June Book Reviews, Part One

Happy July! It’s a new month and that means new book reviews! I should have broken this post into a mid-June post, followed by one the latter half of the month. But I didn’t do a lot of reading the first half of June, expecting to come up short at the end—then my reading unexpectedly exploded. Throughout the month I managed to devour a host of awesome books. I’ll be sharing part two of my reviews tomorrow. In the meantime, I hope some of the titles below intrigue you.

To read the blurb and learn more about each book reviewed below, just click the Amazon Link. Here’s hoping something strikes your reading fancy.

Book cover for The Trench by Steve Alten shows a shari's dorsal fin cutting through waterThe Trench
By Steve Alten

An excellent follow-up to The Meg, this book is an equal dose of deep-sea adventure and personal drama. Jonas Taylor and Terry (from book one) are now married, but Jonas’ obsession with Angel, the pure white albino “Jurassic shark” contained in a Sea World type establishment has taken a toll on their marriage. Not to mention Jonas’ reoccurring dreams of being trapped in the Mariana Trench with Terry on the cusp of death and Angel bearing down on them like an avenging…well, Angel.

I thought I’d run out of boo-hisses for bad guys in book one, but the villains in The Trench (male and female) put a whole new spin on obnoxious. While I didn’t like Terry and Jonas being separated for the bulk of the book and found Terry’s predicament with a gazillionaire psychopath and a Russian hoodlum at times tedious—not to mention a blonde piranha after Jonas—the underlying theme of shark vs. man kept me flipping pages.

Some of the diversions—a wedding party on a tall sailing ship, and kayakers hoping to catch migrating whale pods on camera—had me biting my nails when Angel threw a dangerous wrench into their plans. As for the end—OMG!!!—the last quarter of the book had me on the edge of my seat. Did the story deliver? Big time! Talk about an explosive pay-off. A little of down time here and there, but Alten knows how to deliver adventure, especially when creating mayhem with a colossal-sized shark. 4.5 stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Sea Adventure Fiction > U.S. Horror Fiction


Book cover for Mixing It Up With Mortals by Judi Lynn shows young attractive woman in black robe with hands held openMixing It Up With Mortals
By Judi Lynn

I am addicted to this series! Take a cozy murder mystery and cast all of your characters as supernatural beings—a demon enforcer, a powerful witch, shifters, vampires, Fae, druids, even voodoo priestesses, and you’ve got the intoxicating mix that is Muddy River. The people who populate Lynn’s vividly imagined town feel like buds you could sit down and have a beer with. Each is unique, with their own special gifts. They often gather at the local tavern to rehash the day’s events or put their heads together while trying to solve the latest “big bad” to infect their town.

In this book, it’s an incubus, a particularly nasty demon who’s been sucking the life from mortals outside of Muddy River. Matters get even more interesting when it’s discovered each of the victims is a “whistle blower” of some sort, and a mortal may be involved in ordering their deaths.

Sexy demon enforcer, Raven, and his partner, the powerful witch Hester, team with Meda, another member of Hester’s coven, and the half-human shifter, Brown—who happens to be a sheriff on the mortal side of things. The plot is twisty with a number of supernatural battles and vendettas—old and recent—plus everyday problems. Meda is attracted to Brown, but he seems clueless. This is a secondary plot, but it’s delightful, offsetting the more intense moments of the story. Like the big supernatural battle at the end. And if the reader thinks Raven and Hester are going to get a break, think again. Lynn sets up the closing with yet another mystery to lead into book three. All I can say is “bring it on!” If you love urban fantasy, supernatural elements and cleverly-plotted cozies, this series is gold! 5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Cozy Mystery > Werewolf and Shifter Mysteries > Witch and Wizard Mysteries


Book cover for Girls Night Out shows light shining into dark waterGirls Night Out
By Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

Natalie, Ashley, and Lauren have been friends for twenty years, but ugly fissures have taken a toll on the foundation that once glued them together. Ashley and Lauren haven’t spoken for a year after a tragedy drove a knife between them, and Natalie and Ashley are on opposite ends of a major decision. The two friends are also business partners, their once start-up company now mainstream with a buyout offer from Revlon. Natalie wants to sell, Ashley is opposed. Each has hidden personal reasons for their stance.

In an effort to repair their friendship, Ashley invites Natalie and Lauren on a vacation to Mexico—sun, beaches, margaritas, and good times. But once they arrive it becomes apparent how far apart they’ve drifted. Toss in an enigmatic stranger who takes a shine to Ashley and offers to act as a personal tour guide and the three friends find the minimal glue holding them together quickly deteriorating.

The book starts with Natalie waking up on the beach, after a night of partying, her clothing soaked, with no memory of what happened the night before. One thing is apparent, however—Ashley is missing. Told from multiple viewpoints and moving back and forth between the present and the nights leading up to Ashley’s disappearance, the reader becomes privy to how this vacation—meant to heal relationships—went very wrong.

I was hooked on the dynamics of the three women, their backstories, and their efforts (and non-efforts) involved in salvaging their friendships. The book lost me a bit when it delved into Mayan beliefs and made a major player out of Marco, the mysterious local who beguiles Ashley. This is one of those books where everyone is flawed, capable of doing despicable things. Most of the book holds up well, keeping the mystery intriguing, although the ending fizzles a bit. Could have been better, but still entertaining, and an easy read. I can see the movie in my head. 4 Stars.

Amazon Link
Genre:  Psychological Fiction > Women’s Psychological Fiction


Book cover for Lizardville: the Ghosty Story by Steve Altier shows old factory with smoke pumping from smoke stacksLizardville, the Ghost Story
By Steve Altier

During a thunderstorm when the power goes out, John Malone entertains his two young sons by telling them a story from his childhood. When he was a kid of 13 or 14, John and his five friends spend a summer night camping out in the woods, fishing, and telling ghost stories.

One of those tales is an old legend about a triple murder/suicide and a woman whose restless spirit refuses to embrace the grave.

This is a great book for tweens or anyone who wants to immerse themselves in childhood memories of riding bikes, collecting soda bottles, and shooting rapids on the local creek. It brings back memories of camping out, chasing fireflies, and toasting marshmallows around a campfire. But there is also a dark side that involves a secret puzzle box, a malevolent spirit, and a friend taken by the darkness. Some of the formatting is a little rough and there are a few grammatical issues, but the story is entertaining, and the characters well developed. I loved the reference to Middleswarth chips! 3.5 stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Children’s Scary Stories > Children’s Spine-Tingling Horror


Book cover for Summer Lovin' shows three tier wedding cake, bride on top tier with groom jumping from tier, two red dice belowSummer Lovin’
By Jacquie Biggar

This is a positively enchanting story about second-chance romance. Five years ago, Rebecca Sorenson and Mitch Taylor said “I do” in Vegas after partying in a night club. They’ve been separated ever since and now Rebecca is one step shy of signing divorce papers. Does she love Mitch? Of course—if she’d only wise up and admit her feelings. Does he love her? He never stopped, but she walked out of his life.

