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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: Alice Duncan
Title - Thanksgiving Angels (Mercy Allcutt Mystery)
Set in the year 1926. Former Boston Brahmin, Mercedes “Mercy” Allcutt, moved to Los Angeles to get away from her maddeningly stuffy parents. Though she does not have to scramble for a living, Mercy wishes to live life as a regular person (to help put some realism in the book she plans to write in the future.) This includes working and Mercy truly enjoys her job. She is the secretary for a private investigator, Ernest “Ernie” Templeton. Unfortunately for Mercy, her parents have purchased a winter mansion in Pasadena and rumor has it that the mansion may become their primary residence. This means that Mercy has no excuse when her parents invite her to spend Thanksgiving week with them. The only good news is that her sister, Chloe, and her movie-mogul husband, Harvey, would be there too.
Mercy is used to her parents’ constant berating of her, but is surprised that they intend to hold a séance one evening. This is how Mercy meets Desdemona “Daisy” Majesty, the spiritualist. The two recognize that they are kindred spirits – so to speak – and a friendship quickly develops. The tolerable evening becomes horrid when one of the guests, Mrs. Winkworth, whom everyone hates, is flung to her death over the second-storey staircase railing. Daisy calls her fiancée, Homicide Detective Sam Rotondo with Pasadena P.D. (Daisy has to state firmly that the death is in no way her fault.) Mercy, at her mother’s insistence, calls her boss, Ernie. (Mercy has to also state firmly that the death is in no way her fault.) At first Sam is reluctant to allow Ernie to help, but they eventually come to a compromise.
This list of suspects is long. First is Mrs. Winkworth’s unhappy secretary, Mr. Mann. Second is Lola de la Monica, Hollywoodland’s number-one menace (actress). Then there are the maids, the cook, Mercy’s brother-in-law, and more.
***** FIVE STARS! The characters from two of Alice Duncan’s series meet to investigate the death of a cold hearted woman in this mystery. Daisy Gumm Majesty has her own winning series, but when she meets Mercy Allcutt things become even more intriguing. Since four characters from two different series meet and have an adventure together, it makes everything more realistic to me and the world a little smaller. I hope to see Daisy and Mercy cross paths again in the future.
The story is told in the First Person. The author keeps everything true to the historical setting of the 1920s. Mercy, being born into wealth, speaks in a refined way but is slowly learning about “the mean streets” and slang that the police use in their work. All the characters are fully fleshed out and the author has an eye for detail, such as some of the vehicles still needing to be hand-cranked. The family drama between Mercy and her parents is a pleasure to watch and I must say that I am proud of how Mercy handles them. Read this title and you will understand why I consider Alice Duncan to be one of my top favorite mystery writers in today’s market. *****
Author: Jimmy Olsen
Title - Things in Ditches
Dutch Cleland is a butcher and self-professed murderer. Married to a woman who stands by him to the end, Dutch comes off as a very unlikely killer. ...the thing is, the dead woman is someone Dutch had an affair with many years earlier. He decides to disappear to think for a while. Meanwhile, an oddball assortment of people begin looking for him, including the victim's ex-husband, current husband, friend, local yokels and of course, law enforcement.
***** FOUR & A HALF STARS! Even though Dutch admits from the beginning that he was a killer, I had my doubts throughout the book. I mean, he just seems like such a nice guy! Everyone who is looking for him all have their own reasons...some above board and some very, very below board! This well-written story will have you off-kilter right until the end--very satisfying! *****
Author: S. L. Smith
Title - Blinded by the Sight
Lt. Pete Culnane is a dedicated police detective who has kept his simple ways in spite of climbing the ranks in the St. Paul Police Department. He is partnered with Martin Tierney for a call about a murdered homeless man. The murdered man shows all the classic hallmarks of the homeless except for a very expensive diamond ring still on his finger. Two young boys had called 911 when they discovered the body but disappeared before Pete can talk to them....raising concerns about their safety and who and what they really saw.
**** FOUR STARS! This was a good read that kept me guessing right up to the end! Just when you're sure you know "who dunnit", something else happens! The characters were believable and several were very likeable....my favourite being Pete Culnane as he's just a great guy! ****
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: E. Michael Helms
Title - Of Blood and Brothers (Civil War #1)
In May 1927, Calvin Hogue is assigned to cover a family reunion in the Florida Panhandle. Calvin is a reporter for the St. Andrew Pilot and expects this assignment to last no longer than one afternoon. Calvin’s job is to meet with the Malburn brothers, Daniel and Elijah, who had fought on opposing sides of the Civil War. Calvin is eager to hear how the brothers had conducted themselves when they faced one another at the first family reunion six decades past. That reunion, and all those following, was set on the date that Daniel Malburn completed his long journey home from a Yankee prison camp.
Calvin only meets one of the brothers that day. He spends the evening listening to Daniel rehashing old, painful, and very emotional events. Soon afterward, Calvin meets with Elijah, the brother who had become a Union man. Calvin is curious to learn how that had come about. In only a short time, Calvin comes to the conclusion that one article is not nearly enough space for this dramatic story to be told. His boss agrees and Calvin is granted permission to make the Malburns’ stories into a weekly series. What follows is a number of interviews where Calvin learns how the Civil War ravaged the land, pit brother-against-brother, and affected the lives of two brothers and their immediate families.
***** FIVE STARS! You do not need to be a historian in order to enjoy this piece of literature. After finishing this tale, I realized that Helms must write with a poisoned pen. The story starts out much as any businessman’s typical day, but the author’s words began to seep under my skin and into my blood. My real world faded away. Before I knew what was happening, I became infected. I simply had to know what would develop between these two brothers – and their loved ones by association. The only cure was for me to continue reading. Therefore, I read this entire novel in a single afternoon.
This novel only tells part of the story; however, Helms ends it in a very good spot. I do not feel as though this is a cliff-hanger ending. The next installment is due for release in early 2014. It will pick up where this one ends. I eagerly look forward to Calvin’s next interview with the Malburns. *****
Author: E. Michael Helms
Title - Blood & Brothers (Book 2)
The year is 1927. Calvin Hogue is a reporter for his uncle’s newspaper, the St. Andrew Pilot. He had been in the middle of writing a series about the Malburn family when he had been notified of his father’s death. As this book opens, three weeks have passed. Now Calvin travels back TO Florida in order to continue his interviews with the Malburn family members.
Daniel “Danny” Malburn is the family patriarch. He begins the next part of his historical narration in the Spring of 1864. He is a Confederate soldier. Daniels tells of several historical battles before he is taken prisoner. Then Daniel describes his time in Rock Island Prison, its horrible conditions, fellow prisoners, and how merciless the guards are. Back in Florida, Daniel’s family believes him to be dead and his fiancée, Annabelle “Annie” Gainer, is inconsolable.
Elijah, the younger Malburn brother, and the family slave, Jefferson, were taken during a raid by Union forces. Both end up as Union soldiers – the lesser of two evils. Elijah recounts tales of how General Newton and Major Weeks care nothing about killing innocent civilians. Women and children are but collateral damage to the Officers, even though the soldiers had to chase those civilians into the surrounding woods to slaughter them.
Eli and Jeff return home around the end of the war, and the family begins to deal with the aftermath problems. By the time Daniel makes it home, Eli and Annie are already married. Daniel begins taking too much laudanum and hanging around bad people. Southern families are forced to pay huge taxes and those who cannot (which are most families) lose their homes and lands. Carpetbaggers are everywhere and the Union League begins stirring up trouble.
**** FOUR STARS! Though it is hard to believe, events will become worse. By the end of the tale, Calvin Hogue is not the only listener to be speechless. I, as the reader, am dealing with multiple emotions. I battle with happiness, sadness, contentment, amazement, and finally land on acceptance. The author grew up with tales of the two brothers fighting on opposite sides of the Civil War, so I really should have expected this tale to be realistic. In real life, things do not end with all strings tried and everybody being (somehow) totally happy. Bad things happen to good people and vice versa. Not all characters live through the events and not all characters are honorable. But if you are a reader who enjoys history and realistic tales surrounding the Civil War, then I highly recommend this story! A stunning rendition of one family’s trials that will leave you speechless for several minutes as your mind attempts to absorb it all. ****
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: 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: 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: 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: Alice Duncan
Title - Genteel Spirits
(Daisy Gumm Majesty Mystery #5)
It is May, 1922, and the nation is going through a depression. Daisy Gumm Majesty does not believe in ghosts or the paranormal; however, she is considered to be "the premier spiritualist in the community" by the residents of Pasadena, California. Yes, Daisy knows her work is pure hogwash but it earns more of an income than any normal job she could do in today's market. Thanks to the cursed Kaiser and his cursed mustard gas, Daisy's husband, Billy, is unable to work. It is up to Daisy to provide for the family. Besides, those who request her services benefit too. When Daisy consults Rolly, her fictional spiritual conductor, her employer usually feels better, an easing of stress.
Daisy has been in love with Billy all her life. His disability has not changed her feelings one iota. Though Billy loves Daisy just as much, he cannot help but feel that she would be better off without him. This worries Daisy greatly because she has recently noticed how much morphine syrup her husband has on hand. Should Billy do something drastic, Daisy's world would seem to end. Fortunately, Billy has Saturday mornings to look forward to. That is when Daisy and Billy take their dachshund, Spike, for his dog-obedience lessons.
A motion picture is being filmed on the Winkworth estate. Daisy is hired by Lola de la Monica, the lovely, yet spoiled, star who is prone to temper tantrums, to be her spiritual advisor on the set. The woman seems to thrive on drama. She causes so many filming delays that the crew begins calling her "de la Monster" behind her back. Matters are made worse when Lola begins receiving poison-pen letters. Lola's hysterics keeps everyone on edge and Daisy is the only one who can get the actress to even halfway behave herself. This often means that Daisy has to work some nights, in addition to her time on set, and she hates not being able to spend those evenings with Billy.
Daisy's best friend, Mr. Harold Kincaid, also asks for her help. (Harold is the costumier for the movie.) His friend, Monty Mountjoy (the male lead), is receiving poison-pen letters too. The same villain is obviously sending the notes to both stars because they are duplicates. Monty needs Daisy to assist him in identifying the culprit without police involvement. If the law investigates, it would become public knowledge that Monty prefers the company of men, instead of women. His career would be ruined.
If all of this is not enough to give Daisy daily headaches, Detective Sam Rotondo is stationed on the same picture set. Sam is Billy's best friend and the biggest pain in Daisy's side. Sam and two other officers are guarding a new motion-picture device that is being used. Word has it that the Germans may try to steal it. Just how Daisy plans to still the venomous pen - under Sam's nose - is a mystery to her!
***** FIVE STARS! I cannot express how much I have been enjoying Daisy's mysteries. My mother always told me, "Never trouble Trouble, unless Trouble troubles you." Too bad for Daisy that Trouble loves giving her trouble. Daisy never has to go looking for problems. They just jump in front of her, from out of the bushes, and shout, "Boo!"
Alice Duncan has a warm writing style. The story is written as if the reader was visiting Daisy and she was relating her adventure. As when one is chatting with a good friend, Daisy wanders just a little off topic at times, apologizes for the distraction, and then continues on with her story. The conversations in the tale stay true to the time setting, which makes everything more realistic too. Terms are used from the 1920's, such as "the cat's meow", "You're a trump.", and "swell". It all blends together to create an entertaining mystery guaranteed to please. Absolutely perfect! *****
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: Clare 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: Annette Blair
Title - Jacob's Return
(Amish Historical, formerly published as "Thee, I Love")
Set in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The year is 1885. Jacob Sauder had left his home, his Amish life, behind four years ago, never intending to return. While away, he had committed several sins. One was fortification. Jacob's twin children, Emma and Aaron, had been two-years-old when he discovered they existed. Their mother had died during child birth. For the sakes of his children, Jacob returned to his Amish home.
Rachel Zook and Jacob Sauder had grown up together and they had loved each other almost as long. Simon, Jacob's brother, knew this, yet wanted Rachel for his own. To get Rachel, Simon had deceived Jacob at a time that his grief over their mother's illness clouded his judgement. Simon convinced Jacob that Rachel loved him more and had agreed to become his wife. Once Jacob had left the community, Simon coerced Rachel into marrying him by stating that Levi (his father) would grieve Jacob's departure less if he had grandchildren to love.
From the date Rachel wed, she had suffered all forms of abuse at her husband's hands. Jacob's return made the volatile situation even worse. Simon's hate for both Jacob and Rachel ran deep. Simon blamed them both for his own lies, deceptions, and manipulations. The fact that Rachel had not as yet given birth to children incited Simon's rage more than anything else. Even more so than Rachel's determination to print and circulate an Amish newspaper for their people. Once ordained a Deacon, Simon's sermons became vengeful and often shamed Rachel before the entire church district for being barren. Simon blamed Jacob for several imagined faults as well. Yet through it all, Rachel had persevered.
Though Rachel had married Simon, the love between Rachel and Jacob could still be easily seen. Emma and Aaron became Rachel's world. It did not take Jacob more than a day or two to notice Rachel's abuse. Levi had unknowingly turned a blind eye to Rachel's various injuries and Rachel never let her father, the Bishop, know of her hardships. Thus Jacob took matters into his own hands. Once the Bishop learned of his daughter's abuse, he stepped forward and threatened to reveal to the community how cruel Simon, a Deacon, was to his own wife. The Bishop would only remain silent should Simon immediately change his sinful ways. But did the Bishop really open Simon's eyes? Though Simon instantly changed, was his humility false? Could Rachel forgive Simon and try to have a decent, if not loving, marriage with him? And could Rachel and Jacob dwell on the same farm, him working alongside Rachel's husband and her caring for Jacob's children, every day without giving in to their love?
***** FIVE STARS! Annette Blair has crafted a story that will long linger in the minds of her readers. You need not be Amish, or a fan of history and/or cultures, to thoroughly enjoy this romantic tale. Every page seems to overflow with some form of strong emotion. Love, hate, sympathy, kindness, pity, vengeance, heartbreak, sorrow, despair, apathy, regret, graciousness, hope, serenity, and so much more. I find it impossible to articulate my true feelings about this story. After reading the last page of a book, I usually sit quietly awhile and try to think of key words to describe how it left me feeling. However, the way this story leaves me feeling is almost impossible. My emotions are in a state of turmoil. Yes, the ending is happy, joyous. But I read this entire story in one sitting and I currently feel as though the author grabbed each emotion from within me and wrung it dry. I laughed. I cried. My heart ached. I despaired that a happy ending could ever come to be. I bit my nails (something I do have not done since I was a child) down to nubs. Right this second, I can say that I am extremely happy and emotionally exhausted. So exactly how else can I describe this story, other than to say that it is indescribable? I am totally flummoxed.
It has now been one hour since I finished reading this story. Here is what I have come up with. Annette Blair has a phenomenal writing talent. Readers will find themselves instantly transported to another time and place, where they will meet and come to know the most amazing people. The author shows the pros and the cons of living an Amish life, as well as the need for faith in their Maker. Be prepared for a wide variety of emotions to collide within yourself as you read this ambivalent, yet inspiring, story. Brilliant! *****
Author: Alice Duncan
Title - Fallen Angels (Mercy Allcutt Mysteries #3, 6/8/11)
Set in Los Angeles, the late 1920's. Mercedes "Mercy" Louise Allcutt had been born into a family of Boston Brahmins. Though Mercy need never fear of ever being poor, she wants to do more with her life than simply be a meek and proper wife to a man ... much to her blue-blooded mother's dismay. This is one reason (among many) that Mercy ended up moving to L.A. to live with her sister, Chloe, and her (Chloe's) husband, Harvey Nash, who owns and works at his own moving-picture studio. (Hmm, Mercy is absolutely correct when she states, "The English language suffers from severe pronominal deficiencies.") Considering the option of writing mysteries in her future, Mercy craves experience. Therefore, Mercy has been the secretary for a private investigator name Ernest "Ernie" Templeton during the past couple of months. Mercy has been in a wee bit of trouble (that Ernie considers out-and-out danger) once or twice, but Mercy is determined to continue earning some money on her own and learn the ways of the "real" world.
On one September morning, Ernie's best friend, Detective Phil Bigelow, shows up at the office. Ernie and Phil were to meet at nine o'clock, but Ernie never arrives. By the afternoon, Mercy is worried and heads to the home of Mrs. Persephone Chalmers, the client that has hired Ernie to find some stolen jewelry. Upon entering the Chalmers' residence, Mercy discovers Persephone's body at the foot of the stairs and Ernie, bound and gagged. When the police arrive to investigate the crime, Ernie is the prime suspect. Phil, being Ernie's close friend, is not allowed to lead the investigation. Worse, the lead is assigned to Detective O'Reilly, who would enjoy nothing more than pinning the crime on Ernie. And no matter how many times (or how loudly) Ernie tell her to keep out of it, Mercy is going to find the true culprit.
***** FIVE STARS! I love how the author writes this series. Each case is told from the rich/privileged secretary's point-of-view. Imagine yourself sitting in a lovely room, having tea with Mercy (the secretary), and listening as Mercy tells you all about the case. This is exactly how the story sounds in my mind. All the personal opinions and off-the-subject comments that Mercy would utter to you during the conversation is included.
The story is set around 1926. In keeping true to Mercy's brother-in-law owning a movie studio, the author has given cameo appearances to some well known celebrities, such as John Gilbert and Renee Adoree. Doing so makes the tale more real, in my opinion. The characters, as well as the plot line, are well developed. I can find nothing lacking. The entire story flows smoothly with bits and pieces of the era tossed in for extra spice. And though her mother is a snob, Mercy is not. Oh Mercy is prim and proper, but her thoughts and actions had me grinning several times. If you are looking for a classic-style mystery to test your wits on, look no further. Alice Duncan's stories simply burst with flavor. Excellent! *****
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: M. Kate Quinn
Title - Summer Iris (Perennials #1)
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 - The Alchemy of Murder
Author: Carol McCleary
Written as a first person account, The Alchemy of Murder follows Elizabeth Cochran as she discovers her talent for writing, her thirst for a meaningful life, and a fire for justice. Early in her journalism career, Elizabeth takes on the pseudonym of Nellie Bly. Being a woman—the ‘weaker’ sex—in a man's world means that not only does she have very few opportunities to make a better life for herself, but that few men will take her quest seriously as conventional wisdom holds that women should only devote themselves to husband and home. Desperate to get a job at the New York World newspaper, Nellie offers to spend 10 days in a madhouse then write an expose on her experience. While there, Nellie hears rumors of women patients going missing, and then discovers her new friend brutally murdered by "the German doctor."
Determined to have justice for her friend, Nellie hunts this man first in London, and then after hearing rumors of 'mutilation killings', she journeys to Paris. Set in 1889, Nellie's dogged determination takes her to the seediest parts of the City of Light where she encounters ruthless radicals and soul-less anarchists. A plague seems to kill only the poorest in the city, but it is being swept under the rug due to the World’s Fair and all the visitors and money that brings. Nellie manages to enlist the help of now-famous figures, Jules Verne, Oscar Wilde and even Louis Pasteur as she discovers that “The Man in Black” has far more devious aims than just killing woman.
***** FOUR AND A HALF STARS! What a terrific read!!! This story had me up into the wee hours of the morning....I just HAD to know what Nellie would do next! With every step impeded with the day’s attitudes towards women, Nellie has to work doubly hard to do what she does best. If that means a bit of subterfuge and manipulation is a means to an end, well, so be it! Having Jules Verne, Oscar Wilde and Mr. Pasteur playing such important roles in this mystery brought the story to life and lent an amazing authenticity to the entire plot. It’s hard to believe this is Ms. McCleary’s first novel—what an absolutely outstanding premiere! *****
Title - Jane Bites Back (Jane #1)
Author: Michael Thomas Ford
Jane Austen is still alive today as a vampire. She goes by the name of Jane Fairfax now. She is the owner of a book store in small Brakeston, New York. No one knows she is Austen or that she is a vampire; not even her friendly assistant, Lucy Sebring. Jane keeps mortal men at bay for fear of becoming attached to one and eventually losing him when he dies of old age. She does not need the extra heartache. This includes Walter Fletcher, to whom Jane considers a close friend and refuses dates with.
Jane has kept a manuscript that she now dreams of publishing under her new name. She feels irritated enough that she does not receive royalty checks on the numerous spin-offs of her work, but the continuous rejection notices of her new book is even worse. Jane is about to give up when Kelly Littlejohn, senior editor for a small publishing company, offers her a contract. The book is getting rave reviews and Jane is back in the spotlight. She is thrilled until the famous poet that changed her (unwillingly) into a vampire walks into her store, intending to sweep her off her feet again. To make matters even worse, a noted scholar is accusing Jane of plagiarism.
***** FIVE STARS! This is one of the most thoroughly entertaining stories I have read in the past few years! I feel that the author succeeded in capturing Jane Austen's proper personality, as well as in how the legendary author would have reacted had she found herself an immortal vampire. Michael Thomas Ford has crafted a vivid, charming and witty tale to delight readers of any age. Absolutely fantastic! *****
Title - A Blue and Gray Christmas
Author: Joan Medlicott
This is the story of two soldiers, Tom and John, during the Civil War and the dramatic turn their lives took after they were wounded and left for dead on a battlefield in North Carolina. Tom was a Confederate rebel, as Southern soldiers were known then, and John was a Union soldier from Connecticut. The thing that makes this story meaningful is the fact that the Covington ladies (Hannah Parrish Maxwell, Grace Singleton and Amelia Declose) became very involved with finding these soldiers’ descendents over one hundred years later.
The ladies discovered the extraordinary lives of Tom and John when they opened a box that Hannah’s husband, Max, had found at an excavation site. This box was muddy, battered, made of tin, and obviously very old. It was the size of two large shoeboxes and held journals and letters written by Tom and John – letters that contained names and relevant information of relatives in 1864, but were clearly never intended to be mailed home. The oddity, and the thing that drew the attention of the ladies, was the fact that it had been locked and buried all these years.
Crumbling letters, lifted from the box, tell how Tom and John were found and rescued from a gruesome battlefield by elderly Miss Ella Mae Evans, as she searched among the dead and dying for her own grandson who was killed in that battle. In an old straw filled wagon, Miss Ella Mae took the two men, feverish and in terrible pain from their wounds and broken bones, to her own home in the hills of North Carolina. It was there where she saved them from the bounty hunters, always on the prowl for deserters, and nursed them back to health.
As months passed and the end of the war was near, both men regained their strength and decided to repay Miss Ella Mae’s kindness by staying and caring for her as long as she lived. Although their lives were happy and full, they always grieved for the families they left behind.
As they continued to pour over the letters and journals for many weeks, the ladies began to feel a deep affinity for the two men who had written them. Because of this, they felt compelled to delve into the unknown world of genealogy and find some of their descendants. Their motive was to bring them together in Covington for an exciting and wonderful Christmas they would never forget.
Title - Dust to Dust (The Prophecy, #1)
Author: Heather Graham
There are legends from many sources throughout time that refer to the world ending in December, 2012. If the apocalypse is to be averted, it will require the combined efforts of all four elements - earth, air, fire and water.
Scott Bryant is simply a man in L.A. out for a good time with two buddies when it happens. An elderly couple is being attacked by five men. Scott and his friends go to help. During the fight, Scott suddenly finds himself possessing speed and super strength.
Melanie Regan has never been able to draw better than stick-people. Yet suddenly she begins going into trances, during which time she sketches detailed pictures of future events.
Scott and Melanie must team up and seek out the mysterious Oracle and one more "earth" person to find the answers they so desperately need. The earth will soon turn against its inhabitants, mortal and immortal. Bael waits.
**** FOUR STARS! This is the first of four books. It is a stand-alone story, so if you do not wish to read the next three of the series, that is fine. The author added in many characters from several of her previous titles. So if you have followed her books about The Alliance, then you will be treated to their presences. They are not the main focus, but have vital roles in this new series. ****
Title - Blood Ties
(Bishop/Special Crimes Unit #12)
Author: Kay Hooper
FBI's elite Special Crimes Unit "SCU" returns for another unusual investigation. Just outside Serenade, Tennessee, the butchered remains of a man have been found. Nearby are the remains of a female. Though the male was obviously meant to be found quickly, it seems as if the female was never meant to be discovered. The SCU Team sets up a temporary base in the small town's only B&B and goes to work.
Special Investigator Diana Brisco is still new to the SCU Team. Her father believed Diana to be mentally ill, instead of gifted with psychic abilities. Therefore, Diana's abilities were dampened for most of her life by medications. But now Diana brings some unique talents to the team. Diana is the only known medium able to breech the door between life and death to speak with spirit guides. Diana calls this between-space the Gray Time because everything is colorless. But the longer Diana's spirit remains in the Gray Time, the less chance she has to return to her living body.
When an unknown sniper begins adding to the body count and the psychic abilities of several team members seem to be altering, the team must face the possibility that the evil they face may not be human. In fact, the events are somehow linked to several past SCU cases. Diana's ability to walk in Gray Time may be the team's only hope of learning the answers they so desperately need.
**** FOUR STARS! This heart stopping trip into the Special Crimes Unit is as intense as its predecessors. Since this investigation is linked to many past cases and involves numerous team members, readers will find occasional footnotes informing them of which title the information being discussed is from. The author has gone the extra mile for her readers by adding a section in the back of the book detailing character bios, a list of their psychic abilities, and their SCU definitions. This is especially helpful if you have missed a title or two of this series.
Several team members get a lot of time in the story's spotlight; however, I believe Diana spends the most time there. Traveling in Gray Time has got to be one of the most interesting talents I have read about within the series. Kay Hooper writes stories that make it difficult for me to breathe. ****
Title - Ice
Author: Linda Howard
Gabriel "Gabe" McQueen returns to Wilson Creek, Maine, just as an ice storm cranks up. His father, the sheriff, and his men are busy preparing for a sudden ice storm and dealing with a wreck. When Gabe offers to help, his father asks him to check on Lorelei "Lolly" Helton because there is no way to notify of her of the sudden ice storm.
Gabe and Lolly have not seen each other in fifteen years. They certainly were never friends. Every time they met tempers burst. But Gabe drives to the Helton house. The house is on the mountainside, just out of town. When his truck slides into a ditch due to the ice accumulating, he hikes the rest of the way. Upon arriving, Gabe knows something is wrong. Two people with guns, obviously high on meth, show in the down stairs window. The upstairs window shows Lolly, preparing to escape.
Gabe and Lolly find themselves fleeing through the woods, on rough terrain, in the middle of a dangerous ice storm with two killers on their tail.
** TWO STARS! This novel is a small hardback with about two hundred pages. The price is steep for such a short book. The time frame of the story is only a day or two. I think it is pretty unrealistic to expect two people who hardly tolerated each other in the past and have not seen each other in fifteen years to suddenly fall in love almost over night. In my opinion, the chase scenes are thrilling, but the story is unbelievable and not well executed. **
Title - Falcon's Bend Case Files, Vol. 2
Authors: Karen Wiesner, Chris Spindler
Author: Annette Blair
Title - Larceny & Lace
(Vintage Magic Mystery #2)
Set in Mystick Falls (fictional town), Connecticut. Madeira "Maddie or Mad" Cutler is a former New York fashion designer. She now owns a huge building, compliments of her friend and centenarian Dolly Sweet. The building used to be the Underhill Funeral Chapel carriage house. In less than two weeks it will be reopening its doors as Mad's new business, Vintage Magic. It will be her dress shop for timeless classics and designer originals. Almost everything, including the decor, will be vintage. Events begin immediately. Less than an hour after the construction crew leaves, Maddie walks into her shop and hears an intruder upstairs. The thief gets away. The building's ghost, Dante, has no idea who it was except that it was male. Maddie is one of the few people who are able to see and speak with the handsome specter. Dante is a big help whenever Maddie finds herself in the middle of a mystery, such as this one.
After the second arson attempt claims the old playhouse (theater) across the street, Maddie returns to Vintage Magic and learns that her intruder had returned during her absence. The only things taken, though, were some old bones that had previously been wrapped in an old quilt and hidden in a body drawer. Detective Sergeant Lytton Werner is not pleased to find Maddie in the thick of things again. He has no idea that much of what Maddie learns comes from a ghost and from the visions she sometimes receives from touching vintage items. Her psychometric ability is one of the gifts Maddie inherited from her deceased mother. The bones make her shop a crime scene and Maddie begins to worry about the upcoming grand opening. Enter Aunt Fiona, the chairman of the White Star Circle of Spirit, Southeast Connecticut Chapter. Aunt Fiona is, as Maddie's mother was, a witch. Soon the grand opening is due for Halloween day, with a costume ball that evening sponsored by the Circle.
Maddie's days and nights become hectic as she deals with the grand opening, a publicity hound councilman, the councilman's trophy wife/town gossip columnist, the thirty-year-old murder of a woman named Isobel (the bones), the recent death of the playhouse owner, unwanted visions, a detective that hates and likes her (both at once), and a whole bunch of suspects (at least one of which wants her dead). It would be easier if Maddie's boyfriend, and FBI agent, was in town more often lately. But at least he can be reached (sometimes) via phone for research help.
It is up to a ghost, her best friend (Eve), and an irritatingly handsome detective to keep Maddie alive this time around.
***** FOUR AND A HALF STARS! This is the second Vintage Magic mystery. Though there is not as much danger this time, the mystery will still test your wits. The backgrounds of Maddie's friends and family members become more fleshed out as well. It is great to learn a bit more about Mad's father, aunt, and Eve. Looks like Maddie's FBI boyfriend may have some competition soon and romance just may be in her dad's future too. For those wanting to know more about Dante and Dolly, you will be pleased to see the pair interact. (Yes, Dolly can see Dante in the shop too.) And you simply HAVE to admit that a vintage shop owner with psychometric ability just oozes over with possibilities! I am SO ready for the next mystery! Brava! *****
Author: Annette Blair
Title - A Veiled Deception
(A Vintage Magic mystery, #1)
Madeira "Maddie" Cutler has years of experience working for a top New York fashion designer. Maddie takes time off to travel home to Mystick Falls, Connecticut. Her youngest sister, Sherry, is getting married and Maddie cannot wait to help her plan and organize the event. Upon entering the house, Maddie finds a small gathering consisting of Sherry, her fiancé, all the future in-laws, and Jasmine. Jasmine turns out to be Sherry's nemesis, who clearly believes herself to be better wife material than Sherry and is out to prove it.
Sherry's fiancé is Justin Vancortland (the Fifth). Though his name hints at his family's social and financial status, his attitude is anything but snobbish. Unfortunately his mother, Deborah (never Debbie), cannot say the same.
Before Maddie even has time to settle in for the night, she finds Jasmine strangled with Sherry's wedding veil. Sherry is Detective Sergeant Werner's prime suspect, of course. Maddie learns that she is able to work magic with vintage clothes. In more ways than one. Maddie always knew she (and a few others on her late mother's side) was able to see ghosts, but until now had no idea that she could touch a piece of vintage clothing and view the people once connected with it. The Vancortland Wedding Gown has plenty to reveal.
***** Annette Blair brings her characters to such vivid life that I could easily picture Deborah oozing snobbishness from every pore. (NOT a pretty picture, believe me.) The main character, Maddie, comes across as a very strong-willed and protective woman with her feet planted firmly on the ground. That is, unless Nick Jaconetti is close by. Before this adventure, Maddie never considered herself to be psychic. Occasionally seeing a ghost and keeping mute about it is one thing, but visions were new to Maddie, so readers get to experience the surrealness of it all with her. There are more people present in the gathering than I mentioned in the synopsis, but they seem to be secondary characters this time around. I have no doubt that the other men will play larger roles in the future.
The author gives this mystery her signature style by adding some magic. Maddie plans to renovate a certain old building and open a vintage clothing store. The building comes with its own ghost (this one able to talk) or two. Let us just say that Dante is very charming and gives very good advice. It looks to me as though this mystery series has a sturdy foundation upon which to build. Fun, witty, and highly recommended! *****
Author: Shobhan Bantwal
Title - The Sari Shop Widow
Anjali Kapadia is an Indian-American widow. Though she still dreams of someday marrying and having kids, those dreams are beginning to fade. In her ten years of widowhood, Anjali simply has not found someone she could fall in love with. Now nearing the age of forty, she has all but given up hope. Otherwise, Anjali feels fulfilled. She and her parents are in business together. They own a small upscale boutique in Little India (New Jersey) called Silk & Sapphires. Anjali is very artistic, very creative, and has designed the clothing in the shop. Her parents, though, have kept one thing quiet from Anjali. The shop is in the red. Unless they can turn things around quickly, they will lose the boutique.
Drastic measures have already been put into place. Anjali's father has requested help from his rich older brother, Jeevan. It has been five years since Anjali's uncle last visited from India. He may be a smart businessman, but his commanding ways, crazy demands, and overbearing character is too much for her or her mother to deal with. It becomes harder when Jeevan appears with enough luggage to show he plans a long stay. Jeevan also brought along, unannounced, his business partner from London, Rishi Shah. The handsome Brit specializes in saving failing businesses. Rishi and Jeevan have big plans to save the boutique. Part of that is buying fifty-one percent of Silk & Sapphires.
Can Anjali's uncle and the Londoner save her beloved shop? If so, will it no longer belong to her? And can Anjali and Rishi take a leap of faith with their hearts?
***** 4.5 STARS! This story is very rich in Desi culture. I found it to be extremely fascinating. My synopsis does not include the honorable endings (titles) to names, such as Jeevan-kaka, but I learned about them without even realizing it. The writing is well done and it was easy for me, who knew absolutely nothing about Desi culture, to understand each person's concerns. I came to care for the Kapadia family as if they were close friends. Shobhan Bantwal's writing style is smoother than Chai tea and her story is just as refreshing! *****
Author: Sarah Strohmeyer
Title - Sweet Love
Julie Mueller once loved Michael Slayton, but that was long ago, as a teenager. Now Julie is in her forties and the single mom of a teen. She is a television reporter for a station in Boston . Out of the blue, for Mother's Day, Julie receives three free dessert classes at The Famous Boston Cooking School (from her own mother). Julie did not really want to attend, but her mother guilts her into going. So Julie's next three Friday nights will be learning to make scrumptious desserts from Chef D'Ours.
