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 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!

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: The Accident, Wall of Silence, Bad Habits @TracyBuchanan @judypost

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Happy Tuesday, friends!I have a new roundup of books for you. I’m still sharing reviews of books I read during April quarantine, along with a newer title. Lately, I’ve been immersed in a single series (Harry Dresden), but we’ll chat about that in the weeks to come. 🙂

In the meantime, I hope one of these fabulous novels tickles your reading fancy.



Book cover for The Accident by Natalie Barelli shows woman from back walking up stepsThe Accident
by Natalie Barelli

I believe I’ve found a new auto-buy author, if the rest of Natalie Barelli’s work is anything like The Accident. Katherine is a shining star on a fast-track career, plus a single mom with a teenage daughter. She becomes friends with Eve, who worms her way into Katherine’s life and her place of employment. When the two have a girls’ night out, Katherine wants to call an Uber, knowing she’s had too much to drink. Eve talks her into driving, pointing out the roads will be deserted. Halfway home, Katherine strikes a pedestrian on a lonely road. Eve convinces her they need to get back in the car and take off. It’s a decision that will become a nightmare for Katherine as her life spirals out of control. But as each day passes and she wrestles with what happened, she realizes Eve is not at all the person she originally thought.

The book gets very twisty very quickly. I blew through it in two sittings, glued to the pages. It’s fast-paced, does require a stretch of credibility in a few places, but is pure popcorn enjoyment. Part soap-opera, part Lifetime movie, it sucks you in quickly and doesn’t let go until the thoroughly satisfying ending. If you enjoy psychological thrillers, this is an excellent read. I’m already scouting out more books by this author.

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


Book cover for Wall of Silence by Tracy Buchanan shows closeup of trees in forest with title  laid overtop imageWall of Silence
by Tracy Buchanan

Wall of Silence presents an interesting mystery and an interesting concept. Melissa Byatt has an ideal life with three wonderful children and a popular husband who is running for a local office. She lives in an upscale “forest” community, with neighbors who look out for one another. Her childhood was less than ideal, but she’s risen above it and has so much for which she’s grateful.

One day she comes home from a bike ride to find her husband stabbed, her three children clustered around him with the knife. It quickly becomes apparent one of them is responsible, but which one and why? When the police arrive, Melissa decides to protect her children at all cost. With her husband, Patrick, in a coma waffling between life and death, Melissa must unravel what happened to so drastically alter her perfect family.

As the book progresses, the reader gains insight not only to the Melissa’s children, her in-laws, and her childhood, but also the neighbors in the community of Forest Grove. A neighborhood Facebook group is used for back and forth chit-chat (and gossip) to advance the story, which I thought was a brilliant and intriguing move by the author. Slowly, old secrets, suspicions and grudges come to light, and many are not who they seem at first glance.

There were times I was thoroughly aggravated by Melissa’s behavior, and the behavior of her children, much of which contributed to the slow build of the story. This is not a book that moves at a fast clip but a mystery that falls into place bits and pieces at a time. The tension is constant and there is always some new nugget of information to keep the reader flipping pages. I found this an intriguing mystery and would definitely read more by this author in the future.

5 Stars
Amazon Link
Genre: British and Irish Literary Fiction > Psychological Fiction


Book cover for Bad Habits by Judi Lynn shows shows bloody revolver in background, cute redhead in foreground on a laptop, yellow Bentley behind herBad Habits
by Judi Lynn

There is a lot of heart in this story. To be sure, there is mystery too—murder, drugs, a crime to solve—but the characters themselves bring an entirely different dimension. Lux hasn’t had a great upbringing or childhood, but she’s independently wealthy. She finds the loving environment she lacked with her own parents with her best friend Gabbie’s family, including Gabbie’s brothers. She’s especially drawn to Keon, a chef, and soon realizes what she feels surpasses simple fondness.