Part of the fun of this book is watching this made-for-each-other couple go through a tug of war of feelings. But there’s far more to Summer Lovin’ than an HEA romance. Biggar layers her book with a subplot involving two young boys remanded to the custody of their alcoholic and abusive uncle. When Rebecca’s life becomes entwined with the boys, danger follows close behind.

One thing you can always count on from this author is a heartwarming story that leaves you with a warm glow long after you’ve finished the story. She knows how to tug heartstrings and create characters who feel like friends and family. Male and female characters are handled with equal ease and the writing is breezy and polished. I had to re-read several passages just for the enjoyment of the author’s clever turn of phrase. This book is part of a series but is also perfect as a stand-alone. A thoroughly entertaining read. 5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Romantic Suspense > Short Stories


That’s it for today. I hope you found something to entice you. Come back tomorrow when I share the remaining books that helped round out my June reading list.You can never have too many titles on your TBR!

May Book Reviews, Part 2

I’m excited that June is finally here, and pool season has arrived! I spend a lot of time during the summer pool season reading and plotting my WIPs, and am looking forward to my warm weather routine. But first, I’d like to share the books I read in May. You can find part one of my reviews HERE. And now for the books I read during the last half of the month. Click the Amazon Link below each review for blurbs and additional information. Perhaps something will strike your fancy!

Book cover for Global WeirdnessGlobal Weirdness
By Climate Central

If you’re interested in climate change, this is a good place to start. Greenhouse gases, severe weather, global warming, extinction events—it’s all here. The chapters are short and the material presented in such a way that it’s easy to understand and follow. A few chapters seem repetitive in places, but overall the flow from one to the next follows in smooth succession. The book addresses more than just greenhouse gases, also looking at ocean evaporation, sunlight reflection, cloud cover, threatened species and predictions for the future. This is an older book (I think was written in 2012) but I still found it informative and interesting. 3.5 stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Weather > Environmental Science


Book cover for The HousemateThe Housemate
By C. L. Pattison

Chloe and Megan have been best friends for twelve years. When they find the perfect home for lease, they need a third roommate to swing the rent. They meet Sammi who seems a perfect fit, but after she moves in things start to go haywire. Sammi is secretive about her past and doesn’t appear to have friends or family. Items go missing, Chloe suffers a setback at her job that appears to be the result of sabotage, and a special dress belonging to Megan is irreparably damaged—just a few of the oddities that arise after Sammi enters their lives.

This book reads very quickly (I finished it in two nights), and it is definitely a page turner. Chloe and Megan alternate POVs, along with a third mystery narrator who isn’t revealed until the end. Although I guessed the identity of that narrator halfway through the book, there were plenty of twists that took me by surprise, and when the ending was said and done, I admired how the author let the story play out.

There are a few places where you need to go with the flow and not analyze too closely (i.e, nope, that wouldn’t happen in the real world) but if you’re looking for an entertaining read that would translate well into a cable channel movie, this book is gold. 4 Stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Psychological Thrillers


Book cover for Fever DreamFever Dream
By Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

I recently hooked yet another friend on this series and decided to reread this book (for the third time) while she was reading it. Although I have devoured all of the Pendergast books, several stand out as my personal favorites and this is at the top of the list.

Aloysius X. L. Pendergast is a Special Agent with the FBI, a man who holds two doctorate degrees, and comes from a very rich and very old southern family. To say he is eccentric is equivalent to calling the ocean a lake. Pendergast does things his way, has little if no regard for authority, favors immaculate black suits, and drives a Rolls Royce Silver Wraith. He is a near-albino with extremely pale whitish hair, silver eyes and pale skin. He’s also damn good at solving crimes, even when they have a bizarre or potentially supernatural slant.

In Fever Dream, the crime becomes personal when he suddenly discovers the wife he lost twelve years earlier was likely murdered—and wasn’t exactly who he thought her to be. This book revealed a side of Pendergast readers hadn’t seen before which is one of the reasons I love it so much. That, and a scene involving boats, rednecks and a rundown bar that SCREAMS to be filmed. The audience would be on its feet cheering. 5 whopping big stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Thriller > Suspense


Book cover for To Kill a MockingbirdTo Kill a Mockingbird
By Harper Lee

I can’t believe I never read this book before! It’s truly a classic in every sense of the word. I picked up a paperback copy a year ago to read on a flight but never got around to it. My loss. I recently came across my copy and devoured it in two days, riveted from the opening page. I’m almost intimidated to write a review. No wonder this book was voted Novel of the Century in a 1999 poll by Library Journal.

A beautiful coming of age story set in a small town at a time when racial prejudice was rampant, this book positively brims over with heart, wisdom, and wit. The characters are simply outstanding. I fell in love with Atticus Finch, Scout, Gem, Dill, Boo Radly, Calpurnia, and so many more. As for the meaning of the title and the way it ties into the story, I had goose bumps.

Brilliant ending, brilliant characters, brilliant story. Star ratings don’t do it justice. A masterpiece of literature!

Amazon Link
Genre:  Literature > Classic Literature and Fiction


Book cover for The Meg shows a behemoth shark under water, many small boats aboveThe Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror
By Steve Alten

I first read this book back in the late 90s when it was originally released. Given I’m a fan of creatures and monsters, I was eager to dive into the story all over again. Happily, I was not disappointed.

Discovered in the Mariana Trench, a “Jurassic shark” (a prehistoric megalodon) manages to reach surface waters, where it goes on a rampage in the modern world. The characters are great—people you can cheer for, others you boo with relish.

Dr. Jonas Taylor, ex-Navy deep sea submersible pilot is especially excellent in the lead role. There are good guys, bad guys, a cheating wife/pushy reporter, billionaire playboy (who happens to be Jonas’s best friend) and a brilliant, beautiful scientist. I recently discovered the author wrote a number of books that piggyback on this one, hence my desire to re-read The Meg. The story has also been made into a movie—which I’m sure (when I finally see it) will have me breaking out the popcorn. I can’t wait to follow up reading the other books in this series of shark adventures—maybe just not at the beach!  5 Stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Action Thriller > Suspense Action > Sea Adventure Fiction


Book cover for Unclear uses shows setting sun reflecting off lake, dark tree line in background, ghost outline of woman's head and shoulders in foregroundUnclear Purposes (Driscoll Lake 3)
By Joan Hall

I’ve followed the Driscoll Lake series from book one. Each novel is excellent, but the final is in a league of its own. The author clearly owns her small-town setting and the people who populate it.

When a woman is found murdered in Driscoll Lake, and two women die by similar means in a neighboring town, ex-FBI agent, Vince Green (now a private investigator) finds himself center stage trying to solve the murder. He and Christine Lawrence are the ones who found the victim in Driscoll Lake—a victim with a secretive past who has ties to multiple people in the town, including Christine’s ex mother-in-law. Toss in an old, unsolved crime, an arrogant police detective, art gallery clues, and the blossoming attraction between Christine and Vince, and you have book that will keep you entertained from page one.