Turns out there is more going on than Julie would have believed. Michael Slayton is a fellow student. Julie cannot help but wonder if her mother knew that at the time of purchase. Perhaps her mother is playing matchmaker. However, that would be odd since her mother is one of the main reasons they never got together so long ago. Also, six years ago, Julie did something that seems to have ruined Michael's career. There is no way Michael would ever forgive her for that.
Michael is the least of Julie's worries lately, though. Her mother is having dizzy spells lately and Julie is worried that something serious may be going on. Then there is work, where Julie is being considered for a position on the national election team. That would be a big step up. One thing is certain, Julie is about to make some tough choices and learn that when it comes to family, career, and dating, you should always follow your heart.
***** FIVE STARS! In my opinion, this is Sarah Strohmeyer's best book to date. There is a lot more going on that my synopsis mentions. I only hit the main items, but there are several secondary items happening and they quietly flow throughout the story. The best thing about this author's writing is that every single thing is believable, from the characters to the problems. The reader can easily identify with Julie. By the time you finish this gem, you may very well look at your mother in a totally new light. *****
Author: Alice Duncan
Title - Angel's Flight (Mercy Allcutt mystery #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. 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: Gary Turcotte
Title - Vigilante Witch Hunter
Melissa has the gift of fortune telling, as did her late mother. While on vacation she meets Karen. They become friends; however, Melissa tries to keep a distance between them because she knows Karen has no future. Keeping Karen ignorant of her impending doom, Melissa and her boyfriend, Richard, try to make Karen's remaining time happy. It turns out that Richard also has the gift. Unable to read each other, Melissa and Richard find themselves falling in love.
Richard knows Melissa is a nice woman, but he also knows about Stephen. Melissa often tells Stephen about evil people she comes across during her fortune telling. Stephen terminates these bad people, for the good of the world of course. Richard and Melissa wed. Richard is hired as a private stock investor. Problem is that the people he signs on with knows about his paranormal ability to pick the correct stocks to invest in and when to sell them. Richard and Melissa find themselves in deep trouble.
*** This is the sequel to "Memoirs of a Fortune Teller". It is obvious that the author has become better in his writing talent. The plot is much deeper, though it takes a long while to really begin. There is still not enough narration, in my opinion, and too much chatter. There are sub-plots as well, so the pace never slows down too much. There does not seem to be any editing and this caused me a problem more than a few times. But again, the author has improved in a major way and I do not doubt he will only get better. ***
Author: Danielle Steel
Title - One Day at a Time
Millions of readers have kept the prolific and multi-tasking Danielle Steel's books on best-sellers' lists for a record number of weeks. To be asked to review her most recent novel, “One Day at a Time,” is somewhat daunting, as it is anytime one reviews a work by any acclaimed author, because any negative observation from a reviewer, any reviewer, will be seen as the unqualified taking potshots at the successful. Still, it is our job to be as objective as possible, be the author a neophyte or a superstar. That disclaimer done, let's move to the book.
Enter the world of Colette “Coco” Barrington, a warm, self-confident, loving woman and, perhaps, one of the most educated dog walkers to be found. Unfortunately, her self-confidence doesn't extend to allow her to be forthright with her super-successful producer sister, Jane, or her equally successful author mother, Florence. Also, she's fighting ghosts from her past, including the fairly recent and violent death of her lover.
She wants absolutely nothing to do with the L.A. movie scene in which she was raised. Fate, however, dumps her into a sweet mess, literally. From this point on, her life is a series of rethinking her choices, because, as the title notes, we don't get second takes or do overs...life is a one day at a time affair, so one must live it that way. Will she learn to pay the prices that come with love? All relationships, not just hers, come with their prices, as Coco will learn. What will Coco choose?
***** I will make the same observation other critics have made regarding Ms. Steel's works: there is a level of redundancy and detail that grows tedious and detracts from the story (it was especially noticeable early in this novel)...it made me feel more like a detached observer, rather than being an active participant in the tale. Having read other of her writings, including her nonfiction (as a physician, I recommend folks dealing with recurrent familial mental illness read her book “His Bright Light”), I recognize this is not a onetime thing. However, the style obviously works for her and her fans, so I'll call it a stylistic quirk and not a flaw, as some critics do.
Life isn't like a chick flick (that's a plot teaser for you), but I'm an old romantic, and maybe life would be better if we tried a little harder to make life like a chick flick. Pick up a copy of Danielle Steel's “One Day at a Time” and use it to imagine how to make your own chick flick out of life. For her fans, you'll be delighted to get this latest addition to her collection. For a new reader of her work, you'll be pleased, too...if you have loved or still love. With “One Day at a Time” Danielle Steel scores another winner, but that's hardly news, is it. Avec mes compliments, Ms. Steel! *****
Author: JoAnn Ross
Title - Shattered (High Risk #3)
Army Night Stalker pilot Shane Garrett had once been the lover of Army doctor Kirby Campbell. Then came the day Shane survived a helicopter crash in Afghanistan that cost him his leg. Chances were Shane would have died, but by pure luck his teammates got him to Kirby's clinic. Afterward, sporting a new prosthetic leg (various types for various needs), Shane becomes a civilian and settles in to his new life in Somersett, South Carolina.
Kirby now works in the WMR clinic in Monteleón, Central America. Rebels storm the clinic and take Dr. Rachel Moore hostage. Rachel is not only the physician in charge of the WMR clinic, she is Kirby's good friend. Luckily those holding Rachel hostage does not know of her high political connections, but it is only a matter of time before they learn. Kirby had missed being captured only because he happened to be in D.C. testifying to a senate subcommittee. Kirby and the Phoenix Team, along with Zach Tremayne, Quinn McKade, and Shane, must quickly organize a rescue mission. (Deep, midnight black ops.)
**** This story reminded me that there are people out there, risking their lives, doing things my mind would shy away from even imagining, to keep me safe. I found myself humbled at the thought. I stated that so readers may understand how realistic JoAnn Ross made this dramatic story. It is obvious that the author has done A LOT of research, from various sources, in order to bring this installment of the High Risk series to life.
Not as much time is given to the romance of the main couple in the present tense. Instead, their time as lovers is told in the past tense, mostly toward the beginning of the book. It made the first few chapters seem choppy to me. But once Rachel is taken hostage the story takes flight at hyper speed. For those who have read the other books in the series, you will be delighted to know that Zach and Quinn are secondary characters. Seeing how they are doing made the story a little more believable for me. This author ROCKS! ****
Author: Melinda Wells
Title - Death Takes the Cake (#2 Della Cooks mystery)
Della Carmichael owns a little cooking school in Santa Monica, California, and stars in a new cable cooking show on the Better Living Channel. Mickey Jordan hires his son, Addison, as sort of a cable TV executive in charge of strategic planning. For publicity, Della reluctantly agrees to be one of the contestants in a televised cake competition. It is sponsored by Reggi-Mixx, a cake mix that is well known for leaving a bad taste in the mouth of anyone who actually dares to eat it. The contestants may only use the horrible mix as they strive to create the most delicious desert and claim the twenty-five thousand dollar prize.
To make matters a bit tense, the owner of Reggi-Mixx is Regina Davis, an old college nemesis. Della cannot help but wonder if Regina plans to seek revenge for something that happened between them over twenty years ago. At the same time, one of her two best friends is having husband problems and Della is unsure about her own current boyfriend. But when Della finds someone drowned in a mixing bowl of Reggi-Mixx, Della needs everyone's help...even though it looks as if one of the closest people around Della is a killer.
***** Author Melinda Wells shows how some people can hold a grudge forever in this mystery/police story. Though this is the second in the series, you do not have to read the first to fully enjoy this story. All the recipes mentioned in this tale are also included in the back of the book, just as those in the first story were. Personally, I think buying all the books for the recipes alone are well worth the price (and the mysteries are a very sweet bonus indeed!) Alas, readers buy mystery books for the actual mysteries. Who knew? Therefore, I am tickled pink to have enjoyed this story and proud to highly recommend it to all mystery lovers. This one will test your investigative skills! *****
Author: Joan Medlicott
Title - Promises of Change (Covington series)
In rural Covington, North Carolina, Hannah and Max marry, but maintain their separate houses although she spends many nights at his. Her two friends Grace and Amelia who share a farmhouse with Hannah are fine with the arrangement, as is Max.
However, their marital bliss abruptly ends when Max's estranged son Zachary accompanied by his pregnant wife Sarina, arrives from India. Hannah and her two best buddies welcome Sarina to the Tar Heel State with friendship and quickly the mother-daughter in-laws forge a strong bond while baby shopping in town together. However, the schism between their husbands remains wider than the Great Gorge even after Sarah is born, which dampens the joy of a newborn.
Fans of the Covington tales will enjoy the latest escapades as Hannah's new family issues take center stage although plenty happens to Grace and Amelia too. Hannah worries that the estrangement between her beloved husband and his son, which already huts the pair, will cause pain to others, but is unsure how to proceed to bringing about a reconciliation. Obviously for the Covington audience, this is a warm character driven entry; as all the novels are.
***** As usual, the ladies of Covington entertain us with their lively lives. It's fun to read about the extended families, but the ladies are special. I dread coming to end of the story. Joan's books are so refreshing.
I would like it much better if the author were allowed to keep the Covington name in the title of the book. She has written other books not in the series. The first book in the series, The Ladies of Covington Send Their Love, is a delight. The next several books in this series have Covington in their title. I also prefer hardbacks, and now they are coming out in softcover only. The quality of the paper is noticeably poor. The publishers are shortchanging the author and readers! *****
Author: Jordan Dane
Title - Evil Without A Face
Jessica "Jess" Beckett is a freelance bounty hunter. Whenever she runs across abusers, Jess gives them extra attention due to her horrifying past. One good thing came from that terrifying time though, Jess made friends with Samantha "Sam" Cooper. It was Sam that helped rescue Jess so long ago. Now Sam is Vice with Chicago P.D. Though they love each other as sisters, Jess still cannot bring herself to fully trust her friend. New to Jess's bounty hunting team is young Seth Harper. Even though Seth is not what he appears to be, Jess's instincts told her to hire him on-the-spot. The young man can blend into upper crust crowds as easily as the lower and he is a computer genius.
While Jess is giving some extra attention to a low life named Lucas Baker, she and Seth stumble upon an international organization, calling itself Globe Harvest, that barters in human lives. Striking a major nerve from her past, Jess is unable to stop herself from going after Globe Harvest.
Payton Archer is a former pro football player. His sister, Susannah, and his seventeen-year-old niece, Nikki, are his reasons for living. So when Susannah frantically calls him and says that Nikki has disappeared, Payton charges into action. The leads take him out of state (from Alaska) and all the way to Chicago. The main players come together and only by joining forces do any of them have a chance of locating Nikki and possibly getting a foothold into Globe Harvest.
***** This one hits all parents with one of their worst nightmares, their child disappearing. The most chilling part of this story is that such organizations and their actions DO exist. Jordan Dane paints a grizzly plot with such realistic characters that they seem to jump off the pages. Repulsively addicting! *****
Author: Tracy B. Evans
Title - Fatal Kidnapping
Headstown is a small city. Including the children the population count is about thirteen hundred. This is where Katie Stone has lived all her life. As the story opens, Katie has disappeared. Her father, Jed, and her fiancé, Caleb Bass, are searching for her. No one has seen Katie since she left work to go meet Caleb for a dinner date. Her car is found abandoned in the parking lot of the local grocery store. The entire town pulls together and turns the area upside down searching for Katie to no avail. But on the third day, Sheriff Jake Day finds her in an old shed on the outskirts of town.
Once back in town, Katie begins telling her story. However, before she can tell Sheriff Day who had kidnapped and why, he needs to hear the entire story that led up to it. It all began when she was around ten-years-old.
*** The three days of Katie's disappearance and then being found only covers the first forty pages. A majority of the book is Katie's life from ages ten to twenty-two. I admit the girl had a rough life but I, as the reader, never felt a connection with the character of Katie.
The plot line and the unexpected twist at the end are brilliant! I never saw the twist coming. But near the beginning, as the search begins and up until Katie begins telling what happened to her, many things are repeated. The characters keep each other informed as they try to pin point exactly when Katie went missing, as well as during the search. Yet as the reader, I got tired of hearing the same thing over and over. This problem goes away once Katie begins telling her story. There are editing problems, but I managed to ignore most of them.
All-in-all, this is a decent debut novel for the author. I am not crazy about the writing style or the characters, but the plot is excellent. ***
Title - Melody
Melody Cruz and Sarah Johnson are sisters, but do not look related. Their mother was Latino and their father was Caucasian. The parents died while the sisters were little. Mel's looks and colorings favor their Latino heritage, while Sarah's favor the Caucasian. An uncle raised Sarah. Due to her steady upbringing, Sarah has grown up to be strong, confident, and successful. An aunt raised Melody. Due to the aunt slipping into depression and ultimately snapping, Melody's childhood was hard and she has grown up to be sensitive and self-conscious.
The sisters may have grown up separately, but the love they feel for each other is strong. As the story begins, Melody is temporarily living in Sarah's house and looking for work. Keith Taylor has been Sarah's boyfriend for only a couple of months, yet already has been granted a key to the place. Melody has never liked any of the men Sarah has dated, but Keith is by far the creepiest. Whenever Sarah is not around, Keith does things that make Mel feel uncomfortable. That escalates to near assault and verbal harassment. Sarah refuses to believe Mel.
Lucas Lawson has never forgotten Melody. His wealth may not impress the lady, but at least he has convinced her to actually begin dating him. His father, the CEO of the advertising firm named Caper Enterprises, hires Melody as an office assistant. It is a dream come true for Melody. The downside is that Keith works there too and the CEO obviously likes the man. Melody feels as though she is in a Catch 22.
Detectives Brianna Morris and Steven Kemp were romantic at one point, but now consider themselves as close friends, as well as, partners. At least, Bree did. Steven wants to be more, but Bree is keeping her distance. The two have been working for months to capture a serial rapist known as the "Albany Predator". He targets black women and usually commits the crime in the victim's own home. None of the victims have been able to give a solid lead. When Melody is convinced that her best friend is the rapist's next target, the two detectives are placed on the case. Bree has already had one close call with the maniac and hopes to get a second chance at putting the felon behind bars.
**** It is not often that I get my hands on a book with more than one romance blooming. Not only is this story juggling multiple biracial romances, but it is also throwing in some danger and excitement to keep readers glued to their seats. I found it very difficult to stop reading even briefly. The character of Melody comes across as too soft at first, but it does not take her long to prove that she has a backbone. It does not matter if you are red, yellow, black, or white, if you are looking for a lot of action and some dreamy romance then this book is for you! I loved every minute and am proud to recommend this story to all! ****
Author: Gemma Halliday
Title - Mayhem in High Heels
(A Maddie Springer mystery)
L.A.P.D. Homicide Detective Jack Ramirez has a romantic side hidden somewhere within him. He took Maddie Springer to Paris and popped the question! Maddie knew that all the wedding preparations were going to give her some headaches, but little did Maddie know that those headaches would soon turn into migraines! Maddie got the perfect wedding planner, Gigi Van Doren, to handle all the little things that come with weddings. But Maddie's mother keeps trying to add a couple of extra hundred people to the guest list, people Maddie has not seen or heard from in over ten or twenty years! Finally, Maddie and Jack show up to take the final taste test on what was to be their wedding cake. However, they walked into the Beverly Hills wedding studio to find Gigi dead, the knife still in her back, and face down in the butter cream frosting.
Maddie's friends, Dana and Marco, take over all wedding preparations. But with Jack handling the murder case, Maddie knows that she would be lucky if he even remembered to show up for their wedding. The only thing to do is solve the case before their wedding day! Time for Maddie, Dana, and Marco to play Charlie's Angels again.
***** I have grown to love the Maddie Springer mystery series. As with all the mysteries before, this one is filled with lots of humor while still keeping the reader's attention on solving the case. I found myself laughing aloud at the most unexpected times. Full of spite fire, humor, and sass, this mystery will keep your eyes glued to the pages. *****
Author: Jordan Dane
Title - No one Live Forever
Publishers is a lush suspense and romance novel based mostly in Brazil. The local people are colorful, the descriptions of the rainforest, while not that plentiful, are gorgeous. While I am a purveyor of romance/suspense novels that star supernatural or paranormal characters, this one has a few surprises in store that really make it a good read. And this book leaves the reader with more questions than answers, almost a must in a good suspense novel.
We start off with the kidnapping of one of the books protagonists - or antagonists depending on your point of view - Nicholas Charboneau. Local entrepreneurs in the American kidnapping business break into their hotel room. I say their because he is staying with his head of security and unrequited love of his life Jasmine. Jasmine's feelings previous to this have been unrequited probably due to the fact she was a paid assassin at one time who is now in the employ of a drug crime lord, Nicholas. During the initial fight scene Nicholas thinks in chess move terms adding a logical twist to this otherwise visceral scene. The kidnappers sweep Nicholas away and Jasmine is left to find the financial backing for the ransom demand. She runs to the American Consulate, the federal bureaus of mucky muck, to no avail. Her alternatives are slim, so she goes to the only place she can think of - Nicholas's illegitimate son Christian Delacorte.
Christian has recently had many upheavals in his life, he moved from the fancy Dunhill estate in North Chicago to Chicago's loop, literally up town to down town. He also quit his job as head of security at Dunhill Corporation and began his own security business. Christian recently found out who his real mother is, Fiona Dunhill. As a nice piece of foreshadowing, Christian feels anxious and as if there is an impending doom as he looks at the picture of his mother. To add a sidecar of drama to the interplay of relationships, Christian is unaware of his paternal relationship with Nicholas, adding another layer to this suspenseful tale. Not only is Christian tied to Nicholas, but previously Jasmine saved Christian's life, so he owes her big time. This could be related to the mysterious incident which happened when Christian was 10. Because of this occurrence, he cannot sleep with the lights out. Additionally Jasmine has a shady past of being a killer for hire. Although these exciting footnotes to the plot line were mentioned in passing, a flashback or two may have been especially exciting to add to the dramatic interplay between these two characters. From the introduction of Jasmine in Christian's apartment, it seems there is some sort of sexual tension between them, which considering if Nicholas lives and marries Jasmine, she would then be Nicholas's step mother. This makes me wonder if this author has seen the movie "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure". Eww. Later in the book, this sexual tension raises again at an opportune moment, causing a very interesting twist.
Through all the upheaval and drama in his life recently, Christian Delacorte has Raven Mackenzie to keep him balanced. His love for her is powerful. She loves him so completely, it scares her - a nice bit of information which pulled me further into the book as I understand that feeling, as do many women. Jasmine Lee confronts Christian Delacorte with the painful knowledge that Nicholas Charboneau is his real father. At the same time she begs for his assistance in getting 'Nicky' back safely from the kidnappers. Christian must check things out for himself, which consists of several steps. The most dramatic being meeting with his biological mother Fiona Dunhill, currently serving jail time for her confessed involvement in her husband's murder. From there Christian makes the decision to ultimately follow Jasmine to Brazil to solve the mystery and finally confront his biological father.
*** I have some problems with the book. Why are there all these upheavals in Christian's life at the same time? He leaves his old job, found out who his biological mother is, starts a new business, moves into a new place. These things all happening at the same time in the recent past make me wonder why didn't we have an explanation of those occurrences. I for one think those things would be interesting to read about, as a character in chaos is usually a good read. In my opinion, the plot twists are predictable, the romances boring and the sex scenes are nauseating. I have read my fair share of romance novels. I don't believe in any of them was there a sex scene that had the actual orgasmic expression in conversation. To reference 'Dogma', humans look grotesque during copulation and the sounds made during that time are typically unattractive to anyone other than the person (or persons) actively involved in that sex act. Why would you want to immortalize "aaahhhh!"? What reader is more enlightened upon reading this scintillating conversation? Does this conversation move the plot forward in any way other than to notate to the reader that the characters have indeed gotten off? I say no, but perhaps there are some readers out there who would appreciate this heat of the moment exclamation of joy. Jasmine's story that she went to the local police, the American Consulate and the State Department and no one would help seems a bit contrived and hints at a far larger conspiracy than is exposed in the novel. She additionally states she cannot go to Nicholas Charboneau's lawyers as his lawyer and his crime syndicate in Chicago could be involved with the kidnapping in Brazil. Or they could believe Jasmine was involved in his kidnapping and have her killed. This is slightly similar to the plot in the 'Ironman' movie, but I am sure that similarity is coincidence only. I have to think that organized crime doesn't work in that disorganized of a manner to kill Jasmine before a connection between her and the kidnapping is proved, but this is a topic I have no knowledge of other than perhaps the movie 'Goodfellows'. In one chapter Christian Delacorte states his biological father John Delacorte sacrificed his life for him years ago. A few chapters later he goes to visit his mother who is doing jail time for admitting she killed Charles Dunhill to save her 10 year old son from his rage years ago. That leads to more confusion on the plot and the time line of what happened when; like when did Christian find out Fiona Dunhill was his real mother? Why did he live with another family? Was he given up for adoption? Why would Fiona Dunhill, who is impressively rich, adopt out her child? What terrible tragedy had befallen him to make him hate the darkness of night? Did Charles Dunhill hire assassins to kill him and instead killed the entire Delacorte family, including John Delacorte? Is this how John Delacorte sacrificed his life for Christian? Again there seems to be a lack of information here, as well as a lack of reason and logic behind the actions which I can only guess at since the plot never expanded on these burning questions. These points, once expanded would have told a lot about the characters involved. Again the use of some flashbacks to elaborate on these plot points could have helped the book develop as well as increase character drama interplay. But for those readers who like to have many questions unanswered - as usually happens in a suspense novel - then this book certainly fits the bill.
Another problem I have with the plot is that there is an invented romance at the end of the novel, between two of the more colorful Brazilian characters. This plot line was never hinted at before, there was no foreshadowing and it coming out of nowhere is just a little contrived and trite. Or perhaps since everyone just went through such harrowing adventures, risking life and limb - they see through different eyes a world full of potential lovers. Having never been through that sort of experience, I wouldn't know if that would be my reaction or not. But as a reader this left me with a bad taste in my mouth at the end of a book which already puzzled me in an infuriating manner, worse than a Rubik cube in the 1980s. Which means, I threw this book across the room on at least 3 occasions. I give this book a 3 out of 5 stars for its complex relationships and beautiful descriptions of an exotic and culturally rich land I would someday love to explore. The plot line of the kidnapping and the reasons behind it is inventive and would satisfy any reader's need for a suspense novel. But don't look for all your questions to be answered in this one book. I look forward to this author writing more on these characters to explain these crucial plot line hooks. Jordan Dane definitely caught me as a new reader in her web of suspense, thrills and romantic drama. ***
Author: Susan Wittig Albert
Title - Tale of Briar Bank
Escaping the social and family demands of the Christmas season, Beatrix Potter heads to her refuge in the country, only to be snowed in just in time to solve some mysteries involving arson, murder, and lost treasures. If she could only ask the animals, she'd find her solution much faster. The badger, owl, cats, hedgehogs, and dogs are on the case as well and have plenty to say on this and all other subjects.
**** This is an utterly charming discovery. Told in a style that somewhat reminds me of the way to classic Pooh Bear books are narrated, the story is detail rich and filled with talking animals, even a kindly dragon. Even if you are not mystery fans, it is so ingenuous that you really must read it. ****
Author: Carol Alt
Title - This Year's Model
Melody Ann (Mac) Croft is spotted by a talent agent who says she has what it takes to be a model, so she throws caution to the wind and heads off to pursue a new dream. Once she gets involved in the catwalk world, she finds it to be very different from the glamorous, Erica Kane visions she might have had. Her healthy build is considered too large, her standards have to be set aside, and betrayal is around every corner.
*** Though not a light, easy read, it is a very good cautionary tale for any young woman considering daring the hazards of that life. It's not great literature, but does have a message. ***
Author: Clare O'Donohue
Title - Lover's Knot
Shortly after being jilted by her fiancé, Nell takes refuge with her grandmother who subsequently suffers a nasty fall. Nell therefore decides to stay a while longer and take over the reins of the quilt shop the elderly lady runs. As she makes a fresh start in the small town, Nell catches the eye of a local flirtatious handyman, but then, her former boyfriend shows up and the two men brawl. It is not long until the flirt turns up dead, and of course, Nell's ex, who wants to be taken back, is the main suspect. Even though she's still hurt and has gained a new romantic interest in the form of the town sheriff, Nell works to prove him innocent and to find out who the real killer is. The truth will prove to be as complex as a quilt.
*** This multi-layered, warm hearted story will appeal not only to mystery fans, but to anyone who loves a good story. The romantic aspects outweigh the sleuthing angle easily, but the two are skillfully intertwined and essential to one another. This is a fantastic debut. ***
Author: Max Allan Collins
Title - Bones Buried Deep
To help Boothe solve a mob related case, Tempe Brennan (Bones) heads to Chicago. She quickly realizes that the skeleton he has found is pieced together from many victims and that there is more to the case that first meets the eye. Even when a suspect is arrested, Bones is sure that the case is far from solved, and she's right. Diving into a complex maze of mafia politics and red herrings, she and Boothe tackle one where the bad guys will win, no matter who loses.
*** This reads like good fan fiction. Neither Bones nor Boothe is completely true to character, but it is fascinating to see inside their heads and realize they are aware of the romantic potential and its tension. That will appeal to those of us who wait for them to act on it, and if you love the show, this is a worthy add to your shelf, but it's not Kathy Reichs. ***
Author: Margaret Grace
Title - Mayhem in Miniature (Mystery)
Retired librarian Geraldine Porter is trying to enjoy her visit with her granddaughter and solve a mystery as Christmas approaches. Strange disappearances and unusual deaths are plaguing a retirement home, and it is up to her to find out why and who is doing it. In the process, she hopes to clear the name of one of her elderly students, but what she uncovers is so sinister that it might prove to be her last case, as someone is willing to spill a big amount of blood to keep their secrets hidden.
*** Charming and witty, this cozy mystery is enhanced by characters who genuinely care for each other and make you care about them as well. It feels homey and comforting, even as the action heats up. ***
Author: Charlaine Harris
Title - Dead Over Heels
A body falling out of the sky heralds a new mystery for Aurora Teagarden as she wrestles with personal issues. As it turns out, the killing might be very personal. Strange gifts begin to appear, one of her former lovers is slain, and the best suspect in the death is her own bodyguard. As all this is going on, domestic issues head towards a crisis point as her bodyguard, Angel's, husband frets over the legitimacy of his wife's pregnancy and Roe faces temptation to stray from her own marriage.
*** The tangled relationships and complex history contained in this story make it a touch difficult for the new reader to dive into the series. However, it is this complexity that should make it a winner for long time fans as they revisit beloved friends while solving a puzzler. ***
Author: Tina Czarnota
Title - Deadwaiter (Mystery)
After surviving the disaster of murder when the inn was brand new, the Tudor Grove Inn still operates. (Of course, they still get crank calls for Murder Grove Inn though.) Now the inn is undergoing renovations. Trina and Mae are the main owners. These characters were named Katrina and Song in the first book "County Inn, Dead & Breakfast.) Trina has visions of a cheery fire during the winter - if the fireplace finally passes inspection.
Bruce is Mae's son and Trina's boyfriend. He is doing most of the renovation work with help of Shorty, a local. When their work reveals a dumbwaiter that had been walled up, the residents of Tudor Grove know that the media would soon descend upon them all over again. Yet this would not happen until Lieutenant Klonski completed his part in their newest problem. Within the shaft is what appears to be two skeletons and they have obviously been entombed for many years.
Trina believes that by investigating the original owners of the house, she may be able to figure out the murder mystery; however, Trina is short on time these days. Rhiannon, Trina's friend, and her historian husband, Randolph, arrive and check in as guests. Kim, Trina's niece, wants to move back in with plans to be the inn's hair "technician" (stylist). And then there is the Alexandra Turest, who keeps waiting for her husband to show up. How could anyone possibly find any time to look into the inn's history for clues?
***** I give this book a solid 4.5 stars. I subtracted half of one star due to the typos that I kept noticing during the second half of the book. (It was mostly missing quotation marks.) Other than this, the story is fantastic. I have always wondered what people meant when they spoke of a "cozy mystery". Now I believe I understand. In this mystery there is much more going on than simply finding out the name of the deceased. The author, Tina Czarnota, gives readers the feeling of reality by showing that life goes on. The inn's guests must be cared for, the business must be run, and time is spent with friends. I found myself sinking into Trina's life and actually slowed down my reading speed so I could thoroughly enjoy all the little dramas being played out before me. My thoughts on the over-all story is that I found it to be blissfully intriguing! *****
Author: Dennis Lehane
Title - Any Given Day
The lives of two very different men, a hereditary policeman and a fugitive from the law come together in this sweeping epic of Post WWI America. Luther killed a man and fled to Boston where he finds himself working for Danny Coughlin's family and becoming part of the young man's life. Between loving his brother's fiancé and being involved in an undercover operation that makes him question everything he believed in or wants, Danny is facing some serious issues, on a level with those Luther wrestles with. Both men are heading towards a confrontation with destiny that will force them to make life altering choices, even as the nation itself faces events that will shake it to the core.
**** Reality and fiction collide and form a stunning blend of history and fiction. The birth of the NAACP, the fledgling stirrings of unionization, crime, baseball, and simple humanity present a powerful story that will amaze you. ****
Author: Anne Rivers Siddon
Title - Off Season
Widowed too soon, Lily seeks refuge at her family's vacation home and in the past. Spending a summer lost in memories, she reflects on the events that lead to this day, over the dreams she once had and those which were ceded and those which came true. Looking back, she finds that not all things were as good as she had painted in her mind, but her amazing discoveries help her make peace and look to the future.
*** If you are coping with grief, fresh or lingering, it is debatable whether or not you need to share Lily's odyssey. It rings so true to life that you will, perhaps, only be opening or deepening wounds. With a leisurely pace that can be soporific, the saga is spun out, drawing fans of the genre in with deft skill. Ms. Siddon takes the time to paint vivid word pictures that will live clearly in your mind. ***
Authors: Jim & Joyce LaVenne
Title - Wicked Weaves (Mystery)
In olden times, apprentices were probably called on to do some fairly unusual things for their masters, and thus it is so in a Ren Faire village that aims to be true to the life of the Renaissance era. However, it is certain that very few of the apprentices ever had to do what doctoral candidate Jessie Morton has to for her master; namely, clear basket weaver Mary Shift of murdering her husband and keep from being the killer's next victim herself. The usually fun to be in stage/village is suddenly a sinister one, where secrets lurk around every corner and each revelation makes the scene more complex.
*** With an intriguing setting and a plethora of fun facts, the ever deservedly popular LaVennes begin a new series that will capture the imaginations of their readers, old and new. Trivia, recipes, and quirky characters make for an engaging, witty read, proving once again why it's no mystery that this team is aces in the sleuth department. ***
Author: Matthew Kneale
Title - When We were Romans
When his somewhat dim mother, Hannah, becomes convinced their father is stalking the family, Laurence finds himself moving with her and his little sister, Jemina to Rome, a place that once provided happiness for his mum and does so now for the entire family. Then, there father arrives and things radically change, but not in the way expected.
*** If grammar, spelling, and punctuation matter to you, this book may drive you insane. Told in a child's voice, all three leave much to be desired. Filtered through Laurence's young perceptions, the entire situation only makes sense at the end of the tale, and even then, not completely. However, the author is to be commended for perfectly capturing how his narrator might have perceived the events. It is also noteworthy that the text is replete with casually related history which is interesting enough to make up for some of the linguistic flaws. ***
Author: Sherrill Bodine
Title - Talk of the Town
When the paper at which she works is bought by a new owner, Rebecca Covington finds herself aged forty five and out of a job, at least until she can convince her boss to keep her on, but not as the society tattler, but as the resident recipe maven. Granted, Rebecca's cooking acumen is knowing how to make reservations, but she's determined not to fail, and in fact, succeeds, by adding witty, albeit somewhat catty, anecdotes at the end of her recipes. Then, she meets the new owner and a sizzle begins that has nothing to do with bacon frying. But, does she want him because he's hot as habanera pepper or is sleeping with David Summer a means to an end?
*** For a fun read about a woman's comeback over adversity and with a credible older heroine this is your book. If you love to cook, it's a twice over treat as it is replete with recipes for everything from soup to decadent desserts. Rebecca is an older than your average leading lady in a romance, but fortunately, readers are not bogged down with pages and pages of woe is me, I'm past thirty blues. Moreover, Ms. Bodine makes the story sexy without being graphic, proving she has even more skill with words than the people she has created. ***
Author: Richard Stevenson
Title - Death Vows (A Donald Strachey mystery)
Private Investigator Donald Strachey works out of Albany, New York. However, this case takes him to the Berkshires in Massachusetts. Bill Moore and his fiancé, Barry Fields, are due to wed later in the month. A couple of his friends, Jim Sturdivant and Steven Gaudios, hire Donald to do a back ground check on Fields to see if he were shady. Turns out that Bill and Barry both have zero in the history department before six years ago. Neither will speak about their pasts either.
Donald drops the case when he learns that Jim and Steven are not friends of Bill Moore's at all. Quite the opposite, in fact. For Don, the whole mess would have been over except that Jim turns up dead, less than one day after Barry assaulted him in a grocery store with a cheese wheel and said some pretty threatening things. Of course, Barry Fields is the prime suspect due to this. The D.A. of Berkshire County sees this to be a simply open and shut case. The last thing he wants is anyone messing up the facts, as he sees them. Reelection is coming up, after all.
Bill hires Don to prove Barry is innocent. Problem is that neither Bill, nor Barry, will give up anything about their past lives. Worse, Jim's death looks like a mob-hit. The more digging Don does, the messier things become; and violence soon winds up at Don's door.
