Saturday, February 27, 2021

A Jar of Pickles (Lady Vigilante, #18) by Hayley Camille

A Jar of Pickles (Lady Vigilante #18)A Jar of Pickles by Hayley Camille
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Super action-filled entry in the continuing story of Betty Jones, Avon Lady extraordinaire!

Episode 18, A Jar of Pickles, opens in the middle of a maelstrom! Betty’s daughter, Nancy, has unwittingly discovered and revealed that the man she’s always known as her father is not her biological parent. The shock of her uncovering this secret not only has Nancy reeling but Jacob Lawrence and Adina Sonberg as well, and it leads to a bitter, perhaps relationship-ending, argument between the two.

Hurt and feeling betrayed by the revelation, Adina still heads into work at St. Augustine’s to prepare a big library program for the boys and to spend some time with her favorite orphan, Teddy. Her emotional rollercoaster continues when a woman arrives looking for her son, who had been taken from her at birth and sent to an unknown orphanage. Shocked, Adina covers up the possibility that the child the woman is seeking may actually be Teddy.

Meanwhile, Betty and Jacob follow up on a new lead to the whereabouts of The Tin Man, which takes them to the home of Jacob’s mother and father. They believe that his father may hold the key to The Tin Man’s background from the time when he was the police commissioner.

Still hurting about her discovery, Nancy is supposed to be babysitting Georgie while her mother is making her Avon appointments. Since Adina had brought Teddy to her home next door to hide him from his birth mother, he and Georgie are happily playing together in the yard, so Nancy leaves them on their own and heads to the neighborhood park to sulk and brood. There she is approached by a sympathetic stranger, a woman, to whom she confides all her woes. But the woman is not just some helpful neighbor, she’s the diabolical mind behind The Boudoir Butcher murders, and Nancy has just played into her evil hands.

A Jar of Pickles is another super episode in the ongoing Betty Jones series, and it is bigger and more action-packed than ever. Betty’s and Jacob’s pasts are unfolding, and their joint investigation into The Boudoir Butcher killings is finally gaining ground. Emotions run high throughout, and Betty pulls out all the stops to save her daughter. Once again, the fight scenes are fabulous, and the WWII-New York setting remains a winner.

I highly recommend this episode to readers following the exploits of this kick-ass Avon Lady and the entire series to those that enjoy historical mystery/thrillers featuring a strong female protagonist. The books are episodic, and I recommend they be read from the beginning in chronological order.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author.

The Lady Vigilante series was formerly titled, Avon Calling!.

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Monday, February 15, 2021

Shifting Sides (A Shift in Space, #0) by Danielle Forrest

Shifting Sides (A Shift in Space, #0)Shifting Sides by Danielle Forrest
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Whether you like romance in your SciFi or SciFi in your romance, SHIFTING SIDES is the book for you!

Emma, the USS Endeavour's pilot, was transporting a team of scientists and their families on a mission to study planet HD85512b’s suitability as a human colony. The plan was she and the crew would live and work on the planet, gathering all the data they could, and return to Earth after a couple of years. What they didn’t figure on was HD85512b, also known as Ara, was already inhabited by the Danaus.

Beeyun watched as the Endeavour landed in a field literally in the backyard of his property on Ara debarking dozens of aliens who began to set up buildings and disrupting the natural setting he was sworn to protect and preserve. Each night, attempting to drive the interlopers off, he would wait for them to return to their ship and then tear down everything they’d done that day. But every morning, they would start over again and re-build. One hard-working and persistent alien caught his attention right off. As much as he disliked the aliens wreaking havoc on this property, he admired the feisty female who worked long after the others stopped and bravely ran toward danger when it appeared.

Emma knew the crew of scientists did not like her and felt she was beneath them, a necessary evil, so to speak, as none of them could pilot their ship. It had been a long, lonely, and tiresome journey to HD85512b for her. But still, she tried to fit in and help make the temporary colony a success in any way she could. But rather than things improving as she worked her heart out for them, the crew became more and more unstable, aggressive toward her as well as each other. Then, one afternoon, they grabbed her and tied her to a post in the middle of the field as a ‘sacrifice’ to The Beast that came unseen in the night to destroy their work. But then The Beast came...

Although a prequel in the new A Shift in Space series by Danielle Forrest, SHIFTING SIDES is a fully developed and full-length novel of science-fiction-romance. I thought it was dynamite! The plot is intriguing from the very start, and there is never a dull moment. There were new and interesting things occurring all along the way as the very exciting story unfolded.

I loved the main characters of Emma and Beeyun and rooted for them the entire time. Emma is a loner and a take-charge kind of gal without a lot of the strange hang-ups or inadequacies that seem to accompany many kick-ass heroines; she appears to be a well-rounded and fully-competent young adult. Sure she’s got some conflicts in her past and present life, but they are pretty normal at the outset. Our alien hero, Beeyun, is smart, compassionate, and, although purple, still one sexy guy. I liked the path their relationship took: not too fast, not too slow. Supporting characters offered a variety of interactions and chances for conflict and helped round out a great plot. I really liked the young family of Lacy, Rickelle, and their daughter, Jacie.

I recommend SHIFTING SIDES to science fiction readers who enjoy their stories with a romantic plotline or romance readers who like their love stories to "take them to the stars." I’m so looking forward to the next book in this series.

I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.

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Sunday, February 07, 2021

Undead Annihilation (Undead, #1) by Matthew Doggett

Undead AnnihilationUndead Annihilation by Matthew Doggett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Honestly, Undead Annihilation is a “Must Read” for end-of-the-world, we’re-all-gonna-die, zombie apocalypse story lovers!

