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Author: Hallie Ephron
Title - You’ll Never Know, Dear
At the tender age of seven, Elisabeth “Lis” Woodham had been in the front yard with her little sister, Janey, playing with their dolls, custom creations made for them by their mother, Miss Sorrel, a famous doll maker. When a puppy ran through the yard, Lis chased it. By the time she returned to the yard, Janey was gone, and so was her doll.
Now Lis is forty-six-years-old and has a grown daughter of her own named Vanessa. Lis still feels guilty for leaving Janey alone in the yard so long ago. Every year around the anniversary of Janey’s disappearance, Miss Sorrel places a classified ad in several newspapers with a picture of Janey’s one-of-a-kind doll, offering a cash reward for its return. Now, decades after Janey went missing, a woman shows up with a broken porcelain doll.
Vanessa is a psychologist. She studies nightmares and is trying to find a way to help veterans with PTSD. When Lis and Miss Sorrel are rushed to the hospital, Vanessa immediately returns home. The police say that the kiln Miss Sorrel uses to repair dolls was not venting properly and the women have carbon monoxide poisoning. Yet Miss Sorrel was too much of a professional for that to have happened accidently. And how interesting that it happens just as Janey’s doll is found.
**** FOUR STARS! The setting for this psychological suspense story is a fictional town in South Carolina called Bonsecours. The inspiration for the little town is Beaufort, South Carolina. I find this fascinating because Bon Secours is the name of a health care system in the Greenville, South Carolina, area. However, that may just be a coincidence.
The story mainly follows Lis’s character, but Vanessa is often in the spotlight so that readers may witness her (with a prototype sleep mask she developed) help a woman to conquer the nightmare she has had due to going through something traumatizing in her distant past. I only wish that this electronic sleep mask was real to help all the veterans we have suffering from PTSD.
I have never read a book by Hallie Ephron before; however, I can easily see why she is one of the New York Times bestselling authors. Each character has their own personality and well developed background. The story flows smoothly and is easy to envision. I found a few parts to be predicable, but not too much so. (Meaning that I figured out at least one person that had to be involved, but this could simply be due to my background.) One thing is for certain; this will not be the last novel by Hallie Ephron that I read. This story is creative and highly addictive. ****
Author: Shirley Rousseau Murphy
Title - Cat Shining Bright (Joe Grey Mystery #20)
Joe Grey and his tabby lady, Dulcie, are blessed with three new kittens: Courtney, Buffin, and Striker. Though they are extremely happy, Joe Grey misses his police work. The tough, street-battling tomcat has been helping solve crimes alongside his human friends at the Molena Point Police Department for years. (Only a few humans know that Joe and Dulcie are part of a rare breed of cats that are able to read and speak.)
When beautician Barbara Conley and one of her customers are found dead in the salon shop, Joe heads for the crime scene. He has no idea that the kittens are following him. To make the situation even more volatile, a car-theft ring that has been hitting the surrounding areas has finally reached their little village. But wait, there’s more! The home of Wilma Getz, Dulcie’s human housemate, is being watched by an unknown man. Then there is their crabby, old lady neighbor, Voletta Nestor, who has been injured during a recent storm and is the interest of a feral band of (speaking) cats. Poor Joe will have his paws full dealing with three curious kittens during it all.
***** FIVE STARS! It is difficult for me to believe that Joe Grey now has twenty mysteries beneath his furry belt. Yet every time I begin one of his mystery stories, I know that I am in for a treat! The author has created a wonderful little town and filled it with the most interesting characters; all of whom are well developed. New readers will have no trouble diving head first into this title either, because the author introduces each character with a brief sentence as to how he is related to the mystery and other characters. The new litter of kittens adds more than a little delight and humor to this feline mystery tale too. Out-freaking-standing! *****
Author: Marla Cooper
Title - Dying on the Vine
(Kelsey McKenna Destination Wedding Mysteries #2)
Kelsey McKenna, a destination wedding planner turned sleuth, is at it again. But this time in addition to Kelsey trying to solve a murder, she’s considered the prime suspect.
It all starts when Brody, Kelsey’s friend, convinces her to assist him at his photography booth at the local Wine Country Wedding Fair. Haley and Christopher, a bride to be and her fiancé, were thrilled to find out that in addition to a photographer they may have just found a replacement for the wedding planner that Haley’s Dad had just fired. At first Kelsey was very excited about this prospective client, especially since the wedding was going to be held at the prestigious Higgins Estate in Napa wine country. Kelsey’s enthusiasm was soon shattered after she found out she would be replacing Babs--who happens to be one of her competitors.
Kelsey determines the best way to handle this quandary is to meet with Babs and explain how all this transpired so she can ensure that their business relationship remains cordial in a competitive sort of way. However, when Kelsey arrives at Bab’s office, with coffee and pastries in hand, she finds Babs dead on the floor.
Not only does Kelsey has less than a month to organize Haley and Christopher’s wedding, but Stefan, Bab’s assistant, publicly accuses Kelsey of stealing their clients and killing Babs. And, if that wasn’t enough, the events of the upcoming nuptials are being sabotaged at every turn. After some persuasion, Kelsey enlists her friend Brody and her assistant Laurel to help her salvage a wedding and with any luck at all her reputation.
***** FIVE STARS! If you enjoyed the first book in this series by Marla, you’re sure to love her second book. The story is told with munificent wit along with some unexpected twists and turns that even if you are a wine connoisseur you may find your glass mostly full when you finish this page turner. Marla Cooper has a knack for writing novels that are full of wit, mayhem, and mystery. *****
Author: Anna Snoeskstra
Title - Only Daughter
Set in Australia. When she is caught shoplifting, a young lady avoids arrest by claiming to be Rebecca Winter. Rebecca had disappeared eleven years ago and the young lady greatly resembles her. Having taken on the identity, “Rebecca” is taken to Canberra where she begins a new life. Knowing little about the girl’s past, Rebecca must bluster her way through fooling the family, friends, and the detective who has been handling the case.
Soon the imposter realizes that many of those around her are hiding their own secrets about the past and she wonders if her life is in danger.
*** THREE STARS! Be warned that this story does not tell you the setting. Since I do not live in Australia, it took me a bit to realize why some the English was spelled differently than I am used to. I did not know the setting was in Australia until the story mentioned the city of Sydney.
The author has done a very good job with the development of most characters; however, they are all wilder than anyone I know. The imposter is street-wise and it shows beautifully. Yet the most of the other people in the story came across as false to me. There are a few slang terms that gave me pause, but I figured them out by the way there were used in sentences. (I do not know what “looking in a good nick” means and I am guessing that “Carlton” is a type of beer.) I absolutely adore the way the author ended the novel and, overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this tale of intrigue. ***
Author: Nancy Allen
Title - The Wages of Sin (An Ozarks Mystery)
Jessie Dent is eight months pregnant when she is beaten to death in a trailer park. The only witness is Ivy, her six-year-old daughter. Ivy says her mom’s boyfriend, Larry Paul, killed her mother. Madeleine Thompson, the prosecuting attorney, is going for a death sentence.
Assistant Prosecutor Elsie Arnold agrees to join her frosty boss’s team. When Madeleine brings in someone from the state attorney general’s office (Sam Parsons), Elsie knows her headache is just beginning. She is proven correct when cutthroat trial attorney Claire O’Hara joins the defense.
Elsie wants justice for the mother and unborn child, but several problems bar the way. Ivy’s testimony could prove invaluable, but the child is in greater danger than anyone realizes.
*** THREE STARS! Author Nancy Allen has created a realistic cast of characters and given them a gruesome murder to work on. Though I have not read the author’s previous two titles, I am not a big fan of Elsie Arnold’s life style. Her desire for justice is admirable and she is not afraid to dig into research for answers; however, she comes across (to me) as an alcoholic – or well on the road to becoming one. If not at work, Elsie can be seen hitting the bars or drinking with coworkers to get a buzz. Even so, I could not help but like the lady.
There is no doubt about who the killer is or why he did it. Most of the story is about the headaches Elsie must endure and what poor little Ivy is going through. All-in-all, this is a good look into the legal system but do not expect this mystery to keep you guessing as to who did it. ***
Author: A.J. Fraser (Aiden James & Fiona Fraser)
Title - Toxicity
The setting is around the year 2130. As the story opens, the past is narrated in the form of a letter from a man to his grandson. Drinking water is the most precious commodity. Most of “Amreeka” is a dry wasteland. The population is very low and is now ruled by the Islamic. There is a religious struggle between the Christians and Muslims rage. Those who do not agree to convert to Muslim are executed in front of their families. Many “Lowlanders” are enslaved. The nation is controlled y hyper-paranoia unseen since the days of Hitler.
Seven young Mississippi males sneak out of the Lowlands, which holds a death penalty. Their destination is the famed palace, Al-qasr Quraysh, in Detroit. This is where the television showed their loved ones being auctioned off. They plan to rescue the women or die trying. To do so, they must dodge the ISA (Islamic State Authority), the SMA (Southern Muslim Alliance), and rogue bounty hunters. During their journey they come across a handful of allies, such as a survivalist group who is currently undergoing their own mission.
Abdul-Bali is the son of Abdul-Muttalib Bashir. (Ruler in Detroit.) After witnessing horrible abuse and cold-blooded murders of servants and slaves by his cruel brother – and receiving no real help or answers from his parents – Bali sneaks out of the palace to discover for himself why non-Muslims were scorned so badly.
***** FOUR & A HALF STARS! Let me state up front that this story is NOT anti-Christian or anti-Muslim. This story tells what could happen in America’s future. It tells of the oppressed who bravely battle against tyranny and how they plan to change their current world for something better. This is not what I call “light reading”; instead, there are ups, downs, and a lot of strategic planning. This novel will probably be an eye opener for many.
The writing styles of the authors fluctuates a bit, but never distracts from the intensity of the story. The book is longer than most, over five hundred pages, and is told by a variety of characters. This means that there is some scene hopping, but (again) it never distracts from the tale. In anything, it adds more depth as readers are able to witness different sides of events. The authors give the novel a realistic ending too. All of the troubles do not end and all loose strings are not tied into pretty little bows; however, the story stops in a good place. The main message (that took away from this story) is that change is coming and, unless we are careful today, tomorrow may not be so free. *****
Author: Mike Brogan
Title - Kentucky Woman
As an infant, Ellie Stuart is adopted by a poor, but loving couple in Kentucky. She is sixteen-years-old when they die in a boating accident. Now in college, Ellie begins searching for her birth parents. Quinn Parker, a law student, is helping her. At the same time, Quinn is researching the estate of the late Leland T. Radford. Radford’s estate is said to be worth almost one billion dollars and his only son had died in Iraq. Amazingly enough, Quinn begins to see connections. Ellie may actually be Radford’s secret daughter – which would explain why someone was trying to kill her. Yet even after multiple DNA tests prove Ellie cannot be Radford’s daughter, the attempts on her life continue.
***** FIVE STARS! Action, mystery, and suspense suffuse every page of this story by author Mike Brogan. From the attempted murder on the first page, until the last page was read, this novel kept me guessing. I found it very difficult to put this book down whenever my real life (rudely) interrupted me. (Otherwise I may have read this book in a single sitting – instead of two.)
The author paints a realistic picture. He has an easy-to-read writing style that makes the story flow smoothly. The characters are well developed and he has the Southern mannerisms down pat. Stellar! *****
Author: Sam Siciliano
Title - The White Worm
(The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes)
Sherlock Holmes and his cousin, Dr. Henry Vernier, travel to Diana’s Grove (near Whitby) to help their latest client, Mr. Adam Selton. Selton is in love with Miss Diana Marsh, but has received a letter stating that to be with Diana is to invite danger. His lady seems to be cursed and turns into a giant snake. Many claim to have seen a green glow and something white moving in the woods at night.
***** FIVE STARS! This time the great detective and his cousin find themselves surrounded by an eclectic cast of characters. I found one to be simple and often foolish, another to be blind to faults, one aggravating and intriguing simultaneously, and even on to be totally insane and usually off in his own little fantasy world. In addition, the author’s portrayal of Holmes is impressive. Though I miss Watson, I feel that Dr. Vernier (and the good doctor’s wife at times) filled the role perfectly.
For those wondering, this story is told in the First Person, Dr. Vernier’s point-of-view. Even though the personalities of the characters differ greatly, the author still managed to give each a well developed background.
Because I have just finished reading this mystery, my mind is racing; therefore, my grammar and paragraph development is not up to par. Yet I refuse to wait a minute longer than necessary to get the word out on how delightful this cursed tale is. Highly recommended for all who enjoy a good who-dunnit. Sam Siciliano has made a new fan in me. *****
Author: Karen Wiesner
Title - Pretty Fly (Falcon’s Bend #6)
Shayna “Shay” Vincent works in Chicago at an advertising agency. She and her coworker, Gage Keveris, have been a terrific team for over a decade. During this time they have become more than simply friends. Though in love, neither has done more than kiss or enjoy spending time together in public. For the first time, Gage invites Shayna to his apartment and she hopes he is about to propose. Instead, Shay learns that Gage has been wed to someone named Allegra the entire time. Gage tells Shay that he has not seen Allegra in several years and how the woman keeps refusing to grant him a divorce. Gage goes on to explain the horrible situation he has been in for over ten years. He ends the conversation by informing Shayna that he and his lawyer are going to court in a few days for a Divorce Deposition; therefore, he would be unable to go with her during her annual vacation to visit family in Falcon’s Bend.
Shayna is beyond hurt. She always believed that she and Gage shared everything. Needing time alone, Shay goes to Falcon’s Bend to stay with her brother, Detective Danny Vincent. Unfortunately, Melody, Danny’s wife, is away on business; however, their young daughter, Deidre, is there. Time with her niece is exactly what Shay needs to help sooth her heart and allow her to think clearly before making any rash decisions.
Danny and his partner/friend, Pete, have a sketchy case on their hands. Shawn Futrell reported his extremely young wife, Taylor, missing – a week after they had an argument and she had stomped out of the house. Shawn claims that this was not the first time Taylor had left for several days or a week, but it was the first time she had missed work. He also claims that she has an unknown lover. But Shawn is far from being a saint either. His last two wives are dead, his past with all ladies is well known and he clearly cares nothing for Taylor’s well being. Even his teenage son seems to resent his father. When Taylor turns up dead, things really heat up … and even Shay is soon standing in the crosshairs of a killer.
***** FIVE STARS! There is never a dull moment in this mystery drama (and romance). The focus switches between the relationships of Danny’s family, Shayna and Gage, and a serial killer who has unusual way of killing someone with small chance of discovery. Something is always going on. This is the type of story where you really must pay attention or you may miss something vital. As I read, my rainy afternoon seemed to fly by. (I looked up and was surprised to notice the sun had gone down.)