**** Just about every character in this story has same sex relationships. (I state it that way so web filters will not block my site.) So if you have strong feelings against such, do not read this book. Heck, do not read any book in the Donald Strachey series. If this does not bother you, then you are going to totally enjoy this read! As I read the story, I got the feeling of watching, one of those old classic black-and-white P.I. flicks. Same flavor, same type of twisty mystery, and a lot of fun. The main character, Donald, is pretty intelligent, but can be very sarcastic while keeping a straight poker face. I believe everyone knows someone who fits this description and that makes the story even more plausible. A witty who-dunnit that will keep you guessing until the very end. Stellar! ****
Author: John Stevens
Title - Uncommon Valor
*** Have you ever wondered how the other side saw the struggle for American freedom back in the Revolutionary Days? If you have seen 1776, you know that it was not all Americans who wanted independence from Britain. There were many who wished to stay loyal to the Empire. In this massive and detailed epic, we are introduced to two of them, the Sinclair's and the Masons. The two are linked by more than Loyalist leanings; Sinclair is in love with Tara, the sister of William Mason. Amid the throes of war and at a time when families are divided by politics, these two brave men show us that not all heroes fought with George Washington. The passions on the enemy side were as deeply felt and compelling as our own. Mr. Stevens brings home the fact that the Redcoats were people too, in this dramatically moving saga. ***
Author: Tod Goldberg
Title - Burn Notice: The Fix
Ever since getting "burned" Michael Weston's been making do on odd jobs, but the former FBI agent is no handy man. His odd jobs involve getting shot at, beaten up, solving mysteries, and other assorted risks getting people out of trouble. The latest case involves finding out where a wealthy woman's lover who claims to be nothing short of an action hero, essentially, has vanished to, with her money. That's trouble enough, but then things get truly complex when it is clear his employer has other secrets and a woman from the past appears with information that could solve Michael's main worry, finding out who burned him and why.
**** If you love the series, the book reads just like an episode. Michael's dry narration provides great humor in addition to the almost constant action. Lighter moments come from his conversations with his mother, and there are handy self defense tips included that might be useful. All in all, this is a fun read for any fan, and could win new ones. ****
Author: Jacqueline D'Acre
Title - Foreclosure
When a prize horse is framed for murder, it is up to Bryn to save the lovely animal from certain death. She knows in her heart that Lightening Strikes Once did not trample her friend, but proving it when all evidence points to that conclusion will prove both problematic and dangerous. If she does not want an injustice to happen, a killer to go free, and for her own life to end, she will have to discover who really did the deed. And before the last page is turned, Bryn may have to confront her own fears.
*** Both easy to read and informative as well as entertaining, this story does all a good mystery is supposed to do. Readers will have their knowledge base expanded and get to stretch their minds as they probe this puzzler. It's a must read for anyone who loves horses, too. ***
Author: D.C. Paul
Title - Go Girl Friday
After layoffs end her job at a bank, Sara finds herself looking for work futilely until a friend posts a girl Friday ad for her on a bulletin board. Instantly, she is a celebrity and has offers, some rather shady, flooding in. The job she finally takes is a good, albeit unusual one. Then,she begins a sideline, sleuthing, and that bit of moonlighting could prove to be the last career move she makes.
**** Though the story would have been stronger if the mystery angle had begun a little sooner, the plotline prior to its introduction provides valuable background information and good character development for a potential series. Breezy and fun, this is an easy to read novel, one that will have you asking for more of Sara's adventures. Though initially, I must admit to qualms from the fact that its from a very small press, which usually bodes ill for the reader, all my fears proved baseless. If a larger publisher wants to catch something good, they'll snag this. In the meantime, readers can enjoy. ****
Author: Kathleen Tessaro
Title - The Flirt
It sounded like an easy job to Hughe Venables Smythe, to flirt with married women who were down on themselves and restore their ego a bit so that they could be more confident in their relationships. Simple, right? Of course, he was wrong. Though initially a cake job, it turned into something more complex when real love entered his life in the form of an older, single woman who has no desire for permanence or for Hughie, apparently. None of his professional skills or the revelations shown to him in his role as the flirt seem to work, but there are surprises ahead.
*** With the dry wit that makes the silly seem serious at times, the author makes a pointed commentary on love and relationships in this fine example of the genre. If you like Chick lit, you will not find a better example. ***
Author: Jill Pitkeathly
Title - Cassandra and Jane
*** Much information about Jane Austen was lost because her sister burned her letters. In this book that is both well researched and imaginative, the author speaks for Cassandra Austen, Jane's beloved sister, recounting their lives from childhood through the time after Jane's death. Romances, hardships, dreams, ambitions and every detail in between are envisioned in such detail that you can almost believe you are actually peeking into the real memoirs of the great lady's sister. This is a must for Jane Austen fanatics. ***
Author: Lee Goldberg
Title - Mr. Monk Goes To Germany
Though you would never expect it to happen, Monk has decided to take a trip to Germany. Dr. Kroger has gone there and Monk just cannot survive without his shrink, so, thoroughly drugged to survive the flight, Monk heads to Europe, Natalie in tow. However, it's not long before he gets into trouble, first seeing the man who might have had his wife killed and then discovering that there is a present day crime that needs the Monk touch.
*** Danger and laughs blend together in this novel that reads exactly like watching an episode. All of Monk's phobias and quirks are brought to vivid life. I dare you not to laugh your way through it as you solve the puzzle along with Monk and sympathize with Natalie's struggle to keep track of her boss. ***
Author: Wendy Markham
Title - That's Amore
Being suddenly plagued by the vision of an old man's ghost brings psychic Daria into contact with Ralphie Chickilini, a man struggling to deal with the aftereffects of his father's death. Suddenly, his world is changing as his family restaurant faces a revamping, his family home may no longer be his, and he is less than certain he wants to marry the woman to whom he is engaged. Daria entering his life only makes things more complex as he finds himself attracted to her, though she is only meant to be passing through his life. She hates being settled, he longs for roots, not wings. She sees dead people, he does not believe in that, even if it is his dad haunting her. Can two such different people ever be a pair?
*** Written in the present tense, this book would have been vastly improved if it had been written in third person past tense. My mind kept trying to correct that. However, this is a highly amusing, somewhat reminiscent of Ghost Whisperer but with laughs, story. If you enjoy spooks and laughing, you'll like this, tense notwithstanding. ***
Author: Janet Evanovich
Title - Fearless Fourteen
Stephanie Plum lives in perpetually interesting times, such as now. One of her latest skips won't go into court unless Steph will pick up her kid from school. Since the mama does not get bonded out but has to stay in jail, that means Stephanie and Morelli get custody of the kid who is at the very least, his cousin. Given that this is not a sweet child but a graffiti artist with pre-criminal tendencies, it proves to be a challenge. For one thing, he can get Grandma Mazur into even deeper trouble than she can get into on her own. Then, there's Lula's romance with Tank that has taken a twist that no one could have seen coming, and that will cause even Ranger problems. On that subject, Ranger needs Stephanie to help bodyguard a diva in town to give a concert. What he might mean is he needs Stephanie to guard his body, since said diva has designs on it, as does every woman with half a brain. There's also a treasure hunt, a hostage situation, things blowing up, a stalker, and Mooner getting a gig as Joe's home security system.
***** Have you had a rough week or day. Then this is exactly what you need, trust me. Having had the week from down below, picking up this book brought new sunshine to my mind and if you have any sense of humor at all, then it will do wonders for you as well. There's fun on every page, such that it does not even matter how the mystery turns out. It is enough to just experience these delightful people again. *****
Author: Debbie Macomber
Title - Cedar Cove Christmas
Although her baby's father is supposed to be in Cedar Cove at Christmas time, Mary Jo discovers he is not, meaning she's a stranger alone with nothing in town at the holidays. Fortunately, Cedar Cove is the kind of old fashioned town that helps others and she soon finds herself taken into the warm embrace of the Harding family. Ironically, she finds herself in a spare room over the stable and in labor on Christmas Eve night. She is even visited by three Wyse men, her brothers, but most special of all is the way she brings hope and promises of a better future of one certain young man.
*** Warmth and love pervade every page of this sweet story that brings to mind the true spirit of Christmas and a cozy feeling in your heart. Christmas almost requires a Debbie Macomber novel, and this one does not fail the readers in any respect. ***
Author: J.M.C. Blair
Title - The Excalibur Murders
The "peace" of Camelot is shattered when first one squire, then his twin brother is murdered and both the legendary sword and the stone vanish. With jealousy, greed, and ambition running high, it will be a dangerous challenge for any sleuth to investigate the matter and there is no shortage of suspects. Fortunately, though Merlin has no magical powers, he is as brilliant as Sherlock and ably assisted by Nimue as he delves into the motives and clues presented to him and tries to keep Arthur from being the ultimate victim.
**** This is not your standard version of Camelot, though it is likely truer to the facts than the traditional. No love is lost between the King and his queen, but Lancelot is not nearly as noble either. Politics and sheer conflicting personalities make this a much more complicated land than the fairy tale images we usually see, but it's also a fascinating vision. I frankly loved this book and want to read more of the author and the series. ****
Author: Melinda Wells
Title - Killer Mousse
(Della cooks mystery #1)
Della Carmichael owns a small cooking school in Santa Monica, California, and is just beginning a new cable cooking show on the Better Living channel. Della is different from most people she knows. Her late husband, Mack, was a LAPD detective (died two years ago), her mother and sisters are all accountants, her close family friend, John O'Hara, is LAPD and his wife, Shannon, has mental problems... You get the idea. The only friend Della has who could possibly understand her love of the culinary arts is Eileen O'Hara. Eileen is John's daughter and is not only Della's houseguest, but also her cooking school assistant.
Now that Della has a cooking show she is surrounded by many more people, but not all of them are nice. Mimi Bond's cooking show has been canceled and Della's cooking show is the one replacing it. Needless-to-say, Mimi is NOT a fan of Della's. Still, Mimi is the one chosen to be the taster at the end of Della's first show, which goes out live! Mimi ends up dying after taste testing Della's mousse, in front of a national audience.
Detective Emil Hall has Della listed high on his suspect list. John is pulled in to work with Hall and cannot guarantee Della that she will not end up in prison. Phil Logan, head of publicity for the Better Living Channel, has Della spending a week with a crime reporter for the Chronicle named Nicholas D'Marino "NDM", who will (hopefully) help Della solve the crime. A second person soon ends up dead and Della is, once more, the main suspect.
Della must get through several unrehearsed show tapings and solve the two murders quickly - or her next show may be from behind bars.
**** This is the first of the Della Cooks mysteries. The author did a terrific job introducing all the characters that will often appear in the series and none of them came across to me as false. That is not an easy thing for an author to accomplish. BRAVA! A few continuously running sub-plots have been planted as well. It will be interesting to see where they lead. For readers who enjoy the culinary arts, the recipes used in the book are written out in the back. That makes this book even more than worth the money. Engaging characters, an intriguing mystery, and suspects galore make this title a winner! ****
Author: Meg Cabot
Title - Queen of Babble Gets Hitched
Life seems to be on a perfect cycle for Lizzie; she's engaged to a real Mr. Perfect who is even semi royal, she has a business she loves, and has a high profile client who could set her for life. Why is she miserable then? If she does not have reason to be when the story picks up, she will very soon. She is not in love with Luke, aka Mr. Perfect Prince. Not only that, but their relationship is mostly long distance and she is in love with his best friend who wants nothing to do with marriage, though he does love her. She also has hives, gets terrible professional news, and may lose her home as a result. Can things get worse?
**** Meg Cabot can be counted on for fun with her fresh, frank voice that tells things like they are and makes imperfect heroines into princesses, with or sans crown. By the time the story ends, you'll be smiling for sure. ****
Author: Peggy Ehrhart
Title - Sweet Man is Gone
Though Jimmy Nashville's tragic death is a personal and professional blow combined for Maxx Maxwell, she looks beyond her grief and the dilemmas presented inherently in losing her lead guitarist to investigate the odd circumstances of the event. Maxx is not merely a hot singer, but has a brain she puts to good use in following the clues when the official report of suicide goes against what she believes to be the truth. Despite opposition and danger, Maxx is bound and determined to achieve justice.
*** Ms. Erhart's prose is quite evocative, creating a bluesy atmosphere reminiscent of film noir, though there are touches of humor to lighten things a bit. Maxx is a strong heroine with a unique voice that makes her easy to like. The only flaw I found in this story was the use of present tense, which I personally find awkward to read, though it does create the feeling of immediacy that adds to the suspense. ***
Author: Rene Gutteridge
Title - Skid
Posing as an annoying, needy, yet pleasant passenger, Hank Hazard is about to embark on the ride of his life as he proves to be the salt that keeps a quirk filled flight from falling to pieces. Between a pet pig, a passenger who dies, a New Age secular humanist, turbulence, and an inept hijacker, Hank will need all the faith he can musters and every bit of God's grace to see his fellow passengers and crew through the obstacle course of crises that assail them.
**** Though engaging and making a definite point about the need for faith in stressful times especially, it could convince you to never ever fly. Humor and serious matters are well blended, and the message is not preachy. Hank simply evangelizes by being himself, something most of us need lessons in doing. ****
Author: Shelia Lowe
Title - Written In Blood
Forensic graphologist Claudia Rose finds herself smack in the middle of a drama that would make daytime TV look tame. Trying to prove she did not forge her late, older, wealthy husband's will, young widow Paige Sorensen employs Claudia to examine his writing and testify, hopefully foiling his hateful, and creepy, children's plans to discredit her. Soon, Claudia finds herself drawn into the matter on a personal level, breaking all the rules she has set for herself. A young girl at the school that is at the midst of the contentious legacy needs someone to care about her, and Claudia finds she has an equal need to provide that maternal role. However, getting involved in either of these family crises could prove to be a deadly error.
**** Building on the strengths evidenced in Poison Pen, Ms. Lowe has made her heroine even more intriguing. Adding the new character of Annabelle is definitely one of the best aspects of this story, since she should prove to be an asset to future novels. Though you will primarily want to read this for the puzzling mystery, the instructional angle of this book, teaching you obliquely about handwriting analysis, is a decided bonus. ****
Author: Gayle Roper
Title - Fatal Deduction
Good twin Libby has never really gotten along with "evil twin" Tori; but thanks to her late aunt's plan to reconcile the two women, she finds herself and her daughter, Chloe forced to live with Tori for six months in order to inherit much needed legacy. Immediately, trouble begins to brew as a corpse is found on the doorstep with a note attached to it for Tori. Gayle, who has a fondness for mysteries, sets out to discover the truth, but she might wind up bringing to light more "truth" than she can bear.
*** I found myself caring more about the characters and the family dramas going on than the mystery itself. Also, the crossword puzzles included in the text were a real bonus. Whether you enjoy a complex story about dysfunctional families with imperfect characters or a puzzling murder, this book will suit you well. Particularly good were how flawed the Christian characters were, who still faced Romans seven type struggles with negative emotions, despite knowing and wanting to do better. ***
Author: Sam Taylor
Title - The Amnesiac
After breaking his leg, James Purdew enters a downward spiral of bleak depression. As he contemplates his existence, he realizes that three years of his memories are gone. After his girlfriend gives up on him, he returns home to England, determined to discover the truth about his past. What he finds is a mystery larger than just his own recollections or lack thereof. He discovers he is a piece in a much larger, more dangerous puzzle that holds the key to his destiny and many secrets dating back far into the past.
*** This is not a book for everyone. Though the bald prose is clearly well written, a fact I cannot deny, it came off as rather dry to me. Though Mr. Taylor accurately describes the fugue state of depression, it can be difficult to read such things. However, those who like experimental, high concept tales will truly embrace this as an intriguing, existential treasure. ***
Author: Charlaine Harris
Title - Julius House (Reprint)
Roe Teagarden is the happiest she's ever been. Not only is she about to marry the man of her dreams, but he has given her the house she has dreamed of owning, the Julius House, a manor steeped in mysteries for her to solve. However, that fantasy turns into a nightmare as someone is willing to kill to keep the past hidden. Moreover, her beloved Martin has secrets that could make their future less than the perfection she's hoped for.
*** Ms. Harris' always writes engaging characters who will win you over and make you want to read more about them, regardless of the plot. Even though I have not followed her Lily or Roe series, her style is so charming that I now want to, having met Roe. ***
Authors: Iris & Roy Johansen
Title - Silent Thunder
What should have been an interesting, but not dangerous assignment turns tragic for Hannah Bryson when her brother is killed assisting her as she readies a Russian sub for exhibition in a museum. Knowing it to be no accident, Hannah begins an investigation that places her in the midst of a twisted plot and suddenly the target for death as she probes into secrets that others want kept hidden. Together with a handsome Russian, Hannah will dig for the truth, even if it costs her life.
**** This is a thrill a minute ride for fans of suspense. Though a bit softer than say Clancy, Silent Thunder is just as tense and action packed as any of his and will keep you locked in place until you come to the heart pounding conclusion. ****
Author: Harry Haines
Title - Orphan
Set mostly around Amarillo, Texas. After a deadly interstate accident a two-week old colt is left motherless. With the owner dead, the law enforcement on the scene asks a local veterinarian, James Robert "Jim Bob" Masterson, to care for the colt until the rightful owner can be located. Jim Bob calls in a favor from Paul Edwards, owner of Sagebrush Cattle Feeders, to tend the colt, now named Orphan, while he is out of state.
Jim Bob and his wife travel to see their daughter, Liz, make her lead debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Liz's performance is cut short and she is rushed to a hospital and diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Shortly after the trio arrive back at the ranch, two people step forward to claim Orphan. One is the deceased owner's former wife, Anna Garcia, and the other is Edgar Payne from New Mexico. By this time Liz and Orphan have bonded. Liz continues Orphan's care until the dispute of ownership can be settled in court. Though Jim Bob has only cared for Orphan, Garcia and Payne each file law suits against him. So when Garcia is murdered and Payne, according to the detective, has an alibi, Jim Bob is the main suspect.
From here on the story's focus is on Liz's health, the bond between Liz and Orphan, ownership of Orphan, and horse racing.
**** You do not need to know anything about horses, racing, opera, or court to fully appreciate and enjoy this story by Harry Haines. By the end you will have learned much about leukemia and the world of racing horses. Until now, I had no idea that breeding and racing horses were such lucrative jobs. This story shows the lighter and darker sides of the racing business.
Though cancer and love of Orphan are clearly expressed in the story, I never found myself to be drawn into the dramas unfolding or actually come to care for any of the characters. The murder is hardly more than a footnote and most of the court action is told like a narrative. However, I still feel this to be a great story and shows that the non-fiction author, Harry Haines, has a talent for fictional writing as well. I look forward to more! *****
Author: Debbie Macomber
Title - Twenty Wishes
The widows of Blossom Street are not dying, but they decide to make up what movie goers would now call a Bucket List, but they call them wish lists. Each one is to compose twenty wishes that they have always wanted to do and fulfill them. Whether it's bowling, learning to knit, to read Jane Austen, or have a child, each one sets out on her mission, often with unexpected results. For example, Barbie proves she is not as shallow as her name might imply in her choice of who to fall in love with, though the object of her affection is very challenging to love. Anne Marie's journey is the one most fraught with personal battles. First, she's confronted by the fact that her late husband betrayed her, in multiple ways. And now, she wants to have the child long denied her, but is it too late?
**** This is a book that will make you look at your own life and perhaps inspire you as well to compose your own list. The ladies involved prove you don't need to be dying to have one, just a desire to live more fully. ****
Edited by Lori Foster
Title - Power of Love
*** A bevy of truly talented ladies with big hearts come together and combined their skills to create this anthology that benefits the Battered Women's Shelter of Cincinnati. There's something to appeal to everyone in this collection. Though not all of the stories will appeal to every reader, it is a good bet that at least a couple will and considering the cause this is for, well worth the investment. Standouts include Karen Kelley's Salesman of the Year that has a young woman realizing that her fiancé might not be the best choice, but that does not mean she has to give up on love. LuAnn McClane's charming story of a pastor and how he finds unexpected romance when he's rescued from being buried by toys is the most heartwarming charmer of the dozen. I'd have loved to see it as a full blown novel. Lori Foster's opening story is unexpectedly mild and sweet, considering her reputation for heat, and I also greatly enjoyed the contributions by Patricia Sargeant and J.C. Wilder. You won't regret picking this one up. ***
Author: Adena Halpern
Title - The Ten Best Days of My Life
Struck down while walking her dog at four a.m., Alex finds herself instantly in the Seventh Heaven where life could hardly get any better as far as she's concerned. Everything that was good but had drawbacks on Earth is now completely without negative implications. Love, clothes, food, you name it, it's there to enjoy. Then, she gets the news that her time there is limited unless she passes an entrance essay exam that is to recount the ten best days of her life. Though the ones she chooses often seem mundane, even in her own estimation, the journey of self discovery is anything but.
**** This is one of those books that should be bland and boring, but instead is touching, funny, and just works. I will admit that if I judged it on theology, it would get an F on its portrayal of Heaven as a place of sensual delight, not one where you enjoy God forever. That aside, the message of love, not romantic love, but a deeper kind, is one that will make you long to hug someone, especially if they are in Heaven now. This may be a comedy, but I value the tears it brought to me even more than the laughter, they were the good kind of tears. ****
Author: Shelly Shepard Gray
Title - Hidden
To escape an abusive relationship, Anna flees to the only place she feels she can truly be safe, the bed and breakfast inn run by some Amish friends. Though most of the family is welcoming and warm, the family heir, Henry, is leery of this English woman, but his doubts conceal a heart that wants to love, yet dares not to, given the differences in their lifestyles. Yet, as time passes, he cannot help but see that Anna is willing and able to live among his people, but could she forever? And, what of her ex, who might not love her, but is not ready to let go either?
*** Though the suspense angle could have been stronger, this is a sweet story that will charm those who love Beverly Lewis and other Amish inspired authors. Anna's choices may not make sense to most of us, but the power of love is clearly portrayed here. ***
Author: Stacey Klemstein
Title - Bitter Pill
Rennie Harlow has a reputation for finding bodies since she returned home, even to the extent that she's referred to as the cash poor local sheriff department's "corpse dog." As annoying as it might be, the reporter in her does want to keep on the good side of the cops, it makes for better scoops. Her latest discovery is old Doc Halley's lifeless body. Yet, as she investigates, dead ends come up more than suspects or clues. Who wanted the old guy dead? Secrets worth killing for are on the verge of being revealed, will Rennie survive?
*** Finding a new cozy mystery series is a like finding a gem for mystery lovers. Rennie and her cast of quirky supporting characters are sure to win the hearts of her readers in this easy to read, classically styled novel. If you loved Murder She Wrote, you can't help but like this as well. ***
Author: Robyn Sisman
Title - A Hollywood Ending
Hoping to revive her career and save herself from playing bimbos or the dreaded older woman, Paige accepts a Shakespearean role in London, leaving Hollywood behind, along with various personal disasters. London is a whole new world for the American, and she even has to have her own language translated from time to time. Her biggest challenge might be her new landlord, Ed, who is the opposite of impressed by the Yankee blonde, at first anyway. Ed may not realize it, but Paige will transform his life, but do they have a prayer of a future, or will Paige end up back in Hollywood?
*** As far as chick lit goes, this is a sterling example, with amusing moments coming from the ridiculousness of Hollywood politics and the contrasts between societies. There are also heartwarming spots as Paige gets into not only Ed's heart, but into those of others around her with her special flair for making things better. ***
Author: Joyce & Jim Lavene
Title - Perfect Poison
Her love of plants influences every aspect of Peggy Lee's life, in fact, she's made a career of it, becoming a forensic botanist. As such, even when she's off duty, she's never truly off. Even while attending a funeral for a friend, Peggy finds her skills called upon when a diver's body is recovered nearby, with plant life found on it that does not match the local flora. Shortly thereafter, a death in her own hometown also has the same plant, duckweed, on it. Other than the plant, there is a common element to the two corpses, and it happens to be a friend of Peggy's. Despite the police's belief that the woman is guilty, Peggy won't let it rest and is determined to prove someone else did it. What she finds is as twisted as the vines on the bodies.
*** The Lavenes are a proven winning combination. An added bonus to this book is you will get a great lesson in horticulture, thanks to the scientific definitions included with each chapter and the gardening tips at the end. This mystery makes you think and gives you fresh knowledge while entertaining you. Who could ask for more? ***
Author: Kerry Reichs
Title - The Best Day of Someone Else's Life
She may have a male name, but Kevin "Vi" Connelly knows all about being a bride, even though she has never been one. Vi is rich in experience when it comes to being in weddings and her poor bank account shows it. Ever since Vi was a small flower girl in one of Aunt Jackie's many weddings, Vi has dreamed of finally being a bride. Vi's closet overflows with over a dozen bridesmaid dresses, each worn once.
As for Vi's job, she has no idea what she is really doing, except faking it well. As for pets, she has a couple of cats that love drinking out of a drizzling bathroom faucet. As for girlfriends, she has a group she goes out to drink with weekly. As for a boyfriend ... well, she is working on that one.
**** Hard to believe this is the author's debut novel. Written in a bold and sassy style, readers will feel as if one of their closest friends is simply telling them a personal story. Therefore, do not expect something major to explode in your face on the very first page. Instead, you may find yourself gradually sinking into the tale and later wondering where the time went. ****
Author: Amy Wallace
Title - Healing Promises
Clint Rollins is used to danger, even to putting his life at risk, but when he is shot and discovers that the true enemy lies within his own body, cancer, the agent finds himself in a new war. Complicating factors include the fact that Sara, his wife, while supportive, feels extreme guilt for not seeing the signs sooner and a former enemy who wants revenge on them both. Battling this evil man, his body, and his emotions puts Clint's strong faith to the ultimate test and he wonders if God abandoned him or if there can be truth behind the promises of healing?
**** Anyone who has ever witnessed a loved one go through this or lived through a debilitating disease, cancer or other, may find this uncomfortable reading as Ms. Wallace has captured the emotional turbulence of the situation and the Job like feelings of martyrdom perfectly. Balancing out the melancholy is the suspense plot that is only enhanced by the more common but no less threatening danger. ****
Author: J.D. Robb
Title - Stranger in Death
The humiliating death of a millionaire was supposed to look like a kinky accident, but Eve Dallas knows murder when she sees it. Though she has strong suspicions about who did it and why, there is no way to prove it as the prime suspect has an airtight alibi. Frustration only makes her determination stronger. Armed with her keen mind, her need for justice, unerring instincts, and a cadre of loyal and brilliant friends, Eve sets out to prove her theory. The key will be found in a most unusual way.
***** Combining the wit and class of the best and most classic detectives with a taut edge, a hint of sizzling passion, and wry humor, Ms. Robb once again proves why Eve Dallas is the best there is. Normally, I do not like futuristic stories, because they lack humanity, but Dallas breaks that rule. The strong characterizations are what keep this series working and make it, in the words of Mavis, "totally mag." Even if you are not into novels set in anything other than the present, if you enjoy mysteries, if you enjoy having a series where the characters become cherished friends, you are cheating yourself not to invest in the entire set of these books. Invest is the right word; they are keepers. *****
Author: Karen Kingsbury
Title - Oceans Apart
He only slipped up once in his marriage vows and his commitment to living the Christian way, but it only took one night of giving into loneliness and temptation to give Connor Evans a son that he does not know about until the boy's mother is killed in a plane crash. When lawyers contact him to inform him of the sad news and the decision he now faces, Connor must confess to cheating to his wife, Michele. Though she attempts to cope, Michele is rocked and believes her entire marriage to be stained by lies. Even as Conner and his son, Max grow closer and their daughters begin to accept him as a friend, even though they do not know the whole truth, Michele struggles with the entire situation. Has Conner gained a son to lose a marriage? What is the path God would have them take?
***** This is a book that will shake you up; Ms. Kingsbury, as usual, pulls you into the narrative and wires you into the characters' emotions. Max's simple faith, Michele's hurt reaction to being betrayed, and Conner having to face the results of his sin will all feel as real as the nose on your face. Once again, a strong Christian message is presented, but not in a wimpy way, like so many "inspirational" novels tend to do. The characters are beautifully realized with all their flaws and heartaches. Even more clear though, is God's ability to make miracles out of messes. *****
Author: Laurie Viera Bigler
Title - Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict
When one morning Courtney wakes up to find people addressing her as Jane, the face of a beauty staring back from her mirror, and the time apparently concurrent with the era of Mr. Darcy, she has no idea what's going on. While she may be addicted to Miss Austen and even have wanted to see the time in which she lived, it's not a convenient period. Manners and customs are far different and there are no conveniences to be had. But, there are some positive factors; her sudden beauty, she does know history, she has the chance to meet her literary hero, and there's a guy, of course. Where does she belong? Who is she, really? Courtney, or Jane?
*** The largest flaw in this book is that it is told in present tense, which is inevitably awkward to read. However, the contrast of a modern woman's observations about a historical era are told in a witty tone that provides much humor. Those who adore Jane Austen will of course, be utterly enthralled by the entire concept and envy Courtney or Jane, whichever one she truly is. ***
Author: Max Allan Collins
Title - Criminal Minds
The heroes at the BAU find themselves confronted with a killer whose MO is constantly changing, Each of his victims dies in a different manner and the profile almost indicates separate murderers. Then, the newest team member, Rossi realizes that their Unsub is patterning himself after the most famous killers, using their profiles to do his macabre work. With this knowledge in place, Rossi, Morgan, Hotch, Reid, and company will use their combined skills to stop this reign of terror, or die trying.
**** Mr. Collins effectively brings the television show to life, making it seem as if you are actually watching the show, with the added bonus of getting inside the characters' minds. All of the tension and puzzling aspects of this procedural drama are enhanced by the involvement that reading requires and his word pictures are as vivid as any portrait captured by the camera. ****
Author: Mary Higgins Clark
Title - Where are You Now?
For the last ten years, Carolyn and her mother keep a Mother's Day vigil, waiting for the annual call from her long missing brother, Mack. That is their only contact with him until Carolyn's frustration pushes her to try and locate him, though she is repeatedly warned it is dangerous to do so. Is Mack responsible for the murders of a series of young women? What terrible event prompted him to leave home as he did? Over a decade's worth of secrets and murders make Carolyn's quest to find where he is now even more urgent, though the answers might not turn out well.
*** Though Ms. Clark is to be commended for continually writing clean, yet not weak stories, this is not her strongest book. Shifting between two styles, first and third person, unevenly and a rather meandering narrative make it less than it could be. ***
Author: Patrick Taylor
Title - Irish County Village
Life continues to roll along at its leisurely pace in Ballybucklebroo, Ireland. By now, Barry Laverty is somewhat accustomed to the quirky, oddball residents, and to his equally unusual boss, Dr. Fingal O'Reilly. The time for decisions is upon him; should he stay with Finagal or move along? What about his romance? With his lady love considering a move to Cambridge, he needs to decide what to do next. Then, there are the challenges of being a country G.P., and even the possibility that he will be sued for malpractice.
**** This is the sort of book that is difficult to describe, but if you've read James Herriot, you will know the sort of story it is. It's a gentle, leisurely thing that is easy to read, despite the meandering style. It's a treasure chest of stories and smiles, very sweet and innocent, but not too much so. If you enjoy a character driven story, this is perfect for you. The people inside are definitely that! Fans of the Irish Country Doctor will also enjoy the fact that Kinky gets the last word and has a few good recipes at the end. Slainté. ****
Author: Cleo Coyle
Title - French Pressed
All Clare Cosi wants is to run her coffee house and enjoy life; she's ready to stop investigating murder and mayhem, at least she is until her grown daughter Joy becomes the prime suspect in the murder of a chef who was not only Joy's boss, but her ex-lover. He was also slime that had given Joy many reasons to put a knife in him, but Clare knows her child to be innocent and must prove that fact without getting her own goose cooked.
**** Before starting this book, brew up some good chocolate coffee; the descriptions of the Purple Princess variety will have you craving it. Once this is done, you can settle back and enjoy a read that will have you both on the edge of your seat and gently relaxed, much like a good cup of coffee, in fact. Even if this is the first time for you to step into this delightful series, it will not be difficult to catch onto the who is who and devote your little grey cells to figuring out who did it. ****
Author: Janet Evanovich
Title - Plum Lucy (A Between-the-Numbers novel)
It starts off as an ordinary St. Patrick's Day, then Grandma Mazur finds a suitcase full of money, one she's sure a leprechaun provided for her. After that, Diesl shows up, the otherworldly hot guy who always brings interesting things into Steph's life, and things escalate from there. Soon, Stephanie, Diesl, Grandma, and the supposed leprechaun, Snuggy, are on the road to Atlantic City with Grandma's lucky money, avoiding mobsters, and trying to handle Diesl's latest assignment. Of course, Steph can't take off without Lula and Connie, which only adds to the fun.
**** Even with Ranger's appearance being only a cameo, this is a fun read, or listen. Stephanie and her cohorts will make the most stoic person smile. I can hardly wait until Lean Mean Fourteen comes into my life. ****
Author: Mary Janice Davidson
Title - The Royal Mess
What if Alaska was its own nation? Readers have delightedly seen how that plays out in two books already, and now, the trilogy concludes as King Al discovers the daughter he never knew he had. Nicole's arrival is initially met with dismay, Al can't deny, nor does he want to, that she is his. However, Nicole is not the most submissive of Princesses, but she's Big Al's kid. What did he expect?
*** Like all of Ms. Davidson's work, this is fun. All the hallmarks of one of her stories, spunky heroines, their foils, dynamic humor, and so forth, are there. What can I say, if you enjoy Mary Janice Davidson, you'll like this. ***
Author: Anne Rice
Title - Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana
The time has come for Joseph to take his little family back to the Promised Land, thus fulfilling prophecy and bringing Yeshua one step closer to destiny. Already, the lad is asking questions that make his mother and foster father uneasy. He is clearly an unusual child, able to bring life to inanimate objects, to have prayers answered instantly and miraculously, and to heal. Yet, not everyone is pleased with this boy, and some even fear or hate Him. Even as Yeshua begins to be aware that He is the Christ, forces begin to move his foes into the places they will need to be as well.
