Fiction Book Reviews by Mae: A Cut Above by Judi Lynn @judypost, Lunar Boogie by C. S. Boyack @Virgilante #bookreviews

Cute striped kitten with open book and eyeglasses lying on white bed

Thanks for joining me for another day of book reviews. I have two fantastic indie releases to share, each part of a series. The first is the debut release for the Karnie Cleaver series, while the second is book number four in the popular Lizzie and the Hat adventures. Obviously Karnie can be read as a standalone, since the series is just starting, but the Hat can as well. Mystery and adventure can be found in both camps!

BOOK BLURB:

Karnie works in her family’s butcher shop. When Donna Amick stalks to the meat display case and tries to pressure her to leave the family business to work for her, Karnie turns her down, flat. But Donna doesn’t like to take “no” for an answer. The next morning, Donna’s body is found behind A Cut Above with a meat cleaver embedded in the back of her head. Detective Carmichael’s top suspect is Sam Lessman, who trained at their shop and then went to work for Donna as a full time butcher. Karnie knows it can’t be him and decides to prove it. Unfortunately, that’s a lot harder to do in real life than it is in the mysteries she reads.

MY REVIEW:

I enjoyed this novel introducing the Karnie Cleaver mysteries by author Judi Lynn. She has a deft pen with cozies, as proven by her Jazzie Zanders series. Lynn scores again with Karnie and her family who own the A Cut Above butcher shop. Once again, Lynn populates her tale with plenty of interesting characters. Aside from Karnie and her family, the reader gets to know several of the customers (regulars) who visit the butcher shop. I love Mrs. Sprunger! Then there’s Matt, the owner of a nearby farm, who is divorced with two small children. It’s clear from the start Matt is set on turning Karnie’s head, but she’s not so easily convinced. As he tells her, she’s “prickly.”

She knows what she wants. She’s happy living alone, working the counter at the butcher shop and producing a video cooking show with tips on how to prepare various dishes using the meats her family sells. Her following is so popular the owner of a new, rival butcher shop tries to lure her away with a chunky salary. Not long after Karnie turns her down, Donna Amick ends up dead, a meat cleaver in the back of her head. Karnie is not a suspect but that doesn’t stop her from trying to discover who is responsible, especially given the woman’s body was dumped behind A Cut Above.

The sleuthing alternates with plenty of family scenes and an evolving relationship between Matt and Karnie. I love his kids, and their dog, Jolly. Isn’t that a great name for a dog?

On the murder end, there are several suspects with motive, plus a second murder to contend with. Then somebody attempts to break into Karnie’s house, and the stakes get higher. The murderer is revealed in a tense and suspenseful moment (some nail biting on my part), and the ending provides a perfect wrap while setting up the characters for more adventure. I for one will be following this delightful series. And as a bonus, the author includes several recipes at the back of the novel. A winner all the way around!

BOOK BLURB:

Lizzie and the hat are back in action, only this time they’re up against the most tragic monster of all, a werewolf.

This adventure is more like hunting an animal, and the werewolf is unlikely to come to any of their musical performances. This puts Lizzie out in the dark corners and wooded areas of the city. It may be more beneficial to get the monster to hunt Lizzie than to stalk him on his own turf. All she has to do is be quicker on the trigger than the wolf is on his feet.

At the same time, the police think they’re after a serial killer. Lizzie tries to keep them alive while also keeping them out of her way. As the body count rises, so do the pressures. It doesn’t help that people are blaming Lizzie and the hat for the killings. This involves an urban myth about them that the locals call Hellpox.

Pull on your boogie shoes and join the hunt. Designed as an afternoon read, this one is tons of supernatural fun.

MY REVIEW:

I’ve followed this series from the start, enjoying the unique blend of superhero antics, supernatural complications, and music a-plenty. Part buddy tale, party mystery, and part adventure, Lunar Boogie is my favorite entry to date for Lizzie and the Hat. This time they’re up against a werewolf on a killing spree, which leads local law enforcement to think they have a serial killer on their hands.

The addition of Joe Yoder, a police lieutenant who talks to his dead wife, brought a new dimension—both on the home front (he misses her terribly) and in crime solving. Normally, the reader witnesses Lizzie and the Hat tracking their quarry, but in this case, we see their progress along with the efforts of the police—and frustrations on both sides. I liked the police procedural element, plus the author’s unique take on werewolves being “the most tragic of all” monsters.

For long time fans of the series, Kevin, the vampire with a lisp, returns for a few scenes and we get more Night Bump Radio (“what goes bump in your night?”). As noted before, Boyack has a vivid and clever imagination. It’s on display here, along with the hat’s trademark snarky dialogue. The banter between Lizzie and her alien sidekick (who has to assume the guise of a hat) is highly entertaining. If you like the supernatural, superheroes, and super snark, grab a copy of Lunar Boogie. You can jump right in without needing to read the previous stories. The author designed it that way. Although the whole series is entertaining, Boyack hit new highs with this one!