Karen Wiesner packs a lot in each Falcon’s Bend novel. Even a couple of secondary characters (two dating patrol officers) get a bit of time in the spotlight. I cannot recommend this story highly enough. *****
Authors: Mike Wells & Devika Fernando
Title - Forbidden (Books 1-3)
When Lady Eleanor Sotheby unexpectedly enters the life of Jayne Clark, a 23-year old waitress from Wichita, Kansas, Jayne's world is turned upside down. Not only is she welcomed into a branch of her family that she never knew existed, but she is thrust headlong into the highest strata of European society. Nothing is too grand in the fairy tale lives of the uber-rich--the spectacular seaside villas, the sleek, chauffeured limousines, the outrageously expensive designer clothes. When Jayne does her part to be accepted and fit into this new world, she meets Robert Astor, the man of her dreams. But her feelings for Robert are forbidden. Jayne's heady new life begins to unravel into a dark web of deceit, domination and greed...and she ultimately finds herself confronting an evil that truly has no limits.
***** FOUR & A HALF STARS! Well! What an unexpected gem! When I first read of the incredibly self-centred and hateful young, pregnant girl I didn't think there was anything about her that would interest me. Then I wondered whatever happened to her. THEN I began to figure it out! I wouldn't want to ever be involved with such a terrible person, but it certainly was entertaining reading about her! There are more than a few surprises and twists in this tale...the further along I read, the more it gripped me. Definitely worth a read!! *****
Authors: Karen Wiesner & Chris Spindler
Title - As Patient As Death (Falcon’s Bend #5)
Lisa has helped her husband, Detective Peter Shasta, solve a couple of crimes in Falcon’s Bend, Wisconsin. One of them involved new neighbors. Lisa will be the first to admit that she is extremely nosy, but that is because she actually cares about the people in her life. That includes her neighbors. The newest neighbors are the Bocas. The husband, Jerome, is at work a lot. The skittish wife, Eva, has cancer and is seldom to be seen. Lisa simply cannot sit back and watch Eva be all alone while so sick. Even Lisa’s best friend (and next door neighbor) Melody agrees that Jerome should be with Eva instead of disappearing at night or always out of the area on business. Peter has cautioned Lisa about getting too involved. The Bocas are not her business. But Lisa feels the need to take care of Eva, especially when the young woman is violently ill and bedridden.
Lisa soon learns that Jerome had been married twice before. Both wives had been terminally ill and Jerome had taken out large life insurance policies on both before their deaths. Is Eva next?
**** FOUR STARS! You do not have to read the previous mysteries to enjoy this one, but for those who have read them you will be see more of the ongoing dramas among the main and secondary characters. As for the Bocas, I admit to having a difficult time trying to figure out if Jerome was “a Prince Charming or a creep” and if Eva was “a liar of just brave and selfless.” The situation becomes even more convoluted when Eva’s brother enters the scene. This episode has many twists, turns, and even a few surprises that will keep all mystery fans guessing. Wonderful! ****
Author: E. Michael Helms
Title - Deadly Catch (Mac McClellan Mystery)
After twenty-four years in the U.S. Marines, recently retired Mac McClellan is finally a civilian again. Mac travels to the Florida panhandle to relax and do some leisurely fishing before deciding on what he wants to do with the rest of his life. On his first cast of the day, Mac manages to hook a badly decomposed body. Shortly thereafter, a bag of rare marijuana is discovered stashed aboard his rental boat and Mac realizes that someone is setting him up to take the fall for murder and drug smuggling.
With the help of Kate Bell, a feisty saleslady at the local marina, Mac launches an investigation. Along the way Mac must deal with local law enforcement officials, shady politicians, and strong-armed thugs. But he also finds allies in the strangest places and strikes up a romance with Kate. The beginning of this new chapter in Mac’s life is very turbulent and, if he survives, Mac may just get to enjoy it.
***** FOUR AND A HALF STARS! Much of my synopsis comes from the back cover of the book and I have used it with the author’s permission. This story follows Mac and is told in the First Person. As the reader, I am with Mac as he gathers clues, ponders suspicions, and – basically – just tries to survive. Almost everyone in the story is a suspect and danger seems to lurk around every corner. With so much going on, you will not find yourself getting bored.
The author writes with a smooth pattern. There is no jumping around from topic-to-topic or person-to-person or flashback-to-flashback. If the reader needs to know something about Mac’s past, Mac will briefly recall an event – but the reader will not have a lot of unneeded information dumped on him. There is little in the story that does not need to be there in order to further the plot or plant a seed of suspicion and/or clue. In fact, the only things I remember that did not have to deal directly to the story in some way was when the author would tell me exactly what foods Mac ordered at a restaurant or what types of clothing he purchased at a store. (The names of the restaurants and clothing stores are provided too.) This does not distract from the tale, I only mention it so that you will understand when I say that E. Michael Helms is a very detailed writer.
This is the first Mac McClellan Mystery and E. Michael Helms has done an excellent job of introducing the main characters to the reader. This mystery series has awesome potential and I look forward to Helms’s next installment. *****
Author: Anna Klay
Title - Broken Wing
Ray Long is a tortured, troubled man looking for a new start. He stops in small town, Pettington, and decides to stay. He gets work as a mechanic, meets and falls for innocent Skye Roosevelt. Skye yearns to know her mother, who left to follow her bliss when Skye was very young. Ray is gentle and attentive long enough for Skye to discover her unplanned pregnancy, but his simmering anger begins to show through and Skye decides to break off the relationship. This pushes Ray over the edge and the ensuring chaos has more twists and turns than one could imagine.
**** FOUR STARS! I didn't think I was going to enjoy this book as I 'thought' I had it pegged and knew what was going to happen. I can't tell you how many times I guessed wrong! The characters and story are more complex than I expected and had me wondering what could possibly happen next! I found myself disliking Ray intensely and shaking my head over things Skye did (ah, youth!). Overall, a good story that will have you wondering what could possibly happen next...right to the end! ****
Author: Alice Duncan
Title - Strong Spirits
(Daisy Gumm Majesty Mystery #1)
Set toward the beginning of the twentieth century. At the young age of ten, Daisy Gumm found her calling as a Medium. Back then Daisy considered it fun to set up an Ouija Board, pretend to have a spiritual control named Rolly, and communicate with the dead. Daisy was often paid to attend parties and conduct séances. At the age of seventeen, Daisy married William “Billy” Majesty and the United States entered the “Great War”. In a chain-of-events, Daisy wed Billy in April, he went off to war, and in June the Kaiser’s men gassed Billy out of his trench before shooting him. When Billy was finally well enough to return to his home in Pasadena, California, he was confined to a wheelchair, his lungs were ruined, his legs were bad, and Daisy suddenly had to make a living for their families. (Other relatives lived with them.)
Once the war is over, the spiritualist movement booms. Those with money turn to people like Daisy for comfort. By this I mean Daisy and her Ouija Board are hired to perform séances to help ease the minds of family members who have lost someone unexpectedly. Daisy considers what she does as spiritual healing. Daisy’s best customer is Mrs. Madeline Kincaid, who has been hiring her since Daisy first found her calling. Daisy knows others who work for the Kincaid family. Aunt Vi is the cook and her best friend, Edie, is a maid. In fact, Edie has just become engaged to another Kincaid employee, Quincy. Now that you know a few, but not nearly all, of the people involved, on with the mystery.
Daisy is not surprised when a hysterical Mrs. Kincaid phones and claims that she is needed right away. Daisy arrives at the Kincaid mansion to find chaos. (Nothing unusual.) This time, Mrs. Kincaid’s handicapped husband, Eustace, has disappeared during the night after having a heated argument with Quincy, who has also vanished without a trace. Detective Sam Rotondo, who makes it clear that he does not approve of Daisy’s profession, seems to be jumping to conclusions. To make matters worse, several thousand dollars worth of bearer bonds have gone missing from the bank (owned by the Kincaid family.) Edie is worried about Quincy. Mrs. Kincaid’s spoiled daughter keeps having tantrums and screams about Quincy killing her father. The son seems to be the only sane member of the Kincaid family. The detective is doing everything possible to irritate Daisy. And Aunt Vi is totally calm as she cooks and keeps repeating that all would be okay because Daisy will handle it. Good thing Daisy loves a good mystery.
***** FIVE STARS! This entire series is perfect for fans of old detective shows and mystery novels. The author has chosen an interesting time period of America’s history in which to set the series too. Women have (just been given) the right to vote, the nation is still devastated by the World War, families often live together in order to make ends meet, disabled vets receive little in compensation, party phone lines, automobiles need to be hand cranked…As you can see, so much is changing and life is uncertain. I do not believe the author could have picked a better time for someone as strong as Daisy to live in.
The author’s writing style is also interesting. Everything is told from Daisy’s view point. Picture yourself going over to your best friend’s house and sitting down in a cozy living room with hot coffee or tea within reach. Now imagine your friend’s name is Daisy. Daisy is loving, energetic, her world is insane, and yet Daisy is calmly telling you about her day. Nothing strange to Daisy; just a typical day. This is exactly the feeling I had throughout the entire story. Daisy became my friend. I came to know her and respect her while, at the same time, I got to test my wits against a good old fashioned mystery. I cannot explain how terrific this story actually is and I feel sorry for anyone who misses it. Highly recommended! *****
Author: Aiden James
Title - The Forgotten Eden (Talisman Chronicles #1)
Wow! Warning! Once you begin reading The Forgotten Eden, Book I of The Talisman Chronicles, you will not want to put it down. Not only is Aiden James a storyteller par excellence, but his material for this story is riveting.
The Forgotten Eden, Book I of The Talisman Chronicles, centers on a mysterious section of woods near Tombigbee River where the residents of the town of Carlsdale, Alabama all share a common fear. They know not to enter those enigmatic woods because those who have made that foolhardy mistake never lived to tell about it and were never seen again. Jack Kenney, at the age of thirteen, was the only exception and the things he experienced and later told about his encounters in those woods was the stuff of nightmares. After his escape and his initial report to the local sheriff’s department, Jack’s family immediately moved Jack and his older brother, Jeremy, away from Carlsdale and Jack didn’t talk anymore about it until he met with Special Agent Peter McNamee, who shared some common experiences with those dark woods. This meeting with Peter followed the bewildering abduction by the FBI of Jack and his older brother, Jeremy, some eight years later. They were taken away for interrogation, supposedly about the brutal murder of University archaeology professor Dr. Menesch.
It was only after Peter told Jack about his similar experiences with his own younger brother’s disappearance that Jack decided to tell his harrowing story – complete, for the first time.
As this story unfolds, the reader is awestruck by descriptions of the beasts that live in those deep woods. A giant seventy-foot lizard that looked like a mix between a dragon and a Tyrannosaurus Rex was one such description. This particular beast was covered in scales and Special Agent Peter McNamee happened to have one of those scales, which he placed in front of Jack during his interrogation of him. Of course, Jack recognized it immediately. Peter also had a picture of this giant’s footprint that was the size of a John Deere tractor. We also learn about strange lights emanating from those woods at night (lights that glow as brightly as the sun) and golden mists that engulf a young boy and spirit him away. Can these things be real? Is there something supernatural going on here? In addition, just what is that huge sphere resting near the woods in Jack’s back yard?
***** FIVE STARS! I knew this novel was going to hold my attention from the minute I picked it up. It is a fast moving thriller with so many twists and turns and mysteries that the reader is hard pressed to keep up. Mr. James’s book, The Forgotten Eden, Book I of The Talisman Chronicles, mesmerized me from beginning to end! I simply can’t wait for Book II. *****
Author: Aiden James
Title - The Devil's Paradise (Talisman Chronicles #2)
As the story opens, Jack and Jeremy Kenney have survived their attempted execution and are en route to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Hoping to fulfill Dr. Mensch's dying wish and somehow clear their names of all the false crimes being told by the media, the Kenney brothers race to the professor's house on South Queens Court.
At the same time, eight giant towers (disguised as tremendous weather phenomenons) are also closing in on the house. These are the children of Elohim, the Lord of the Universe. Long before recorded time, as we know it, they had incurred the wrath of Elohim due to their bloodlusts and were destined to exist in a forged prison away from our three-dimensional reality. The only way these demonic deities could return was if man aided their rebirth using the Cristal Del Sol (a crystal sphere of unimaginable power). Should this happen Elohim would turn his back on the world and leave mankind to its fate.
As FBI agents, various law enforcements, and even Israeli assassins converge on their location, the brothers find themselves kidnapped by an unknown group and taken to an ancient castle in Bolivia. The group turns out to be known throughout the world as the "Servants of the Angels". When they come face-to-face with the Archangels Moroni, Gabriel, Micheles, and Ossisa, the brothers learn why. Their new mortal allies have been charged with the protection of Jack and Jeremy, as the brothers' survival is critical to the future. However, all would be for naught should the demon, Genovene, and her four siblings succeed in bringing about the rebirth of the Elohim's children.
The "reign of unending darkness" is upon them and the "war of wars" is about to commence.
***** FIVE STARS! Wow! The intense writing style of Aiden James kept my eyes glued to the story and the pages seemed to fly by at warp speed. The action is nonstop as these two brothers deal with supernatural and honorific entities that either wish to use or kill them. Help comes from unexpected sources, as does betrayal. Twists, turns, and surprises pop up at random times to keep the reader off balance. It all blends together to create one of the best stories I have read all year. BRAVO! *****
Author: Annette Blair
Title - Tulle Death Do Us Part (Vintage Magic)
Madeira “Mad or Maddie” Cutler is learning to live with her psychometric gift. She now knows to “listen” to whatever vintage fashion item “speaks” to her. Basically, Mad will sometimes touch a vintage item and have a vision. Mad uses those visions to help solve crimes. Since Mad owns the dress shop “Vintage Magic”, the odds are pretty good for visions to pop-up. She has learned how to, for the most part, avoid touching fabric. (Even while hemming.)
During her shop’s roof-raising, a box is discovered. It is wrapped in a piece of fabric that sends Mad’s mind back in time. The fabric is part of a petticoat that was worn to a country club’s Golden Jubilee. A group of young people had been engaged in a scavenger hunt that may have ended with the death of a lady. Maddie turns to her boyfriend, Detective Lytton Werner, for help. Records show that Robin, a Vassar swimmer, had been swept away by a rogue wave on that fateful night. With no body found, she was declared dead seven years later. In order to learn the truth of what really happened forty years ago, Maddie will have to bring Lytton into the elite group of friends who know about her special gift. But will he believe her or will their new relationship come to a quick end?
**** FOUR STARS! Maddie has finally decided to move on with her private life, so Nick has been reduced to little more than a footnote or two. Dante, the shop’s resident ghost, is a bit of help since he was alive and knew at least one of the people involved in this mystery. The spoiled coeds from long ago have grown up to become today’s sour cream of society. The author helps Mad identify people she sees in her visions by giving each person a nickname. (Such as Grody, Vainglory, and Tagalong.) When the real names come to light, those nicknames take on special meanings. You have to read the story to fully appreciate what I am trying to explain.
