Book Review Tuesday: The Body in the Trench by Judi Lynn #cozymystery, Gods of Howl Mountain by Taylor Brown #southernfiction

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

Welcome to my first book review post of April! Today, I have a cozy mystery, part of an ongoing series, and a novel by an author I’ve never read before. I’m pleased to say both were five star reads. Let’s get started!

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BLURB:
This time, Jazzi isn’t called to solve murder. Ansel is. His uncle Len, who promised him a job when he came to River Bluffs and then let his sons drive him away, calls to ask for help. One of the workers on his construction site is buried when a retaining wall gives and dirt pours into the trench where Xavier is laying pipe. But is Xavier’s death an accident? Or did someone purposely sabotage the retaining wall?

MY REVIEW:
Loved this latest Jazzi mystery! Murder hits close to home when a worker at Ansel’s uncle’s construction site meets with an untimely death. Add in a second mystery involving workers at a country club, plus a new—and more difficult house—for Jazzi, Ansel and Jerod to flip, and there is plenty to keep readers glued to the pages. Once again, Jazzi and Ansel’s extended family make appearances (I love their Sunday get-togethers and Gram’s predictions), and there are a handful of new characters who add interest and suspicion.

The backstory involving Ansel, his Uncle Len, and Len’s sons worked well in crafting a balance between the murder mystery and family dynamics. There are several characters in this book I wanted to “take to task,” for their attitudes, but that was exactly what the author intended. Another character, I loved the moment she appeared on the page, and was happy to see how her story arc progressed. It’s the mark of a good author who can make you care for her secondary players as much as her MCs.

If you enjoy cozy mysteries with characters who lodge in your heart, this is an excellent series to escape with. I do recommend starting at the beginning for maximum enjoyment and appreciating how all of the characters connect. A highly entertaining read!

5 STARS

BLURB:
In Gods of Howl Mountain, award-winning author Taylor Brown explores a world of folk healers, whiskey-runners, and dark family secrets in the high country of 1950s North Carolina.

Bootlegger Rory Docherty has returned home to the fabled mountain of his childhood – a misty wilderness that holds its secrets close and keeps the outside world at gunpoint. Slowed by a wooden leg and haunted by memories of the Korean War, Rory runs bootleg whiskey for a powerful mountain clan in a retro-fitted ’40 Ford coupe. Between deliveries to roadhouses, brothels, and private clients, he lives with his formidable grandmother, evades federal agents, and stokes the wrath of a rival runner.

In the mill town at the foot of the mountains – a hotbed of violence, moonshine, and the burgeoning sport of stock-car racing – Rory is bewitched by the mysterious daughter of a snake-handling preacher. His grandmother, Maybelline “Granny May” Docherty, opposes this match for her own reasons, believing that “some things are best left buried.” A folk healer whose powers are rumored to rival those of a wood witch, she concocts potions and cures for the people of the mountains while harboring an explosive secret about Rory’s mother – the truth behind her long confinement in a mental hospital, during which time she has not spoken one word. When Rory’s life is threatened, Granny must decide whether to reveal what she knows…or protect her only grandson from the past.

With gritty and atmospheric prose, Taylor Brown brings to life a perilous mountain and the family who rules it.

MY REVIEW:
I won’t reiterate what the story is about. The book blurb does a great job of covering that. What initially drew me to this novel was the backwoods North Carolina mountain setting. Taylor Brown brings it vividly to life, along with characters like Granny May, a woman who creates folk remedies and keeps a “spirit tree” strung with glass bottles in her front yard. Add moonshiners, revenue men, a church of snake-handlers, and a decades-old secret and readers are treated to a wonderfully multi-layered story. Even the setting becomes a character.

Example: “The road spilled down out of the mountains before him like a moonlit creek. He knew it well, as he knew the lesser roads that branched along the ridges and forked down into the hollers, that swung along the great walls of blasted stone and through tunnels of black oak and hickory.”

The writing is exquisite, richly detailed without being overwrought.

Another example: “Most of all it was talk, Rory knew, the lies of gummy old men in their rockers, on their nail kegs in front of the feed store. Stories punctuated by black bullets of tobacco juice spat quivering in the dust, attended by ageless hounds that lay tongue-out in the shade like something dead.”

