Book Review Tuesday: Grinders by C. S. Boyack

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 imageHappy St. Patricks Day, everyone! Whether you’re Irish or not, ’tis a day for the wearing’ o’ the green, and a tip o’ the hat to the wee folk. Right now, we could all use a little luck given the state of the world in view of Covid-19. Whatever your corner of the planet, I hope you stay safe and well. If you’re stuck inside, it’s the perfect time to catch up on your reading.

With that in mind, let’s jump into this week’s book review!


Book cover for Grinders, a speculative fiction novel features neon lights and holographic images by C. S. BoyackJimi Cabot, and her partner Lou, are two cops assigned to the “Grinder Squad” in a futuristic San Francisco. Grinders are people who have their bodies altered through illegal surgeries which use computer chips to provide enhanced senses. Despite their department assignment, Jimi and Lou usually find their days eaten up by the drudgery of routine patrol and domestic disturbance calls—until they happen upon a trail that may lead to the most wanted grinder in police databanks.

There is strong parallel storyline involving the grinder they’re after, enabling the reader to see both sides of the situation. Beyond that, however, there is so much more that goes on in this book. I loved the friendship that developed between Jimi and Brandi (a grinder), and I loved Lou’s tie to Sailor, the horse he rode when he was on mounted patrol before the division was disbanded.

Most intriguing of all is the world Boyack has created. One that includes a “grid” for travelling, bots in all shapes and sizes, and a constant bombardment of advertising. “Holobarkers”­—floating globes broadcasting advertisements—roam the streets, swarming around people with their messages. Cars and buses flash moving advertisements and 3D holographic images are found everywhere. There is an “electric forest” (one of my favorite elements), in the process of being torn down because it is already considered old technology. Holographic spiders and jack-o-lanterns bob around on Halloween, and a 3D King Kong climbs a building to promote a movie. The creativity of this world is off the charts. Every page brings some new wonder or futuristic element that is vividly portrayed. Between the story and inventions, I was mesmerized. A highly original work!

AMAZON LINK
Genre: Cypberpunk > Science Fiction


Grinders is quite the gritty and colorful world. I could so see this as a series on Netflix! 🙂

Book Review Tuesday: Tear Me Apart by J. T. Ellison, Vanished by @mbiermanauthor

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Happy Book Review Tuesday!  Thanks for dropping by to check out what I’ve been reading. As always, I love sharing books, and I have two to chat about today. Check ’em out below…

Book cover for Tear Me Apart by J. T. Ellison shows lighted window in dark house at nightTear Me Apart
by J. T. Ellison
I had expectations going into this book. After reading the blurb, I thought I had a good notion regarding how the bulk of the plot would play out. Um…yeah, that only went so far.
Mindy Wright is a teenage champion downhill skier with a shot at the U.S. Olympic team. She’s got the perfect home life, perfect mom and dad, the world is her oyster. Then a bad crash lands her in the hospital with a broken leg, and in the process, doctors discover she has leukemia and is in need of a stem cell transplant. When her parents are tested for a match, it’s discovered, she’s not their daughter.
You can see where this is headed, right?—wrong. I went into this book with a lot of expectations. But I didn’t plan on Mindy’s aunt working for a government agency, or two characters in the past sharing time and space in a mental hospital. And what about several far too coincidental murders, all of these things spiraling back to Mindy, her perfect parents and her perfect life?
I loved the author’s use of letters to address the past. The story is doled out in bits and pieces, past and present, slowly joining together for an explosive conclusion. The characters are wholly human and horribly flawed, several with agendas that develop as the book progresses. Favorites for me were Juliet, Vivian and Zac, along with Zac’s faithful dog, Kat.
Given the plot, this was a hard book to deliver a satisfying ending, but Elison exceeded expectations. A grand slam home run! If you like stories with complex characters and dark buried secrets with several twists along the way, don’t miss this engrossing book that takes a stark look at human nature. 5 Stars
Genre: Medical Thrillers > Kidnapping Crime Fiction

Book cover for Vanished by Mark Bierman shows a white hand print on a red backgroundVanished
by Mark Bierman

Although this is a work of fiction, it’s tragic to know the book is grounded in reality.  Tyler and John take a mission trip to Haiti. Tyler is grieving the loss of his wife to cancer—who was John’s daughter. Son-in-law and father-in-law have a strong relationship, readily apparent from the start. No sooner do we meet them, however, than a child goes missing, abducted by slave traders. Many of the locals are ready to write the little girl off as lost, as child abductions are commonplace. Tyler takes a different stance, and John is soon in all the way.