Once again the author has penned another wonderful mystery. I look forward to rejoining those fictional friends in the next adventure. Annette Blair’s storytelling continues to shine brighter than any star possibly could. ****
Author: D.J. Swykert
Title - The Death of Anyone
Homicide Detective Bonnie Benham investigates the murder of a young girl and stumbles onto a series of similar murders and a suspected serial killer. Hampered by out-dated protocols, a D.A. with political ambitions as well as her own inner demons, Detective Benham scrabbles her way through the seamy underbelly of Detroit in her bid to bring the killer to justice.
Bonnie Benham is a kick-butt-and-take-no-prisoners kind of cop (no pun intended). Being a woman, she obviously has to deal with issues of working in a traditional man's job, but more than that she has some vulnerability as well as some emotional issues very close to the surface.
**** THREE & A HALF STARS! There were a few times I felt that some important things had been either skimmed over or missed entirely (near the beginning), but given how fast-paced this story unfolds--and how it ends!--I forgave that as the main story is fairly well fleshed out. I would not want to be on Det. Benham's bad side! ;)
Overall, an enjoyable read. ****
Author: Duncan Lloyd
Title - Elena
Theodore “Teddy” Schoendienst is a brilliant teen, but is cursed with his stuttering to be the target of bullies. He lives in Northern Wisconsin with his younger sister, Ellen, and his father. Teddy’s dad is a psychiatrist that works at a private insane asylum close to the house. When the bullies go too far and Teddy ends up in the hospital’s critical care unit, Dr. Schoendienst removes Teddy from public school. Under his father’s care for education, Teddy finds his workload doubled.
As with most young teens, Teddy is maturing and experiencing all the normal curiosities about intimacy. One night he sees a young girl emerge from his closet. He can only view her out of the corner of his eye, but he can tell she is beautiful. Her name is Elena and she begins to teach him about intimacy; however, in return Teddy must not tell his family about her. Elena is cold to the touch and plays the Dominant role during their time together. Though Teddy understands that Elena is a ghost, he still falls in love with her.
Ellen tells Teddy that Elena has been haunting her dreams. Teddy begins to wonder if Elena is playing some sort of horrible game with his family. Shortly thereafter, Ellen is murdered. Teddy is determined to figure out who killed his sister and why. But soon Teddy begins to wonder if he is going insane. The truth is more horrible than he could ever imagine.
**** FOUR STARS! I always warn readers of anything in the books that I review could be offensive to some. Consider yourself warned that this story has erotic scenes, bits of necrophilism, and talk of incest. That said, I will get on with the review.
This story follows the main character, Teddy, and tells the tale from his viewpoint. It is well told and kept me guessing from its gripping beginning until its shocking ending. Overall, I found this to be a combination of several genres: Mystery, Paranormal, Thriller, and Horror. Unlike most authors of today, Duncan Lloyd does not hold back any punches or shy away from what the public considers to be taboo. This author seems to have a clear view of the world’s dark side. His writing is realistic and I applaud, what my family would call, his gumption. It is very refreshing to me. I sincerely hope to read more by Duncan Lloyd. STELLAR! ****
Author: Raven West
Title - Undercover Reunion
Melanie “Mel” Tyler and Kathleen “Katie” Conner have been best friends since kindergarten. As teenagers, their favorite television show was The Man from U.N.C.L.E. The girls even had a hidden room where they kept files on various schoolmates. But after graduating from high school, everyone in the graduating class went their own way. Mel’s voice landed her a variety of voice-over jobs and she now lives in a Santa Monica Condominium. Katie wed and her husband, James O’Brien, eventually became a Minnesota State Senator.
Today, Mel and Katie find it difficult to believe that they are about to attend Abbeyville High School’s thirtieth reunion. Seeing most of their former classmates should be fun, but there are a few that the ladies hoped would not attend. Unfortunately, the three worst do make an appearance. Charles Haussman and Eric Kramer were bullies back in school and they have not forgotten how the ladies once bested them (thanks to their U.N.C.L.E. addiction.) Then there is Wyatt Gaynes, the jock that Melanie had a crush on – along with many other female students. The deceitful creep had used Mel, just as he did everyone else.
Mel and Katie are soon recruited by U.N.C.L.E., which turns out is a real spy organization, to help thwart a former schoolmate’s plan for worldwide domination.
**** FOUR STARS! I have never seen an episode of the old television show The Man From UNCLE, but after reading this book I plan to search various streaming internet sites in hopes of viewing a few. You do not have to be a fan of the old show in order to fully enjoy this tale. (I guess it does not hurt that I used to watch other spy series, such as Get Smart.) I found this story to be extremely fun to read! There are several typos, most toward the ending, but I could easily overlook them. Those who have read this author’s previous novel, Red Wine for Breakfast, may even notice the subtle nod to the Sock Test. (I could not help but chuckle when a pair of socks was mentioned in a single, short line.) If you are looking for a story to enjoy during vacation or to make a rainy afternoon fly by, this is it. I have no doubt that I will not soon forget this fun spy thriller. ****
Author: Linda Barrett
Title - Family Interrupted
Set in Houston, Texas. Claire and Jack Barnes have been married for twenty-three wonderful years and they are proud of their two children. Ian is in high school with a head for science and computers. Next year he plans to begin looking for a college. Kayla is almost thirteen. She loves sports and is full of life. Jack and Claire run the family’s business, a construction company. Jack is a great home builder, a people-person, and loves both his family and the company. Claire has a major art talent. She mainly uses her skills to decorate the model homes for Barnes Construction, but recently has begun taking art classes at the university. The perfect family’s life shatters when Claire, arriving home late from class, learns that Kayla has been hit by a car.
Sarah Levine was not drunk or speeding. She did not mean to hurt Kayla. The sun blinded Sarah for only a second, followed by a sneeze, and then the young girl was hit. Kayla dies within the week. Sarah is unable to forgive herself, even though it had been a true accident.
Shaken by the tragedy, the Barnes family begins to fall apart. Each family member (Claire, Jack, and Ian) deals with the pain separately and alone. Each holds tight to guilt and blame. Real or imagined. Upon graduating high school, Ian moves fifty miles away from the darkness at home. He begins a new life, working at Gulf Coast Oil Refinery.
Two years after Kayla’s death, neither Sarah, nor any member of the Barnes family, has put the past behind them or began the healing process. (Sarah is becoming suicidal and her husband fears for her.) Claire and Jack are on the verge of divorce. But when Ian’s life goes terribly awry, Claire and Jack are forced to re-examine their lives in order to save their marriage, help Ian, and try to find a way to bring their family back together.
**** FOUR STARS! Be warned in advance that this story is a real tear-jerker. My emotions stayed in constant flux with each good and bad situation that came to pass. The story is told (mainly) by three characters: Ian, Claire, and Jack. The name of the character being followed is noted at the beginning of each new section. My only problem is that everyone is so sensitive, even after two years. They are scared to risk communicating with each other and possibly making things worse. But there is no way for family members to move forward until they do, so events escalate. I like how the author included Sarah in the story and kept me, as the reader, in the loop about how she was doing.
This is not the type of story that Linda Barrett normally writes. If you are expecting a sweet or suspenseful romance, you are destined for disappointment. This time Barrett deals with a parent’s worst nightmare. Her talent in storytelling will keep your nerves raw and your eyes moist as you silently yearn for the people involved to recover from each devastating blow they receive. By the end, I was filled with a warm glow and had a silly smile spread across my face. Linda Barrett will take your emotions on an unpredictable roller coaster ride. ****
Author: Mary Campisi
Title - Pulling Home
For nine years Audra Valentine Wheyton has kept all her secrets safe. Those nine years were spent in San Diego, two thousand miles from her hometown of Holly Springs, New York. She has created the perfect life – with a wonderful husband, a daughter she adores, and a position as head writer for the award-winning daytime soap “On Eden Street”. When her husband dies suddenly, Audra must return to Holly Springs for the funeral and face the community that has not forgotten her mother’s scandals and a man who has never forgiven her for marrying his brother.
Jack Wheyton is one of the best pediatric neurosurgeons in the country. People fly from all over the world to see him. Nine years ago Jack and Audra had spent a short time together in bed. He has always regretted telling Audra that they were over. He has always regretted taking a ski trip to get his head together. And he has never forgiven Audra from running across country with his brother, Christian, before he returned from the trip to express his love for her. Jack is about to become engaged to Leslie Richot when Audra walks back into his life with her daughter.
Once Audra returns to San Diego from burying Christian, her eight year old daughter, Kara, is diagnosed with Chiari Malformation. (The skull is too small for the brain, so the cerebellum and brain stem are being pushed downward and compressed into the spinal canal.) Ironically, Jack is the top surgeon recommended. For Kara’s sake, Audra turns to Jack to save her child. But to save Kara, Audra must find out the medical history of her own father. The only person her mother had confessed the man’s name to was Pastor August Richot, Leslie’s father. And if Pastor Richot breaks his vow to save Kara’s life, it would harm many of the locals’ lives.
**** FOUR STARS! In my opinion, the most entertaining character is Joe Wheyton, the father of Jack and Christian. The grumpy man has two weak spots: Kara and the daytime soap opera “On Eden Street”. Joe has no idea that Audra is the head writer for the show (the network hides her real name with an alias) and no one knows just how much of its storyline is based on Audra’s past. To quote Joe, “We got ourselves our own little Eden Street right here in Holly Springs.” To me, Joe is a total riot!
My only real concern with the story is that the small town does not have a hotel. If people fly from all over the globe for Jack’s pediatric medical expertise, then there should be at least two hotels competing for business. I understand that the author has to force Audra into staying with Jack’s (and Christian’s) parents somehow, but having no hotel in a town that has numerous families incoming constantly is just not believable to me. Otherwise, this story is fabulous! The plot is solid. The characters are well developed. The story’s events are full of twists and surprises. Some secrets are obvious. Some rumors you will wonder about. And more than one secret will sock you right between the eyes – especially toward the ending. This story really is like a daytime soap opera, but with a happy ending. ****
Author: William Wilde
Title – Julia’s Room
Set in Portland, Oregon. It has been years since Robert Graham’s last True Crime novel hit the bestseller lists. Robert knows that he needs to write a new book in order to revitalize his career. The problem is that Robert has no ideas, no material, for anything that would reach out and grab a reader’s interest. That all changes when Robert runs into Julia Bell – literally.
Robert is horrified to realize that he has hit a pedestrian with his car. Julia brushes it off. No harm done. To ensure himself that the woman is really okay, Robert discreetly follows Julia until she enters her run-down old house on Kearney Street. A little bit of research on the internet reveals Julia’s abusive past, and Robert suddenly sees Julia as his ticket back into the spotlight. According to the articles Roberts reads online, Julia had been known as the Basement Girl twenty-two years ago. That was when the police had entered the house on Kearney Street and freed sixteen-year-old Julia from a locked room in the basement. Julia had been kept as a prisoner by her aunt for over four years.
After one visit to Julia’s home, Robert can tell that the woman’s mental state is still pretty fragile due to the years of her abuse. Yet that does not stop Robert from his goal. He fully intends to take advantage of Julia’s vulnerabilities and receive her cooperation in a book project. But for a timid recluse, Julia has several people knocking on her door. A greasy little developer has been trying to bully Julia into selling her property. The lady next door has her own agenda for Julia. Then there are the threatening letters Julia is receiving weekly from an unknown person who seems to know all about her past.
Carl Enroe is a private investigator that has been hired by the Paley family to locate their son, Frank. Enroe believes Julia to somehow be connected to Frank’s disappearance. Enroe is sure that Julia is keeping secrets and he has an idea of what the unbalanced woman is doing in her home at night. He just has not been able to confirm his suspicions yet. When the journalist enters Julia’s life, Enroe faces complications in learning the truth about Julia.
Though Robert is exploiting Julia for his own use, he eventually becomes very protective of her. The gruff private investigator is only one in a series of increasingly dangerous events that are circling around Julia. After awhile, Robert has to stop and consider exactly how far he is willing to go in order to publish the story of Julia Bell.
*** THREE STARS! As I read this piece of fiction, I was curious to see if I could correctly diagnose Julia’s disorder. Unfortunately, a label was never revealed. The author allows the reader to make up his/her own mind. Personally, Dissociative Identity Disorder (D.I.D.) was my choice for most of the story; however, nothing I came up with perfectly fit with Julia’s mood-swings and varying behavior patterns.
The first few pages of the story took place back when a teenaged Julia was still locked in her basement room. Afterward, everything was told as it happened. The storytelling was choppy at times and some scenes stopped too abruptly for me, but I found the events circling Julia too intriguing to resist. I simply had to know what was really going on and what would happen next. This disturbing psychological tale left me with a few chills and made my rainy afternoon fly by! ***
Author: Elizabeth Delisi
Title - Fatal Fortune
(Lottie Baldwin Mystery, Book 1)
No one in Cheyenne, North Dakota, believes that Carlotta “Lottie” Baldwin actually has psychic abilities; not even Harlan Erikson, Lottie’s boyfriend, and Chief Deputy in the Sheriff’s Office. But Harlan does believe in paying attention to any “feelings” Lottie may have. How could he not? Lottie’s feelings seem to always be right. Lottie is an oddity in the small farming community. Many of the locals look upon Lottie with disbelief or disapproval. Her one true friend is Janet Larson.
When Janet’s husband, Harry, disappears one evening, it is to Lottie that Janet turns. Harry has not touched a drop of alcohol in almost a decade, yet Sheriff McCarthy refuses to even consider searching for the man until two full days pass, thinking that Harry is just out drunk somewhere. When Harlan tries to look into Harry’s whereabouts, Sheriff McCarthy jumps down his throat. (The sheriff is NOT a fan of Lottie’s.) But when Harry’s vehicle is found abandoned, Harlan is able to begin an official investigation.
Worried for Janet and her little girl, Lottie is unable to simply sit by and hope that others would find out what happened to Harry. Armed with her tarot cards, fragmentary visions, and a lot of courage, Lottie begins doing some snooping of her own. There are several people who may have reason to want Harry gone forever. The problem is figuring out who actually did the deed … and quickly, because someone is getting very tired of Lottie sticking her nose where it does not belong.
**** FOUR STARS! I will give Lottie this; she sure knows how to play the role of an air-headed, bubblegum popper. Only a few small things about this story kept nagging in the back of my mind. At one point, Lottie was almost strangled to death at night. Her throat was swollen and her voice sounded awful. Yet by morning there was no real mention of the swelling and/or pain. At another point, toward the beginning of the story, Lottie’s car windshield was badly shattered by a rock; however, I do not recall it ever being fixed. From the way the damage was described, I do not see how Lottie could have kept driving it for long. But as I said, these are small things, and they may be mentioned toward the beginning of the next mystery.