The story is alternately gritty and lyrical. I was surprised by the ending—didn’t see the twists coming—but loved how everything played out, especially as related to an incident in the past. This was my first time reading Taylor Brown, but it won’t be my last!

5 STARS
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In other news, I’ve signed up properly with NetGalley and have downloaded my first yet-to-be-published ARC. With as much as I read and review, it only makes sense to start taking advantage of upcoming releases. So, going forward, my reviews will be a mix of books I’ve purchased and soon-to-be-released ARCs. I’m excited to be diving in. As always, happy reading!

Time for an Update #amwriting #writingcommunity #WIPs

Typewriter, old book and a quill pen with a inkwell on an author desk table background.

Hello! It’s been a while (January?) since I shared how my writing is progressing, so I thought it was time for an update. After all, this is a writing blog. 🙂

Several short stories aside, I’m mostly focused on two novels.

The Keeping Place

This was my NaNoWriMo project, which I didn’t finish until December. A mystery that combines the recent past—a disappearance/murder from the year 2012—with the present, it also addresses relationships. Family drama plays a large part, examining the forced reunion between an estranged mother and her twenty-seven-year-old daughter.

For the most part, this is a straight mystery, although it does have threads of an old legend woven in. Apparently, it’s impossible for me NOT to play with a little folklore. In the case of The Keeping Place, the legend is one I invented for the novel, involving a derelict shack and the daughter of a railroad tycoon.

abandoned building overgrowin with trees and vines along railroad tracks

My critiques partners have been through the manuscript chapter by chapter and have provided feedback. I’ve tweaked what needed to be tweaked. Right now, the story is waiting for a final read through. This is a manuscript I hope to market to literary agents. I’ve yet to begin that search—which I know is going to be time consuming—but I’m in no rush.

In the meantime, I’ve been concentrating on my WIP.

The Ghosts of Wingate Hall

I guess there’s no question this one has a supernatural theme. 🙂

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ve probably seen mention of a story that has haunted me for decades. Wingate started as a novella (different title) when I was in my 20s, then evolved into a novel (different title again) in my 30s. Both were complete, but I wasn’t happy with either. I’ve dug the novel manuscript out again and again. During those times, the story went through several plot and character changes, but nothing worth keeping. Even so, this tale refuses to leave me alone.

I’m now in the process of yet another major plot overhaul. Several existing characters have been dumped (or seen their roles drastically altered) in favor of new characters. For the first time, I feel I might actually finish. I’d love to have the book ready to release in October for Halloween. Right now, I’m planning to indie publish.

A Follow Up to In Search of McDoogal

It’s always been my intention to turn my McDoogal characters into a series of short reads and novellas. If you’ve read this short story, you know it’s completely different than anything else I’ve written­—a comedy of errors. It was such a diversion, and so much fun to write, I would love to visit with Declan, Brady, and Clark Barr again. 

The second story (no title yet) is partially formed in my head, I just have to find the time to write it. I promise a fun and “out there” adventure when I do finally get around to it. In the meantime, if you haven’t checked out McDoogal, and you’re looking for a short, off-the-wall read, the link is below.

… and that’s my update. I’ve been sticking to my regular weekend writing schedule, even squeezing in hours on Saturday (in addition to Sunday), which has really helped moving my WIP along. I’ve only got one quarter of Wingate written, but I’ve worked out the worst of the hurdles in my head. I’m feeling pretty good about 2021 as a writing year.

Now, I just have to find that literary agent!

Book Review Tuesday: The Guest List by Lucy Foley, Whisper Island by Carissa Ann Lynch #psychologicalthrillers #domesticthrillers

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 today, both in a similar vein—a group of people on a secluded island cut off from the mainland, a murderer among them. One of these books rocked my world and the other didn’t quite live up to the hype. Both, however, kept me entertained for hours. If you enjoy murder mysteries and psychological thrillers, you’ll want to check these out.

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BLURB:

A wedding celebration turns dark and deadly in this deliciously wicked and atmospheric thriller reminiscent of Agatha Christie from the New York Times bestselling author of The Hunting Party.

The bride – The plus one – The best man – The wedding planner  – The bridesmaid – The body

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

MY REVIEW:

Lucy Foley has done it again! Keeping in vein with her novel, The Hunting Party, she serves up a similar whodunit. The prime ingredients in both books are an isolated location, treacherous weather, and a group of characters with plenty of skeletons rattling in proverbial closets.