What follows is a riveting search to save a life, and a grim look at the ugliness of human trafficking. There were parts of the book that made me squirm, others that brought inspiration and hope. Bierman makes atrocities clear without being graphic, yet the scenes are raw and powerful, the delivery intense. All of the characters are well developed, including secondary roles. The reader becomes enmeshed in the lives of many, the threads that tie various plot points together, expertly handled. Well written and polished, the story moves at a breathless clip and delivers a satisfying ending. Undertaking such a difficult subject is not an easy feat, but Bierman delivered social commentary and an engrossing story in a seamless package.

Amazon Link
Genre: Literature and Fiction


Until next week, I wish you happy reading, and would love to hear your thoughts about the novels above. Let’s chat! 🙂

Book Review Tuesday: The Light: Wake Robin Ridge #4 @MarciaMeara, Earth’s Earliest Ages, George H. Pember, The Whisper Man @writer_north

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 imageWow! It’s a New Year and I’m thoroughly jazzed to start off the week with my first review of 2020! Although I read these book in December, I didn’t want to share them during the hustle-bustle of Christmas for fear they would get overlooked in all the festive merriment.


Book cover for The Light by Marcia Meara shows young boy standing on a rock with hand extended toward a floating orb of lightThe Light: Wake Robin Ridge #4
by Marcia Meara

I have read and enjoyed all of Marcia Meara’s Wake Robin Ridge books, but The Light, is quite possibly my favorite. Rabbit­—a very special eleven-year-old boy who grew up in Appalachia, now the adopted son of Sarah and Mac—takes center stage yet again. Gifted with “the sight” which allows him to see future events as well as “read” others, he is wise beyond his years. An old soul who has a unique way of viewing the world, he has a folksy charm that resonates with every word he utters. Meara’s gift of writing him is exquisite, and despite numerous well-rounded and lovable characters, it’s Rabbit who steals the show.

I adore Mac and Sarah—mostly because of Rabbit’s pure-hearted love for them, and their utter devotion and fierce protective love for him. I’m enamored of several new characters who make their debut in this book—especially Austin—but once you meet Rabbit, you’re eternally smitten. No two ways about it. He’s a character who lingers long after you’ve read the last paragraph.

An added bonus is the inclusion of the Brown Mountain Lights, an unexplained phenomenon that has long fascinated me. Meara does an excellent job of weaving their appearance into a multi-layered plot which covers the gamut from high-brow society to misguided con artists.

If you like family stories with plenty of warmth, ­­­threads of the supernatural and folklore, plus a well-plotted mystery, don’t miss the latest in the Wake Robin Ridge Series. Five big glittery stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Paranormal & Urban Fantasy > Ghost Fiction


Earth’s Earliest Ages
by George H. Pember

Book cover for Earth's Earliest Ages shows alien-looking humanoid in profile, large head, ears and eyes, three pyramids and prehistoric looking bird flying above pyramidsSomeone recommended this book to me, and I found it to be an intriguing read. Originally published in 1884, it is somewhat dense—you won’t breeze through it—but also highly interesting. The author starts at the Beginning. And I do mean THE BEGINNING, as in prior to when God said, “Let there be light.”

Pember takes the reader through the creation of Earth, the Fall, life outside the gates of Eden, the sin of Cain and the rise of Watchers or b’nai ha Elohim (“sons of God”) who mingled with humans, resulting in the birth of the Nephilim, half celestial, half human beings. All from a Biblical perspective.

He offers the belief that Nephilim (as well as Principalities of the Air) were the ancient gods of Babylonia, Egypt and Persia, as well as the gods of Rome and Greece. But there’s much more, including a close look at life leading up to the Great Flood. Later, he addresses how the sorcerers of Ancient Egypt were able to duplicate several of the plagues Moses—through God—inflicted on Pharaoh and the Egyptians.