As Keon and Lux grow closer, they find themselves caught up in a web of trouble revolving around Keon’s brother, Tyson. The cast of characters is large, but there are many standouts, including Pete, a cop who’s attracted to Gabbie. I also liked Ian, who found himself in difficult situations even as he tried to do the right thing, and his sister, Shelly—a fifteen-year-old learning the value of self-worth over game-playing and manipulation.

The mystery ties together neatly at the end, but it is the warmth among the characters that brought me a special smile when I finished the story. I also have to mention that I really loved the addition of Lux’s yellow Bentley as a cute aside. Although this story is complete, the book has all the earmarks of an engaging series. A pleasure to read.

5 Stars
Amazon Link
Genre: Amateur Sleuths > Women Sleuths


Although I did a minimal amount of writing during shelter-in-place months, books were my friend. I still have a few more to share before I catch up to the present. You just can’t go wrong with books. Here’s hoping you’ve had a few entraining tales to distract yourself as well! 🙂

New Release: Bounty Hunted by Judi Lynn #UrbanFantasy #ParanormalMystery #ShortRead

Hey, friends! I am super jazzed to be showcasing a new release in a series I positively love! Judi Lynn is a good friend and a USA Today Bestselling Author. I love her Jazzi Zanders cozy mystery series, but I’m also thoroughly gone on her urban fantasy series set in Muddy River. I’m particularly drawn to the extraordinary mix of supernaturals in these books. I asked Judi to drop by and give us some background. Please give her a warm welcome, and get ready to one-click. Every release in this series garnered five star reviews from me and Bounty Hunted is no exception.


Cover for Bounty Hunted by Judi Lynn shows sexy young man, arms folded, leaning against wall in alley

My wonderful blogging friend, Mae Clair, invited me to her page today to let me promote my newest Muddy River short read, BOUNTY HUNTED.  Thank you, Mae!  I not only value Mae as a friend but I admire her writing, so I’m thrilled to be here.

Muddy River is located in southwest Indiana, near the banks of the Ohio River.  And NO MORTALS ARE ALLOWED.  Supernaturals have learned the hard way that when mortals fear something, anything, they’re dangerous.  Many Muddy River residents traveled from the east coast to Indiana to escape the witch hunts, vampire hunts, and various other supernatural hunts that plagued Salem and other settlements.

Hester Wand, the high priestess of Muddy River’s coven, lost everyone in her family to the witch trials in Salem.  Raven Black, a fire demon, left his home when the first signs of trouble started in his area.  Derek Fang, a vampire, fled New York, but he ran to get away from his jealous succubus lover, Allure.  Everyone who came to Muddy River came to find a safe haven, so they decided to work together to protect themselves.

Hester and her coven bespelled wards that no enemies could pass and planted them around the entire area.  The Fae cast an illusion spell so that mortals couldn’t see Muddy River.  And as they all settled in the town and found jobs, they learned to like each other.  So much so, that they mated between their original species.  Derek, who opened a bar in town, mated with Prim Tallow, a Fae, and they adopted a young girl, who’s a witch.  A young half-vampire/half-Siren developed a crush on Cein, part Phoenix.  Lir, a Druid, fell in love with Birch, a young witch who graduated from Hester’s school of magic.  And Deputy Sheriff Brown, a shifter, mated one of the members of Hester’s coven.  It’s rare to find a pure blood anywhere in the area.

They all believe that Muddy River’s safe until a bounty hunter comes to town to capture Derek and take him back to Allure, who’s finally found him again and wants him back.  What no one considered is that bounty hunters are only doing a job.  The wards don’t consider them true enemies, so they don’t block them.  But everyone in town makes it clear that Muddy River takes care of its own.  If someone attacks ONE of them, they attack ALL of them.  Allure won’t back down, though, so a battle is inevitable.  And this time, Hester and Raven decide to take the battle to her in New York.  The odds against them are horrible.  But if they let Allure intimidate them, who’s next?

