March Book Reviews, Part 2

I’m back with part two of my reviews for books I read in March. If you missed part one, you can find it here. To read the blurbs and learn about each title below, click the Amazon link after my review. I hope you discover something to add to your TBR!


Book cover for True Places by Sonja YoergTrue Places
By Sonja Yoerg
Iris grew up sheltered from modern society, living in a cabin in the woods with her parents and brother. When circumstances force her into the world, she stumbles into the life of Suzanne Blakemore and her family. Suzanne lives a picture-perfect life in a pristine house with a successful husband, a teenage daughter and college-age son. She spends her life running from one errand to the next, making certain everyone is taken care of, never slowing down to truly see or feel. And that’s what this book is about—becoming blind to routines and existing on surface emotions. For looking deeper would expose cracks in the foundation of a life and family existing on artifical gloss.

When Suzanne brings Iris into her home, the fragile balance the Blakemores have maintained is shattered. Iris, naïve and confounded by the world, struggles to fit in. Suzanne’s teenage daughter Brynn grow fangs the moment Iris is in the door, but the up-and-down, give-and-take between the two girls plays well throughout the book. There were times I despised Brynn, other times I felt sorry for her. The author handles teenage mistakes and angst well. But Brynn, Iris, and Suzanne’s son, Reid, aren’t the only ones who foul up. When Suzanne’s husband Walt chooses to overlook something of importance, that decision has far flung consequences for everyone in the book.

A little slow getting started, True Places really takes off around the 50% mark. The descriptions of the mountains and woods—down to the sights, sounds and smells—are captivating. There is a hint of When the Crawdads Sing in this book, and like Crawdads, the exquisitely detailed settings evoke such a strong sense of place, it’s easy to imagine yourself in Iris’s rustic cabin or slipping through dusky woods when the wind chases whispers through the trees. A beautiful read!

Amazon Link
Genre: Literary Fiction > Women’s Fiction


Book cover for Black Magic Can Backfire by Judi LynnMuddy River One: Black Magic Can Backfire
By Judi Lynn
This book has a vividly imagined premise. A small town (Muddy River) populated by supernatural citizens—witches, vampires, shifters, fae—is rocked when a new coven of witches are found dead and murder is suspected. Hester Wand, a powerful witch with a coven of her own, and Raven Black, a fire demon who is also the town’s “enforcer” team up to find the killer. As a fire demon, Raven is not someone to cross, and Hester is every bit as powerful.  Even so, unmasking the killer is not an easy task.

The head of the new coven was not well liked, making suspects and motives plentiful. There are feuding families, powerful families, buried prejudices, and simmering animosities. Hester and Raven question a multitude of suspects, a thread that adds an intriguing investigative vibe to the book. I kept trying to figure out who was responsible but the revelation came as a surprise. There is a romantic thread but it meshes well with the story and the romance is not drawn out which I liked. In closing, special mention has to go to Claws, Hester’s ocelot familiar. Not only does he have an awesome name, he gets into the action, too. As this is the first book in a new series, Muddy River is a town I look forward to visiting again.

Amazon Link
Genre: Mystery Romance > Urban Fantasy > Supernatural


Book cover for Murder in Plane Sight by Julie HolmesMurder in Plane Sight
By Julie Holmes
In this strong debut novel, Julie Holmes introduces us to Sierra Bauer, an airline mechanic who uncovers the body of the woman she blames for her brother’s death. The author is clearly knowledgeable of the airline industry, and also knows how to twist a good mystery into an intricately-layered plot.

There are multiple characters, multiple motives, a shady stalker, and a dedicated cop who finds himself falling for Sierra while protecting her. Both Quinn and Sierra are excellent characters and their romance serves to further enhance the mystery.
Sierra is particularly strong, having to overcome obstacles in a field dominated by men. She is focused and determined, but she also harbors shadows in her past, that resurface to haunt her. Holmes does a fabulous job of tying up all the loose ends when the conclusion rolls around, while weaving in several surprises along the way. An excellent start to a new series.