Earth’s Earliest Ages, was written in a time when Spiritualism was exploding. The first half of the book is devoted to studying Old Testament events and comparing Pember’s day to the days of Noah. The last half of the book takes an in-depth look at Spiritualism, Theosophy, and Buddhism. Although I found the section on Spiritualism interesting (due to the amount of research I did on sham aspects of the religion for a novel), I waded through the chapters on Theosophy and Buddhism. That aside, Pember offers up several interesting theories and backs them from a Biblical perspective. Despite being published over a century ago, the text has been updated through multiple editions, and still resonates with the state of our world today in many ways. 4 Stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Nonfiction > Biblical Studies


The Whisper Man
by Alex North

Book cover for The Whisper Man by Alex North shows ragged handprint with open butterfly wings serving as palm. Blackimage on white backgroundChalk this up to one of my favorite reads of the year! After his wife dies unexpectedly, Tom Kennedy moves with his young son, Jake, to the tiny village of Featherbank in an effort to start fresh. Jake is a sensitive child, prone to talking to an imaginary friend. At first things appear to be moving in the right direction, then Tom learns that he and his son have moved into the neighborhood “scary house.” Worse, Featherbank is also the site of several child abductions and murders decades in the past. The serial killer responsible was known as the Whisper Man due to a habit of whispering to his victims outside their bedroom windows. Just before Tom and Jake settle into their new house, a young boy goes missing. Then Tom overhears Jake reciting part of a rhyme: “If you leave a door half open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken…”

Where to begin? This is a highly suspenseful, creepy read with intricate layers. Not only do we have Tom and Jake—with Tom struggling on so many levels to be the father Jake needs—but two detective inspectors are also front and center. DI Pete Willis is the man responsible for bringing the Whisper Man to justice decades ago, and DI Amanda Beck is the lead on the current abduction case. A case that bears eerie similarities to the Whisper Man’s crimes.

Twists and turns? Oh, yes! I smugly thought I had part of the story figured out early on, only to have the proverbial rug wrenched from under me. Plus, there are HUGE surprises in store. WOW moments that induce goosebumps. I’m in awe by how expertly the author wove everything together.

Originally, I was a little cat-shy about reading a story that involved child victims, but there is nothing graphic here. The past is only touched on in a sinister, but distant way. What makes this book so unforgettable is the atmosphere North conjures in most every scene—like a storm waiting to break. The creep-factor is subtle, but deliciously wrought, and the ending delivers another jaw-dropper. If you like well-written, tightly plotted, suspenseful reads with a hint of eeriness, don’t pass up The Whisper Man. I highly recommend this one! Five whopping big stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Horror Suspense > Ghost Mysteries > Ghost Thrillers

Last Minute Christmas Shopping? Preorder an ebook!

In many ways, December is a double-edged sword when it comes to book releases. On one hand—prior to Christmas—many are looking to gift books as presents. After Christmas, there is usually a huge pool of readers who have received gift cards for books, and are considering what to purchase.

The downside?

Not a lot of bloggers and readers are online during the week leading into Christmas or the week after. So, what’s an author to do?

If you’re like me, you take a chance, and float a post in the blogosphere anyway.

The last book on my publishing contract with Kensington is being released on December 31st. In one respect, it’s a cool way to close out the year. In another, I fear Eventide may get lost in the shuffle. I’d love if it launched with New Year’s Eve fireworks and a lot of rah-rah-rahs to pave the way. It’s been on pre-order for a while now, and I know many of you have already clicked that button (THANK YOU!). If you haven’t, here are a few snippets from pre-release reviews that I hope may entice you.

