Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Ring-A-Ding Dead! (The Myriad Mysteries, #1) by Claire Logan

Ring-A-Ding Dead! (Myriad Mysteries Book 1)Ring-A-Ding Dead! by Claire Logan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When the newlywed couple arrived in Chicago by train, they went to check in at their honeymoon suite at the luxurious Myriad Hotel. But, rather than a relaxing room, what greeted them was the corpse of the hotel clerk dead on the floor behind the front desk! Both husband and wife, former private investigators, are immediately drawn into discovering what had happened, and when another death and the attempted poisoning of other staff members soon follow, they are asked by the hotel manager and the owner himself to investigate.

Ring-A-Ding Dead! is a fun and lovely start to a new mystery series set in 1920s Chicago at the fictional Myriad Hotel. The lead characters, Hector and Pamela Jackson (assumed names), are as big a mystery as the murders, and remain so even after the final page of the book. Details of their former lives, before coming to Chicago as newlyweds, slowly unfolds throughout but the whole picture is never fully revealed. At times, this left me feeling confused and uneasy, but as the tale went on, I think the not knowing became half the fun. I recommend this book to cozy mystery readers that enjoy the look and feel and flavor of Prohibition Chicago. I look forward to reading more about the Jacksons at the Myriad.

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Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Zombie City (Death Squad, #1) by Charlie Dalton

Zombie City (Death Squad Book 1)Zombie City by Charlie Dalton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The deadly virus spread through the city of Austin like wildfire catching everyone off-guard and by surprise. The biggest surprise was that those infected by the virus died and turned into flesh-eating, blood-drinking zombies. The most unexpected aspect though was that the virus was released on purpose.

As chaos and destruction erupted, the military went into action and erected a giant wall around the entire city, dropping it huge section by huge section into place with helicopters and effectively quarantining all that were within. Those inside the now walled city were left to hide out from their infected family, friends, and neighbors and fend for themselves as the government worked to contain the virus to this one location and find a solution. Then “The Walkers” were discovered.

Some of the infected didn’t turn into mindless, ravenous monsters. When they died and reanimated, they retained their ability to think rationally and the zombies seemed to leave them alone, somehow knowing they, too, were the walking dead. Among “The Walkers” is Sergeant Thomas “Tommy” Watts. He’d lost his entire squad in an ambush by zombies in the city but had ‘survived’ his own demise. When the military command determines that there is a living, breathing person or persons unknown behind the virus – one that was actively working to release the virus outside the walled city and infect the rest of the country – they enlist Tommy and four other ‘Walkers’ to return to the interior of the city to find and stop them.

Zombie City is the first book in the Death Squad, a new post-apocalyptic series by author Charlie Dalton. I found it full of action, horror, and a number of engaging characters. I liked that the setting was supposed to be Austin where the city motto is “Keep Austin Weird.” Okay! There are still a number of mysteries in the story yet to be resolved at the close of this book so be prepared for not having all your questions answered. I really enjoy these end-of-the-world, zombie stories and look forward to more in the series.

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Monday, December 09, 2019

Margin of Errors (Stygian Menace, #2) by Henry McAndrews

Margin of Errors (Stygian Menace #2)Margin of Errors by Henry McAndrews
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Margin of Errors, a sequel to the excellent series debut, Imminent Domain, has our hero, Evan Trystan and his two friends, Yna and Anil, back on board the Sydney, and trying to evade the Skukulkang, remove the ship, Sydney, from the influence of the Skuk, and alert their former companion vessels that the Alpha Centauri system they are headed for is under Skuk control.

With Anil’s help, Evan is able to override Sydney’s SI and free her and the operational droids from the influence of the Skuk. By commandeering some of the loyal droids, he is able to awaken his friend, Lieutenant Flynn Olafsson from stasis, but before they can get the rest of their squad operational, the Sydney is boarded by Skuk soldiers including Yna’s lost mother, Nadissa. The Skuk torture Flynn and Nadissa grabs Yna to present to the Skuk leader, Baron Kryt, and eventually, to the Suzerain Ugrot himself.

Retrieving his marine squad from stasis, Evan is dismayed when their commander, Lieutenant Elijah Moretti, decides to contact and reunite the Earth vessels in Alpha Centauri rather than pursue the Skuk and their captive, Yna. But when Eli succumbs to the after-effects of coming out of stasis, Evan takes advantage of his incapacitation to take a Skuk ship left onboard the Sydney to the Skuk’s home planet to rescue Yna.

As with Book 1, this story is a never-ending tale of action with Evan trying to determine what’s real and what is only a simulation, and who is a friend and who is not. More is revealed about the mysterious and quirky alien, Anil, and readers are introduced to Evan’s best friends and fellow marines. The story is fun and fast, with the look and feel of a top-notch, and addicting, videogame. I recommend this series for readers that enjoy middle-grade to young adult scifi stories, books featuring aliens, first contact, and generational spaceship travel. As each book builds directly on the action of the previous one, I recommend they be read in order.

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Imminent Domain (Stygian Menace, #1) by Henry McAndrews

Imminent Domain (Stygian Menace Book 1)Imminent Domain by Henry McAndrews
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When 16-year-old Evan Trystan awoke from his Simulated Reality-distributed studies, he expected to see a crew of over 200 people manning the generational spaceship, Sydney. What he found instead was a nightmare: the crew missing – left behind on a small planet when the ship was contaminated by gamma rays, their companion ships nowhere in sight, 240,066 people including his parents still in deep stasis, and he without the medical knowledge to safely awaken them. Oh, and as the ship approached the nearest habitable planet, he suddenly found himself smack in the middle of a war between two scientifically-advanced alien races.

Knowing he needed help to keep his fellow travelers alive, he descended to the planet to meet with the inhabitants, the alien race that had protected him thus far, the Enilingu shravat. Greeted by an alien doctor, Dar, and his daughter, Ynayilsaruviga, and reassured that they will assist him, he is shocked to discover the Sydney has abandoned him there on the planet.

Before he and Yna can come up with a plan to reunite Evan and the Sydney, the other alien race, the Skukulkang or Skuk, break through the En’s planetary defenses and invade the planet. The two escape the Skuk on the ground, procure a shuttle from the closest base, and flee the planet just in time to see the En home world destroyed. Now they must elude discovery by the Skuk and get back to the Sydney before they run out of oxygen and luck.

Imminent Domain is the first book in the middle-grade science fiction series, Stygian Menace, by Henry McAndrews. This book has non-stop action, good “good guys,” bad “bad guys,” and others that you just aren’t sure about their loyalties. And with the presence of the Simulated Reality Unit, you can never be quite sure if what is happening is actually happening or a simulation. This is a book the entire family can enjoy and would make a good one to share as a read-aloud. I think even the most reluctant readers would find this a page-turner as well.

(At this time, there is a second book available, Margin of Error, which continues Evan’s story. The author points out that he wrote Imminent Domain for his own children and since its publication, they’ve, of course, matured. This second book contains heightened action intended for a little older audience: 10 and above.)

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Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Ghost of a Chance (Southern Ghost Hunters, #2.5) by Angie Fox

Ghost of a Chance (Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries, #2.5)Ghost of a Chance by Angie Fox
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When the ghostly spirit of the former Union officer, Major Matthew Jackson, decides to propose to his ghostly sweetheart, Josephine, he comes to Verity Long for help. When he was a living man, his mother had promised to give him a family heirloom, an opal necklace, to present to his bride-to-be when the time came. With his early death, a casualty of the War Between the States, that time never came, and with his alliance on the side of the Union, he had been banished forever from his home in Sugarland. However, his mother’s spirit still haunts the old homestead, and since he cannot approach her himself, he is hoping that Verity, with her ghostly gangster friend, Frankie’s help, can act as a go-between and retrieve the necklace.

This is another creative addition to the Southern Ghost Hunters series by Angie Fox. Series readers will have met most of the characters involved in the previous entries and it was especially nice to continue with Matthew and Josephine’s relationship. Frankie is his usual crabby yet fun-loving self with Verity caught in the middle of everything living and deceased. As with the previous stories, there are some poignant moments with the spirits of the departed. Hug your loved ones and let them know how feel while you can.