For The Guest List, Foley presents the marriage of two pseudo celebrities. Jules is the publisher of a trendy magazine and Will is the star of a reality TV series. Together these two make the perfect couple—attractive, glamorous, and wealthy. For their wedding, they invite guests to a remote island off the coast of Ireland. Think rugged cliffs, crashing waves, the ruins of a stone chapel, and a cemetery dotted with Celtic crosses. The setting is exquisite, wonderfully played for mood that is both over the top glamorous, yet darkly sinister. I loved how a cave along the shoreline and the sightings of cormorants added creepy atmosphere.

The story is told in multiple first person POV (I had no problem keeping track of whose head I was in), along with scattered chapters of omniscient. It’s a little slow to get off the ground, but after a few chapters—WOW! Trust me, you’ll want to stick with it.

The cast of characters is an intriguing mix—the bride, her younger sister, the groom with his frat buddies and polar-opposite best man, the caterer and her husband who are just launching their business, the plus-one and her husband…who just happens to be the bride’s best friend.

When a body turns up, Foley keeps the identity of the victim wrapped tightly until the end. Throughout, tensions simmer, tempers flare, and petty jealousies erupt. And erupt again. Entangling more and more people in the web. By the time the identity of the body is revealed, most everyone has a motive.

All of this undercutting and sniping is played against the backdrop of an impending storm and the extravagance of the wedding. I’m usually pretty good at fingering the culprit, and although I had suspicions that eventually proved correct, the whys and wherefores completely blindsided me. The plot threads are deftly woven, for a wholly satisfying and stunning conclusion.

If you like a combination of psychological thriller and whodunit murder mystery, this is a fabulous five-star read!

5 STARS

BLURB:

It was the perfect escape

Until one by one they vanished…

For friends Riley, Sam, Mia and Scarlett, their trip to Whisper Island, Alaska, was meant to be a once in a lifetime adventure – just four young women, with everything to live for…

But as soon as they arrive things start to go wrong.  First there is the unexpected arrival of Sammy’s drug addict brother and his girlfriend Opal – why are they here? 

And then the deaths begin. 

As the dream trip quickly turns into a nightmare, suspicion is high.  Are they really alone on the island?  Or is there a killer hiding in the shadows? 

And as each of the girls reveals a dark secret of their own, perhaps the truth is the killer is closer than they think…just a whisper away…

MY REVIEW:
This is an okay quick read. Four college friends, all artists, decide to vacation on a secluded Alaskan island for the summer to concentrate on their art. When they arrive, they discover the “mansion” where they thought they would be staying is a run-down relic. Other than a few outbuildings, it’s the only property on the island. Also unexpected—one of the girls’ drug-addicted brother is there, along with his latest girlfriend.

The story is told from alternating viewpoints of these six characters, all in first person. As the book progresses, the reader learns each of the characters has secrets tucked in their backgrounds. When murders start taking place, I settled in for an “And Then There Were None” Agatha Christie type story. Was there a killer on the island, or could the killer possibly be among them?

The book definitely held my interest and kept me flipping pages–despite an overabundance of internal (italicized). POV. That grew a little distracting. I enjoyed the story right up until the big reveal of the killer. Part of a mystery is trying to solve the puzzle yourself, but there weren’t enough clues peppered throughout for the ending to make sense. So, the “twist” really wasn’t a twist for lack of set up.

That aside, this is an easy read, a nice diversion if you want something quick. The author does an excellent job of crafting the spooky atmosphere of the island, and the last line of the book brought appreciation. I just wish there had been more set-up and backstory to make the identity of the killer belieavable.

3 STARS

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That’s it from me for today. I hope one of these books snagged your attention. I guess it’s pretty obvious which one I enjoyed better, but that’s the great thing about books–there is always something for everyone. As always, happy reading!

Guest Author Thursday: Jacquie Biggar with The Seal’s Temptation #newrelease #militaryromance

red quill pen on a piece of old parchment paper, with an ink well with words Welcome Guest in script

Hi, friends! Today, I have the very talented Jacquie Biggar as my guest. Jacquie is a USA Today bestselling author who delivers wonderful tales of romance, romantic suspense, and women’s fiction. Today, she’s here to share her newest release, The Seal’s Temptation. Please welcome Jacquie!

image of paperback copy of The Seal's Temptation surrounded by roses and two gift wrapped packages

The SEAL’s Temptation is the long-awaited sequel to Maggie’s Revenge, book 6 in the Wounded Hearts series.