The author gave Lottie a bubbly personality, almost to the point of being hyper, and the urge to do anything (Right now!) to help a friend in need. Lottie usually thought before doing anything major, but she was sometimes impulsive and that got her into a lot of trouble. The character of Harlan came across as a typical law enforcer. But when it came to Lottie, Harlan was strict. He wanted Lottie safe. But the way he explained things to Lottie just sounded too demanding. Too much like orders to a soldier. And Lottie refused to let the man intimidate or order her about. (You go, girl!)
Had Lottie been a real person, I would have been able to call her a friend. The compassionate, caring, and bubbly lady was fun to watch and I cheered her on through several disguises. A wonderful mystery that will test your wits! ****
Author: Eleanor Prophet
Title - Astrid Darby & the Eye of Ra
(Astrid Darby Adventures, Historical Mystery)
Set mostly in London. Mrs. Astrid Darby did not cease being an adventurer when her husband, Nathaniel, passed away three years ago. Astrid is still a well sought out private investigator. Filling her late husband’s shoes is Astrid’s young cousin, Mr. Alexander “Xander” Knightly. Xander is excellent as her private assistant and totally trustworthy. Xander seems positively giddy when he learns that Astrid has been asked to drop by the business of Rake & Gage Defense Contractors.
Rake & Gage is England’s top manufacturer of the government’s military defense systems. They have commissioned Dr. Sebastian Cross, one of the country’s most acclaimed physicists and inventors, to create a new defense system. According to the Executive Vice President, Mr. Maxwell Cole, Dr. Cross and his assistant, Dr. Joseph Ramsey, have vanished, taking the prototype and all notes with them. The apparatus is called the Eye of Ra. Mr. Cole believes that Dr. Cross defected, but Astrid believes otherwise. Astrid’s mission is to locate and retrieve the Eye of Ra before the government could find out that it was missing.
Soon afterward, Astrid stumbles upon Dr. Joseph Ramsey. The physicist has no idea where Dr. Cross is. In fact, the good physicist is also searching for his missing colleague. Joseph joins Astrid in the magnanimous talk of discovering what has become of Dr. Cross and the Eye. Though Joseph is actually looking forward to a bit of excitement as he accompanies the lovely private investigator, he could never imagine just how dangerous or deadly things would become. But it is just another day for Astrid.
**** FOUR STARS! This story begins and ends in England; however, there is a jaunt to America as Astrid follows the clues. The year is never revealed, but the scenery in England and the fact that America is still in its early settlement makes me believe that Astrid’s case is set during the Regency Era. (However, in this story it is common for people to travel via zeppelin. The quick trip to and fro America is done on such. No long travel by ship.) Since Astrid and the case is set in England, the English in the story is the UK version. Therefore, if you live in America you will notice a few things spelled differently. Instead of being confusing, I found that this made the story more believable to me.
Author Eleanor Prophet has an interesting writing style, very practical. It fits well with Astrid’s level headed character. The narration is clear and the character backgrounds are well developed. I hope to read more of Astrid’s adventures. Ace! ****
Author: Alison Gaylin
Title - And She Was (Brenna Spector #1)
Missing persons investigator Brenna Spector has a rare neurological disorder that enables her to recall every detail of every day of her life. It began at the age of eleven, when her older sister stepped into a strange car never to be seen again. The disorder is called Hyperthymestic Syndrome, and it has helped Brenna in many of her cases.
Detective Nick Morasco, Tarry Ridge PD, meets Brenna about Carol Wentz, a missing woman. The woman's wallet had been found at Iris Neff's house, a little girl that had disappeared over ten years ago. Though Brenna had never met Carol, the woman had her name and phone number in her wallet. This leads Nelson Wentz to hire Brenna to find his wife, Carol. The more Brenna investigates what Carol had been doing during her last known days at home, the more she comes to believe that Carol's disappearance is somehow connected to little Iris's from so long ago.
*** THREE STARS! My synopsis only tells events from the first quarter of the book. I stopped there because things happen with Nelson which changes Brenna's investigation, basically changing the main focus of the case. Telling about these changes would give spoilers and I refuse to do that. What I will tell you is that Detective Morasco plays a large role in Brenna's investigation. The good detective is involved with more than just Carol and Nelson's case. Readers get to see how Brenna's disorder interferes with her private life too. Brenna has a thirteen-year-old daughter, so she must still communicate with her ex-husband. Contact with her ex is mostly done via I.M. (Instant Messenger).
Characters' backgrounds are not always clear. Some are told as Brenna learns facts about other characters; however, Brenna's is revealed in pieces. Even by the ending of the story I did not feel as if I really knew her. Perhaps more will become clear in the later cases. Still, I found this to be a good story with enough originality to make me look forward to Brenna's next story. ***
Author: Aiden James
Title - Plague of Coins (The Judas Chronicles #1)
William Barrow is a Smithsonian archivist. Anyone looking at him would assume his age to be around thirty years. In truth, William is two thousand and thirteen years, two months, and some days. His name is not the one he was born with either. Long ago his name was Judas Iscariot. For the price of thirty silver shekel (coins), Judas had betrayed his good friend Jesus. It is NOT something William is proud of and he seeks reconciliation with the Lord. William is a cursed immortal. He is on a quest to reclaim the thirty silver coins in hope they will prove his sincerity and allow him a full pardon.
Over the course of his lifetime, William has retrieved twenty-one shekel pieces. Several of these finds are due to his son, Dr. Alistair "Ali" Barrow, a noted historian and professor at Georgetown. Though William is Ali's father, the world believes the reverse to be true. (Ali is old enough to retire in a few years, should he choose to do so.)
As the story opens, William/Judas has found coin number twenty-two. It sits in a place called Al-haroun. William and Ali immediately plan a "vacation" to Iran. But William also does an occasional bit of espionage for the CIA. Before they can leave America, the CIA liaison, Mike, makes contact. Mike wants William and Ali to do a little surveillance. Russian billionaire, Petr Stanislav, is in the Alborz Mountains with some very high-tech machinery. He is searching for the Garden of Eden - literally. Petr is surrounded by an army that is led by Viktor Kaslow, ex Lieutenant Colonel in the Soviet Union's army from twenty-five years ago, and captain for one of Moscow's most feared KGB death squads even after the Cold War ended. Mike claims that only surveillance is needed. Scout around. Take a few photos. There would be plenty of time left for the "vacation".
On the jet, just before liftoff, father and son learn that more is expected from them. They will have a female companion, Amy Golden Eagle. And the exotic Native American (Blackfoot) has her own agenda.
***** FIVE STARS! This story is set in the present date. Everything detailed in my synopsis is revealed within the first quarter of the story. I refuse to give spoilers. I figure that since the author tells the reader everything I wrote early in the story, then it is okay to include those items here. This includes the fact that some of the "high-tech machinery" is a "fusion generator/reconfiguration beam" (FGR).
I cannot help but admire how the author arranged for the narration to flow. The story is written from William Barrow's perspective. In the beginning, William states that he is writing down the story of his coin collecting journey. Picture yourself sitting in a comfortable den, visiting your dear friend (William), and listening as he tells you his tale. As with such cozy visits, William will sometimes deviate from the coin search and his assigned espionage, in favor of short reminiscences about various happenings in his life. (Long ago, as well as more recently.) William has a dark sense of humor. It is often used as a defense mechanism. Often he is sarcastic or cynical, yet the overall tone still manages to convey warmth and I began to think of William as a very down-to-earth-type of person.
The author did not choose the Alborz Mountains as a possible site for the Garden of Eden out of thin air. The logic of how the location was chosen is explained, as is why no one has been able to find the garden. Why William does occasional favors for the government is also made known. It seems to me that the author has thought of everything. Anytime I thought "Why", "But", or "How", the answer soon followed.
There are some characters that I do not mention. A variety of twists, surprises, and subplots keep the story moving forward at a good pace. My interest was piqued almost immediately and my attention never wavered as I forced my eyes to stay open well into the night. (Sleep is overrated.) Aiden James is a Master Storyteller, whose career is on the rise!
Author: William Wilde
Title - The Trial of Rachel Williams
Set in Seattle, Washington. Jack Burke and Russ Todd are business partners. BT Security mainly does security consulting work; however, Burke is also a PI and does some investigative work for clients. When Burke's former brother-in-law, Tommy Nichols, comes for help, Burke's first instinct is to decline. Nichols and Burke have never been friends, yet Burke finds himself unable to turn the man away. Nichols is the Executive V.P. of PacBank. Recently his health has been rapidly deteriorating and Nichols says it is due to a threatening letter he received. The letter contains a curse and occult symbol. Though unsigned, Nichols firmly believes his coworker, Elizabeth Morehouse, is behind the curse because Nichols ended the short affair they were having. Nichols claims that he only needs Burke to investigate Morehouse. After Burke runs a background check and follows Morehouse for over forty-eight hours, Burke reports that the woman is harmless. The worst things the lady seems to do is bully grocery tellers and attend a meeting every Wednesday evening at a house on Capitol Hill. The gothic monstrosity on the property is owned in the name of the Society of Medea, with Rachel Williams named as executive officer.
Shortly thereafter, Nichols dies in the same manner as the curse claimed he would. Burke feels guilty, wondering if he should have done more. To make up for his possible negligence, Burke begins investigating the Society. The Society of Medea's purpose is to build a network of professional women (in positions of power and influence) who are committed to following Rachel's psychosocial theories. Rachel Williams is an author and a leading figure in the field of something called Female Psychic Spiritually. The Society members believe that all women possess a latent psychic ability that can be controlled and developed. When the women gather for meetings, they often perform occult rituals. They use psychic attacks generated by the combined power of the minds of all Society members acting together to cause harm to their "enemy". As with Nichols, the targets quickly become ill and die. Burke is soon spending all his time trying to find evidence against Elizabeth Morehouse, Rachel Williams, and the Society.
Eventually Burke has enough circumstantial material to approach John Page at the King County Courthouse Building. Page would normally pass on something like this, but takes the assignment just to annoy Sandra Gallo, the junior prosecutor assigned as his assistant. page thinks there is a solid case for conspiracy and intent to cause harm to Mr. Nichols. Page's boss agrees. As everything starts heading toward a trial, the media begins having a field day. Talks of witchcraft, occult powers, and other radical theories flood the headlines. Once at trial, things worsen for the D.A.'s Office, as well as for Burke.
**** FOUR STARS! This story is broken up into three parts. The first section is Burke being approached by Nichols, followed by Burke digging deeper into the Society after his former brother-in-law's death. The second part is Burke approaching Page at the D.A.'s Office, collection of evidence with the use of a warrant, and the trial. The last section deals with the aftermath. This is when things really become volatile, if not a bit insane, and eventually erupts into a climatic ending.
The author has done a terrific job with the characters. They are not deeply developed; however, more than enough background information is given for the story. Not much extra is given. Background scenery is given in some parts of the story, but mostly ignored except for describing the darkness of the night or a light description of how many houses are in an area. Most of the scenery is left to the reader's imagination. I am fine with this. I like that William Wilde sticks to what is important - the characters and the plot line. The third and final part of the book seems too rushed for me though. I understand things escalating fast, but I had come to expect logical thinking from Burke. Burke's character changes too much for me accept after the trial. Still, I find this to be a really great story. Fast moving, focused on the plot and characters, and very intriguing. Wilde is audacious in his writing style and never fails to please. ****
Author: Allie Larkin
Title - Stay
How is it that a kind gesture can make you fall madly in love with someone and you fool yourself into thinking that they have the same feelings for you too? That is what happed to Savannah "Van" Leone when Peter Clark came to her rescue on the first day of class after she tripped and fell head first into the classroom. As the students erupt in laughter and the professor adds insult to injury by singling her out, Peter makes light of the situation by stating "don't worry about it.I hear this guys is a real 'wanker.'" After class, Peter takes her out for some coffee and her first day of college jitters have all but disappeared. Although Van tries to keep Peter just for herself, the heartbreak begins when her best friend Janie comes to the college for a weekend and Peter is enamored by Janie.
During all of Janie and Peter's wedding plans and festivities, Van tries (unsuccessfully) to hide her disappointment that her dream of marrying Peter will never happen. She leaves the reception early, when she just can't take it anymore, and heads home to her apartment where she starts to drown her sorrows with Kool-Aid-vodka cocktails. While channel surfing on the TV, Van comes across reruns of Rin Tin Tin, that awesome German shepherd who is loyal, always there when you need him and never lets anyone down. That is how Van ends up buying a "puppy" over the internet from a Slovakian website for one hundred and forty thousand koruny, not knowing what the currency exchange rate is in US dollars.
Van goes to the airport with a tiny puppy collar to find that her "puppy" weighs about a hundred pounds and only responds to commands in Slovak. The dog is named Regalhaus vom Stoffelgrund. Of course, Van proceeds to rename the dog. At least Joe you can pronounce, so Joe the German shepherd comes into Van's life and helps to mend her broken heart. Not having a dog before, Van didn't understand that in the morning, after dogs have done their daily duty, they have a huge spurt of energy. Concerned that there is something is wrong with Joe, she looks through the yellow pages and calls the vet that has the ad "specializing in large dogs". Well all may not be lost, because Joe's behavior helps Van get introduced to Dr Alexander Brandt, a man with sandy-blond hair and a really nice smile. A man that Van's mother would have called a tall drink of milk.
When Peter and Janie return from their honeymoon, it is obvious that all is not wonderful in paradise. Van's life becomes complicated and she has to face a harsh reality of what she had dreamed of, what her life has become, and what she really wants.
***** FIVE STARS! This book will entertain dog owners, dog lovers, and those not so sure. Larkin's depiction of life with a puppy is hilarious, especially for those of us who have been fortunate enough to have one. Her method of intertwining life's sentimental journey and how the therapy of a dog can help you through that journey is astounding. This story shows that everything happens for a reason. (And that people should convert the money amount before purchasing anything over the internet!) Characters are well developed and the story flows smoothly, making this gem the perfect getaway for a rainy afternoon. Well done! *****
Author: Elizabeth Brundage
Title - A Stranger Like You
Power in any form is often an illusion. Hugh Waters, a screenwriter, whose playwright has been rejected by Hedda Chase, a powerful producer, because of an improbable ending, is fixated on making Hedda experience the realities of his script. With a great sense of satisfaction, he abducts her from her home and then quietly walks away from her vintage BMW that he has parked in the long term parking lot at LAX airport with Hedda bound and gagged in the trunk of her own car.
Hugh embellishes his life's history and his connection to Hedda to get close to Hedda's lover, Tom, who dedicates his time to writing documentaries.
Hedda soon becomes vulnerable to the judgment of a stranger when Denny, a troubled Iraqi war veteran who works at the airport, sees the vintage BMW with the keys in the ignition and decides it is worth the risk to take the car for spin, not realizing at first that there is a body in the trunk.
