Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Angel Blue, Episode 2 (Seven Deadly Sins #1) by Jennifer Silverwood

In Angel Blue, Episode 2 of author Jennifer Silverwood’s paranormal series, Seven Deadly Sins, Anu, the last of the House of Eanna and a princess of the “Chosen” has rescued the sexy seeker, Wil, from the redum and certain death and has secreted him away in a human cabin to heal from his wounds. Wil’s sister, Izzie (Isabol) also escapes from the attack and returns to their home base with the shades to report what has happened to their leader, Gabriel. Leaving Wil with the means to get back on his feet and back to his people, Anu returns to the home of Lady Tiamata, the House of Gisnu, where they are awaiting the arrival of Malku, the self-appointed leader of the “Chosen” and the man Anu was betrothed at birth to wed. But Anu is in love with her guardian, Etlu, and the failed attack was only a first skirmish by Gabriel; he has no intention of giving up.

This is a just a downright good story. I enjoy all the characters and I’m really ready to find out what happens next. The writing is excellent, the characters compelling, the plot engrossing, and the episodic nature of the books unfolding has me drumming my fingers … waiting.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Earth Quarantined (Earth Quarantined #1) by D. L. Richardson

Earth’s population was being decimated by the EMB-II virus when the alien Criterion arrived. They averted the catastrophe, but humanity’s salvation came at a cost: the aliens stayed. At first, they stayed to assist in rebuilding and, later, the maintenance of peace among the population. For hundreds of years, the Criterion advocates have remained to guide Earth’s leaders in governing with the promise of the gift of space travel in the future.

Another consequence of the Criterion assistance was population control. The surviving human population must not outstrip the limited food and water resources the damaged planet could provide. Human female fertility is inhibited by bio-nano-probes carrying a fertility inhibitor chip which can only be unlocked by the Criterion advocates. Then when fertility is granted to a woman, only one child is allowed. Multiple births are interrupted in utero.

However, early in the Criterion occupation, a system for advancing the rebuilding efforts as well as saving these twins was developed and kept far away from the prying eyes of the advocates. Secret underground cities were established to work on a specific need or project element all geared toward getting humans off the Earth and into space. And when a twin was born, this forbidden second child was taken from its mother and smuggled into the underground hideaway to be raised and become a part of that community completely unaware of what was going on in the cities on the surface.

Unaware, that is, until one set of twins comes face to face.

This is the first volume in a new sci-fi trilogy by D.L. Richardson, the author of the exciting Welcome to the Apocalypse series. Well written, the story reveals a future Earth with a terrifying backstory. The characters are interesting and relatable, and are involved in a twisty, turny tale with lots to keep the reader invested and guessing at what’s going to happen next. I look forward to the next installment, Earth Arrested, which certainly cannot come soon enough.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Time Crawlers by Vayun Sayal

Time Crawlers is a collection of six interesting, entertaining, and different stories based in a variety of familiar (yet unfamiliar) settings and time periods on Earth. Each and every one of the stories is a winner! They can be read one at a time, quickly, between tasks or savored as a whole in one sitting.

Several of the stories use an interview-style format which proves very entertaining. The title tale, Time Crawlers, is presented in this way. Others are a straightforward telling.

The first third of the book is Nark-Astra, a tale of magical revenge, intervention, and redemption between opposing kings. (I love the names Sayal has used for his characters. For me, they are quite exotic and intriguing. I like discovering how they are pronounced.)

As mentioned earlier, the stories are set in various time periods, some in distant future times with technology advanced beyond what we generally know today. Others, like Genie are a modern day encounter with a genie and her lamp. Quite fun!

I recommend this book for readers that enjoy the short story format featuring science fiction and fantasy with a twist! I will definitely be looking for more tales from Mr. Varun Sayal.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Murder in the Apple Orchard (Pet Portraits Cozy Mystery, #9) by Sandi Scott

You can almost smell the apples and pumpkin spice!

Fall has come to the area and the Kaye sisters, Georgie and Aleta, make a trip to an apple-picking farm. As select apples and chat about Halloween costume ideas, the body of a young man is discovered hanging in the barn. He is Tony Beaumont, the fiancé of Veronica Slute, the daughter of the owner of the farm, Xabat Slute.

Although it appears a suicide, Georgie’s ex-husband, Detective Stan Toon of the Chicago Police Department is requested by the small local department to help in the proper investigation of the death. But Georgie notices some suspicious marks on the body and is convinced Tony was murdered. That and Maggie Hoffentop, a new crime scene photographer that is being a little too possessive of Stan’s attention keep the sisters on the hand to keep an eye on things.

Murder in the Apple Orchard is another cute and cozy mystery in the Pet Portraits Mystery series by Sandi Scott. As with all the books in the series, the dialogue is snappy and the characters sassy and fun. The mysteries will not strain your brain, just entertain. I recommend this book and this series to the cozy mystery lover and those that appreciate an amateur sleuth of a more mature age and outlook.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Creatures of the Night (The Horror Diaries #11 – 15) by Heather Beck

This was my introduction to the short scary world of Heather Beck and it was fun. This particular collection of spooky tales is part of her Horror Diaries series currently consisting of 24 horror stories for the middle grade age group.

Each of the stories featured here were scary but not too horrific for the younger set. Each one featured a different creature and regular people dealing with the unnatural circumstances. I can easily see me pulling these stories out in the future to read aloud to grandchildren having a sleepover.

Other reviewers have compared them to the R.L. Stine books from their own youth or that of their children and although I agree, with each coming in at under 50 pages, I think they would have been more attractive to my reluctant (or too busy) readers in the family than the longer Goosebumps.

I recommend these stories for the middle grade age group and parents who, like me, had a reader in the family that needed coaxing to complete their reading. I personally enjoyed reading one a night leading up to Halloween and have already sought out an additional handful to read in the future (Halloween or not!)

I voluntarily reviewed a copy of this book.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Murder at the Bonfire by Sandi Scott

In lieu of payment for the portrait of a majestic Great Dane, Georgie Kaye gets an all-expenses paid weekend at a nature preserve and resort outside of Chicago. Renown for its maple ice cream, Georgie and sister, Aleta, pack up her aging Volkswagen, Pablo, and head off for some fresh air and a change of scenery.

While scoping out the dessert offerings at the lodge, the sisters observe the resort manager, Joyce Reid, publicly and unmercifully dressing down Merv, the maintenance man. Afterwards they find out from hunky Park Ranger Luke Holt that Merv has been at the resort for over 20 years but has had a hard time coping since his wife passed away.

When Joyce’s body is discovered floating face down in the lake, the sisters learn that there isn’t a single staff member mourning her death. With hints of satanic goings-on in the woods and an attack on Aleta herself, the sisters, Georgie’s ex-husband Stan, and Ranger Luke (Aleta’s new beau) join forces to find the killer.