In Tidal Falls, Book 1 of the Wounded Hearts series, DEA Agent Magdalena Holt interrogates Navy SEAL Jared Martin after a violent assault at a Las Vegas casino known to be run by the Russian mafia. Jared is rescued from a night in jail when his Master Chief Frank Stein shows up to save the day. 

Here’s a short excerpt of Frank and Maggie’s first meeting:

Frank leaned back as the door opened and a woman walked in. Okay, this was getting interesting. Either she’d made a wrong turn on her way out of lockup, or he was receiving an early Christmas gift. He was hoping for the second but figured on the first. “I think you made a wrong turn there, sweets, bail paying is down the hall.”

He’d been away from women too long if a prostitute was going to turn him on, but shit. He figured she was tall, maybe five-eight or so, hard to tell though with those screw-me-now leather boots she was wearing. He traced the zipper he could see running up the inside of her leg, almost to mid-thigh. Licking suddenly dry lips, Frank admired the micro mini skirt in a hot pink and the impressive swell of full breasts, barely covered by a slinky white top and three different lengths of a chunky beaded necklace that made him literally sweat as they draped across her nipples.

Her hair was raven black, long and straight and matched her boots for shine. She’d painted the pillowy softness of her lips in the same hot pink of her skirt. When he finally made it up to her eyes, the brilliance and intelligence he could see lurking there let him know what he had already guessed. This was not your average floozy.

Maggie goes undercover as a hooker in order to gain intel on a gang trafficking young girls and drugs in the area. When her cover is blown, Maggie is captured and shipped to Mexico and into the arms of the Sinaloa Cartel. Held as the personal toy of high-ranking official, Chenglei, we learn of her ordeal, and eventual escape in Maggie’s Revenge, book 6 of the Wounded Hearts series.

Both her partner, Adam (who has his own ties to SEAL Team 5) and Frank refuse to give up the search and it finally leads them across the border in time to rescue her on the brink of death.

In The SEAL’s Temptation, Frank has invited Maggie and her DEA team to his ranch in Texas for some recovery time. He wants the chance to get to know this fascinating woman, even though he’s aware of the personal history between Adam and Maggie.

For Maggie’s part, she’s gun-shy around men after her ordeal and isn’t ready for a relationship with either man. When drug runners try to infiltrate the area, it’s up to the DEA team, with help from Frank, to stop them before the opioids go into distribution.

Here’s a short exclusive excerpt from The SEAL’s Temptation:

Jared flopped into one of the burgundy leather accent chairs, a snifter of whiskey in hand. “I say we quit waiting for trouble to arrive and take matters into our own hands.”

Adam glanced around until his gaze landed on Maggie before turning to Jared. “You know we need proof, buddy, or they’ll walk. We need an ironclad case in order to take the group down and put them behind bars—hopefully, for a long time.”

“What makes you think they’re staying in the region? Is there intel you’re not sharing?” Frank crossed his arms and stared Amanda down.

She cleared her throat and lifted her chin. “I’m not at liberty to discuss the details, Master Chief. You’re not active duty anymore. We will try to keep out of your way and ensure there are no casualties while we are here. My team and I are more than capable of handling this operation, but… thank you. I appreciate your input.”

Jared set down his glass and clapped, the sound discordant in the tense atmosphere that had descended on the room. “Great speech, ma’am, but if I recall rightly, you wouldn’t have gotten very far without the Chief when you went to Mexico to rescue your agent not so long ago.”

Maggie winced at the reminder of how her screwup had endangered so many and almost cost her life.

“That’s enough,” Frank said, his gray eyes soft on Maggie’s face. “Fact of the matter is, if you want to play in my sandbox, I’m going to need you to make room for all of us. No offence, SAC Rhinehold, but my land, my rules.”
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Now that I’ve caught you up, here’s the blurb and some links if you’re interested in trying The SEAL’s Temptation:

The SEAL’s Temptation: Wounded Hearts- Book 7 
#WoundedHearts #militaryRomance #Suspense #NewReleases

International | Recommend on Bookbub | Add to TBR List

BLURB:

DEA Agent Maggie Holt knows about Hell

After eighteen months undercover in a Mexican cartel, Maggie is broken. The kickass agent she once was, is gone, leaving her riddled with guilt and nightmares. Forced to take paid leave, Maggie accepts the offer of a vacation on the ranch of the man who’d rescued her from an almost certain death.