Hall doles out her clues a little at a time, dropping them like breadcrumbs into a forest of divergent paths. Just when you think you’re starting to fit the pieces together, a new twist sends you down the wrong trail. The strong ensemble cast is handled with dexterity, each character awarded moments in the spotlight. Several of the secondary players are particularly notable. Equal parts mystery and romantic suspense, this intriguing novel presents a fabulous close to an excellent series. Each Driscoll Lake novel can be read as a standalone, including Unclear Purposes. Highly recommended! 5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Mystery > Romantic Suspense > Crime Suspense


Thanks for checking out this month’s reviews. I’ll be back in June with 1-2 more review posts (depending on how much I read). I hope you found something to add to your TBR and I wish you happy reading!

 

May Book Reviews, Part 1

Hello, and welcome to another round of book reviews. I’m splitting them up this month, sharing half now and the remainder in another post at the end of the month. As always, click on the Amazon link for the book blurb or to learn more about the individual title. First up is a book I read in April but forgot to post. Oops!

Book over for Esther by Angela HuntEsther
By Angela Hunt

I love stories based on those who populate the Old Testament and found this an enjoyable read. It moved a bit slowly in some spots, but overall the story kept me riveted and flipping pages.

King Xerxes of Persia orders all young women who are comely in appearance to be brought to his court to serve as concubines. One will be chosen as his new queen. Esther, a Jewish girl is abducted and taken to the palace. Although she eventually wins the pagan king’s heart and becomes his queen, she must hide her faith for fear of reprisal. But when a man who gains the King’s ear wants to exterminate all Jews, Esther must boldly take a stand—for herself, her people, and her God.

Esther doesn’t get much coverage in the Bible, but the author did an excellent job of staying true to her story. Anything that was fictionalized fell logically into place and the historical and religious elements were brought vividly to life. I fully intend to look for more books by this author. 4 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Ancient World Historical Romance


Book cover for the Moses Chronicles: Exodus by H. B. MooreaThe Moses Chronicles #3: Exodus
By H.B. Moore

This is the final book in a trilogy about Moses. Books one and two take the reader from his birth to his time as an honored son in the Egyptian court, his exile, marriage, and discovery of the burning bush on Mount Horeb. In book three, Moses returns to Egypt to confront Pharaoh with God’s order to set His people free.

I didn’t read the first two books, which could be why the story slowed for me in some places. There are references to previous events and relationships between the characters. That was all interesting to a degree, but what I was most interested in was the test of wills between Ramses and Moses, and—most especially—the many plagues the Lord sent to Egypt. When the author concentrated on those, the book soared.

Told in third-person POV, the chapters shift between the perspectives of Moses, Aaron, Miriam, and Moses’ Egyptian mother, Bithiah. I found the chapters from Moses’ POV and Bithiah’s the most riveting. And, yes, the author handled the parting of the Red Sea. This made me want to watch my DVD of The Ten Commandments again!  4.5 stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction > Religious Historical Fiction


Book cover for The Invited by Jennifer McMahonThe Invited
By Jennifer McMahon

Jennifer McMahon is one of my auto-buy authors, and I get excited whenever I see a new release from her. The Invited is a ghost story with threads of witchcraft and spiritualism that serves up a generous dollop of greed, tragedy, and twisted genealogy. This book creeps along—a bit slow at the beginning—as characters are introduced and an old legend gradually unfolds.

Like a ticking time bomb, the book builds to an explosive conclusion, sucking the reader deeper and deeper with each successive chapter into the grim history of a small New England town. This isn’t a hide-under-the-covers type of book, but one that delivers shivers and goose bumps, while examining the darker side of human nature.

In the early 1900s, Hattie Breckenridge was hung as a witch, her body discarded in the bog where she made her home. Enter Helen and Nate, a married couple who purchase the land where Hattie lived. In a desire to escape the bustle of suburbia, they begin constructing a home, hoping for a quiet life.

It isn’t long before odd occurrences start. Things go missing, the sound of screaming rises from the bog at night, Nate sees a mysterious white doe. As he becomes fixated on the doe, Helen delves into Hattie’s family tree, learning Hattie wasn’t the only one who met a terrible fate. With the help of an odd young girl named Olive, and a new friend, Helen is soon immersed in digging deeper into Hattie’s past, trying to discover what became of her descendants. Helen grows certain Hattie is trying to communicate with her, warning her of an ugly tragedy to come.

If you like atmospheric reads, small town settings, and things that-go-bump in the night, you’re certain to love this spooky novel. It’s all here—broken families, spirit circles, small town gossip, haunted objects—there’s even whispers of buried treasure. Brilliantly packaged and delivered as only McMahon can do, she once again proves her skill as a gifted storyteller. Now, how long until her next book? 5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre:  Ghost Fiction > Witch and Wizard Mysteries


Book cover for The Gate by D. L. CrossThe Gate
by D. L. Cross

In this fast-paced story, author D.L. Cross creates a melting pot of conspiracies, government coverups, and ancient civilizations. Professor Landon Thorne is an expert on alien theories. Unfortunately, most of his speculations have left him labeled a crackpot—until alien spacecraft are detected hurtling toward Earth.

Suddenly, Thorne is the man everyone needs—from secret government operatives to mercenaries for hire. Worse, the woman Thorne thought he loved turns out to be an operative who was assigned as his handler. In the matter of a single day his world goes from routine college campus to hidden government facility, to the wilds of Peru.

Cross sets a breathless pace, juggling a diverse cast of characters, most with their own agendas. There are alliances, crosses and double-crosses, betrayals and perceived betrayals. Tension is kept high with the impending arrival of potentially hostile aliens.

A good deal of research clearly went into this novel, as the author addresses the Roswell Incident, Incas, the Serpent Mound, and a web of other threads that leaves the reader constantly guessing where the next curveball is coming from. Cross throws plenty of them and sets her chapters for hooks that makes it impossible not to keep swiping pages. The writing is tight, the dialogue exchanges, rapid-fire. I found the Roswell thread particularly intriguing. This is the first book in what promises to be a riveting series. If you’re a fan of ancient alien theories mixed with fast-paced intrigue, and characters who command the pages, you don’t want to miss this one! 5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre:  Alien Invasion Science Fiction > Colonization Science Fiction


book cover for Whatever it Takes by S. BurkeWhatever It Takes
By S. Burke

I was sucked into this story from the get-go. The idea of a celebrity character and a Hollywood setting brought unique appeal to the story. Toss a serial killer into the mix and I knew I was in for a good read. The author crafted a complex plot with realistic characters. Kudos for a strong female lead who didn’t come off over-the-top, something I trip over frequently in popular fiction. Andi O’Connor is competent and convincing while harboring emotions and flaws that make her believable. Her relationship with James grows through the story—at a realistic pace—as the investigation draws them together.

