Thursday, December 28, 2017

Candy Canes, Corpses and the Gothic Haunt by Rachael Stapleton

So, this is the second book in the Haunted House Flippers, Inc. series by Rachael Stapleton, and much like the first, a fun, comfortable read. At present, the author has 3 cozy mystery series set in the town of Bohemian Lake all focusing on different characters featured in supporting roles in the other novels. It is almost like living in Bohemian Lake and keeping up with your neighbors.

In this series, the stories are set around holidays, this one being Christmas. Juniper Palmer and her business partner, Jack Young, have decided to turn their restored Victorian mansion that they initially purchased in Corsets, Corpses, and the Deadly Haunt (Book 1) into an inn and taproom, now “The Gothic Haunt.” As their grand opening set for New Year’s approaches, strange problems in the home keep popping up: cut exhaust lines, missing vacuum breakers, stolen Christmas gifts, and then Junie finds Head Chef and friend, Feliz Merlot, dead in the wine cellar. Although the coroner says his death was an accident, Junie is sure Feliz was murdered. Right before he died, Feliz had asked Junie to come to the inn because he had discovered who was behind all the problems. On her arrival, she had found food cooking on the stove – something Feliz would never have left unattended.

The story continues with Junie trying to discover the truth behind Feliz’s death, get the mansion ready for its upcoming grand opening, and the growing romantic relationship between her and Jack. We are treated to the inclusion of Junie’s friends – Pike Hart, Penny Trubble, Eve Banter, and many other familiar faces. Also making an appearance from the earlier book is Victoria, the ghost of the murdered bride of the home’s original owner. This book is recommended for the cozy mystery reader that also enjoys a bit of the “woo woo” in the mix.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Murder on the Movie Set (Pet Portraits Mystery #3) by Sandi Scott

While arranging for her next pet portrait commission, Georgie Kaye wins tickets from a radio station to go on location for a day with a movie being shot in the area. The movie stars Dustin Stetson, her twin sister’s secret crush, so Georgie takes Aleta along as her “plus one.” To their disappointment, Dustin is not shooting that day, but the sisters are delighted by the offerings on the Craft Services tables.

On location that day is the film’s difficult producer, Jason Hobbs, who stresses out everyone with his micromanaging. He screams at the caterer, demands the best lines of the ingĂ©nue be given to a minor male character, and continually orders major changes in the director’s plans and holding up production.

Breaking for lunch is a relief for everyone except the producer, from all appearances a young, healthy man, who suddenly has a fatal heart attack. But from all the gossip on set, Georgie is convinced Hobbs’ death is not from natural causes. When the lead detective investigating the death, her ex-husband, Stan Toon, decides there is no need to look into the death any further, Georgie finagles another couple of days on the set to investigate on her own.

The rapport between the two sisters and with Stan continues to develop and is vastly entertaining. The plot is straightforward, yet satisfying. The Chicago-area settings are fun and familiar. Although the series features pets, they are not the sole focus of the stories – it’s more about the people, their relationships, and the crime-solving. This story is highly recommended for cozy mystery readers.

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Lullaby to a Jitterbug (Avon Calling!, #10) by Hayley Camille

At the end of the previous episode, we were left dangling on one heck of a cliffhanger. Donny and his mugs had the drop on Betty and were holding a gun to poor George’s head. Their daughter, Nancy, was racing little Georgie to the nearest hospital after he’d accidentally inhaled heroin. (He’d thought he was smelling sugar.) When Georgie had reacted to the drug she picked him up and ran for it, discovering hidden strengths and abilities she didn’t know she possessed: she was stronger and faster than any girl is supposed to be.

Betty, too, reaches deep within herself to take her battle with Donny and his goons to another level and defeats them with the sudden arrival and assistance of Detective Jacob Lawrence. Jacob tells Betty that he’d gone to her home before coming to her aid at St. Augustine’s Home for Unwanted Boys, and that her front door was open, the kitchen a mess, and the children nowhere to be found. He produces the jeweled jar that held the heroin. Betty reaches out with her mind and eventually connects with Nancy. She sees her thoughts and discovers what has happened. Betty comes clean with George at the hospital as they wait for Georgie to recover, and they spend the following weeks coming to terms with his new knowledge and understanding about Betty and Nancy.

Jacob though has uncovered a secret file at City Hall on Betty that shows the government is watching her and her associates (including himself, perhaps) and is trying to determine her possible agenda and usefulness in regards to the war effort.