Hester and Raven won’t have to battle alone.  Allure might have an army, but they have friends.  Some of Muddy River’s most powerful supernaturals volunteer to go with them.  And they have a plan.

Before I leave, I want to thank Mae one last time for sharing her blog with me.  And thanks to everyone who stuck around to visit with me.


Sound good? Trust me, it’s a winner. You can check out my 5-Star review for Bounty Hunted HERE. It’s a short read you can devour in one sitting. Ready to escape to the town of Muddy River? Go forth and one click . . .

PURCHASE FROM AMAZON

You can connect with Judi at the following haunts:

Author Bookbub page: As Judi Lynn | As Judith Post
Other Social Media:
Twitter | Blog | Author Facebook Page

 

Book Review Tuesday: Tattoos and Portents by Judi Lynn @judypost

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Welcome to the last Tuesday of February. It’s amazing how quickly time passes—didn’t we just celebrate Christmas not that long ago?—although when it comes to winter, that speedy passage is appreciated. At least when it’s cold outside, I can snuggle up with a few good books indoors. You’ll find my latest review below, a well-deserved five stars!


Book cover for Tattoos and Portents by Judi Lynn shoes attractive blonde woman i with tattooed arm and mystical headdress holding an orbTattoos and Portents
by Judi Lynn

In the latest Muddy River novel, Hester—a powerful witch—and her sexy fire-demon mate, Raven, are up against an evil priest intent on killing mortals to create an army of zombies. In the process, he abducts three witches who use spelled tattoos to alert others of their captivity.

Muddy River is a series you can basically pick up and start reading anywhere because each book has a standalone plot, but if you’re a follower and fan like me, reconnecting with old friends is a plus. And this time, the supernatural citizens of Muddy River are the midst of Yule celebrations. All the characters I’ve come to love are back, plus several new ones are introduced. There are two fun flirtatious subplots, but the main battle of good magic vs. dark magic is at the core. Druids and voodoo practices also get a splash of attention, building to the ending confrontation. I love when Hester, Raven, and their friends engage in battle!

What makes this series so unique for me is the combination of supernaturals who inhabit Muddy River. Lynn populates her books with all manner of hybrids instead of the usual “stock” preternatural characters. There are pureblood vampires, shifters, etc., but there are also half-sirens/half vampires, half-shifters/half fae—the combinations she comes up with make for fascinating reading as Lynn deftly sucks us into the lives of each. Tattoos and Portents even introduces a Phoenix, who I hope becomes a regular of Muddy River. If you like cozy mysteries with plenty of paranormal and adventurous aspects, plus engaging characters who feel like friends, you’ll love this book and this series. I’m hoping there will be many more to come. A five star gem!

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

 

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Amazon Link
Genre: Paranormal Mysteries > Witch and Wizard Fiction


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

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

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

Let’s chat about it.

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

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


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

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

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

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

Amazon Link
Genre: Cozy mystery > Amateur Sleuths 


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

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

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

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

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

Amazon Link
Genre: Romantic Suspense


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

Reviewing Meg: Nightstalkers @meg82159 and All the Missing Children (Muddy River Mystery 3) @judypost #BookishTuesday

Hi, friends. Since I’ve been reviewing books on a regular basis, rather than holding all my reviews for of the end of the month or even splitting them into two parts, I’ve decided to make a regular habit of sharing book reviews on Tuesdays. This may amount to only one book, or—depending on how much time I have on my hands during the week—it could be more or less. A big fat goose egg (hopefully not). Today, I bring you reviews from two series I love. To read the official blurbs and learn more about each novel, click the Amazon link.

Meg: Nightstalkers by Steve Alten

Book cover for Meg: Nighstalkers by Steve Alten shows two colossal sharks going after a swimmer below water, fishing boat on surfaceIn book five of the Meg series, sister sharks Bela and Lizzy are causing havoc in the Pacific Ocean after having escaped from their pen at the Tanaka Institute owned by Jonas Taylor and his wife Terry. Worse, the sisters are able to reproduce without male insemination and have started birthing genetic clones of themselves, the pups roaming lose in the water. Suffice to say, a few people meet with unfortunate ends.