With thought provoking themes, and an array of characters playing politics in the Hollywood circle of who's who, Brundage delivers a novel that illustrates how some people will stop at nothing to get what they want.
*** THREE STARS! This book was like a rollercoaster ride. It started out with a thrill of knowing that Hedda was being stalked by a dejected screenwriter. Then the script slowed down to a crawl and I felt that I had to force myself to keep reading to get to the next good part; which did happen about half way through the book. If you have the patience to get to the next upswing of the drama you will continue reading this into the night. ***
Author: Jenna Blum
Title - The Stormchasers
Karena, who has been estranged from her twin brother, Charles, for over twenty years, is more determined than ever to find him after she receives a call from a clinic in Wichita. Just when she thinks she will be reunited with her bi-polar brother; whom she cared for in their youth, she is sorely disappointed when she discovers that he never told the clinic about his bi-polar disorder and was released prior to her arrival. Yet, Charles gave them her name and number so surely, he must want her to find him?
Charles, who has been obsessed with the unpredictability of storms since his youth, is still a storm chaser. Karena know this because of the mesmerizing photographs of storms that he posts to the internet. Although, Karena and Charles have already experienced their "stormy" ride of a lifetime; but with deadly consequences; Karena with a trembling and yet courageous heart, joins Whirlwind Tours as a journalist with an underlying mission of locating her brother Charles.
Twindar is what Karena calls it when that special internal radar sensation, which gives her goose bumps, alerts her when her twin brother is in close proximity although she can't see him.yet. The author will make you speculate what the consequences will be if Karena finds Charles; and if Karena's haunted past puts the whole storm chasing expedition in jeopardy. Will Charles's explosive behavior put her and the others at risk? Will Karena find the relationships that she is looking for or has she bargained for way too much?
***** FIVE STARS! Jenna Blum articulates the lonely, scared, and explosive behavior of an individual with bipolar disorder and the heart rendering consequences of it for those individuals around them who love them. You will fear for and cheer for the characters in this page turning novel that will keep you reading long into the night. *****
Author: KClare O'Donohue
Title - Missing Persons (A Kate Conway Mystery)
Theresa Moretti, a well-liked seemingly well behaved girl, disappeared about a year ago. This missing persons case seems to be the perfect backdrop for the premier show of the new TV series 'Missing Persons'. And, who best to gain peoples trust and have them bare their souls on camera than Kate Conway the experienced free lance TV producer. Unfortunately, Kate who has always asked the questions now has to give some answers of her own as she becomes the prime suspect in the untimely death of her ex-husband.
Although Kate welcomes the distraction of a new work assignment, she can't help but speculate what connections, if any, does this missing person, Theresa, have to do with Kate's ex-husband's death? Why does Kate's ex-husband's girlfriend all of a sudden want to become Kate's new best friend? Furthermore, who is getting into Kate's apartment when she isn't home and why would someone leave a dead bird in a box on her doorstep? Is she getting too close to who made Theresa disappear or who caused her husband's death?
**** FOUR STARS! There are twists and turns in this novel that will keep you turning the pages until you find the answers. Be prepared to lose a lot of sleep and have friends become irritated that your nose is stuck in this book rather than spending some time with them. ****
Author: Karen Wiesner
Title - Souls on (B)Oring Street
(Denim Blues Mysteries #3, Christian Romance, June 2011)
Erin Shanley had always been a Christian and everyone loved her. But that changed during her teenage years. Erin had been there when her mother had given birth to twin girls out of town. Upon returning to Briar's Point, Erin's father swore the twins were not his. Before he left, the man had told everyone that the twins were not really Erin's sisters, but her daughters, and that Tyler Shaw was the girls' father. Since everyone knew Erin and Tyler had been crazy about each other, the vicious rumor spread.
Today Erin is a hospice nurse. Her mother passed away two years before. Erin still lives in the same house on Oring Street and is the legal guardian of her twelve-year-old sisters, Paige and Jacey (PB&J). Though they have not been together since high school, Tyler is still there for her and her sisters. In fact, Ty lives next door. PB&J are often over at Ty's house when Erin gets home from work. Erin still has strong feelings for Ty and he adores her sisters. If only she could be sure he would never cheat on her or tear her heart into tiny pieces.
Detective Tyler Shaw has been in love with Erin since high school. But Ty shares some of the same interests that her cruel father did, such as hunting and fishing. He understands her skittishness and feels the need to somehow prove that she can trust him. But how do you reassure a woman she is the only one for you when she is absolutely not willing to get involved with you beyond neighborly friendliness?
When Erin realizes that some of her patients are being swindled out of their life savings by the new "psychic" fortunetellers (who live across the street from her), she turns to Tyler for help. Because she has no detective training, it is not long before someone finds out that Erin is snooping around. And that someone is NOT happy.
**** FOUR STARS! Author Karen Wiesner aims to please with this, her third mystery set in Briar's Point. Unlike many stories involving mysteries and romances together, this author does not push the main characters into bed. Half the story is a mystery with a bit of danger and suspense. The other half is a Christian Romance that will give readers cause to stop and reflect upon their Faith, as well as warm their hearts. Backgrounds of the main characters are well developed and their attitudes are sympathetic to any reader that may be going through anything remotely similar (romance wise or medical). The writing style flows smoothly and has thoughtful dialogs. Attention is given to even small details, such as vibrant descriptions of people and their feelings. But most importantly, this story will satisfy a broad range of readers and no one need fear should a minor pick it up and begin reading. Ambrosia for the heart strings! ****
Author: Ann Charles
Title - Nearly Departed in Deadwood (Deadwood #1)
Hoping for a fresh start, single mom, Violet Lynn Parker has moved to Deadwood, South Dakota, and is currently staying with Aunt Zoe. Violet has been working at Calamity Jane Realty for two months and has yet to sell a house. As the story opens, Violet has three weeks to sell a house before she loses her job to Ray Underhill's nephew. Mona Hollister, Violet's coworker, is wonderful and would do anything to help her make a sell. However, chauvinistic Ray continuously puts Violet down to her face, while stealing her clients behind her back.
At home, Violet is doing her best to raise young fraternal twins. Her son, Layne, is showing signs of someday becoming an archaeologist. Aunt Zoe is eager to see what the boy digs up and reassembles from her yard next. Violet's daughter, Adelynn "Addy", has two goals in life. She plans to become a veterinarian and to find her mom a husband. (Not in that order.) When Addy is not rescuing stray animals, she is selling homemade crafts on the sidewalk and using her earnings to place singles ads for her mom in the local newspaper.
Within the last year, three little girls, resembling Addy, have disappeared from the area. Fearing for the safety of her daughter, Violet begins using her (rare) spare time to do some research on the kidnapper. It soon becomes obvious that the villain is still in the area and Violet believes that the father of Addy's new best friend may be involved somehow.
Yet keeping a job must come first. Therefore, Violet is thrilled when Wolfgang Hessler asks her to sell his mother's house which sits in the historic presidential neighborhood. Even better, Wolfgang is very successful jeweler, very handsome, and very attracted to Violet. Then there is Dane "Doc" Nyce, who has Violet showing him several houses. Problem is that Doc hordes his words as if they were made of gold. It is near impossible for Violet to get a straight answer from the man, especially as to what type of house he is searching for. Doc simply enters a house, sniffs around like a bloodhound, and then wants Violet to show him another. Before long, Violet has committed herself to selling a deteriorating haunted house, romantically interested in two male clients, trying to stay sane while raising twins, and cajoled into having a weekly meal with Old Man Harvey. Could her life possibly get any crazier?
***** FIVE STARS! This gem has a bit of everything. I found mystery, romance, comedy, suspense, and even a bit of the paranormal. My synopsis only mentions a couple of the various subplots that the author keeps running in the background. They add flavor and a bit of intrigue to the Deadwood area setting. (This, to me, is already an interesting setting since the surrounding Black Hills are riddled with abandoned mining tunnels.) But it is the unusual cast of characters that really grabs and holds my attention. We have the gossiping old man, the cryptic house hunter, the humorous best friend who is on sabbatical from men, a secret admirer who sends daisies along with creepy poems, a sleazy coworker, and many more.
The main character of Violet is one that women can easily identify with, especially single mothers. Ann Charles has done a terrific job showing how difficult it is for a single woman to juggle life at work and home, while still having a bit of time to date. I found it to be well done and believable. Yet at the same time, the author has added the mystery and suspense that her readers crave. I am happy to state that this title is the first of a series. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for Violet and the eccentric residents of Deadwood. Ann Charles has a winner in Violet Parker. I have a new favorite author in the mystery genre! *****
Author: Ann Charles
Title - Optical Delusions in Deadwood (Violet Parker Mysteries #2)
Single mom, Violet Lynn Parker, lives in Deadwood, South Dakota, with her Aunt Zoe. Violet works at Calamity Jane Realty where she has finally proven her worth by selling her first piece of real estate. Mona Hollister, one of her coworkers, is fun to work with and Violet is pleased to call her a friend. However, her other coworker, Ray Underhill, is still a chauvinistic jerk who never misses a chance to make Violet's life miserable. If anything, Ray's hatred toward Violet has increased.
Tourists find the Black Hills to be a place of excitement and wonder. But the truth is that the Black Hills holds many long-time secrets and dangers. One of these dangers is a vast open-cut gold mine that was abandoned by a mining company long ago. The seemingly bottomless pit is becoming a landmark in Lead, the city near Deadwood. For Violet, that hole could be a problem, because it is not one hundred feet from the Carharts' side porch. Violet would have no trouble selling the Carharts' home otherwise. Well, except for the need to give potential buyers full disclosure about the house. When Millie Carhart had approached Violet and informed her that her mother, Wanda, needed to sell their house, Violet was thrilled. But Violet still has nightly nightmares about the whole Hessler macabre tea party, so she asks Old Man Harvey about the place before agreeing. Harvey knows everything about everyone and is delighted to give Violet all the juicy details. Seems Millie's brother, Junior, had murdered his father (with a rolling pin) before committing suicide. The house is also rumored to be haunted by a lady who had been murdered prior to the murder-suicide.
The Hessler incident has given Violet a reputation for specializing in haunted houses. Some locals even refer to Violet as "Spooky Parker, the ghost Realtor". Fortunately for Violet, that unwanted label just might help her sell the Carharts' albatross. The infamous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is right around the corner, so the Black Hills are crawling with chromed-out bikes. One biker couple, the Brittons, is seriously interested in purchasing the Carharts' place, especially after they know its history. To them, a ghost or two makes the place even more attractive. They can even use the pit as an attraction and conversation piece.
Amazingly, the Brittons are not the only ones interested in the property. Douglas Mann may look like a plain-faced businessman, but he has ideas for the city of Lead and the Carharts' property is perfect for his future plans. However, Mann also has a reputation as a playboy. He has not made any smooth moves toward Violet, but her friends are positive that Mann fully intends to. Not only are Violet's friends "discretely" showing up at the restaurants she has business dinners with Mann (in case she needs rescuing), but so is hunky Dane "Doc" Nyce. Violet may be Doc's Realtor, but his interest in her is personal. Intimately personal. Violet feels the same way about Doc, even if he does claim to smell ghosts and is more evasive with his private life than anyone else in the world. Violet's main problem is that her best friend since kindergarten, Natalie Beals, has already set her sights on Doc, claiming that Doc is "the one". Should Natalie learn that Violet and Doc cannot keep their hands off each other... Well, there would be various possible results - none of them good. But currently, Natalie is clueless. So who is vandalizing Violet's Bronco and causing her so many financial woes? And will they stop with vandalism or will they evolve to bodily harm?
***** FIVE STARS! It seems as though everyone is still raving over Violet Parker's first adventure. (If you missed it, the title is Nearly Departed in Deadwood.) Having just finished this second mystery, I can state with ease that Violet is like a magnet for anything paranormal - and that includes Doc, who can sense ghosts. As with the first story, this one is a stand-alone tale. Any new reader can open this book's cover and have no trouble whatsoever fully understanding and enjoying the mystery. The author also tosses in a few clues as to what will become a future mystery. You know, just the usual body part found here and there. Well, usual for Violet's life lately.
The Deadwood locals that Violet knows are eccentric people with various colorful personalities. Each has their own set of quirks which sets them apart from the others. And everyone loves to hate a villain. In this series, that person is Ray, the coworker. His condescending attitude had me actually gritting my teeth at times. If you read the mysteries in order, you will notice that Violet's behavior changes from ignoring Ray, to talking back to him, to getting irritated and standing up for herself. I look forward to seeing Violet deal with Ray in future episodes.
Ann Charles keeps Violet's personal life interesting as well. There are several secondary characters that have lots of evolving potential. I think that it will be intriguing to see whether Ray's nephew or one of the law enforcement officers ends up giving Doc some healthy competition. Will there be a love triangle? Only the author knows and she is not telling. Natalie is a wild card who could become a horrible enemy or a supporting friend. Personally, I would love to see Nat find "the one". So much potential there too.
All-in-all, this is my long-winded way of explaining that fans of mysteries and romances simply MUST purchase this series. Book three (Dead Case in Deadwood) is currently scheduled for release in early 2012. In my opinion, going by these first two mysteries, awards are imminent. I have no idea when the awards will happen, but I have zero doubts that they will happen. If her stories remain as witty and entertaining as they are now, then Ann Charles is destined to hit the big time! Downright exhilarating! *****
Author: Alice Duncan
Title - Lost Among the Angels (Mercy Allcutt Mysteries #1)
Since one paragraph on the back of this book sums it up so well, I quote:
"Raised in the ivory tower of proper Boston, when well-bred Mercy [Allcutt] gets a job with Ernest Templeton, Private Investigator, she's ecstatic. Ernie, a jaded ex-cop, is incredulous. Together, they must cope with a stray child, kidnapping, blackmail, murder, a toy poodle, a vamp, a stalker, Mercy's overactive imagination and Ernie's strong protective streak. Throw in a speakeasy, Chinatown, and a couple of down-and-dirty criminals, and Mercy and Ernie are in for a drama that will put the motion picture industry to shame. If they can survive long enough to tell the story.