**** Some readers may be uncomfortable with the idea that Jesus did not know from the cradle Who He was born to be; though since the divine childhood is not covered save for one incident, that's an issue that is open to debate. Since Ms. Rice draws on the Gnostic texts that attribute earlier miracles to our Lord than the miracle at Cana, readers might take issue. However, this is fiction and in no way is disrespectful to His divinity. There is also a clear Catholic influence that Protestant readers might find enlightening as we try to understand our brethren. While I will not take any of this as gospel, it is informative to some extent, and excellent writing. ****
Author: Lisa Kleypas
Title - Sugar Daddy
Living on the wrong side of the tracks in a miniscule Texas town in the seventies makes Liberty Jones tough and hungry for love. It also makes her grow up to fast. When she gives her heart to Hardy Cates, Liberty is unprepared to have it broken when he makes his exit from Welcome, Texas and from her life. However, duties, tragedy, and bad luck don't leave her much time to mourn the loss. Though she always has an empty spot inside where he belongs, raising her suddenly orphaned baby sister and trying to find a way to a better life for the two of them become her new centerpoints. Eventually, Liberty is able to snag a "sugar daddy," a wealthy man who has a tie to her past she never suspects and who makes her happy. Then, Hardy comes back into her life, bringing with him a second chance and a startling revelation that threatens to rock the hopes she now has.
**** Ms. Kleypas takes the time needed to build her characters and let their situations occur over a natural time span. Though some may find such a deliberate pace difficult, the pay off comes in seeing fully realized people for whom you can care. Liberty's drive and spirit will have you cheering the ending she eventually gets. Though I must admit, I was worried for a time that my idea of a happy ending might not match the author's. If you loved Catherine Lanigan and Susan E. Phillips' early works, such as Hot Shot and Glitterbaby, this will be just what you want. ****
Author: Meg Cabot
Title - Big Boned (A Heather Wells mystery)
Heather Wells really does not want to be involved in another mystery, she just wants to do her job well, pass her classes, and cope with dating a fitness freak, who happens to be her illicit love/professor. However, when she walks into her boss' office and finds him shot to death, then believes in the prime suspect's innocence, she has little choice. This brings her straight into danger and gives her once again the opportunity to get under Officer Cooper Cartwright's skin.
*** Though this is not the most mentally challenging of mysteries, focusing more on the fun factor than the thrills, fans of Ms. Cabot's will be able to easily relax and enjoy a story that has all the things about her writing which they love. Heather is a less than perfect heroine whose voice is one real women of all sizes, even skinny ones, can find something to empathize with. Readers will also enjoy catching up on her personal traumas. ***
Author: Ginny Aiken
Title - A Steal of a Deal (Shop-Til-U-Drop #2)
Combining professional and church work to take a mission trip to Kashmir might not have been the ideal set up in Andie Adams' mind, but she could deal with it, despite the fact that her boss and well meaning aunt are along for the ride and trying to match make her with her annoying co-host on the S.T.U.D. home shopping network. However, she did not foresee the dangers, the Taliban, possible smuggling charges, and murder, or that the perils she faces will not be left behind after she gets home. Is Max more than annoying, but also a thief and killer? Or is he something else altogether?
*** If you are in need of a light, breezy, clean read that requires little thought and is just a mental vacation, you have found your book. It is a story about Christian characters, so as stated, it is perfectly PG rated, however, there is no strong message that might strike some as preachy. Those who have ever spent time staring at the dazzling bling-bling hawked on channels such as STUD represents will be particularly amused and the two older ladies just about steal the show out from under the heroine. I did not know until I needed to check the ISBN that it was the second in a series, the prior book being Priced to Move, so it is safe to say, this book stands on its own two feet. ***
Author: Melanie Wells
Title - My Soul to Keep (Inspirational Suspense)
Though not a detective by profession, Dylan Foster often finds herself drawn into mysteries. Her latest case is very personal as a child for whom she cares is abducted, turning what had been a good day with friends into a living nightmare. Both mortal and spiritual foes seem determined to keep the little boy away from his home. While the police are completely unsuccessful in their investigations, Dylan follows clues and visions in her quest to restore a family and thwart the darkness.
**** In much the same way that Frank Peretti's work captures the essence of spiritual warfare, so does Ms. Wells, albeit in a slightly different subsection of the inspirational genre. She brings together the physical and spiritual worlds in readers' minds, making for an even tenser read than a non-inspirational mystery has the capability of conveying. ****
Author: Cindy Woodsmall
Title - When Morning Comes
After fleeing her quiet Amish community, Hannah sought to make a new life for herself among the "English." Still mourning the loss of the baby conceived in violence, she is quite lost in the new world until a kind, yet gruff and somewhat sarcastic, doctor, Martin, offers her friendship and real help. Before long, she is attending school, working, and making friends in a land she never imagined living in. Meanwhile, back at home, her first love, Paul, has seen how wrong he was about her and wants to find her, and her family is grief stricken by her disappearance. Her sister in particular has difficulty coping. As Hannah moves on, the question remains, will she ever find the past she left behind, or is the future a better direction?
***** This beautifully complex novel manages to be gentle and hard hitting at the same time. Hannah's story has taken an unusual twist that I did not see coming,and though unconventional, is executed so well that I hope it ends in a certain way that I'd spoil for the readers if I said more about. Ms. Woodsmall is not just one of the best inspirational authors, but one of the best. *****
Author: Susan Gregg Gilmore
Title - Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen
The early seventies see Catherine Grace growing up in the tiny town of Ringgold, suffering the blues that come from being a motherless child and being the town's preacher's kid. She chafes at the constriction of life there, and so, at the first chance, she takes her opportunity to escape to college and then to the "promised land" of the big city. There, she makes a new, good life for herself, not really thinking about any hurt she caused in making her exodus, until one day, a fateful letter brings news of a tragedy and suddenly it's too late to make things right, but there is still something she can do. Catherine Grace finds that the way forward is sometimes found in going backwards with new vision.
*** If you enjoyed Where the Heart is, Jan Karon's novels, or anything by Fanny Flagg, then you will appreciate the leisurely pace and small town color so accurately portrayed. I can easily sympathize with Catherine's longing for freedom, though I've only visited small, rural towns, they were tough to take for even a few days. I do find it difficult to credit her final decision, but love makes strange choices at times. The author conveys a lot in a scarcity of pages. ***
Author: Dorothea Benton Frank
Title - Land of the Mango Sunsets
After being jilted by her long time husband for a woman younger than their children, Miriam Swanson soon finds events conspiring to make her feel majorly overwhelmed. A new tenant and a new chance at love might be good things, but sometimes, even good is too much to deal with. So, she makes her escape and heads from the hustle and bustle of New York to the leisurely pace of an island off South Carolina's coast. There, the peace and tranquility grants her a new vision and the ability to clarify and sort out her world. However, back at home, she still has issues to confront, some of them deeply painful.
*** Love, loss, healing, and growth are strong themes that are addressed with style and class in this moving novel. Yet, in contrast to the hectic pace from which Miriam feels the need to flee, this has a relaxed pace that many readers will find soothing. Fans of Danielle Steele, Rosamund Pitcher, and Barbara Taylor Bradford will be cheating themselves if they miss this. ***
Author: Lisa Daily
Title - Fifteen Minutes of Shame
Darby Vaughn has become America's favorite television dating expert. During a tour to promote her latest book, and teach one seminar, she is a guest on one of today's famous talk shows. When the host shows her that morning's newspaper and she learns that her husband has not only been cheating on her, but filed for divorce, Darby is blind-sided! So she does the only thing she can do: she passes out. Humiliated on national television, Darby's entire world begins crashing around her. Her husband had given Darby no clue that he was unhappy. Even more humiliating is that when Darby goes to ask him WHY, the reporters are suddenly there with their cameras clicking away.
Darby still loves her husband, but the public is now watching to see what she does. If Darby breaks her own zero-tolerance rules for cheaters and takes him back, her career will be over. Yet if Darby does not, she will lose the man she loves.
*** This is the type of story that pulls the reader in several directions at once. I felt so bad for Darby's problems, but also became so irritated at her groveling. One thing this story clearly showed me is that the public's opinion on famous people can be fickle and two-faced. The story is written well, but slows down too often for me. I kept wanting the pace to pick up. ***
Author: James R. Olson
Title - An Eagle Unchained
Does your vote really make a difference?
When you read An Eagle Unchained by James Olson, you begin to see that it can. The book reminds us of the wasteful spending of our government and that we are the ones that let it continue. It takes a successful business man Ted Hale, who has always worked hard, to change the system of things. He decides to run for president under the newly formed American Party and we find out how far the other parties will go to keep him from succeeding. The career politicians are not in favor of the drastic changes that are needed to fix big government. Hale takes a look into the redundancies of the ABC agencies (EPA, IRS, and FDA) that cost taxpayers billions of dollars. He sees that every day Americans get new rules and regulations that chase American companies out of this country and that as long as there are career politicians Americans will have waste. Hale knows that it will take Americans coming together and taking charge of their own future to return this country to the way of our forefathers and he is ready to lead the way with his own money and common sense ideals.
***** I couldn’t put it down. This book reminds us that we have become lazy as Americans. We tend to vote for the lesser or two evils. We allow our politicians to add BILLIONS of pork spending to our legislative bills so they can get re-elected. They spend more time trying to get re-elected than they spend running our country. I would be in favor of the changes written about in this book. I have to balance my budget, so why do we allow the politicians not to balance theirs? This book gets my vote. *****
Author: Danielle Steel
Title - Honor Thyself
In Honor Thyself, the latest tale from Danielle Steel, world renown actress Carole Barber heads off to Paris in hopes of clearing the writer’s block she has concerning the semiautographical book she is writing. Unfortunately, Carole falls victim to a terrorist’s bomb. For weeks she lies in a coma in a Paris hospital barely clinging to life while her family waits by her bedside praying for her survival. When Carole emerges from the coma she has amnesia and cannot even remember her own children. As she rediscovers her children, her loves, and herself, she also finds the answers to the questions she had about herself that she was seeking when she first came to Paris and takes advantage of the second chance at life that she has been given.
**** At first, the life of international movie star Carole Barber seems just too perfect, but the courage, sincerity, and gratefulness that she shines with throughout her recovery prove that she is just a good person through and through. I enjoyed how the secrets of Carole’s past were revealed to her through the people who love her the most and as she rediscovers herself she takes full advantage of her second chance as she honors others but most importantly honors herself. All in all this was an enjoyable read! ****
Author: Janet Evanovich
Title - Naughty Neighbor (Reprint)
Living in condos or apartments has definite pluses, but on the minus side, there is the fact that neighbors tend to be very close, a fact that Louisa can attest to emphatically. Her present problem is a neighbor who is noisy and whose apartment emits smells she finds unpleasant. He also takes her paper. When confronted, the man in question, Pete, is less than repentant and points out a few flaws on her part. However, things begin to change, and not all of them for the better. Lou becomes involved in his investigation and winds up losing her job thanks to that. Before long, he's leading her not only into temptation, but into danger as well. Along with the danger to her life, Louisa is in danger of losing her heart to the rugged guy, and he finds that there is more room in his heart than just for his pet pig. Louisa is under his skin and on his mind.
**** Harper has done the readers a great service in making available again Ms. Evanovich's early work. Granted, it's not quite as developed as her more recent best sellers, but the charm is still there, and a pet pig in the Witness Protection program is just too cute to resist. ****
Author: Hannah Dennison
Title - A Vicky Hill Exclusive (Mystery)
Though she desperately wants to be a hard hitting, award winning crime reporter, the kind that writes features and gets front page exclusives, like her rival, Annabelle does, Vicky Hill finds herself relegated to the dregs, reporting on funerals and writing the obits. So, when she gets the chance to snatch a scoop from Annabelle, she grabs it and finds herself neck deep in alligators fast. First, a handsome man crashes a funeral and kisses the widow, then, people begin to die, and Vicky starts to worry she'll either be next or wind up in jail. Did the widow just want to get rid of her older husband, or has she discovered a coven practicing Satanic rituals? Or is it something else? Could the killer be closer than she thinks?
**** Colorful characters make this debut novel work. Vicky's dark past is hinted at, but only enough revealed to make readers want to come back for more in subsequent stories. There are one or two men who might turn into regular romance possibilities, but it's seeing Vicky handle her friendships with other women that brings in the most laughs. Fortunately, for Americans, the British language is not indecipherable, as is the case sometimes, particularly in other genres, i.e., Chick Lit. The killer's identity will come as a total surprise, I dare say, but that's a plus. ****
Author: Maria Savva
Title - A Time to Tell
Set in the UK between the early 1950s and the present date, the story follows young Cara Hughes and the events which unfolded due to choices she made early in her life. Cara grew up in the small town of Huddlesea. Everyone knew everyone else. But Cara fell in love with Freddie, a stranger to the area, and a brief love affair began. It ended in tragedy and Cara jumped off Stoneleigh Cliffs, an attempt at suicide. Needless to say, Cara lived; a few months later she married Billy Edwards. Cara and Billy raise three children. Ben is the first. Cara was never sure if Ben's father were Freddie or Billy and she never told another her suspicions. It did not matter. Catherine and James were the names of their other two children. All is quiet, until Billy died due to wrecking his car. (Here I must skip quite a bit for fear of giving away spoilers.)
Ben married a lady named Margaret and had two daughters, Penny and Jemima. Ben was often in a rage and abused his wife. Before the girls were ten-years-old, Ben pushed his wife down the stairs. Believing Margaret dead, he ran, leaving his family behind. (Now I must skip again for the fear of giving possible spoilers away.)
Penny married David, who was abusive to her verbally, mentally, and physically. By now Cara had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis for about thirty years. Cara had lived with Penny and David, in an upstairs room, for five years. When David hit one of their kids for the first time, Penny decides to take the children and go into hiding. Cara's estranged sister, Gloria, took over her care. Secrets began coming from all sides. Everyone seemed to have dark secrets, hidden away, never to see the light of day. But Fate brings everyone slowly together. The full truth from each person will be told, no matter how ugly. Finally they all must face the fact that it was time to tell.
*** There are many characters to keep track of in this story. I resorted to writing down names, relations, and notes. It was the only way I could keep everyone straight. My synopsis only touches the main names; however, there are about to twenty people for readers to meet and comprehend. It can be overwhelming at times. The story does not simply follow the lives of the key players. The story jumps to the past very often, giving flashbacks so readers may fully understand what is happening in the current date. My main problem with the story is that the character of Cara seemed a coward through the entire book. She is fast to give advice, insisting it be taken, but when faced with very similar circumstances, Cara is unwilling to take her own advice.
All-in-all, this story shows how important family can be, even when the worst happens. It shows that even though some lies are told and truths are hidden in the name of protecting loved ones, those same lies and omissions can come back with devastating effects. It story also shows that it is never too late to find love. Maria Savva writes tales that will remain in her readers' minds for a long time after they finish the story. ****
Author: Jess Lourey
Title - August Moon
Mira James is beyond ready to hightail it out of Battle Lake and back to civilization; between being stood up by the man she was interested in and dealing with people who want to practice censorship, the spunky librarian has had it with the town. Then, there is a murder and Mira's best suspect is someone she'd love to put away, Pastor Meale, who runs a cult like, faux Christian camp that worships what are purportedly lost Bible books. His followers are hick like Stepford wives, and the men's mentality isn't much better. Mira will do whatever it takes to uncover the truth about the murder and about the camp, no matter how dangerous the situation is to herself.
*** With comparisons being made between this series and Stephanie Plum's misadventures, I was perhaps expecting too much. Mira's open hostility to Christianity or any faith at all was jarring and made the rest of the story strike me wrongly as the heroine seemed to feel that real Christianity was the same as the cult she wanted to shut down. Other than that, this is an intriguing mystery and people for whom faith is not a central issue should derive more pleasure from it than I. ***
Author: Cindy Woodsmall
Title - When the Heart Cries
Hannah Lapp has dared to rebel against her Old Order Amish clan to love a young Mennonite man, but on the way home from one visit, she pays a terrible price for her defiance as a stranger takes her virtue by force, leaving her hurt, pregnant, and ashamed. The next few months are pure Hell, as Hannah is made to feel guilt over the burden her suffering places on her family and is unable to prosecute the one who did the unmentionable thing to her. There is no one to whom she can turn as she faces some of the most terrible tragedies a woman can. Rather than being loved and supported in her hour of need, she is the victim of rumors. What is she to do when all her dreams become dust?
***** This is a stunning debut novel that draws you into Hannah's plight and makes you long to be the friend she needs. Ms. Woodsmall may well replace Beverly Lewis as the Queen of Amish Lit if she continues to write so compellingly. *****
Author: Eva Etzoni Halevy
Title - The Triumph of Deborah
In the days when Judges ruled the twelve tribes of Israel, before there was a king, when every man did as was seemed good to himself, one woman rose up among the nation's leadership, Deborah. When her people were oppressed by the Canaanite leader Sisra, Barak comes to her for help in defeating this enemy. Because he demands that she come with him or he will not oppose the evil one, Deborah proclaims prophetically that it will not be Barak who gets the glory for the victory, but a woman. Just as she said, so it came to pass. However, as fascinating as this narrative in the Bible is, it leaves those who want to know more about Barak, Deborah, and Jael, the woman who drove a tent peg into her foe's skull after lulling him to sleep, are left with an unsated desire. The author expands on the historical account given in Judges and takes it beyond the end of the story. We see the passion that might have existed between the two primary players and how it is affected by their other relationships.
**** Though there is much that seems out of whack for two people labeled as righteous heroes among God's chosen people, the reader is reminded that Samson, David, Solomon, and ninety eight percent of other Biblical heroes were labeled also called thus, despite adultery, lies, and bloody tendencies. I would not take anything beyond what is backed up by the Bible itself as history, but the fictional details have a degree of plausibility and even if they are totally off base, you are given some insight into that ancient world. If you enjoyed Orson Scott Card's Biblical trilogy or the Red Tent, then the best guess is that you will definitely want this as well. ****
Author: Sheila Lowe
Title - Poison Pen
Linsey Alexander's life was not one to admire; drugs, sex, and blackmail were her favorite vices. The way she treated supposed friends and clients whom she was supposed to be promoting was deplorable. One would almost expect her to be murdered, but when she turns up dead, everyone quickly accepts the verdict of suicide; everyone, that is, except her one time friend, Claudia Rose, a forensic handwriting expert who sees something off in the note left behind. Despite the facts to the contrary, Claudia digs for the truth, in the process finding out more than she really wanted to know about Linsey. With the help of a handsome cop, Claudia searches for justice, but might prove to be another victim.
**** Mysteries have always been, at least I have found them to be, a source of great learning. While they challenge your mind with a puzzle, readers also learn new facts via the eyes of the amateur sleuth's discoveries or expertise. Claudia Rose's insights into psychology and forensic graphology are as fascinating as the murder itself. Readers' can look forward to having their own store of information broadened in a very enjoyable fashion. ****
Author: Sister Christine Creshno
Title - At the Last Supper
Over the period of several months, two Catholic priests, noted for being "seeker friendly," are violently murdered; each is stabbed a dozen times and a Bible is left near them, open to institution of the Lord's Supper. As the police investigate, it appears that the good Fathers were not as totally lily white as it might appear. For what secret did these men die and a third one nearly do so? Did the group of women who, under the Magdalene's banner, sought to establish a greater role for women in the church have a link to the deaths?
*** Proving that you can tell a good story without being crass, Sister Creshno draws readers into the parish politics and small, but potentially deadly dramas that churn there. At its heart, this is a story of redemption and a statement of faith, as well as an absorbing mystery. Strong characters facing struggles drive the plot and make you care about what becomes of them, both physically and spiritually. ***
Author: Sr. Christine Kresho
Title - Sacred Betrayal
Religious differences and old hates create a deadly situation. To be sure, not everyone agrees with the vision Cry Justice has for the future of the Catholic church, but one priest is willing to kill to stop them, in the process sating his own, carnal desires and bloodlust. Playing on years' old grudges, one twisted priest will manipulate events so that no one who disagrees with his views will be safe from his vengeance.
*** Sister Kreshno has created a villain that will give you chills. She shows how dangerous fanaticism is, making it clear that such distortions are in no way part of Christ's true church. If you are a fan of Andrew Greeley, especially the Blackie Ryan or Nuala series, then you will in all likelihood find this a new treasure to add to your collection. ***
Author: Nancy C. Johnson
Title - Her Last Letter
Set in the Colorado mountain town of Glenwood Springs, close to Aspen. Gwyn Sanders is an artist and photographer. Years ago her sister, Kelly, had been killed by a hit-and-run driver. Police surmised she had been a random victim of a drunk driver. However, the killer had taken the time to drive her truck (which later proved to be the vehicle which struck her down) back to the house, pull it into the garage, and close the door. No one knows what really happened that fateful night. Gwyn and her remaining sister, Linda Lehman, have had no closure.
Gwyn finds a letter, long hidden by Kelly, revealing that she was sexually involved with her sister's boyfriend and was scared for her life. Gwyn and Linda have since married their boyfriends. It is obvious that either of their husbands could be guilty of Kelly's murder. Everyone knew of the fortune the sisters had received when their parents had died and neither sister dated the men long before wedding them. Only now does Gwyn realize that she and Linda honestly had little knowledge of either man's background. Danger surrounds Gwyn as she begins a search for the truth of what actually happened on the night of Kelly's death.
**** This mystery had me guessing and second guessing throughout the entire story. I came to actually care for Gwyn. I totally understood her fear of perhaps learning that the man she married may have had a hand in the death of her sister, Kelly. The author also includes Linda's reaction of not caring and not wanting to find out what happened since it was all in the past anyhow. The two sisters may have different reactions about Kelly's death, but the two still show the sibling bond that most have in the real world. I found it to be very realistic. The story slows down a bit too much (for my taste) toward the middle, however, the author fills these spots with information that readers may use to test their wits. Great reading, especially for a rainy day when you are trapped indoors. ****
Author: Susan McBride
Title - Too Pretty to Die
(A Debutante Dropout Mystery)
The latest rage among all the Dallas debutantes is called a Pretty Party. Doctor Sonja Madhavi and Lance Zarimba, her boyfriend/aesthetician, show up with their "Botox in the Box" kit full of syringes and give little samples to each party guest. Few attend these parties and never show up at the Pretty Place boutique for treatments afterward. Former socialite Andrea "Andy" Kendricks would rather have a root canal than attend one, but attend she did. It was a favor to her close friend Janet Graham, a society reporter for the Park City Paper (PCP). And the juiciest story in the area drops into Janet's lap when aging beauty queen Miranda DuBois slams into the room full of alcohol, rage, and a small gun. Miranda is a star anchorwoman and went to the good doctor for just a tad of face work. Unfortunately, Miranda had "an adverse reaction to the wrinkle filler". Luckily the only thing hit by the bullet is a Picasso. Andy calms Miranda down and takes her home to bed. The next morning Miranda is found dead.
The last thing Andy wants is to be dragged into another gut-wrenching drama. However, Miranda's mother is out of the country and the police think the death is by suicide. So Cissy Blevins Kendricks, Queen Bee of Dallas Society (a.k.a. Andy's mother), is named trustee of all Miranda's possessions. Add to this that Miranda's mother insists Cissy hire someone to conduct an independent autopsy (to draw his own conclusions separate and apart from the M.E.) as well as a private investigator. To make matters go from bad to worse, Cissy and the deputy have an argument, which everyone hears because the microphone was still on by mistake, so everyone knows that Andy was the last known person to see Miranda alive AND hears Cissy's claim (a.k.a. lie) that Andy has proof it was not suicide! Here we go again ...
***** This is one fun and sassy read. Only Susan McBride can create such an amusing mystery that simply overflows with ... ah, tea and vinegar. The Debutante Dropout Mystery Series just seems to get better and better. This is not one to miss! *****
Authors: Michelle Yu, Blossom Kan
Title - China Dolls
Three spiritual, identical triplets, a trio of young, Asian American women, are determined to make their mark in the world and prove they can be successful. After all, if they can make it in Manhattan, they can make it anywhere, right? Though their families are demanding that M.J., Alex, and Lin be traditional Chinese women and marry successful, Asian men, the three have very different dreams, in finance, the law, and as a female, Asian American sportscaster. Facing opposition at home and in the workplace, they can always find support with their two "sisters" of the soul.
*** Though I am not a fan of chick lit at all, I strongly suspect that this will be a delight for those who do care for that sort of read. Sharp contrasts between tradition and new dreams marks the breezy, lightweight narrative as we see how the girls struggle to find their place in the world and also get a clear impression of the importance of girlfriends. If you are a fan of the genre and want an entirely different perspective, aka, a non Caucasian one, you might wish to investigate this. ***
Author: Ann Rinaldi
Title - The Redheaded Princess
Elizabeth Tudor, the second daughter of the great king, born of his scandalous marriage to the beheaded Anne Boleyn, lives her life on a knife's edge. Court politics shape her life from the start. Throughout her teen years, Elizabeth lives in hope of pleasing her father, though she does not spend much time at court. When her brother takes the throne, life becomes more pleasant in some ways, but Edward's sickly constitution soon leaves her at the dubious mercy of her mad sister, Bloody Mary. Yet, in every season of her life, Bess knows she was born to be queen, and every action she takes is a step on that path.
*** Elizabeth's greatest queen, perhaps its finest monarch, period, has fascinated the public for centuries, and continues to, as seen by the movies and mini-series that chronicle her life. Young women will find much to admire as they take a look at her life and see the human side of the formidable princess. ***
Author: Joan Medlicott
Title - Come Walk With Me
This book begins as the story of Claire Bennett's struggle to cope with being her own person after the sudden death of her husband, Phillip. Since Claire had always defined herself by the successes of her husband, his death left her without purpose. In fact, denial, numbness, and shock were her only companions although she had two grown children who needed her to talk with them and allow them to grieve with her. Claire, however, chose to withdraw from life and became estranged from her children - leaving herself (and them) completely alone. Because of this, misunderstandings and guilt pushed Claire and her children even farther from each other.
A long time after Phillip's death, Claire finally sought professional help, which did not last long because she could not bring herself to talk about Phillip's death with her therapist any more than she could talk about it with her children. Thinking she could make a new start on her own in a new environment, Claire made the first of many wrong decisions with a move to Boca Raton, Florida. She knew exactly what she wanted to find there - a new man with whom to connect and again find self-worth. The only criteria she sought in a man was that he be successful in a business that she could help him with.
After moving from her home in the Hamptons to a condominium in Boca Raton, Claire's life began a downward spiral. Her lifestyle in Boca Raton became a bit promiscuous and one unfortunate date with a man she had barely met resulted in real danger to her. A positive affect of this encounter was that it made Claire understand just how naïve and friendless she was in her new surroundings. With that realization, Claire decided to leave Boca Raton. Since she had recently received an unexpected invitation to her daughter's wedding in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Claire decided to go there and try to reconnect with her children. In this beautiful setting on a tiny farm, Claire finally faces some hard (but genuine) realities about herself and is able to find the joy that has always been missing from her life. There is a beautiful scene near the middle of the book where Claire emerged from her car after the long drive to North Carolina and began to dance in a meadow. This scene gave the reader their first glimpse into Claire's soul and the woman she truly was.
***** This book ends as a story of rebirth, courage, and hope and it is beautifully written. It is also the story of many women who think they are nothing without a man. Joan Medlicott reaches into the depths of her character's soul to expose some hard truths in this novel - truths that can ultimately become a beacon to serve as a guide for numerous women to follow.
Bravo, Joan, you've done it again! I would love a sequel to this story! *****
Author: Kimberlea Lawson Roby
Title - Sin No More
Reverend Curtis Black's marriage has been rife with infidelity and lies, but he and Charlotte are determined to start anew. However, his former mistress has just given birth to his child and is equally resolved to involve him in their lives. Caught between the baby daughter he loves and the wife and children he also loves, Curtis finds himself also wrestling with church politics, custody issues, and scandals. Charlotte's attempts to help only make matters worse and it is soon clear that someone is betraying the family. Things continue to escalate until the explosive revelations come out that bring things to a head and will make or break the family.
*** In light of many current events, this is a timely, relevant story. Though there are absolutely no admirable characters in this story, except perhaps the baby girl, more than one church member, no matter what denomination or race they belong to, will empathize with what church politics does to a congregation, whether the allegations are true or not. Will this story give any guidance on healing? Possibly not, because the way in which the situation was handled does not conform well with Biblical teaching, however it does provide insight. ***
Author: Cyndia Depre
Title - Oblivious
When Tucker Monroe needs an alibi after a woman he spent a slight amount of time with is killed, Olivia Chatham is his salvation, but the slightly daffy seeming, much married young woman is not content to just do that for him. Convinced not only of his innocence, but that Tucker is nursing a broken heart that seeing justice for the woman he loved done can help heal, Olivia sets out to solve the case, with Tucker and her sister in reluctant tow. As he works with her, Tucker realizes she might be different, but it's a good different, and she's far brighter than she lets on. Despite his anti-marriage stance, Olivia gets to him. However, as the case unravels, things get dangerous and the future turns iffy.
***** This is a laugh out loud masterpiece. Wholly clean, it intrigues you and keeps you smiling from beginning to end. Olivia is utterly charming and I hope this is only her first outing as a sleuth. I love this book and it goes on my virtual keeper shelf. *****
Author: Sandra Worth
Title - Lady of the Roses (Historical)
A Romeo and Juliet like love blossoms against the odds in the midst of the thorns of the War of Roses. Isobel and John are on opposite sides in the battle between the Yorks and Lancasters, yet they still are truly soul mates, and will risk everything to be together. Fortunately, Isobel is a favorite of the fiery French Queen of England and is able to obtain consent to wed her true love. Yet, even when their romance becomes sanctioned, the war keeps them in danger. Across the years, they will face trials and tests time and again, and even when they are separated, they share a passion that defies the bonds of death.
**** If this is a favorite era of history for you, then adding Ms. Worth to your auto buy list should be a logical move. Her first person narrative paints a tapestry of rich prose that brings you into the heart of a brave woman who has all the courage of a warrior. Real and fictional beings come to brilliant life through her eyes and lovers of this genre will be losing out if they miss Lady of the Roses. ****
Author: Stephen Baxter
Title - The Navigator
Moments in history do not suddenly occur; each one is a culmination of events that have been built upon. In The Navigator, the circumstances that lead to Columbus' voyage take a step off the path we are familiar with and threaten to stop that voyage in events that could lead to a global disaster. In 732, an epic begins as two enemies engage in a hateful symbiosis neither is strong enough to break. Centuries later, two women on the opposite sides of faith find themselves on a collision course that wrecks havoc, and finally, in the late fourteen hundreds, the Inquisition, the Crusades, and the rivalry between Christians and Muslims comes to a head in such a way that Isobel might not live long enough to fund Columbus' journey as two time agents attempt to alter a prophetic fate.
**** Mr. Baxter's prose almost makes you believe that history did play out this way, or it could have. Flawless logic expounds on the ramifications of changing critical moments in chronology and demands that the reader think about what is happening, not merely mindlessly blow through the words. ****
Author: Gemma Halliday
Title: Alibi in High Heels
Madison "Maddie" Springer is on the natural high of her life! Famous fashion designer Jean Luc Le Croix wants HER shoes to grace the feet of all his models during Fashion Week in Paris! But only days before Maddie flies out of Los Angeles Mrs. Rosenblatt, a psychic who's unable to drive the stick-shift in her new Mustang, hits Maddie. Of course, her mom and Mrs. R. will not allow Maddie to go off to Paris alone with a tibial shaft fracture. So Maddie has a couple of unwanted tag-alongs.
When Gisella, Jean Luc's lead model, is found dead on the runway, stabbed with one of Maddie's stiletto heels, the chaos really begins. Maddie's best friend, Dana, flies in to be a replacement model. Maddie's boyfriend, a homicide detective named Jack Ramirez, flies in to keep her out of trouble - unsuccessfully. Felix Dunn, a titled reporter for Southern California's sleaziest tabloid, keeps popping up. Lastly, Maddie's two chaperons are out doing who knows what.
It is obvious Maddie is being framed, but every time a new body is found, Maddie is there. Unless Maddie finds out who the killer really is, her career as a shoe designer was in the toilet and she may do her next show from behind bars.
**** Author Gemma Halliday has another winner on her hands with this, the latest in the High Heels mystery series. The plot will test your wits, make no mistake about that; however, the style in which the story is written will keep you highly amused as well. Only Maddie can let her mouth run away, sending her bumbling and stumbling into ever deeper hilarious situations.
By the way, word has it that a TV series based on the character of Maddie Springer is currently in development with the USA Network. So be sure to pick up at least one copy of this book to find out what all the commotion is about. I predict that you will enjoy it enough to purchase the previous titles as well. Fantastic! ****
Author: Margaret Truman
Title - Murder on K Street
Illinois senator Lyle Simmons arrives home from a fund-raising dinner to find his wife dead. First he calls his son, Neil. Second he calls his friend, former DA Philip Rotondi. Third he calls 9-1-1.
Detective Chang has the senator at the top of the suspect list. Polly, the senator's estranged daughter, isn't helping one bit either. Polly is making her loud voice heard as she tells anyone who will listen that there's no need to look further than the senator for the killer.
Phil comes out of retirement to help Lyle out. He gets help with the case by Mac and Annabel Smith, a couple of former attorneys.
**** Mac Smith and his wife, Annebel Reed-Smith, have become pretty popular in the mystery genre. This political mystery shows why. I believe the character development of the senator, and a couple of others, could have been better. Yet, all-in-all, this story is well worth your time and money. ****
Author: Shirley Rousseau Murphy
Title - Cat Deck the Halls (Joe Grey mystery)
In the quaint little village named Molena Point (California), the police department is used to getting anonymous phone calls from a certain voice giving them help on cases. So when the voice reports a man shot dead beneath the village Christmas tree and a little girl in his arms scared and crying, Molena Point PD responds. However, upon arriving there is neither a body, nor a little girl, to be found. There is a space where a body could have once been and even traces of blood though. Searching the area, officers locate a silent and scared little girl around the age of five or six. But who is she? Where did she come from?
Joe Grey, Dulcie, and Kit are three felines used to secretly cracking the cases too difficult for the humans. After all, cats have much keener senses than people. Together the trio dive into the mystery as they care for the child who may be the killer's next target.