With the exposure of Donny Pinzola and his affiliates, the focus of the story is swinging back to the war. Actual tidbits of history are woven into the narrative – war rationing, the draft. Also, the characters are becoming so well developed that one feels like they know exactly who they are dealing with and what they might be capable of. In this 10th entry in the ongoing Avon Calling! series, we get even more background information on Betty (Susie) and her life before George. I recommend this series, in order, it is episodic in nature, to those that like action and adventure set during the war, and look forward to the next installment.

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader copy of this book.

Serenade to a Savage (Avon Calling!, #9) by Hayley Camille

Holy moly! Episode 9 of the Avon Calling! series is action-packed and TENSE! We left our characters at the high-profile Charity Ball in the midst of a couple of showdowns: one among the two couples - Betty & George and Jacob & Adina, and the other between Betty and Donny Pinzolo. The couples are at odds with each other due to the suspicions of the “innocent” partners – George and Adina – about the true nature of the relationship between Betty and Jacob. Both couples leave the charity event out of sorts and Jacob and Adina seem to have split up completely. Time passes but George’s unease doesn’t, and he decides to follow Betty when she is lured out of safety in an attempt to save one of her Avon customers from Donny’s goons. She and George are both captured and taken to Donny’s headquarters at the St. Augustine’s School for Unwanted Boys for a final showdown with Uncle Donny.

Again, the author maintains the awesome “look & feel” of the 1940s while creating a supernatural suspense story. All the characters are becoming so well developed that one feels like they know exactly who they are dealing with and what they might be capable of. There are still mysteries and secrets lurking in the background and we are left with more than one cliffhanger so, hopefully, Episode 10 is not far off!

Guns and Glitterati (Avon Calling!, #8) by Hayley Camille

Betty’s plans for taking down her evil uncle, Donny Pinzolo, are starting to come together as the St. Augustine’s Home for Unwanted Boys Charity Gala approaches. First, Betty removes Rex Hatfield, the biggest bookie in town and one of Donny Pinzolo’s most lucrative sources of cash from the scene.

In the meantime, we get a surprising look into the life of Adina Sonberg, Sergeant Lawrence’s love interest. It seems she and General Brandway have a “history” – one that meant heartache for Adina.

The night of the Charity Gala arrives and anyone who is anyone is in attendance. As the music and alcohol flow around them, Betty and Donny confront each other. All this time, Officer Parker is keeping a protective eye on the Jones’ family but he may be seeing more than anyone realizes. And he may have a hidden agenda himself.

The surprises keep coming! The flavor of the era established and nurtured by dialogue, fashion, and the settings is strong and delicious.

Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered (Avon Calling!, #7) by Hayley Camille

Episode 7 in the Avon Calling! series lets the reader in on the romance that was budding between Betty (Susie Poletti) and Jacob Lawrence when they were just kids and before life took a turn for the tragic. Jacob is not welcome at the Poletti house so the two have been meeting on the sly. Jacob is teaching Susie everything he learns at his boxing and karate classes. Susie has developed super strength and is super fast along with her ability to hear thoughts – a legacy from her mother’s side of the family.

As an adult, Betty uses her speed and strength to whip through her housekeeping. She’s spied on by Felix, one of Pinzolo’s goons, and when she discovers him she chases him down and they come to an uneasy standoff. She can’t take him out right there in front of her home with the neighbors looking on and he can’t hurt her for the same reason. He knows she’s got some unnatural skills and she knows about Tilly, his “secret” girlfriend and love of his life whom he’s trying to keep under wraps and out of sight of the evil, Pinzolo.

And then Jacob Lawrence shows up on her doorstep. Surprise! She’s been waiting for him to track her down and help her make things right.

Each episode in the series advances the plot and gets us closer and closer to a show-off between Betty/Susie and her uncle, Donny. The author seems to have some nice surprises tucked along the way.

St. Augustine’s School for Unwanted Boys (Avon Calling!, #6) by Hayley Camille

The mob boys have to tell Donny Pinzolo that his nephew, Vince, and his gunzels have been killed at Kitty’s Kat House. Donny blames the messenger, Felix, for not having yet identified the perpetrator before this last hit.

Back at the Jones’ house, Nancy discovers her mother sewing money inside her mattress and questions her. Betty is able to offer an explanation that serves for the moment but she’s concerned that her smart and observant daughter is growing up so soon.