In this eighth entry in Scott’s Pet Portraits cozy mystery series, Murder at the Bonfire focuses a little more attention on the relationships of the sisters rather than the build up and eventual solution of the murder. Georgie continues to struggle with her feelings for ex-husband, Stan, who left her in the lurch with children still at home when he went midlife crazy. She loves him but she’s still not over the hurt and memories of that betrayal. On the other hand, Aleta is starting to look forward rather than remaining sunk in a pleasant past and memories of her long and comfortable life with her deceased husband, William. The murder mystery is simple and straightforward. New characters and settings help in advancing this charming sisters’ story.

Recommended for cozy mystery readers and those that enjoy reading stories with older, but not necessarily elderly, protagonists figuring out what’s what.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

The Sigma Surrogate (When Tomorrow Calls) by J.T. Lawrence

The Sigma Surrogate is actually the kick-off to J.T. Lawrence’s When Tomorrow Calls series set in a not-to-distant-future Johannesburg, South Africa. Birth rates have dwindled to a point where only very young women are capable of conceiving. Girls deemed the best of the best are recruited into the Surrogate Sisters, a cloistered group that produces offspring to keep the human race from eventual extinction.

Keke is a journalist working for the Echo newspaper still yearning for her big break – that career-making big story. She believes she’s finally found it when she receives an anonymous tip that of the Surrogate Sisters has been attacked and almost killed by a bomb planted inside their ultra-high security compound. And after meeting the young, injured SurroSister identified only as “Sigma,” she is determined to investigate what happened, uncover the truth about who would hurt the young woman, and, of course, break the story of a lifetime.

Along with her best friend, Kirsten, Keke calls upon her numerous high-tech (and underground) resources to get to the truth. However, what she uncovers goes much farther than she imagined and endangers everyone involved with her.

Such a good story with a strange and wonderfully dystopian world created to serve as the backdrop for all the action, intrigue, and romance. The characters are fun and well developed and the action is continuous in this futuristic setting. This story made me go immediately to look for more in the series.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Feed 1 (Fooko #1) by Nicole Grotepas

Originally imagined and developed to let the blind see, tiny, wireless cameras now roam the spaces and the lives of the residents of the U.S. filming lives and movements and broadcasting it all online for anyone to watch. The cameras’ inventor, Sam Ramone, had expanded the functionality from the medical arena to this total invasion of everyday life after massive home-grown terrorist attacks had been launched targeting thousands including his own children. Now, no one would ever be able to plan or execute such a threat again. However, Ramone never intended, nor imagined, the total invasion and televised results all in the name of entertainment. People were addicted to ‘the feeds’ as they were called: both appearing in them and viewing them. And now Ramone has had enough. But even as he works to undo the damage he made possible, he’s being watched himself.

In Feed 1, the first book in the Fooko series, author Nicole Grotepas has created a future U.S. where everyone is under constant scrutiny, and anyone can become ‘a star.’ Some watch ‘the feeds’ and vicariously share the lives of others. Some crave the attention of the viewers at the other end of ‘the feed’ and change their actions and their lives just to up the number of people following them. The story is peopled with regular characters that are feeling the pressure of the impact of ‘the feeds.’ But there are forces at work to keep the new status quo in place.

This story is highly recommended for sci-fi readers and anyone that has ever found themselves lost down a YouTube rabbit hole for an untold amount of time.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Angel Blue by Jennifer Silverwood

In Angel Blue, Episode One of author Jennifer Silverwood’s new paranormal series, Seven Deadly Sins, we are introduced to Anu, the last of the House of Eanna and a princess of the “Chosen” as she celebrates her ‘20th’ birthday at some human dive bar (she's actually around 1200 human years old.) She meets, dances, and shares a smoldering interlude with sexy Wil of the emerald-flecked eyes and broad shoulders. This does not end well when his companion, Izzie, discovers them and we find out that neither she nor Wil are human either. They are the “Cursed” – creatures that centuries before had murdered all the members of the House of Eanna and burned their castle to the ground – and they are hunting Anu as well. The dive bar burns, trapping many of its occupants inside. Anu and her guardian, Etlu, escape but are soon tracked down and surrounded by Wil, Izzie, and the rest of his group. They fend off their attackers and return to the home of Lady Tiamata, the House of Gisnu, where they are awaiting the arrival of Malku, the self-appointed leader of the “Chosen” and the man Anu is to wed. Betrothed at birth, Anu is not in favor of the union. Malku is known as a cruel man and she has loved Etlu for years. She plots to escape the House of Gisnu and persuade the honorable Etlu to run away with her. However, the “Cursed” ones are not done. The attack at the bar was only a single skirmish in a much more elaborate and longer developing plan to wipe the “Chosen” out entirely.

I enjoyed all the characters introduced so far especially Anu, Etlu, and Wil, and will most definitely be looking for Devil Red, Episode Two to find out what happens next. I am still in the dark as to who or what the “Chosen” are and the back story remains shadowy for me. The “Cursed” seem to be werewolves of “shifters” of some kind. I am willing to keep reading under the ambiguity because I’ve enjoyed this author’s previous work, but it’s not comfortable, and this may not be for every reader of fantasy out there. But the writing is SO GOOD, the characters so compelling, and the plot keeps slowly unfolding, and for now, I’m happy.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Chasing Filthy Lucre by Jarrett Rush

Dirty, edgy, and lots of action!

In a grim future America, one company, RomaCorp, provides all goods and services to the city of New Eden. The city had become what it was after a bunch of young idealists had taken over the in-situ government with theories that sounded good on paper but, in practice, failed after a mere eighteen months. The leaders of New Eden had come on television one day and said everyone was just “on their own.” Now the population of the city was scraping by in a dirty existence to fund their next hookup to “the wire.”

Weber Rexall had been a soldier and then a cop when the collapse happened. Now he eked out a living doing exhibition fights where sometimes he played the part of the winner, sometimes the loser. Tonight he’s paired against Johnny “The Kid” Berger, and is scheduled to be the victor.

Between his appearances in Raul’s basement fight ring, Rexall sidelines as a bodyguard for a data runner named Carroll. Carroll’s shop downloads critical or sensitive data into human data runners, and Rexall escorts them to the recipient of the data where it is uploaded and removed from the human carrier, a financially beneficial exchange for both the runner and the escort.

Rexall, impressed with Berger’s skills, includes him in this lucrative endeavor, but their very first job doesn’t go well, leaving the data runner dead, Carroll near death, and his shop destroyed by RomaCorp. With the help of a Serve-O named Simmer Jones, Rexall and Berger set out to make things right. Or at least as right as they can.

Clocking in at a little over 100 pages, Jarrett Rush packs a lot of awesomeness into Chasing Filthy Lucre, this first story in the New Eden series. I loved the noir styling, the dark, itchy setting, and the characters that combine to tell a really good story. This is recommended for readers that like dystopian, urban storylines with all the grit and dirt and unsettling edginess.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Girl in the City by Philip Harris

What an exciting kick-off to this series! And what a cliffhanger!