This is a well-crafted mystery that takes an up close look at investigative work. I felt like I was putting pieces of the puzzle together along with Andi even as the danger level ramped higher. The procedural aspects of the book are exceptionally well done, the characters thoroughly developed. One of the secondary characters in particular was a surprise, sadly flawed and utterly human.

The plot ensures the reader is sent through twisted paths before delivering a satisfying conclusion. I could see this book unfolding as a movie. It has a dark underbelly, seasoned with gritty aspects of life. From the glitz of James’s Hollywood career, to the killer’s cold and abhorrent deeds, it examines two sides of life. I would love to see the character of Andi O’Connor return in a sequel. She definitely has the strength and appeal to carry a series. 5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre:  Suspense > Suspense Thrillers


Look for more reviews from me the end of the month. In the meantime, hopefully something I’ve shared appeals to your reader radar. There’s always room on the TBR for a few more! 🙂 

April Book Reviews

Last month I said I was going to split this post and share half the middle of the month and half the end of the month. Naturally, things didn’t work out as planned. 🙂

Since I only read five books this month, I thought I’d share the entire post today. There were two that were rough for me—you’ll be able to tell when you hit the reviews—and for the first time in my life I gave a book a 2.5 rating on Goodreads (although I didn’t share it on Amazon). This was my April collection. As always, because the post in lengthy, click the Amazon link to read the blurbs or learn more about each book.

The Dinner
By Herman Koch

This book has been on my radar for a long time and I finally decided I needed to satisfy my curiosity. This was made into a movie in 2017 (no, I haven’t seen it, but I’m considering). The story is kind of like a train wreck. A distasteful mess, but hard to ignore.

Set in the Netherlands, the basic premise involves two well-to-do couples, (brothers and their wives) who get together for dinner at an exclusive restaurant.

The book cleverly spans the course of the dinner—appetizer, entrée, dessert. A few hours in which an ugly crime is prodded and examined like a specimen in a petri dish. Both couples have fifteen-year-old boys who have been involved in a heinous act (there is nothing remotely sexual for those of you who, like me, shy away from such ugliness).

The reader gets to know each character up close and personal, with insight into previous history and the actions of the boys. This is one of those books where I didn’t find redeeming value in any of the characters though the women are surprisingly worse than the men. These are not witchy, stuck up b*tches. They come across as genuine, protective of those they love and utterly self-sacrificing while being loathsome. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where I disliked every character.

That aside, this is a well written, disturbing story that delves into the complex nuances of human nature. Don’t expect to like any of the characters, but this is definitely one for discussion in book clubs and with other readers. I waffled between 3 and 4 stars, so I’m going with 3.5.

Amazon Link
Genre: Psychological Literary Fiction > Psychological Fiction


Bigfoot: The Non-Fiction, Factual arguments in favor of the existence of Sasquatch
By Joachim Dale

As someone who has long been fascinated by cryptozoology, I was intrigued by this work which addresses arguments in favor of the existence of Bigfoot. The author clearly did his research, drawing on centuries-old sightings, testimonials, physical evidence, and most interesting for me–the famed Patterson-Gimlin film, which is examined in detail.

Throughout, facts are presented in a concise and understandable manner and the book is ordered in such a way that by the time you reach the final chapter (Conclusions) the reader has been presented with a strong argument for the existence of these ape-like creatures that have long eluded man. The writing is polished and case arguments presented vividly. Whether you are a believer in Sasquatch or someone fascinated by the legend, you will find Mr. Dale’s work compelling. This is a short novella-length quick read.

Amazon Link
Genre:  Biological Science of Apes and Monkeys > Biological Science of Wildlife


Book cover for Silent Mayhem by Sue ColettaSilent Mayhem: The Mayhem Series #3
By Sue Coletta

In the third and latest book in the Mayhem series, author Sue Coletta pushes the action to a fever pitch. Someone is leaving a bloody trail of murder behind by beheading victims and leaving cryptic clues. Former cat burglar and legit hacker, Shawnee Daniels, who works for the police department, follows the clues while being caught up in her own twisted web of problems. Notorious serial killer “Mr. Mayhem” has been leaving her messages, delivered by his ominous murder of crows, or posted a secret website.

All three books in this series are exceptional but this one is elevated to a new level of intrigue by the relationship Coletta weaves between Mayhem and Shawnee, threads that hint of joint family history. Brilliant! Mayhem is cultured, precise, and meticulous. Shawnee is a whirlwind of in-your-face action, tough as nails on the outside, with a vulnerable underbelly. The contrast makes for mesmerizing encounters with an odd give-and-take between these two dynamic personalities.

As someone who has read a great deal of books on Native American history and folklore, I found those tie-ins especially riveting. Skinwalkers, serial killers, vendettas—it’s all here. Mayhem’s relationship with his wife is tenderly portrayed. Crows, Poe, Edgar and Allan are given multiple spotlights to shine, and the ending leaves a deadly open thread for the next book in this fantastic series.

Amazon Link
Genre:  Women Sleuths > Suspense


Book cover for Silent Mayhem by Sue ColettaThey All Fall Down
By Rachel Howzell Hall

If I have an all-time favorite story trope it has to be an eclectic cast of characters in a remote location with individuals being picked off one by one. I think it goes back to my childhood when I was in love with the game Clue and when I first saw Agatha Christie’s book And Then There Were None made into the movie Ten Little Indians.  So naturally when I saw the premise for They All Fall Down—mansion in a Mexican paradise where a group of strangers gather only to be picked off one by one—I couldn’t wait to boot up my Kindle and dive in.

Sadly, I almost DNF’d this book. At the 40ish mark I had met all of the characters, but nothing was happening (yawn). Then finally around 46% the book took off with a bang. I was riveted and had high hopes—until it quickly nosedived again. One of the most interesting characters is killed too early, I knew the killer’s identity from the first death, and guessed the reveal at the end. What I will say for the positive is that the author had a great descriptive voice and her MC was unique. There is some highly entertaining banter between several of the characters and the book reads easily. I did stick it out to the end, but none of the characters have any redeeming qualities which made it rough to finish. Loved the premise but didn’t care for the outcome. 2.5 stars rounded to 3 for Goodreads.

Amazon Link
Genre: Thriller and Suspense 


Book cover for The Body in the Wetlands by Judi LynnThe Body in the Wetlands
By Judi Lynn

In book two of the Jazzi Zanders murder mysteries, home remodelers Jazzi, her hunky boyfriend, Ansel, and her cousin Jerrod are once again in this thick of rehabbing property and getting caught up in murder. Jazzi gets to know neighbor, Leo, during his regular walks with his dog Cocoa. When Leo disappears and two bodies are discovered in shallow graves behind the neighborhood subdivision, Jazzi once again becomes embroiled in unmasking the killer. On the personal front, her relationship with Ansel is put to the test when he returns home for a brief time to help his dysfunctional family with property repairs. A young college student takes an interest in Jazzi. Friendly and outgoing, his charm may just be the mask for a killer, but he’s only one of numerous suspects.