Frank Stein knows the signs of PTSD, he’s suffered the symptoms himself as Chief Petty Officer of SEAL Team Five. Honorably discharged from duty, Frank has found peace at the family ranch and hopes it will do the same for Magdalena. Ever since he’d first met her when she was interrogating his buddy, Jared, Frank has been fascinated by the raven-haired beauty and wants the chance to see where their relationship could go.

Adam O’Connor is Maggie’s partner. He knows her. He loved her once and could again, if she’d let him in. But he’s also angry she took the chances she did by going undercover against orders. And now, things are different. She’s different.

When a right-wing militia group infiltrates the area, will DEA Agent Maggie Holt, her partner, Adam O’Connor, and ex-SEAL Chief Frank Stein be able to set aside their differences to stop them before someone dies? And who will Maggie choose, the handsome cowboy, or her charismatic DEA partner?

Photo of author, Jacquie Biggar

AUTHOR BIO:

Jacquie Biggar is a USA Today bestselling author of romance who loves to write about tough, alpha males and strong, contemporary women willing to show their men that true power comes from love. She lives on Vancouver Island with her husband and loves to hear from readers all over the world!

In her own words:

“My name is Jacquie Biggar. When I’m not acting like a total klutz, I am a wife, mother of one, grandmother, and a butler to my calico cat.

My guilty pleasures are reality tv shows like Amazing Race and The Voice. I can be found every Monday night in my armchair plastered to the television laughing at Blake and Adam’s shenanigans.

I love to hang at the beach with DH (darling hubby) taking pictures or reading romance novels (what else?).

I have a slight Tim Hortons obsession, enjoy gardening, everything pink, and talking to my friends.”

She has been blessed with a long, happy marriage and enjoys writing romance novels that end with happily-ever-afters.

Connect with Jacquie at:

Amazon | Website | Facebook | Newsletter Twitter | Pinterest | GoodReads | Bookbub
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Jacquie has a way with characters and words as you can tell from those excerpts. I’ve read several books in her Wounded Hearts series and have enjoyed them all. It sounds like she has another winner on her hands with The Seal’s Temptation. Please help Jacquie celebrate her release by dropping her a comment and using the sharing buttons below to spread the news!

UNIVERSAL PURCHASE LINK

Off the Radar Today

Hey, everyone! This spot is usually filled with a Book Review Tuesday post, but I’m going to be off the radar today, celebrating my DH’s birthday. As I type this, the weather is supposed to be beautiful–full sun and low sixties. Given the wind and rain we had last week, I’ve got my fingers crossed the forecast will hold true (I’m typing this a few days ahead).

I’m closing comments and won’t be able to visit posts today, though I will try to catch up tomorrow. I’ve got a special guest on Thursday I hope you’ll come back for, and I have two exceptional books up for review next week.

Until then–have a good one, and happy Tuesday!

A beam of light shines out from an open book

Book Spotlight: Dead on the Delta @KnowltonSBooks @SunburyPress #suspense #thriller

An open book with rays and orbs of light shooting from the pages

Hi, friends. Welcome to another Book Spotlight, featuring author Sherry Knowlton of Sunbury Press. Sunbury is a traditional publishing house not far from my location in Pennsylvania. I’ve agreed to share books from their authors that align with the interests of my blog readers—mostly mystery, suspense, thriller, and supernatural-themed works.

Today, I’m spotlighting, Dead on the Delta. Take a look and let me know what you think in the comments below. Please drop Sherry a “hello” as well. She’ll be popping in to chat. I love the setting she chose for this novel. What do you think? Exotic, much? 🙂


Book cover for Dead on the Delta by Sherry Knowlton shows lie lying in grass

Book Blurb:
Alexa Williams is about to spend four months doing lion research in the African bush with her boyfriend Reese. She looks forward to witnessing the elemental life and death struggle of the wild, but she never imagines she’ll become one of the hunted on the remote Okavango Delta.