**** This is Joe Grey's thirteenth case. It is a heartbreaking predicament set around the year's busiest season. Humans with cat owners, such as myself, can't help but love these feline heroes since we often wonder just how much our cat companions understand of our language. (MINE certainly act as though they understand my words. So well that it is sometimes creepy!) Mystery fans and/or animal fans will adore this story. Excellent for reading on a silent cold night. ****
Author: Anne Perry
Title - A Christmas Beginning (Mystery)
Superintendent Runcorn of Scotland Yard has several weeks of leave accrued. During the December holidays he decides to spend them on the island of Angelsey off the north coast of Wales.
Shortly after arriving, Runcorn runs into John Barclay and past memories come bursting forward. Runcorn has never been able to forget Barclay's widowed sister, Melisande Ewart. So Runcorn is happy when he spies Melisande at Sunday service. He also meets the local vicar, Arthur Costain. Life is beginning to look rosy once more.
Things take a turn for the worst when Runcorn comes upon the body of the reverend's younger sister. The local constable, Warner, has never dealt with such on the secluded island and asks for Runcorn's help. Runcorn is happy to be of service. But Sir Alan Farady, the chief constable of the county, arrives and is not so keen on the idea, especially since rumor has it that Faraday is soon to become officially engaged to Melisande.
**** A charming tale set during the holiday season for all mystery fans. Though romance may bloom for the superintendent, the focus is mainly on the death of Olivia. Anyone seeking a story with hot romance in the foreground need to look elsewhere. Author Anne Perry runs a clean story for the more serious minded.
It is not wonder to me that this author has become well known for her Christmas tales. They are truly worth reading more than once. ****
Author: Emilie Richards
Title - Beware False Profits (Aggie Wilcox mystery)
Being the wife of a minister is a full time job in itself. But Aggie Sloan-Wilcox is just as dedicated to the people of Emerald Springs as her husband, Ed, is. That does not mean Aggie thinks well of the ones who are given to hypocrisy, but Aggie manages to either avoid them or deal with them. Privacy for Aggie and Ed is almost nonexistent; even at home where the kids and Junie, Aggie's mother, are under the roof. So Aggie is excited to get some time away from Emerald Springs and be with Ed in New York for awhile. Unfortunately, getting away for awhile is harder than she realizes. They are in New York less than a day before Emerald Springs is calling.
Joe Wagner, the director of Helping Hands food bank, has disappeared. Since Joe disappeared while in New York, Ed and Aggie are appointed the task for searching for him. According to Maura, Joe's wife, Joe traveled to New York once a month for meetings. Seems Maura has no idea that Joe did not really travel to New York for meetings; once a month Joe is on stage as a female impersonator.
The mystery of Joe's disappearance is put on the back burner when the mayor's wife, Hazel Kefauver, falls dead during the food bank's annual fund-raiser. Detective Kirkor Roussos is not surprised to find Aggie on the scene. If someone in the area dies, Aggie is usually there when it happens; or so it seems. The suspect list is long. Mayor Kefauver is due to inherit everything. Everyone knows the couple was not too close and several knew of the mayor multiple affairs. There are rumors of financial fraud and Hazel knew about it. Perhaps Joe arranged her death to cover it up and disappeared to make sure he was not around to blame. Perhaps it was Chad Sutterfield; many know that Chad wants Joe's job and Hazel is too nosy for her own good. It's up to Aggie to find out what is going on, before someone else dies.
**** I must say that I love this mystery series. The character of Aggie may be a minister's wife, but she is definitely not starched under the collar (or as some would say "a bible thumper"). She is very down to earth. As to her thoughts about those around her, I find myself agreeing with her most of the time. Some of the secondary characters have personalities that remind me of real people I know. That tells me this author makes sure that even the characters that are not constantly in the spot light are well developed. Not all authors go to that length in order to make stories more realistic. If you enjoy testing your wits with a good mystery on cold winter nights, pick up this gem. Author Emilie Richards writes intelligent "who-dunnits" with some colorful characters. ****
Author: Marie Phillips
Title - Gods Behaving Badly
The Greek gods and goddesses of long ago had everything. But today, most people no longer believe in them. No one believes they were ever real, just stories from people long dead. Oh, but they ARE real and they are still around. In fact, they all reside in one London town house. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Their powers are dwindling, so each god and goddess only uses their power when they absolutely have to. Apollo is the exception to that rule. Apollo's ego is still as grand as ever; however, now Apollo cannot just take any woman he wants to bed. Today, in the twenty-first century, woman are strong, independent, and often say the forbidden word of "No." Hot headed as always, the last female to say the forbidden word was turned into a tree. (And of course Apollo will not use even MORE of his power to undo the deed.) Artemis, having met the lady-now-tree, while walking some dogs has had enough! Apollo is forced to swear, on Styx, not to cause any unnecessary harm to mortals for the next ten years or until he gets stronger again...if ever.
Aphrodite is bored and after a bit of revenge on Apollo. She watches Apollo's wow an audience with psychic powers, while Eros aims his bow. Apollo falls head-over-heels in love with Alice Mulholland, a mortal in the audience. Problem is that Alice is sweet on Neil, an engineer. Though Alice and Neil are not yet, technically, dating, she has no interest in Apollo.
Unable to turn Alice into a tree due to his oath, Apollo finds a little loophole. Soon the squabble between Aphrodite and Apollo grows into full scale war. Humanity, itself, will soon perish. The end of the world is finally coming - unless skinny Neil can somehow become a great hero and save the world.
**** Whatever happened to the gods and goddess of long ago? I am talking about the ones of Greek mythology. They lived in a palace with glorious fountains, pleasure gardens, nymphs, and so much more. In this book, author Marie Phillips tells you what happened to them.
I found the beginning of the book to be too slow. The story is written in such a way that it is easy for readers to follow along. The main and secondary characters are introduced and well developed. However, it just takes too long to set up the main plot and get the ball rolling. A quarter of the way into the story, the pace picks up and never slows down. I found myself laughing out loud in several places and amazed at the author's unique imagination. Author Marie Phillips is one to keep your eye on. She has an interesting way of looking at the world and wondering "What if". ****
Author: Hank Phillippi Ryan
Title - Face Time
Multiple Emmy award-winning reporter Charlotte "Charlie" McNally returns for an encore in this, her second novel, filled with mystery and suspense.
This time Charlie is investigating the possibility of wrongful conviction about Dorinda Sweeney. Three or four years ago Dorinda was convicted of murdering her husband and sentenced to life in prison. Now there is evidence of Dorinda's innocence. Problem number one is that Dorinda confessed to the crime. Problem number two is that Dorinda refuses to be interviewed. Problem three is that any time Charlie can show evidence of innocence, Dorinda can counter it somehow. Charlie's gut says Dorinda is innocent. So why would Dorinda confess to murdering her husband and swear the evidence of her innocence is wrong?
Things heat up when Charlie learns that Oscar "Oz" Ortega, the attorney general, had been the lead prosecutor in Dorinda's case. Oz also happens to be running for governor. Needless-to-say, Oz is not too happy about Charlie's story. Bad publicity is death on the campaign trail.
***** Hank Phillippi Ryan adds realism to her main character by adding Charlie's all-knowing mother in a sub-plot (she's getting a little cosmetic work done), as well as including a little down time with her boyfriend, Josh, and Josh's young daughter. I consider this to be a very nice touch, especially since today's dating scene often includes single parents. Charlie's profile becomes more rounded and believable with this addition. The author gives her readers a glimpse into the daily grind of an investigative reporter's life. Those of us outside the news field have no real idea of just how much leg work goes into those short news reports on television, much less what is involved in the big news stories. (Reporters face more danger in their line of work than one would guess. No need to cover war stories to find themselves in trouble. Then there are the stories that include lots of leg work, only to be dropped because they do not pan out or there was never really a story there.) This author writes what she knows, investigative reporting. With her knowledge of the field, Hank Phillippi Ryan makes this story so vivid and real that I almost expected the characters to stand up and walk off the pages of the book. Excellent! *****
Author: Kasey Michaels
Title - Bowled Over (Maggie Kelly mystery)
Historical mystery author Margaret "Maggie" Kelly used to believe that she was slowly going insane. The handsome Regency hero of her novels, Alexandre "Alex" Blake, the Viscount Saint Just, and his lovable side-kick, Sterling, had miraculously come to life in the not too distant past. That is enough to make anyone doubt their sanity. But now that some time has passed, Maggie is beginning to believe that maybe the two new men in her life will not go - poof - someday and disappear. Perhaps Maggie and Alex have a chance together after all.
The holidays are coming up, so it is time for Maggie to travel to Ocean City, New Jersey, for another Kelly Dysfunctional Christmas. She is taking Alex and Sterling along for the ride (moral support and all that). But first Maggie wants to stop and tour a huge Manhattan house she is considering to purchase. While doing so, Maggie breaks her foot on a metal doorstop. Therefore, Maggie must wear a bulky cast and use a walker. NOT one of Maggie's more graceful times.
Alicia and Evan, Maggie parents, have split up. So the trio head for Evan's apartment and arrive just in time to watch Maggie's father being arrested as a murder suspect. The local police believe Evan murdered one of his bowling buddies, Walter Bodkin, who happened to have had a brief affair with Alicia. Evan's bowling ball, the murder weapon, had been found near Bodkin's body. It is up to Maggie, Alex, and Sterling to prove his innocence. Problem is that there are SO MANY suspects. The late Bodkin had many amorous adventures with the local ladies (wed or not). In fact, Maggie cannot help but wonder if she is the only female who has never had a fling with the guy.
***** Author Kasey Michaels has an imagination that just won't stop. I must say that I find her characters to be unique and quite a refreshing change of pace. The character of Maggie will come across to many readers as realistic due to the way she uses humor as a defense mechanism. (My shield of choice too.) As with all great mysteries, all the clues are there for readers to browse through and test their wits upon. A true delight for all fans of mysteries. ENCORE! *****
Author: Nikki Arana
Title - As I Have Loved You
Leigh Scott's perfect world begins to crumble when her son, Jeff, becomes involved with what appears to be a most unsuitable girl. Despite her Christian faith, Leigh finds herself hating the girl and the negative influence she has on Jeff's life. At the same time, she has reconnected with her first love and struggling to forgive her father who manipulated things to keep her from marrying the man she truly loved, and coping with other secrets and lies that have shored up her carefully constructed world for years.
**** This is a complex book, one that is very difficult to sum up, but it is Ms. Arana's best work to date. Though the subject matter tends to be dark at times, unlike her prior trilogy, it does not become boggy and depressing while trying to sound happy about being afflicted. Despite the frank sorrow and patently flawed characters, there is a strong spiritual message that will touch many hearts. There are things I find surprising in a Christian novel, but that makes it more honest. ****
Author: Helen Barer
Title - Fitness Kills
Spending time at a health spa and getting paid to do so might sound like a dream job. However, food writer Nora Franke, who has landed that job as part of an assignment to make over the resort's menu while she writes an article on them, finds it less than dreamy. First, fitness is tough work. Secondly, people are dying and as she starts to probe the murders, she becomes a potential target.
*** Nora's strong, honest voice leads readers through the maze of clues to a surprising ending that only the most savvy armchair sleuths will even begin to guess at. The conclusion is one that will haunt you. On a side note, Nora's trouble relationship with Max is also an intriguing aspect to the plot, one that readers will enjoy seeing developed as the series grows, I predict. ***
Author: Julie Ortolon
Title - Unforgettable
Trying to save a small town dance hall and the town it's in turns into a sizzling, sweet, and more complicated than anyone anticipated exercise. Riley Stone's dreams of singing are coming true in Hope, Texas, albeit not in as big a way as she had dreamed. Is it possible that she will get the other big dream in her life and start a romance with the handsome scion of the family who owns the town, Jackson Hope? As unlikely as that might have once seemed, it just may come to pass when she turns to him for help in saving the dance hall. When she begins poking around after a family secret, or a possible secret, things take on a new angle, but the most surprising thing Jackson will discover is that he just can't get the torch singer out of his mind and she might be in his heart as well. With his political star rising, does he dare love a girl from the wrong side of the tracks? Does he dare not?
*** Ms. Ortolon perfectly captures the flavor of small towns in Texas, making the background come to life so much that it stars alongside Jackson and Riley. If you love Harry Connick's music, then be sure put it on in the background to set the mood in the most ideal fashion for this fun read. ***
Author: Monica McInerney
Title - The Faraday Girls
In Part One the story is set in Hobart, Tasmania (Australia). The year is 1979. The Faraday family consists of Leo (the father) and five sisters. Tessa, the girls' mother has been dead several years now. Juliet is the oldest. She is twenty-eight, hardworking, and loves to cook. Miranda is twenty-one, a drama queen, and rude to everyone. Eliza is nineteen, determined, and in college to study physical education and accountancy. Sadie is eighteen, always anxious and feeling like an outcast. However, the one most focused upon is the youngest. Clementine "Clem" is sixteen. She is the most level-headed in the family and three months pregnant. Maggie is born in February, 1980. All four aunts help Clem care for Maggie. Sadie, however, insists on doing the most. Clem builds her career and spends all her free time with Maggie. Problem is that Sadie begins to think of herself as Maggie's surrogate mother. It all comes to a head when Maggie is six-years-old. Sadie does something so horrible that she decides to disappear forever. The only Faraday Sadie wants contact with is Maggie and only via the local priest acting as a go-between. Once a year, Sadie sends Maggie a birthday card. The priest brings the card to Maggie each year and forwards Maggie's reply to Sadie.
In Part Two, Maggie is twenty-six. The setting begins in Greenwich Village, New York (USA). The year is 2000. Until recently, Maggie was an accountant in London. But two events within hours of each other have Maggie en route to New York and seriously considering a career change. Leo's love of inventing has accumulated quite a bit on money. Every July the Faraday clan meets up in "the holiday house" in Ireland. This year, Leo needs Maggie's help. Leo thinks he knows where Sadie is, thanks to a private detective. If Leo is correct, Sadie has a new name, lives in Ireland (very close to the holiday house) and has a family all her own. Maggie is about to learn that every single member of the Faraday family has their own closely guarded secret. At the center of them all is Maggie.
**** Author Monica McInerney is an internationally bestselling author. After reading this story, I totally understand why too. Yet unless you know slang from around the globe, you may find yourself rereading sections to figure out what some words and phrases mean. Most I could figure out by how they were used. A couple still have me wondering. Through it all, though, I came to feel as if I were part of the Faraday family. Drama, guilt, secrets, happiness, heart-breaking sorrow ... it's all in here. ****
Author: Michael McGarrity
Title - Death Song
Santa Fe Police Chief Kevin Kearney is nearing retirement, but that doesn't mean crime is going to let him leave the force on a restful note. He finds himself reunited with his son, fellow officer Sergeant Clayton Istee, to try and bring to justice whoever sneakily attacked and killed a rookie deputy sherriff and his wife, as well as two other women in another city. Though it seems that the man's son might be the murderer, every lead must be investigated and the leads bring to light more puzzles, involving smuggling, drugs, and more. Yet, justice will be served, even if it means Kevin will be working on the case until the very last second of his career.
*** Though I was at a disadvantage coming into this series for the first time, the action does not heavily depend on knowing the full scope of past details from the other books. I'm sure long time readers appreciate it more than newbies, however. Nonetheless, if you are a fan of police procedurals where the process is the star, more than the characters, you will find this to be your cup of coffee, which seems more appropriate than tea, in this instance. ***
Author: Kit Frazier
Title - Dead Copy
Cauley MacKinnon writes the obituaries for the Austin Sentinel. People know her best by the nickname The Obituary Babe. In the near future, Cauley will be a witness in the Obregon trial. Selena Obregon and her South American baddies (story in previous book, SCOOP) nearly killed Cauley more than once. Now Cauley is dealing with dead canaries and being attacked in her own home by someone who seems to be using scare tactics. If the bad guys think this will stop Cauley from testifying, then they are bonkers! Instead, Cauley is more than ready to testify and end it all.
FBI agent Tom Logan returns and needs Cauley to pen a fake obituary to protect a federal witness, Wylie Ray Puckett. Wylie is the key witness/informant for the Obregon trial. While completing the fake obituary, Cauley meets Faith, Wylie's sister. Faith has the most incredible voice and everyone who hears her sing just KNOWS that Faith will make the big time. Ethan "E" Singer, Cauley's computer geek at work, falls head-over-heals for Faith upon meeting her. (Mainly because she can read the binary coded message on his tee-shirt.) Things are finally beginning to look up for everyone!
When Wylie is gunned down on the steps of the court house, things really heat up (in more ways than one). Cauley cares for Faith, who witnessed her brother's death. After all, Cauley knows exactly what it feels like to see a family member gunned down. The next morning, Cauley goes to Faith's trailer only to find it in flames, with someone inside! Faith has disappeared and no one can find her. Since Faith's trailer is in Dawes County, Tom Logan and the rescue team Cauley volunteers with can do nothing but aid the search. Dawes County Sheriff Hollis is treating the whole search and rescue like it is some kind of joke. Looks like Cauley and Marlowe (her rescue dog) must investigate Faith's disappearance on their own. At the same time, Cauley is determined to get Sheriff Hollis's police dog taken away from him somehow. The poor thing is clearly being abused. Yes, it is time for Cauley to do what she does best; snoop out a scoop.
***** Another winner by author Kit Frazier. This story is even better than the first (and that is saying something since the first is wonderful). The secondary characters are just as well developed as the main. I have grown very attached to E and Marlowe. This tale will keep readers up late into the night as they read "just one more chapter". Fantastic! *****
Author: Marilyn Meredith
Title - Judgement Fire
After a battered wife is murdered, Deputy Tempe Crabtree is determined to find out who did it. Though there is an obvious suspect, she is not convinced of his guilt, and the fact that she is receiving threats only deepens her conviction. Now, memories of painful times in high school, times she shared with the victim, are haunting the deputy. Her quest for answers takes her into spiritual realms, proving that not all cases are solved using CSI techniques. But, finding the solution could bring deadly problems.
**** Tempe Crabtree continues to add an intriguing and unusual take on how to solve mysteries, making the unseen aspects of a case as important, if not more than, the physical. Ms. Meredith never lets her fans down. ****
Author: Mimi Thebo
Title - Welcome to Eudora
Lottie Dougal was raised in Eudora, Kansas, and is now the local stationer. Dr. James Emery is her boyfriend, who she expected to produce an engagement ring. When it did not happen, Lottie went to her famous herbal remedies to seek out a love spell. However, the spell backfires. James chooses Angela Requena to pop the question to.
At the same time there is some trouble in the Hispanic population. They are the majority of workers in the local quarry field and it is headed to bankruptcy. A lot of legal legwork begins.
**** This, of course, is not all that is going on. Author Mimi Thebo is well known for taking some complex plots and sub-plots, adding in some modern day problems, and then blending it all up with some very humorous sections. This story had me grinning often as I watched the small town soap opera play out. Recommended! ****
Author: Kathleen Bacus
Title - Calamity Jayne Heads West
Tressa Jayne Turner cordially invites you to join her as she heads west for the nuptuals of her grandma to Ranger Rick's Grandpa Joe. She knows there'll be trouble going in, if for no other reason than the happy couple is a recipe for trouble in and of themselves. Not only that, but her sister has chronic air sickness, Rick's nephew is the child from you know where and won't leave her alone, and there's Rick himself who confuses her just by existing. She doesn't need a mystery to solve, but sure enough, when she buys a fertility statue as a wedding gift, Tressa Jayne finds herself up to her neck in alligators as she and her soon to be step-nephew embark on a crazy quest for treasure and try to stay a step ahead of the relic hunter also chasing it and them.
*** Screwball comedy and mystery blend in this unpredictable, slightly campy story. Tressa makes a good narrator as she brings readers along on her wild ride. If you need a mindless laugh, then this is for you. ***
Author: Allison Winn Scotch
Title - The Department of Lost and Found
Two things happen to Natalie simultaneously; her boyfriend leaves her and she finds out she has cancer. Over the next several months, readers share her journey through the latter. An old love reappears, along with an interesting new possible romance, who comes with his own set of issues. Natalie's career as an assistant to a senator undergoes a cross between a roller-coaster ride and a maze as she discovers afresh how fast things can be spun and where her loyalties need to lie. She also discovers the meaning of misery, smokes pot, and finds out who she is.
**** Whether you have had cancer or just known someone you loved who went through it, there is something in this that will strike a chord. Life goes on, even when you want the world to stop so you can get off, but there is hope is the message that comes through the pain and the humor. It's an unusual book, one I hesitated to read, but am glad I did. ****
Author: Wendy Spero
Title - Bed Rest
*** Remember Jack Nicholson's character in As Good as It Gets, or Mr. Monk? People with as many quirks and neuroses as they have do exist, and one has written a book giving us a window into her life from childhood to the present. Told in a style that combines Erma Bombeck with stand-up comedy, Ms. Spero is frank, sometimes overly so, and funny. There are shocking moments of bluntness, but the honesty with which she recounts things is sure to have you identifying with her at least once. ***
Author: Madeleine Wickham
Title - The Gatecrasher
You've heard of women hanging out at grocery stores, gymns, and other unsusual places looking for guys. Fleur Daxeny employs a different method. She searches for the man of the moment at funerals, specifically, the funerals of rich women who leave behind a husband. Her strategy is to get in, meet the widower, find a place in his life, gain what financial reward she can, and move on. It's worked well for years, but her latest score upsets the plan. Richard Favour and his family somehow get into not only her heart, but her daughter loves them as well. When the time comes to go, will she be able to?
*** Though for much of the book the protagonist is truly unlikeable; presenting as completely shallow and selfish, her gradual metamorphasis and her daughter's story makes this a readable, redemptive story. I imagine this would make a very good movie. ***
Author: Mary Elizabeth Goldman
Title - To Love and Die in Dallas
Four people grow up together during one of America's hectic times. Who can ever forget President John F. Kennedy being assassinated? Or Reverend Martin Luther King (Jr)'s death? Or that only two months later Senator Robert F. Kennedy was shot to death? So much happening; so much drama. The story touches upon the time these friends are together, mostly their junior high years. These teens thought their younger days were filled with drama. But it was nothing compared to what their adult lives would be like.
Annie Williams's diary sets up the chart that readers follow. Lindsey Wilson marries Senator Jimmy Mitchell, but has a secret lover named Frances Zacchoias, the owner of a downtown café. Lindsey was always the center of attention, and her death is no different. Lindsey's funeral reunites the three other friends. David Matthews, a criminal lawyer, used to date Lindsey. He also used to date the other two friends, Roberta "Butter" Duplissey, and Annie. But the chaos does not stop there. Butter steals Annie's diary and gives it to David, only to be found dead shortly thereafter in David's office! Enter Detective Jake Malone, Dallas P.D., who will bring some shocking revelations.
**** Drama, drama, drama! Author Mary Elizabeth Goldman certainly seems to know drama! This story is as interesting as the television show DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES and just as full of twists and turns. Perfect for some quality reading time during a vacation or to make an afternoon go by at lightning speed. Engrossing. ****
Author: Sarah Bilston
Title - Bed Rest
Quinn "Q" Boothroyd is a young British lawyer married to an American. She works at the law firm of Schuster and Marks, in New York City. Her fast-paced life comes to a screeching halt after her obstetrician appointment. Dr. Weinberg is very concerned because Q's body is not producing enough amniotic fluid for the baby to develop properly. Q's fluid level has to rise or the baby will be delivered almost three months too early. The answer is strict bed rest. Q may not walk or lift anything. She may shower once a day, sit up for dinner, and go to her OB appointments. That is it! Nothing else!
Tom, her husband, goes back to his own hectic work zone quickly. Q is bored within eight hours. She can see no way to spend three months in a reclined position without going insane. Q begins writing in a journal to kill time. But soon she needs more. She begins trying to live through others. As she gives legal advice to her neighbor, tries to feel happiness for Brianna's (a friend) love life, becomes closer to mother and sisters, and tries to reconnect with her husband, Q finds her outlook on life changing. The time Q spends in bed rest teaches her a lot about herself, life in general, and most importantly, about the baby growing within her.
*** This is a humorous tale told in a first-person view point. If you have ever been pregnant, whether you've had a career at the time or not, you will easily empathize. ***
Author: Gemma Halliday
Title - Undercover in High Heels
Insecurity over her relationship with hot cop Ramirez leads Maddie Springer to do something frankly stupid that results in him being demoted and angry with her. She is not so sure that the demotion is all that bad; after all, it lets him work as a bodyguard on the set of her favorite night time soap, Magnolia Lane. Hoping to help him as well see the stars, she gets a job as a wardrobe assistant there. Naturally, trouble soon begins. The female lead's stand-in is murdered, so naturally, Maddie feels like she just has to try and solve the case. Soon, she's getting grotesque death threats, finding herself in unusual positions, and generally re-inventing chaos as she goes. Jealousy surely has put Maddie in a mess this time!
**** Fast paced humor makes the story flow easily. Ramirez is an intriguing hero, which always makes things better. Though at times the mirth tends to override the murder angle, if you enjoy a good, screwball comedy with a hint of mystery, you'll like this. ****
Author: Debbie Macomber
Title - Where Angels Go
A shortage of available Prayer Ambassadors at the busiest time of year means the Archangel Gabriel must once again call out the Angelic Three Musketeers to handle a trio of special requests. Outwardly, they appear to be simple; find a little boy a dog, help a young lady move past the pain of a long ago divorce, and give a dying old man peace about his wife's fate when he has gone to the light. In fact, God has already put in place the very tools they need to bring about their miracles. Even these three shouldn't be able to cause trouble with such easy requests. Well, make that not very much trouble, considering who we are discussing. Apparent simplicity aside, Shirley, Goodness, and Mercy find that their chosen recipients of grace come with problems that make the gifts hard to grant. Fortunately, they work for Someone who is very good with miracles.
***** Though this latest foray into the adventures of my favorite fictional heavenly messengers is perhaps less whacky than prior entries, I dare say it is by far the best. Long before the last page is turned, not only have I laughed, but have also been moved to the good sort of tears that cleanse as they hurt. Keep a tissue handy. This is a treasure of a book and worth every sniffle. There is plenty of comedy, but the way Where Angels Go touches your heart is the payoff. *****
Author: Syrie James
Title - The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen
Writers are said to put something of themselves into the worlds they create and into the characters that populate them. Given how beloved Jane Austen's work is, the idea of finding her memoirs and gaining insight into what reality might have seasoned her fiction would surely intrigue any of her fans. Though no such diary exists, presumably, this fictionalized version of what it might have been has an air of authenticity that makes you believe you are reading the lady's private musings. She recounts the pain of losing her father and the subsequent loss of status that left her and her mother living somewhat a vagabound life, moving from brother to brother's home. Though she penned stories about love, most of her life was lacking in romance, other than a few potential convenient marriages she rejected. Yet, there was one love, one impossible romance that would shape her works and her life.
*** I imagine someone who actually likes Jane Austen would have a far greater appreciation for this work than I. However, I do commend Ms. James' ability to get inside the head of a woman who lived long ago and make her world come to life. Needless to say, if you are a Jane Austen afficienado, this is a must read. ***
Author: Janet Evanovich
Title - Lean, Mean Thirteen
After all Ranger has done for Stephanie Plum, her doing a favor for him seems to be natural and right. Of course, it goes all wrong. She's just supposed to plant a bug on her no-good ex-husband, Dickie Orr. Unfortunately, he makes her mad and she goes for his throat. Within a day, Dickie has vanished, Stephanie's suspected of murder or kidnapping, and the bad guys are all after her. Moreover, one of her skips keeps exploding roadkill in her face. On the bright side, Ranger believes she is innocent and will do what it takes to keep Babe safe and out of jail.
***** For most of you, this book is an automatic purchase, and with good reason. Before I got to page two, I was laughing. If you need to smile, then you need to visit the Plums. As an added sheer delight, Ranger is hotter than ever. The chemistry between him and Stephanie is electric. The only, and I mean the absolutely only, bad thing about this book is it will be a very long year until the fanatastic fourteenth in the series. *****
Author: Lee Charles Kelley
Title - Like A Dog With A Bone (Mystery)
Just back from his honeymoon in Mexico, kennel owner Jack Field finds himself involved in another murder mystery as he simply tries to do a good deed and check in on a retired general and his dog who has a digging problem at the request of the general’s daughter. But the dog has dug up a bone that belongs to a body, the body of the general’s wife who supposedly ran off to Mexico twenty years ago. Suddenly government types are tailing Jack and bombs are exploding and one of his employees goes AWOL as Jack finds himself trying to uncover a U.S. Government conspiracy and the murderer before he becomes the next victim.
**** This was an interesting whodunit involving government conspiracy theories that is well written with humor and candor. It is a good read for dog lovers with interesting dog training theories though there are quite a few characters in the story to keep up with which hinders the reading a bit. ****
Author: Leslie Langtry
Title - 'Scuse Me While I Kill This Guy
Ginny Bombay's day job is being a widowed, suburban SAHM, but it's her secret life that makes things interesting. She's a member of a three thousand year old clan of assassins, a highly skilled killer who has been practicing her trade since she was a little girl, just like every other member of her family. Now, the family is in a crisis and it's up to Gin to resolve it by unearthing the mole who could expose them to the governments of the world. It may mean killing someone she loves, but it's that or be killed. The Bombays are not exactly a sentimental lot. Family business is not what Ginny wants to concentrate on, unless it will let her off the snooty witch who saddled her with Daisy Troop duty. She'd rather try to figure out how to manage a relationship with a new man, one who is opposed to killing, oddly enough.
**** Though you know that what Ginny does for a living is evil, you find yourself chuckling along with her adventures and secretly rooting for her. Imagine La Femme Nikita as a PTA mom, and you might have an idea of what to expect. This is a fun read, a true guilty pleasure. ****
Author: Carlene Thompson
Title - Last Seen Alive
Twelve years ago, Chyna Greer's best friend, Zoey, disappeared into the night. She was only the first in a chain of young women to vanish mysteriously in the town of Black Willow. Now, Chyna has come home for her mother's funeral and finds herself receiving messages from beyond and visions of the other young women, including the most recent victim. Ghosts beg her to help them and Chyna wants to, but how? The one bright spot in the madness is she is finally getting a chance with the young man she once had a despearate crush on, but none of that will matter if the killer gets to her first. It's a very small town; he has to be close.
***** Most of the time, I can guess who the killer is, but that is never true with Carlene Thompson. That and her adeptness at drawing you into an eerie world where you don't know who is safe to trust keep her at the top of my favorites list. Surprises come at you around every corner. If you have ever felt like you are reading the same books over and over, just with different titles, then grab this or any of her works. *****
Author: Lawrence Block
Title - Hit Parade
Just looking at Keller you would never know that he is a professional hitman. Keller is friendly and outgoing. A real "people person", so to speak. Keller has been in business for years and never been caught. (Though it has come close a time or two.)
Now Keller is thinking about his future. So he tells Dot, his "booking agent" and tells her that he will take any job, anywhere. He wants to have a plump bank account to retire with. However, this means Keller will be taking much greater risks. In Keller's business, that can be fatal. In order to make all the hits he wants quickly, Keller will not have the time to research his target for the best time and place. Unexpected defenses may be in place that Keller could overlook in his zeal. But if something goes wrong, Keller can improvise. After all, after this many years in the business, Keller is very inventive.
**** This is the third hit book. The interesting thing about Keller, to me at least, is that he tends to have a conscious. He wants to know WHY the target has a bull's-eye on painted on the forehead. He is even known to decline jobs on principle. Still, Keller never came across to me as real or believable. He remained simply a character that I could take or leave. Yet I must admit that the novel is very entertaining and well written. Definitely worth your time and money. ****
Author: Hank Phillippi Ryan
Title - Prime Time
(Charlie McNally mystery)
Meet Charlotte "Charlie" McNally; but do it fast, she will only give you ten seconds unless you have some ground-shaking news to give her exclusive rights to. Charlie is Channel 3's golden girl, their best investigative reporter. Yet now that she has hit forty-six years of age, Charlie is worried that her TV reporting days may be ending. Charlie has only a few weeks to locate a huge story to report for the November ratings. Unless Charlie finds something really spectacular, this year could very well be Charlie's last year in the journalism career. (Something Angela Nevins, her manager, keeps hinting at.)
When Charlie learns that the recently deceased Brad Foreman had been trying to reach her via email, she hunts it up in curiosity and finds what just may be the scoop of the century. Everyone with an email address gets the spam emailings about refinancing; but what if, instead of junk, the refinance spams were coded messages for a multimillion-dollar fraud ring? Charlie and Franklin Parrish, her partner-in-crime-solving, are determined to find out if that little piece of paranoia could possibly be verified. Seems anyone else who had looked into what Brad found out had ended up in an "accidental car wreck".
Charlie's investigation leads her Joshua "Josh" Gelston, head of the English Department at the exclusive Bexter Academy. Josh is not only very helpful, but very interested in dating Charlie. Having recently wondered if she should actually begin seriously dating again, Charlie open to Josh's advances. But could Charlie trust anything Josh does or says? What if he is somehow involved in the whole dirty racket?
***** Looks like mystery fans have a new series to test their wits against. The author, Hank Phillippi Ryan, is writing about what she knows best, investigative reporting. Since Hank Ryan has been a television reporter in Boston for quite some time now, she is able to bring realism to her writing. The main trio, Charlie, Franklin, and Josh, are well developed and vividly believable. As for the story, it flows so smoothly that the next spam refinance email I received, I actually opened to see if there was any code apparent. Author Hank Phillippi Ryan just may be to mystery books what John Grisham is to legal thrillers. *****
Author: Whitney Lyles
Title - First Comes Love
Cate has love and marriage, now all she needs is a baby carriage. First, she has to gain enough weight to get pregnant, but not long after that, the tests come back positive. Then, comes nine months of torture. Morning sickness lasts all day, every day for weeks beyond what she expected it to. Her sister-in-law is engaged to a weird dude who comes complete with two utter brats, and she wants Cate to be her matron of honor, which involves planning parties and showers, with the help of a former romantic rival. By the second trimester, Cate has to wonder if it's worth it.