Book cover for Eventide, a Hode's Hill novel by Mae Clair shows an old abandoned house in a wash of blue tones

“Mae Clair has an unparalleled voice. Her writing is lyrically beautiful and powerfully evocative. She sets a sinister mood like no other author on the market. She’s on my auto-buy list, and with good reason. Just when I think she can’t possibly top her last work, she does. I’m eagerly awaiting her next title, and it is without reservation I give this novel five well-deserved stars.”
…Author and editor, Staci Troilo

“Once again, Mae Clair makes things that “go bump in the night” come to life with devilishly detailed scenes, a plot that encompasses decades and a mystery that begs to be uncovered . . .Great characters, a touch of the paranormal, and a rollercoaster ride to the end!”
…Tome Tender Book Reviews

“The plot runs both in the past (1800s) and in the present day and gives you plenty of mystery, suspense, and twists in both timelines. While I sussed out that something was up with the historical brothers early on, I completely failed to work out what it was, so kudos to the author for that bit of cunning. A solid five star read.”
…Author and editor, Harmony Kent

“I liked the entertaining and gripping plot that kept me on the edge, the well thought cast of characters and the world building. Even if it’s the last in a series I had no issues with the plot or the characters. I look forward to reading other books by this author as I really liked her style of writing.”
…Anarella, NetGalley Reviewer

“Mae Clair paints her stories with masterful imagery and a host of lovable characters just as imperfect and flawed as the rest of us. That makes walking beside them within the story, all the easier! If you love a great mystery with a touch of the paranormal, you won’t be disappointed in Eventide!”
…Author, Debbie Peterson

These are only snippets from a few of the reviews that have already surfaced on Goodreads. I’ve been really happy with them, and especially from the number of people who commented how easily Eventide read as a stand-alone, despite it being the close to my Hode’s Hill series. That’s always a concern for an author, but apparently, not something I need to be worried about.

So…If you’re looking for a book to gift, or even scouting out a read of your own, it’s the perfect time to pre-order Eventide. It will have the distinction of popping onto your e-reader on the final day of 2019. A close to a series, and a close to the year. Not such a bad match, when you think about it 🙂

Banner ad for Eventide, a mystery novel by Mae Clair, features a dilapidated old house

BLURB:
The darkness is coming . . .

The old house near Hode’s Hill, Pennsylvania is a place for Madison Hewitt to start over—to put the trauma of her husband’s murder, and her subsequent breakdown, behind her. She isn’t bothered by a burial plot on the property, or the mysterious, sealed cistern in the basement. Not at first. Even the presence of cold spots and strange odors could be fabrications of her still troubled mind. But how to explain her slashed tires, or the ominous messages that grow ever more threatening?

Convinced the answer lies in the past, Madison delves into the history of the home’s original owners, only to discover the origin of a powerful evil. An entity that may be connected to a series of gruesome attacks that have left police baffled. No matter where she turns—past or present—terror lingers just a step away, spurred on by a twisted obsession that can only be satisfied through death…

UNIVERSAL PRE-ORDER LINK

Book Review Tuesday: Haunted House Ghost @jamescudney4, My Girl @JacqBiggar, Through the Nethergate by Roberta Eaton Cheadle, Moonlight Becomes You by Mary Higgins Clark

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I’m back with my second and final Book Review Tuesday post for the month of December. As mentioned in last week’s post, I won’t be sharing reviews on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve, as I fear many readers won’t be online and I’d like to give the authors of the books I’ve read as much exposure as possible. Today’s variety includes a cozy mystery, a second-chance romance, and young-adult horror.


Book cover for cozy mystery Haunted House Ghost by James J. Cudney shows cartoon sketch of old house on hillside in front of full moon with cartoon ghost aboveHaunted House Ghost
A Kellan Ayrwick Cozy Mystery (Braxton Campus Mysteries Book 5)

by James J. Cudney

This is my first Braxton Campus mystery. It was a delight discovering these characters—and there are many. When you join a series in progress, it’s easy to get lost, but not with the Braxton series. The author did an excellent job of establishing who was who, as well as explaining the relationships that connected all the people in this fabulous fictional setting.

College professor and amateur sleuth, Kellan, moves into an old house only to discover it may be haunted by ghosts of the past. Set during Halloween, this cozy relies on past connections, family histories, plenty of secrets, and a cast of suspects that keeps the reader guessing. Toss in a fifty-year old skeleton, an eccentric psychic, plus Halloween happenings, and you can’t go wrong.

