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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