Betty leaves an Avon meeting at the home of a senior Avon lady and just misses running headlong into her old friend and NYPD Police Sergeant, Jacob Lawrence, as he slowly makes his way through a list of all Avon representatives in the city. He’s tracking down the origin of the Avon Calling! card found at the scenes of the recent mob slayings.

George and Betty meet with the mayor and Donny Pinzolo at St. Augustine’s to discuss the upcoming charity event. Betty ducks out of the meeting in order to check out the goings on in the basement with the mob, the orphans, and the stolen drugs. While Betty’s out of the room, George writes down his contact information for Donny on the back of one of Betty’s Avon Calling! cards that he rummages from her handbag. When the body of a dead gang member is found right after George and Betty leave the school, suspicion falls squarely on Betty, the only person that left the meeting, and now Donny has her home address.

The pressure is mounting and I kept wondering if George or one of the children was going to find out too much about Betty’s clandestine activities. With Jacob Lawrence on the right track to finding her and Donnie Pinzolo, himself, suspicious, Betty is starting to get into a very tight situation. This is the 6th episode of Camille's Avon Calling! historical suspense story. Due the episodic nature of the series, they should be read in order to understand what's going on and for maximum enjoyment.

In For a Dime, In For a Dollar (Avon Calling!, #5) by Hayley Camille

Betty confronts her old acquaintances and coworkers from her Uncle Frank’s mob in the offices of Kitty’s Kat House. Quite a struggle ensues, these boys don’t go down easy, but Betty eventually prevails and is able to claim all the cash in the safe and retrieve the stolen drugs that were meant for the troops on the battlefield. Once again, she stashes the drugs in a location that the police will be able to find them and get them back on their way to the war front. The back story of the old homeless guy in the park is revealed in this episode and just adds to the nastiness that is Donald Pinzolo.

This foray into the night has taken quite a bit of time for Betty Jones and now she must face the music at home. Little does she know that her husband, George, knows that she didn’t go where she told him she was headed, and these recent inconsistencies are starting to eat away at him.

Sergeant Jacob Lawrence is brought in on the case and the Mayor, himself, shows up on the crime scene at the bordello to threaten, cajole, and then bribe the sergeant into closing this case as quickly as possible.

The author is slowly building our knowledge of all the characters involved while moving the story forward. The era itself is one of those characters as is the setting. Betty has some skills but we’re starting to see that she’s not superhuman. This is the 5th episode in the Avon Calling! series. So far, each episode has been entertaining and they need to be read in order. Very enjoyable reading!

Kitty's Kat House (Avon Calling!, #4) by Hayley Camille

St. Augustine’s Home for Unwanted Boys proves to be a goldmine of unpaid labor to the local mob and mob bosses, Vince and Felix. When Betty runs across the new apprentices with the mobsters as she attempts to foil a robbery of a military truck convoy, she’s stymied. Taking out adult men is one thing but doing it when the boys could see and identify her is another. Finding another avenue to her goal leads her to Kitty’s Kat House later that night.

The author continues the Avon Calling series in this 4th episode, Kitty’s Kat House, and we not only get the reason behind Donald Pinzolo’s interest in the orphanage (besides good PR), but get another look at what makes Betty Jones tick. Her realization that the orphans were being used to further the mob’s aim of stealing the drugs meant for soldiers on the battlefield gives Betty a flashback to her own youth when she was forced to run drugs for her uncle. She watches helplessly as the convoy’s military escort is gunned down in the street.

The author continues to maintain the 1940s flavor with musical mentions, fashion, and language. Every now and then a term not normally used in this country slips in and you may realize that the author is from Australia (i.e., lorry, wireless) but you still get the “look and feel” of the times.

Chocolate Cake and Sandwiches (Avon Calling!, #3) by Hayley Camille

In Episode 3 of Hayley Camille's Avon Calling! series, while Betty tries to assuage husband George’s concerns about her intense attention to her Avon business (which she uses as a cover to mask her real actions and get her out of the house alone), we’re reintroduced to her childhood friend, Jacob Lawrence, now a newly minted police sergeant in the NYPD. As the new guy in rank, Jacob has caught the cases of the “random” mob killings in town.