Kellan’s family is a delight—especially Nana D who is fond of calling him “brilliant one.” His developing romance with town sheriff, April, adds a nice hint of romance to the layers of mystery. Grab your scorecard, tally up the suspects, and take your best guess. If you like cozies, you’re sure to enjoy this charmer! 5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Psychic Mysteries > Mystery Series > Ghost Mysteries 


Book cover for My Girl by Jacquie Biggar shows couple sharing a kiss behind a bouquet of flowersMy Girl: Gambling Hearts—Book Three
by Jacquie Biggar

Jacquie Biggar does it again! If you love second chance romances, you’re sure to love this story! Trish is a city girl from a corporate background, Aaron, a Texas rancher. Romantically involved for a time, family conflicts forced them to part. Now Trish, her parents, and her fiancé, are the first guests at the ranch Aaron owns along with his sibling—a place now opening as a dude/guest ranch.

Sparks fly right from the get-go, but there is plenty of trouble in the form of Trish’s slimy fiance (her father forced the arrangement) and her interfering parents. There’s also a surprise or two tucked into the plot, including how some of these characters end up. But one thing you can count on is the HEA at the end. It’s a sweet journey getting there with plenty of ups and downs, but the conclusion will leave you with a fuzzy feeling and a sloppy grin. I love everything Jacquie Biggar writes, but she really hit a home run with this charmer. Of special note: although this is the third book in a series, it easily stands on its own as well. 5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genres: Western Romance > Women’s Romance Fiction


Book cover for Through the Nethergate by Roberta Eaton Cheadle shows young girl standing in open doorway at top of dark staircase descending downThrough the Nethergate
by Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Margaret is a girl with a special gift that allows her to see ghosts who are trapped in an overworld between Heaven and Hell. She’s able to help them regain life, then help them move on in the hereafter. When she moves in with her grandfather after the death of her parents, Margaret encounters a number of ghosts, and a particularly nasty black dog that is actually the embodiment of Hugh Bigod, an evil spirit who has held the ghosts trapped for centuries. Hugh has his own ideas how Margaret’s gifts can be used to his benefit.

This is a YA horror novel that will also appeal to adults, especially with the deep research the author layers into the historical aspects of the book. I found those the strongest and was enthralled by how skillfully Cheadle brought the past to life. There are a few POV issues and a good deal of internal thought, the latter which occasionally bogs things down, but for the most part this is a quick and easy read. Margaret’s grandfather is also a strong character, and the background of many of the ghosts adds a fascinating aspect. Most of the spirits are based on historic figures. I don’t usually read books that employ Lucifer as a character, and admit to skimming some of those chapters, but overall, I found this a compelling story on multiple levels. 4 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Young Adult Horror


Book cover for Moonlight Becomes you by Mary Higgins Clark shows full white moon on surrounded by clouds on dark skyMoonlight Becomes You
by Marry Higgins Clark

It’s been a while since I’ve read a book by Mary Higgins Clark. I was anxious to try this one because of a plot thread regarding Victorian burial customs. Maggie Holloway reconnects with her stepmother, Nuala, at a cocktail party. The two women haven’t seen each other since Maggie was a child but their connection is immediate. Shortly afterward, Nuala is murdered by an unknown assailant and Maggie inherits her home.

The plot involves residents of Latham Manor, a luxury living center for seniors, complete with medical staff on the premises. Maggie becomes friendly with one of Nuala’s friends, only to have that woman die unexpectedly. She soon realizes that several residents of Latham Manor have passed away in a short amount of time, and while visiting their graves discovers Victorian burial bells by their tombstones. Although this isn’t the main thread of the story, it adds an interesting twist.

There are a lot of characters to keep track of, and the book bogs a bit as each are introduced and their connections to the others become apparent. The story starts with a bang then slows down for quite a while before gaining momentum again, but it’s worth sticking with. While I deduced the identity of the killer around the 60% mark, it was entertaining to see the mystery unravel. The suspenseful ending, along with a nice wrap for the various plot threads made for a satisfying read. 4 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Psychological Fiction > Psychological Thrillers
(Note: I think this reads more like cozy despite the tags on Amazon)


I’ve seen a few of these books getting a lot of attention in the blogosphere within the last few months, so my guess is that some of you have read them, or have them on your TBRs. Either way, I’d love to hear your thoughts about today’s reviews!