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Thursday, November 21, 2019

Lost Shadows by Nathan J. Gregory

Lost ShadowsLost Shadows by Nathan J. Gregory
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When a huge meteor shower hits the Earth, Jay Zander and his friends, Anna and Luke, go to check out one that landed in a farmer’s field near their homes. When Jay reached down to touch the space rock in the small crater though something happens setting off a chain reaction of lights, explosions, smoke, and sound. Jay recovers first and pulls his two unconscious friends away from the hole. Luke recovers next and the boys quickly leave with Jay carrying Anna all the way home.

When Jay’s father, a local scientist, is called to the location to help the police investigate, Jay follows him back to the field. Jay follows his father to his nearby worksite, and along with Anna and Luke once again, they descend into the hidden lab below the surface of the Earth. With explosions rocking the surface and creating havoc underground, Jay’s father sends Anna and Luke off with his assistant, Sue, and takes Jay to his private office. There he puts Jay into a clear tube where Jay is made to fall asleep.

When Jay awakes, he is alone. The lab is deserted and falling apart. Thirteen years have passed. Someone has left him a note with a helmet and he hears a voice in his head telling him to follow the light. He finds his way outside where he is chased by some very unfriendly creatures to an abandoned house. A strange woman wearing a gray hood and cloak saves him from the monsters and takes Jay under her wing. The woman turns out to be Sue, his father’s former assistant, and she is able to tell him what has been going on while he was in frozen sleep. They team up to try and locate the Ghosts, humans with super powers derived from touching the meteorites, and so the quest begins.

Lost Shadows is a delightful quest story in a post-apocalyptic setting if you can get past constant issues with unusual and inappropriate word choices. I noticed that other reviewers of this book have pointed out these same problems and with plenty of time having passed since then I’m surprised it hasn’t been fixed. It still reads like it was written by someone with English as a second language (and I just don’t believe that.) This book needs an editor. It DESERVES an editor. As is, it is just not ready for “prime time.” So much potential!

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Saturday, November 16, 2019

The 12 Cozy Mystery Carols of Christmas by Carolyn Ridder Aspenson, Rachael Stapleton, Ava Mallory, Jenna St. James, K.M. Waller, Laina Turner, Sam Cheever, Stephanie Damore, Susan Boles, Tricia L. Sanders, Wendy Meadows

The 12 Cozy Mystery Carols of ChristmasThe 12 Cozy Mystery Carols of Christmas by Carolyn Ridder Aspenson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mistletoe and Hauntings by Rachael Stapleton is one of the cozy mysteries included in The 12 Cozy Mystery Carols of Christmas: A Collection of Holiday Cozy Mystery Novellas by Members of the Sleuthing Women Authors Collective, and is part of Stapleton’s Bohemian Lake series, most specifically, the debut novella in the Hexing Holidays in Bohemian Lake set featuring Mallory Vianu. I look forward to reading the other 11 stories based on how good this one was.

Mallory’s family owns the local lake resort hotel – the Caravan Manor – and the women of her family possess special gifts that allow them to see things that other people do not. For example, matriarch of the Roma family, Nana Vianu, is a gifted fortune teller whereas Mallory is a clairvoyant.

The setting of this story is the night of the annual Mistletoe Ball on the night of Yule, the longest night of the year as well as when the veil between the plane of the living and that of the dead is the thinnest and most fragile. It is during this time that Mallory is able to view and help the spirits of the deceased that have not yet crossed over to their rightful place of rest. This year’s ball is being held at the old Salazar Mansion which is sure to be chockful of stranded spirits and Mallory figures it will be a very busy night.

The new owner of the mansion is Caspar Holly, an obnoxious, recently-arrived resident out of Hollywood. Previously a famous film director, he’s quickly settled into the community (one in which he’d apparently lived 25 years earlier), and is directing the town’s annual Christmas play, and by all rumors getting pretty chummy with the too-young-for-that Meg Patone.

Mallory reluctantly attends the ball with her boyfriend, Officer Kaden Bones, by her side, and almost immediately runs into his yet-to-be-ex-wife, Donna, an FBI agent in town working on a case with the local department. Kaden and Mallory both have been trying to get Donna to sign divorce papers to no avail.

Drink in hand, Mallory is attempting to communicate with her first ghost of the night, the former owner of the mansion, Rory Salazar, when a scream erupts from the front of the house. Someone has poisoned the host, Caspar Holly and the best suspect is Mallory’s friend, the caterer, Pike. With Nana Vianu’s warning of the visitation of 3 spirits this night, Mallory and Kaden race to discover the murderer before the 3rd spirit is created.

This is another good, action-filled story in the Bohemian Lake series which just never gets old. Almost all of the series’ quirky characters make an appearance or get a mention and with the unfolding of the mystery readers get a few more interesting tidbits about these fun, loveable people.

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Friday, November 15, 2019

Dog! You’ll Never Look at Your Dog the Same Way Again by Mike Robbins

Dog!: You'll Never Look At Your Dog the Same Way Again.Dog!: You'll Never Look At Your Dog the Same Way Again. by Mike Robbins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The rescue dog was just beginning to settle into his new home with Bazza, a college professor, and his grad school girlfriend, Caz, when a monk arrived to stay for the semester. The dog had been in several homes recently but maybe this one would work out. And as he gets comfortable, memories of his previous human life start to come back to him.

If you have a dog companion animal, I know you’ve most likely looked into their eyes and wondered what they were thinking. And if you’ve ever adopted an animal, you’ve probably wondered about what they’d been through before coming to you. I think they probably have interesting thoughts and maybe interesting prior experiences, but most likely not on the scale as the dog in this story. The dog’s internal dialogue, commentary on his human companions, is entertaining but what really grabbed me was his flashbacks to his prior life as a man – a good story on its own set in wartime England.

Dog! is a novel on the shorter side but it packs quite a bit of story in those pages. There is a good twist to the ending, too, that I really appreciated. I recommend this for readers that like animal stories where (Spoiler Alert!) – the dog doesn’t die!

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They Came with the Snow Series (They Came With The Snow #1-2) by Christopher Coleman

They Came with the Snow Series (They Came with the Snow, #1-2)They Came with the Snow Series by Christopher Coleman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dominic was a professor of English at Warren College, and he was cheating on his wife, Sharon, with a grad student. His infidelity saved his life. If he hadn’t been secretly meeting Naia at his office on that May Sunday when “The Event” occurred, he probably would have gone out in the unseasonable snow like everyone else had done and been turned into one of the hairless, white, featureless creatures he and Naia had christened “the crabs” (for the way they moved.)

After weeks alone, barricaded from "the crabs" in the Warren Student Union building, Naia was ready to break out to see if the rest of the world was a winter wasteland as the radio alerts had claimed before going silent. With supplies almost gone, Dominic creates a distraction at the front of the building as Naia readies to flee out the back door to race for their lives through the snow.

The two head to the nearest outpost of civilization they know of – a strip center with shops and restaurants situated just off-campus – followed closely by hundreds of "the crabs." They have no idea what they may find – help or more of the same?

From the strip center, Dominic returns to his home to determine his wife’s fate but his traveling companions from the strip center prevent him from sacrificing himself for guilt over not being there when “The Event” happened. The group continues on to escape the area they envision as 'Ground Zero' only to discover every avenue out of the county by land is blockaded and the main bridge barricaded, impassable, and loaded with “crabs” or the ghostly, white creatures that used to be their fellow citizens. They decide to cross the river out of the cordoned-off area using one of the numerous abandoned boats found near the bridge.

On their way across the water in an old, unstable motorboat, they stop to investigate a large luxury yacht left afloat midstream. With the “crabs” in the water attacking the old motorboat, Dominic leaves his companions on the larger ship and lures the "crabs" away from them downstream. Wet and freezing, he is able to get to the opposite shore to the pier for a seafood restaurant. As he’s searching for things he and his friends can use though, he’s captured by four soldiers and taken away in their RV for questioning.

As it turns out, Dominic knows more about what has happened to the world than the soldiers. They, too, have been separated from their units, and have figured out that they were ditched on purpose. As they accept Dominic as part of their group and head back to try to find out what has happened to Dominic’s friends, they discover the headquarters of the organization that Dominic believes may be responsible for “The Event” and the destruction of life as they know it.

