) and Clovis, the thug. The hat pretty much steals every scene he’s in (did I mention I love his dialogue?).

The climatic confrontation is explosive and should be filmed. If you like imaginative stories, memorable characters, and superhero theatrics, you’ll love Viral Blues. As an extra treat the author adds a secret chapter at the end, much like the final in a movie after the credits roll. Highly enjoyable! 5 Stars!!

Amazon Link
Genre: Paranormal and Urban Fantasy > Superhero Fantasy


Book cover for Nine Lives by Jaye Marie shows close u of woman's face super imposed over sunset on oceanNine Lives
by Jaye Marie

In Nine Lives, we meet Kate, a fifty-nine-year old artist who has had a wretched string of bad luck when it comes to men, and who is now going through the motions of a day-to-day existence. She has health issues, smokes too much, and is plagued by an inner voice that constantly monitors her decisions.

Much of the story is written in expository style, admittedly not something I am used to. The reader is treated to a lot of background information about how Kate’s life has evolved and how each day unfolds. She’s made mistakes, bad choices she now recognizes, and has been taken advantage of by more than one man. Kate hopes the worst is behind her—especially now, with a female mentor and friend who offers the steadfast support she has been lacking. Sadly, there are still hurdles to overcome, the toll of which becomes evident when several in Kate’s orbit meet with foul play.

The writing is crisp, the descriptions vivid. Dialogue, when it appears, is well done, although the bulk of the book relies on narrative. I did find several of the scenes difficult to read and had to skim them. That aside, the author did an excellent job in creating a thoroughly reprehensible villain, who I couldn’t wait to see reach a justifiable end.
4 Stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Psychological Fiction


Book cover for Here to Stay by Mark Edwards shows part of house at night, lighted upper window with someone standing in front of window, tree to left of houseHere to Stay
by Mark Edwards
It’s every newlywed’s hope for wonderful in-laws. In the case of Elliott, a mild-mannered science teacher, his neat, orderly life is turned upside down by the in-laws from hell. A chance encounter with Gemma ends with her saving his life. Four months later, they’re married, and shortly after that, Gemma asks if her parents can move in for a few weeks. They’re coming back to England after being in a France for an extended time and have no place to go.

Having recently finished the remodeling work on his dream home and eager to meet his in-laws, Elliott is happy to oblige. Jeff and Lizzie Robinson arrive along with Gemma’s younger sister, Chloe, who appears almost catatonic. It’s unclear why the three left France—which seems to have been in a hurry—or how they managed before they did. Gemma is tight-lipped and jittery around them, and barely acknowledges her sister. Although Chloe eventually comes out of her shell, it becomes evident Jeff and Lizzie have no plans of moving.

They settle in like squatters. Much like parasites or roaches who invade and take over. These two are revolting—obnoxious, gross, filthy, loud, rude, utterly repellant. Jeff is a bully, Lizzie a piranha. Gemma refuses to stand up to them and avoids them whenever possible even as they start to trash Elliott’s home. They’re brazen enough to haul in paint and start arranging furniture to their liking (side note: if you think the law should be involved, that’s addressed).

Frustration? Yes! I was irritated with Elliott for being so blind about what was happening and refusing to take a firmer stand. He is a likeable protagonist, one who garners sympathy from the reader, but someone you want to see take forcible action. When that moment finally arrives, it’s not in the way I would have expected. But this is a Mark Edwards psychological thriller which means there are going to be numerous curveballs. In that respect, the author delivered several. If that’s not enough, he tossed in a few mysterious murders early in the book for good measure.

Here to Stay is a story about what people will resort to when pushed to the breaking point. This is dark psychological fiction—darker than I would normally choose to read. I’ve been a fan of Mark Edwards for a long time, which is why Immediately grabbed the book upon release. Well written, well-told, and certain to wring a host of emotions from the reader, it’s a gripping tale with a dramatic ending. 4.5 stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Psychological Fiction> Mystery, Thriller and Suspense


Have you read any of these? How do they sound to you? I’d love to get your thoughts in the comments!

Book Review Tuesday: That Darkest Place by @MarciaMeara #bookishtuesday

Welcome to Book Review Tuesday. Today, I’m thrilled to share another five star read. I’d like to clarify that I never publicly review a book unless I’m able to provide a minimum of three stars—which I consider an average read. That’s why you mostly see four and five star reviews on my blog with the occasional three star. Today’s book definitely earns five sparkly stars.

Book cover for Taht Darkest Place by Marcia Meara shows image of man with head bowed in his hand, shattered glass superimposed in backgroundThat Darkest Place
by Marcia Meara

The third book of the Riverbend series focuses primarily on Painter brothers, Jackson and Forrest, though youngest brother Hunter, is still a strong presence in his unique and quiet way. I fell in love with his character in book two.

