Today, I’m with my friend Judi Lynn who writes several cozy mystery series and the Muddy River urban fantasy mystery series. I particularly love her Jazzi Zanders cozies and her MuddyRiver (Raven and Hester) urban fantasy mysteries. Her newest release,Posed in Death is a mystery/thriller which pubbed the end of September. You can’t go wrong with anything Judi writes. Hope over to her Amazon Author Page to browse her large collection of titles and series.
Strangely, for my next to last tour stop, I’m going to be sharing a post on the origin of the title, Things Old and Forgotten. It probably would have made better sense to share that at the start, but I like to color outside the lines. 🙂
I hope to see you at Judi’s place. Thanks again for all the support this month. I am so thankful for each of you!
Happy Tuesday, and happy September! If you reside in the U.S. or Canada, I hope you enjoyed your long Labor Day weekend. Today, I have two books to share. I’ve been a fan of Judy Lynn’s Muddy River series since book one–a cozy, sometimes not so cozy mystery series that combines supernatural elements with a cast of intriguing preternatural characters. I also discovered a new series starring a man who has long fascinated me–Harry Houdini. See below.
Hester’s close friend, Carlotta, has gone to a witches’ solstice festival with Jason, the young neighbor she took under her wing. When she learned that he had cancer, she sent him to Hester and Raven to be “changed.” He chose to become an owl shifter, but is still very new at being a supernatural, so she wants to introduce him to her witch friends. The festival is close to Muddy River, so Carlotta plans on stopping to visit Hester after the ceremonies are finished.
But Jason calls Hester to tell her that Carlotta has disappeared, so have two other witches, and Hester suspects foul play. She and Raven race to the isolated, wooded area, only to find a dead body near the parking area. Not Carlotta’s. Once they start seriously looking for Hester’s friend, they discover that someone has come to the ceremonies that honor Hecate with plans of revenge that date back to the witch trials at Salem. Hester’s family died there, and she thought she knew the truth. But she was wrong.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Another entertaining story in this wonderful collection that combines mystery with the supernatural. Hester is a powerful witch who heads her coven in Muddy River—a community of shapeshifters, vampires, witches, fae and other supernatural creatures and beings. Raven, her mate, is a fire-demon and the Enforcer for their town. In this tale, they travel to a nearby area where a solstice celebration among witches is taking place. Unfortunately, it also includes murder. Not one, but multiple victims.
As Hester and Raven dig deeper into motive and suspects, Hester’s own past during the Salem witch hunts come into play. For long-time fans of the series, we learn a bit more about her background, but this is easily read as a standalone. There are numerous potential suspects, a number of whom I loathed. The mystery is nicely contained until the end with the motive something I would never have suspected. Even Hester’s ocelot familiar, Claws, has moments to shine.
There are several new characters, some whom I suspect will settle in Muddy River. As an added bonus, there’s also a short Yuletide story at the end of the book that acts as an introduction to Jason, one of the secondary characters in the tale. All around, a thoroughly engaging story.
Harry Houdini and his brother, Dash, are called to solve the murder of a toy tycoon in this first locked room mystery starring the legendary real-life magicians
New York City, 1897: Young escapologist Harry Houdini is struggling to get the recognition he craves from the ruthless entertainment industry. But when toy tycoon Branford Wintour is found murdered in his Fifth Avenue mansion, detectives call upon Houdini to help solve this mysterious crime, ushering in a new era of Houdini’s career: amateur sleuth.
When Harry and his brother Dash reach the scene of the murder, they discover Wintour was found dead in a room that was locked from the inside out—the result of a cruel magic trick. Together, the brothers Houdini launch their first ever investigation, venturing into the bizarre world of rare curios and the collectors who will pay any price to own them.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
The first book in the Harry Houdini mystery series, this certainly kept me entertained. Harry is still struggling for recognition as an escape artist, assisted in his act by his wife, Bess, and brother Dash. It’s Harry and Dash who become involved in solving the murder of a toy tycoon. The two brothers play off each other well, and the author portrays Houdini in a manner that rings true. I loved the 1897 setting and definitely plan on reading other books in this series.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
The 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.
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
Bad 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! 🙂
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.
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 HuntedHERE. 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 . . .
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!
Tattoos 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!
Genre: Werewolf and Shifter Mysteries > Witch and Wizard Mysteries
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.
Paul 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
Under 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.
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?
Welcome 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.
The 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!
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!
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.