The description of the "crabs" and their amazing agility was a terrifying image. I was on the edge of my seat the entire reading. Dominic seems to be such a weak individual at first – he’s a cheater and kind of undecided about everything – but I tended to forget this and began to root for his survival and his mission to find out what happened to his wife and to discover the truth behind “The Event.” The action and horror never quits in either book. One tense situation leads to another. What has actually happened at Warren College unfolds slowly but readers will have to wait for Book 3 to get the rest of the story. I recommend this to readers that like horror stories in general and post-apocalyptic tales specifically.

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Sunday, November 10, 2019

Chardelia Foss and the River of Fear (The Danny Canterbury Tales, Book 1) by Dominic Jericho

Chardelia Foss and the River of Fear (Adult Edition)Chardelia Foss and the River of Fear by Dominic Jericho
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Danny Canterbury and his friends are fourth year students at St. Oliver Plunkett’s on the northeast coast of England. They’ve been together, for the most part, since childhood but as adolescence dawned they’ve begun to view each other as more than playmates; they’ve started to pair off as couples, break up, and grow up. But something else is different at school this year, more than a feeling of change, and when one of their teachers, Professor Woodbridge, is murdered that is just the start of a growing feeling of menace.

Danny, Tim, and Amanita comprise the staff of the school newspaper, The Oracle, and they decide to investigate and report the truth behind Woodbridge’s death when the police don’t seem to be getting anywhere. And when more teachers are killed, rather than being scared off, the trio become more determined than ever to get to the bottom of the evil that has infiltrated their school.

I listened to the audio version of this book as well as followed along in the Kindle edition. Numerous reviews praised this particular narrator of the audiobook but I found her very difficult to follow initially. I had to start over a couple of times (the reason I eventually grabbed the Kindle edition) because I was unable to get accustomed to her accent. After I became comfortable with her though, I enjoyed the various inflections she used for different characters. However, there were so many mispronounced words!

Rather than let a difficult narration completely color my view of this story (seriously, I was ready to throw in the towel), I picked up the Kindle version which helped comprehension and focus immensely. The book read better than it sounded, and it was good. It felt like a genuine look into teen and school life. The deaths of the teachers were mysterious and puzzling. I didn’t see the cause or resolution coming at all. Despite the title, the story focuses on Danny Canterbury. The “River of Fear” doesn’t enter into it until almost 80% into the book. My initial impression before reading the book was that this was going to be a middle-grade story; it is not. I saw later in one online source that this is the “Adult Edition,” and it is. There are grown-up issues and situations. I will definitely be reading the next book in the series, and I recommend this one for readers that enjoy teen coming-of-age stories that also include action, adventure, and paranormal overtones.

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Thursday, November 07, 2019

The Sacred Artifact (The Young Alchemist, #2) by Caldric Blackwell

The Sacred Artifact (The Young Alchemist, #2)The Sacred Artifact by Caldric Blackwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Craig, Audrey, and Cornelius defeated the dark alchemist, Meeks, for the second time, they also secured the source of this dark power: the Sacred Artifact. The three set out to discover what they can about the crystal so it can be destroyed and prevent its immense power from being used for evil ever again. Along the way to the city of Tarvel, where the training ground for alchemy has always been, the trio runs into pirates, exciting adventures, make new friends, and reconnect with old friends from Cornelius’ past.

The Sacred Artifact is a nice follow-up to the first book in The Young Alchemist series, The Missing Alchemist. Once again, the characters are confronted by a variety of interesting and exciting circumstances as they go about their mission that would hold the young, reluctant reader’s attention. I recommend this book for elementary and middle-grade readers as well as for reading aloud to the whole family.

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Fixin’ to Die (A Kenni Lowry Mystery, #1) by Tonya Kappes

Fixin' To Die (Kenni Lowry #1)Fixin' To Die by Tonya Kappes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For the past two years, the town of Cottonwood, Kentucky, has been relatively crime-free, and Sheriff Kendrick “Kenni” Lowry would like to think that she is somewhat responsible. And, she is, but not for the reason she thinks. When the peaceful streak is broken by the murder of the beloved hometown doctor and the jewelry store is burglarized on the same day, she discovers that the ghost of the former sheriff, her own grandfather, has been scaring off any would-be criminals from his side of “the veil.”

As Kenni, with the help of Kentucky Reserve Officer Finn Vincent, and local characters, jailer Wyatt Granger and Sterling Stinnett, investigates the two major crimes, she tries to come to terms with the ghostly presence of her “Poppa” as well as prove to herself, her doubting parents, and her town that she can handle the position to which she’s been elected. Long-hidden secrets are uncovered and Kenni finds out that even in a town where everyone knows everyone else’s business not everything is as it appears.

Fixin’ to Die is the first book in Tonya Kappes’ Kenni Lowry Mystery series. Kenni is so very likeable and human – the girl next door – dealing with a job, family, friends, and a single life. I liked that she starts with some self-doubt and gains confidence as the investigation goes on. She follows her leads which send her in the wrong direction at times. This was a fun story and a good series debut. I recommend this book to cozy mystery readers that don’t mind a touch of the paranormal in the story.

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Thursday, October 31, 2019

Burden of Truth (After the Green Withered, #2) by Kristin Ward

Burden of TruthBurden of Truth by Kristin Ward
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In Book 1, After the Green Withered, Enora and her partner, Springer, discovered that the Company was conducting experiments with human genetics to create a new human race – to replace the current one. Building from here, Book 2, Burden of Truth, Enora comes to realize that her childhood friend (and now, her commander), Bram, has sent her on specific missions to open her eyes and mind to what the Company has been going to the barely surviving population of what was once the United States: keeping resources back and giving the best to the privileged few.

When she and Springer are uncovered as assisting the resistance, they flee to the nearest group’s underground headquarters hoping to aid the cause all they can. In retaliation, everyone that Enora loves, her parents, her friend Safa, even Bram, are killed by the Company or members of the resistance who never forgave her for things that happened when she was on the other side. Then Enora and Springer discover that the motives are not as pure on the side of the Resistance as they believed.

Exciting twists and turns lead up to a devastatingly climactic ending. I liked the dark nature of the story and the characters were portrayed realistically. There is a growing romance between Enora and Springer that developed slowly and in a natural fashion in my opinion. And other thoughts and reactions by the main characters seemed in line. I thought the ending was perfect.... I didn't like that that was how it was but I thought it couldn't realistically end any other way!

Recommended for YA readers that enjoy dystopian tales.

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Monday, October 28, 2019

Hamburger Heist (A Felicia’s Food Truck One Hour Mystery, #2) by Celia Kinsey

Hamburger Heist (Felicia's Food Truck One Hour Cozies Book 2)Hamburger Heist by Celia Kinsey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While Felicia is at the supermarket trying to order a cake for her partner, Arnie’s, birthday, she gets a frantic call from one of her regular lunchtime customers at her food truck. Arnie and the food truck have just been robbed! Even though the police apprehend someone right away, Felicia is unconvinced they’ve got the right guy. Marge, a local homeless character and another of Felicia’s regulars, claims the man they picked up was with her all day and the money he had on him was from his recently-cashed disability check.

Felicia covers a lot of territory in this short mystery which is the second in the new series, A Felicia’s Food Truck One Hour Mystery, by author Celia Kinsey. This author offers up several, all quite plausible, suspects for the robbery, and just as quickly has Felicia run down clues and mark them off her list (we only have an hour you know!) until we have a perfectly believable solution. I recommend this short story for cozy mystery lovers, food truck enthusiasts, and those readers that need a little fun nugget to pass some time, and still get a solid mystery and resolution.

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Fit to be French Fried (A Felicia’s Food Truck One Hour Mystery, #1) by Celia Kinsey

Fit to Be French Fried (Felicia's Food Truck One Hour Cozies Book 1)Fit to Be French Fried by Celia Kinsey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When food truck regular, Mary Dunn, is found lying unconscious a street over from where Felicia is set up for business, Felicia doesn’t believe that the woman has just suffered a stroke. The way her groceries were scattered hither and yon seemed to indicate to Felicia that a struggle of some kind had occurred, and, too, Katie, the clerk at the nearby convenience store, had seen someone running from the scene right before she had found Mary on the ground.