By night, Leah King scavenges through the backways of her city and the surrounding wastelands for items that her father can trade for food, clothing, and other essentials. After one such foray, she finds herself in the middle of an attack on a young man by the Transport Authority (the city’s governing and enforcement entity.) As he lays dying, the young man pushes the leather bag he’s carrying toward Leah with a whispered “Please …” for her to take it.

Hoping for some good salvage, Leah takes it to her father. But when they open it, they find only one item – a green rectangular object resembling a circuit board encased entirely in clear plastic and marked with strange symbols. An exhausted Leah retreats to her bed, but before she can fall asleep, she overhears her father talking to someone on the phone and leave the house.

Later, when he has still not returned, she slips out to try and find something she can salvage. She is caught stealing from the food wagon of an old Amish man who instead of turning her over to the Transport Authority officials urges her to keep the food and tells her where he can be found while he’s in the city should she get into any trouble.

She returns home to find it being ransacked by Transport Authority and her father, in their custody, being questioned and accused of being a member of TRACE, the terrorist organization currently fighting the Transport Authority. From what she overhears from the Transport Authority leader, Leah surmises they are looking for the strange object she’d gotten earlier.

When everyone leaves, she removes it to her secret hiding place located in the tunnels beneath the city, evading a scarred-faced woman who doggedly tried to follow her as she made her way through the neighborhoods, market, and back alleys to her destination. Desperate to free her father from the Transport Authority, she goes to the temporary lodgings of the old Amish man where she learns the significance and purpose of the strange object.

This introductory story by Philip Harris is an exciting setup for his Leah King series. Though short, a lot of ground is covered in building Leah’s world and the characters that populate it. It is dark and gritty, and filled with shadows, intrigue, and danger starting with Leah running for her life in the very first scene. I’m really looking forward to reading the next book in the series, The Girl in the Wilderness. This book is recommended for those that like young adult post-apocalyptic/dystopian tales.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

The Bottle Stopper by Angeline Trevena

When Maeve was six years old, her mother was taken away by the authorities for crimes against the state. Since that time she lived with her Uncle Lou, a horrible, abusive man that runs a sham of an apothecary. Maeve’s job is to scavenge old bottles from the nooks and crannies and alleyways of the “The Floor,” the poorest slum of the city of Falside where they live, and fill them with medicine to sell in the shop. In reality, the “medicine” is the polluted water from the local river and a sprig of whatever plant material she has gathered. It is a grinding existence until Topley and her loving parents open the bakery next door.

Topley’s family gives Maeve a vision of another life that she, too, can have once she turns 18 leaves Uncle Lou. But when Topley suddenly falls ill and her desperate mother resorts to some of Uncle Lou’s medicine, Maeve’s dream of a better life changes to one of revenge.

Maeve’s world of Falside is grim and bleak where women are restricted and controlled and viewed as property. The birth of female children has, unaccountably, become a rare occurrence, and leaving Falside is viewed as treasonous and punishable by death. But there is a glimmer of revolution here and there such as in “The Paper Duchess,” an old bookstore off the beaten path, where Denver, Kerise, and Tale try to discover what happened to Maeve’s mother.

The Bottle Stopper is a dark and well-developed beginning to The Paper Duchess series. It is recommended for readers that enjoy dystopian tales and those with similarities to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Murder at the Pool Party by Sandi Scott

Twin sisters, Georgie and Aleta Kaye, are involved in another mysterious death!

After a less than perfect date with her friend, Obby, Georgie decides to expand her circle of acquaintances by joining an online singles group, Excellent Over 50. As it happens, the group is planning a pool party for the following day at one of the founding member’s gorgeous Winnetka home. Georgie drags Aleta along to broaden her horizons as well. The party is lovely with champagne, swimming, and an awesome lunch which includes a 20-foot long sweets table.

While there the sisters meet some interesting new people and observe a little drama-in-the-making when one of the older men shows up with a 20-something date who is looking daggers at one their new friends, Maren Ingrid. After the meal begins, they see Maren and the older man slip upstairs together away from the rest of the party. Maren returns a short while later feeling ill so the hostess, Beth Bonomolo, calls for an ambulance. Beth receives word later that Maren died at the hospital. So, the sisters are once again at the scene of a mysterious death and Georgie is compelled to find out what is behind it.

I love this series. It’s short, it’s sweet, it’s simply fun. Georgie doggedly works her way through the murders and attempts to find a balance in her relationships with her ex-husband, Stan, and friends such as Obby. As with the previous books, the settings the author presents are interesting and comfortable at the same time. The dialogue between the two sisters continues to be snappy and entertaining. This book is recommended for readers of cozy mysteries, especially those that enjoy later-in-life protagonists.

Friday, August 17, 2018

A Curve in the Road by Julianne MacLean

Abbie had a premonition that something bad was about to happen.

Dr. Abbie MacIntyre has just started the hour-long drive back home after Sunday dinner with her widowed mother when a car crosses the center median of the highway careening into Abbie’s SUV and sending it off road, rolling over and over until landing in the bottom of a ravine. She is successfully extracted from the wreckage and transported to the nearest medical facility suffering a minor head wound. The driver of the other vehicle, reeking of alcohol, is in the same unit and in far worse condition awaiting airlift to a proper trauma hospital.

Abbie’s mother comes to her daughter’s side and both repeatedly attempt to contact Abbie’s husband, Dr. Alan Sedgewick, to notify him of the accident. (Abbie was supposed to have met him that evening at their son’s hockey game.) They are unsuccessful until emergency workers deliver the personal items of the drivers retrieved from the accident site to the hospital and Alan’s cellphone is discovered among the detritus. To everyone’s shock and horror, the drunk driver is Abbie’s own husband!

This is just the beginning of A Curve in the Road by Julianne MacLean. Once I started reading this book I didn’t want to put it down. The story is emotional and full of surprises as family relationships and secrets are revealed in the aftermath of the accident. Abbie’s perfectly normal life will never be the same again as the answers to how and why her loving, cardiologist husband who rarely drank even a glass of wine was driving drunk and was not headed to their son’s hockey game. This book is recommended to readers that enjoy a contemporary setting with romantic plotlines of betrayal, forgiveness, and second chances.

OH, and it features an awesome golden retriever as well.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Silver Hollow: 2018 Edition (Borderlands Saga #1) by Jennifer Silverwood

Amie Wentworth buried her beloved parents ten years ago and in the ensuing time had built a life and a growing career as a novelist. Returning home one evening from a welcome home party for one of her best friends, she’s attacked and fatally stabbed by a man who’d been lurking in the darkness by her doorway. She’s rescued and miraculously healed by a mysterious, dark stranger she’d seen lurking around town that day who then fades away into the shadows.