*** With humor that feels true to life, this story draws you into the dramatic comedy that is Cate's pregnancy. The most laugh out loud moments come from dealing with her idiot of a sister-in-law. Even the most outrageous scenes feel like something that might have actually happened, which makes the entire book all the more smile worthy. ***
Author: Rebecca Benston
Title - In The Wash (Rona Shively Story)
Rona Shively is a private investigator. With her small frame, no one would ever believe that Rona was capable of succeeding in her chosen career. Yet she is doing okay. Rona's good friend, Norman Dent, is not only helping Rona find and purchase a decent vehicle, but also sent Rona her latest client.
Gilbert Delvecchio is looking for his ex-wife, Lucy, who often calls Gilbert to check in and chat awhile. Lucy is now named Luther Janetti and seems to have dropped off the radar. Gilbert is worried, especially since Janus Gofski, a big crime boss, has a hit out on Luther! What is the hit for? Who really knows? It could be something to do with gambling, messing up with the laundry mat business Gofski had given Luther, or perhaps because Luther married Gofski's favorite niece (Rita Gofski) without informing anyone that he used to be a she. Seems Gofski is interested in Gilbert's meeting with Rona too. Two of Gofski's henchmen have been following Gilbert and now they begin following Rona.
Rona starts doing what she does best, research. Rona begins to slowly put pieces of the puzzle together, never stopping to think that Gofski's men might harm anyone crazy enough to help her case along. Rona realizes that she had best complete this case fast or she may be the next one to die.
**** This is a short, but expensive, mystery novel. There is less than one hundred pages in the book, however, the book is oversized. I figure it rounds out to about two hundred pages in a normal sized paperback. The action moves along at a pretty good pace. I never had time to get bored. The only real problem is that after page seventy-five typos began to appear. (Nothing a spell checker would catch though.) Do not worry. Chances are most people will never even notice the errors. All-in-all, this mystery is definitely worth your time to read. I hope to catch the next case of Rona Shively in the near future. ****
Author: Joan Medlicott
Title - An Unexpected Family
Through the years, as we have followed the lives of Amelia, Grace, and Hannah, we rejoiced for Grace when she fell in love with Bob and again for Hannah when she and Max were married. Now, finally, we have the opportunity to cheer for Amelia Declose, whom many of us think of as the most delicate of the three friends, as she finds An Unexpected Family.
It was the ringing of the doorbell, followed by a frantic knocking, that changed Amelia’s life forever. As she looked through the peephole of the front door, she had her first glimpse of a woman and child who identified themselves as Thomas Declose’ daughter and granddaughter. Amelia was stunned and bewildered by these words – spoken by a stranger standing on her front porch. Thomas was Amelia’s long deceased husband, and her only thought was, “Impossible! Our daughter died when she was nine years old.” As memories and emotions whirled in her head, Amelia stood motionless and felt as if she was going to faint. As her struggle continued, Hannah’s husband, Max, came up the porch steps and introduced himself to Miriam Declose Smith and her young daughter, Sadie.
Throughout the pages of this book, the reader is allowed an intimate look into some raw feelings of betrayal as Amelia deals with the unbelievable discovery of her husband’s infidelity. Throughout their life together, Amelia believed Thomas to be completely faithful to her but now she must face the ugly reality that he led a double life with another woman and even had an illegitimate child by that woman.
We soon find out that Thomas’s daughter, Miriam, is on the run from an abusive husband and is looking for sanctuary for herself and her daughter with the only person she felt she could trust – Amelia, her father’s wife. To do so, she needed to tell Amelia a long story about Thomas’ deception with her own mother, who died before Sadie was born – no easy task. In typical fashion, Hannah and Grace unite to help Amelia come to terms with her husband’s adultery and to draw Miriam and Sadie (who were innocent victims in this saga) into their family circle.
***** This is not just a story about love, betrayal, forgiveness, respect, and friendship – although it is certainly all those things. To my mind, its main goal is to teach a painful lesson about self-inspection as Amelia is forced to confront, and come to terms with, a painful part of her own life and the depression she suffered following the death of her only child – which is when Thomas’ infidelity began. I’ll be waiting to read more about this unexpected family as they are incorporated into life in Covington! Bravo, Joan! *****
Author: Danielle Steel
Title - Coming Out
Olympia Rubinstein is a busy working mom who manages it all—family, home, and work with ease and finesse until she receives the invitation for her daughters’ coming out ball where they will be presented to New York Society at the exclusive cotillion, The Arches. Remembering her own fond memories of her coming out ball, Olympia is looking forward for the same joyous experience for her twin daughters, Virginia and Veronica, and is shocked to see that one seemingly harmless event could cause such a rift in her normally calm family life. While one daughter is eagerly awaiting the ball, her twin sister is defiantly opposed to it. Her first husband is adamant about his girls attending the ball while her second husband feels that a debutante ball is a horrible social injustice promoting extreme prejudices. Trying to do the right thing for everyone involved as the ball quickly approaches, Olympia is nearly at her wits end. Then the week of the ball arrives and her entire life seems to have spun out of control with family illnesses, emergencies, and her eldest son’s own personal crisis. Olympia is nearly ready to give in and give up, but with the loving support of her mother-in-law Olympia perseveres and keeps hoping for the best and in one magical night choices are made, traditions are born, and love abounds.
***** Danielle Steel’s Coming Out is a lovely story of family. It is of the uniqueness of each family dynamic where differences of opinion can clash and also mesh. It is a story where strong principles can collide with just wanting an enchanting evening. It is a story of strength of character that ultimately allows love to shine forth. I really enjoyed the time spent with Olympia and her family which only reaffirms the power of love. *****
Author: Kay Hooper
Title - Sleeping With Fear
(A Bishop/Special Crimes Unit novel)
Riley Crane woke up in a beach cottage fully dressed, a gun under her pillow, covered in blood, and lots of holes in her memory about the last three weeks. Sounds bad to normal people. But Riley is a clairvoyant ex-military FBI agent who specializes in the occult. She immediately goes about piecing together the events of the last three weeks. Riley had been sent to Opal Island by Noah Bishop, Chief of the FBI's Special Crimes Unit (SCU) to investigate reports of dark occult activity. Yet Riley has no idea if she ever learned anything. The first thing Riley notices is that her "spooky senses" are AWOL. Even though she cannot tap into her spooky senses, they seem to still be draining energy from her physical body. Riley can hardly eat enough PowerBars or drink enough orange juice throughout the day to maintain her normal weight. With her special abilities out of commission, Riley feels vulnerable. Then Riley is thrown for a loop when she learns that somewhere in the last three weeks she has taken a lover. Not just any man either; Riley's lover is Ash Prescott, the district attorney.
When a decapitated body is found hanging over an area that appears to have recently been used in an occult rite, Riley begins the long last of putting pieces together. Everything points to a psychic serial killer from her past. Problem is that the man is dead. Riley, herself, killed him. However, in Riley's business, dead does not necessarily mean gone.
**** I found this to have a few unusual twists from what I have read in previous paranormal thrillers. Everything is written in such a way that I, as the reader, came to think of the spooky senses as totally normal. The author does not even attempt to make everything seem creepy, odd, or strange. Everything that goes on, even the spooky senses, is nonchalantly explained. This made everything even more realistic to me.
Author Kay Hooper has done a terrific job with this story involving Riley and Ash. I certainly look forward to more novel involving the agents under Noah Bishop command. Perhaps the author will give a full length story to the guy who sees ghosts in Technicolor. I can only hope. ****
Author: Linda Windsor
Title - Wedding Bell Blues
Alexandra Turner, or Alex as she is known to friends, is completely shocked to see her ex-husband, Josh Turner, back in Piper Cove, ostensibly just as part of her younger sister's wedding party. However, Josh has changed his life, found God, and still loves her. Whatever Alex's feelings might be, she has a lot of old wounds in her heart, and though she believes in the Bible, applying all the words about forgiveness is a little hard to do when you have to do it. Facing her feelings for Josh is not the only challenge ahead of Alex. Between making her sister's wedding impressive, dealing with her father's health, and the consequences of secrets, Alex is in for a lot of lessons that will bring great rewards if she passes the tests.
**** Christians are not perfect people, just forgiven people. This is made clear from Wedding Bell Blues. Rather than drawing stereotypical pictures of people who would never dream of doing wrong, Ms. Windsor's characters are people you might meet anywhere. She proves that a story can be real without having explicit content, though there can be slight implications that the characters are thinking about such things without making them lesser beings. If you are tired of bland inspirationals, then this should join Karen Kingsbury and other such writers on your shelf. ****
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Title - Exit Strategy
Nadia leads a double life. Part of the time, she is a former cop, running a nature lodge. The rest of the time, she's a professional hit woman, ruthlessly eliminating criminals and being paid for it. When a serial killer begins randomly picking off people across North America and the cops think it's a pro, the real pros are more than slightly upset. One of them, Jack, asks Nadia if she wants to help bring this Helter-Skelter killer to justice. Of course, she does. Not only is this someone dangerous who needs to be taken down, but if it keeps up, the cops will start looking too closely at the real hitmen. Nadia finds herself in the position of both prey and predator as she, Jack, and a feisty older lady embark on their hunt. She is determined to end this, one way or another.
**** If you are a fan of Alias or La Femme Nikita, then this is a must read. Nadia's ethics demand that she always do the right thing, though she might not always follow the standard procedure to do so. Whether this is a cotinuing series or a one-shot, it's a satisfying read that shows that Ms. Armstrong's range of writing ability crosses easily between the real world and the world of fantasy easily and adeptly. ****
Author: Heather Webber
Title - Trouble in Bloom
(A Nina Quinn Mystery)
Nina Quinn embarks on a personal self-discovery quest just weeks after her hot and heavy relationship with the hunky Bobby MacKenna ended when he moved out of state. But now Bobby is back, temporarily, and Nina agrees to pretend to be his girlfriend on the reality dating show Hitched or Ditched in order to help Bobby’s lawyer cousin with his current case. As Nina finds it more and more difficult not to fall back into Bobby’s arms, as she knows a long-distance relationship would not work, she becomes embroiled in the chaos of the hottest local reality show. Then a murder occurs on the set of Hitched or Ditched and Nina’s insatiable curiosity propels her to follow the clues and find the murderer all while trying to maintain her sanity around the zany characters in her life which include her nosy mother, meddling cousin, and ex-criminal employees.
***** Trouble in Bloom is an enjoyable fast-paced murder romance novel in which Heather Webber’s Nina Quinn heroine is very reminiscent of Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum and just as lovable. I really enjoyed this breezy, humorous whodunit filled with lots of quirky but endearing characters! *****
Author: Lynn Harris
Title - Death by Chick Lit
Chick Lit A-list authors are being killed at a steady pace. Every time Lola Somerville turns around, it seems, she's either finding a body or hearing about one of her fellow author's demise. She's determined to find out who is doing it and why. Technically, she's not a potential target, because, as she maintains, her book is so not chick lit, but she still wants to know the truth, finding the bodies makes her involved, and for all she knows, she might be a target. Of course, being nosy could put her on the hit list, too.
*** Told in a breezy style that pokes fun at the very genre it almost falls into, this is a humorous romp that is almost too funny. Lola's husband, Doug, is a gem of a beta hero, supportive without being a wimp. If you enjoy wicked humor and a dash of mystery, then you will want this. ***
Author: Lori Avocato
Title - Dead on Arrival
(Pauline Sokol mystery)
Pauline Sokol has her sixth insurance fraud case from Scarpello & Tonelli Insurance Agency and it requires her to don the hated scrubs again. Pauline likes for her feet to be planted firmly on the ground; so she is NOT thrilled to learn that she is going undercover as an RN for the land-and-air ambulance company called TLC. TLC has been doing some serious high billing, in the millions, since the nephew and his sister took it over.
Pauline has become used to Jagger's surprises, so Pauline is only slightly fazed when she learns that Jagger is an actual paramedic and on the case with her. But the paramedic Pauline spends most of her work time with, and some personal time too, is "ER Dano". Dano is the company's best (and hottest!) paramedic. Dano is also burned out, but refuses to change his twenty-one year career.
Things become dicey when one of the company's owners is murdered and the killer begins telephoning Pauline. But Pauline has got to wonder just which is more lethal, the killer or the patients she is sent out to rescue.
***** Pauline may still be single, but her personal life is definitely perking up. Jagger has nicknamed Pauline "Sherlock", but Dano has also christened Pauline with a nickname, "Nightingale". Both nicknames are extremely fitting for the ex-RN.
Lori Avocato has penned another saga for mystery fans to test their wits against. Funny, exciting, realistic, and totally irresistible! *****
Authors: Jennifer Crusie, Bob Mayer
Title - Don't Look Down
Lucy Armstrong is very happy shooting animal commercials. She HATES shooting full-length movies. But when Lucy's little niece, Pepper, actually begs her, Lucy agrees to be the director for the last four days of shooting an action movie.
The stunt coordinator is Connor Nash, Lucy's ex-husband from twelve years prior. Connor makes it clear that he wants Lucy back; Lucy makes it clear that she does not want Connor back. However, Lucy is very interested, against her better judgement, in Captain J.T. Wilder. The Green Beret has just been hired by the male star as a military consultant and stunt double.
J.T. is off duty from the military. Yet instead of using the time to rest, J.T. agrees to the temporary job offered to him. After all, it is a huge amount of money for less than a week's worth of work. But even before he steps off the helicopter, J.T. knows something is dangerously wrong. The previous director died, seemingly of natural causes, several members of the crew have quit, and Pepper keeps talking about the ghost she keeps watching in the swamp. J.T.'s instincts tell him that Pepper's "ghost" is very real, even though he can find no evidence that anyone is in the swamp watching all the action. When the CIA contacts him for a quiet meeting, J.T. knows R & R is no longer in his near future.
***** Jennifer Crusie is well known for her humorous romantic suspense novels. Bob Mayer is well known for his thriller novels. Even though they write different genres, the two authors blend their talents seamlessly for an outstanding tale that kept me up late at night and my eyes glued to the pages. I can only hope to see more books from this duo shortly. These two authors have simply GOT to collaborate on more novels or their fans may mutiny. Fantastic! *****
Author: Tim Willocks
Title - The Religion
The tale begins in May, 1565. Carla La Penautier is a French countess in need of the man named Mattias. The man is an arms dealer, a Rabelaisian soldier of fortune, and a former janissary. Twelve years ago Carla gave birth to a baby boy. Carla is now determined to seek out that child; the baby that had been taken from her. The father of the baby, Inquisitor Ludovico, is equally determined to deny Cara any chance of disgracing him.
Mattias Tannhauser lives up to his well earned Saxon reputation. He rescues his friend, Sabato, from the middle of being tortured, and tells him to meet up with his family in Venice. Then he is off to kill a few more people in need of dying. Before too much time has passed, Mattias rescues Carla from a kidnapper (charged with the task of conveying her to a convent to save her soul) and they are off to Malta to locate Carla's son. They neither know the boy's name, nor what he looks like.
The Knights of Saint John the Baptist are already famous. The knights call themselves "The Religion". The Turks call them the "Hounds of Hell". The knights scorn European whining and bickering. They live to fight Islam and dream of a free Jerusalem. A Holy War begins.
**** This terrific historical novel runs from May - September of the year 1565. (Not including the Epilogue which takes place in 1566.) I am astounded at the historical authenticity within the pages. If you are not familiar with the events of this time frame, as I am not, then make use of the glossary that the author is gracious enough to provide. The glossary gives names, items, terms, and characters. A map of the battle grounds and of Malta can be found in the front of the novel. I found the story to be engrossing, but at times it slowed a bit too much for my personal liking. The characters are well developed and the story line runs pretty smooth. Highly recommended. ****
Authors: Clare Naylor & Mimi Hare
Title - The First Assistant
Elizabeth Lizzie Miller has been promoted from Second Assistant to First Assistant at The Agency. Most women would think Lizzie has it all. Her boyfriend and soon-to-be fiancée is Luke Lloyd, a movie star. Lizzie does not HAVE to work, pay bills, or anything should she choose not to. After all, she could simply use Lukes platinum AMEX. It is in her purse. Luke even encourages her to use it. But Lizzie wants to make it on her own. If that means using all her money to purchase a dress for a premiere, instead of paying the power bill, then so be it.
Lizzies life is not as glamorous as you would think though. One: Luke is on location in Prague with his ex-girlfriend (co-star). Two: The new Second Assistant at The Agency is a witch and gunning for Lizzies job. Three: Scott, Lizzies boss, is trading Lizzie for three months to the newest teen starlit, in Thailand . (Scott gets a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing out of the deal.) Four: Lukes housekeeper caught Lizzie in bed with another male friend, but would not believe Lizzie if she explained that theyd past out drunk after a pity-party and did nothing. The list just goes on and on.
*** A nice read for a long rode trip or rainy weekend. I found it to be very humorous in many sections. It is a bit unbelievable at times, but this story is worth your time to read and enjoy. ***
Author: Suzanne MacPherson
Title - The Forever Summer
Lila Abbott has been a single mom for over seventeen years now. Her daughter has left for college and Lila is left with an empty nest. Lila lives in a small town and works in the local grocery store. The only UN-average thing about Lila is her "ghost whispering" talent. At least twice in the past years Lila has helped a lost spirit move on. Sometimes Lila feels as though ghosts just seek her out for spite. At least, that is what Lila feels Emily's ghost is doing.
Emily Ruth Griffin, the local snob who is mean to everyone in town, keels over by the lemons in the produce section. Everyone knows that Emily had a severe peanut allergy. Tests now show that peanuts were involved in her death. Yet Emily did not eat peanuts, or anything with peanuts in it, before she died. Another odd note is that Emily has always had several EpiPen kits around her, just in case. Yet no EpiPen was found on her body, in her purse, or even in her car. But Emily's little dog was found waiting in the lady's hot car. Lila takes responsibility for the poor animal. Lila sees Emily's abandoned grocery cart, and going by the contents Emily had been shopping for a candle light dinner. So Emily had expected some romantic company that night. However, no one seems to know who Emily was planning to make dinner for. Very strange; everyone in a small town knows everything about everyone.
Lucas Griffin is Emily's ex-husband. Lucas divorced Emily when he caught her in bed with his own brother! Could Lucas have murdered Emily somehow? Lila sure hopes not, because she and Lucas are attracted to each other. If Emily's ghost would stop being a snobbish pain in Lila's hind quarters, perhaps Lila could figure out the cause of Emily's sudden death and exactly WHAT Emily was so frantic to tell her.
**** If you can figure out what Emily is trying to inform Lila of, then you are a better sleuth than I. I found myself laughing aloud at some of Emily's stunts, but even more so at Lila's nonchalant attitude about it all. One thing is for sure, no one in town could say Lila was making anything up. Everyone in the store saw the cart shopping with no one pushing it and all the Cheese Whiz containers pop their tops and spray all over the aisle. This mystery is overflowing with humor, romance, sass, and one crazy ghost. ****
Author: Laura Durham
Title - To Love and To Perish
(Annabelle Archer mystery)
Annabelle "Annie" Archer is fast becoming one of Washington, D.C.'s top wedding planners. For some odd karma reason, where ever Annie goes dead bodies follow. (A bit macabre, but true.) Detective Mike Reese and her friends are getting very used to it though.
Annie has planned a huge Persian wedding at the Mayflower Hotel. Several weddings, throughout the hotel, are in various stages of completion. Annie's bride is due to walk down the aisle shortly. Annie and Richard, who owns the best catering company in D.C., are triple checking the ballroom decor when they spy a body hanging from the railings. The deceased is well known by everyone in the wedding planning and catering circles, but NOT in a good way. Seems that everyone who ever met the lady quickly became an enemy.
Soon it is obvious that a killer is targeting the area's wedding planners. Annie cannot resist digging for information. Annie justifies it to herself by believing she may be next and knowledge is power. Helping her are Kate (her assistant who never gets a quote correct), Fern (the city's best hairdresser), Leatrice (the nutty neighbor), and Richard.
Who ever thought that being a wedding planner was easy had no idea what they were talking about.
***** Laura Durham writes some of the best mysteries in the twenty-first century. Full of colorful characters and comical situations, I was unable to stop reading. The author adds special touches to her characters which make them so memorable. (Such as Fern who shoulders his way through a crowd yelling, "Coming through, people. I'm a hairdresser. I'm used to trauma.") A fun and witty mystery that is sure to win awards. *****
Author: Natasha Mostert
Title - Season of the Witch
Finding information is Gabriel Blackstone's career. Between his talent at hacking and ability to use his mind to remote view, he has made a life for himself. His latest case is unusual. A former girlfriend and her husband have approached him to find out what happened to the older man's son who vanished after taking up with a pair of sisters, Morrighan and Minnaloushe Monk. Gabriel agrees to help, mostly for Frankie, his former love's, sake, but soon finds himself involved in a world that challenges and excites him in ways he had never imagined. Though he knows at least one of the sisters is a killer, he does not know which. He does know he is falling for one of them, but will it cost him his life? His soul?
**** This is a very different sort of story. I am glad to report that it is not as dark or graphic as the cover implies. In some ways, it reminded me of the Matrix, you find yourself questioning what is real throughout the narrative. Take a chance on this if you are looking for something new. ****
Author: Kate Pepper
Title - Here She Lies
Annie Milliken's world begins to fall apart when she discovers that her husband has been unfaithful. Over his protestations of innocence, she leaves him, seeking shelter with her twin sister, Julie. Things continue to go downhill; a woman who bears a resemblance to the sisters is killed, Annie is arrested for grand larceny, Julie vanishes, taking Annie's baby with her, and Annie is charged with murder. Someone is trying to destroy Annie, but who? And why?
***** If you love Alfred Hitchcock classic mysteries, then do not hesitate to buy this book. Just when you think you know what is going on, a new twist springs a fresh revelation on you. Not until the very last page do the shocks end. This is a fascinating read, plain and simple. *****
Author: Sarah Strohmeyer
Title - The Sleeping Beauty Proposal
Eugenia "Genie" Michaels is a thirty-six year old lady who works as an admissions counselor for Thoreau College. Her boyfriend of four years, Hugh Spencer, has been an aspiring writer and Genie supports him through all the rejection slips and hard times. Suddenly, Hugh's makes the big time. His novel hits the best seller lists and he has become famous. He goes off for a string of interviews and even flies to England to sell some foreign rights. Genie could not be happier for him! Until ...
During a Barbara Walters prime time interview, Hugh proposes marriage to the love of his life. Problem is, Hugh did not propose to Genie! Patty Pugliese, Genie's outspoken best friend and lawyer, does not hesitate to give her some hard advice. Genie has two choices: Ignore it all and continue to go around with her head in the sand or she can actually DO SOMETHING about it. Before Genie can ever choose, friends and co-workers are calling to congratulate Genie on her upcoming wedding. And Patty, being Patty, answers Genie's phone and begins telling everyone that Genie is THRILLED that Hugh proposed to her. It is then Genie chooses to take a risk and lets everyone continue to believe that she is Hugh's real fiancée.
Genie is now the center of attention. Her parents are going all out in planning the wedding. Her siblings are crazy, nothing new there. Meanwhile, on campus, Genie's co-workers are suddenly taking notice of their placid colleague. Yet soon Genie realizes that she never really needed a man in order to buy a home, get a better job, or wear diamonds. But when the right man comes along while she is pretending to be engaged, Genie's plans may backfire.
**** Witty and loaded with fun, this novel is sure to cure any blues you may have left over from the drab months of winter. It is nice to read a novel where the main characters are not so perfect. Human flaws make them seem much more real and ALL of these characters have flaws. Perfect reading for those who enjoy witnessing the underdog win. ****
Author: Brian M. Wiprud
Title - Tailed
Garth Carson owns "Carson's Critters". Otto, his Russian friend, takes care of the shop. So Garth now travels around appraising taxidermy collections for an insurance company. Garth's boss (A.K.A. his handler) is Stella Lombardo. Garth's latest appraisal job for Stella is with Titan Harris III. But when Garth finds Harris dead in his home - apparently mauled to death by his own stuffed bear - Garth knows instantly that his life is about to get weird all over again.
Garth is soon on the run from the FBI, the Air Force, and an ancient cult order. To make things stranger still, his nudist mother, Gabby, and his brother, Nicholas, join the adventure. Gabby seems to even know some of the odd characters that recently entered Garth's life. Gabby can explain all about the crackpot Fowler, who believes himself to be a werewolf, the Order of the White Geckos, as well as about the Vuka spirit everyone believes resides within Garth's body.
Just an average week for Garth ...
***** After reading all of Brian Wiprud's previous novels, you would think that I would be ready for anything and that nothing could possibly surprise me within the pages of this book. You would also be wrong. Just when I think that I have seen everything, the author shows me, quite vividly at times, that I have not. This time around the author combines all the characters from previous titles into one hilarious adventure. Do not worry. You do not have to read a single previous title in order to thoroughly enjoy this mystery/comic tale of woe. Trust me, I have read everything published by this author and I have yet to figure out if Brian Wiprud is a genius or one sick puppy. (I'm leaning toward the latter.) A delightful way to spend an afternoon! *****
Author: John Hoffert
Title - The Time of Reckoning
(Bk 3 The Lion Strikes series)
Lieutenant Ike Miller, the head of the Missing Persons division of the Baltimore County Police has an unidentified body from the 1970s on his hands, thanks to an anonymous caller. He cannot help but recall that there were many cold cases between 1970 and the end of 1974. The mysterious caller hinted that more bodies were buried around the same area in which this shattered skeleton had been found. The caller obviously knew a lot about what went on during those years. Was he the killer? Did he witness someone else murder the John Doe? Lieutenant Miller sent a team to Captain Tom Stratton in hopes of getting some answers.
In four months time Tom Stratton would turn the reigns of the Missing Persons unit to someone else. Tom is slowly becoming enthralled with his father's cold case again and his marriage is starting to suffer for it. Interestingly enough, the group sent to him from Lt. Miller helps Tom learn a little more about his father's murder and disappearance. However, the pieces to the old puzzle must wait. Tom is told that someone has tried to assassinate his brother, Governor John Stratton.
Governor John Stratton is gearing up for the 2004 Presidential elections. John has made many rich and powerful people angry at him due to his platform. John is a Progressive and believes America's people are ready for some drastic changes. If John gets elected, people will see a battle royale in DC as the new president changes laws that would strike a huge monetary blow to insurance companies, the world trade, pulling out the troops from Iraq...and that's only the beginning. So when someone begins trying to kill him, John is not surprised. Knowing that the current president, President Black, would refuse to give help with some extra security, Maryland's General Assembly does so. Problem is that John is not the only target of the attacks.
Kim Stratton totally believes her husband, John, will win the presidential elections. After all Kim went through during the last few years (being the target of a mad man's obsession in previous book), she has developed quite a backbone. Yet still, Kim cannot help but fear for her husband. It soon becomes obvious that the mad man of her past has returned. Is he connected in some way to the attempts on John's life? Or is the insane man's target only Kim and a second party is after John?
The clash between the past, present, and future are about to come to a head. Old mysteries are to be solved. Assassins are to be caught. America's future is about to be foretold.
**** Author John Hoffert seems to have the exact same thoughts as I when it comes to what needs to be done in DC. The author's passion on the subject clearly shows in this novel. However, I found too much time was spent on them. The former governor in the book spent many pages, in several different sections of the book, talking about the needed reforms and giving examples. Then more time was spent going over the same things with his wife in private conversations. The trend continued in their more private life problems. Husband and wife would use each other as a sounding board, then rehash the same things a few pages later with someone else, in as much detail as before, making me wonder why I had to read the same thing all over again. Otherwise, the story could not have been better, in my opinion.
I throw out names of the characters in this review as though the reader should already know them for a good reason. If you have not read the previous books, you will not get the full effect. There are a lot of references to things that happened before the beginning of this novel. You do not HAVE to read the previous titles to enjoy this story since the author found creative ways to inform readers of any needed background information. Yet I still highly recommend reading "The Zero Factor" (ISBN: 0741418320) and "Aphrodite's Redemption" (ISBN: 0741420961) before starting "The Time of Reckoning". All-in-all, I believe this novel to be a fascinating read for mystery lovers, as well as, to those who follow American politics and think the current system is outdated. Extremely interesting reading here. ****
Authors: Janet Evanovich & Leanne Banks
Title - Hot Stuff
Cate Madigan is sick of being set up romantically by her well-meaning family, but it sure as heck beats being set up to be in danger. She finds herself facing both situations, however. First, she is stuck with a semi-stalker named Pugg, sicced on her by her mother, who now refuses to take no for an answer. He's nice, just weird and more than a little annoying. Besides, she's just found her own man, one Kellen McBride who perfectly fits the nickname a friend gives him of Mr. Yummy. Then, because her landlord/room mate lands in trouble with some thugs and vamooses, but not before making sure she has protection in the form of a hulk of a dog. The thugs are even more determined than Pugg, though, so it's a good thing Cate has Beast, Pugg, and Kellen all to help protect her as she tries to find out what in the Sam Hill is going on and to stay alive. Somewhere in the chaos, she does make on very interesting discovery; she's in love with Kellen.
**** If Janet Evanovich's name is on the cover of a book, I have learned over the years that that is a guaratee of a fun read that would make the most serious person grin. While I've never read Leanne Banks before, it seems she blends very well with Ms. Evanovich's style, creating a memorable, fast-paced story that you'll be sorry for it to end. This is a great way to fill the waiting space between Plum books. ****
Author: Pamela Thibodeaux
Title - Tempered Fire
The love between Craig Harris and his lady, Tamara, that enchanted readers in Tempered Hearts has brought about two children, Amber and Ace. Now, Craig must learn that the hardest part of being a father is letting go as his daughter grows up and falls in love with Stan Morrison, a hard-working, earnest youth who is utterly devoted to Amber and who has giant dreams. The young love is tested and tempered many times over the course of two years, but each challenge makes their romance more than just a feeling.
***** There are very few inspirational writers that have the courage to write stories that have real people in them, people with flaws, who might be provoked to curse, and whose thoughts wander into the "red zone," despite the fact that in real life, people of faith do all these things. Three of my favorite authors, Karen Kingsbury, Andrew Greeley, and Pamela Thibodeaux have that sort of courage and the talent to make their stories work on a human level, remain clean, and be inspiring. If you have ever considered Christian fiction bland, then check out the Tempered series. It will be well worth your time. The family is one I love revisiting with each new book, and am confident you will as well. *****
Author: Karen Kingsbury
Title - Forever
Dayne Matthews' star is on the rise. He is on the Hollywood A list, has found his birth family, is engaged to the love of his life, and most importantly, is saved and knows Christ. Then, in a scene that echoes Princess Diana's death, Dayne is in a car wreck that leaves him in a coma. His new found family and fiancee wait and pray, but the challenges ahead do not end when he wakes up, they only begin.
**** This story feels very real. While all the characters are Christian, none of them are white-bread, cardboard, overly pious bits of fluff that are too Pollyanna-ish to be believed. Each of them faces temptations, whether it is lust, anger, unforgiveness, or waning faith. I wish more writers had Ms. Kingsbury's honesty about the life of faith. Her skill is such that even if you have missed the other books in the series, you can follow the plot of this one easily. She is a treasure for Christian readers. ****
Author: Jodi Picoult
Title - Nineteen Minutes
A quiet day at a high school erupts into a scene of devastation when a lone young man exacts revenge for years of being bullied. Before his shooting spree is over, ten people die and nineteen are physically injured. Far more are emotionally harmed, and the wounds radiate out from the site to encompass families and friends. Among the wounded is Josie, a young woman who was at one time the shooter, Peter's, best friend and whose picture was marked in the year book as one to let live. Is she the key to understanding what happened, or is she just another victim? When did this tragic event begin? All these questions will be answered in this story.
**** This is a moving, disturbing story that could be real. It shows that the old saw, sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me is one of the biggest lies ever perpetuated. Ms. Picoult's prose always makes you think. I guarantee, this is one book that will linger in your memory. ****
Author: Amanda Stone
Title - Raging Silence
In 1964, Melena Dupree Staring is dwelling atop an isolated Appalachian mountain, but she is a city girl, as she informs her infant son, Blackwell. Her husband, Ernest is leaving his family to go to his job, a seemingly normal enough condition, although it will appear excessive and pathologic as this tale progresses. Later that day, Melena tells her only neighbors, two old “granny” spinsters, about an unusual and frightening event which occurred that morning while she was hanging clothes. She heard noises in the brush and was frightened into running for her porch, where she watched as a red fox came out and stole her nightgown. The shared wisdom of her neighbors is, “That’s not all you’ll likely lose....You live on a living breathing mountain now, darling, not in the city....you have to watch for bears.” Ernest has left his family to be eaten by bears. How can Melena forgive him? Forgiveness is to be an issue for Melena.
Years pass and children are added to the Starling clan: a middle child, son Luke; and the least one, daughter Elizabeth. Melena’s list of Ernest’s sins (real and perceived) and her peeves and disappointments with her children also grow over time. Ernest and Melena split up and get back together and somewhat try to maintain a proper public image.
Blackwell and Luke have an outlet via racing, a hobby their father shares and one that Melena does not outright deny them. Elizabeth is perpetually denied this outlet, “it’s not ladylike.” Elizabeth, who has always felt like the extra cog in the household, discovers a secret about her birth. This discovery, plus the family’s dysfunctions, added to a more intimate family secret, one which she believes is so terrible that she must bear it in silence, sends Elizabeth in new and less conventional directions than her brothers will travel and than her parents can approve.
Ernest and Melena eventually engage in the FINAL divorce. It is strategically maneuvered, much like the Seven Years’ War, by their apparently interdependent lawyers. It leaves casualties in its wake, much in the same way as did that war and as do all wars. Melena’s hatred for Ernest cannot be assuaged and grows more blindly irrational, as she attempts to force the children to chose to side either wholly with her or wholly with Ernest--there can be no middle ground or neutrality.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth goes on with her life and discovers some surprising things about relationships and about self. She finds that the entire world is not based on hate and secrets. This knowledge can either overwhelm her or save her.