When Mary’s purse, still containing her money and credit cards, is discovered hidden in the food truck’s fry vat, Felicia is even more certain that another person has to be responsible for Mary’s collapse. She starts asking questions and finds that nothing about the matter is what it first appears to be.

This is the first book in a new series, A Felicia’s Food Truck One Hour Mystery, by author Celia Kinsey. The brief cozy mystery, a short story more accurately, packs a lot of action as well as a lot of fun. There are a variety of interesting characters, some kooky, and the plot not only provides a mystery but some intrigue and romance as well. I recommend this story for cozy mystery lovers, food truck enthusiasts, and those that want a fun read that solidly resolves in about an hour or less.

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Friday, October 25, 2019

A Veiled Deception (A Vintage Magic Mystery #1) by Annette Blair

A Veiled Deception (A Vintage Magic Mystery, #1)A Veiled Deception by Annette Blair
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Madeira Cutler and her roommate, Eve Meyers, are returning home from New York City to Mystick Falls, Connecticut, for different reasons: Eve, to take a teaching position, and Maddie, to plan the wedding of her youngest sister, Sherry. But Maddie is thinking of leaving NYC behind permanently though. With Eve not coming back to their shared apartment and her career as the first assistant to the fashion designer, Faline, sucking the soul right out of her, she is thinking now might be the time for a change. Seeing her hometown, her family, and hunky on again/off again beau, FBI agent Nick Jaconetti, reinforces her feeling that returning to Mystick Falls may be her future.

The girls arrive at the Cutler family home just in time for Sherry and Justin’s engagement party, and swanning it around through all the guests is Sherry’s soon-to-be mother-in-law, awful Deborah Vancortland. At her side is Jasmine Updike, Justin’s ex-roommate from college, and the girl Deborah is pushing forward as a better match for her son than Sherry. But as the party heads toward a surprise reveal of Sherry’s vintage wedding gown, Maddie discovers Jasmine’s dead body upstairs in one of the family bedrooms strangled with Sherry’s vintage wedding veil. As the police fix their eyes on Sherry as their prime suspect, Maddie, Eve, and Nick try to turn up clues to identify the real killer.

A Veiled Deception is the first book in Annette Blair’s A Vintage Magic Mystery series, and it was an absorbing and entertaining debut especially with the fashion references and Maddie’s newly-emerging talents in the paranormal arena. She is a budding psychic and has been having visions of the past when she touches certain pieces of vintage clothing. The relationships between the characters were what I felt were really magical though. From the barely-restrained steam between Maddie and Nick to the close sisterly bonds between Maddie and Eve or Maddie and Sherry, character interaction really shone with special emotion. I recommend this book for cozy mystery readers that enjoy a little romance and like (or, at least, don’t mind) the presence of paranormal elements in their stories.

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Thistle and Twigg (Thistle & Twigg #1) by Mary Saums

Thistle and Twigg (Thistle & Twigg, #1)Thistle and Twigg by Mary Saums
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first time Jane Thistle came to Tullulah, Alabama, she knew that she’d return one day. There’d been a connection to the place right from the start, like she belonged (unlike all the places she’d been as a career military officer’s wife – always a temporary situation.) So when her husband passed away, she sold up and relocated to the outskirts of the small town in an old house near a wildlife preserve.

She met her first friend, fellow widow Phoebe Twigg, while buying ammunition for her handgun and shotgun, and met her closest neighbor, Cal Prewitt, that same day when he fired a warning shot over the hood of the car she was traveling in up his driveway. However, the relationship with Cal slowly ironed its way out and they, too, became good friends. When Jane and Phoebe find the dead body of an unidentified young man on Cal’s property, the ladies team up to prove Cal’s innocence, and find themselves a target of the killer as well.

This is the first book in the Thistle & Twigg Mystery series, and it really was a delightful story. It is a quiet, gentle read at first but is laugh-out-loud funny much to do with the way the author alternates the point-of-view between the two ladies for some of the same scenes. Jane’s reserved British manner matched up with Phoebe’s homespun, southern charm is very entertaining. I have lived in the South most of my life and some of Phoebe’s turns of phrase surprised even me. If I had been reading an eBook version I would have worn out the highlight function saving some of the funny sayings. The mystery and resolution was solid, but it is really the 60+ year old heroines that shine. There is some interesting paranormal activity in the storyline but it is pretty minimal. Jane can see ghosts but sightings are few and far between. There is some assistance in advancing the story from the other side. I recommend this book to cozy mystery readers that enjoy more mature protagonists and don’t mind the presence of paranormal elements.

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Monday, October 21, 2019

What’s a Ghoul to Do? (Ghost Hunter Mystery #1) by Victoria Laurie

What's a Ghoul to Do? (Ghost Hunter Mystery, #1)What's a Ghoul to Do? by Victoria Laurie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

M.J. (Mary Jane) Holliday can communicate with spirits, and she and her best friend, Gilley Gillespie, have built their business around that unique talent. They are ghostbusters. When someone suspects they have a ghost creating problems in their home or business, the two partners work together to move the lost spirit on to the other side. Their latest client, hunky Dr. Steven Sable (the Second), wants them to contact the spirit of his recently deceased grandfather to determine the truth behind his death. The police have called it a suicide but Dr. Delicious just isn’t buying it. So he, M.J., Gilley, and Doc, M.J’s talkative African Grey parrot head upstate to search for answers.

This was a fun, funny, exciting, and easy-to-read story with constant action and the start of a possible romance. The mystery around the grandfather’s death is not a quick solve, and it takes the whole book to reach the final reveal. Along the way, several other ghostly questions and visitors appear to M.J. who opens her senses and her heart to help them find peace as well. The main characters are easy to like and, hopefully, will all return in subsequent books in the series. I highly recommend this book to cozy mystery readers that enjoy some paranormal activity as well.

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A Skeleton in the Family (Family Skeleton Mystery #1) by Leigh Perry

A Skeleton in the Family (Family Skeleton Mystery #1)A Skeleton in the Family by Leigh Perry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dr. Georgia Thackery and her daughter, Madison, move into Georgia’s parents’ home while they are off on sabbatical. It’s a convenient arrangement because Georgia’s been hired as an adjunct professor of English at the local institute of higher education, McQuaid University. Besides the financial savings, the house comes with a bonus, Sid, the family skeleton – a walking, talking skeleton – is in residence in the attic.

Georgia and Sid had been best friends since Georgia was 6 years old, and he had no memories of any kind before that moment he met her. No knowledge of life before his current condition as an animated skeletal being. But while attending an anime convention at the college (in cosplay, of course), Sid recognizes someone from his past. When Georgia tries to set up a meeting with the woman, she and Sid come across her dead body instead. From that point, they begin researching any clue they can to find out who Sid was.

A Skeleton in the Family is an interesting and unique amateur sleuth/ghost story. This time we have a physical, tangible manifestation of our ghostly detecting partner – the skeleton. We don’t know how the skeleton came to “life” (at least not yet anyway), just that he did. And the family of characters that surround the ghost are all nice, normal folks. Georgia is a likeable woman and the plot is smart and intriguing. This is the first book in the series of Family Skeleton Mysteries, and Leigh Perry is a pseudonym for author, Toni L. P. Kelner. I highly recommend this book to cozy mystery readers that don’t mind a heavy dose of paranormal activity.

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Sunday, October 13, 2019

A Ghostly Undertaking (Ghostly Southern Mysteries #1) by Tonya Kappes

A Ghostly Undertaking (Ghostly Southern Mysteries, #1)A Ghostly Undertaking by Tonya Kappes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Emma Lee Raines works in the family business with her sister, Charlotte Rae, as director of the Eternal Slumber Funeral Home. After a conk on head though, Emma Lee is seeing and talking with the ghosts of some their clients (the deceased clients).