5 Stars to Both of These Fun and Adventurous Reads!

Book Review Tuesday: The Body in the Apartment, The Trophy Wife, Subject A36 #CozyMystery #PsychologicalThriller #YADystopian

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 imageIt’s been ages since I did a book review Tuesday, and I have a LOT of reviews I haven’t shared. I’m going to work in my five star reads as I continue to add new ones. I did read one or two not-the-best of books during my absence, and I’ll skip those. For now, take a gander at these!


Cute pug dog looking into the open door of an apartmentThe Body in the Apartment
by Judi Lynn

House flippers, Jazzi, Ansel, their families and friends are back in the fourth Jazzi Zanders mystery novel. This time around the stakes are higher as Jazzi finds herself immersed in two separate murders.

The book starts with a bang—literally. Ansel’s brother Radley is in River Bluff when their older brother Bain arrives to try to get Radley to return to the family farm. After an argument between Radley and Bain, Radley’s boss is shot and killed. Bain becomes the prime suspect when it’s discovered his gun is missing from his truck. Murder #1, but things are far from over. It isn’t long before another killing occurs.

As Jazzi and her detective friend Gaff begin to fit the pieces together, it becomes apparent the two murders are related. Getting there—unraveling multiple threads, false leads, numerous suspects and motives makes this the most intricate Jazzi mystery to date. There are a lot of characters to keep track of, each with plenty of motive. If you like your cozies complex, while maintaining a wonderfully breezy feel, you’ll love this series and this book.

As with most mystery readers, I always like trying to “finger” the murderer before the reveal, but I love the family and friends element in this series every bit as much. This time around there is a wedding to prepare for, the arrival of a new baby, Easter celebrations, and the flush of new romance for new friends. Twine all of that up with a great mystery, adorable pets, two fabulous lead characters, plus lots of home cooking, and you’ve got the winning combination that makes this series a sheer delight!

5 STARS

AMAZON LINK
Genre: Cozy Culinary Mystery > Amateur Sleuth Mysteries


Book cover for the trophy wife shows blue background with wisps of long blonde hair fanning from left spineThe Trophy Wife
by Sunday Tomassetti

Wow! This book amazed me with its many twists and turns. Cate Cabot works at an exclusive boutique in Palm Shores, Florida. She doesn’t do friends, preferring to keep people at a distance—even the boyfriend who loves her. Then Odessa DuVernay walks into the boutique. From the start, Odessa is different than most of the trophy-wife clientele Cate is accustomed to dealing with. She’s pleasant and friendly and takes a sincere interest in Cate—inviting her to lunch, engaging her in girl talk, going to a movie matinee.

It’s an adjustment for Cate. Then just when she finds herself opening up, Odessa mysteriously disappears. Not long afterward, Cate gets a panicked voicemail from Odessa asking to meet. When Cate arrives at the designated place, Odessa ghosts her. Concerned, Cate begins a search of her new friend, only to hit obstacle after obstacle. It’s like Odessa DuVernay never existed.

This is where things get VERY weird. Not just one unexpected turn, but several surprises that are cleverly unraveled a bit at a time by the author. When the final revelation arrives, it’s a jaw-dropper, and SOOOOO GOOOD! A thread I never expected, but one I love when it is handled deftly and Tomassetti definitely did that. If you enjoy psychological fiction, this is an inventive and highly riveting take on the genre. Superb!

5 STARS

AMAZON LINK
Genre: Women’s Psychological Fiction > Women’s Crime Fiction

NOTE: The ebook seems to have disappeared from Amazon so the link above is for the audio book. I couldn’t even find the ebook on B&N. Very strange.


Book cover for Subject A36 by Teri Polen shows title text over watermark of old building, plus small figure a man in silhouetteSubject A36
by Teri Polen

Set in a dystopian future, Asher and his team live in a world where children with desirable traits (specific hair or eye color, physical strength, agility, etc), are captured and harvested for “gene stripping” so the wealthy can purchase coveted qualities like selecting from an a la carte menu. After seeing the destruction of his family, seventeen-year-old Asher has found a new family with his team, including, Brynn, who he has come to love and Noah, who is like a brother. But doing what they do comes with excessive risk and plenty of danger.

From the start, there is barely time to catch your breath. The reader is given detailed insight into Asher’s character as well as multiple members of his team. Each are unique and fully fleshed out individuals, the good and the bad.

The Colony—which orchestrates gene stripping—is set on finding and capturing Subject A36, a genetically altered individual designed as the perfect killing machine.

This novel is packed with non-stop action, and shocking revelation piled upon revelation. The writing is smooth and snappy, scenes plunging like a roller coaster from one into the next. I devoured this book in two sittings and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys dystopian fiction, great YA characters, and pulse-pounding action.

5 STARS

AMAZON LINK
Genre: Teen and Young Adult Dystopian 


More reviews to come next week. I don’t want to post too many at once, but hopefully I’ve piqued your interest with a few of these titles. Happy reading!

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

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


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

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

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

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

Amazon Link
Genre: Cozy mystery > Amateur Sleuths 


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

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

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

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

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

Amazon Link
Genre: Romantic Suspense


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