The following day, she leaves town without a word to her friends to travel to Wenderdowne, her ancestral home in England at the request of her Uncle Henry, a man she’s never met and whose invitation and traveling preparations had conveniently arrived, unbidden, the previous day.

During the train trip from London to Wenderdowne, she is once again attacked but makes her escape with the help of Emrys, the same man who had saved her before.

Finally reaching her uncle’s home, a dark and crumbling estate in the middle of nowhere, she discovers that her life back in East Texas had been one elaborate lie. She had been taken away as a small child from her rightful place in the family by Durstan, her father, and “glamoured” into forgetting her previous life and believing the new, made-up one, to save her life from those that wished her dead.

Wenderdowne is located in Silver Hollow is a different world, an alternate world from the one she’s known for the past 20-something years. Magic and magical creatures exist, and Amie must uncover her own magical powers with little help from those around her. Confused, somewhat homesick, and not know who to trust, Amie struggles to come to grips with her life. Information comes at a decidedly slow pace. However, when she and Emrys slip away from Wenderdowne for what was to have been a quiet day out, Amie starts to regain her memories as she encounters other people and places from her past. And then things really start to happen.

I really enjoyed the mix of modern, fantasy, and myths that the author has woven together to create Silver Hollow and the Borderlands. Amie is a likeable heroine and Emrys is dark and sexy and mysterious. I loved her grandfather, Arthur. And was emotionally shocked over Brillig Toadstool. I have not read many stories involving King Arthur or Merlin nor those involving mythical creatures such as unicorns, so their appearances were a surprise and delightful in how they were presented: new to me and very entertaining.

I recommend this book to readers of fantasy that is mixed with ancient myths and those that enjoy romance in their fantasies as well. This is the first book in the Borderlands Saga and I now look forward to the next one.

Friday, August 03, 2018

Strange Tidings by Jim Stein

After the C-12 virus struck, surviving humans were left to cluster into crumbling populations center such as New Philadelphia and slowly try to regroup into some semblance of life. Recovery was hampered by the discovery that many of the survivors were no longer capable of having children; only a few families had retained the ability to procreate. Those that could reproduce did and allowed some of their babies to be adopted by couples that could not.

Among the babies that were adopted out is Edan Johnson and his “sister,” Piper. Brought up in New Philadelphia, “Ed” is an aspiring musician and through a connection of his sister’s, he has landed his dream job at the local recording studio where he works with station engineer, Billy. One evening after the day’s business, Ed is using the station equipment to produce his own recording when he is interrupted by an odd, old man named Koko. Ed had previously encountered him at the farmers market across town and had received a strange coin from him. Additional sightings over the next couple of days, both in person and in dreams, finally reveals that Koko holds a significant place in Ed’s past and future.

Billy, too, has dreams. He’s a member of an up-and-coming band that is on the verge of making a name for themselves and possibly revitalizing the lost music industry. When Ed goes to hear the band play for the first time, he is drawn to their mysterious and complicated bass player, Quinn.

Strange Tidings is the first book in author, Jim Stein’s, Legends Walk series. The storyline is complex creating an entire world of post-virus America. I found it to be exciting and fresh in its use of native American mythology to draw in a paranormal cast of characters (which was new to me.) The complexity of the initial world-building provides several intriguing options for additional books to come. I highly recommend to readers that like young adult, paranormal thrillers, and native American legend tales incorporated into modern times.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Lost and Found by Ashley Ford

Naima is a succubus, and she is fleeing for her life through heavily wooded terrain when her pursuers are attacked by a large wolf. Bryce, one of her attackers and the group’s leader, escapes and hides out in a nearby barn to recuperate briefly before going after her again. He is hunting Naima to avenge his brother’s death at her hands. The brother had become obsessed with the succubus, kidnapped and held her captive, until she accidentally absorbed his entire life energy when he’d attempted to sexually assault her.

Following the wolf to safety in a secluded cabin, she meets the grief-ridden occupant, a shapeshifter named Gage. He is the wolf and has hidden himself away in the woods suffering from the loss of his mate, Alicia, the year before in a car accident.

The story of Lost and Found is about these two lost people finding each other and healing together. There is instantaneous attraction between the two which both fight making for some nice tension and wonder on the part of the reader – “Will they overcome their problems or not?” The story contains somewhat graphic sexual situations, but I thought they were well done.

This novella is recommended for readers that enjoy paranormal romances, shapeshifter stories, wolf pack tales, and something a little different – a succubus.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

I Am Terry Walker by Skye Andrews

Horrific confession-journal of a serial killer.

When a night out at a pub ends with a mindless, drunken murder, Terry Walker discovers that the horror at his actions also brings with it a deep feeling of satisfaction. Trying to recreate the feeling, Terry plots and picks up prostitutes, people he believes no one will ever miss, and murders each using a different method of torture. This story is presented in the form of a personal letter by Terry as he sits in his cell after being caught, tried, and sentenced to 120 years in prison: a confession-journal of his crimes, known and those that, until now, have gone undetected. Terry is writing the missive in an effort to increase his notoriety and is in no way seeking forgiveness.

This horror story starts out strong but does not sustain becoming a short recitation of different torture methods and vaguely how they work each occurring on Christmas of each succeeding year. The presence of a companion – a female tourist he kidnapped early in his years of crime – is mentioned infrequently during the years and I kept wondering (until the conclusion of his narrative) if she were still about or if he’d disposed of her at some point. The reader is privy to Terry’s thoughts and his motivations but there’s really not much to consider or dissect – I guess, though, that fits in with what we’re supposed to be reading: a quick and final confession of these additional crimes.

Horror is not my reading forte and I’ve not encountered the opportunity to book-talk the genre much. Having said that, when I say I cannot recommend this book, I really mean I am not able to suggest a group of readers that would find it a must-read. It is just too short and too shallow in its current form. It is often hard to understand because of uncertainties due to grammar. I do think the author is on to an interesting idea and it has the potential to become really horrific with care and expansion.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Murder at the Makeover by Sandi Scott

When Georgia Kaye receives an invitation to a high school class reunion (of sorts), she jumps at the chance to go see old friends and relive past memories. With sister, Aleta, in tow, the event unfortunately turns out to be little more than an attempt by Clara Lu, the event organizer, to introduce her pyramid-scheme, The Better You!, makeup business to her old friends, gain recruits, and expand her empire. Before the sisters can quietly slip away, someone screams and one of their former classmates, Samantha Alfred, is found dead on the floor of the ladies’ room. Chicago Police Detective Stan Toon, Georgie’s ex-husband, arrives on the scene to investigate and the sisters are once again embroiled in the search for a killer.