Most recently, she’s being visited by the ghost of her grandmother’s hated business partner, Ruthie Sue Payne. Ruthie, whose body was discovered at the bottom of a staircase at her B&B, is adamant that she didn’t trip and fall as has been surmised but pushed! She wants Emma Lee to help her find her killer so she can go toward the light and meet up with her still beloved ex-husband, Earl Way Payne (who happens to have been married to Emma Lee’s grandmother at the time of his death.)

As Emma Lee starts looking into Ruthie’s “accident” and asking questions, she draws the attention of the local sheriff, Jack Henry Ross, her secret high school crush. But as they come closer to uncovering the truth, someone else is working in the shadows to stop the investigation at any cost.

Author Tonya Kappes has perfectly captured a slice of life in a small southern town: the “in” crowd, the gossip, everyone knowing everyone else’s business and every member of your family past and present. The reader is introduced to a number of town residents, “characters,” family, and friends and get a peek at the histories and relationships at work there. I liked that these included older people that were still lively and out there living their best lives (and surprising the younger folks like Emma Lee that there is still some life left after 40 and 50 and 60, etc.) Our heroine is sweet, likeable, and funny and her ghostly visitor, sassy and not at all the awful person that Emma Lee had always thought. You definitely root for the home team in this one!

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Friday, October 11, 2019

Teardrops and Flip Flops (A Gone to the Dogs Camper Romance #1) by Lark Griffing

Teardrops and Flip Flops (A Gone to the Dogs Camper Romance Book 1)Teardrops and Flip Flops by Lark Griffing
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When George, Ruby Dunning’s husband of twenty-four years, passed away, he had been planning a big surprise for her. He’d always known about his free-spirited wife’s desire for adventure and over their years together how she’d reined that all in to be with him – the ultimate homebody. Now, he was going to support her in her need for spontaneity and freedom; he secretly bought her a top-of-the-line teardrop camper to pull behind her new Jeep. However, before he can present her with this gift, he succumbs to a heart condition that he’d also kept secret from her. So, when the call comes from the saleswoman that the teardrop trailer is ready for pick-up, the grieving Ruby goes to take possession and hears how George has selected and planned this all for her.

Ruby takes time from her editing job to try the camper out and eventually goes on the road with it for longer periods of time writing and editing articles as needed by her boss. Along the way, she acquires a stray dog, uncannily named “George,” and begins to come to terms with her grief and her new life as a single woman on her own.

Teardrops and Flip Flops is a great story with a great title. Not only is there the teardrop camper but Ruby sheds quite a few teardrops as she sorts out life without George (the husband.) And flip flops are appropriate as well in referring to her footwear as well her changes of heart.

The description and circumstances of what Ruby was going through was real and heartbreaking, and the author has developed some great supporting characters to surround our heroine. With this book ending on a bit of a cliffhanger, I am looking forward to reading the further adventures of Ruby and George (the dog.)

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A Ghostly Gift (The Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries #1.5) by Angie Fox

A Ghostly Gift (Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries, #1.5)A Ghostly Gift by Angie Fox
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When Verity Long’s sister, Melody, asks her to help an old school friend with a ghostly problem, she accepts even though Frankie (her ghostly partner) would rather give it a pass. The friend, Julie, can’t afford to pay them but as the owner of a resale shop, she offers to trade Verity a much-needed kitchen set for her assistance in stopping a poltergeist from wrecking her business. Rather than an angry spirit, the poltergeist in the New For You store is that of a heartbroken soldier from WW2 who is trying to reconnect with his one true love.

This was a sweet, poignant mystery for Verity to unravel along with some of the ghostly others around Sugarland, Tennessee. A very satisfying novella to tide the reader over between books one and two in the Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries series.

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Southern Spirits (The Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries #1) by Angie Fox

Southern Spirits (Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries, #1)Southern Spirits by Angie Fox
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Verity Long has been having a rough time of it lately. When her cheater of a fiancé tried to force himself on her younger sister the night before the wedding, she called the whole thing off. But rather than take it like a man, Beau went ahead with the wedding to appear as if he were the victim, stood up at the altar, before the entire town. The town, Sugarland, Tennessee, took his side and his mother sued Verity for the wedding expenses (even the crazy extras that the mother-in-law-to-be had insisted on!) After having sold off all her possessions, Verity’s still $20,000 in debt, and is having to put her beloved family home on the market as well. But then Frankie, the ghost of a long-dead, local gangster, shows up.

Due to humorous circumstances, Frankie is released from his final resting place (an unusual urn that no one would buy during the estate sale), and is now “attached” to Verity and her family home’s property. Together, the two decide they must find a way to get the money to prevent the sale of the family home and figure out how to unstick Frankie from the property.

This is the first book in the Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries series by Angie Fox. The characters are fun and witty, the dialogue snappy, and the action with all its twists and turns and surprises never stops. Verity is slowly working her way out of the hurt-filled place Beau left her with the help of her best friend, Lauralee, her pet skunk (yes, skunk), Lucy, her sister, Melody, Frankie, and the unexpected relationship blossoming between her and Beau’s black-sheep brother, Ellis. Just a delightful quick read!

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The Missing Alchemist (The Young Alchemist Series) by Caldric Blackwell

The Missing Alchemist (The Young Alchemist, #1)The Missing Alchemist by Caldric Blackwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good, middle-grade adventure quest with magic!

Fourteen year old Craig Pike is an apprentice to Cornelius, one of the last alchemist’s in the realm. A kind, gentle, and overall, excellent man and master, Craig is devoted to him and pulls out all the stops when Cornelius goes missing, and presumed kidnapped, at a feast his honor.

Along the way, Craig meets challenge after challenge, gaining confidence as he perseveres. He teams up with the multi-talented orphan, Audrey Clife, after he helps her escape from town soldiers for running an illegal gambling operation. (She really regrets that she has had to stoop to doing this in order to support her elderly grandparents.) Craig and Audrey continue the quest together, each helping the other through some very exciting situations.

This is a medium length chapter book with constant action that will hold the attention of even the most reluctant readers. Craig is a likeable second to his master, Cornelius, but he really shines when he must come to the rescue. Audrey is a breath of fresh air. She is a strong, confident, female character who young readers will appreciate. I think that this would make a great read-aloud book for the family as a whole but would work really well for the every evening reading assignment that many middle-graders have. I look forward to continuing the saga with Craig, Audrey, Cornelius, and Lily, the horse, too.

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Thursday, October 10, 2019

Murder & Cake: By Royal Appointment (Murder and Cake #1) by Luna Snow

Murder and Cake: By Royal AppointmentMurder and Cake: By Royal Appointment by Luna Snow
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Problem punctuation, grammar issues, misused words, and typos but STILL a fun cozy mystery!

The aptly named Jane Dough was born to be a baker, and at 45 years of age, single, and somewhat overweight, she is happy and content with her life. But after winning the recent British “Bake-Off,” things are about to getting really interesting. She’s been invited to Buckingham Palace to create the birthday cake for the Queen’s 90th birthday celebration! However, not all is kosher in the castle kitchen. The other chefs invited to make the other elements of the celebration dinner are a mixed lot of unhappy, temperamental people, and when Jane discovers a dead body in the kitchen’s storeroom, things really start to go off the rails. Between dealing with the unfriendly personalities of the other guest chefs and trying to ensure that her dream cake for the queen is perfect, Jane is under a lot of pressure. And, too, who is this handyman, Alf Jeffries, who keeps hanging around the kitchen?

Author Luna Snow has presented a fun main character, an interesting supporting cast with numerous plausible suspects, and a simple, yet realistic mystery. It is a fun, quick read if you can just ignore the multitude of problems with its delivery: grammatical errors, misused words, typos, and a real issue with punctuation of all kind. Read it if you can overlook this (or are just curious about how this can still be a decent story) but do it through Kindle Unlimited. If not, give it a pass. Having said that, I will definitely be checking out other stories in the series.