Book Review: Finding Hunter by @MarciaMeara #bookreviewtuesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amazon Link
Genre: Psychological Fiction > Romantic Suspense

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

Book Review Tuesday: Shari Lapena, @BalroopShado

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

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


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

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

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

Amazon Link
Genre: Domestic Thrillers


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

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

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

From Do You Remember:

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

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

Amazon Link
Genre: Poetry


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

July Book Reviews, Part Two @bakeandwrite @meg82159 @harmony_kent @MarciaMeara @BetteAStevens #BookishTuesday

Hello, and welcome to the second half of my book reviews for the month of July. If you missed, part one, you can find it here. Summer heat was nearly unbearable for several days this month, but I did manage to devour a number of novels and novellas poolside. To read the blurbs for each, click the Amazon link. My thoughts on each are below . . .

Book cover for Death Among Us a murder mystery anthology shows a limp hand turned palm up on solid surface in wash of gray shadowDeath Among Us: An Anthology of Murder Mystery Short Stories
by multiple authors including Stephen Bentley, Greg Alldredge, Robbie Cheadle, and seven others

I’m a mystery/suspense fan so these stories hit all the right notes for me. The collection is varied with several authors contributing multiple tales to the collection. Read one or two at a time or gobble several back to back. The authors are great at transporting you into twisted worlds of murder most foul. You’re bound to find your personal favorites, but there are several that really stood out for me.

I was mesmerized by the historic angle Robbie Cheadle used in her all of her tales that address such unusual characters as chimney sweeps in Victorian England and monks, among others. She did an exceptional job of dropping her readers into the grimy period of the Industrial Revolution and other equally intriguing settings. Red Solo Cup by by Kelly Artieri has two couples undertaking a day boating. A twisty little tale with a cool title and an unexpected ending. She also does a great job with That’s What Best Friends Do which has a kick-butt ending, The slightly horror jive of Monitaur by Michael Spinelli kept me enthralled, and he hit a home run with No Man’s Land involving a dangerous fugitive. The dialogue is spot on.

All the authors are to be commended for such a great collection. Enjoy! 5 Stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Mystery Anthologies > Mashup Fiction


Book cover for Meg: Hell's Aquarium by Steve Alten shows small child standing in front of aquarium with colossal sharkMeg: Hell’s Aquarium
by Steve Alten

Book number four of the Meg saga has left me with mixed feelings. In some aspects, this is my favorite of all the novels. Angel, the albino Megladon shark, has birthed a litter of five pups. Three are “runts”—Angelica, Mary Kate, and Ashley (yes, after the Olsen twins—there was an internet contest to name them). The other two are “juveniles”—Lizzy (after the infamous Countess Elizabeth Bathroy) and Bela (the Dark Queen). Jonas Taylor is now 66. His son, David, is a twenty-year-old college student working toward a marine biology degree and trying to step out of his father’s shadow. To do that, David agrees to train a roster of potential pilots in an extreme depth submersible for an Arabian Prince who is offering mega $$$. Naturally, said prince is not on the up-and-up about what he’s really after—possible prehistoric creatures that live in depths few men have breached.

The first half of this book blew me away. Lizzy and Bela (the “sisters”) have a symbiotic relationship that makes them mesmerizing from the moment they’re introduced. Angel has held her own for several books, but these two deserve the crown. Entrahlling is putting it lightly.

In the past, the Meg books have always had a kick butt last quarter, but that’s where I was disappointed. The focus shifted away from the Megs to the prehistoric fish and David’s time trapped in the submersible. While there were plenty of heart-pumping moments in the deep, those scenes went on way too long, and I disliked the shift from the Megs. Fortunately, Alten brought his three most powerful sharks back for the conclusion—Angel, Lizzy, and Bela—and set up an intriguing opening for the next (final?) book. I can’t wait to see more of the sisters! 4 Stars.

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


Book cover for Fallout by Harmony KentFallout 
by Harmony Kent

Note: I received an ARC of this novel. The scheduled release date is August 25th, but FALLOUT is available for pre-order through the link below.

Fallout by Harmony Kent is a dark, gritty, twisted apocalyptic story guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat. Exxon 1 has been devastated by a virus, the planet an inhospitable environment where no one can be trusted, especially the planet’s president who is responsible for the outbreak. While people succumb to the virus and others struggle to resist, a vial containing a potential cure becomes the focus of ruthless individuals.