Meanwhile, mob boss Donald Pinzolo, Betty’s ultimate target, is making nice with the NYC mayor by publicly becoming the benefactor of the city’s St. Augustine’s School for Unwanted Boys. However, the hits on his boys and their operations, not to mention the loss of money and product, has caught his attention and he’s out for blood trying to find the perpetrator.

Once again, the 1940s atmosphere is both charming and attention-grabbing. The author has clearly put a lot of time, effort, and research into recreating the mood and setting, making it feel genuine. Mixed with the noir are the superhuman traits that Betty brings to the table. It’s a fun mix, and I can really recommend this series to those that like the era, a strong female lead, and a touch of the paranormal in their thrillers. They’re just fun! Start with Episode One though, they are episodes of an ongoing story.

A Dream That I Can Call My Own (Avon Calling!, #2) by Hayley Camille

Episode 2 in Hayley Camille’s Avon Calling series gives us another look into Betty Jones’ backstory. Her ability to hear the thoughts of others is a family trait that appears in all the women of her line. Her daughter, Nancy, approaching adolescence, is due to soon begin experiencing her own form of the trait.

Betty is also ready to make a move against her despicable Uncle Frank, a lesser mob boss in the local crime syndicate. Uncle Frank knew all about the abuse going on her home when Betty was a child and chose to do nothing about it.

In this episode, she and her beloved husband, George, are having a night out dancing at a nightclub. While George waits for her to return from the ladies’ room, Betty goes to the club office and confronts Frank and his men who are waiting to meet with the “man” that hijacked their stolen drug shipment. Uncle Frank finally recognizes her as his niece, Susie, but that does nothing to save him from her revenge.

The author really brings the era to life with descriptions of fashion, language, and character attitudes of the times. Betty’s husband is concerned about her involvement in her Avon business. He provides for the family. But her Avon Lady gig is her cover for what her real agenda is – one that is still just unfolding for the reader. I recommend this for readers that like a historical slant to their mystery, thriller, and action reading.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Save Her Soul by Amanda J. Evans

Kate Ritter was out for revenge against the man and mob that raped and killed her younger sister. Drake Summerfield is the demon set on making sure she takes her vengeance and her soul is sent straight back to hell to be at his side for eternity. Little did he know, he was meant to be her salvation instead.

This scenario has been repeated for the past 500 years. A prophecy claims that Drake will be the one and only one that can save Kate’s soul from eternal damnation. He has always believed her soul was as dark as his, and has done whatever he could to lead her to kill during each and every reincarnation. But every new age, he is ripped from Hell by the guardians of light which includes her mother, Majeria, to find her soul and try to redeem her. Now, with the 500 years almost up, Drake has this last lifetime to fulfill the prophecy before they are both sent to Hell for good.

An interesting story with engaging characters, once I began reading Save Her Soul, I was hooked and didn’t want to put it down. Very enjoyable. Kate and Drake both are damaged souls. Their attraction is instantaneous and I was rooting for them to get back together throughout the story. The story of Kate getting her revenge is furthered and concluded by plausible means. She watches and follows and gets evidence against the villains through hard work and creativity – no paranormal, otherworldly assistance. But readers that enjoy the touch of the paranormal will enjoy this story as well.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Murder on the Great Lake (A Pet Portraits Cozy Mystery #2) by Sandi Scott

Once again, Georgie Kaye and her sister, Aleta, are party to a murder. This time the sisters are along for a ride on the annual lake cruise of the Fit Family Gyms, a fitness franchise in the greater Chicago area when the evening’s award winner, Deck Zannowski, goes overboard and drowns. Deck had been a nice guy, and had taken the franchise’s problem location on and turned it around to become the highest earning one in the group. When the autopsy reveals that Deck had been given Rohypnol and with several suspects from which to choose, Georgie, Aleta, and Georgie’s ex-husband, Stan – the lead detective on the case, investigate to track down who might have shoved Deck overboard.

I am really loving this series and hope the author does many more. The characters of Georgie, Aleta, and Stan are charming (as are many of the supporting players). I love the setting in the city and neighborhoods of Chicago and the mention of real places and things there. The mystery of who killed Deck Zannowski is simple but not straight-forward so the detective work is necessary to come to a plausible conclusion. I would recommend this book and series to cozy mystery fans.