Murder at the Makeover is the 6th book in the sweetly, entertaining Pet Portraits Mystery series by Sandi Scott featuring the sixty-something twin sisters, Georgie and Aleta Kaye. In this story, readers are treated to a walk down the sisters’ memory lanes, revisit characters from previous books, and get a little closer look at Georgie’s feelings for ex-husband, Stan, and become more familiar with Aleta’s family. This series is recommended for readers that like their mysteries cozy, with lots of fun, snappy dialogue, and enjoy protagonists of a “certain age.” This series would be great on television! I can’t wait for the next one to come out.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Softhearted by Kim Law

Set in the Texas Hill Country, somewhere near San Marcos, Softhearted is the second book in the Deep in the Heart series by author Kim Law.

The series focuses on the women of Bluebonnet Farms – a foster home begun and continued by “Aunt Blu” Johnson. Softhearted features Heather Lindsay, the middle “sister” of Aunt Blu’s three original foster girls and continues from a point a little while after the story told in book one, Hardheaded. (Softhearted can be read as a standalone novel though I think readers will enjoy it more after having read Hardheaded.)

Of the three original girls, Heather is “The Soft One” with a heart as big as Texas and tender to boot. She was orphaned as a young teen when both parents were killed in a barn fire. Years later, this tragedy still looms large in her life and colors the choices she makes. Thrice disappointed in love, she finds herself attracted to what she fears is another bad choice – Waylon Peterson, the new ranch manager working for her foster sister, Jill and, soon-to-be-husband, Cal.

With the wedding only weeks away, the Bluebonnet women (Jill, Trenton, and Heather) are working hard on transforming Cal’s ranch house and grounds into the perfect setting for the upcoming nuptials. Adding to the expected pressure that a wedding brings is the fact that these activities are all being filmed as part of Jill and Cal’s new reality TV show, Building a Life. Heather and Waylon are like catnip to each other in this emotionally charged atmosphere. But both have some soul-searching to do before they can find their happily-ever-after.

Softhearted is a great next step in the Deep in the Heart series with a full-bodied story for foster sister, Heather, and some intriguing foundation laid regarding the future for foster sister number three, Trenton, and even Aunt Blu. The hero is a romantic and a single dad with a charming young daughter. I loved the setting in the Texas Hill Country and the mention of San Marcos. Horses played a featured role in this story which I also enjoyed. This book is recommended for contemporary romance readers.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Murder at the Car Show by Sandi Scott

Georgie Kaye is on the snoop again!

This time, Georgie and her twin sister, Aleta, are attending the Tri-Local Antique Car Show when one of the show’s employees is found dead in one of the vintage cars. Georgie had been asked to dress up and act as a model for a new photographer friend, Errol Barr. Aleta, as usual, has accompanied Georgie as her wingman. However, Aleta is the one that catches the eye of an admirer. Marley Gillibrand, an attractive older gentleman, is one of the participants in the show. When Hera Packard, one of the employees of the show’s organizer is found dead in Marley’s restored ’56 Chevy, Marley becomes the chief suspect in her death.

With Aleta considering venturing into her first relationship since the death of her husband, William, Georgie is determined to discover the truth behind Hera’s death, and exonerate Marley. In the meantime, she is also questioning her own romantic relationships including her true feelings for her ex-husband, Chief Detective Stanley Toon.

Murder at the Car Show is the fifth entry in author Sandi Scott’s Pet Portrait Mystery series about twin amateur sleuths, Georgie and Aleta Kaye. The characters remain interesting, the dialogue snappier than ever, and the relationships among the recurring characters genuinely fun. One thing that sets this series apart from others is that the characters are mature (if not always mature-acting) individuals; the twins are in their 60s and their beaus are the same and older. This book and all of the previous ones are just a fun time, and I really look forward to each new adventure.

Friday, June 01, 2018

The Dead Game by Susanne Leist

After graduation from college in New York, Linda Bennett is somewhat at loose ends. Her parents and brother had been killed in a car accident during her freshman year, and her future, without her family, stretched before her. Happening upon an advertisement for a bookstore for rent, Linda checks it out, signs a lease, and relocates to Oasis, Florida, the new proprietor of “Oasis by the Sea” bookstore and coffeehouse.

The quaint little town was picturesque and poised on the coast of northern Florida. But Oasis isn’t the idyllic respite Linda expected. Once there, with her bookstore open for business, she realizes the town harbors some shadowy secrets.

Lurking at the heart of the problem are the long-established residents of the town that live in the gated and oddly green-glassed mansions in the forest outside town, and only appearing at night. Frequently, townspeople and tourists go missing never to be heard from again. And then outside of town there is the mysterious and long abandoned mansion situated high on a cliff overlooking the ocean known as End House.

As shadowy figures flit through town at dusk, strange things begin to happen. Linda’s store and that of her friend, Shana, are vandalized looking as if a powerful wind had whipped through toppling bookcases and blowing things all around. And one day when Linda is out for a swim, she is grabbed underwater by a black-clad figure and almost drowns when she is rescued by the town’s most eligible bachelor, Todd Morrison.

Things really get dangerous when Linda and her friends, all newcomers to town, receive a mysterious, unsigned invitation to a party being held at End House, and they decide to attend.

The Dead Game is a horror story with elements of romance. The horror is fairly mild, scary, but not something that would keep a reader up all night afterwards. The romance is clean and sweet for the most part (no graphic scenes). Action is presented from the viewpoints of several characters. And there are questions left unanswered that would be a launching point for a sequel. This book would make a really fun movie. On the other hand, there are some confusing things that make reading a little tedious. There are a large number of characters involved that all have a part in the main story. The dialogue is repetitive in some instances BUT if this were a movie would probably make sense because additional characters would have to be updated on what was going on. And frankly, I wanted to smack almost every one of the characters at one point or another for dumb decisions, childish behavior, and stupid comments…you know, like in real life.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Stray (Touchstone #1) by Andrea K. Höst

When Cassandra Devlin left school on her final day of classes she thought she was headed home to prepare for a night of partying with her fellow graduates. But somewhere along the way she inadvertently traveled through a gateway away from Earth and onto another planet.

Alone, lost, and without resources other than what she had in her school backpack, she located a waterway and followed it downstream in hopes of finding civilization. Instead she came to a strange, deserted community constructed of blocky, white stone buildings.

Surviving there a month, she is discovered and rescued by a pair of young, black-clad soldiers (Setari) and taken to their home base, KOTIS, on the island-city of Konna, on the planet Tare. There she receives medical attention and is implanted with a device that helps her understand and learn the Taren’s language.

She is what they call a “STRAY,” and she’s not the first one that’s been found. There have been others.

Throughout the story, Cassandra expresses her desire to return home, but as she tries to figure out how to accomplish this, she is developing relationships with her rescuers and becoming embroiled and invested in their fight to save their world from destruction by the horrible creatures, the Ionoth, coming through the ENA. Her Setari friends believe that should she breach the ENA again to return to Earth she may draw the attention of the Ionoth and cause them to attack Earth just like Tare.