***** FIVE STARS! This gem reminded me of the old Dick Tracy comic strips (that I avidly read as a child), as well as of the black and white PI movies we all recall with glee. The story is set in 1926, Los Angeles. I found myself totally immersed before the first few pages were read. Author Alice Duncan either did a lot of research or she grew up on stories of the era. Each character has their own personality. The characters all dress the parts, all the way down to the bobbed hair style, and speak slang. Don't worry, you won't be lost. This book is headed directly to my "KEEPER" shelf. Highly recommended! *****
Author: Alice Duncan
Title - Angel's Flight (Mercy Allcutt Mysteries #2)
Set in August, 1926, Los Angeles, California. Miss Mercy Allcutt resides with her sister, Chloe, and brother-in-law, Harvey Nash. Mercy and Chloe's family are in Boston. (LA is as far away from Boston as the girls could get.) Nash Studio is doing very well in the motion-picture industry. Mercy wants to someday write mystery novels. For research and experience, Mercy is the secretary for a private investigator, Ernie Templeton. Mercy enjoys her job immensely, always striving to make herself indispensable to Ernie. Now that the Figueroa Building is getting a much needed face-lift, more businesses are moving in. The recent new business is a lawyer's office, James Quincy Carstairs, Esq. His secretary, Sylvia Dunstable is organized in a way that Mercy hopes to learn. Having been the lawyer's secretary for years, Sylvia is "in the know" about many famous people (clients). Mercy soon learns that Ernie and Carstairs have a history from when Ernie had been a cop. The two hardly tolerate each other and now they are neighbors! But Ernie's business has gotten busy so Mercy has little time to wring Sylvia out for her organizational skills.
Mr. Francis Easthope is a costumier at Harvey's studio. He wants Ernie to help him prove to his mother that the two spiritualists she has been paying are frauds. Ernie did not take the case, but Mercy offers her help. She even convinces him to hire Rupert Mullins as a houseboy so he can help them spy on the pair. At the séance later, Mercy meets his mother (Rosemary), the two spiritualists (Mr. and Mrs. d'Agostina), Jacqueline Lloyd (who has been in a couple of recent movies), and Vivian Hartland (the most famous gossip columnist in the motion-picture industry). Also in attendance, as Miss Lloyd's escort, is Mr. Carstairs. Things take a deadly twist when the séance is over, the lights come back on, and everyone finds Vivian dead.
To top off everything, Mercy and Chloe's mother has left their father and is residing in their home for an unknown amount of time. With her she brings the Bostonian hauteur she is well known for. Not only is Mercy actually working for a living, but she is also directly involved in the largest scandal around. If Mercy manages to survive the case, her mother just may be the death of her.
***** This is the second mystery in the Mercy Allcutt series. In my opinion, it is even better than the first. (The first is Lost Among the Angels (Five Star Mystery Series.) Readers will find their wits sorely tested as they try to figure out who the killer is and why. There are plenty of suspects but no solid motive for any of them. As for Mrs. Allcutt, all I can say is that Hitler could have taken lessons from that lady! It is no wonder to me the girls live on the other side of the continent. The author has done an exceptionally good job on that character. If you enjoy historical facts, the author has kept everything historically accurate. You will even read a bit about Valentino. I cannot recommend this story highly enough for fans of who-dunnit mysteries. Brilliant! *****
Author: Jordan Dane
Title - The Echo of Violence (Sweet Justice #4)
Jackson Kinkaid met Sister Mary Katherine four years ago. The Catholic nun helped him through the most difficult time of his life. This is why Jackson finds himself attending a fundraiser for children in Port de Paix, Haiti. Only for Katherine would he be at the missionary school function. So when terrorists attack, Jackson witnesses the raid and sees Katherine taken hostage with the other survivors. Videos of the senseless slaughter are posted online, time is running out. Only Jackson can track the killers, while dealing with a gunshot wound. Knowing he needs help, Jackson contacts Joe LaClaire, his number one man, and has him begin calling in favors to mount an urgent rescue mission. The only reliable contact is the Sentinels in NYC. Though Jackson has something against Garrett Wheeler, who is over the Sentinels, Joe makes the call for aid.
Sentinels' agent Alexa Marlowe is forced into an unlikely alliance with Jackson who is no longer the man she once knew. Now the relentless mercenary is rumored to be selling his services to the highest bidder. Alexa can only hope that whatever secrets Jackson is holding back will not end up killing everybody. Jackson cares only about rescuing Kate, but Alexa's orders are to take the terrorist leader alive, even if it means the deaths of Kate and the other hostages.
***** FIVE STARS! I thought Jordan Dane's stories were terrific before, but now I believe they are freaking brilliant! This story only covers a very short period of time, yet the entire thing is non-stop action and suspense. As I said, freaking brilliant! *****
Author: Tess Gerritsen
Title - Ice Cold (A Rizzoli & Isles novel)
Maura Isles is a medical examiner for Boston. She travels to Wyoming and attends a medical conference. While there, Maura meets an old college acquaintance named Doug Comley. Feeling depressed, Maura accepts Doug's invitation to join his friends on a ski trip. Their SUV stalls on an isolated, snow-choked mountain road and as night falls, so does the temperature. The group stumbles into the remote village of Kingdom Come. The entire community includes twelve identical homes. None of them have power or phone lines and no one's cell phone has any signal bars. The eerie part is that Kingdom Come is abandoned. Within the houses, meals sit untouched on tables. Vehicles are still parked in garages. Yet there is no sign of any people. Obviously something terrible has happened. Soon Maura finds blood in one house. Is the site from an accident or homicide? Then Maura spies recently made footprints in the snow. Someone knows the group is in town and silently watches their every move.
Days later, Boston homicide detective Jane Rizzoli receives word that Maura's charred body has been found in a mountain ravine. Jane travels to Wyoming and begins looking for answers as to why her friend had been traveling with an unknown party. During her investigation, Jane learns about the twisted history of Kingdom Come, where a horrible discovery lies buried beneath the snow.
***** FIVE STARS! The characters of Rizzoli and Isles have not only been placed on the New York Times bestseller list multiple times, but have recently been made into a television series (on TNT). This is because no book written by Tess Gerritsen has ever failed to please readers! This story kept me sitting on the edge of my seat and my eyes glued to the pages - and occasionally holding my breath - as the stark and gruesome tale unfolded before me. If you are not a fan of Tess Gerritsen's, you soon will be! *****
Author: Bernadette Marie
Title - Matchmakers (Book 1)
Ten years ago two octogenarian friends, Katie Burkhalter and Aunt Millie, played their hands at being matchmakers. Sophia Burkhalter and David Kendal became engaged. The future looked rosy. But then Sophia answered the door to find a seven-year-old girl, Carissa, and Sophia's world shattered. David embraced Carissa and left immediately with no explanation to Sophia. Sophia realized something horrible had happened and David had gone to save the day. Sophia knew that David took responsibility VERY seriously. It was one of the things that made her feel safe. Only with David did Sophia dare to relax and show all the physical scars that she keeps covered from the rest of the world. But then Sophia learned that Carissa was David's daughter. A daughter he had told her nothing about. Worse, Sophia was then informed that David already had a wife. Hurt and angry, Sophia ran. When David returned home it was to find Sophia long gone. The engagement ring left in the sink said it all.
During the past decade, Sophia's cello talent has made her famous. Sophia has toured with Pablo DiAngelo, the world's most recognizable tenor voice. Now Sophia returns to Kansas City. She only plans to stay a couple of weeks. Miss Katie and Aunt Millie, sharing the same birth date, will be turning eighty-four. Sophia looks forward to celebrating it with them. And even though she knows that the chances of coming face-to-face with David are great, Sophia feels ready to deal with his past lies - or at lease ignore him until she leaves again. Unfortunately for her, Sophia's feelings for David have not lessened.
Miss Katie and Aunt Millie are determined to succeed in bringing Sophia and David together again. It is time for Sophia to stop running and time for David to come clean and explain everything to her. As for Carissa, she is now seventeen. Though she hates Sophia for the pain and loneliness her father has endured for over ten years, Carissa finds that she and Sophia have much in common. Perhaps, just perhaps, she may help a couple of matchmakers give her father and Sophia a second chance at love.
**** FOUR STARS! If you have a soft heart then you better keep the tissues close by as you read this gem. This is the first in the Matchmaker Trilogy. This title is a stand-alone story, filled with strong characters that deserve a second chance at love. I am not just talking about Sophia and David either. Young Carissa's life has been anything but easy. I found myself coming to care for this brave teen more than any other character. In my opinion, the two elderly schemers do not play large enough roles within the story. I am hoping to see these charming and cunning ladies be more involved next time. I am pleased to be able to recommend this piece of Women's Fiction to all. I look forward to more titles from this author. ****
Author: M. Kate Quinn
Title - Summer Iris (Perennials #1, 7/9/10)
Fifty-year-old Iris Stanton's life has not simply been shaken up, it has been through a landslide. Iris is newly divorced and has just lost her job at the school. Unless she finds a new source of income, she will lose her home too. Her crazy best friend, Yvonne, sees it all as an opportunity for Iris to spread her wings. So for a Big 5-0 present, Yvonne hands Iris the key to a beach cabin where Iris can spend the entire summer relaxing before she must return and look for employment. The cabin is being renovated by Sam Hanratty and will be a wedding present for his son. While in the small beach town of Silver Crest, Iris can also tend to the task of selling a small lot in Gull's Landing.
The little cottage on Cove Lane is very quaint and Iris meets the locals quickly. Sam turns out to be a handsome widow and Iris finds her attraction to him returned. Then there is Eddie Morgan, a contractor that is very good looking but annoys Iris for reasons she cannot fully explain. Iris gets many visitors while residing on Cove Lane. Her daughter, Stephanie, is having boyfriend trouble and visits a couple of times to get her head straight. Yvonne drops in to check out Sam, attend a local cook-out with Iris (at Sam's, where several locals gather to mingle), and simply to urge Iris to live a little by possibly dating the man.
Iris soon finds herself considered to be one of the locals by the locals. She even accepts a part time job working for Victoria in a boutique called The Rage. When the school contacts Iris about a new position, she knows she should be excited. So why does the thought of leaving Silver Crest feel wrong?
**** This is the author's debut novel. She seems to possess a remarkable talent for creating realistic characters and placing a few difficult obstacles in their way to overcome. This heroine shows that you are never too old to begin anew or try something totally different from the norm. The secondary characters are as well developed as the main characters. Everyone should have a kooky friend like Yvonne; and perhaps Stephanie will get her own story told some day. (Hey, it could happen!) One thing is for sure, M. Kate Quinn is definitely an author to keep your eye on. Sweet! ****
Title - White Rainbow
(Wounded Warriors #6 / Summer 2010)
Author: Karen Wiesner
Our story begins on January 2, 2009. Flint Jackson is known in the corporate world as the dreaded "Black Knight". He has made it his personal vendetta to crush all he feels has done him wrong. On this rainy day, Flint watches his father's funeral from a remote distance, gloating over the fact that he had achieved revenge. Flint has never forgiven his father for moving the family to Chicago when he had been eleven-years-old. His father had devoted his life to starting his own business and making it a success. Flint ruthlessly stole that business and crushed his father. Next on his agenda is to do the same to Nelson Cosmetics. On the same day Flint's family left Milwaukee, his girlfriend (also a preteen) went to California, even though he had begged her not to go. It does not matter to Flint that Jessie was only going for three months. It does not matter that neither Flint, nor Jessie, knew his family would be gone when she returned. She left him. So Nelson Cosmetics is on his radar.
In July, 2010, Jessie Nelson is found in a back alley with no pulse; however, the paramedics succeed in resuscitating her. She wakes up in a hospital bed. After years of living a selfish life, full of bad choices, and hurting everyone that loved her, Jessie is finally determined to change. But after spending most of her life in a self-destructing life style it would not be easy. Yet one year later, Jessie is still living her new Christian life. Many have forgiven Jessie for her past sins and some have not. Jessie has found a job in the family business which she loves. She volunteers at the local Wayward Angels shelter. She has made each day so full that this is not time left in it for her to get into trouble. Then Flint Jackson comes back to Milwaukee.
Only two months ago Flint had been in a horrible car wreck. No one knows how he survived. All Flint knows is that after the accident, over thirty years of built-up rage has disappeared. Just in time too, because Flint had been on the verge of completing his hostile take-over of Nelson Cosmetics. Now Flint wants only to make amends to everyone he has harmed. He is in town to confess to Jessie what he had almost done to her. As a new Christian, he is seeking atonement. What Flint is not expecting is the deep feelings for Jessie that, apparently, have not gone away.
**** FOUR STARS! The release date for this title is Summer, 2010. (No ISBN as of this review's date.) This story is basically about two people who are sorry for a lifetime of misdirection and are trying to turn their lives around with the help of God and their friends and families. If you are looking for a story with danger, suspense or passionate romance, check out some of Karen Wiesner's other series. This story is a Christian Romance.
Hearing Jessie and Flint's personal tales - of which I left out A LOT - gave me an inspirational boost. It is always amazing to me that no matter how badly you have lived your life or harmed others, there is forgiveness. And these two did some pretty bad stuff! If you are going through a rough time, this story may be just what you need. ****
Author: Emy Naso
Title - Never Forget
Only a short few months after his wife's death to cancer, Sean is forced to accept that there were parts of Grace's life that she did not share with him and could have him joining her on the other side if he's not very careful and very lucky. With a woman young enough to be his daughter, the mild mannered accountant finds himself on the run from people after Grace's secrets, people who don't mind killing to get what they want. The unlikely pair is compelled to turn into sleuths as they try to stay alive.
*** Thus starts an intriguing new series with a mismatched set of partners that complements each other perfectly. Minnie's acerbic wit is the perfect counterpoint to prevent Sean's slide into melancholy, while he has experiences and age to offer her. Perhaps there will be no romantic tension, but this couple shows how valuable friendship is as well. ***
Author: Catherine Stang
Title - Locked in His Heart
A woman's death draws together an estranged family and reveals a secret that a man has been keeping for years. It will test the love of the woman he would like to have as his own and force him to decide who is his true identity now. This is also the story of two young people facing a difficult decision that is complicated by betrayal and abuse.
*** Complicated emotional matters take center stage in this compelling, moving drama. If you enjoy Danielle Steele, there is no doubt you will not regret the time spent inside these pages. ***
Author: Danae M West
Title - Death of a Blogger(Mystery)
More than a few residents of Stranded, Idaho had good reason to want Wendy Wallace dead. The blogger had been undercutting the newspaper's revenue and spilling all the small town secrets for the entire world wide web to view. When she winds up dead, the best friend of the prime suspect finds herself transformed from artist into sleuth, and hoping she does not turn up as the next victim. Effie also has to manage her friend Molly's campaign for mayor Molly sits in jail and somehow organize the annual Pumpkin Festival. She would also greatly appreciate it if people would shut up about her toadish ex, who is one of the people on her list of potential murderers. Who "dun" it? Was it the lecherous doctor? The late mayor's wife who is trying to make the job permanent? Could it be the snide lady who runs the newspaper, or the New Agey reverend? Effie is about to learn more about her neighbors than she wants to, even without reading Wendy's blog.