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader copy of this book.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Welcome to the Apocalypse: CyberNexis by D.L. Richardson

The excitement in Book 1 (Pandora) of the series, Welcome to the Apocalypse continues in Book 2 (CyberNexis) as the story shifts from being the end-of-the-world scenarios being played inside a computer game to real-life. The Yellowstone Caldera, a supervolcano located under Yellowstone National Park, blew while the 100 plus Apocalypse Games launch day players were ensconced inside their gaming simulation pods at CyberNexis headquarters in San Diego. This triggered volcanoes around the world to erupt as well. The survivors in the U.S. have been directed to central evacuation camps near major population centers. The gamers were discovered by remnants of the military after an unheard-of three months hooked up to the CyberNexis system, and transported to the old site of the Lunar Receiving Laboratory at the Johnson Space Center in Houston because the gamers’ simulation pods and their physical conditions are so similar to astronauts coming out of a long space mission. Not all the gamers survived the damage that the CyberNexis headquarters sustained when the caldera erupted. Those that did are experiencing muscular dystrophy and other ailments.

The main characters from book 1 make a reappearance: some alive, some as casualties. Kelly Lawrence and Reis Anderson are recuperating at the NASA location. The doctors there are having difficulty though disconnecting Kelly’s brother, Jack Minnow, from the simulation pod and Pandora’s hold on him. And Jack doesn’t want to leave the game. He’s found and developed a bond with another player, Sasha Vaness, who though still alive in the game, was one of the casualties in real life.

The Lunar Receiving Laboratory was only meant to be a temporary stop for the Apocalypse Game players. On their recovery, they are to be bussed to the nearest evacuation camp in Fort Worth. Jack refuses to leave the lab and Sasha’s personality trapped inside Pandora as does Reekha Soodi, another player from book 1 who believes her husband, Naresh, is also trapped within. Kelly and Reis are both anxious to find their way back to California to check on family.

While Jack and Reekha conceal themselves at the lab, Reis and Kelly leave with the other gamers on busses headed for the Fort Worth evacuation center. Along the way, the bus convoy is attacked by a band of end-of-the-world mutations or Primals: humans that have survived and been changed somehow by the caldera eruption. Those that survive the attack crowd onto one of the other buses and make their way to the evacuation camp only to be redirected to Austin: no room in Fort Worth. The story continues from Austin as Kelly and Reis get on a train headed west and their goal – San Diego and CyberNexis, and from NASA headquarters where Jack and Reekha remained.

I enjoyed this installment of the series, and yes, there appears to be a third book coming – Welcome to the Apocalypse – Primal Scream (yay!) I enjoyed that a good portion of the story was set in my state near where I live and work. Of course, I compared for accuracy and found big differences, but who knows how the landscape would have changed after a supervolcano erupted, right? I recommend this book and this series but readers do need to have read the first book in the series to enjoy this one.

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader copy of this book.

Welcome to the Apocalypse: Pandora by D.L. Richardson

Three friends (since their teens) pay to participate in the grand opening of the next generation of virtual reality games called The Apocalypse Game. Players pay $5,000 each to be enclosed in a glass pod, interface with the gaming system to try and outlast an apocalyptic scenario of their choosing. Those that perish during the game wait out the rest of the 24-hour session in a “death dream” – a pleasant interlude tailored for the player while the clock runs down.

Of course, something goes terribly wrong and when Jack, Kelly, and Reis successfully survive the first game, they are sent into a second scenario. At first, players think they’ve been rewarded for their initial successes, but as they keep continuing into new games and the scenarios keep getting more bizarre, it becomes apparent they are trapped inside the system while their physical bodies deteriorate inside their glass pods.

The author touches on many different end-of-the-world game scenarios and it is very entertaining. The main characters all have interesting back stories that slowly come to light as the games unfold. Kelly, the young, grieving widow, looking to reunite with the spirit of her game programmer husband. Jack who is there to watch out for his sister (Kelly) and scope out the Apocalypse Game for his adventure tour company, undergoes some real soul-searching and revelations. Reis, Jack’s partner in the adventure tour company is, and always has been, in love with Kelly. Interesting NPCs (non-player combatants) and other players pop up throughout the various games, a few of whom I really became attached to. The story ends well but somewhat abruptly leaving several loose ends and questions. Only one of the three main characters (I won’t say whom) is featured in the ending and we have no idea what has become of the other two, let alone the rest of the players. Significant looks and pauses between others in this scene lead me to believe there was way more going on in the world than just a malfunctioning game though. I look forward to reading book 2 to resolve the cliffhangers.