Across the globe, Jonas’s son David has once again teamed with an expedition set on capturing a prehistoric creature responsible for the horrific tragedy that has left him with night terrors and a thirst for revenge. Eventually, the paths of David, Jonas, and Scottish marine biologist, Dr. Zachary Wallace will converge near Antarctica. This is where the book goes a little south for me, no pun intended. Wallace is a character from Alten’s popular Loch series of novels (I read the first one years ago) but the plot thread veered off course with a stab at time travel.

The storyline devoted to Bela and Lizzy gets five solid stars. The action is adrenalin-pumping and tight. The sisters, with the way they hunt—one brains, one brawn—make for plenty of nail biting and riveting moments. These two sharks are devious, intelligent, and dangerous. They routinely steal the show!

Alten swaps chapters/scenes of Jonas hunting Bela and Lizzy with David deep diving after dangerous predators. There are plenty of hair-raising encounters with both plots, keeping the tension ramped high and the reader flipping pages. This would have been a five star read for me if not for the spin with Zachary Wallace. Even so, I plan to devour the next Meg book. I can’t wait to see what happens next! 4.5 stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Space Marine Science Fiction > Horror Fiction


All the Missing Children (Muddy River Mystery 3) by Judi Lynn

Book cover for Where are All the Missing Children by Judi Lynn shows hooded cloaked figure holding crystal ball with young dark-haired man in foregroundRaven and Hester are back again, battling one of the strongest foes they’ve ever faced. When a new supernatural settlement is attacked—all the adults killed, the children missing—Muddy River’s demon enforcer and his powerful witch mate discover an ancient evil is behind the deaths and abductions.

Murlyn, a warlock who practices the dark arts, and who isn’t above using others to amplify his power, has set a devious plan in motion. One that uses gullible supernaturals and innocent children. Murlyn’s thirst for power is unmatched, and unless Hester, Raven, and their band of friends can stop him, all of Muddy River and other supernatural settlements face extermination.

Once again, Judi Lynn has created a fast-paced mystery of good vs. evil. Characters I’ve come to love from the first two novels in this series are back, joined by a host of others who quickly make their mark. Lynn knows how to pull heartstrings while layering her plot with clues that play out like a trail of breadcrumbs. She levels each scene to ratchet the tension, all the while heightening the relationship between characters, forging emotional bonds with the reader. Consider me smitten. I love all of these characters, and the supernatural battles that ensue between good and evil more then satisfy with plenty of breathless action. Party cozy, part urban fantasy, part mystery, this book and those in the series, score gold on multiple levels. Vivid and imaginative. 5 big stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Witch and Wizard Mysteries > Occult Fiction


Thanks for visiting with me today and for checking out my latest reviews. As always, it’s fun sharing these, and I hope to spark your interest in the wonderful stories these authors present!

Pre-Order The Body In The Attic by Judi Lynn #cozy #mystery

Happy first day of November! To kick off the month, I’m delighted to welcome friend and sister author, Judi Lynn. We’ve shared the same publisher for many years now. Judi has a new mystery release coming out in November that I’m super excited about and have already pre-ordered. Before I turn things over so she can tell you about it, please be sure to check out her blog. She’s wonderfully supportive of others and shares engaging posts that I know you’ll enjoy. And now….take it away Judi!


I want to thank Mae for inviting me to her blog.  We’re sister authors for Lyrical Press.  I loved her Point Pleasant series and the start of her Hode’s Hill series.  CUSP OF NIGHT has such a great mix of mystery and paranormal, I’m waiting for the second book to come out in January!  My first mystery, THE BODY IN THE ATTIC, due out Nov. 27, is a straight cozy with food and family tossed in.   I love to cook, so there are a couple of recipes at the back of the book.