The author treats us to an eclectic cast of characters, then weaves a bubble of suspicion around each. Jazzi’s large family, plus her detective friend, Gaff, are all back again, as is Ansel’s dog, George the pug. You’ve got to love these people, who feel like friends. While this is a cozy mystery there is still plenty of guessing, and intricate plotting that leads to unmasking the killer. The writing is polished and breezy, the mystery elements set up like neat dominoes that all fall into place at the end. Another great entry in an enjoyable series!

Amazon Link
Genre: Cozy Mystery > Amateur sleuths


I hope you’ve discovered something among these titles that may interest you. If you came across a great novel during your recent reading, be sure to share in the comments. In addition to writing, I love chatting books. I just wish I had more hours to devote to my gargantuan TBR!

Visiting for #ShareAReview

I’m traveling in the blogosphere today. If you get a moment, pop over to Marcia Meara’s blog where I’m sharing one of my all time favorite reviews from a past title—which is currently on sale for .99c.

Marcia has kindly designated Tuesdays as #ShareAReviewDay on her blog and has opened the doors to everyone. While you’re there be sure to check out the info on how you can share your own review with Marcia’s many followers.

In the meantime, aren’t you curious which book I’ve chosen to highlight? Which review? I know the suspense is monumental, but there’s no need to gnaw your fingernails trying to figure it out. Just click here to be whisked away for answers. 😉

I’ve closed comments at this end.

March Book Reviews, Part 2

I’m back with part two of my reviews for books I read in March. If you missed part one, you can find it here. To read the blurbs and learn about each title below, click the Amazon link after my review. I hope you discover something to add to your TBR!


Book cover for True Places by Sonja YoergTrue Places
By Sonja Yoerg
Iris grew up sheltered from modern society, living in a cabin in the woods with her parents and brother. When circumstances force her into the world, she stumbles into the life of Suzanne Blakemore and her family. Suzanne lives a picture-perfect life in a pristine house with a successful husband, a teenage daughter and college-age son. She spends her life running from one errand to the next, making certain everyone is taken care of, never slowing down to truly see or feel. And that’s what this book is about—becoming blind to routines and existing on surface emotions. For looking deeper would expose cracks in the foundation of a life and family existing on artifical gloss.

When Suzanne brings Iris into her home, the fragile balance the Blakemores have maintained is shattered. Iris, naïve and confounded by the world, struggles to fit in. Suzanne’s teenage daughter Brynn grow fangs the moment Iris is in the door, but the up-and-down, give-and-take between the two girls plays well throughout the book. There were times I despised Brynn, other times I felt sorry for her. The author handles teenage mistakes and angst well. But Brynn, Iris, and Suzanne’s son, Reid, aren’t the only ones who foul up. When Suzanne’s husband Walt chooses to overlook something of importance, that decision has far flung consequences for everyone in the book.

A little slow getting started, True Places really takes off around the 50% mark. The descriptions of the mountains and woods—down to the sights, sounds and smells—are captivating. There is a hint of When the Crawdads Sing in this book, and like Crawdads, the exquisitely detailed settings evoke such a strong sense of place, it’s easy to imagine yourself in Iris’s rustic cabin or slipping through dusky woods when the wind chases whispers through the trees. A beautiful read!

Amazon Link
Genre: Literary Fiction > Women’s Fiction


Book cover for Black Magic Can Backfire by Judi LynnMuddy River One: Black Magic Can Backfire
By Judi Lynn
This book has a vividly imagined premise. A small town (Muddy River) populated by supernatural citizens—witches, vampires, shifters, fae—is rocked when a new coven of witches are found dead and murder is suspected. Hester Wand, a powerful witch with a coven of her own, and Raven Black, a fire demon who is also the town’s “enforcer” team up to find the killer. As a fire demon, Raven is not someone to cross, and Hester is every bit as powerful.  Even so, unmasking the killer is not an easy task.

The head of the new coven was not well liked, making suspects and motives plentiful. There are feuding families, powerful families, buried prejudices, and simmering animosities. Hester and Raven question a multitude of suspects, a thread that adds an intriguing investigative vibe to the book. I kept trying to figure out who was responsible but the revelation came as a surprise. There is a romantic thread but it meshes well with the story and the romance is not drawn out which I liked. In closing, special mention has to go to Claws, Hester’s ocelot familiar. Not only does he have an awesome name, he gets into the action, too. As this is the first book in a new series, Muddy River is a town I look forward to visiting again.

Amazon Link
Genre: Mystery Romance > Urban Fantasy > Supernatural


Book cover for Murder in Plane Sight by Julie HolmesMurder in Plane Sight
By Julie Holmes
In this strong debut novel, Julie Holmes introduces us to Sierra Bauer, an airline mechanic who uncovers the body of the woman she blames for her brother’s death. The author is clearly knowledgeable of the airline industry, and also knows how to twist a good mystery into an intricately-layered plot.

There are multiple characters, multiple motives, a shady stalker, and a dedicated cop who finds himself falling for Sierra while protecting her. Both Quinn and Sierra are excellent characters and their romance serves to further enhance the mystery.
Sierra is particularly strong, having to overcome obstacles in a field dominated by men. She is focused and determined, but she also harbors shadows in her past, that resurface to haunt her. Holmes does a fabulous job of tying up all the loose ends when the conclusion rolls around, while weaving in several surprises along the way. An excellent start to a new series.

Amazon Link
Genre: Amateur sleuths > cozy mystery


Book cover for Just Her Poetry by D.L.FinnJust Her Poetry Seasons of a Soul
By D. L. Finn
This is a beautiful collection of poetry with vivid glimpses into the natural world and the many myriad nuances of emotion. The reader is even treated to “musings from the back of a Harley” as the author shares visions penned while riding with her husband on their bike. I was especially enthralled by the nature poetry which is broken into sections for Spring and Summer as well as Fall and Winter.

Sights, sounds and senses come alive in poems like A Day at the River, Thunk, Crisp, and Spring Gone. As a cat lover I also really enjoyed The Huntress which was rendered in such attention to detail it was equivalent to viewing a live-action video. The prose is beautiful and vivid. Some of my favorite lines include:

From Spring Day
The gentle tapping of the woodpecker
Reminding me of a blessing in Morse code.

From Mist
It is a time of in-between.
Between the sun baking the earth
Or the forest being covered in ice.

From The October Sun
The October sun bleeds through the trees
Clotting up before it reaches me.

There are so many gems in this book, you’re certain to find your own favorites. Escape  to a peaceful setting, and let this exquisite collection of poetry soothe your soul.

Amazon Link
Genre: Poetry > Nature Poetry > Contemporary Poetry


Book Cover for Girls on the Hill by Alison GreyThe Girls on the Hill
By Alison Clair Grey
I was so excited to get this book after reading the author’s first release, Can’t Let Go. Girls on the Hill was every bit as engrossing.

