Monday, December 28, 2020

The Holy City Hustle (A Duke Dempsey Mystery, #2) by Ron Plante, Jr.

The Holy City Hustle (A Duke Dempsey Mystery, #2)The Holy City Hustle by Ron Plante Jr.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This series just keeps getting better!

After Duke Dempsey’s success in stopping the seemingly random killings in Charleston during the past summer, the new mayor, Morris Swanson, decides to honor him with a key to the city during a showy, controversial ceremony on Marion Square. However, immediately after the presentation, Mayor Swanson is publicly murdered as he sits on the dais. But Duke and his former partner and mentor on the force, Detective Johnny Stampkin, nab the hitman before he can escape.

Later, Duke gets a visit from a new client, the beautiful and mysterious Isabella Diaz. She claims she holds the key to the mayor’s assassination, a secret ledger that not only names who the dirty cops are at Charleston PD but public officials “on the take” at every level of government in the port city. She will trust Duke and no one else with her information, and considering the evidence points to cops up and down the department’s hierarchy, Duke himself doesn’t know who he can trust either.

This series just keeps getting better and better. The action is non-stop, and there are twists and turns galore as the identities of friends and foes alike are revealed and change sides. Some heart-pounding and heart-breaking moments will keep you turning the pages as well as looking forward to the next entry in the series. Once again, Charleston, South Carolina, is an atmospheric and versatile location for the story, and the time period of 1938 adds its own flavor to the unique setting.

I highly recommend THE HOLY CITY HUSTLE to mystery readers, especially those that like a historical setting.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Readers Copy from Book Sirens.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Edge of Light (Edge of Light, #1) by Jay Antani

Edge of LightEdge of Light by Jay Antani
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Heart-stopping at times, heart-breaking at others, Edge of Light is a real action-adventure!

Dev Harrison and his two best friends, Abby and Conner, are in the bleachers watching the game when a meteor-like object suddenly streaks across the sky, impacting the Earth in the near distance. Everyone is stunned and disoriented when a bright light explodes around them and a massive BOOM! erupts. Dev and Abby become separated from Conner, but eventually, all three escape the ensuing chaos at the field and make it safely back to their respective homes. But this is just the beginning of the end of the world as they know it.

Soon strange, violent sick people begin showing up at the local hospital where Dev's mother works as a doctor keeping her working around the clock. Dev is desperately worried about his mother; it's been just the two of them since his physicist father mysteriously disappeared a decade earlier when Dev was only a child.

Now Dev is having confusingly realistic dreams of his father. In it, he shows Dev the location of a mysterious box hidden in the mountains near the vacation cabin they visited as a family before his disappearance.

On his own and unable to see or talk to his mother, Dev sets out with his two friends in his father's old Outback to see if there is any truth to the dream, hoping it holds the answers to what happened to his father all those years ago. But with the sickness spreading through Los Angeles and the populace beginning to panic, and strange alien-like creatures roaming the countryside, the three friends' trip to put Dev's dream to rest becomes a lot more than a simple buddy road trip.

What an adventure! From its exciting opening scene to the closing pages, I was hooked and stayed up way past bedtime to read as much and as long as I could.

The three friends, Dev Harrison, Abby Mendes, and Conner, play nicely off one another, and I was utterly invested in their quest to follow Dev's reoccurring dream about his father. Dev, the main character in the story's present time, is smart and a good kid with just the right amount of teenage insecurity and vulnerability that has you rooting for him throughout the book. Conner, the buddy, smart and cynical and sassy, doesn't ever succumb to being the third wheel to the Dev-Abby relationship, and that's nice. I especially liked that the author developed Abby to be an independent "force-to-be-reckoned-with" young woman. She's an able member of the trio, no Shrinking Violet, waiting to be saved. She was the one doing much of the saving in almost all instances. She adds positively to the story's advancement but that it felt natural and in character for her to do so.

I enjoyed that this story had several tropes that I love in apocalyptic/dystopian tales: the teenaged, strong yet vulnerable protagonists, alien influences, humans transformed into not-quite-humans, everyday people transformed into crazy, grasping maniacs, evil master corporations, and government corruption. Each element merges into and supports the others seamlessly to create a great action-filled reading experience. (And this is just book 1, there's more to come!)

The creatures or "crawlers" are a frightening element as they creep around the periphery of everything and everywhere Dev, Conner, and Abby go and do. They seem to always be just out of sight but waiting to jump out and attack, keeping tensions high and nerves taut. Scarier still, though, is their encounter with the fine folk of "Freetown." I held my breath as I quickly turned pages while they were there. I guess I thought I could "help" get them through town faster that way!

And if you're a reader that likes the hardcore science of a science fiction story, this book has you covered. Numerous topics are touched on, but this is done in such an understandable way that it will satisfy the nerd inside each of us without bogging down a great adventure or driving off a reader that likes a softer sci-fi feel.

I also highly recommend this book to readers that enjoy dystopian, post-apocalyptic tales featuring young adult protagonists. I can't wait for the next book in the series!

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from Reedsy Discovery.

See my original review on Reedsy Discovery!