Botswana protects its wildlife with strict policies and an entire army deployed to combat poaching. So Alexa and Reese are shocked when poachers wipe out an entire herd of elephants. At the site of the mass slaughter near their lion project, they promise authorities that they’ll watch for suspicious activity as they travel the Delta.

When the country’s strict wildlife conservation policies come under debate in the capital, tensions flare and Alexa begins to suspect the ongoing poaching incidents may be about even more than the illicit ivory trade. Especially when a close friend dies when caught in the crossfire.

After an alarming series of near escapes, gunmen attack the safari camp where she and Reese are staying, and Alexa must brave wild animals and the dangerous labyrinth of Delta channels in a desperate attempt to save the hostages, including the man she loves.

Book Links:
Sunbury Press | Amazon

Author, Sherry Knowlton

Author Bio:
Sherry Knowlton is the author of the Alexa Williams suspense series, including Dead of Spring and Dead of Winter. Passionate about books at an early age, she was that kid who would sneak a flashlight to bed at night so she could read beneath the covers. All the local librarians knew her by name. When not writing the next Alexa Williams thriller, Knowlton works with her health care consulting business or travels around the world. She and her husband live in the mountains of Southcentral Pennsylvania.

Author website

Book Review Tuesday: The Body in the Beauty Parlor by Judi Lynn #cozymystery, Vampire on the Orient Express by Shane Carrow #vampirehorror

It’s Tuesday, and that means it’s time for more book reviews. I’ve followed the Jazzi Zanders series from book one, and have loved seeing the growth of the characters plus the creative plots Judi Lynn weaves for her heroine. There’s always a murder to solve when Jazzi and her hunky husband Ansel (her “norseman” or “viking”) are around. If you enjoy cozy mysteries, I highly recommend this series.

BLURB:
In their hair salon, Jazzi’s sister Olivia and mother are savvy businesswomen whose creativity brings fashion and flair to the folks of Rivers Bluff, Indiana. So when their newest hairstylist Misty is caught scamming clients’ debit cards and selling beauty products during off hours to pocket the profits, Olivia fires her. But Misty retaliates by hitting back with a defamation lawsuit—which she is more than happy to drop if Olivia pays her ten grand.
 
But neither blackmail nor courtroom fees are accrued after Misty’s body is discovered in the salon with Olivia’s scissors stuck in her chest. Olivia may be the number one suspect, but her murdered employee had a reputation for making enemies.
 
Then Jazzi’s ex Chad appears, asking for help with his marital strife. This already awkward situation worsens when Chad’s wife vanishes and the police investigate him. Now, it’s up to Jazzi to clear both her sister’s and ex’s names while the killer—or killers—could be a mere hair breadth’s away . . .

MY REVIEW:
I thoroughly enjoyed this sixth outing for Jazzi, her husband, Ansel, their extended family, and group of friends. As always, Jazzi and Ansel are at the heart of the book with Jazzi playing amateur sleuth. In this case, there are two mysteries, both which hit close to home. Her sister, Olivia’s, newest employee is found dead in Olivia’s hair salon, and Jazzi’s ex-fiancé’s wife disappears under highly questionable circumstances. Of course, Jazzi, Ansel, and Jazzi’s cousin, Jerod, also have a house to remodel and flip. Add in a large family, a looming Easter celebration, and Jazzi has her hands full.

As with all the Jazzi mysteries, this is a pleasurable read. The action is split behind sleuthing and Jazzi’s family life. Lynn’s writing style is breezy and easy to read. Characters feel like old friends and the two mysteries are deftly handled. Even Jazzi and Ansel’s pets—Geroge the pug, and cats, Inky and Marmalade—get moments to shine. If you enjoy cozies, this is one series and group of characters who will win your heart. Satisfying from start to finish!

5 STARS

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And, now in a completely different vein:

BLURB:
Paris, 1914. American adventurer Sam Carter boards the Orient Express, departing France in style after an impulsive decision to desert the Foreign Legion. British diplomat Lucas Avery is already nursing a drink in the smoking car, resenting his assignment to the distant Ottoman Empire. Neither man expects anything more from the next three days and three thousand miles than rich food, expensive champagne and fine cigars.