Told in first-person in the form of Cassandra’s diary, author Andrea K. Höst has developed an imaginative and compelling storyline in an interesting world. Familiar yet very different, the planets of Muina and Tare, and the concept of the ENA remain mysterious to the reader even at the completion of this first book in the Touchstone series. (The ENA is defined as “a dimension connected to the thoughts, memories, dreams, and imaginations of living beings,” however, it is a very real and scary place in the novel, filled with shadowy locations and dangerous creatures.

There are also a multitude of characters introduced (so many that there is a list of characters included at the end of the book.) While I enjoyed Stray, it took some effort to keep reading; the story develops slowly. Many of the characters are only superficially sketched out right now but I’m guessing some will become more substantial as the series progresses. I will definitely be going for the next book in the series, Lab Rat One, soon.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A Darker Shade of Sorcery (The Realmers #1) by William Collins

I loved this book!

Evander “Evan” Umbra never knew his mother or father, or anything about them. He was found abandoned in the forest as a newborn and reared by “Gran” until her death five months ago when he was sent to a children’s home for orphans. Since arriving in London he’d been visciously bullied by the neighborhood gang but still he steps when they target a smaller boy. As he’s beaten by the gang members, Evan sees a mysterious black mist emanating around him. Before he can wonder much about it, the beating ends and the mist disappears.

When Pete, another orphan at the home, goes missing, no one see or hears anything. His room is covered in blood so it is assumed that he’s been murdered and carried off. Then Evan sees a frighteningly, repulsive stranger lurking outside his school one day, watching and waiting, it seems, for him. After school, the bullies chase Evan down and as they pound on him, the stranger appears and reveals his true form – a horrible, nightmarish spider-creature. It kills Ollie, the gang leader, and attacks Evan. This time, instead of the black mist, Evan shoots green fire from his hands hitting the creature. But the creature survives, grabs Evan, and takes him through a portal to a different world as a gift for his queen.

Evan is saved from the queen by a silver-haired man and taken through another portal to the realm of Veneseron where there is a school for individuals just like him – Venators – Demon-Hunters!

Simultaneously in America, Brooke Carn is picked up by three Arch-Realmers – Arantay, Lok, and Tyrell – and taken to Veneseron. She, too, is to begin training as a Demon-Hunter. She meets Evan when he is attacked by a demon in his room at the Fortress. Along with others in their same Novice class, they form a group of friends and allies as they discover their skills in sorcery and try to keep Evan safe from further demon attacks.

The story is fast-paced and never dull. The characters are fun, interesting, and much like teenagers anywhere. There are some similarities to the Harry Potter series but it is different and entertaining. I was thoroughly engrossed once I started reading it.

Monday, May 14, 2018

EBBA, The First Easter Hare by Leen Lefebre

Somewhat difficult to follow due to a rough translation from the original Dutch into English, EBBA, The First Easter Hare, is the reimagined origin story of the Easter Bunny.

In this country, the tradition of the Easter Bunny (or “Osterhase”) is thought to have come to the U.S. via German immigrants in the 1700s. Their children made nests out of grass for the egg-laying hare where it would leave its colored eggs. Other sources say the association of a rabbit with Easter or Spring, in general, goes further back in time and was the symbol of the goddess “Eostre,” a goddess of fertility. Rabbits, of course, are known as early and prolific breeders.

In this new take, Ebba and her parents live in a dark kingdom ruled by her uncle, the cruel King Stern. It is a lightless place where the kingdom’s subjects are slaves: the males serving in the army protecting the borders and murdering any other creatures found inhabiting the kingdom. Females are expected to spend their lives gathering food for the king and his army.

One day, Ebba’s father, Atta, approaches his brother, the king, and requests to leave the kingdom for a place beyond the borders that is rumored to be sun-filled and free. The king refuses and they argue, but Atta goes anyway leaving baby Ebba and her mother, Hulde, behind with the promise to return one day and take them to their new home in the promised land.

Time passes, and Atta doesn’t return. Hulde and Ebba keep a low profile hoping for the day when they, too, can escape the dark kingdom until one day, while out gathering food, they discover a rabbit warren that has been destroyed by King Stern’s soldiers. Hidden away in a remote section, Ebba finds a clutch of runner’s eggs overlooked by the army. Ebba and Hulde decide that Ebba must take the unhatched eggs to the promised land beyond the borders to the runner mother that had desperately hidden her nest and fled when the army attacked. And so, begins Ebba’s journey to the borderlands and the adventure it becomes.

This is Book Two in a four-book series for middle graders and older that centers around one of each of the four seasons. (Book One was a winter tale.) Imaginative and short enough to hold the attention of children, it would benefit from some fine-tuning of the language to clarify what is going on and being said. Many times, I was halted in my enjoyment of the story because the word usage was just clunky and off-putting or didn’t make sense.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Zombies from Space ... And Vampires by Angela B. Chrysler

Zombies from Space …And Vampires by Angela B. Chrysler is an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it novella in which UFOs arrive and deposit aliens that look and move and eat humans like in the classic horror movie zombie sense. The main character is 19-year-old Aria who witnesses the arrival of one of these UFOs and the immediate disappearance of her father, her only close relative. As she stands there in complete disbelief of what she is seeing, she is grabbed by a mysterious stranger who comes out of the shadows and sinks his teeth into her throat. The next thing she is aware of is waking in a castle on Singer Island in the middle of the St. Lawrence River. The mysterious stranger is Caius and he wishes to keep her with him in the castle on the island as his guest but before she can figure out what he’s about she’s rescued by two black clad women, Cin Dixon and Kylie.

Cin takes her to a ship, the “Slush Brain,” moored in the river, captained and crewed by an assortment of interesting and quirky characters. Before they can float safely out of reach of the aliens on the nearby shore, they are alerted to the predicament of another fleeing crew member. Chess, who has the barely sane, Max, in tow, is trapped by the surging horde of aliens at the water’s edge. The crew rescues Chess and Max from the aliens (known as Weeches) but before they can get the ship underway it is attacked and destroyed by Caius and his group of followers. The crew finds themselves back on land and fighting for their lives and freedom.

An interesting forward to the novella explains the origins of both the story and the characters – a writing project incorporating the author’s real-life friends. I thought this quite fun! The story moves swiftly and probably should be read in one sitting for maximum entertainment though not required, of course. The novella could benefit from some additional editing just to make the story flow a little better but if a hiccup here and there doesn’t bother a reader it is definitely an entertaining time.

I received a free copy of this novella through Goodreads. This is my unbiased and voluntary review.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Heirs of Power by Kay MacLeod

Always in twilight with never-ending lava formations encroaching on the inhabitants, Tenebria was dying.