On the night the bombs dropped and killed untold numbers, former police detective Kurt Weller was in a no-tell motel with two shady ladies and a bag of cocaine trying to forget he'd been set up and railroaded out of the police department earlier that week. But as the emergency transpired, he received a call from headquarters that all was forgiven and ordered to report back on duty immediately. Escorting the ladies home, he realizes there's more to the bombs than first thought; there are also hordes of zombies roaming the city, picking off the survivors of the blasts. Arriving at police headquarters, he finds the place under siege by a crowd of these survivors wanting answers that the brass can't give them. They don't want to listen to what Weller has observed either.

In another part of town, a vampire named Diirek had witnessed the attack from the deep shadows of a downtown alley beside a dive bar. The spectacle stopped the vampire in his tracks just as he prepared to feed on an unsuspecting bar patron who had come into the alley to relieve himself. Both he and his intended victim hustle away to find out what is going on.

While Kurt is checking on officers posted at a hot spot downtown, he sees one of the officers get thrown from the roof of one multi-story building through the air to smash through a window several stories up on a building across the street. The body is soon followed by a large, mysterious creature that glides from one roof to another. The vision is too outlandish for Weller, and he convinces himself he was seeing things.

Later as people die and reanimate and city officials refuse to accept what is going on, Diirek approaches Weller for his help (during daylight hours) to track down the creature who is killing the city's vampires. Together they seek this ancient menace and try to discover what's behind the attack, the zombies, and Weller's frame-up and dismissal from the police force.

Matthew Doggett’s new zombie apocalypse story has everything that previous books of the genre have and more! Mindless, ravening hordes of zombies? Check. Impending extinction of the population from an unknown threat? Check. The true-blue hero fighting evil all on his lonesome against impossible odds? Err…well, sort of.

We actually have two wonderful heroes. First, we have Detective Kurt Atticus Weller, a recently disgraced, hard-charging homicide detective discharged from the department for purportedly taking money from a crime scene. (“This was such bulls***!”) As his story begins, he’s partaking of some of the vices (cocaine and prostitutes) that he’d fought against all his years on the force, making up for lost time, so to speak. Weller’s is the voice of reason throughout, but his commentary is laugh out loud funny. I got looks and questions from family members I was reading near.

Hero number two is a centuries-old vampire named Diirek. (That’s Dee-rick, thank you very much!) Diirek is trying to find a much more dangerous monster than mere zombies. Something big and dark and deadly is picking off the vampires in the city one by one, and he is out to stop it. He makes for a fabulously mysterious and romantic black-clad stranger who still has human feelings and sentiments compelling him to try and rid the city of this unknown nemesis.

Action and chaos are happening on every page. The writing is exciting and entertaining with clever dialogue and plot twists. It truly is a page-turner of a book, and better still, the first entry in the new series, Undead. So, with a never-a-slow-moment pace, the coolest of cool characters, and all the apocalyptic tropes your heart could desire (but done better) to top things off, I can highly recommend UNDEAD ANNIHILATION to readers of the genre that would enjoy a more humorous take on the end of the world.

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

See my original review on Reedsy Discovery!

Saturday, February 06, 2021

The River Girls by Melinda Woodhall

The River Girls (Mercy Harbor)The River Girls by Melinda Woodhall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The River Girls, book one in the Mercy Harbor series, is an exciting mystery thriller debut!

Five years ago, successful software developer, Eden Winthrop, discovered the body of her younger sister, who her abusive husband had murdered. Now she's watching the front desk of one of the safe houses for abused women that she's set up in her small Florida hometown of Willow Bay when a teenage girl named Star shows up looking for refuge. Against protocol and proper vetting, Eden allows her inside, listening to her desperate story that men have killed her friend, Jess, and now they're after her! Getting her settled in a room for the night, Eden calls the foundation's executive director for guidance, but when the other woman arrives, they discover Star has slipped out the back door and headed down to the river nearby. Fearing the girl may have drowned, Eden goes to the police department to report her as missing.

Police Detective Vanessa 'Nessa' Ainsley takes Eden's report, and days later, when she's called to the river where a teenage girl's body has been found in the water where she'd been dumped after having been strangled. The crime and the victim's details are similar to a previous scene weeks earlier, and the department fears a serial killer is at work. Nessa contacts Eden to view the body to see if it is Star.

Leo Steele is a successful criminal defense attorney. Some, like Eden, would say too successful. He's the lawyer that got her sister's husband off charges of violating a protective order the week before he murdered her. He's been contacted by one of his clients who was not so lucky and is currently serving time while her teenage daughter is on her own and being passed from one foster situation to another. The daughter, Jess, has dropped out of sight, and she wants Leo to try and locate her. He is also contacted to help identify the body, and it is his client's daughter, Jess.

Eden and Leo overcome their differences and begin to work together to find Star, who they feel is in danger and holds the key to Jess's murder. When another teenage girl's body is found in the river, Detective Ainsley heads up a team of veteran investigators to work the evidence from the crime scenes and stop this killer before another girl is murdered.

The River Girls is a fast-paced and gripping thriller of a mystery. The characters are a diverse group of people, each with their own lives and problems, who come together to solve this horrific series of murders of teenage girls. The bad guys are very bad and easy to despise, and some are tantalizingly hidden in plain sight. The main characters felt like real people to me, and I particularly appreciated seeing things through the eyes of the teenage girls involved. I was surprised and pleased with how the story is resolved and look forward to more books in the series.

THE RIVER GIRLS is a violent story with murders of teenage victims. It has several plot lines to follow, but they are straight-forward and easy to follow. The story also features a character with an anxiety disorder with an emotional support animal that I found very interesting and different in mystery/thrillers. I would recommend this book to those who would like to read a small-town thriller or mystery.

I received an advance review copy for free from Book Sirens, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

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