At the end of Finding Hunter, Jackson was behaving horribly—lashing out at those around him, physically and verbally abusive. He ended up in a car accident believed to be the result of drunk driving. In That Darkest Place, the truth of what really took place and why is quickly revealed. Once brought to light, Jackson’s long road to recovery begins.

Once again, Meara tackles some weighty issues, but the most powerful theme is the unshakable bond of family, specifically brothers. Forrest and Hunter are not about to let Jackson muddle through on his own. Presenting a united front, they eventually have Jackson back to functioning almost normally again. Along the way there are physical and emotional hurdles to overcome, but there are also heartwarming and humorous moments to offset the weightier scenes.

In addition, both Forrest and Jackson meet women who impact their lives. It’s especially fun seeing Forrest—the former ladies’ man of Riverbend—thrown off-kilter in his first serious relationship. If that isn’t enough, Meara tosses in an unidentified stalker who holds a grudge against Jackson and isn’t afraid to act on that bitterness. The thread adds a nice mystery element to the book which culminates in a heart-pounding ending.

As always, the writing is polished with a pace to keep you flipping pages. If you like fiction that engages your heart and is flavored with strong family bonds, romance, mystery, and characters who remain with you long after you turn the final page, don’t miss That Darkest Place. It’s filled with light and love.

Amazon link
Genre:  Psychological Fiction > Romantic Suspense

 

Book Review: Finding Hunter by @MarciaMeara #bookreviewtuesday

Hello and welcome to another Book Review Tuesday. If you enjoy character-driven fiction layered with family drama, angst, and romance, boy do I have a book for you! My review follows, but you can click the Amazon link to read the blurb and learn more about this fabulous story.

Book cover for Finding Hunter by Marcia Meara shows open journal with pen, cup of tea in backgroudFinding Hunter
by Marcia Meara

Hunter Painter is the youngest of three brothers. Forrest and Jackson have always been more outgoing, a little rough-and-tumble, and clever with the ladies. By contrast, Hunter is reserved, a bit on shy side, a gentle soul whose feelings run deep. He has been in love with Willow Greene since high school, but far too inhibited to approach her. Years later, when a friend gives him a nudge and he finally does, he discovers Willow has harbored the same feelings for him just as long.

The bliss of discovery is short-lived, however, when their love is put to the test all too soon. Hunter’s mother suffers from dementia, potentially underscored by mental illness. Although Hunter recognizes the downward spiral and the increasing severity of her actions, both his father and his brothers turn a blind eye. When tragedy strikes, Hunter’s world shatters and he is left trying to balance a toxic mix of darkness, brokenness, and suffocating guilt. It doesn’t help both his brothers initially turn on him, too encumbered to admit their own shortcomings.

What follows is a tale of anguish, love, and redemption. Unable to cope, Hunter tries to shut out the world, but he is unable to break the ties that bind him to Willow. Even when they are separated, their hearts are constantly entwined. Willow’s strength is steel, the solace Hunter needs when he returns to her—even if only to say goodbye. Hunter’s healing—which encompasses the second half of the novel—doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a testament to the author’s ability to tug heartstrings that she parcels it out in a manner that leaves a lump in the throat.

Meara tackles heavy duty issues—dementia, mental illness, PTSD, family relations, recovery. But she balances the weightier moments with character growth, plenty of realism, and heart. One thing you can always count on in a Marcia Meara novel is heart. Hallmark could take lessons.

As always, the characters are outstanding, and Hunter and Willow will remain with me for a long time to come. In addition, I was thoroughly smitten by Forrest Painter’s story arc. Reading Finding Hunter is like taking a journey. As someone who loves character-driven fiction, it’s a journey I highly recommend others take. 5 glowing stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Psychological Fiction > Romantic Suspense

And, in an odd twist of fate—or maybe just a snazzy coincidence—I’m over at Marcia’s place today sharing a review of my romantic mystery, Eclipse Lake. If you get a moment, I’d love to have you visit me there. Of course, I’m also curious to hear your thoughts about Finding Hunter, and I’m sure Marcia is, too!  🙂

Book Review: Old Bones by Preston and Child #bookishtuesday

Hi, friends! I only read one book last week, but it’s one I’ve been waiting for. Impatiently.

Being the rabid Preston and Child fan, I am, I preordered Old Bones, and started reading the day it was released. Isn’t the cover fabulous?