It’s reunion time for several college friends, but not everyone is looking forward to the event. Especially given the reunion is being held at a hotel where one classmate died on graduation night, plunging to her death from an upper balcony. What took place on that balcony and what led to the tragedy is the basis for this gripping mystery which incorporates plenty of twists and shocks along the way.

As usual, Grey does an excellent job of tapping into human emotions, examining the best and worst in people. There is a strong focus on friendships–both good and bad–and what some are willing to do to succeed regardless of who they hurt. As a reader Grey made me feel anger and frustration but also grudging sympathy for one of the key players. There is a diverse cast of characters and they all shine in their own way, but the standouts for me were Amanda and Hollis.

The writing is slick, and the chapters short, switching between POV characters, which makes this an easy read. The POV is done in first person which occasionally made me stop and flip back to the chapter title to see whose head I was in, but I didn’t find that overly distracting. Most definitely a hard to put down book!  I’m already looking forward to Grey’s next release. She’s now on my auto-buy list.

Amazon Link
Genre: Psychological Fiction > Psychological Thriller


Thanks for checking out the reviews. March was another great reading month for me (probably because I was working on edits and not doing as much writing). I wish you all Happy Reading!

 

March Book Reviews, Part 1

I’m so excited it’s April. Spring has arrived and all of the nasty white stuff is gone. That’s reason for celebration!

Another reason is all the great books I read last month, reviews of which I’m sharing today. I’m splitting the post in two parts, since I managed to read nine books in March. Moving forward, I plan to break my reviews into a mid-month post and an end of the month post so there isn’t so much back-to-back (although It’s unlikely I’ll read this many books again in a single month!).

To read the blurbs and learn about each title, click the Amazon link after my review. I hope you discover something to add to your TBR. And remember to check back tomorrow for part two! 


Book cover for the Beast Within by Jacqui BiggarThe Beast Within
by Jacquie Biggar
A wonderful blend of multiple genres, The Beast Within, is the second book the Mended Souls trilogy, but it also reads as a stand-alone. I had no problem picking up the storyline involving Guardian Angels, Lucas Carmichael and Mike, both of whom died in the same car crash. While struggling to overcome their animosity for each other, they’re also charged with watching over Mike’s wife, Julie Crenshaw. A reporter, Julie, is still adjusting to life without Mike, as well as the loss of her unborn baby girl when she begins investigating a string of bizarre serial murders. Enter Conner O’Rourke, a homicide detective who is working the case.

Biggar does well in providing insight to her myriad cast of characters. Paths cross, lives become entwined, and puzzle pieces (you’ll find an interesting side line with them) slot into place while others veer in unexpected directions. The story provides suspense, mystery, and a touch of the supernatural along with a romantic sub-plot as Julie and Conner discover mutual attraction. The writing is polished with excellent scene setting, vivid descriptions, and a storyline that provides multiple twists with plenty of danger. The author is clearly a pro and knows how to deliver a tale that will keep you entertained from beginning to end.

Amazon Link
Genre: Mystery/Romantic Suspense


Book cover for When You're the Only Cop in TownWhen You’re the Only Cop in Town
A Writer’s Guide to Small Town Law Enforcement
by Jack Berry, Debra Dixon
This is an old book that’s been on my shelf for a while. I read the hardcover (which I believe is difficult to find now) but I’m including the link for the Kindle version. There is nothing like first hand information from a man who spent his entire career in law enforcement, seventeen years of which were as a police chief in a small town. This is quick and easy read, filled with anecdotes, straight-on facts, and plenty of humor. I read it with a highlighter in hand, and colored tabs to mark pages. An excellent resource for writers, I can see myself referring to it often as I unleash plot bunnies on my fictional small towns.
Informative and VERY entertaining!

Amazon Link
Genre: Reference > Writing Craft


book cover for No Easy Street by Julia DonnerNo Easy Street
By Julia Donner
Step back in time with this well-written and engaging tale set in the American west. The period detail is exceptional! When seamstress Elsbeth Soderberg inherits a cattle ranch in Wyoming, she’s thrust into a role she never expected. She’s a woman in a man’s world dealing with hardened cowhands, multiple prejudices, and a ruthless employee. Fortunately, she has neighbor Ezekiel (EZ) Street and his young daughter to help her adjust.

Elsbeth is a strong character, but she shines exceptionally bright when she’s standing up for herself and taking charge of a situation. She has a steely backbone, but at the same time she’s portrayed as a woman with doubts and fears. That combination of determination, conviction, and vulnerability makes her a likable and believable character. The romantic elements are well done and the supporting characters add vivid color. I especially liked EZ’s daughter Penelope and her friend Flora. Hitch a ride and travel west with this delightful book!

Amazon Link
Genre: Western Romance


Book cover for Sun Dance: Why Custer Really Lost The Battle of The Little Bighorn by Garry RodgersSun Dance
Why Custer Really Lost the Battle of The Little Bighorn
By Garry Rodgers
Of the non-fiction books I enjoy reading, I have a collection on George Armstrong Custer, Crazy Horse, Native American culture, the Plains Indian War, and the expansion west. When I saw that Garry Rodgers was offering an ARC of a book he’d written about the Battle of Little Bighorn, I jumped at the chance to read it. If you’re unfamiliar with Garry, he’s a retired homicide detective and forensic coroner. He also blogs for the Huff Post.

In Sun Dance…Why Custer Really Lost the Battle of The Little Bighorn, Rodgers examines not only Custer’s combat strategy and the reason why it failed but sets the playing field from Grant’s presidency down through army command. We get the mindset of the time, are witness to several conflicts leading up to LBH and understand the significance of the sacred Black Hills. Native American treaties are examined in detail (I was shocked by some I was unfamiliar with). Past military strategy is analyzed—remember that Custer was a Brevet Major General during the Civil War and no stranger to battle. As Rodgers points out, that may have been part of his undoing. He was unprepared for the mentality of the opposing force. Yes, mentality. In Sun Dance…Why Custer Really Lost the Battle of The Little Bighorn, Rodgers shows us why that state of mind—a collective state of mind—was key.

After reading this book, there is no question of the psychological impact of the Sun Dance ceremony and why that ritual was especially powerful when performed by Sitting Bull. The vision of the great Chief became a battle standard for the massive number of Native Americans ready to defend their way of life. Rodgers walks us through understanding how sheer numbers alone didn’t win LBH for the Native Americans. He backs up his theory with concise explanations and detailed research. Written in an easy to read style, with a staggering amount of resources included, this book is excellent for both dedicated students of history, and even armchair followers like me.

Although Sun Dance…Why Custer Really Lost the Battle of The Little Bighorn has yet to be released, you can follow Garry’s blog, dyingwords.net to keep current of news. You can also request and ARC and learn more about the research behind the book HERE.


I was kind of all over the place with my reading in March, which happens sometimes, but everything I read was awesome. I’ll be sharing five more books tomorrow and hope to see you then!