When the world of the Tenebri began turning into a destructive, fiery land, the inhabitants broke through a magical barrier to safety, in a new land, a New Tenebria, to the kingdom of another people, the Lucidians. But the invaders were not welcomed and they were sent packing by a group of 10 super-beings, Lucidians that had embued the physical bodies of selected humans with their spirits, and enhanced with special gifts and powers. They were known as The Constellations after the special groupings of stars in the sky.

The Lucidians knew that the successful removal of the Tenebri was only temporary – they would undoubtedly try again. So, to remain prepared for the day that happened, the powers of The Constellations are passed on from the original holder to their first child at birth. It would be up to the original Constellation to nurture and train their replacement.

Kitty Fairlow is blissfully unaware of any of this when she and her father stumble upon a portal being opened between this world and Tenebri with a magical urn. Her father, Zander, one of the original Constellations, has told her nothing. At her birth, she inherited his gifts – those of the The Archer. She is sent to take the urn to Princess Judith who rules for her mother the queen in the city of Lanathere. There she meets her first Constellation – Serena Olbridge, The Dancer. The two women set out to bring all the Constellations (The Juggler, The Astronomer, The Swordsman, The Sculptor, The Mystic, The Duellist, and The Scholar) together to once again fight the Tenebri and save the world and the human race.

Heirs of Power is the first book in The Constellation Saga and introduces us to most of the Constellations and their enemies, the Tenebri. The author does a nice job of building the kingdom of Lanathere and adding in the history of the conflict between the Tenebrians, the Lucidians, and how humans became involved. The characters are fun, quirky in some cases, heroic, but still definitely human. This book is recommended for fantasy readers that enjoy a good mission and a hearty saga of a story. I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader copy of this book.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Draylon – The Beginning by Kenneth Balfour

Story excellent, and with some additional attention, this little book could be a real hit.

Draylon, The Beginning is a novelette about an alien-human hybrid sent from his world, Terspheriton, to study human life and civilization. When his spacecraft crashes into the ocean off Easter Island, he makes his way to shore, heals his cuts and bruises and remotely destroys the wreckage of his ship. On the island, he makes the acquaintance of Paul, who had witnessed the crash but believed it to be part of the meteor shower. Together they set off on an around the world adventure collecting parts of an alien amulet left on Earth centuries before by another alien race unaware of plotting against them by Draylon's own people back on Terspheriton.

I will definitely look for the continuation of the story to see how things work out for Draylon and Paul.

Friday, February 16, 2018

A Zombie Christmas Carol by Michael G. Thomas & Charles Dickens

It was interesting to see a zombie story inserted into the classic A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens with all the beautiful use of language to match. The zombie insertion is quietly done and builds to a nice crescendo.

I appreciated Scrooge's ability for sword work a lot, and the incorporation of minor characters from the original story into somewhat more substantial roles.

Recommended for those that enjoy A Christmas Carol (but aren't going to be put off by the deviation from the original, of course) and zombie mashups.

I believe I picked this ebook copy up for free on

Monday, February 12, 2018

Second-in-Command (The Government Rain Mysteries #4) by L.A. Frederick

The Second-in-Command, another short story in The Government Rain Mysteries’ universe, showcases the history behind the character of Guy Hagan, a childhood friend and neighbor of Jed Soloman and his older brother. He pitied and protected the younger, weaker boy (Jed) from the area bullies until the day things went too far and Jed was almost killed. Soon after, Jed’s father died and the brothers disappeared.

Guy remained in the old neighborhood and grew up to eventually join one of the local gangs – The Ravens. As he advances his way up the ranks of the gang, he finds out he’s being watched by the unknown leader of “The Watchroom” – the chief criminal organization in New Hampton.

This series, although titled “Mysteries,” touches a broad range of reading interests (mystery, urban mystery, mutants, horror, sci-fi, dystopian, urban horror). There is something for almost everyone.

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader copy of this book.

Friday, February 09, 2018

The Lone Vigilante (The Government Rain Mysteries series) by L.A. Frederick

The rain changed Reinhardt – for the better. His body, his strength, his senses all improved when touched the rain that constantly soaked the city. But the city of New Hampton was imploding – only no one really understood that yet. Society was crumbling, and the city leaders were clueless (or uncaring). The city infrastructure couldn’t stand up under the influx of more and more homeless or the lawlessness that increased day by day.

The Lone Vigilante is a glimpse into the beginnings of the mysterious protector of what is left of New Hampton (and featured in The Rain) and simply known as Reinhardt. In this side story to The Government Rain Mysteries series by L.A. Frederick, Reinhardt and an old friend test his new-found abilities on a gang of criminals operating out of “The Watchroom” called "The Deadeyes.”

This story and series, although titled “Mysteries,” touches a broad range of reading interests (mystery, urban mystery, mutants, horror, sci-fi, dystopian, urban horror). There is something for almost everyone.

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader copy of this book.

The Skeleton Song (The Hollows #0.5) by Angela Kulig

The Skeleton Song is a prequel to Skeleton Lake, the first novel in The Hollows series by Angela Kulig.

The story is told from the viewpoint of a girl named Cassie about her VERY complicated relationship with two brothers, Raiden and Conrad, and gives some needed background and understanding for what's to come in Skeleton Lake. The writing is lovely. The story is mysterious.

Well worth reading before the full-length novel next in the series.

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader copy of this book.

Skeleton Lake (The Hollows #1) by Angela Kulig

When Marlow shows up unexpectedly at a party and discovers that her boyfriend and best friend are a couple, she’s distraught. When she realizes everyone already knew this but her, she publicly humiliated and runs away, hysterical and hopeless, thinking to end it all in the lake. The next thing she knows she wakes up, being taken care of, in the bed of Raiden Mast, a boy from her school. She’s surprised and confused but even more so when Raiden tells her “Last night you ... died.” And thus, begins this highly imaginative and addictive story of the “Skeletons” of Skeleton Lake, the “Hollows,” and the “Fleshies.”

The Skeletons are former humans (Fleshies.) As children they had been sick and brought to Skeleton Lake where they are freed from their incurable bodies in the waters of the lake. To everyone else, they still look, act, and age like a human but they depend on the special water of the lake to heal their flesh-like coverings, their colorful glowing bones underneath, and maintain their strength. They mingle with the locals, go to school, shop, whatever, yet still pretty much keep to themselves living around the lake (which to human eyes appears to be a giant cornfield.) Skeletons only possess one half of a soul: sharing it with their intended life companion. If a Skeleton couple has a child, it will not have a soul such as their parents and are known as “Hollows” and seen as inferior. When a Skeleton dies, their half of the soul goes to a “replacement.” Marlow is the replacement for Cassie, the Skeleton girl who committed suicide when she became entangled with the “Hollow” Conrad, the brother of her intended, Raiden.

Just as Marlow is beginning to understand her new life and her feelings for Raiden and Conrad while keeping her parents in the dark, unexpected danger from outside arrives. Hollows from a distant community try to kidnap the young women of Skeleton Lake to take them back to their leader for breeding purposes.