Book cover for Old Bones by Preston and Child features rugged hillside with skulls visible in the ground, ragged trees above

This is the first book in a new series which features Nora Kelly, an archeologist who has previously appeared in Preston and Child’s Pendergast novels. Initially, I wondered if she was strong enough to carry a book on her own. Yes, there is room for improvement, but Nora fared fairly well her first time out. P&C gave her a fantastic plot—searching for “the lost camp” of the Donner Party. Yeah, those Donners.

Nora pairs up with a historian who claims to have found a journal belonging to one of the victims of the Donner tragedy. At the same time, rookie FBI agent, Corrie Swanson, is investigating a series of grave robberies and a person who went MIA. There is a connection between all these incidents, but I won’t say more for fear of spoiling the plot.

Highlights for me involved the remote setting, the Donner history, the creepy tale of Samantha Carville, the mounting tension and fear among Nora’s team, and—best of all­—Corrie Swanson.

I’ve been a fan of Corrie since she first appeared in Pendergast #4, Still Life with CrowsAt that time, she was a teenage misfit with dyed purple hair, major attitude, a Goth appearance, and an alcoholic mother. Pendergast hired her to chauffer him around her small midwestern town—after he bailed her out of jail.

In Old Bones, Corrie gets a starring role beside Nora. Her first major investigation with the FBI means she has to navigate the “good old boys” in local law enforcement, prove her theories at the Bureau, bite her tongue when it comes to red tape and orders, plus overcome Nora’s objections when she sticks her nose in (and Nora has plenty of objections).

Most of the novel clips along at a steady pace. It’s an easy read that keeps you turning pages. There is plenty of talk of cannibalism, excavation of bone fragments, and a ghost story or two (told around a campfire) for good measure. Ratchet up the tension as the last few pieces fall into place, and the closing chapters will have you chewing your nails.

The epilogue­—during which Special Agent Pendergast makes a cameo appearance—is a nice wrap, setting the stage for the series. It looks like P&C have plans for Nora and Corrie to work together in the books ahead, and a I couldn’t be happier. Corrie is well developed, but Nora could use a bit more growth. I look forward to reading along as that happens.

5 Stars!

Blurb and Amazon Purchase Link
Genre: Suspense > Suspense Thrillers

What do you think? Intriguing?

 

Book Review: Black Crow Speaks @FrederickAnder2 #shortstories

In my post yesterday, I mentioned having read a third book last week but not having the time to write a proper review. Black Crow Speaks is a book I have been patiently waiting —okay, not so patiently—to release. The author shies away from promotion so I wanted to make certain I gave it the attention it deserves. I know I will be reading many of the stories in this collection over again.

First some background . . .

I started following Frederick Anderson’s blog a few years ago and was immediately enthralled by his gift of storytelling. I’ve been hoping (I even did some pestering) that he would cobble a collection of short stories together for a book. When I realized he had released Black Crow Speaks, I was ecstatic. This intelligent, literary, diverse, often bizarre, but always riveting collection of tales is not to be missed!

Let me explain the crow of the title­—Black Crow shows up at various times throughout the book to discuss everything from neighbors (blackbirds), immigrants (seagulls), family matters, homelife, kids, the wife, temptation, getting old, and social matters. Given Fred is British, I can get away with the expression “bloody brilliant.” Crow has a unique take on life.

book cover for Black Crow Speaks by Frederick Anderson shows a large black crow with book title beneathHere’s a sample from Corvid Values, my favorite crow story. Crow speaks first, followed by Fred.

He fidgets uneasily, preening a troublesome mite from his breast feathers. “S’pose. Yes and no. There’s the immigrants, see?”

He hasn’t lost his capacity to surprise: “Immigrants?”

“Yeah. You must have noticed – fousands of ‘em. Same every winter, innit? They comes flockin’ in just because they reckon there’s free food and everyfin’. They takes all the best bits and we don’t get a look in. Bleedin’ gulls!”

“Oh, the seagulls! The bad weather drives them in from the coast. The westerlys don’t trouble them so much, then? They can fly into the wind, can they?”

“Well, they work harder, don’t they? They work all the bleedin’ time, them!” He fluffs furious feathers. “They don’t even go to roost, most nights. And…and!” He squawks his emphasis; “They eat almost anyfin’. Jus’ anyfin’!”

“Surely there’s enough for all? I haven’t noticed you losing weight over the winter before.”

“Ah. Ah! But I don’t demean meself, me! You won’t catch me turnin’ over house rubbish like a – like a bleedin’ fox, for fox sake!”

“Oh, really? I seem to recall…”

“Never mind what you ‘seems to recall.’ Never mate, never! I’ve got my pride”

I treat him to one of my penetrating inquisitorial looks. “They’ve been raiding the bins at the back of the Pizzeria, haven’t they? That’s one of your favorite haunts, isn’t it?”