Amazon Link
Genre: Amateur sleuths > cozy mystery


Book cover for Just Her Poetry by D.L.FinnJust Her Poetry Seasons of a Soul
By D. L. Finn
This is a beautiful collection of poetry with vivid glimpses into the natural world and the many myriad nuances of emotion. The reader is even treated to “musings from the back of a Harley” as the author shares visions penned while riding with her husband on their bike. I was especially enthralled by the nature poetry which is broken into sections for Spring and Summer as well as Fall and Winter.

Sights, sounds and senses come alive in poems like A Day at the River, Thunk, Crisp, and Spring Gone. As a cat lover I also really enjoyed The Huntress which was rendered in such attention to detail it was equivalent to viewing a live-action video. The prose is beautiful and vivid. Some of my favorite lines include:

From Spring Day
The gentle tapping of the woodpecker
Reminding me of a blessing in Morse code.

From Mist
It is a time of in-between.
Between the sun baking the earth
Or the forest being covered in ice.

From The October Sun
The October sun bleeds through the trees
Clotting up before it reaches me.

There are so many gems in this book, you’re certain to find your own favorites. Escape  to a peaceful setting, and let this exquisite collection of poetry soothe your soul.

Amazon Link
Genre: Poetry > Nature Poetry > Contemporary Poetry


Book Cover for Girls on the Hill by Alison GreyThe Girls on the Hill
By Alison Clair Grey
I was so excited to get this book after reading the author’s first release, Can’t Let Go. Girls on the Hill was every bit as engrossing.

It’s reunion time for several college friends, but not everyone is looking forward to the event. Especially given the reunion is being held at a hotel where one classmate died on graduation night, plunging to her death from an upper balcony. What took place on that balcony and what led to the tragedy is the basis for this gripping mystery which incorporates plenty of twists and shocks along the way.

As usual, Grey does an excellent job of tapping into human emotions, examining the best and worst in people. There is a strong focus on friendships–both good and bad–and what some are willing to do to succeed regardless of who they hurt. As a reader Grey made me feel anger and frustration but also grudging sympathy for one of the key players. There is a diverse cast of characters and they all shine in their own way, but the standouts for me were Amanda and Hollis.

The writing is slick, and the chapters short, switching between POV characters, which makes this an easy read. The POV is done in first person which occasionally made me stop and flip back to the chapter title to see whose head I was in, but I didn’t find that overly distracting. Most definitely a hard to put down book!  I’m already looking forward to Grey’s next release. She’s now on my auto-buy list.

Amazon Link
Genre: Psychological Fiction > Psychological Thriller


Thanks for checking out the reviews. March was another great reading month for me (probably because I was working on edits and not doing as much writing). I wish you all Happy Reading!

 

March Book Reviews, Part 1

I’m so excited it’s April. Spring has arrived and all of the nasty white stuff is gone. That’s reason for celebration!

Another reason is all the great books I read last month, reviews of which I’m sharing today. I’m splitting the post in two parts, since I managed to read nine books in March. Moving forward, I plan to break my reviews into a mid-month post and an end of the month post so there isn’t so much back-to-back (although It’s unlikely I’ll read this many books again in a single month!).

To read the blurbs and learn about each title, click the Amazon link after my review. I hope you discover something to add to your TBR. And remember to check back tomorrow for part two! 


Book cover for the Beast Within by Jacqui BiggarThe Beast Within
by Jacquie Biggar
A wonderful blend of multiple genres, The Beast Within, is the second book the Mended Souls trilogy, but it also reads as a stand-alone. I had no problem picking up the storyline involving Guardian Angels, Lucas Carmichael and Mike, both of whom died in the same car crash. While struggling to overcome their animosity for each other, they’re also charged with watching over Mike’s wife, Julie Crenshaw. A reporter, Julie, is still adjusting to life without Mike, as well as the loss of her unborn baby girl when she begins investigating a string of bizarre serial murders. Enter Conner O’Rourke, a homicide detective who is working the case.

Biggar does well in providing insight to her myriad cast of characters. Paths cross, lives become entwined, and puzzle pieces (you’ll find an interesting side line with them) slot into place while others veer in unexpected directions. The story provides suspense, mystery, and a touch of the supernatural along with a romantic sub-plot as Julie and Conner discover mutual attraction. The writing is polished with excellent scene setting, vivid descriptions, and a storyline that provides multiple twists with plenty of danger. The author is clearly a pro and knows how to deliver a tale that will keep you entertained from beginning to end.