***** I’ve been reading “grown-up” books for over forty years...literally, thousands of books from different literary genre, from multiple cultures and differing historical periods. Never in those decades, and never through those thousands of books, plays, poems, and other literary efforts, have I been as emotionally effected as I was by Raging Silence: A Novel In Five Acts. The quote from John Marston’s Antonio’s Revenge at the beginning of Act I (“Never More Woe in Lesser Plot was Found”) should have been a forewarning. But even having read and recalled Marston’s tragedy and its bloody nature did not prepare me for what Amanda Stone was about to do to my psyche.
In the beginning of Raging Silence, I sensed I didn’t like the book, but could find no firm reason for this. Continuing on, the feelings intensified to those of discomfort and dislike. By the end of the second third of Act I, I hated the book, because I understood what was really happening--the characters and the situations in Raging Silence were akin to those of my own experiences. Amanda Stone was slicing off the emotional scars, peeling away the psychic scabs, and laying raw the parts of my soul that had been traumatically and painfully damaged during my life. These were parts of me I had worked so hard to either heal or to wall off into a state of blessed amnesia-induced analgesia. Now, thanks to Raging Silence, they were ripped open and exposed for me to suffer them anew.
I stumbled to the end of Act I and, for the first and only time in my life, was so emotionally overwhelmed by a book I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to pick it up and continue reading it!Amanda Stone’s novel had proven so emotionally overwhelming that one of my friends couldn’t make it past Act I.
Raging Silence is a tale of growing up and living in families. Families have rules. Some are overt. Some are unspoken, but just as powerful as and sometimes even more powerful than the enunciated rules. Certain public behaviors are expected, no matter what the stressors are in the supposed privacy of the home. Parents have the illusions or delusions their children exist in a vacuum, oblivious of paternal conflicts and other strife. Parents are often oblivious to the lives of their children, because they cannot accept them as thinking, feeling, independent, and individual human beings. Another anger arising in relationships is the rage smoldering from compromising too often or too much, and from laying aside or sublimating individual dreams and desires to keep peace in the relationship--as Melena was warned when the sly fox stole from her, so it goes with marriage, “That’s not all you’ll likely lose.” Ms. Stone’s characters show us we often lose a bit of ourselves in so many of life’s dealings. Amanda Stone uses Raging Silence to lay bare these family and individual truths and much, much more; just as a skilled surgeon exposes a malignant tumor for what it is. After the reader endures the pain of her exposing this malignant condition, like a good physician or a fine writer, she offers something that we all crave and something that is essential to healing...hope. Not “happily every after”...just hope. Ultimately, despite all of the rage and pain found within the pages of the book, some of it unconquerable, Amanda Stone’s Raging Silence: A Novel In Five Acts is about healing oneself and offering love and healing to those whom you love and care about--it is a book about a future of promise, not about focusing on perpetuating failure.
I unreservedly award the highest rating possible to Raging Silence: A Novel In Five Acts by Amanda Stone. This is not just a book of interest for readers of one geographical region, of one specific gender, or of one particular ethnic background. This is an ecumenical book about the hearts and souls of individuals and their universal struggles to live and survive within families. In short, it is a book for all adults and mature teenagers. I eagerly await the next literary offering from Amanda Stone, the only author to ever stop me cold in my tracks with the emotional power of her craft and her tale. *****
Author: Patrick Taylor
Title: An Irish Country Doctor
Dr. Barry Laverty embarks on his medical career by hiring on with an Irish country doctor, Dr. Fingal O'Reilly. His boss is a real character, but so are all his patients. In his rare off hours, Barry hopes to pursue a romance with Patricia Spence, but she is more interested in her education than in romance, or so she says.
**** If you loved James Herriot's gentle tales of a Darrowby vet's life, either in print or on the television, you'll find this to be a gem. Though Barry is a bit more like Calum Buchanan than James, Fingal does remind me a lot of Siegfried, and the human patients are as quirky as the farmers and pet owners who made James' life interesting. I hope this is the first of a series and we'll see more of life in Ballybucklebo. I also appreciate the inclusion of a glossary in the back to help readers understand the local lingo, and though I doubt I'll be trying any of "Kinky" Kincaid's recipes, the ones appearing at the end of the book are a bonus. ****
Author: Roberta Isleib
Title: Deadly Advice (Mystery)
Her neighbor's apparent suicide haunts Dr. Rebecca Butterman, who feels that since she is a counselor, she should have seen the signs. Perhaps this is, in part, why she agreed to investigate when the victim's mother did not believe her daughter took her own life. Despite opposition and danger, Rebecca persists, uncovering some ugly truths in the process. While the truth can set you free, the good doctor has to worry if death and freedom will prove to be synonyms.
**** This is an excellent mystery, with engaging characters and is clearly well researched. Rebecca is a good narrator with a sympathetic voice and on target insights. There is subtle humor, balancing out the suspense, and the finale is one that you probably will not see coming. ****
Author: Robert L. Hecker
Title: Murder By Proxy
Benjamin Roan owns a small private investigation and security company and is quite shocked to be personally tapped by the critically-ill President of the United States (POTUS) for a secret, life-or-death mission. The President's condition is secret and Roan’s mistake is to assume that the “life-or-death” in the assignment involves only that of the POTUS.
He is quickly swept into Cuba where he meets the object of his mission, a love-child from the POTUS’s college days. It becomes obvious that there are more obstacles in their path than in the path of a real estate developer trying to cut down the Sequoyah National Forest to build a mall. One of the obstacles is his assignment, because she seems to hate everything about him, including “your cat, and I love cats.” Will they live long enough to determine if the POTUS can be helped by this woman, about who he knows so little and who as so much anger towards him?
**** I had recovered from Robert L. Hecker’s The Angelic Prophecy and a subsequent stroll though the Book of Isaiah when Murder By Proxy arrives. To be honest, I figured I had Mr. Hecker pegged and the book would be deadly boring and the review a no-brainer...ladies & gentlemen, I was wrong. Robert Ludlum may write a lengthier book, but his works are on par with Murder By Proxy and not superior to it.
Having missed the first Benjamin Roan book, perhaps there are some background issues that are in it that would have filled in my desire to better know this character, but that is me whining and not a major flaw of the book or the author.
Murder By Proxy is fast-paced with witty and believable dialog. There are no James Bond-ish rescues and the plot is well thought out, although one bad guy is accursedly hard to defeat. Unlike many current novels, the man and the woman continue to allow sexual tension to build and it is not graphically consummated. That may be considered a minus for some readers, but I find imagination is a wonderful thing and the need to expose our base drives, merely to try and boast sales, isn’t always good writing. Kudos to Robert Hecker for taking the high ground on this matter.
Will Murder By Proxy be the second in a series of Benjamin Roan novels? Let’s hope so and let’s hope that Robert Hecker offers us many, many more literary surprises. I give Murder By Proxy a four (4) star rating and am waiting for the next novel from Mr. Hecker. ****
Author: Tyler Perry
Title: Don't Make a Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings
Tyler Perry made a name for himself in movies when he portrayed the blunt, black woman named Madea. (My favorite movie is "Diary of a Mad Black Woman".) Anyone over the age of thirty knows of at least one Madea in their past. Madea is the BIG woman who would knock you upside the head whenever you needed some common sense or an attitude adjustment. The older Madeas out there are the slick ones. They are the ones YOU think are crazy. Trust me, they are not crazy. They just know how to act in order to make you do (or think) what they want you to.
In this novel, "Madea" has put pen to paper in hope of teaching readers a thing or two or three. Madea gives you blunt, but necessary, advice that you may use or ignore.
Advice on things such as:
(1) How to kill kids before they kill you first.
(2) How to end a relationship.
(3) Advice for single mothers.
(4) How to outsmart and brainwash your kids.
(5) The miracle of Vaseline.
(6) "Acting White"
(7) Hip-Hop music
(8) Why black women should not wear blonde wigs and blue colored contacts.
(9) Entertaining guests
(11) Trouble with the po-po
(12) "Men All Pause"
(13) How to tell someone they need to improve on their hygiene.
(14) Medical annoyances
(15) Home Décor
**** If you get annoyed or get your feelings hurt whenever someone tells you things point-blank, you better not pick up this funny book. This novel is written in a way that I could easily picture Madea sitting across from me in the living room and chatting. It is not "politically correct" at all. Do not expect excellent grammar either. As I said earlier, it is written as if Madea is speaking directly to you. It does not matter if you are black, white, yellow, green or any other skin color, everyone can (and will) relate with Madea. I never knew what to expect Madea to say from one moment to the next. And I am seriously considering taking out some stock on Vaseline! ****
Author: Louise Kean
Title: The Perfect Fit
Losing enough weight to make a whole person should have changed her life dramatically for the better and solved all her problems, or so Sunny Weston believed. It didn't. To be sure, there was advantages, but there were also new problems. The man she loves is interested in sleeping with her, but wants someone "better" to marry. Her best friends' issues are separating an inseparable trio, and now her life has become inordinately complicated by Cagney James, a misongynistic investigator she runs into while saving a child's life. Despite all the irritating qualties he has and how much he seems to dislike Sunny, neither can get the other off their mind. He might be a missing piece in the puzzle of her life, though.
*** American readers may find the British-isms a bit of a challenge. Despite this, Sunny's message is one that is important. As anyone who can claim the title former fatty can attest, she's right. Losing the weight doesn't solve all your problems. Inside this often flip story, there's truth. ***
Author: Karen Rose
Title: Count to Ten
On the heels of her return to work after an incident in which both she and her partner were injured, police detective Mia Mitchell is assigned a temporary partner, Reed Solliday, and a new case. There is a serial killer who is using arson to systematically eliminate a chain of victims. What makes matters worse is the unsub has added Mia to the target list.
*** The three main players, Reed, Mia, and the villain, all are fantastically complex as they work through issues of guilt and atonement. The intricate problems with which they deal form a fascinating web readers will be glad to be entangled in. ***
Author: Nicholas Sparks
Title: True Believer
Jeremy Marsh has made a career out of debunking psychics and other paranormal phenomena. As his star rises toward fame, he discovers what may be the case to usher in even greater good fortune. A small town has a legend of ghost lights haunting a cemetary. Finding the truth behind that could be his big break, but Jeremy has discovered something truly magical; the way he feels about Lexie, the grandaughter of the town's psychic. She has a special bond with the lights, a memory about them too beautiful to shatter. Moreover, finding the truth could speed the little burg's demise. Jeremy is caught in a dilema. Will he chose his head, heart, or wallet?
*** Though interesting and moving, this story lacks some of the heart found in Mr. Sparks' earlier works. There is intriguing trivia peppered throughout the story. You will not regret reading this story, even if it has a bit less magic than Walk to Remember or Message in a Bottle. ***
Author: Mia King
Title: Good Things
Deidre McIntosh's life is wonderful. As the star of Live Simple, a Martha Stewart type show, she has charmed Seattle for five years Then, her show is axed, her long-time roommate finds love and moves out, and she's evicted. Being told that it is an opportunity is just making her ill. The one piece of good luck she has comes in the form of a handsome, kind stranger, Kevin, who offers her a getaway at his cabin in Jacob's Point, Washington where she can combine housesitting for him with getting her thoughts together. When she sees the wreck of a cabin, however, she is not sure how much of a break Kevin was offering her. She does make some new friends and is able to devise a few ideas, but as Deidre is soon to learn, ideas are not the same as putting them into action. Kevin is not all he seems, either. The journey of a thousand miles across Deidre's soul is only just beginning.
**** The title is quite accurrate, as this story is a very good thing. Deidre is a heroine to whom it is easy to relate and whose story is one that can offer hope to anyone facing struggles. She, as are all her "castmates", is flawed and will often make you want to roll your eyes or yell at her, just as you would want to if you could see yourself from the viewpoint of an outside observer. The included recipes are intriguing enough to make a noncook want to go into the kitchen, as a bonus. ****
Author: JoAnn Ross
Title: No Safe Place
Due to her interesting upbringing, Chicago homicide detective Kate Delaney pretty much only sees right and wrong with very little middle ground. When she testifies in the Justice Department's police corruption case, she instantly becomes persona non grata. So it is probably good that Kate gets a call telling her to come to New Orleans. The bad part is WHY. Her twin sister, Tara, is dead.
The New Orleans police department is in no rush to investigate Kate's estranged sister's death. NOPD is trying to brush it off as a suicide, but no one really believes that it was. Kate needs an ally. Someone with serious training, who knows the area, and does not mind ignoring the rules.
Nick Broussard seems perfect for the job! He has been thrown out of the NOPD for shady reasons, or so they say. Kate soon finds out that this former SEAL is a walking, talking testosterone bomb of a complication! Yet the two team up and find themselves not only against most of the police force, but also the criminal underworld of the sultry southern city.
***** Author Joann Ross has done an outstanding job of giving me, the reader, a glimpse of what a rough time New Orleans is still going through since Katrina came and went. Viewing the city through this story, I must say that the New Orleans Police Department has my highest admiration. They are doing a phenomenal job with the resources they have been able to acquire. As for this story, once I began reading, I could not stop. I HAD to know what was going to happen next and I HAD to know NOW! Therefore, I read as fast as I could. The pages slid by so quickly that I could have sworn they were greased. Very memorable and highly recommended.
Author: Janet Evanovich
Title - Plum Lovin'
Literally out of the blue, right before Valentine's Day, Stephanie Plum looks up to find Diesel back in her life. Hot guys are nothing new for the bounty huntress, but Diesel is anything but ordinary. He has an air about him that is somewhat like Ranger's, but he also has magic. He is an Unmentionable, a parahuman with special skills that make him a bounty hunter for other Unmentionables. As it happens, one of Steph's skips, Annie, is also an Unmentionable, who makes Valentine's Day come together, in the same fashion Santa does for Christmas. Annie's not hiding from a court date, but from Bernie Beaner, another Unmentionable who usees his powers to cause harm. Diesel wants to stop Beaner and will let Steph have Annie when his perp is caught. However, with Valentine's coming up, Annie's work must continue, so Stephanie has to play cupid, with Diesel and Lula's help, while tracking Beaner.
**** This is a hilarious story whose only flaw is it is so short. Stephanie's matchmaking efforts have all the wit and charm of her bounty hunting escapades. Her supporting cast is in top form. If you ever feel grinchy about Valentine's, then this book is the medicine you need to keep you laughing. ****
Authors: Marc Cerasini & Alice Alfonsi
Title - The Pink Panther's Just Desserts
Who is killing off France's greatest chefs? One by one the culinary wizards of France are being murdered. The zany and ever affable Pink Panther detective, Inspector Jacques Clouseau, is called in to solve the case before France has no one left to represent her in the World Food Expo in Las Vegas in the Desserts in the Desert Competition. From a truffle smelling pig to chasing Elvis impersonators through the streets of Las Vegas, Inspector Clouseau and his loyal assistant, Ponton, race against time to catch the master of disguise who is determined to see France lose the great culinary competition.
**** I enjoyed this quick and lighthearted read of the Pink Panther detective. I could easily picture the often seemingly clueless Clouseau bumbling around until he solves the mystery and catches the culprit. ****
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Author: Samantha Graves
Title - Sight Unseen
(Psychic Romantic Suspense)
Her name is Raven Callahan. She is an honest thief, in a way. She works for the Antiquities Preservation Institute "API". The API recovers stolen art pieces and returns them to their rightful owners. Raven locates the stolen pieces, steals them back, and turns them over to her boss at API. Raven is the best thief/art recovery person in the business. Raven's best weapon is the thing she hates the most, her sixth sense. Raven has a type of psychic ability called psychometry. When Raven touches something and opens her mind, she get impressions - emotions, sounds, scents, images, thoughts. Raven has learned to keep her distance from others, not only because of this ability, but also due to her past. Then Raven's life turns upside down when a temporary partner, Walter, is kidnapped by a mad man. Raven is now being forced to steal a priceless Vassalo masterpiece to save him.
David "Dax" Maddox had been a cop for fifteen years. Then he made one mistake on the job and it cost the life of his partner, a young rookie named Nick. It also cost Dax the ability to see colors. Dax understands that he cannot get involved on finding the killer, but no one else seems to be getting anywhere with the case. So Dax quits the force. This way Dax can hunt down Nick's killer himself.
Dax and Raven have met before, on opposite sides of the law. Now a mad man brings the two together once more to settle a twenty-year-old grudge. An honest ex-cop and an honest thief must work together if they are to learn the name of the mad man, find him, and locate hard evidence against the murderer. If they fail, their lives are not the only ones that will be forfeit.
***** OMG! I found myself hooked from page one! Yes, I can almost hear everyone out there thinking, "Not another Psychic Romance." But here is the thing: Unlike most other authors in the Psychic Romance & Suspense genres, author Samantha Graves does it right! This is the first in a two book series. I can hardly wait for Jill's story! This is NOT one to miss! *****
Author: Orson Scott Card
Title - Empire
Captain Coleman "Cole" is assigned as the new aide for Major Reuben "Rube" Malich. However, Rube never comes into the office and never calls. His secretary, DeeNee, says she cannot help him. According to DeeNee, who has no way to contact him, Rube seldom shows at the office except to pick up messages and leave again. No one knows what Rube does or where he goes. DeeNee assures Cole that Rube knows he has arrived, but all he can do is stand around and wait for what could very well be days or weeks. Within minutes of Cole finally meeting Rube, chaos comes storming in! The Vice President is killed in an "accidental" car wreck. Only few minutes later, the President and the Secretary of Defense dies when a rocket hits the west wing of the White House, at the very section the two were in a meeting. Everyone is calling Rube and Cole "heroes". Had they not been there and acted immediately, it would have been much, much worse. But the two heroes know that Rube is being set up to take the fall.
Rube has his wife and kids move in with a relative in West Windsor, New Jersey. Before joining them, Rube and Cole must meet up with Rube's old buddies from Special Ops for some serious brainstorming. The men have not been in New Jersey with the family half a day before chaos comes stomping (literally) back in. This time it is fourteen-foot-tall, bulletproof, heavily armed globes on mechanical legs. The mechs, along with gunmen on individual hovercrafts, succeed in seizing New York City and establishing the "Progressive Restoration". They claim to be restoring the government to what it should have been and even invite other cities and states to join them. It looks as though a second American Civil War has erupted. One side has high tech weapons. The other side has militia footmen, Rube, and Cole.
***** Author David Weber is diabolical in writing books with military tactical maneuvers. Author Tom Clancy is clever in writing books with espionage. But author Orson Scott Card is brilliant in a way that is difficult to define. Card loudly attacks your physical senses, while at the same time; he silently infiltrates your mind and twists your very way of thinking. The most horrifying part is that as I read, I could detect no flaw in the strategies. It is all perfect...and very possible. I strongly recommend ordering pizza to be delivered and unplugging the phones before you even open the cover of this military/political thriller. Stellar! *****
Author: Sheryl Woods
Title - Stealing Home
After her husband leaves her for a younger woman, Maddie is faced with making her way in life for herself and her kids' sake. Starting a spa in her small town with her two best friends seems like an insane idea at first, but she grows to love the concept. It's something positive to dwell on while her personal life goes haywire. At the top of her list of troubles are her kids' various reactions to the divorce. The middle son is taking things fairly well, most of the time, but her oldest boy lives in a state of rage that is affecting his grades and performance on the ballfield, while her little girl can't understand why daddy won't come home. Amid the chaos, she finds an ally in Cal Maddox, the baseball coach who has taken an interest in helping her son, Ty, get back on track and an at least equal interest in Maddie herself. Despite the fact that he's ten years her junior, Maddie feels like she's coming back to life when she's with Cal. But, will the kids take to the new man in Mom's life any better than they did to the woman who stole their Dad? Then, the small town gossips start making life a hassle, even to the point of endangering both Cal and Maddie's professional lives. She will have to decide what love is worth.
**** This book proves that a story can be fun without being exactly humorous. Ms. Woods' portrayal of the way small minded gossip works in a small community is spot on, but in contrast, the warmth exuded by the relationships between friends is a joy to see. This definitely qualifies as a feel good, mood lifting story. ****
Author: Sheryl Woods
Title - A Slice of Heaven
Dana Sue Sullivan and her daughter Annie are suffering from related but seemingly opposite problems. Diabetic Dana Sue has a hard time curbing her eating, while Annie struggles under the pall of anorexia nervosa. Dana Sue's friends have challenged her to deal with her problem, but the blood sugar issue is really not her most prepossing concern. Annie's health and the return of her cheating ex-husband are. Ronnie has realized he was an idiot and now wants to rejoin his family, win back his former wife's love, and be the dad his daughter desperately needs. He's even willing to face the consequences of his actions and Dana Sue's two best friends who are very protective of her.
**** This is a hard-hitting read that is spot on about the anorexia issue. Anyone who's dealt with the subject will need courage to finish the book. That said, this is a story of redemption and hope, something more than a few people could stand to experience, even vicariously via print. ****
Author: Stephen Baxter
Title - Emperor
(Time's Tapestry #1)
For four centuries, cryptic words babbled in a language unknown to their speaker by a new mother right before her death in childbirth dominate the destiny of one family in Roman Britain. It is said that one of the Roman Emperors who comes to Britainia must die, and so, the woman's descendants work to fulfill it. Their first duty is to the Prophecy, an onus that supercedes all other loyalties and takes them in directions they would have never dreamed. Then, just when it seems that the Prophecy's time might be coming to an end, new words are spoken that point to a future far more distant than a mere four hundred years distant.
*** A new series begins on an intriguing note. Though characterization is scant, fans of alternate history will be fascinated by the new spin on familiar figures. ***
Author: Meg Cabot
Title - Size 14 Is Not Fat Either
School life can be murder, even if you are only a part-time student and college employee. Heather Wells finds this to be true in a grisly way when her day starts with the discovery of a student's severed head in the college kitchen. Once again, she manages to inveigle herself into the investigation of the girl's death, despite the fact that her landlord/friend/roomate, P.I. Cooper Cartwright, the police, and the friendly neighborhood drug dealer all warn her off the case. Murder is a much simpler thing than dealing with the complications in her life, after all, albeit potentially deadly.
*** Whatever age reader you are, Meg Cabot can be relied upon to give you a fun read for your money. Her characterization skills keep the text flying by as you want to see what happens next to these new "friends." There is a neat surprise at the end with respect to one character in particular that I hope we see more of in the future. ***
Author: Pam Jenoff
Title - The Commandant's Girl
Shortly after her marriage to Jacob, Emma Bau is forced to pretend she never married him as he goes away to help the resistance movement during WWII. First, she returns home to her parents' home in the Jewish ghetto, but then is rescued from there to find a new life, pretending to be a Gentile in Krakow, Poland where she catches the eye of a Kommandant. To help her people, she accepts a job and enters into an affair with the handsome, often kind, Nazi. Yet, her double life has its price, and in the end, she will have to pay on some level.
**** Despite the use of the present tense narrative, this is one of the most emotionally impacting novels I have read in a while. Though you know that the Kommandant represents something evil, it is hard not to wish there could be a way for Emma's love to redeem him so that their romance would have a chance. This is a heartbreaking story, but still hopeful. ****
Author: Susan McBride
Title - Night of the Living Deb
(A Debutante Dropout mystery)
Brian Malone is one of the best young defense attorneys in the city. Brian is at "The Men's Club" (a bordello) treating his soon-to-be-married friend to a final wild night out. Brian hates the place and can hardly wait to leave. His interest perks up, though, when he spies a lady he knows and tries to catch up with her in the back of the club. That is the last anyone knows about Brian's where-abouts.
At the same time, Andrea "Andy" Kendricks is too busy to think about her boyfriend, Brian. Seems Brian's colleague and ex-girlfriend, Allie Price, has dragged Andy to a Chippendales' show. Andy is busy imagining what her mother, Cissy Blevins Kendricks, the Dallas society maven extraordinaire, would think should she find out where her daughter was. Shortly thereafter Andy finds out that Brian is missing. His friend claims that Brian ditched him and ran out of the club with one of the dancers. Allie may believe that, but Andy did not!
Andy must put aside her mean spirited thoughts about Allie and team up with "the Blond Menace" to figure out what is going on.
***** Author Susan McBride has become one of my favorite mystery writers ever! Her characters are always so well developed and totally believable. How could I not adore Andy, the main character? She is perky, sassy, and often hilarious! This mystery will keep you on the edge of your seat AND laughing uproariously. Stellar! *****
Author: Janet Evanovich
Title - Motor Mouth
What do you get when you combine one sweet NASCAR driver, one female mechanic, one lovable Saint Bernard, and a few dead bodies? The answer is a hilarious face-paced adventure from Janet Evanovich. As the NASCAR season comes to an end, Barney and Hooker are convinced that the last race was fixed. In the search for proof they confiscate a competitor’s hauler but end up with more than they bargained for when they find a dead body in the “borrowed” hauler. As they race to stay one step ahead of the police and try to somehow convince the real murderer to confess, Barney and Hooker track the miles from Florida to North Carolina with nonstop adventure and hilarious entertainment.
***** Buckle up and enjoy life in the fast lane as NASCAR Guy, Sam Hooker, “Barney” and one enormous Saint Bernard named Beans put the pedal to the metal in their latest racing adventure. This was a highly enjoyable and entertaining sequel to Metro Girl. Another first place finish for Evanovich! *****
Author: Gemma Halliday
Title - Killer in High Heels
An urgent call punctuated by gunfire from her long missing father prompts Maddie Springer to break her vow to not call or think about Ramirez, who was last seen weeks ago and called away at a very inconvenient moment. When the handsome cop isn't overly helpful, Maddie takes matters into her own hands and packs up her two best friends for a road trip to Vegas to save Dad. Of course, things begin to go downhill fairly quickly, starting with finding out what her absent father's gotten up to; namely cross-dressing for fun and profit. Plus, there's the mob to worry about, a nosy reporter, and a murder charge. Maddie is up to her ears in alligators, and we aren't talking Prada shoes made of their skin!
**** With a breezy, fun style reminescent of Janet Evanovich, Ms. Halliday brings a grin to your face. If you love screwball comedy with a little bit of mystery thrown in, then you've found your book. ****
Author: Millenia Black
Title - The Great Betrayal
Life was perfect for Leslie Phillips until the day a freak accident killed her husband. She lived in a state of shock until after giving birth to his child, then ran away to begin a new life in Florida. She never returned for her baby, Grace; nor did she tell her new husband, Luke Cavanaugh about her past. Years pass, and suddenly, all she left behind catches up with Leslie. Grace learns the truth about who her mother is and wants to start a relationship. Leslie has to tell her new family the truth and face up to her mistakes. A storm of angst and other, less definable emotions rises up to envelop everyone around her. When grief, love, revenge, need, and hate are so tightly bound together, the consequences are guaranteed to be ugly. Leslie just has no idea how much so.
**** This is a very well written book, but very difficult to read. Many may see Leslie as unsympathetic, but if you have gone through a dark night of the soul, she's someone you can relate to. However, the fall out from her actions is something readers should be aware is very grim, to put it mildly. There are scenes of child molestation, which are not graphic, but convey the feeling without being too explicit. Nonetheless, it's a powerful, cautionary tale. ****
Author: Laura Castoro
Title - Icing on the Cake
Liz Talbot has reinvented herself and though life is a struggle, she's doing fairly well. Then, her late ex-husband's will is read, naming her sole beneficiary to a fourteen million dollar estate. Needless to say, the current Mrs. Talbot is not happy and contests the will. Liz finds herself trying to run her bread bakery which has been fighting to stay afloat since the no carb craze hit as well as trying to work with the woman who stole her husband to keep the ad agency he left her alive. If that were all she faced, it would be daunting, but Liz has also found a guy who makes her feel alive again, but she has no idea how he fits in her world, or if he does. Then, there is her mother, Sally, who is outrageous and wonderful, but a pita, especially to those who love her. Think of Shirley Maclaine's characters in most of her recent roles, and you will know Sally. Somehow, Liz needs to make all this work between dodging court summons from the woman referred to as her.
*** Most of the time when a book tends to be rambling, it's a horrid experience, but this book does that, and it is far from horrid. Liz is funny and very real, as are all the characters, even the dreaded "her." You may just have a hard time sticking to the Atkins diet after reading this; don't be surprised if you start craving bread. ***
Author: Chris Manby
Title - Ready or Not?
As her marriage to Ed draws near, Londoner Heidi begins to wonder if she's made a huge mistake. Ed has more than one utterly annoying habit, tending to her best friend's baby is convincing her she so does not want to be a mum, and her old flame is back in her life, hotter than ever. She only has four months to decide what she wants in life and what life she wants.
*** Though Heidi's odyssey is rather meandering, her woes will strike chords with many. American readers should be aware that there's a smattering of incomprehensible British slang, but that does not detract from the overall story. ***
Author: Avocato, Cameron, Daheim, London, MacPherson, & Sparks
Title - Sugarplums and Scandal
(Mystery Seasonal Anthology)
"All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth" is by Lori Avocato.
When Pauline's mother reads that a dentist is holding Mr. Leonard Niski's dentures hostage, even though the man's insurance has already paid for them, she tells Pauline to "Do something about this. Be a Good Samaritan for the holiday season." Pauline must admit that is does sound like dental fraud. Since she and Jagger investigate insurance fraud for a living, perhaps they should look into it.
"The Lords Of Misrule" is by Dana Cameron.
Set in London, Christmas Eve of 1722. Miss Margaret Chase "Mags" calmly accepts the fact that there are extra guests in the house tonight. Father had arrived home with two friends, rather than just one, and her brother, Tommy, came home from Oxford with a friend as well. However, Mags is not prepared when she learns that her mother's new jewelry has been stolen, before her mother even opens the jewelry case filled with stones. Nor is Mags prepared when the body of a footman is found. But with Margaret's keen observations, and a little bit of help, Christmas Day may still dawn with joy.
"The Ghost Of Christmas Passed" is by Mary Daheim.
Innkeeper Judith McMonigle Flynn may not have any guests during the holiday season, but the place is still full of family. Problem is that her mother, Gert, is not acting normal. Gert is about to tell Judith and Renie a bit about a certain family member that disgraced the family long ago. It seems as though the certain family member in question is making an appearance. Either that or someone else who looks mighty like him.
"Partners In Crime" is by Cait London.
Cecilia Lattimer is a professional organizer. Even though the small town of Dewdrop has been experiencing a rash of burglaries recently, someone seems to be going an extra mile on Cecilia. Everybody likes Cecilia personally, but hates how Cecilia is always trying to organize everything and everyone. Who could possibly be the one out to harm Cecilia? The police chief? Cecilia saw him with a mistress. Her ex-fiancé? Cecilia said no at the alter because she learned what a monster he really was. Her ex-husband? He left Cecilia for a younger woman, but still seems possessive of Cecilia. And just WHO is this stranger that rescued her from three men in an alley and then parked his camper in her driveway? Is he protecting her or stalking her?
"Holly Go Lightly" is by Suzanne MacPherson.
Nick Fredrick could not seem to get his late fiancée, Holly Townsend, out of his mind today. Perhaps because it is Christmas Eve. Even when Nick gets to his parents' house, signs of Holly still abound. It is soon obvious to all that Holly's spirit is trying to communicate some vital information and she has only one night get her joyous message through.
"A Very Vampy Christmas" is by Kerrelyn Sparks.
About five years ago some clever vampires figured out that a vampire's image could be recorded using digital technology. So now there is DVN (Digital Vampire Network), though few mortals know that real vampires are the stars. Maggie O'Brian has been a vampire since the year 1884. Now she plays the part of a mortal doctor in love with a vampire on the soap opera "As a Vampire Turns". She auditioned for the part in order to meet Don Orlando, who plays the handsome vampire in the show. Maggie may have the role the wanted, but Don is not the wonderful man she thought she would be. According to Corky, the ruthless media queen of the vampire world, Don changes women as often as his socks. When Don tells Maggie that he has had amnesia since he was turned into a vampire over four years ago in New Orleans, Maggie decides to see what she can learn.
**** A wonderful anthology with six tales set around the Christmas Season. I found something for everyone in this novel. No kidding. I read historical romance, mystery, suspense, ghostly spirits, and even vampires. Wonderful holiday reading. ****
Author: Jodi Picoult
Title - The Tenth Circle
Jodi Picoult brings Dante's Inferno into the modern world in this sharply poignant, intense novel. Trixie Stone's world is all wrapped up in one boy until he dumps her. She is desperate to get him back, so much so that she begins to stray over her own set of boundaries, but when she tries to say no, she is raped. Or is she? There is doubt that she is telling the truth, but it becomes a moot point when her attacker is killed and Trixie vanishes, sending her desperate father on a quest to save his daughter. First though, he has to face how deeply he his wife has betrayed both him and their child.
***** Though there are scenes that are shocking and the emotional level seldom wavers from being at the maximum, everything fits together so well that you are compelled to keep reading. Ms. Picoult is a genius at her craft. You will never regret reading one of her stories. *****
Author: Wilbur Smith
Title - A Falcon Flies
(Bk 1 in the Ballantyne series)
Robyn Ballantyne and her brother, Morris, have waited years to return to Africa. They are determined to locate their father, a missionary, who had disappeared within the African wilderness.
Following a map left by a madman, the siblings track their father's footsteps. Hope slowly fades from the duo. Even so, they continue onward through dense wilderness and fierce wildlife with little time to take in the area's rough beauty.
When they find themselves amid a horrible slave trade, Robyn and Morris split up. Both are being tracked and time is running out.
*** This is book one of four. I found it to be a bit long-winded at times, but well written and loaded with suspense. Definitely worth you time. ***
Author: Wilbur Smith
Title - Men of Men(Ballantyne #2)
The steep scar was called The Devil's Own. It set within the African wilderness. Native tribesmen became miners. They spilt their sweat and blood in their quests for diamonds. As with all mining ventures, there are thieves and the constant danger of murder.
Readers follow Zouga Ballantyne. He is an African-born Englishman, determined to make his fortune in Kimberly. But no one said it would be easy...and no one promised that the outside world would not interfere.