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Sunday, October 06, 2019

All Time: Voidbound (An All Time Quick Read) by Mack Leonard

All Time Voidbound (An All Time Quick Read)All Time Voidbound by Mack Leonard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After a century of working on the project known as “Broken Clock,” the channeler Brightside is disqualified from the opportunity of being the first to time travel or “jump.” But rather than being disappointed, he is secretly glad. With his candidacy removed, the most likely choice will be Voidbound, his sister’s fiancé. However, when Brightside breaks the news to her, she is less than overjoyed. Mirrorside is worried. Voidbound has not been acting like himself for some time and it has gotten even worse lately. Although medically he checks out clear, he has been blanking out, losing himself at random moments, suddenly not knowing what he was doing or saying. Due to the suspected nature of time traveling, it is critical that the one jumping have full control of their faculties at all time; a mistake in the past could have devastating repercussions in the future. Unfortunately, when Brightside warns the team leading the project about Voidbound’s behaviors he is written off as “sour grapes.” No one with any kind of authority will believe him.

This is a great side story to the All Time series by Mack Leonard. The author cleverly introduces us to Brightside’s backstory as well as many others that featured in the first book, All Time. Read the first book though before reading this "Quick Read." I already know that this is going to be one of those series that I am going to be tapping my foot while waiting for more.

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The Runaway Turkey (Avon Calling! #14) by Hayley Camille

The Runaway Turkey (Avon Calling!, #14)The Runaway Turkey by Hayley Camille
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With her beloved husband, George, away at Army Training Camp and unable to get leave to come home for Thanksgiving, Betty is really feeling the burden of keeping the home fires burning. The Boudoir Butcher is still at large and the latest victim, a Turkish mobster known as Altan Karga, lived through her last attack. However, before Betty and her friend, NYPD Sergeant Jacob Lawrence can question the man, he escapes from his room at the hospital. Betty tries to track the mobster down before he can exact his revenge again his attacker, Tillie. At the same time, Betty’s daughter, Nancy, is feeling her oats and starting to use her newly acquired powers to right the wrongs in her life. Inexperienced, she sometimes doesn’t choose her fights too wisely. She still needs to understand that public displays of her powers could bring about dangerous and unwanted attention.

Quite a lot of ground is covered in this, the 14th, episode. Readers get an update on George at camp, Jacob Lawrence and his investigations and trial, Adina Sonberg, and even elderly neighbor, Mrs. Porter makes an appearance. Betty and her relationships with her friends, clients, and children are all featured and, literally, everyone is home for the holiday except for poor George. It is nice to catch up yet there are still loads of plotlines to wrap up before we come to a conclusion for Avon Calling!, Season Two.

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Friday, October 04, 2019

Before the Fall (After the Fall #4) by Charlie Dalton

In Before the Fall, a prequel novel to the After the Fall trilogy, author Charlie Dalton tells the story of “the Fall” of humankind when the Earth was peppered with a deadly virus via meteorites.

It was time for the Perseid meteor shower and people were fascinated by the chunks of space rock that fell to Earth across every land mass picking them up, collecting them, selling them, and, generally passing them around as curiosities. The virus the rocks carried wasn’t detected for weeks and by the time it was discovered, massive numbers of people had already been infected. The virus spread quickly, unlike anything ever seen before, and those that were impacted turned into mindless, rage-filled, monsters that attacked everyone and anyone biting, tearing, and eating their flesh.

The President of the United States (as well as other heads of states across the globe) gathered military experts and scientists (including his best friend, Dr. Graham Beck) to stop the spread of the virus and the resulting destruction. But, it was already too late. With time running out for humanity, the strategies turned from a cure to a weapon to fight the green-lit satellite that keeps circling in the atmosphere above.

Before the Fall is Dr. Beck’s narrative and tells of the creation of the diary which had been hinted at in the series novels, and it does not disappoint. It lays out the sequence of events that led to the circumstances that existed at the time of the first book in the trilogy, and is a nice addition to the series. Dr. Beck, not a very likeable character previously, is definitely shown in a different, more sympathetic light. As with the entire series, I recommend this book to readers that enjoy young adult, post-apocalyptic stories.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Amym: The Mamluk Who Defied Death (New York Vampires #1.5) by K.D. McQuain

AMYM: The Mamluk Who Defied Death (New York Vampire, #1.5)AMYM: The Mamluk Who Defied Death by K.D. McQuain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the story of how Amym, the elite servant to the Chord and the Lesser Blessed of the New York Vampires series, came to be.

Amym was a mamluk, one of the soldier-slaves to the Mamluk Bey, in his adopted city of Cairo. He was young, strong, rising quickly up through the ranks, and in love with the slave girl, Ketevan. Just as was preparing to approach Ketevan’s master for her, the Mamluk Beys and all their troops are ambushed and massacred at a ceremony at the Pasha’s palace. Due to the actions of his own master, Amym narrowly escapes and flees to the Bey’s home to rescue the Bey’s wife and family as well as Ketevan and her master and his household. As he is leading them to safety across the desert, Amym is confronted outside their nightly encampment by some of the Pasha’s soldiers. As he fights them off, this wreck of a human figure joins the fray and destroys the soldiers finishing up by tearing out their throats and drinking their blood. He takes Amym to a tomb below ground where he remains a prisoner for several years with the creature feeding off his blood as he desires.

So, fans of the series get a great backstory for Amym, one of the principal characters reappearing throughout the New York Vampires series. This story is filled with interesting historical world-building and the action is constant. A note: there are detailed sexual encounters, so this is definitely for adult readers.

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Friday, September 27, 2019

Poisoned Heart (A Lady Marmalade Mystery Short Story Book #1) by Jason Blacker

Poisoned Heart (Lady Marmalade, #1)Poisoned Heart by Jason Blacker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a 28-page book that launches the short story supplemental series of Lady Marmalade Short Mystery Stories. They are quick reads that relate to the longer series of books in the Lady Marmalade Mysteries.

The second World War 2 is barely behind us and Lady Marmalade, “Fran” to the assembled gathering is attending a mid-afternoon tea hosted by Lady Alys Apleby and her husband, Lord Godfrey Apleby, along with other notables of the area, at their Hampshire estate, Abernathy Castle. The tea party is suddenly disrupted when the housekeeper collapses and dies from an apparent poisoning.

The story is quickly sketched out and gives the first-time reader a brief introduction to Lady Frances Marmalade and a feel for the time and the tone of what the series is like. There are references to earlier cases she’s been involved with and a glimpse of the police representatives with whom she’s previously come in contact. This is really just a taste of what’s to come or maybe a nibble to sustain fans of the series until the next book comes out.

Considering their brevity (the longest is described as 51 pages), their price (all but the first are set at $2.99), and that they’re not in the Kindle Unlimited program, I probably won’t be reading another one. But at 99 cents? A bargain.

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Disciples of Trikaal (Time Travelers #0) by Varun Sayal

Disciples of TrikaalDisciples of Trikaal by Varun Sayal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Unexpected and fresh!

Aru and Nemi were in their seventh year of hard penance to Trikaal Devi, the Goddess of Time, when she awoke in response to their devotions. The men’s goal was to be granted a boon for their long dedication and the goddess did not disappoint. Aru requested he be taught the skill of seeing into the future and the past. Nemi, at first requesting immortality, was denied, so subsequently asked that the goddess teach him to time travel. She immediately whisked them both out of their mortal bodies to a place where time moved at a different pace and where they were schooled for a thousand years on the techniques they’d requested. When they were returned to their bodies mere hours had passed. As a caveat to the goddess granting their wishes the men agreed to their lifelines being tied one to the other: if one died, so did the other. The two men separate and return to their own homes and families with their new gifts.

For Aru, being able to read the future did not mean that anyone would actually believe him, and when he foresaw that the dam near his village was about to break and deluge the area, he tries to warn his neighbors. He and his pregnant wife are publicly scorned and driven out of their home to hide in an abandoned shack far away.

On the other hand, Nemi takes full advantage of his ability to travel to the future and past and inhabited the bodies of wealthy, famous, and privileged people living in the time-slice he selected to visit. He possessed the bodies of great kings and using his new found power and privilege he embarked on reigns of terror, death, and destruction. The power and possibilities turn his mind to evil madness, and fearing Aru might come to harm, Nemi inhabits the body of the king of this own time-slice and imprisons Aru in a jail cell at the palace. Separated from his beloved Rutuja, Aru can only visit her and his newborn son in his time reading visions. But Aru comes up with a plan.