But something dangerous is lurking aboard the train, hiding in plain sight among French aristocrats and German businessmen. Through fire and darkness, through blood and ice, the Orient Express is bearing an ancient evil across the continent – and not all its passengers will live to see Constantinople…

MY REVIEW:
The cover and the setting of this book sucked me in as soon as I saw it. Murder mystery, the Orient Express, and vampires all couched in the year 1914. What a combination! The author didn’t disappoint and delivered an intriguing plot. The main characters—Sam Carter, an American ex-Foreign Legion soldier, and Lucas Avery, a British diplomat—are set up to be polar opposites. Descriptions are good and the secondary characters provide excellent support for the two MCs. My only quibble is that I would have liked more character development for the leads. I couldn’t really connect with them, but I seem to be in the minority on that.

Given this the first book of a series, I expect the author will provide additional character growth over time. In many ways the tale reminded me of an early horror film, offering an old-fashioned vampire story wrapped in superstition, folklore, and slowly creeping chills.

The story does have a complete wrap at the end but sets the stage for Carter and Avery to continue working together.

4 STARS

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From cozy mystery to vampire horror, I had several days of diverse reading. I love how books can transport us anywhere–from house renovation and murder in a small town, to a lavish train barreling through Europe in the early days of the twentieth century. As always, I wish you happy reading!

Book Review Tuesday: Confesions on the 7:45 by Lisa Unger @lisaunger #domesticthriller

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’m finally getting caught up with my book reviews, so I’m changing up the format a bit. I normally don’t provide the blurb when I review, but since I’m planning on doing only one book per week, I thought I’d start adding in the blurbs. I still have several back burner reviews, but I may not end up sharing them all. For today, here’s a fabulous domestic thriller.

BLURB:
Selena Murphy is commuting home on the train when she strikes up a conversation with a beautiful stranger in the next seat. The woman introduces herself as Martha and soon confesses that she’s been stuck in an affair with her boss. Selena, in turn, confesses that she suspects her husband is sleeping with the nanny. When the train arrives at Selena’s station, the two women part ways, presumably never to meet again.

Then the nanny disappears.

As Selena is pulled into the mystery of what happened, and as the fractures in her marriage grow deeper, she begins to wonder, who was Martha really? But she is hardly prepared for what she’ll discover…

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MY REVIEW:
The plot of this novel sucked me as soon as I read it. Selena, a mother of two, is coming home on the train after a day at her office when the woman beside her strikes up a conversation. Martha confesses to sleeping with her boss, and in a moment of uncharacteristic openness, Selena confesses she believes her husband is sleeping with her nanny, Geneva. When the train reaches its destination, the two part ways. Not long afterward, Geneva goes missing.

As the police launch an investigation, Selena’s marriage and her whole world implodes. Who was the woman on the train, and why is Selena suddenly receiving text messages from her?

I found this book a bit slow getting off the ground, especially when a third character outside of the main thread (Pearl) was introduced. Although I liked Pearl—a lot—there were a few hiccups in following what was happening and when. By the middle of the book, however, I was hooked and couldn’t read fast enough to see how everything played out.

The twists and turns, much like left and right jabs, kept flying out of nowhere. A few elements stretch the imagination, but for sheer entertainment value, this is a delicious psychological thriller with a superbly satisfying ending. Another book I would love to see made into a movie. I will definitely seek out more by this author.

5 STARS

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I’m glad I stuck with this one despite the slow start. The payoff was entirely worth it and I made another dent in the TBR!

As always, whatever tale you’re presently enjoying, I wish you happy reading!

Book Review Tuesday: The Vampire Connoisseur, Wings and Fire #horroranthologies #horrorfiction #shortstories

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

It’s Book Review Tuesday time, and today I have two collections of short stories for you. Both of these anthologies are in a similar vein, with the focus on horror and dark fantasy. Anthologies are a great way to discover new authors, plus glean treats from authors you already enjoy. If you enjoy fiction with elements of the supernatural, dark fantasy, or horror, you’re sure to like these.
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Todd Sullivan Presents: The Vampire Connoisseur
Various Authors

Every now and then I love to disappear between the pages of an anthology, especially when it’s delivered with a central theme. I don’t read a lot of horror, but I do enjoy it now and then, and I liked the idea of The Vampire Connoisseur being themed around, well…vampires. Don’t expect stakes, crosses, and garlic.