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader copy of this book.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Cookies, Corpses, and the Deadly Haunt by Rachael Stapleton

As an addict of the various TV remodeling, fixer upper, house flipping shows, I was already inclined to enjoy this series, and this first story was a lot of fun!

Former couple, Juniper Palmer and Jack Young, are business partners in the house flipping firm, Spirited Construction. In this first book in the new series by Rachael Stapleton, they have come to Jack’s hometown of Bohemian Lake to find their next project: renovating a spooky, old Gothic Revival house that has seen its better days. That project turns out to be the haunted “Doctor’s House” where 100 years earlier, the owner, the Doctor murdered his wife, Victoria, before turning a gun on himself.

Creepiness aside, the house really has potential and the partners are beginning to make some headway in bringing the old place back to life when Juniper’s best friend and former college roommate, Pike Hart, who also calls Bohemian Lake home, talks them into letting her hold the town's annual fundraiser Halloween Ball at the soon-to-be completed home. But before that can happen, Pike’s co-chair on the fundraising committee (and a descendant of the original owner) is murdered in the attic of the house. Strange music keeps playing, and the vision of a woman in white (the Doctor’s murdered bride?) is spotted on the grounds. Hunky police detective Cody Lumos is assigned the case and his interests include Juniper herself.

I liked the main characters – Juniper Palmer (from whose point-of-view we watch all the action), Pike Hart – her best friend, Detective Cody Lumos – her new love interest, and Jack Young, her business partner and former love interest. There are a number of plausible suspects provided, and a load of other interesting characters filling out the town of Bohemian Lake.

I really enjoyed this book even though I had a couple of issues with the execution of the book itself: point-of-view switches from first person to third and some grammar problems that can be easily cleaned up at some point. I was reading an advance readers copy so I'm sure some of these issues will not appear in the final edition. In spite of this, I still really liked this story and I'm already impatient for the next book in the series to come out. I will be seeking out books in this author's other series to tide me over.

I received a free, advance copy of this book from the author in exchange for my unbiased review.

Murder in the Art Gallery by Sandi Scott (A Pet Portraits Cozy Mystery, #1)

Oh, I am so going to like this series if this first novella, Murder in the Art Gallery, is any indication of what’s to come!

Set in Chicago, the story revolves around the 66-year-old twin sisters, Georgie and Aleta Kaye. Georgie, the older, more outgoing, and artistic of the two, has dragged a reluctant (but supportive) Aleta to the opening of a new exhibit of the hot, new Occhipinti Art Gallery. She is actually there to meet the gallery owner, Nate Stephenson, and discuss his interest in exhibiting her pet portrait artwork that he had admired in the neighborhood Earwax Coffeehouse. In addition to scoring some awesome noms at the exhibit, the sisters are front row & center when another local artist crashes the reception and loudly threatens to burn down the gallery and murder the owner’s financial partner, Jamal Landry.

The next day when the sisters return to the gallery to follow up with Nate regarding the details for Georgie’s proposed exhibit, they discover the Jamal’s dead body sprawled in one of the galleries.

I really enjoyed the sisters, their family and friends. The Chicago setting is presented and used so well I was ready to plan a vacation to go see the sights. I particularly enjoyed the back and forth between the sisters and between Georgie and her ex-husband, Police Detective Stan Toon. I was hoping for their collaboration and reconciliation from their first scene together.

I’m definitely looking forward to more titles in this series with more dogs, too. I can recommend this book to mystery readers that enjoy their mysteries on the cozy side and are looking for sleuths on the far side of 40.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Hello Again by Brenda Novak

Hello Again is the 2nd full-length novel in The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles featuring Dr. Eve Talbot and hunky Alaskan Trooper Sergeant Benjamin “Amarok” Murphy. Eve has regrouped from the previous novel where she was dealing with opening the program at the new maximum security research prison for psychopaths in Hilltop, Alaska. Along with the pressure of opening this facility in climate-challenging location where the local residents had not been enthusiastic, to say the least, she had also had to juggle the desires and egos of a high maintenance and difficult staff, the attentions of a stalker, and the murders of some of her coworkers. Just recalling all that had occurred up to this time, I was wondering what could possibly top that?