**** Unlike many fun, humorous mysteries, Death of a Blogger does not go over the top creating unrealistic humor. Don't get me wrong, it's a fun read, but you don't have to suspend disbelief to imagine it taking place. Small touches make it seem plausible, and you will laugh as well. I hope this is only Effie's first case, though it sounds like she'll have plenty to keep her busy, even without playing Trixie Belden, in the future. ****
Author: D.K. Gaston
Title - Lost Hours (Mystery)
For twenty-three years, Joseph Hooks has lived with the belief that he killed his father, a man who was abusive to him and to his siblings. However, he cannot recall the event, even after spending years in an institution. Now, flashes and visions are erupting from his memory, impelling him to find out if he paid for someone else's crime and leading him into danger. More than one person wants the truth to remain shrouded in the past, and they will stop at nothing to make that happen.
*** With an urbanized Hitcockian/Christie-ish feel, the story pulls you into its drama. Twists and turns fill its pages. Although it is somewhat of a melancholy tale, if you enjoy mystery, you should find this an intriguing, though not comfortable, read. ***
Author: Mike Ryan
Title - Begin With Me
Matt Druker's life is on a downward spiral. He has lost his job, he failed to meet his girlfriend's deadline on making a commitment to her, and he has nothing on which to fall back, not even faith. Then, he wanders into a church and likes what he feels there. He knows that this parish needs help, so he decides to give them that help. Walking away from his old life, he constructs an elaborate new identity as a priest and steps in to assist the aging parish priest and his congregants. Amazingly, he is successful and as he delivers the good news to his flock, the gospel becomes a part of Matt's soul. Yet, miracles built on lies are doomed, and he has to wonder how it will end, if he can salvage the good he has done before the truth comes to light.
**** Though the language is a little too raw in spots to allow this to be technically filed as an inspirational novel, it has a great deal to inspire. Matt may not have been a priest in the fully Catholic sense, but in the priesthood of all believers, he fulfilled his role well, showing that the best way to help yourself is to do good for others. I heard a pastor not long ago say that the reason there is little good inspirational fiction is because it is too bland. I'd like to send him a copy of this. Yes, Matt's methods were flawed, but his motives were right and the results were excellent. This is a feel good read. ****
Author: Sherry Derr Wille
Title - Double M: The Parkhursts
Early in the twentieth century, Suzanna was forced to make a choice about who she would marry, and that choice shaped the lives of both herself and her family for decades to come. Though her time with Clay Parkhurst was only the first stage of her life, ending with his death, she still had many years ahead of her, years in which she would see a second world war to which she would lose family, death, disease, the Asian wars, and great happiness as well.
*** This is the story of many lives combined in a family and the multiple dramas that involve them all. There is no specific plot, per se, but a chronology of events, as would be found in a real life. If you enjoy Barbara Taylor Bradford's sweeping family epics, but are a little short on time, this might be considered the "light" version of one of those. ***
Author: Laura Marie Henion
Title - Cop's Daughter II: Lauren
A serial killer is stalking the city and now has his sights set on one of the primaries handling the case, Lauren Phelps. Although the cops know who the Co-ed Killer is, the guy seems to be unstoppable, and to the dismay of the man who has fallen in love with Lauren, is getting ever closer to her.
*** This is a straight-forward, fast-paced read that you can easily go through in one sitting. It's like reading a CSI episode, allowing you to create your own image of events in your mind. ***
Author: Laura Marie Henion
Title: Cop's Daughter: Victoria
A year after Victoria's father was killed, the murder still remains unsolved. For months, the reporter has been working on its solution, and now, her work has entered its most dangerous phase. At the risk of forever alienating her family and losing the man she truly loves, Victoria has agreed to go undercover and "romance" the lead suspect in not only her father's death, but in a series of crimes that has caught the FBI's attention. Victoria has no idea how much danger she is in, or who her enemy is.
*** Small town politics and murder make for an intriguing plot that moves rapidly. Victoria is a strong heroine who carries the story well. This works as a stand alone novel, though it is part of a series. ***
Author: Courtney E Michel
Title: Month of Sundays
(Book I Time of Tragedy / Dec. 2006)
For years, crime in a small Illinois town appears not to exist, but in fact, is simply covered over. No one wants to admit it when bad things happen, until they no longer can hide. A murder that refuses to be concealed takes place and other secrets are forced into the light of day as the cops rely on an old, psychic woman to uncover the one carrying guilt. What if the murderer feels none?
*** This is an unusual book with a startling ending. Underneath the small town facade, there is an ugly, grim side that, though downplayed, is terrible. Don't read with a faint heart. ***
Author: John William McMullen
Title: Poor Souls
Martin Flanagan felt the call to priesthood at a young age and therefore pursued that calling, even when it was difficult. He quickly learned that the seminary was a bit more risque than he might have imagined it would be, but managed to mostly stay out of trouble, other than being annoyingly in the middle of the road on most issues. Then, the time comes for him to be assigned to a parish, where he will serve as something like a student teacher or apprentice. As luck would have it, he lands at Poor Souls, or as it is nicknamed, Lost Souls. Martin discovers it is rather aptly named. The head priest wants to be innovative, but he does tend to take things a little too far. The housekeeper rules with an iron fist, and poison if need be, and the other priests have quirks that keep life interesting. There's also a priest who is not a priest, temptation, scandal, and an exorcism to deal with over the course of his year there. Will all this make Martin reconsider his calling?
*** The best way to describe this would be as a cross between All Creatures Great and Small and an Andrew Greeley novel. There is a realism that made me double check the genre to make sure it wasn't nonfiction. You probably know the people in this novel, just wearing different faces. ***
Author: Amy Wolff Sorter
Title: Servant of the Gods
Devorah b'Shiriis a Canaanite. She is a priestess of Anat. All her life Devorah knew that she would take a major role in the Festival Rites of Baal and Anat. Yet shortly before that fateful date, Devorah began having nightmares about the Rite. She knew that Sivah, whom she had known since childhood, was to play the part of Baal and take her virginity during the Rite. But in the nightmare, Devorah foresaw her death at Sivah's hand during the Rite. Devorah had no doubt that she was going to die. Worse, she overhears her own mother telling another that Devorah's sacrifice during the Rite would be fine by her. On the eve before the Rite, Sivah tries to rape Deborah. She severely wounds him. She would have killed him if someone else had not entered at that moment.
Aryeh ben Abinoam "Ari" is a Mosesite. He is Devorah's cousin. He is destined to take over the clan upon the death of his father. However, Ari's desire is to fight on behalf of the Mosesites - The Confederation. It is Ari's entrance that kept Devorah from slaying Sivah. Ari and Devorah have been attracted to each other since they met days before. She gives herself willingly to Ari. This means she is no longer fit for the Rite. Devorah and Ari flee, only hours before dawn. Fearing that being together would lead only to their deaths at the hands of the Shechemites, Devorah left one night as Ari slept.
Gildon ben Hadriel "Gil", one of the tribes of the Ephraimites, is a simple metalworker and trader. His traveling clan found Devorah unconscious by a river. They harbored her, even knowing that she was a Canaanite. Gildon is convinced that God "Yahweh" has plans for the young woman. He is so right! Yahweh sent her the nightmares, protected her from Baal/Sivah, helped her escape and to find her way to Gil's clan. Yahweh decreed that Devorah, a former follower of the Baal's consort, shall be His proof that He is the protector, not Baal. Devorah is to be His messenger. His Laws must be upheld for survival of The Confederation, for survival of the tribes He deemed fit to bring out of Egypt, away from slavery.
This is Devorah's tale!
***** Whether you are religious or not, this powerful tale will speak to you. This novel is based on Judges, Chapter four and five in the Bible. (Mostly on Deborah's Song.) However, this is NOT a religious work. This is a work of fiction. Even knowing this, I was amazed at the emotion and power that author Amy Wolff Sorter was able to weave into the tale. No matter who you are, you will not be the same after reading this masterpiece. Outstanding!*****
Authors: Karen Wiesner & Chris Spindler
Title - Falcon's Bend Case Files
(Bk 1, The Early Years)
BUGS (Summer 1994)
Detective Pete Shasta is on his first murder case. The victim is found in an oxidation ditch, the aerators had cut him to ribbons.
BROKEN WINGS (Summer 1996)
Keith Pierce did not know he had a daughter until sixteen-year-old Quinn knocked on his door. The two go to Falcon's Bend in hopes of finding Kat, the mother. Detective Pete Shasta is pulled into the search. But someone else, Cyn, has also recently come to town in search of Kat as well.
OBESSIONS (Winter 1998)
A newborn baby is snatched from a maternity unit during a snow storm. It is up to Pete Shasta to find the baby before time runs out.
BLIND REVENGE (Fall 2000)
Pete Shasta is away on his honeymoon. Detective Danny Vincent, his partner, has to deal with this case on his own. A nineteen-year-old girl has been murdered. Her eyes were taken.
FIXATED (Summer 2001)
Risa Nitzberg is being stalked by a man she met briefly in a chat room.
***** Five mystery suspense tales that will leave you wanting more. But that is okay. Book 2 is out! Wonderfully told short stories. *****
Author: Alice Duncan
Title - Pecos Valley Diamond
This story is set in the mid-1920s. Annabelle Blue is a young lady living with her parents in Rosedale, New Mexico. Annabelle is helping out in her parent's shop when her eccentric Aunt Minnie arrives claiming that Annabelle's friend Julia, who disappeared during a school picnic six years before, is haunting her ranch. Aunt Minnie is upset because Julia's spirit is keeping her late husband's spirit from being able to communicate with her. Furthermore, Aunt Minnie insists that Annabelle come live with her for awhile and help remove Julia's ghost from her ranch. Of course, Annabelle has no idea what her aunt expect her to do about it, but she goes.
Libby Powell is Aunt Minnie's companion. Nothing Annabelle does could ever make Libby happy. Libby has a sharp tongue that she is constantly using on Annabelle. Still, Annabelle is determined to ignore the harpy until she is allowed to return to her home in town. Annabelle hate being stuck out on Aunt Minnie's isolated ranch.
Her first night at Aunt Minnie's has Annabelle waking up due to odd noises. The next morning she finds a dead stranger's corpse beside the hen house. Aunt Minnie swears it is the evil ghost's fault. But Annabelle just cannot believe a ghost would use a rock and a knife to kill someone. Annabelle turns to Phil Gunderson (a guy who is sweet on her) for help in solving the mystery.
**** An interesting mystery set during a changing era of American history. Annabelle has an active imagination which often has her ending up in very awkward situations. I sincerely hope that the future gives me more mysteries involving this unique cast of characters. ****
Author: King’s Ransom
Title - Virginia Brown (Mystery)
*** What begins as a simple canine rescue turns into something far more complicated when the woman who dog napped Harley’s father’s beloved mutt is killed and Harley begins to be threatened anonymously. Her new neighbor seems to be a likely perpetrator, he is using a false name and threatened her when she broke into his bare bones, yet high tech home. As Harley risks all to get to the bottom of the puzzle, clear her father, and hopefully stay alive, things get even stranger. Murder, jewel smuggling and romance all collide in a whacky story that will doubtlessly hold appeal for Stephanie Plum’s fans. ***
Author: Robert L. Hecker
Title - Aurora Of Fire
There is an old Innuit (Eskimo) legend about a huge monster with sharp, rending claws called a Tuurngaq. Professor Raine Devereux says he has dug one up, frozen in cryogenic life suspension, during an archaeological dig. Raine says the creature defrosted and is currently loose on the North Slopes, killing all it finds. Therefore, he is trying to stop the preliminary work on a proposed Trans-Canada pipeline.
Having been harmed by the Tuurngaq, Raine is being kept in the medical section of the pump station. The engineer of the station, Jaarl Larsson, plans to do all he can to prove to Raine, and his own work crew, that the Tuurngaq is not real. Jaarl is convinced it is nothing more than a bear doing all the recent attacks and killings. He learns that Raine has a daughter who happens to work at the Valdez Terminal of the Alaska Pipeline. He hopes to convince her to visit the pump station. Perhaps she can help convince her father to stop spreading rumors of a legend walking around and to stop his campaign against the pipeline.
Francine Devereux has not seen her father in over twenty years. She had thought he was dead. She agrees to speak with her father, not only for Jaarl's reasons, but to also find out why he left his wife and daughter all those years ago. Yet before she even reaches the secluded pump station, someone tries to kill her. Once at the station, the attempts on her life continues. Worse, it seems the Tuurngaq is real. At the pump station, Francine will learn to love and to fear!
*** A very good mystery with a touch of romance and danger to keep the pace moving along at a good clip. The character of the hero, Jaarl, is very well developed and very realistic. However, the character of the heroine, Francine, is not as well done. She starts out smart, but becomes too naive to be realistic to me, as the reader. Yet through it all, this novel held my attention until the very end. Great reading for those who love mysteries, the wilderness of Alaska, or just want a "romantic thriller"! ***
Author: G.L. Rockey
Title - Truths Of The Heart
(Professor) Dr. Rachelle Zannes is teaching a graduate course in "Moral Imagination: Communication Sciences" at Michigan State University. She marries Carl Bostich, an ex-football star turned radio sports announcer. Carl is selfish, possessive, a philander, and positive that the sun shines only for him. Rachelle is too blind to clearly see it all at first.
Seth Trudow is an art student taking Rachelle's course. He is very attracted to Rachelle and she is vulnerable. They fall in love and begin an affair.
Laura Troth is as possessive of Seth as Carl is of Rachelle. Laura often shows up at Seth's place spaced out. He is too soft hearted to kick Laura out and she uses that gentleness against him all the time. Laura seems insane and determined to ruin Rachelle's happiness.
When the worst finally happens, it is up to Rachelle to pull together her shattered life and live on.
**** Author G.L. Rockey's style of writing makes everything fast paced. There is more verbal communication than narrative paragraphs which makes reading this book seem faster than most. The take off is slow so the reader may clearly see how things stand between Rachelle and Carl. Rachelle's conscious is guilty throughout the book and the character seems more realistic due to this very human fact. Be warned that there IS gambling, rape, and other vices in this book. If this bothers you in a novel, then pass on this one. However, if it does not, you will find this story to be moving and, at times, even inspirational. ****
Author: Barri Bryan
Title - The Last Illusion
Emily and Robert Franklin had been married 25 years. Out of the blue Robert reserved a hotel room for the weekend and the two left for some time together, away from everyone and everything. Emily had been looking forward to spending time alone with her husband. But Robert had not brought Emily to the hotel for special time together. Instead, Robert announced that he wanted a divorce. There was another woman.
Larry and Kevin were grown, but they both became very bitter toward their father. Emily slowly began picking up the pieces of her life and continuing on. Kevin had become engaged to Stacy Morrison. That was how Emily met Reverend Dennis Morrison. Dennis was a widower and had twin girls. A friendship began. Emily's life got better and she got stronger. Then Robert showed back up.
**** All through the book I kept wondering what Emily would end up doing. Which man, if either, would she choose? Emily had started out rather shallow, no more than a shadow behind her husband. I found it amazing to watch Emily thrive and bloom.