Pryia, a young woman who finds out just how savage her devastated planet can be, becomes entangled in getting the vial into the right hands. But who can be trusted? In the world Kent has created, her multi-layered characters are far from black and white. No one is who they seem, each driven by dark histories and darker goals, each a study in duplicity. There are crosses and double crosses, noble characters who sink to corruption and corrupt characters who discover a sliver of conscience when the clock is ticking to zero hour.

The world building is exceptional, the plot complex but fast paced. This isn’t simply a book about rebuilding a decimated planet, but a story that takes a raw look at human nature. Finally, I loved the full circle arc of the opening scenes gelling so perfectly with the close. A wholly satisfying and riveting read. Highly recommended! 5 Big Glittery Stars!

Amazon Pre-Order Link
Genre: Dystopian Fiction > Post Apocalyptic Science Fiction


Book cover for My Maine by Bette A. Steven'sMy Main: Haiku Through the Seasons
by  Bette S. Stevens

This collection of seasonal haikus is a treat for the senses. Journey through spring, summer, autumn, and winter in the gorgeous state of Maine. The author’s passion for her home state is evident in every word, as she brings nature alive in resplendent images. These haikus are ones to relish. No matter what season you may be experiencing in the “now,” Stevenson skillfully transports you to her Maine, where she evokes nature’s changing face with ease. Photographs and facts about Maine round out the collection. Although this is a short read, it’s one to draw out again and again to savor the images, escaping into the tranquility of the Pine Tree State. 5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Haiku and Japanese Poetry > American Poetry


Book cover for Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine shows single person in a row boat, oars extended out to each side, at night on foggy akeStillhouse Lake
by Rachel Caine

Gina Royal, mother of two, living a quiet suburban life, suddenly has to reinvent herself when her husband is revealed to be a sadistic serial killer. Gina creates a new identity for herself and her children in a remote wooded area near Stilhouse Lake. It’s not the first time she’s had to run or change identities because of haters and stalkers. Not long after she moves in, a body turns up in the lake, mutilated in the same horrific manner as her husband’s victims.

Stillhouse Lake starts off with a gut punch­—Gina discovering her husband’s secret life as a murderer, but then bogs down for a bit. I wasn’t invested until about the 35% mark. There’s a lot of Gina/Gwen thinking/explaining her life before “the event” (as she refers to the discovery) and how she and her kids have managed since. I’m glad I stuck with the novel. It does take off once it gets going, and Gina/Gwen is a force to be reckoned with.

Good story telling, but for me there were some plot issues­—namely Gina not going into her husband’s garage/killing den the entire time she’s married, the kids never curious about what their dad is doing in there. The author would have been far better to set Melvin’s torture chamber somewhere way from the house, not in the attached garage!

The book itself is pretty grim, and although the plot of the novel is resolved, the overall arc doesn’t finish. I will probably skip the next in the series, my stomach for serial killer novels not as strong as it used to be. And although I pegged the killer early on, the ending delivered a nail-biting conclusion with an unexpected twist. All things considered, 3.5 stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Serial Killer Thrillers > Women’s Crime Fiction > Women’s Psychological Fiction


Book cover for Summer Magic by Marcia Meal shows tree at night, backlit by starry skySummer Magic: Poems of Life and Love
by Marica Meara

I loved this collection of poetry that effortlessly transported me back to the magic of childhood summers. Meara divides her collection into two parts. The first is a glimpse of camping out through the eyes of a character from her popular Wake Robin Ridge Series when he is a ten-year-old boy, the second half a view of love, life, seasons and dreams.

The words and scenarios she weaves throughout are spell binding—camping under the stars, soaring through the air from a swing suspended above a creek, splashing through rain puddles, watching a meteor shower, delivering a final wish to a soul mate—all sheer magic. Read this wonderful book any time of year for a journey to summers filled with love, curiosity, and wonder. 5 stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: American Poetry > 90 Minute Literature and Short Fiction Reads


As always, I hope you found something to intrigue you among my collection of titles. I’ve already got several titles on my radar for August. Happy reading!

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!