What made this collection so intriguing is the diversity in the plots the authors delivered–all so unique with distinctive voices. Some stories deliver subtle goosebumps and chills while others carry more than a slant of gore. As in any anthology, readers are bound to savor a few stories over others. For me, I especially enjoyed The Red Angel by Lisa Hario, The Sun Sets Nonetheless by Priscilla Bettis, Splinters by Keawe Melina Patrick, Parasites: A tale of Route 66 by B.J. Thrower and Take Me Home Tonight by Troy Diffenderfer. Of special note, I loved the mentions of Woody Guthrie in the Route 66 tale.

Read a few stories at a time or read them all at once. However you choose, this is an enjoyable collection for vampire lovers and lovers of horror.

4 STARS
AMAZON LINK
Genre: Vampire Horror . Dark Fantasy Horror

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Wings and Fire
Various Authors

Normally, in an anthology, there are a few stories that don’t quite deliver the punch of the others. Not so with Wings and Fire. This is one of the best collections of stories I’ve read, all of the tales polished with slick writing and clever delivery. I was riveted from start to finish.

A few of the many gems that stood out for me are the stories by Roberta Eaton Cheadle and Jessica Bakkers, especially An Unsolvable Problem or Not by Cheadle and Tasmanian Devil by Bakkers. Other stories (among many) that struck a chord were Wings of Prosperity by Heather Kindt, Dark Obsession by Susan Lamb, Mary by Adele Marie Park, and The Great Potto by M.J. Mallon. Creepy, eerie, and mesmerizing!

Tales vary between spooky, sinister, and edge-of-your-seat suspenseful, but all are brilliant,
delivering the gut punch stories of this nature should. There is one story I skimmed, the content darker than the others, but overall, highly recommended! I thoroughly enjoyed this gem.

5 STARS
AMAZON LINK
Genre: Horror Anthology

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Are you a fan of anthologies? As an author, I’ve contributed to several in the past and have always enjoyed the experience. As a reader, collections like these make for nice “snacks” between longer works. Whatever title is currently on your eReader or keeping you enthralled in paperback form, I wish you happy reading! 🙂

Book Spotlight: Bottom Feeders @_JerryRoth_ @SunburyPress #horror #supernaturalthriller

An open book with rays and orbs of light shooting from the pages

Hi, friends. Welcome to a new feature you’ll likely see on my blog once or twice a month for the foreseeable future. Sunbury Press is a traditional publishing house located not far from where I live in Central Pennsylvania. Their marketing assistant reached out to me to see if I would be interested in sharing occasional releases on my blog. I’ve asked for those books that may appeal to my followers, mostly mystery/suspense or in the supernatural vein.

Today, I’m sharing the first selection they’ve sent, Bottom Feeders by Jerry Roth. This book is tearing up the charts on Amazon. Take a look and let me know what you think in the comments below.

Image of hands gripping jail cell bars, red eyes glowing in background

Book Blurb:

Would you recognize the Devil if you met him?

A decaying prison hides a dark secret. Robert Deville, the youngest prison warden in the history of the state, never expected to feel a supernatural connection in a prison. After discovering a diary, Robert learns a prisoner, rumored to be the Devil, was hidden away under his feet.

Was this prisoner responsible for a fire that killed hundreds of prisoners? Did he play a part in the murder of a local family years earlier? Robert must learn the prisoner’s true identity and unravel why he hasn’t aged in decades.

Surviving a relationship with an abusive ex-husband, Jenny Deville is dealing with the pain of her past. Noticing a sudden change in her son’s behavior, and his horrifying drawings of murders, no child should ever witness, she must discover the cause.

As local children mysteriously disappear, there is little time to prove who the killer really is.

Book Links:
Sunbury Press | Amazon | Independent Book Review

Author, Jerry RothAuthor Bio:
Jerry Roth is a graduate from The Ohio State University where he studied English Literature. He has written for Ohio newspapers and sports articles for the Disc Golf Pro Tour. His fiction career began as a screenwriter. He lives in Moxahala, Ohio with his wife Tricia and his three children Jesse, Lea, and Nick. After reading The Stand by Stephen King, he became passionate about creating his own work of fiction. Bottom Feeders is his debut novel.

Author website