Hello Again delivered! This book is full of twists and suspenseful action throughout as well as the steadily growing romance between the two main characters. Being set in a prison specifically for psychopaths gives the story an immediate creepy factor. Every character behind those bars has the potential for a story of terror. This story features a lot from the viewpoint of Eve’s personal, UNincarcerated psychopath though: Jasper Moore. He’s getting closer …

I particularly liked how the relationship between Eve and the awesome Amarok progresses. She was such a damaged soul, and she’s concerned about being more than a few years older than him. He has turned out to be so much more patient, caring, and understanding than the usual romance novel hero – without feeling unrealistic, too.

I can wholeheartedly recommend this book (and this series) to romance and romantic suspense readers. It is great, and I can’t wait for the next is the series.

I received a free, advance copy of this book from the author in exchange for my unbiased review.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Avon Calling: A Woman's Work is Never Done by Hayley Camille

Ding-dong, Avon Calling!

It’s the summer of 1943, and Betty Jones is living the perfect life. Married to her beloved, George, a successful insurance man, with two children, George, Jr., age 5, and Nancy, age 11, she completes her days helping her Avon business customers and friends. Just when life becomes a little too much, the sound of “Avon calling” and the little bit of pampering that accompanies it can really boost a girl’s day.

But Betty isn’t all that she seems. Underneath that perfect exterior, Betty has secrets. For one, she can hear your thoughts.

Wow! Betty is my new super hero, and Avon Calling! is my new favorite series. A Woman’s Work is Never Done is the first episode and is a great start to this series. Episode 1 introduces the character Betty Jones and her family, and gives us a glimpse into her backstory, growing up with an abusive father who is a member of a local crime family in New York City and her heroin-addicted mother who uses the drug to quell the voices she hears in her head. Her mother could also hear other people’s thoughts, and the constant barrage from these voices drove her to find relief, and ultimately her death, in a syringe.

The author has incorporated the fashion, the language of the time, and the cultural history of the door-to-door Avon Lady into this story of mob crime and paranormal gifts. I can’t with to get into the next episode A Dream That I Can Call My Own.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Indentured (The Mystic Saga, #1) by Scott McElhaney

Declan Stringfellow is on a vigilante mission to take out the drug dealers and their organization when he is shot, rushed to a hospital, and undergoes an MRI to determine the damage. One minute he’s entering the scanner and the next he’s waking up (in a new, healthy, and fit body) in the far distant future aboard a spaceship. Future humans have developed the technology to highjack the results of MRIs collected in the past and imprint them on the brains of commercially-developed human bodies. Although the original Declan and the others with him lived out their normal lifespan in the past, the new beings only have memories up to the point of the MRI and nothing further. To their horror, they have been created to serve as “Indentures” or slaves. They are on this space vessel bound for an uninhabited planet light years away with the goal of building a base for future colonists already enroute from Earth. However, not everything is as it seems and many of the Indentured aren’t “on board” with their new lives.

This is the first book in a five-book series, The Mystic Saga, by Scott McElhaney. With an interesting storyline that goes from modern times to well into the future, a variety of characters, cool tech, heartbreak, and mysteries all around, the story had me hooked right away. There are intriguing developments all along the way that the characters question, just like I was doing. I’ve already obtained Book 2, Legacy, to continue the fun.

Severing Sidney by Jason Werbeloff

When Geppetto (the Gutter surgeon and 'parts' dealer from The Organ Scrubber) receives the "Save the Date" (awesome touch!) announcing the "Merging" ceremony of his only child (only daughter), Simona, he leaves his home outside the New York Bubble and travels back to his home country, the Roman Bubble. The announcement has taken its time finding and getting to him in the Gutter and he must leave immediately as the ceremony is to take place in 2 days time. Arriving in his former home, he discovers the ceremony has actually already taken place and Simona has already "become one" with her intended, Neville. To recognize their new relationship and state of being, they have taken a new name, Sidney, a melding of both their birth names. But Geppetto cannot find the true essence of his beloved daughter in the new being and sets about to rectify the situation as only a surgeon in the Bubble World would do!

This slice of life in the Bubble World adds to our knowledge and understanding of author Werbeloff's universe and we get to see some of the backstory of characters that appeared in the very first story: Geppetto and his niece, Florenza. I particularly was surprised by the introduction of Geppetto's ex-wife, Lilly White. I was suitably horrified by this latest installment in the Bubble World saga and look forward to more.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Patenting Peter by Jason Werbeloff

Jason Werbeloff and "The Bubble" continue to entertain me with each new addition to this world. In this latest story, Peter is a discontented husband acting out while his wife is at work. He suspicions that he is under constant surveillance by the Tokyo Bubble government, in general, and his wife in particular, while toting up the “movement tax” on his actions. He tries to garner his wife’s attention with more and more outrageousness until he succeeds. And succeed he does. Just not with the results he was hoping for.