February Book Reviews, Part 2

Hey, gang! Thanks for joining me today as I trot out the final half of my book reviews for February. If you missed part one, and would like to check out what other books consumed my reading time during winter’s coldest and snowiest month, you can find it here.

For the books below, click the Amazon link for blurbs and additional details. I’m only sharing my impressions of each to keep the post from becoming too long.


Book cover for The Hunting Party, a novel by Lucy FoleyThe Hunting Party
by Lucy Foley
A snowbound setting, a killing, and multiple suspects—as soon as I read the premises for this book I was all in. A group of old friends, together since college, reunite every year to catch-up with one another—this time over the New Year’s holiday at an isolated resort in the Scottish Highlands.

This is a privileged group of characters, used to fine dining, the best in champagne and party locations. Some are stuck in the mindset of their college days when responsibility only lingered on a distant horizon, while others have moved onto the reality of demanding careers or starting a family. At first glance, most are superficial, pretty on the surface with a darker underbelly. There are stress fractures in the friendships, fissures that have been building over time, only to rupture with the glittery festivity of New Year.

Most of the characters are flawed in one way or another and very few are above reproach, but the complexity of their entanglements makes for riveting reading. There is no black or white in their actions but nuanced layers of manipulation, one-upmanship, old grudges, and petty jealousies. If that sounds like people you don’t want to get to know, it’s worth taking the time with these characters. They’re skillfully painted by the author, brushstroke by brushstroke. It’s only in the closing chapters that the surface gloss of each is stripped away, and we see them for who they truly are.

My only complaint is that it does take a while to settle into the book. There are four female POVs and one male. Multiple POVs do not bother me, but all the female narration is done in first person (the male in present third). As a result, it took several chapters before I was able to get a grasp on who was narrating. I had to keep flipping back to the title headers until I adjusted to the voices and who was who. If not for the so many narrators (in first person), this would be a five star read for me. It requires a bit of work at the beginning to adjust, but if you enjoy a murder mystery with complex suspects and multiple motives, this is a delicious tale in which to lose yourself for a few days. Extra kudos to the author for catching me by surprise with the murderer and motive.

Genre:  Psychological Thriller
Amazon Link


Book cover for Evil Lurks, a Horror Anthology by various authorsEvil Lurks
(Multiple Authors)
This is a hard book to rate, because of the diversity of stories. All are geared toward the paranormal and horror. I’m sure each reader will have stories that resonate with them more than others. There were a few gems that really stood out for me including The Revelation, Spirit of Lonely Places, Life in There, Onryo, and A Break In. I also enjoyed the first story, Cat Food, which may make you look at your felines a bit differently. Collections of stories are nice because you needn’t read them all at once, but can enjoy a tale over a lunch or coffee break—in this case, along with goosebumps and shivers!

Genre:  Horror Anthology
Amazon Link


Book cover for End of Day, mystery/suspense novel by Mae Clair shows old dilapidated church with bell tower and a cemetery in the background overgrown with weedsEnd of Day
by Mae Clair

Yes, I read my own book—cover to cover without an eye for editing. Having just submitted the third and final book of this series to my editor, I wanted to make sure there was good flow from book two to book three. Obviously I’m not going to review End of Day, but if you’d like to see what other readers think of my second venture into the fictional town of Hode’s Hill, follow the link below.

Genre:  Supernatural Mystery/Suspense
Amazon Link

 


I’ve already got my nose in the the first of March’s books, and am making a dent in the BEHEMOTH I call my TBR.

Sometimes I think of it like The Blob. Remember that old movie with Steve McQueen? There was even a remake in the 80s with Kevin Dillion. Of course I watched them both. And, of course I’ll keep reading, because—it’s an addiction, you know? 😉

February Book Reviews, Part 1

Despite having two DNFs on my reading list this month, I still managed to discover some good books. The DNFs were authors I didn’t know and had not read before. Both titles sounded promising, but after six chapters each, neither could get off the ground. Needless to say I was disappointed, but I did enjoy some great books I want to share. Because I read six in February, and one of the later reviews is rather long, I’m splitting this post into two parts.  Look for part two on Wednesday.

Once again, because I don’t want to make the post too long, click on the Amazon link if you’d like to read the blurb and learn more details about the book selections.


book cover for Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia OwensWhere the Crawdads Sing
by Delia Owens
I expected this book to be great, given all the buzz it’s had. The story is engaging and holds the reader’s interest. I was especially taken with the vivid descriptions of the marsh and small-town life in the 1960s. I was halfway through the story thinking how good it was, but kept waiting for that extra something to make it “great.”

And then it happened…

The last third of this book is what elevates it beyond good story-telling to exceptional story-telling. Where the Crawdads Sing deserves all of the accolades it’s received and more. The characters are ones that will linger in my mind for a long time to come, especially the conclusion of their story. As for the marsh—it became a character in itself. This is a book I can easily see myself going back and reading again. A wonderful coming of age tale with added layers of mystery.

Genre:  Literature and Fiction > Coming of Age
Amazon Link


book cover for The Lost Man by Jane HarperThe Lost Man
by Jane Harper
This is the second book I’ve read by Jane Harper, and I have a third on my Kindle. She always spins a good murder mystery plot, along with a compelling Australian setting. This time around, the reader is treated to the remote solitude of the Outback, whose grit, dust and dry heat seem to permeate every scene.

Brothers Nathan and Bub Bright meet up at a legendary gravestone dividing their properties, only to find their third brother, Cameron—in charge of the family homestead—dead. Harper takes her time introducing the reader to an array of characters as well as family background issues that become key later on. I thought the beginning moved a bit slowly, but the mystery eventually took off. At that point, I couldn’t flip pages fast enough.

There was a continued reference to a particular item (no spoilers) that I thought much too heavy-handed (I get it, already!), but other than that this was a good read. I waffled back and forth on the identity of the killer and was proven right at the end, but not for the reasons I suspected. Jane Harper is on my auto buy list, and although I didn’t care for this book as much as The Dry, it delivered a solid tale with an awesome ending.

Genre:  Mystery and Crime
Amazon Link


book cover for Can't Let Go by Alison GreyCan’t Let Go
by Alison Grey
This is a quick easy read, built around old secrets, friendships, betrayals and lies.  The main character, Larkin, marries into one of the most privileged families of Charleston high society. Larkin comes from a poor background and doesn’t fit in–until she’s befriended by Caroline Beaufain, the queen bee of the social scene. Although the book doesn’t really take off until the middle, the beginning is far from draggy. The author has a way of introducing characters and setting scenes that kept me flipping pages, even as I  was waiting for the hammer to fall.

This is a psychological thriller, so don’t expect explosive action. It’s more about figuring out what each character has to gain and what they’re willing to do to achieve their goals. When the impact does hit, the fallout is quick and jaw-dropping. I won’t say I’ve never seen this plot done before, but the way Grey handles it is riveting and fresh. I will definitely be looking for more books by this author and have already pre-ordered her next release!