Author team Barri Bryan did an excellent job in bringing Emily's world to life for me. I easily identified with her and understood her feelings, be they good or bad. They story is very realistic. I could not help but wonder what I would do if I had been in her shoes. Excellent! ****
Author: Maggie Davis
Title - Stage Door Canteen
Set in 1942 during one of the biggest wars the world has witnessed. New York was in "brown-out" mode, Frank Sinatra was new to show biz, and the sweet voices of the Andrew Sisters rode the air waves.
The Canteen mainly catered to the U.S. Servicemen. Dedicated volunteers, often including such stars as Katherine Hepburn, helped entertain the military personnel on leave before the y had to go back on duty.
Genevieve "Jenny" Rose was a theater actress. She helped out the Canteen and rehearsed for opening night. Her husband, Major Brad Rose, was in Washington, where the Pentagon was under construction. Brad was with Army Air Force Information & Special Planning Division "ISPD".
Sgt. Eugene Struhbeck was a regular at the Canteen. Jenny dreaded seeing him because he had a huge chip on his shoulder and often picked fights. However, he was a decorated hero, of Midway, and had to be tolerated. He was often drunk and ended up shooting his mouth off about sensitive issues in the Air Force. Therefore, Lt. Malcolm Sandover was sent to keep an eye on him. Eugene was in love with "Dina", who had as little to do with him as possible.
Elise Ginsberg was a volunteer junior hostess. She was Jewish and the men in her home life had her out, almost all the time, trying to get some graphic photos published. The closest she got was to Ruth McGowan of Associated Press. Many had heard about the Nazis concentration camps, but no one spoke of them.
***** So much is going on in this story that I find it impossible to list it all. Therefore, I listed many of the characters, but not all, and just a tiny bit about each.
This is an incredibly fast paced story that readers will be hard pressed to stop, even temporarily, whenever reality intrudes. It is clear that the author spent much time on researching the era. There are several areas in the story where the author injected a bit of humor to help break some of the tension.
This story is an excellent work of fiction combining facts of the war, the chaos civilians went through, and even some romance. (I kept comparing it to "The Sound of Music".) Highly recommended! *****
Author: Joan Hall Hovey
Title - Chill Waters (Romantic Suspense)
Rachael Warren had left Jenny's Cove at the age of fifteen. She never dreamed that by age forty-five she would be divorced with no job, money, or home. But when her husband began committing adultery, it was the last straw. Rachael wanted out - NOW! With the small amount of money Greg gave her for her part of their house, she returned to Jenny's Cove and purchased the small house her grandmother had once owned.
Iris Brandt was a store keeper and the first person Rachael met. Some of Iris's family members had "the Sight". Even though Iris knew she had it too, she always denied it, to herself and to others. However, she could NOT deny knowing Rachael was in danger when they met...and she felt the need to help, if she could.
Peter Gardner was Iris's nephew, and a local teacher. He was one of the few that did NOT believe Tommy, one of his students, had murdered his girlfriend - no matter what the evidence claimed. He and Rachael began seeing each other and romance began to bloom.
It soon became apparent that there was a killer on the loose. And his next target was Rachael.
**** Fans of Mary Higgins Clark will enjoy this author! Joan Hall Hovey has combined a romantic suspense with a thriller. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time as I tried to figure out what would happen next. Great story that I have no doubt you will enjoy! ****
Author: Gale Laure
Title: Evolution Of A Sad Woman, The Story Of Kizzy
As the story opens Kizzy is still alive. Readers get to see her murder. From there on, the question is "Why?" Kizzy's will brings together five vastly incompatible men, who are the beneficiaries.
(1) William was her guardian
(2) Tom was her first lover, a former pro-football player
(3) Jimmy was a hoodlum
(4) Evan was a cop
(5) Father C.D. was a Catholic priest
Kizzy had found something to love in each of them. Each man tells their experience/time with Kizzy in order to learn the truth of her murder. Only by pulling together can these men, so different from one another, find out the truth.
**** I never figured out the truth behind Kizzy's murder, and I like to consider myself very good at solving "who-dunnit" mysteries. The truth is shocking! I never saw it coming.
This is the debut novel of Gale Laure. Real talent shows within these pages or I would not have bothered posting a review about it. The only flaw, and it may not be a "flaw" to anyone else, is that it was necessary to tell the story through the eyes of too many people. I, personally, do not care for so many flash backs. Yet I cannot think of any other way for the author to tell this tale. Recommended for mystery lovers. ****
Author: Laurie Breton
Title: Sleeping With The Enemy
In her mid thirties, burned by love, and with two nearly grown children, Maggie Kennedy is sure that romance is over for her, and though she will not admit it, that hurts. She is on the edge of becoming a lonely old before her time woman.
Then, at her brother's wedding, she meets a handsome stranger, and just like the old song says, across a crowded room, they come together. One incredible afternoon was all it was supposed to be, but six weeks later, Maggie has a surprise that makes it so much more. She is pregnant. Fortunately, the father is easy to find, as he is the bride's brother. Chris Halvorsen immediately proposes marriage, and at first, Maggie is a bit resistant, but when she faces how difficult it is to raise teens alone, much less a baby, she capitulates, conditionally.
Despite their early passion, the marriage is off to a rocky start. Maggie is still bearing the scars of her past, ones that are opened wide when a ugly accusation comes against her husband just as they are trying to make things work. Working past the lies and facing the ugliness of long ago will either make or break them.
***** This is a beautimous book. No, that was not a typo, the Cajun word for beautiful is much more expressive. In SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY, Ms. Breton enters a genre that fans of her thrillers will not be expecting, that of more women's fiction, but she will not alienate them. With even more edge than Elizabeth Berg or Jodi Picoult, she weaves words into a complex, but easily followed tapestry showing that love may not be all roses and moonlight, but is well worth the effort that it takes. Love is more than a feeling, it's the every day life and decisions that make it real. *****
Trisha FitzGerald-Petri - Title: Peggy Does A Runner
This novel is easy to give a synopsis on:
Peggy was in a rut. Her husband no longer appreciated her. He took her for granted and hung out with the guys almost every night. The daughter was grown and out of the nest. Desperate for a change of pace, Peggy gave in to an impulse to get away from it all. Unfortunately, anything that could go wrong, did.
Reviewing the novel is not so easy:
*** If you live in England, consider this a four star review instead of three. I set it at three because readers that live elsewhere may find themselves lost on the meaning of several phrases. I live in America. I had never heard of "doing a runner". Therefore, the title made no sense to me at all. There are several places I found myself flustered, trying to figure out what was going on.
Other than that, the story was very good. The plot was realistic, the characters were well developed, and the two main characters seemed to learn important lessons about marriage. I believe this tale is well worth readers to download. ***
Christine Duncan- Title: Safe Beginnings (Mystery)
SAFE BEGINNINGS is the promising start to a new cozy mystery series that I am certain fans of these books will take to heart. When the shelter at which she works is struck by arson, Kaye Berreano finds herself in the middle of the resulting investigation. The police are convinced she knows more than she is telling. They are also convinced that the once fatality of the blaze was a victim of suicide, not murder, a fact that Kaye disputes. As she has received several threatening phone calls telling her to get the women out of the shelter, she takes matters into her own hands, searching for the culprit.
Concurrently, she is facing a handful of assorted other crises. Her job is on shaky ground as a result of the tragedy, she is counseling several of the women and taking their problems into her heart, has two teenagers with all the problems that implies, and has just gone through a divorce that is still being messy. On top of all that, she is attracted to the lead detective on the case, and has discovered that their is an abused woman in her own family. She has a very full plate. Yet, somehow, Kate navigates through all of this, putting herself in jeopardy, to uncover the truth. Will she stop the killer before he strikes again and this time gets his true target?
**** There are clues that will point the reader to the villain's identity, however, there are an equal number of red herrings steering you to assorted other possibilities. You will be guessing until the very end in this challenging mystery. Though not as high on the suspense level as some books, there is plenty going on here, and you will feel nothing but sympathy for the perils of Kay. Ms. Duncan leaves the door wide open for more books, and hopefully, her new fans will not have to wait long to meet Kaye again. ****
Jeff Strand: title - Out Of Whack (Comedy Fiction)
In all the reviews I have done on books by author Jeff Strand, I have warned readers that he is one sick cookie! My opinion on him still stands! And I have become one of his growing numbers of fans!
In this warped and comical novel about the life of Seth Trexler, we witness "The First Date From H*ll And Seventeen Other Unseasonably Hot Locations" while in highschool, the making of the comedy group "Out Of Whack" while in college, and quite a few other highly memorable points in the young geek's life.
***** Once again Jeff Strand has proven that he can take ANY topic and twist it into one of the most hilarious reads of the year! Highly recommended reading! For comedy, it gets NO BETTER than this! *****
Bob Liter: title - August Is Murder (Mystery)
Nick Bancroft owned Triple A Detective Agency and hardly made enough to live on. He received a call from Kathleen Cameron, who was married to one of Central City's rich and mysterious men. Someone was trying to kill Kathleen and she dared not go to the police. She paid Nick well, ut told him almost nothing as to who wanted her dead or why. She seemed to know the answers to those questions, but for some odd reason refused to share them. Nick would have decided it was not worth the hassle, but someone had almost killed him by burning down his building. The only things Nick could call his own was one drawer from a file cabinet, the clothes on his back, an old car with no air conditioning, and a stray cat that allowed Nick to feed it and occasionally pet it.
One good thing going for Nick was that whenever he was most desperate, Lady Luck smiled upon him. Otto, who owned a bar, decided Nick would be a good roommate. About the same time his ex-girlfriend, Maggie Atley, wanted him back. She offered him her luxurious apartment, as well as, her bed. All seemed to be looking up. However, in Nick's life, things tend to look their brightest just before everything goes completely black!
**** Lots of twists and turns in this one! This main character seemed to be having either a sudden flow of great luck or a flood of awful luck. No middle ground I could tell. As for his client, nothing was as it seemed. So all you mystery buffs out there, just HOW do you figure out a case when no one, including your client, will level with you? In the words of my teenage son, "This one is a Loo - Loo!" ****
Tina Czarnota: title - Country Inn, Dead & Breakfast (Who dun-nit Mystery)
Katrina, who pigs out on junk food and vitamins, combined her money with Song's (future mother-in-law) to open their own B&B inn. However, on the first day of business one of the guests was murdered! There were many people around and any one of them could be guilty. To make matters really bad, an unscrupulous reporter and her photographer had also been present!
**** No peeking in the back! This one lets the readers test their wits, Sherlock Holmes style. All the clues are there, but it is up to you to put them together and deduce who killed Mindy Konrath, how, and why! Marvelous book! I am looking forward to this author's next mystery! ****
Lisa Gray: title - Dangerous Descent
Remy Keane was an actress in New York City until she was summoned to LA by her twin sister, Shayla. Shayla's two-year-old daughter, Heather, had somehow gotten hold of a bottle of Tylenol and was now in critical condition at the hospital. Blake, Shayla's man, was next to useless. (He made Shayla do all the work in the house, abused her, was an alcoholic, and spent all their money on drugs!) Since Remy was low on funds, her close friend, Pearse, let her live in his guesthouse, no charge. He clearly loved Remy before she went to NY and was hoping to continue their relationship.
Remy's temporary service agency found her work with multi-millionaire Dr. Lorne Ashton III. She worked at the Ashton Residence keeping his books, helping to make brochures for his horse farms and clinics, and did a bit of acting for the company on the side. Through it all, Remy hunted for her biological mother. (The sisters were adopted.) What began as a search in hopes their real mother could donate a liver for Heather, turned into a dangerous mystery.
The Guardian had arranged Heather's "accident" to force Remy's return to the City of Angels. She did not yet know it, but she belonged with him! He was her Guardian Angel. He would make Remy come to him and he would kill anyone who got in his way!
**** All the clues to the Guardian Angel's identity are within the book. It was, to me, easy to figure out. However, even knowing who Angel was never detracted from the suspense! An excellent piece of fiction that will make readers keep a sharp eye on this author's future works!
On a side note, the author's web site (link is below) is having a contest. On August 31, 2001 the author will pull several names, from those who entered via email to her, for a free copy of this book! ****
Mel Savoie: title - Pieces Of Sand
Set in Philadelphia. Seventh Street had long been known as The Seventh. Young men in suits and carrying briefcases had been disappearing on Tuesday nights. Detective Lieutenant Raymond "Ray" Innez pulled together enough circumstantial evidence to convince the boss that they had a possible serial killer. But when his partner, while playing decoy, disappears in front of several police observers, Ray ended up in cardiac arrest. One of the other patrolmen from that night, Elliott Jeroldson, took up his own investigation.
Jacob Rellison had his "throne" on the fourth floor of an abandoned shirt factory. Since birth he had been a demential paranoid. Using a stainless steel wire around the throats of Lucifer's helpers, he made the world a better place. When he needed help, the Lord sent Jacob down one of His angels (Elliott Jeroldson). He had only to show the angel that he was doing the Lord's work.
When Jeroldson disappeared, aid was called in. Sheriff's Deputy Charley Banyon was now with Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office. He had been a Commander of a CIC (Counterintelligence Corp) in the military. With his selected group and some "pieces of sand" found on a sidewalk, the intelligence group set out to find a killer!
**** More is going on in the story than I told in this synopsis. Author Mel Savoie adds in a few sub-plots to keep his readers engrossed in the novel! You know right away who the killer is, but the author shows much knowledge in police and military procedures. Great reading here! ****
Jeff Strand: title - Single White Psychopath Seeks Same
Remember "Graverobbers Wanted: No Experience Necessary"? Well this book continues with the same hilarious characters, one year later. Andrew Mayhem and Roger Tanglen are in trouble again! (And the author is still just as warped!)
When Ned Markstein (a.k.a. The Headhunter) beheaded Andrew's temporary employer he was a bit worried. After all, his wife, Helen, was already mad at him for getting fired recently. (Doesn't matter that he had been kidnapped and almost killed, because he lied by omission.) But when The Headhunter went for Helen's head, well Andrew had to stop him.
Mr. Burgin came forward to ask for Andrew's help. The Headhunter had kidnapped his wife, Charlotte, months ago. Andrew and Roger were suppose to be kidnapped next and taken (along with Charlotte) to a hideout in Alaska. Once there, a group of killers planned to use all the victims they had collected during the year in games they had made up. (Example: using cannon-like devices to shoot large darts at people who are dodging.) Andrew, Roger, and Charlotte must survive games and a death trap filled haunted house, maze included, in hopes of getting themselves and the other prisoners out alive. Well, the prisoners left alive after a few of the fun-filled games.
***** Yes, Jeff Strand has created another sick book with his famous warped sense of humor! In my opinion, it is even better than the first! Every time I burst out laughing my husband would tell me to hurry up and finish it so he could read it!
It is a chaotic ride into the humorous, thrilling, and yet horrifying mind of Jeff Strand! Don't miss it! *****
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