The crow hunches his wings and dips his head. I cannot remember seeing him so annoyed. “That place is a place for crows, gettit? Crows! Respec’able birds, mate. I got a right to that place!”


First, let me point out that no one—no one—does accents like Frederick. The ones he spins in this book are spot on. Second, the message of this story hits with a thunderclap at the end. The first time I read it, it stayed with me for days.

But the crow only makes up a few stories in this collection. As the preface says you will meet “a crow with wisdom we call could learn from, an airline pilot who qualified by correspondence course, an enthusiastic accordion player with a portal to the universe under his dining table, tales of fairies and goblins and ghosts within the machine.”

There are plenty of humans too—some who face heartbreak, others who find their lives altered in unexpected ways. Twists and surprise endings abound. Scene setting is off the charts with descriptions that are sometimes lyrical, other times gritty and raw. Every story brings something unique, but I must make special mention of Birdie, A Visitation from Mary, Goblins, Gloves, Reincarnate, Siobhan, and The Newquay Train. Wow. Just…WOW!

If you like smart, witty, and riveting fiction, don’t pass this collection by. I can’t recommend it highly enough. The great thing about short stories is you can read a few at a time or many at once. However, you read them, do read them. 5 Walloping, glittery, gargantuan stars!

PURCHASE FROM:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

You can find Frederick’s blog HERE if you’d like to give a looksee as to what else he gets up to. I’m presently enjoying a novel he has been serializing, but he’s hinted there is short fiction around the bend and Crow will return. You have no idea how happy that makes me!

Thanks for checking out this special review today. Given I’ve been badgering Frederick to publish this book, I am more than happy to help promote such a fabulous collection.

Book Review Tuesday: Shari Lapena, @BalroopShado

Hello, and welcome to another day of book reviews. As always, you can find the blurb for each by clicking the Amazon link at the end of the review.

I hate it when I can’t recommend a book on BookBub, and unfortunately, that happened with one of my favorite auto-buy authors last week. I was thankful my remaining reads for the week counterbalanced the first.


Book cover for Someone We Know by Shari Lapena shows silhouette of someone crossing a leafy neighborhood street at nightI’ve read everything Shari Lapena has written. Her novels The Couple Next Door and An Unwanted Guest remain two of my favorite books, but Someone We Know fell short for me. The premise—a teenager secretly hacking into his neighbors’ computers and discovering secrets—sounded like an awesome plot, unfortunately that’s not the main focus of the novel.

The book opens with a brutal murder and “whodunit” quickly takes center stage. No problem, I like a good murder mystery—except the murderer is pretty easy to peg from the start. Along the way, the reader is treated to the tangle of lives that make up the small neighborhood where the victim lived. There are illicit affairs on top of illicit affairs, each tied (in some manner) to the woman who was murdered. Lapena sets up several false trails and paints several characters with a gloss of suspicion. There is an unexpected “bonus” twist at the end I didn’t see coming. Had the author left it at that, I probably would have given this book 4 stars (it was slow getting started).

What I found problematic was the second murder. I couldn’t swallow the motive behind it or the fact the killer would even commit the crime. Toss in a plot thread that is hinted at throughout the book, but left wide open at the end, and I was disappointed overall—especially after reading Lapena’s earlier work. She remains a talented author who I will continue to follow. I just hope her next book is a step above this one. 3 Stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Domestic Thrillers


Book cover for Moments We Love, Poetry by Balroop Singh shows flower petals and heart, all in pastelsMoments We Love
by 
Balroop Singh

I find reading poetry extremely relaxing. It’s not something I read frequently, but when I do, I enjoy the moods verse conjures. Balroop Singh weaves words like a tapestry, In Moments We Love she touches on multiple aspects of love, the people we love, and events which shape our lives. Divided into three sections: Moments of Love, Moments of Harmony, and Moments that Make Life, each segment is supported by poems matching the theme.

Each reader will find verses that resonate with them. Plenty stood out for me but my two favorites have to be Do You Remember? and Spring Memories.

From Do You Remember:

Do you remember the days?
When we played with clouds,
Rolled in colors,
Wore them around
Drenched and smiled
When we splayed colors at each other.

The imagery throughout easily transports the reader to the setting or moment in time the author conjures. Some are filled with whimsy and wonder, others with melancholy, but all are beautifully rendered. 5 Stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Poetry


I also managed one other book during the week—one I have been waiting on the release for a very long time. I didn’t have time to write an adequate review but hope you will join me tomorrow when I’ll be sharing my thoughts on Black Crow Speaks. Until then, I wish you happy reading and hope you found my reviews helpful!