The Bubble World short stories are a super addition to the Defragmenting Daniel trilogy. Don’t miss it or the supplemental stories.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Sixth Man by Rupert Colley

Occupied France – 1943 - Six Frenchmen, picked up by the Germans for conspiring with the Resistance, have been held in a detention facility for the past six months. They are due to be released to go back to their homes on the morrow when they are informed by their captors that a train has been blown up by Resistance members. During the attack, five German soldiers were killed, and as an example to deter future attacks, five of the six Frenchmen are to be executed rather than released. It is up to the six to determine which of them is to be spared while the others die.

During the tension-filled night, the six decide to each tell their story and then vote, based on the lives they’ve lived and the deeds they’ve done, who is to escape the executioner. Rupert Colley has written an engrossing story with interesting characters and great background vignettes. I won’t divulge the final decision or results from the tense night of storytelling. Historical fiction readers will really enjoy finding out what happens.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Defenestration by Matthew W. McFarland

Originally a short story published as part of the author's previous work Fifty/Fifty and Other Stories, Defenestration has been expanded to novella length.

The story opens with our main character, Adam, looking back up to the 12th story apartment he’s just fallen from. He's falling, falling, and then ...

He is greeted by Gabriel and Michael who welcome him to the afterlife and give him an overview of his new situation. Turns out, the afterlife is whatever you believed it to be whenever you were alive. Adam decides he wants to know why and how he got to where he is, and the story takes off. And take off it does with many delightful interconnections deftly woven together to bring the story back around to where it started.

I love it when stories come full circle and tie everything together. This one is excellent! There were quite a number of the twists and turns that I never saw coming. All to the better for me. I highly recommend this book and the previous short story collections by the author.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

City of Hope and Ruin by Kit Campbell and Siri Paulsen

Theo lives to protect her people from hellish monsters that sweep over her city each night when the sun goes down. She leads a trio of fighters on patrol to seek out and destroy them or be destroyed. Theo is the longest serving fighter on duty and has had numerous trio members wiped out by the creatures.

Briony is a healer in her village which lies near the border of her country and that under the control of the vicious Scarred. As the Scarred invade closer and closer, Briony is desperate to get her family to flee away from the border to the safer interior of the country.

One twilight, while Briony is deep in the forest with her mountain lion companion, Poes, she comes face-to-face with a projection of Theo. Over a series of meetings, they learn the rudiments of each other’s world and decide that their societies can and must come together to defeat their enemies and survive. While they work to solve the mystery of how their two societies got to where they are, the two begin to fall in love with each other.

It was my understanding that City of Hope and Ruin is a collaborative work by Kit Campbell and Siri Paulsen with one author writing from the point of view of one character and the other from another. Right there I was intrigued. The result was a very nice story. The authors have also posted pictures on Pinterest of settings that resembled their ideas of their characters and various settings. This was fun and I only wish that I’d run across that earlier in my reading - great pictures that really fit the story! The character names are awesome by the way.

City of Hope and Ruin is a solid fantasy with good character and world building, loads of exciting action, mystery, intrigue, heartbreak, and romance. This is the beginning of a series and I look forward to finding out what happens next.

I received an ARC copy of this book, and I was not obligated to write a review. This is my honest feedback.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Manufacturing Margaret - More awesomeness from Jason Werbeloff!

I don’t know what this author does day-to-day but he needs to write more and do less of whatever that is. Author Jason Werbeloff has a New Year's Resolution to produce a short story based in the world of the Bubble every month in 2017. This is the January 2017 story.

Manufacturing Margaret is a delightful addition to the world and history of the Bubble from the Defragmenting Daniel trilogy. If you’ve read the trilogy, you’ll know that Margaret is the murderous android that Daniel encounters first in his quest to regain his donated organs. However, Margaret has her own quest – to become more human by incorporating actual human parts into her android frame. This story tells about her earliest beginnings and what starts her on this quest. Werbeloff has crafted a truly creative origin story for Margaret!

I received an ARC copy of this story, and I was not obligated to write a review. This is my honest feedback.