Genre:  Psychological Thriller > Suspense
Amazon Link


So what do you think? Do any of these appeal to you? Have you read any?  What’s next on your reading list?  Drop me a line below and let’s talk books!

Reviews on January Reads

A while ago I made some noise about posting reviews on my blog. I never did this in the past, but hope to do it monthly as I move ahead. I’m afraid posting reviews and blurbs will make the post too long, so I’m only going to share my reviews. If you’re interested, click the Amazon link under each book for the blurb and more information.

To kick off 2019, these are the books I read in January. Maybe one of them will appeal to you.


book cover for Final Girls, a novel by Riley SagerYou know all those slasher movies where a group of teens are stalked by some crazed killer and when everything drills down to a close, there’s only one person remaining? That’s the idea behind Final Girls.

In this case, Quincy Carpenter is the “final girl” of Pine Cottage. The sole survivor of a grisly night when her friends were butchered in the woods. Ten years later, she has her life almost back on track, when Sam, another final girl shows up on her doorstep. The plot quickly gets twisty. While I thought the book was a little slow in getting started, it’s a page-turner once Quincy and Sam begin interacting. Riley Sager weaves layers of mystery, including plenty of threads that lead the reader astray for several surprises at the end.

Suspenseful, tense and satisfying. A recommended read!

Amazon Link


Book cover for Verses of the Dead by Preston & ChildWow! I’ve been addicted to this series from Book 1, and Verses of the Dead is a home run in so many ways. I had doubts about Pendergast working with a partner, but the addition of Agent Coldmoon was a stroke of genius. Not only is Coldmoon a great character, but it gave readers a chance to see Pendergast–along with all his quirks and unorthodox methods of working–through his eyes. Toss is a new boss for Pendergast, new location (Miami Beach) and a string of bizarre murders and you’ve got a perfect recipe to hold the reader glued to the page.

The authors verge away from anything supernatural this time and stick to crime-solving, something Pendergast does exceptionally well. I love “watching” him work. The murders, the method in which they occur, and the reason behind them unfold in an ever startling trail of clues. Pendergast (and Coldmoon) get to interact with several new, interesting characters. Cab driver Axel was one of my favorites. The high-speed taxi ride through Miami is a blast.

I also have to applaud the authors for creating an unusual killer with an unusual motive. Although I love the supernatural twists in many of the Pendergast novels, I admit to enjoying the intriguing details of crime-solving best. I also believe this is a book you could pick up, having never read a single Pendergast novel before, and thoroughly enjoy without knowing any background from the previous books. The new location, new boss, and addition of a partner all go to “seeing” Pendergast through fresh eyes. Highly recommended!

Amazon Link

NOTE: Aloysius X. L. Pendergast is a book boyfriend. I love this guy! These books are pure addiction for me. Although this is book 18, it’s a great place to start for an introduction to the character if you’re unfamiliar with this series.


Book cover for Voyage of the Lanternfish by author, C. S. Boyack, shows bow of old clipper ship with glowing lanternfish headWhat a rollicking, magical, high-octane, deftly plotted adventure! Remember when Dorothy steps from her black-and-white world into the Land of Oz for the first time? That explosion of color, wonder, and delight is equivalent to what the reader experiences in Voyage of the Lanternfish.

Wow, where to begin? I won’t reiterate the plot (click the link and read the blurb), but I will say you’re in for a treat with this story of pirates, high-sea adventure, a diverse cast of characters and plenty of bizarre creatures. Where else will you encounter root monsters, an anvil bird, Fu dogs, owlcats, and a moving reef? And those are just some of the imaginative beings Boyack introduces with his latest release.

I developed a special fondness for the root monsters with their unwavering loyalty, nightly story-telling sessions, rabid delight in receiving names, and atrocious mangling of language. Of special note: You can’t read this book and not appreciate the cleverness of “I I I I”

Trust me. 🙂

The cast is every bit as colorful as the creatures and extremely diverse in backgrounds. They each have such strong personalities, it’s hard to choose a favorite. Even secondary characters and third level characters get plenty of moments to shine. The battle scenes involving mortars, guns, and claiming ships are perfectly executed. I was dazzled and glued to the pages.

I have read several books by this author but this one is in a league of its own. Hop aboard and set sail. You won’t be disappointed!

Amazon Link

Note: Craig Boyack is one of my Story Empire co-authors. I’m giving an extra shout-out here, because he really nailed it with this book!


book cover for No Exit by Taylor AdamsDid you ever read a book and just KNOW it should be a movie? I’ll be shocked if a filmmaker doesn’t pick this story up. According to my Kindle, I devoured 70% of the novel in one sitting. I would have finished the whole thing if I hadn’t needed to call it a night and get some sleep. The next day I tuned out everything else and dug in, irritated by any distraction that pulled me from the pages. This book held me GLUED!!!

Darby Thorne is a wonderful protagonist, an average college student who likes to take rubbings of gravestones. When a blizzard strands her at a rest area with four strangers, she makes a horrifying discovery. One of them has a young girl caged in a van outside. Seeking help, Darby tips her hand to the wrong person—the kidnapper.

Hooboy! I applaud the author for creating one of the most twisted, psychotic villains I’ve ever encountered in a novel. Even more for giving Darby the inner strength and courage to stand up to this predator. She is clever and strong, but never portrayed as a kick-ass hero. She does what she does out of necessity, full of doubts and weaknesses along the way. Jay (the girl in the cage) is also one tough cookie, as she proves when she and Darby team up.

Throughout the long night, the two play a game of cat and mouse with Jay’s abductor. One that involves intellect, physical strength, endurance, and constantly puts Darby in the crosshairs of impossible situations. Her goal is to survive until morning when snow plows are certain to reach the rest area. In the meantime, she is cut off from the world with a dying cell phone, a young girl depending on her, and a kidnapper determined to silence her. It’s hard to say more about this book without giving away spoilers.

There are numerous twists and surprises along the way with a constant buildup of suspense. Sometimes it creeps, sinister and edgy, other times it explodes. The characters are well developed, and the snowbound setting adds a suffocating feeling of claustrophobia. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. If I could give it more than five stars I would. I have no doubt this will become one of my favorite reads of 2019.

Amazon Link


Book cover for Linda McCartney: A Portrait by Danny FiieldsAs a diehard Beatles fan, and most especially a McCartney fan, I’ve always been interested in anything related to Paul or Linda. I’ve read several books about the Beatles and Paul, and was excited to find a book on Linda. I enjoyed reading this, getting a glimpse of Linda’s background, her early years, life as a renowned photographer, years with Paul, and her devotion to vegetarian and animal causes. Some of it was a little plodding, but on the whole it read smoothly and held my interest. I loved getting to know Linda up close and personal. She was an amazing woman who I will always admire!

Amazon Link


Review sharing is new to me. I read most every night as a way to unwind and I look forward to sharing the books I discover. Do any of these books intrigue you? What about the covers? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!