This is a prequel to the Time Travelers series and the author unfolds the exciting backstory of time-demons and time-readers, two creations that are integral to the series. The mythology involved is still pretty new to me so the path the story takes is unexpected and fresh (just as the first two books in the series are.) It is not necessary to read the prequel before beginning the series, I read it after Book 2 and maybe that is why some of the revelations were so enjoyable for me. I highly recommend this story as well as the entire series.

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Saturday, September 21, 2019

The Covenant (After the Fall #3) by Charlie Dalton

Book 3 of the After the Fall series returns the reader to Dr. Beck and what’s going on in "The City." In Book 2, the City had been breached by the Rages as Donny and Jamie’s father, Donald, lay comatose in a hospital bed. Dr. Beck had tricked the boys and their friends, Lucy and Fatty, into getting on the hyper-loop underground transport and sent them to Denver City and the massive cannon and rocket that were built there to fight the Bug spaceship. The children had successfully made it there and had been launched into space enroute to dock with the multi-national Mothership.

Meanwhile, Dr. Beck is just able to lock down his section of the City when Donald starts to come back to consciousness. He works around the clock to heal the former commune leader to the point where they can follow after and be reunited with the children. Beck doesn’t tell Donald the truth that the children are headed to Denver City in order to blast into space to fight the Bugs, and slows their journey to ensure Donald doesn’t talk the kids out of their mission. Beck and Donald arrive just as the rocket launches carrying Lucy, Jamie, Donny, and Fatty to their rendezvous with destiny.

The Covenant is the exciting third book in the After the Fall series by Charlie Dalton and it is great! The plot is a nail-biter all the way and who knows what may come next! I highly recommend this entire series for readers that enjoy the dystopian, end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it books, especially those that enjoy a young adult cast of characters.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Devourers from Suryaksh: Race to the Last Eventuality (Time Travelers #2) by Varun Sayal

After saving the human race from the evil time-demon, Kumbh, in Demons of Time, the first book in the Time Travelers series, Tej returns to his own time (3057 BC) and life with Manu Kumar, the man he loves. But his quiet life is quickly derailed when a Wiccan priestess named Nefe and soldiers attack the ashram where the bodies of the contained time-demons are secured. She next goes to Tej’s village in search of Kuntala, one of the greatest time-readers ever. Tej confronts her and in an attempt to save his village from destruction, he allows himself to be whisked to a time-prison where he is tortured to reveal the whereabouts of the time-reader or their friend, Manika. With the help of Mozeek, another time-demon, Tej escapes the time-prison and finds himself smack in the middle of an alien takeover of Earth by an advanced race from Kuryaksh.

The story that follows is complex and thrilling with elements from Indian mythology, fantasy, and science fiction. Tej is a true heroic figure for our time as he struggles with his conscience as he works to save the human race while working with one of his most hated enemies. Over and over he remains true to his beliefs and ethics. The plot moves quickly and covers a lot of ground. The story is about time traveling so there are some drastic changes in settings possible and that keeps things really multidimensional. Over all, it is just a very good story with a fresh and novel approach. Recommended along with and after reading Book One in the Time Travelers series, Demons of Time.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Death of a Schoolgirl (Book 1 in the Jane Eyre Chronicles) by Joanna Campbell Slan

As one can surmise, Death of a Schoolgirl is a continuation of the Charlotte Brontë classic, Jane Eyre. The year is 1820, and Jane and her husband, Edward Rochester, have just welcomed their first child, a son, Ned, into their lives. Jane is flourishing in her new role as a mother after a tough birth, and Edward is still, slowly but surely, recovering from the grievous injuries he sustained during the fire that killed his first wife and destroyed Thornfield, his ancestral home. They are living on the estate in an old hunting lodge built by one of Edward’s forbearers with a minimal number of staff which includes an aunt from his mother’s side, Mrs. Fairfax, who is standing in as housekeeper.

Adèle Varens, Edward’s ward, and the reason that brought Jane to Thornfield in the first place (originally she was Adèle’s governess), is still in boarding school in London. Various reasons (Edward’s injuries, harsh winter storms, Jane’s confinement, the difficult birth and prolonged recuperation after) have kept Edward and Jane from visiting her at the school for quite a long while, and both sides have depended on a regular exchange of letters to maintain contact until circumstances allow them to be reunited.

Lately though, Adèle’s letters have been “off.” Not only are they quite unlike her usual vibrant missives, they are completely impersonal and appear to be the same communique copied time after time. Concern turns to alarm when the latest letter contains a secret message crying out for help and a scrap of paper which appears to be a threat against Adèle.

Jane and Edward decide that they must go to Adèle immediately to determine if she is really in danger or if it is some drama concocted by an obviously lonely child. Because the injuries to Edward’s remaining eye prevent him from traveling right away, Jane sets off for London alone. She is headed to the home of Edward’s best friend, Captain Augustus Brayton who currently serving in India. Jane is effusively welcomed by his wife, Lucy, who almost overwhelms her with affection and a desire to accept her as her new “sister.”

When in town, Lucy had been a regular visitor at the Alderton House School for Girls, checking in on Adèle for the Rochesters when they had been unable. However, in the past couple of months, a change of superintendent at the school had occurred and Lucy had been denied access to the girl for a variety of shady yet plausible reasons.

Jane sets out for the school herself the morning after her arrival only to be met with chaos at the school: one of the students had been found dead that morning! Jane is surprised to be greeted by the headmistress, an old friend, Miss Nan Miller, a former teacher and later colleague from her days at Lowood. Jane learns that Adèle discovered the dead girl, became hysterical, has been sedated with laudanum, and will most likely sleep until the drug wears off the next day.

Before she can make a decision on how to proceed, she is confronted by the new school superintendent, Mrs. Thurston, who mistakes Jane for the newly arrived German instructor (who has been delayed on the road.) Without being given the chance to set the woman straight, Jane is “dismissed” and rushed out of the school. Later that afternoon, however, Miss Miller turn up on the doorstep where Jane is staying to plead with her to come back to the school as “Miss Eyre” to serve as the temporary German and art teacher until the expected lady arrives. It seems the Bow Street Runners are investigating the death of the student as a homicide, and Jane is needed to help protect some of the young ladies until the murderer is revealed.

I really, really enjoyed this book. I loved the idea of a continuation of Jane and Rochester’s life together and look forward to many more. Jane, as a sleuth and protector, made perfect sense. The look and feel of the original story by Bronte is retained and enlivened by a good story with a lot of action, twists and turns. I highly recommend this book to cozy mystery readers and those that want a glimpse into what might have been had Jane Eyre kicked off a series.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

The Epics by Abdiel LeRoy

Clever, entertaining, and absolutely unique!

This is a two book collection of stories written in the style of Homer or Dante but with the touch and feel of Shakespeare as well. The audiobook version is well narrated by the author himself.

Obama’s Dream

The angel, Abdiel, and Satan fight for the ear of the most politically powerful man in the US, President Obama. Written as an epic poem, Abdiel takes President Obama on a tour a la A Christmas Carol where the president sees and confronts failures and shortcomings, and the means to be a better leader.


Also presented as an epic poem, the prophet Elijah describes to the angel Abdiel how he came to be under a tree in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights. His journey to defeat the influence of Jezebel over her husband, King Ahab, is full of twists and turns of fantasy and faith.

This audio collection is of medium length (under six hours) and as mentioned above the author is reading his own work. I had heard an audio sample and it was his narration that attracted me. He is very good. The two stories are fun, interesting, and entertaining with elements of a heroic quest, pure fantasy, sexy romance, and nice family-time with the Obama family in Obama’s Dream.

Monday, August 12, 2019

The City (After the Fall #2) by Charlie Dalton

When Donald is grievously wounded in an attack by a giant alien bug, Lucy leads Donnie, Jamie, and their friend, Fatty, to her original home inside a mountain called The City. There the boys meet Dr. Graham Beck who is able to operate on their father and, hopefully, save his life. As the kids wait for Donald to return to consciousness, the doctor slowly reveals to them the purpose of The City, what really happened to the world during The Fall, and what the future may hold for humankind if the bugs are not defeated.