Book cover for the cozy mystery novel The Body in the Attic by Judi Lynn shows an old trunk surrounded by various items in an attic

You can find it here:  http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/book.aspx/37036

Here’s the blurb:

Welcome to River Bluffs, Indiana, a cozy small town populated with charming homes, close-knit families, and the occasional deadly secret . . .

House-flipper Jazzi Zanders and her cousin Jerod have found their latest project. The property, formerly owned by the late Cal Juniper, is filled with debris that must be cleared before the real renovation begins. But a trip to the attic reveals something more disturbing than forgotten garbage—a skeleton wearing a locket and rings that Jazzi recognizes . . .

Tests confirm that the bones belong to Jazzi’s aunt Lynda, who everyone assumed moved to New York years ago after breaking up with Cal. Soon enough, the whole family is involved, sifting through memories and rumors as they try to piece together what really happened to Lynda—and the baby she gave up for adoption. In between investigating and remodeling, Jazzi is falling for the old house’s charms—and for her gorgeous contractor, Ansel. But with surprises lurking in every nook and cranny, a killer might be waiting to demolish her dreams for good . . .

And here’s an excerpt:

Jerod called 911.  While Jazzi waited for the detective to arrive, she went from room to room upstairs, checking them out. She needed to keep busy to distract herself.  Her aunt was folded into a trunk, and her mom was going to relive a crappy memory.  When Lynda had accepted Cal Juniper’s engagement ring but told him that she needed to leave River Bluffs for a year to think things through, friends had lined up behind Cal, not Lynda.  And now here Lynda was, stuffed in a trunk in Cal’s attic.

Detective Richard Gaff and crime scene experts arrived before Jazzi could sort out her thoughts.  Gaff looked at the trunk, frowned at the stains halfway up it, and shook his head.  “How long did you say she’d been here?”

Jazzi watched the techs take one picture after another.  “She disappeared twenty-six years ago, a few months after she got engaged.  Why is everything stained there?”

A tech answered automatically.  “A body liquefies when it decomposes—all the fluids draining and organs breaking down.”

Jerod grimaced at the floorboards.

“A clean-up crew comes when we find a body or remains.  They can fix anything.”  Gaff looked at the diamond ring caught on the knuckle of the bony finger on her right hand.  “And who was she going to marry?”

“That ring came from Thomas Sorrell.  She broke up with him.”  Jazzi pointed to the small heap of bones that had fallen off when Jerod moved the trunk.  Another diamond glistened among them—a little smaller, but classier.  “That’s Cal’s ring.  She was going to marry him.”

He stopped writing and frowned.  “Those are both big diamonds.”

Jazzi shook her head.  “Both men were rich.”

“You said she was engaged when she disappeared.”

“To Cal Juniper, but she asked him to give her a year in New York to think things through.”

“And he was all right with that?”

“He wasn’t happy, but he agreed to it.  My mom told me that it bothered him so much, he left River Bluffs before Lynda did.  He was going to travel across Europe on business trips until Lynda was supposed to come back.”

“So he wasn’t in the house.  For a year?  That makes sense.  It would stink to high heavens for a long time.”  Gaff scratched his head, confused.  “Okay, let’s start at the beginning.  Can you tell me what you know about your aunt?”

Jerod and Jazzi exchanged glances.

“That could take a while,” Jazzi said.

Author Bio:

Judi Lynn lives in Indiana with her husband, a bossy gray cat, a noisy Chihuahua, and a parakeet.  She loves to cook and owns more cookbooks than any mortal woman would ever need.  That’s why so much food sneaks into her stories.  She also loves her flower beds, but is a haphazard gardener, at best.

You can find her at:

You can find her webpage at: http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Her blog:  http://writingmusings.com/

Her author facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/

Twitter: @judypost

On BookBub at Judi Lynn with a link to Judith Post:  https://www.bookbub.com/authors/judi-lynn