Monday, December 14, 2020

The U.S. Navy's On-the-Roof Gang: Volume Two – War in the Pacific by Matt Zullo

The US Navy's On-the-Roof Gang: Volume 2 - War in the PacificThe US Navy's On-the-Roof Gang: Volume 2 - War in the Pacific by Matt Zullo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The true story of the men of U.S. Navy’s secret radio intercept and cryptological program – the On-the-Roof Gang – after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

This second volume of Matt Zullo's work of historical fiction begins with the attack on Pearl Harbor and continues the stories of the founding members of the U.S. Navy's fledgling cryptoanalysis program known as "The On-the-Roof Gang." The attack brought home the overwhelming need for the United States to fully support these operations and activities. Their subsequent successes in alerting the Navy to Japanese war plans quickly validated their worth.

The wartime activities and memories of the actual men who lived these events are exciting and exhilarating, but tragic and heart-breaking when relating the group's losses during action in the Pacific and as prisoners of war of the Japanese. Poignant and awe-inspiring, these men kept their involvement in these classified activities a secret, even from their own families, until long after the war was over.

Before even starting page one, the reader knows the history, the big picture of World War II, the War in the Pacific, and, most specifically, about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Some may even be familiar with the stories of American prisoners of war by the Japanese. Others may have gleaned their understanding of these events from Hollywood films. Others may have heard stories from elderly family members that served during that time and experienced it firsthand. But for most, that knowledge is a leftover from a history class or two and, unless you were very, very lucky, those classes were about as interesting as watching paint dry. Author Matt Zullo has crafted a remarkable fictionalized history based on extensive academic research as well as detailed information straight from the mouths of the men that lived it. This story literally came alive.

After reading the superb first volume, The U.S. Navy’s On-the-Roof Gang: Volume One – Prelude to War, I felt like I already knew many of the individuals portrayed in this continuation of the story. And even though I knew what was coming, historically-speaking, it was still an absorbing experience reading about how known events happened and how these men stepped up and played their part in the action. Many of the events were achingly tragic or shocking, and I was utterly invested in their outcome, and in what happened to the men I’d come to know. It was sobering to realize that these men were never able to tell their families what they did during the war because it was all classified and remained classified for decades afterward.

One of the things that surprised me in this and the previous volume was how vast the naval radio operations were at that time and how much broader they had yet to become by the end of the book. There is a helpful list in an appendix showing where all the stations were located and their operational dates. Some are, of course, in very exotic locations, but I was surprised to find there was one in my own state of Texas, in a place I’ve even visited (and now will again with a different goal.)

The role of the On-The-Roof Gang was shrouded in secrecy for so long, and I am grateful to this author for writing this book about them and their accomplishments. I am honestly amazed that he could do so in such an easy-to-read but page-turner of a book.

Start with Volume One to get the background information, and then jump on Volume Two as soon as you can after that! If you’re a World War II history buff or have an interest in the history of the war in the Pacific, or are a ham radio/radio enthusiast, this book and its preceding volume are MUST READS.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from Reedsy Discovery.

See my original review on Reedsy Discovery!

Friday, December 11, 2020

The Bowery Flophouse (Avon Calling!, Season 2, Episode #17) by Hayley Camille

The Bowery Flophouse (Avon Calling! #17)The Bowery Flophouse by Hayley Camille
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Non-stop action in this latest installment in this spot-on historical mystery series!

With the collapse of the Pinzolo crime organization, the criminal underworld in New York City is in a frantic state of flux with each gang trying to take over the number one spot. Adding to the havoc, the Boudoir Butcher is still at large, and no one but Mrs. Betty Jones has an inkling of what's really going on. Betty tries to get the word on the street, starting with 'Hell Cat Harry' Flynn and the Drowned Rats that the person behind the Butcher is Vladimir Malinov AKA The Tin Man and not a rival gang at all, but it is a slow, hard sell. The Tin Man plans to divide and conquer the gangs through suspicion and violence calculated to keep them at each others' throats while he takes over.

Betty continues her search for the elusive Tin Man following a lead from Adina Sonberg at the local Boeing sub-assembly manufacturer. Among the thousands of women working shifts at the plant is a group of Russian girls who are believed to know Malinov's history and whereabouts.

The gangs still clash, and a bloody and violent riot on the streets of the Bowery breaks out, drawing in the New York Police Department, including Betty's lifelong friend, Jacob Lawrence. During the chaos, Betty saves Jacob from a burning flophouse when he becomes trapped under a fallen ceiling joist; however, she is seen using her super-human skills by Officer Malcolm Parker, finally confirming his suspicions about her.

In the meantime, FBI Special Agent Ratliff is looking to test Betty's physical capabilities and lures her to an empty building at the World's Fair's former site. Finding herself surrounded by half a dozen of the FBI's biggest guys, Betty must employ her unique skills to avoid being beaten. When Betty wins out, Ratliff threatens her family's safety to attempt to get her under his thumb.

The Bowery Flophouse is the 17th episode in the wonderful Avon Calling! historical mystery series by Hayley Camille. As is true with the previous entries, the period's tone is perfectly replicated, spot-on, and interesting tidbits from Camille's extensive research into the time frame and place are incorporated to make for a delightful and robust story. The action is non-stop as Betty pursues the Tin Man and tries to keep her loved ones safe. Husband George's letters home are poignant, and I find myself looking forward to them almost as much as Betty. The excitement of the investigation and the gang wars are not all this episode has to offer. Readers can look forward to some unexpected personal revelations for a couple of characters as well.

I highly recommend this entire series but especially this latest installment in Betty's story. Readers should start at the beginning for the best experience.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving a free copy.

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