This is a great sequel to the story that began in Book 1 of the After the Fall series, The Commune, and it is action-packed, exciting, and full of twists and turns. The central characters are feisty and smart and each is beginning to blossom into their own strong person. The author has created a world that is both vastly different from what we know but manages to keep it familiar at the same time. And there is more to come! I can’t wait. I really recommend this series for readers that like apocalyptic stories.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

A Fire Sparkling by Julianne MacLean

Wonderful story with great characters and all the emotions!

When Gillian Gibbons discovers the man she loves and lives with is cheating on her, she retreats to the Connecticut farmhouse her father and 96-year-old grandmother share. She hasn’t seen her father in over five years and their reunion is somewhat awkward at first but her father is desperately glad to hear from her: he’s uncovered a secret in the attic that might change the meaning of his entire life.

Gram came to this country with her young son, Edward, after the World War II, as the wife of her second husband, Grampa Jack. Her first husband, Theodore Gibbons, a deputy cabinet minister working with Churchill, had been killed in the Blitz along with her sister, April. After his death, Gram and Edward had gone to the country to stay with Theodore’s aristocratic family on their estate. But while doing her part in the war effort, Vivian had met and fallen in love with the American flyer, Jack Cooper, and after the war ended had married him and lived in the farmhouse since then. Or at least that is what Edward and Gillian had always believed.

While Edward was in the attic inspecting the roof, he’d come across his mother’s antique sea chest. The old chest was a familiar item; Gillian had always called it a “treasure chest.”) But, as Edward had examined it, he’d discovered a secret drawer inside with pictures of his mother and a German Nazi officer in Berlin dated only months after her marriage to Theodore. The photos made it clear that the two were very much in love. With so many questions and concerned that he was the son of a Nazi war criminal, he and Gillian decide to talk to Vivian and get some answers.

The story is Gram’s revelation of what the pictures were and what happened in the war. While her son and granddaughter listen, they gradually come to terms with the real history behind their family as well as the other issues in their lives that were keeping them apart. The retelling is an emotional story with lots of action and history and the things people do for love and country.

The author obviously did a lot of research to bring the reader a solid thriller with twists and turns that really held my interest and kept me up reading late into the night. I highly recommend this book to readers of historical fiction.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Pearls and Perjury (Avon Calling! #13) by Hayley

Lucky Episode 13 continues the exciting hunt for the Boudoir Butcher!

Continuing from the previous episode, as Avon Lady extraordinaire, Betty Jones, helps Tilly, one of the girls at Kitty’s Kat House, recover from a sudden fainting spell, she gets glimpses into the girl’s troubling memories of a man, blood, and waking up alone and naked on the docks of New York City. Under questioning, Tilly finally tells Betty that she’s been having black-outs (but admits nothing else and refuses further help.) Betty is convinced Tilly is the Boudoir Butcher that her friend, NYPD Sergeant Jacob Lawrence is hunting. She determines to investigate on her own and find out why Tilly is doing this and why she has no conscious memory of her horrible actions.

Betty also visits Donny Pinzola in his prison cell where he tells her unless she gets back on his team he will reveal all her secret past and unusual posers to the very interested FBI who have had Betty on their radar quite recently.

Jacob Lawrence has his hands full, too, not only with the high-profile Boudoir Butcher case but with Pinzola’s trial. The time has finally come for Adina Sonberg to testify against the crime boss, and it does not go well at all. Pinzola’s attorney totally discredits Adina in front of the jury, her parents, and the entire world.

Meanwhile, on Betty’s home front, her beloved husband, George, is away at military training, and daughter, Nancy, is growing up right before her eyes with the powers handed down in the maternal line getting stronger and stronger every day. Working together, Betty and Nancy practice mind-reading and the ability to shield their thoughts from mind-reading. Both young women realize that, in time, they are going to want their privacy, even from each other.

Lucky Episode 13 advances the exciting hunt for the Boudoir Butcher and gets the trial to put Uncle Donny away for good underway. With the dramatic courtroom shenanigans by his attorney and Donny himself, the suspense increases and the question of whether or not Jacob will be beat Pinzola in the end continue to mount. I can’t wait to get into Episode 14.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Commune (After The Fall #1) by Charlie Dalton

After the world’s society as we know it has been destroyed by a virus which turns its victims into mindless, constantly-hungry zombies, survivors join together in cooperative living communes. Some attempt to rebuild and grow by organizing daily tasks such as growing food, learning and providing medical attention, and provide defense and security for the new communities. Others, known as Reavers, band together to destroy and take what they need from others by force and violence. Both groups, however, guard against the zombie-like creatures called “Ragers.”

In Mountain’s Peak, the commune takes several measures to successfully continue on based on each individual member pulling their own weight. And when a member becomes too ill, old, or infirm to their share, they are expected to leave the community – walk away and disappear into the surrounding desert where wild animals and Ragers lurk.

When a beloved member of the commune leaves to go die in the desert, her younger, still able, husband decides in the middle of night to join her. The next day, children from the commune sneak out to go find them both and bring them back home. Their rescue mission takes an unexpected turn when they discover the older couple already dead and a strange, young girl up a spindly tree under attack from three Ragers.

The commune takes the young girl in but she is unable to tell them where she came from; she remembers nothing but dream-like snippets of her life before waking up in the bed at the commune. But she is actually being hunted by an unstoppable woman across the desert and she’s headed toward the commune.

This story was action-packed from start to finish. I did not want to put it down. Can’t wait for the next book in the series!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Snow (The Mutant Rain #3) by L.A. Frederick

After formulating the barest of plans to save the survivors of “The Bunker,” Farrow, the former New Hampton police detective and his small band of followers return to the city in search of a large truck or bus to take everyone north away from the epicenter of the mutant rain. What they find instead leaves everyone dead except Farrow himself.

It is Benjamin that discovers the old underground train system, still in working condition, and that there is a connection with the commuter line that goes to the north country. The remaining mutants, along with the pregnant Evaline, move their supplies to the train in preparation of departure.

Farrow gets cut off from the rest of the group and he goes in search of Aurora and Isaac. Isaac, however, has been whisked away to Dr. Zhirkov’s stronghold to battle Erica leaving the pregnant Aurora behind to fend for herself. Farrow eventually uncovers her hiding place and convinces her that she and her newborn son should return with him to the mutants’ rendezvous spot to meet the train.

Meanwhile, Zhirkov’s henchmen, Vitaliy and Dmitri, switch sides, rescue a previously unknown group of human survivors and take them to the ready-to-depart train just in time to join in a desperate fight between the mutants and a group of lizard-like creatures and overgrown monsters that are preventing the train from leaving.

All in all, this was a pretty satisfying roundup to all the storylines in the Mutant Rain series. Is there room and opportunity for more in the future? Oh yes. And I hope that this is not the end. I kind of miss those mutants already.

The entire Mutant Rain series is available for Kindle on Amazon.com.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

The Lebesborn Experiment: Book 1 by Joyce Yvette Davis

Set in Europe during WWII, The Lebensborn Experiment tells a story of young children stolen from their parents and taken to state-run orphanages, “graded” like livestock for Aryan traits, and adopted out to approved German families never to see their own families again or their parents ever discovering what happened to them. One boy, Adok, is adopted by Dr. Josef Weiss as a companion to an older, mentally-damaged son. Dr. Weiss is working on an immortality serum under pressure from a Nazi colonel, Otto Strauss, and tests the serum on Adok. The boy dies but days later comes back to life with some remarkable physical enhancements: superior eyesight and hearing, the ability to climb like a spider, and apparent immortality.

At the same facility, Colonel Strauss had been holding two black American soldiers prisoner awaiting execution during an upcoming visit by Adolf Hitler himself. When Strauss receives word of Hitler’s suicide and the approach of Allied forces to the facility, he orders the doctor to dispose of the Americans. Weiss kills one but mistakenly administers the immortality serum to the other. When the soldier revives as his body is being removed from the lab, he escapes and is able to return to his old unit to fight again.

The story continues with these central figures’ stories to just after the end of the war in Europe.

This book is exciting, imaginative, and entertaining but sobering as well with the understanding that many of the things described are based in past happenings. The author has created memorable characters that I really rooted for and others that I wanted to be defeated. The title indicates this is book one giving reason to believe there is more to the story. I’ll be looking for that.