Amazon Link
Genre: Mystery/Romantic Suspense


Book cover for When You're the Only Cop in TownWhen You’re the Only Cop in Town
A Writer’s Guide to Small Town Law Enforcement
by Jack Berry, Debra Dixon
This is an old book that’s been on my shelf for a while. I read the hardcover (which I believe is difficult to find now) but I’m including the link for the Kindle version. There is nothing like first hand information from a man who spent his entire career in law enforcement, seventeen years of which were as a police chief in a small town. This is quick and easy read, filled with anecdotes, straight-on facts, and plenty of humor. I read it with a highlighter in hand, and colored tabs to mark pages. An excellent resource for writers, I can see myself referring to it often as I unleash plot bunnies on my fictional small towns.
Informative and VERY entertaining!

Amazon Link
Genre: Reference > Writing Craft


book cover for No Easy Street by Julia DonnerNo Easy Street
By Julia Donner
Step back in time with this well-written and engaging tale set in the American west. The period detail is exceptional! When seamstress Elsbeth Soderberg inherits a cattle ranch in Wyoming, she’s thrust into a role she never expected. She’s a woman in a man’s world dealing with hardened cowhands, multiple prejudices, and a ruthless employee. Fortunately, she has neighbor Ezekiel (EZ) Street and his young daughter to help her adjust.

Elsbeth is a strong character, but she shines exceptionally bright when she’s standing up for herself and taking charge of a situation. She has a steely backbone, but at the same time she’s portrayed as a woman with doubts and fears. That combination of determination, conviction, and vulnerability makes her a likable and believable character. The romantic elements are well done and the supporting characters add vivid color. I especially liked EZ’s daughter Penelope and her friend Flora. Hitch a ride and travel west with this delightful book!

Amazon Link
Genre: Western Romance


Book cover for Sun Dance: Why Custer Really Lost The Battle of The Little Bighorn by Garry RodgersSun Dance
Why Custer Really Lost the Battle of The Little Bighorn
By Garry Rodgers
Of the non-fiction books I enjoy reading, I have a collection on George Armstrong Custer, Crazy Horse, Native American culture, the Plains Indian War, and the expansion west. When I saw that Garry Rodgers was offering an ARC of a book he’d written about the Battle of Little Bighorn, I jumped at the chance to read it. If you’re unfamiliar with Garry, he’s a retired homicide detective and forensic coroner. He also blogs for the Huff Post.

In Sun Dance…Why Custer Really Lost the Battle of The Little Bighorn, Rodgers examines not only Custer’s combat strategy and the reason why it failed but sets the playing field from Grant’s presidency down through army command. We get the mindset of the time, are witness to several conflicts leading up to LBH and understand the significance of the sacred Black Hills. Native American treaties are examined in detail (I was shocked by some I was unfamiliar with). Past military strategy is analyzed—remember that Custer was a Brevet Major General during the Civil War and no stranger to battle. As Rodgers points out, that may have been part of his undoing. He was unprepared for the mentality of the opposing force. Yes, mentality. In Sun Dance…Why Custer Really Lost the Battle of The Little Bighorn, Rodgers shows us why that state of mind—a collective state of mind—was key.

After reading this book, there is no question of the psychological impact of the Sun Dance ceremony and why that ritual was especially powerful when performed by Sitting Bull. The vision of the great Chief became a battle standard for the massive number of Native Americans ready to defend their way of life. Rodgers walks us through understanding how sheer numbers alone didn’t win LBH for the Native Americans. He backs up his theory with concise explanations and detailed research. Written in an easy to read style, with a staggering amount of resources included, this book is excellent for both dedicated students of history, and even armchair followers like me.

Although Sun Dance…Why Custer Really Lost the Battle of The Little Bighorn has yet to be released, you can follow Garry’s blog, dyingwords.net to keep current of news. You can also request and ARC and learn more about the research behind the book HERE.


I was kind of all over the place with my reading in March, which happens sometimes, but everything I read was awesome. I’ll be sharing five more books tomorrow and hope to see you then!