The story is complicated and fascinating and just the beginning of this exciting, and totally different, series. This is recommended for readers that enjoy young adult, paranormal, and horror genres.

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader copy of this book.

Friday, January 26, 2018

The Forgetful Man (Government Rain Mysteries #3) by L.A. Frederick

The Forgetful Man gives us the backstory of one of the characters from The Rain – Nathan Fisher. An ordinary family man, the 40ish Nathan loves his job at the Royal Museum. Through his presentation to a school group at the museum, we get a glimpse at what has occurred in New Hampton’s history as well. Hundreds of years previously there had been “The Great Depression” (and it’s not the one that immediately comes to mind) where northern towns had failed, and thousands of people migrated south swelling the population of New Hampton to where it is today. Much of the land’s history had been lost so the explanation to the students for why the towns failed must remain vague and attributed to climate changes making the land uninhabitable. Later that day, Nathan is interrupted by men moving large crates of unknown contents into the storage areas of the museum, and some days later, Nathan is let go.

Without telling his wife and children of his job loss, Nathan looks for work during the day. One day he loses consciousness in the back yard when he runs out to retrieve the drying laundry from a surprise rain storm. Later, he is driving with his son in the car when he blows a tire. Changing the flat in the heavy rain, he frightens his son and himself when his skin begins to change color, his anguished scream shattering all the car windows. And, slowly, his internal voice begins to take on a life of its own.

This series, although titled “Mysteries,” touches a broad range of reading interests (mystery, urban mystery, mutants, horror, sci-fi, dystopian, urban horror). There is something for almost everyone.

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader copy of this book.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Rain (Government Rain Mysteries #2) by L.A. Frederick

The second story in the Government Rain Mysteries series by L.A. Frederick, The Rain, is a robust and intriguing mix of mystery, horror, and urban dystopia. A more substantial, and far longer tale than the series kickoff, The Last Doctor, it places the reader smack dab in the middle of the confusion that is the lives and times of the residents of the doomed town of New Hampton.

In this entry, readers are introduced to the major players that will continue the series and learn more about the mysterious and creepy Dr. Zhirkov and this manufactured “government” rain that appears to be behind all the weirdness. New Hampton is on the brink of collapse, and while the regular residents of the area go about clueless to what is about to happen, there are some with special abilities that are beginning to see what’s going on.

This series, although titled “Mysteries,” touches a broad range of reading interests (mystery, urban mystery, mutants, horror, sci-fi, dystopian, urban horror). There is something for almost everyone.

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader copy of this book.

The Last Doctor (Government Rain Mysteries #1) by L.A. Frederick

The Last Doctor is the first story in the Government Rain Mysteries series by L.A. Frederick. It gives the reader a peek into the series’ core setting (the Newton Street facility) and some of the characters there. From this introduction, readers will get a pretty good foundation for where the plot is headed. Or at least you think so; turns out there are quite a few twists, turns, and layers to this series.

In story number one, a young doctor working at an incarceration facility of some kind has second thoughts and doubts about himself and his abilities to continue the experimental treatments he's administering so he resigns his position. Once back in society he begins to question the morality of what he was participating in and wants to notify the authorities of his concerns. But it’s not that simple where this government is involved. It looks like he won't be allowed to raise a red flag about the experiments.

This series, although titled “Mysteries,” touches a broad range of reading interests (mystery, urban mystery, mutants, horror, sci-fi, dystopian, urban horror). There is something for almost everyone.

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader copy of this book.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Murder at the Cabaret by Sandi Scott

The fourth entry in the Pet Portraits Mystery series by Sandi Scott, Murder at the Cabaret catches us back up with Georgie Kaye, the eldest of the Kaye twin sisters. In this outing, Georgie is enjoying a visit from her youngest child, son Andrew, and his friend, JR. The boys decide to treat Georgie to an evening out in a new activity – a cabaret show in New Town. With a front row table they are in prime seating for the curtain going up and revealing that the leading lady, Madame Bray, has been murdered.

With such a closeup view of the what happened, Georgie finds investigating the murder simply irresistible with plenty of stops for dessert along the way. This time she has a little help in the form of Andrew and JR. However, her information and efforts are demeaned and rejected by the lead detective on the case, Detective Schwarz, who is from a different precinct than ex-husband, Stan Toon. A recurring character from a previous book, Malcolm Oberfield or “Obby” as he is known, makes his interest in Georgie clear when he asks her out on a date. This gives Georgie plenty to think about as she reflects on her relationship with Stan.

Once again, the dialogue is witty, the mystery interesting, and conclusion a viable one. This cozy mystery series really continues to entertain.

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader copy of this book.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Mates: From The Beginning by Jay A. Lee

Lots of promise but not ready for prime time

Author Lee has come up with an interesting storyline, however it, and the characters involved, are never fully developed.

Adam and Eve never really show much emotion or ask the questions I would expect of anyone finding out that mom and dad have been lying to them their entire lives. And the “Eww” factor of becoming the mate of your sibling is really brushed past. Expecting to immediately jump in and produce several litters of children as quickly as possible with your brother or sister was quite acceptable to them, too.

I found this to be a very difficult reading experience. The grammar, spelling, word choices, and the often times painful descriptions of actions that must have been difficult to adequately get across to the reader all damage this imaginative story. I wondered if, perhaps, English was not this author’s first language. If this is true, then I commend the author for trying. All of this can be fixed.

Except for that thing with your sister, this whole thing screamed “middle-school gamer’s wet dream” to me.

Car Guts by Melody J. Bremen

Beatrice Tanner is having a bad life. Her father is in jail, her mother is sick and incapable of holding things together, and Beatrice is on a bus headed to Sandpoint, Texas, to live with the uncle she’d never even heard of before.

Uncle Kyle proves to be a man of few words, living out in the middle of nowhere with his dog, Rocket, fixing cars. He quietly welcomes Beatrice into his spare, neat home but pretty much leaves her to her own devices while he works beneath whatever car or truck needs his attention. He enrolls her in the local school for the final two weeks of the school year but Beatrice feels the pain of being the new kid and is targeted by the classroom “Queen Bee,” Erica Fields.

But Uncle Kyle is more than a small-town mechanic. Warned to stay away from the old barn on the property, Beatrice’s curiosity gets the better of her and she discovers that there is a whole world of magic lurking just out of sight. Kyle is actually a powerful wizard and magic runs in the family! Beatrice is going to be his apprentice.

What a fun story! Beatrice is a strong young lady, not a lot of feeling sorry for her plight either. Uncle Kyle grows on you and truly becomes Beatrice’s family. There are twists and turns in the story, mean girls to overcome, and an interesting set up to the magical world. The ending makes it look like this could be the start of a delightful series. I’m certainly hoping there will be more about Uncle Kyle and Beatrice.