**** This is book two of four in the Ballantyne series. More time is given to the story plot since most character introductions were done in the first book, "A Falcon Flies". You do not have to read the first book before this one; however, you may find yourself lost if you do not. All-in-all, better than the first book, but still too long-winded in sections. ****
Author: Denise Swanson
Title - Murder of a Real Bad Boy
Murder of a Real Bad Boy is the eight installment in Denise Swanson’s Scumble River Mystery series featuring Skye Denison who has a penchant for finding dead bodies and solving mysteries. Just when Skye has had it with her very sexy contractor, Beau Hamilton, and his haphazard way of repairing her home she finds him murdered practically in her back yard. Having a murder victim discovered on her property puts Skye in close proximity to the police chief and forces her to deal with the attraction they have felt for each other for nearly twenty years which is hard to ignore since they are both currently single. While balancing her busy duties as the school psychologist Skye manages to date the police chief, get locked into a basement with her ex-boyfriend, and investigate the murder of a real bad boy!
**** Join Skye in her latest murder investigation adventure in Scumble River. This story is a fun and enjoyable read that keeps you turning the pages. ****
Author: Robert L. Hecker
Title - The Angelic Prophecy
Rock star Michael Modesto is becoming increasingly tired of his Rolling Stone-ish lifestyle or is there something extrinsic that is driving him toward change? What ever it is he finds himself drawn, not like a moth to a light, but like your average cat on a leash, to a beautiful Christian woman, Mary Schaeffer, her charity cause, and ultimately to The Community Church of Jesus Christ. Along the way, beginning with his first meeting with Mary, Michael senses that he has a path open and powers granted to him by who or what has set him on this new and troubling journey in his life.
Michael isn’t the only one aware that the Earth has a changed inhabitant, the Antichrist is aware that there is a new threat and has his minions seeking in order or locate and neutralize this threat from God. This isn’t the first prophet that has had to be dealt with, so there is no panic, just confidence.
It become evident that God has a special purpose for Michael, but he passes more or less through Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ psychological stages of grief and despair, i.e. denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, along his path toward discovering what God’s purpose is for him. The Antichrist and company are busy trying to defeat him and they discover, as do Michael, Mary and others, that Michael may be is own worst threat.
*** This is another apocalyptic tale, only it focuses not on some Hollywood melodrama or the Left Behind novel series, it attempts to focus on how a prophet emerges and who or what is the Antichrist. Michael struggles through the increasing confusion, burdens and self-doubts (gee, that sounds a lot like everyone’s lives) and in the end, his love for a woman seems to be the one thing that keeps him together long enough to somehow defeat an Antichrist, a character that unfortunately never becomes as interesting as he could have been. The Angelic Prophecy shows the style and craftsmanship of a very good writer; unfortunately it never managed to satisfy me…a fairly good reader. I’m still trying to decide if the problem lies with The Angelic Prophecy not quite reaching the mark or with my being over-saturated by the genre. Until such time as I can decide or the Antichrist starts his reign (despite what some would have us believe, neither Tony Blair nor George Bush are he), the highest rating that I can give this book is three-stars. ***
Author: Lori Avocato
Title - Nip, Tuck, Dead (A Pauline Sokol mystery)
No matter how often Pauline Sokol promises herself that she will never don nurse gear again, she always seems to end up in scrubs. Fabio, her boss at Scarpello & Tonelli Insurance Agency, has handed Pauline her fifth case of medical fraud to investigate. Pulling out her nurse uniform, again, Pauline is going undercover at Highcliff Manor where all the rich people go for plastic surgery. Most plastic surgeries are not covered by medical insurance. However, Highcliff Manor seems to be having a sudden jump in necessary plastic surgeries, which are the only ones that may be submitted to insurance companies. Better yet, this time Pauline is on her own. She refuses to contact the mysterious Jagger for help.
Pauline's roommate, Goldie, is going to have a slight nose job performed. Pauline will be Goldie's private nurse. While Goldie is residing at the extravagant Highcliff Manor, being pampered and spoiled, Pauline has a room at a nearby lodge. The Samuel Freeman Lodge is nothing to sneeze at either, of course. There is no fear of anyone walking into her room at the lodge and seeing any fraud evidence lying around and it is within walking distance of Highcliff. But no one bothered to inform Pauline that Jagger takes a vacation at the Samuel Freeman Lodge every year at this exact time.
While Jagger still makes Pauline's body temperature rise to dangerous levels, he is not the only tempting male around. One of the plastic surgeons has his eye on Pauline as well. And the doc just might be a great way for Pauline to take her mind off of all the dead bodies showing up.
***** Author Lori Avocato seems to get better and better with each mystery novel she pens. There is simply no wonder as to why I have become such an avid fan of this author. Lori Avocato not only entertains, but also challenges the mind. Excellent! *****
Author: Paul Levine
Title -Kill All the Lawyers
(A Solomon Vs Lord Novel)
Steve Solomon is known for doing whatever it takes to win his cases, even if what he does lands slightly off kilter of standard laws. To think that he would throw a case so that he lost is incomprehensible, but once, he did just that. He knew in his heart that Dr. Bill Kreeger was guilty of murder and could not let him go free. The jury convicted him, though on a lesser charge, and now, Dr. Bill is loose and wants revenge. Steve is all to aware he could end up as a murder victim. At the very least, he has to endure verbal abuse and a few trips to jail. However, there are things worse than death. Kreeger is all too willing to use those Steve loves to get his revenge, and the attorney's nephew is at the top of that list. Furthermore, Steve's relationship with Victoria Lord is at another rocky point, especially following his confession of breaking one of Solomon's laws and not going for the win. Will her mother needing Steve's help, as improbable as that scenario is, help or hurt them?
**** This is a series that, so far, continually improves itself. If somehow, Perry Mason and Stephanie Plum had a lovechild, he might be named Steve Solomon. The characters keep the pages turning, but the plot does also. Of the three books so far in the Solomon Vs. Lord set, this one is the most nail-biting. If you love a good mystery or a good laugh, pick this up as soon as possible. ****
Author: Deanna Raybourn
Title - Silent in the Grave
A year after her husband's death, Lady Julia Grey is ready to get on with life, but before she can, she realizes that Sir Edward's demise was not natural. She therefore turns to Nicholas Brisbane, her late husband's friend and agent, for help. He had approached her about this matter at the time of death, but she did not believe the claim. Now, she does, and despite the fact that the trail is cold, she is determined to find out the truth, no matter how dangerous the quest or unsavory the news. What she finds out is the shock of her life, and perhaps the last one of her life.
**** Though this tale has the slow, measured pace of a novel written decades in the past. it is still absorbing. Lady Julia's cultured, first-person narrative renders the more unsavory matters in a delicate fashion, perhaps even adding to the shock of the conclusion. ****
Author: Carol Lea Benjamin
Title - The Hard Way
(Rachel Alexander mystery)
The daughter of Gardner Redstone hires Rachel Alexander to find the person who pushed her father into the path of an oncoming subway train. The police are stymied and the daughter wants answers. Of course there are a few witnesses and Rachel begins interviewing them all. Rachel must listen and study the varied stories told to her by a little boy, a ditsy lady, an ornery little store owner, and a grandmother.
Rachel does not seem to be doing any better than the police did, so she decides to go undercover as a homeless woman. Her disguise is not very good though, so she asks Eddie Perkins, a war veteran who is living on the New York streets, to help her.
**** Author Carol Lea Benjamin has another winner on her hands with this, the ninth novel in the Rachel Alexander mystery series. This book is aptly named too. I found myself more interested in the lives of the homeless and how they cope than anything else, especially during the winter. An extremely well written story that will open the eyes of many readers to the homeless situation, while challenging their intellect. ****
Author: John Ringo
Title - Kildar (Military Fiction)
He goes under the fictional name of Mike Jenkins (a.k.a. Ghost). He is a retired SEAL, traveling, a multimillionaire due to a few jobs he did for the government. While traveling through Georgia, the country not the state, he is snowed in while driving through the Valley of the Keldara. The Keldara people are very poor and an extremely private type of people. Six "families" govern the area. The Chechens use eastern Georgia as a type of safe base. They often raid the area, murdering entire families, abducting young girls for the slave market, and stealing anything worthwhile. Jenkins only meant to stay until the snow thawed. Instead he ended up buying the farm.
The Keldara have not had a Kildar (leader) in a very long time. The "Kildar" is the one who owns the fort and rules the valley, as well as, the Keldara people. Jenkins buys the caravanserai (fort) and all the land and possessions entailed with it. Slowly, the people come to trust him. Unlike the government and prior managers, Jenkins immediately begins making changes for the better. Jenkins brings in some farm machinery to help the Keldara with their farming. Since Jenkins also has some enemies (specifically among Islamic terrorists) he hires some seriously high military personnel and brings them in to reside within the caravanserai with him. These trainers begin to mold the Keldara into a well-armed militia.
Jenkins takes his responsibilities seriously! So when the Chechens first try to kidnap some girls, Jenkins makes an example of them. By doing so, he rescues the girls, but the girls are already considered ruined. Therefore, Jenkins now has a harem. Good thing the caravanserai has a harem wing already. Convenient!
Turns out the Keldara are not pacifists in any way, shape, or form. Each one has the potential to become a SEAL, thus some real training begins. Things are about to become very interesting.
**** Author John Ringo shows that he has a seriously warped sense of humor. For those who doubt me, check out the little section in the front of the book that NORMALLY tells you "This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental." Etc, etc, etc. Let's just say that I have NEVER seen one written quite this way. I knew immediately that Ringo is my type of author! Not only is this story clever and very entertaining, but it sets the foundation for future Keldara novels. Yeah, this mainly targets the male audience and that shows; however, any female who does not find herself threatened by an alpha-male will totally enjoy reading this one as well. Highly recommended reading! ****
Author: Stuart Rawlings
Title - Another Messiah
It has been twenty-one centuries since the alleged birth of Jesus Christ and an unremarkable birth of a female child with deformed lower extremities occurs in Jerusalem. The child’s mother dies shortly after she is born. As she ages, she is mute and nameless. At age seven, she and her two attendants begin appearing about the world and either “miracles” or occurrences that pave the way for humans to make positive changes are thought to be linked to her.
This is all very puzzling to many people in the world, to include a very “Bush-like” U.S. president and an achondroplastic dwarf, Rich Barton, who, among his many other professions, is a college professor who thinks the future of humanity is looking pretty grim. As Rich follows the stories of the girl, he begins to wonder if his thought and experiences are not somehow linked to the girl’s actions.
*** In the preface of this book, author Stuart Rawlings relates that he viewed writing it akin to therapy, even before the project begins in earnest. As one reads Another Messiah, the thinly cloaked autobiographical nature of the novel is augmented by post-script Reference, About the Book, and Acknowledgments. On my first reading of the book, I found myself thinking that here was another well-educated and extremely privileged person preaching via a new-age nativity parable to the ignorant bourgeois. Since I give each book at least two readings before writing a review, I thought that this book wouldn’t even merit a published review. I was wrong.
During the second reading, it was obvious that my own prejudices had sent me down a common reviewer’s erroneous path…reviewing the book that I wished for, rather than the book that was written. It is sometimes a subtle thing and was, in this case troubling enough to merit a total of four readings and a telephone interview with Stuart Rawlings (an unheard of amount of my resources for such an unheard of book). I discovered that, indeed, my prejudices were interfering with a proper review of the book. However, the lack of depth of character development, including some unbelievably stereotypical characters, is a weakness of the book and not this reviewer, and limits this novel, keeping it from getting four-star rating.
Another Messiah is a simplistic tale, true, and it freely expresses the biases of the author, but it calls the reader to look at the problems facing humanity and to realize that these global problems are not going away, they need to be addressed, and that they might be fixed if only we could learn that we have far more in common with each other than we have major differences. Stuart Rawlings has seen the worst and the best of humanity around the globe and he chooses to live and continue giving of himself to make the world better, as he has done since at least the 1960s Civil Rights movement. Another Messiah is gift of hope in a world where neither the author nor I are overly optimistic about the future. ***
Author: Judith Gould
Title - The Secret Heiress
Believing that twin heiresses forbode bad luck, Nikos Papadaka sends his youngest, newborn daughter, Ariadne, away, utterly rejecting her. The remaining girl, Niki, grows up to be a spoiled monster, garnering hatred from all who meet her. Combined with her blatant disregard of healthy business practices, Niki has set herself up for a great fall, engineered by one of her own advisors. Adrian was given the cast-off infant to send away to obscurity, and it is at his behast that she is brought back and groomed to replace her sister. Ariadne is everything Niki is not, but can she carry off a deadly masquerade?
*** A classic plot is given a new airing in this fast-paced execution. Though Niki is utterly repulsive, Ariadne's transformation into a better version of her is fascinating. At one point, the switch is compared to Greek drama, and that remark proves to be spot on. ***
Author: Barbara Samuel
Title - Lady Luck's Map of Vegas
This fast-paced novel takes mother and daughter, Eldora and India, down Route 66 in search of India’s schizophrenic twin sister, Gypsy. India is not pleased to leave her work and long distance lover, Jack, to take her mother on a road trip down memory lane in her mother’s cherished 1957 Thunderbird. But she promised her father before his death that she would take care of her mother, and so she agrees to the trip hoping that the time on the road will help her to reconcile issues in her own life and also to help her make the most important decision of her life. Eldora, who has been living with the regrets and mistakes she made many, many years ago, wants to make peace with one daughter as she searches for the other one. Eldora is faced with revealing her true self to India and in the process risks losing her daughter forever. Both India and Eldora each tell their own story as they travel the same fateful route they took several years ago and try to reconcile their past to their present and dare to hope for a future but ultimately discover that in life and love there are no guarantees.
***** I thoroughly enjoyed Barbara Samuel’s heartwarming story of a mother and daughter who both dare to risk their current tolerable relationship for a chance to really understand one another. The realness of these two characters makes the reader feel deeply connected with what both India and Eldora are facing. This novel needs to be a movie because India and Eldora’s stories would be wonderful played out on the big screen. I highly recommend taking this real and endearing and ultimately hopeful journey with India and Eldora along Route 66. *****
Author: M.C. Beaton
Title - Love, Lies, and Liquor (Agatha Raisin Mystery)
Agatha Raisin's hopes and dreams of a reconciliation with her ex-husband, James Lacey, go awry utterly. First, Snoth On Sea is hardly a lovely get-away, but a dismal little, dying town. Secondly, a woman who had an altercation with Agatha turns up dead, strangled by the sleuth's scarf. She is only the first death, and someone wants to add Agatha to the body count. Though romance may be a washout, Agatha is up to her ears in her true love, a good mystery.
*** Fans of cozy mysteries will be thrilled with this lastest in the series. Though it is possible to come into it for the first time on this entry and follow what is going on, I rather suspect those who are familiar with Miss Raisin and her cohorts will get more out of it than a newbie. ***
Author: Marilyn Meredith
Title - Calling the Dead (Tempe Crabtree Mystery)
Two deaths have Tempe Crabtree's full attention these days. The first is an apparent "black widow" case in which a local woman has left a string of dead husbands in her wake. The coincidence is just too large for the deputy to ignore, but the clues in the case are less than abundant. Be that as it may, her investigation could get her killed. The other case could possibly endanger her soul and her marriage. Seeking to prove that what has been called a murder is suicide, she will take whatever risks she must to contact the victim's departed spirit. Tempe's dedication is leading her into all kinds of danger on this outing; physical, emotional, and spiritual.
**** It is always refreshing to find a clean book that is not watered down and has a message, but is not preachy. Those are two things you can depend on with Marilyn Meredith. Tempe is an engaging heroine who has developed in a multi-faceted manner since her introduction, and is someone readers will want to continue to know. ****
Author: Charlaine Harris
Title - Grave Surprise
Since being struck by lightening, Harper Connelly has had the dubious gift of being able to locate dead bodies and know how they died. Though it has been a semi-lucrative means of making money, it is a hard method of making a living. Her latest gig has her displaying her talent before a college class in a cemetary, ostensibly so a professor can attempt to debunk her. However, when she stands on one grave, Harper senses two bodies, one of which is the corpse of her one failure, Tabitha Morgenstern, a child she never could locate. Now, she and her step-brother, Tolliver, are plunged into a two year old case that has only become more complex with time. The killer is still out there, and somehow, Harper is the key to the puzzle. If she does not solve it, she might learn about graves from the wrong side of the plot.
**** Ms. Harris has crafted a clever, intricate mystery that intertwines both chills and genuine warmth. Harper is an intriguing sleuth with a very defining gift. If you're tired of the same old, same old in murder stories, give this a try. ****
Author: Rebecca Campbell
Title - The Marriage Diaries
Celeste and Sean are a married couple who are complete opposites. She loves fashion and works in the industry, is neat, and trendy, and he abhors being in fashion, is sloppy, eccentric, and is a stay-at-home dad. But somehow they have put aside their differences and seem to have the perfect marriage, or do they? Celeste seems to have opened a can of worms when she accidentally discovers Sean’s private journal and reads his unfavorable ramblings on herself and finds that her husband is attracted to another woman. She keeps secretly reading his journal and starts her own counterjournal in rebuttal of Sean’s ramblings about the birth of their son, Harry, and the first weeks of parenthood. Will fidelity win against desire and will this young marriage survive its first big test?
**** As a female reader, I thoroughly enjoyed Celeste’s written admonishments to Sean’s entries and his and her impressions on the events of their marriage where the truth probably lies somewhere in between their one-sided versions. Sean’s witty recounts of caring for Harry were very entertaining. I enjoyed Rebecca Campbell’s novel on the trials and triumphs of married life and commitment. ****
Author: Kasey Michaels
Title - High Heels and Holidays
(A Maggie Kelly Mystery)
Maggie Kelly is a mystery writer who goes by the pen name of Cleo Dooley. She lives in a condo on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Across the hall reside the two men who popped out of Maggie's imagination of the Regency era. (Literally happened in the first book of the series.) Alexandre Blake, Viscount Saint Just, created for Maggie's historical romance writing period of the nineteenth century and Sterling Balder, his comrade and sidekick. Unable to tell the world the truth, Maggie tells people that Saint Just is Alex Blakely, a very distant cousin from England. Sterling does not cause women to trip over themselves or stand out in a crowd, so he does not need an elaborate alias. Anyhow, they have just returned from England (last mystery novel "High Heels & Homicide"), where they helped out the niece of a mob boss.
Christmas is close and Maggie wants nothing more than to get the annual family get together out of the way so she may start enjoying the merry season. This season, however, someone is delivering packages of rotting rats and death threats to the authors who collaborated on a mystery anthology, titled "No Secret Anymore", long ago. The book was a flop, but not so bad that it is worth killing over. Yet one minor author, as well as, the biggest name author (Jonathan West) has been found dead in their homes. They were made to look like suicide at first glance, but the killer wanted the police to realize they were murdered so subtle clues were left.
Jonathan had recently completed a new novel, which his agent claimed to be his best. So perhaps it is a rival's jealousy. One thing is for sure, Maggie and Alex better solve the case quickly or Maggie may be dead before the New Year.
***** Readers get to watch the characters of Alex and Sterling evolve some more in this soon-to-be bestseller novel. Alex and Maggie's relationship goes a bit further too. (There are no hot bedroom scenes to distract from the story though.) Author Kasey Michaels has created believable characters, each with their own quirks and personalities. I actually feel as though I know these people. Very classy, very well written, and very recommended to all mystery lovers! *****
Author: Kit Frazier
Title - Scoop (A Cauley MacKinnon mystery)
Cauley MacKinnon made the mistake of dating her boss. So now she has transferred to the Sentinel's West Austin satellite office and been sentenced to writing the obituaries instead of real news. When her childhood pal, Scott "Scooter" Barnes, a former Dallas Cowboy, calls threatening suicide, Cauley goes to talk him out of it. She thinks it is odd for SWAT and FBI to be surrounding the shed Scooter is in, but manages to skirt by and reach her friend. She succeeds in talking Scooter out of suicide, after reminiscing about old times and hearing about his wife leaving him. So, no front page story and Cauley is back to being the Obituary Babe.
But shortly thereafter Scooter is found dead in his exotic pet store. It looks like suicide, but Cauley is not too sure about that. It seems that everyone wants to know exacting what Scooter said to her in the shed. This includes, but is not limited to, FBI Agent Tom Logan, US Customs Agent John Fiennes, a mean one-eared thug, the Argentine mafia, and various media. Problem is that Scooter did not really tell her anything.
Things get rough when she is almost kidnapped, drives into Lake Austin, followed by her house getting ransacked. Thanks to her new canine friend, Marlowe, and her aunt's rather indignant cat, Muse, some interesting clues turn up. Cauley MacKinnon is fast becoming a hysterical, trouble-prone obituary writer with huge crushes on a couple of cuties from two different branches of the US government.
***** This is the first book in the new Cauley MacKinnon mystery series. If the others are even half as good as this one is, then author Kit Frazier's future will be an astounding success. This is an author to keep your eye on, Readers! A real winner! *****
Author: Joan Medlicott
Title: Two Days After The Wedding
(Ladies of Covington)
This newest book in the Covington series is not only about Hannah Parrish, who, at the age of 75, is going forward with her wedding to George Maxwell (better known as Max), but also about the friendship between three exceptional women who share each other’s lives. Although Amelia, Grace, and Hannah have lived quietly together in their farmhouse in Covington for several years, they are about to experience life changes that will be vastly different from any they could have expected. We struggle with Grace as she seeks answers on how to control her diabetes, and we take great pleasure in her relationship with her special friend, Bob, as it continues to grow. Then there is Amelia, whom many consider the most fragile member of this trio. After moving to Covington, Amelia discovered an amazing aptitude for photography, but now she seems to be growing weary of several things that are involved in her newfound career.
Within the pages of this book, through the relationship between Hannah and Max, we are allowed a rare glimpse into the deep-seated fears of intimacy held by many older people. Although Hannah and Max are getting married, both have neglected to tell the other that what began as friendship and a marriage of convenience, has grown into much more. In fact, to her own surprise, Hannah has come to realize that she has developed a deep love for Max and a surprising desire for passion which she cannot bring herself to discuss with him. Because of this, she is left to agonize over his feelings for her. Has he grown to love her as she loves him? Without the ability to communicate on an intimate level, she might never be sure.
Joan Medlicott has my deepest respect. I have found that her perceptiveness and depth of understanding of the emotions of women, at any age, is exceptional, as is her talent for writing. She puts down on paper the feelings and emotions that many feel but are too embarrassed to mention.
***** This is a story about love and friendship at any age and the many ways it can be expressed. If you have been following this series, you will immediately step right back into the lives of Amelia, Grace, and Hannah. However, make no mistake about it, if you have NOT been keeping up with these ladies, you will soon be under their spell and intertwined in their lives. Bravo, Joan! You’ve done it again! *****
Author: Rebecca Drake
Title - Don't Be Afraid
All around Amy Moran, people are dying, nailed to death by a serial killer who seems fixated on her. The police even suspect her, at first, but soon, it becomes apparent that she is not a killer, but the potential ultimate victim.
*** The tension level is kept high throughout the story as the net draws tighter around Amy. Between the threat of the killer and her fears for her child, the reader is never allowed to relax. Be warned, this is a book to read in a well lit room. ***
Author: Nancy Thayer
Title: The Hot Flash Club Chills Out
In this fourth installment of the Hot Flash Club the five friends think that they will have a wonderful time relaxing in Nantucket for the summer as they house sit for a friend. But life is not as simple as the quintet would like it to be, and they each have problems in their personal lives that they must deal with. Between caring for her elderly mother and her fiancé’s lazy adult son, Marilyn feels that she and Ian will never get to plan their wedding. Alice cannot say no to helping out her son and his wife and runs herself ragged caring for their infant daughter. Faye tries not to let her boyfriend drag her down as she gets excited about painting for the first time in years. The married and divorced several times Shirley cannot keep herself from falling for a good-looking fisherman on the island, and Polly struggles with the fact that her boyfriend is still at the beck and call of his ex-wife.
***** As I seem to be steamrolling toward the hot flash years, I can empathize with the everyday trials that these five women encounter. Nancy Thayer has written a delightfully wonderful and humorous novel with real characters making it so easy for the reader to care for the women of the Hot Flash Club. I thoroughly enjoyed this Hot Flash Club adventure and look forward to another. *****
Author: Janet Evanovich
Title -Twelve Sharp
Stephanie Plum, as always, has a lot going on in her life. First off, her boss/cousin, Vinnie, needs her to round up as many FTAs as possible, lest he start running into the red. Given the interesting, to put it mildly, nature of the cons Vinnie bonds out, that is worth a whole book on its own. Secondly, they really need more bounty hunters on staff, and Connie tags Steph and Lula to help her interview. Since bounty hunters are popular on TV, the number of unusual potential hires is decidedly increased. However, it's the third item on the list that makes things interesting in the worst way. A black-clad woman has shown up, gunning for Stephanie and claiming to be Ranger's wife, just as the man himself is headed out of town on "bad business." Then, it all starts hitting the fan, as the insane Mrs. Ranger turns up dead, Ranger's daughter is kidnapped, and the police are now after Ranger for both crimes. Stephanie now has the chance to pay Ranger back for a few things by hiding him and helping clear his name, find out who is impersonating him, and rescue his daughter. Of course, having Ranger living with her will not make her other boyfriend all that happy, and it will only make Steph's life more confusing, but what's existence without chaos?
***** Every time a new book comes out in this series, I say it's the best one yet, and it's always true. There's laughter, enough sexual tension to cut with a machete, and the suspense is the most intense of any of the books. The characters all undergo a growth spurt, promising that the books will continue to be fascinating and fun. Lula, Sally, and Grandma Mazur's rock band alone is worth the price and time investments. *****
Author: Lorena McCourtney
Title - Stranded
When their mobile home breaks down in a tiny town, Ivy Malone and her traveling companion, Abilene, find themselves stuck in Hello. Before long, the pair becomes involved in the community, working in a vet's office, sorting out a library, and dealing with a mystery. Murder happens even in the smallest towns, and Ivy is an expert on how to solve mysteries. What's more, she's determined to prove that the victim's niece isn't the one "who done it."
*** If you enjoy small town mysteries reminescent of "Murder She Wrote", then this is your cup of tea. Though billed as inspirational, there really is not a message, but it is a clean, non-gory detective story. ***
Author: Kyra Davis
Title - So Much for My Happy Ending
April Silverperson is thrilled when Tad Showers proposes, even though it will make her name sound like a joke. He seems too good to be true, and it takes no longer than the honeymoon for her to realize he is. Tad's life is a lie, he's financially irresponsible on a criminal level, and emotionally unstable. April feels her life going down the drain and has to make tough choices to keep from imploding with the stranger she married.
**** If I had to sum up this book in one word, intense would be the one chosen. Gritty realism is lightened just enough by touches of humor. Though I have no way of knowing how true to life the portrayals are, it feels one hundred percent accurrate. This is not a light or fun read, but it is profound. ****
Author: Emilie Richards
Title - Lover's Knot
After a being carjacked, Kendra Taylor wants a new beginning, away from her husband. Their marriage is going cold, and she does not find it a good enviroment in which to heal from her physical and emotional injuries. She therefore moves to her husband, Issac's, family cabin in the Shennandoah Valley. From time to time, he visits her there, but tensions remain high until Kendra begins looking into his family history and trying to solve a mystery. As she unlocks secrets over seventy years old, Kendra and Issac begin to solve the mystery of their own broken hearts.
*** This story unfurls in a leisurely fashion, flashing back and forth between the past and present. Though it takes a good while to see where the tale is heading, like the quilt of the title, it is multi-faceted. Ms. Richards fans will be delighted. ***
Author: Meg Cabot
Title - Queen of Babble
Elizabeth "Lizzie" Nichols and her entire family are celebrating her college graduation in Michigan. It is there that Lizzie finds out that she has not really graduated after all. Before it is official, Lizzie must write and turn in a senior thesis on "The History of Fashion". That is not a problem though. Lizzie will just write it while she is visiting her boyfriend, Andrew, in England. But from the moment Andrew picks Lizzie up at the airport, Lizzie learns that Andrew is not the dream man she thought he was! The true Andrew is appalling! When Lizzie opens her mouth and gets Andrew in serious hot water, she is totally embarrassed. No one told her that what she told was supposed to be a secret! Besides, everybody knows that Lizzie cannot keep a secret to save her life. Lizzie is stuck in London with no boyfriend and no place to stay until the departure date on her non-refundable ticket. Luckily, Lizzie's best friend and college roommate, Shari Dennis, is in France. Shari is spending the summer in southern France, catering weddings with her boyfriend, Chaz, in a sixteenth century château. Having an open invitation from Shari, Lizzie hopes on a train to Souillac.
Utterly miserable on the train and still hurt by Andrew, Lizzie lets out her grief on the shoulders of the man riding beside her. Jean-Luc de Villiers "Luke" is a total hottie! Being a stranger, Lizzie told everything. After all, she would never see the guy again after she got off the train. Unfortunately for her, she babbled so much that Luke never got a chance to tell her that Shari is his guest at Château Mirac, his father's vineyard estate. Luke is half American and half French. Shari is catering the wedding of Luke's sister. Yes, the Lizzie Broadcasting System (LBS) has done it again!
Dominique, Luke's girlfriend, meets them at the station. It only takes a glance for Lizzie's fashion sense to tell her that Dominique is loaded and believes Lizzie to be beneath her. Not a good omen! As soon as everyone settles in, the LBS strikes again. Now it looks like Luke hates her, the bride is in tears, the future of the vineyard seems to be precarious, and to top it off Andrew shows up!
**** Author Meg Cabot has always been able to create mean characters that readers love to hate, such as Dominique. Yet in this novel, I found Lizzie to be the worst. Lizzie's character is just a bit too unbelievable. I understand that people let secrets slip out often; however, Lizzie's case is outrageous. I quickly grew tired of hearing Lizzie say the same things over and over and over. Other than that, the plot and other cast of characters are wonderful. Luke, Chaz, and Shari often stole the show. The wedding, when it finally happened, was ... unique. All-in-all, a good read, but wait for the paperback. ****
Author: Kate Long
Title - The Bad Mother’s Handbook
This is the story of three women from three generations living in the same house in a small town in England. Nan is the grandmother whose memory seems to be filled with reminiscing from her harsh childhood. Karen is the daughter dealing with a pregnant teenage daughter and a mother whose memory is fading fast, but not before passing on the information that she is not Karen’s birth mother. Charlotte is the granddaughter who is struggling to become her own person. Each character tells their own story which, at first glance, seems to be the story of a very dysfunctional family. But as their stories progress one can begin to understand how this family got to be so messed up. Karen, who had Charlotte when she was a teenager and had to forgo college has pinned all her unrealized hopes and dreams onto her daughter who she wants to see get a good education and succeed in life. She also has to wrestle with the decision of seeking out her birth mother. Charlotte has to come to grips with being an unwed teenage mother and the fact that her choices may sever her already tenuous relationship with her own mother.
***** Straight away I was caught up in the reality of these three women. Life is always throwing curve balls and some people seem get thrown more than others as is the case with Nan, Karen, and Charlotte in Kate Long’s book that is realistic, sad, funny, and heartwarming. I truly enjoyed this sometimes harsh, sometimes tender story that lets you know that no matter how bad you think you have mucked things up it is never to late to turn it around! *****
Author: Mark Louis Lehman
Title - Mocky's Revinge
This novelette as told in the language of the amazingly insightful 8-year-old Carrie with the usual grammatical errors of youth is both touching and tender. Readers easily befriend Carrie as she tells us about the antics of her dysfunctional family in rural Ohio in the mid 1980s. With the innocence of a child, Carrie understands the struggle her mother faces in trying to work and take care of her family as a single parent. Though Carrie hates being ignored by her older sister, Mariah, she comes to realize the pain Mariah has suffered by being abandoned by their father. Mostly we find out how Carrie comes to love her gay uncle, Mocky, who seems to be the only person who has time for her in the long days of summer. Through Carrie’s eyes we find out how Mocky finally learned to let his hate for his father end so that he could love him once again.
**** I really enjoyed this very touching story that teaches a lesson that we all need reminding of once in awhile. How much kinder the world is when hate is dissolved. ****
Author: Adrienne Brodeur
Title - Man Camp
Best friends Lucy Stone and Martha McKenna struggle daily with the dilemma of finding the ideal manly man in a city filled with pampered and egotistical guys. After a long dating dry spell, Martha starts up First Date, a business to help men solve their dating problems. As Martha sets out on many dating adventures both she and Lucy are amazed how successful First Date is when men seem to flock to Martha for her dating advice. But Martha and Lucy soon realize that one date cannot solve the problems of city men and so the idea of Man Camp is born.
Martha and Lucy gain the aid of Cooper, a real man’s man who also happens to be Lucy’s dear friend from college, to help make Man Camp a reality on Cooper’s West Virginia dairy farm. Surprisingly, the girls convince several of the guys to attend Man Camp including Lucy’s boyfriend and Martha’s brother. At the farm, Martha and Lucy hope that the men will learn how to really treat a woman! But what is even more amazing is the new discoveries about themselves and the guys that they realize during their week at Man Camp.
**** This is a fun and lighthearted story for all the women who have found it challenging to find “real” men to date! Adrienne Brodeur has written a fast-paced book that is hilarious and at the same time very truthful concerning the obstacles faced in modern dating. A quick and enjoyable read! ****
Author: Lila Shaara
Title - Every Secret Thing
Gina Paletta gave up her career as a glamorous model in Manhattan to finally settle down. She is now thirty-three and has two, seven year old fraternal twin boys, named Toby and Stevie. Her husband died when the boys were only three. Wanting to raise her children in a quiet life, they settle in Tenway, a middle-class suburban section of New York. Gina has a Ph.D. and is a professor at the local college. Since her husband died, all Gina wants to do is teach and be with her children.
Her quiet life begins to fall apart when NYPD Detectives Russell Barnes and Tommy Galloway have the local constable call her down to the station mysteriously. Gina is shocked to learn that two of her students, Tim Solomon and Jason Dettwiler, have posted salacious photographs of her on a website. If that is not enough, the two are suspects in a possible murder. Their frat brother, Bradley, recently disappeared. With no body and no evidence, nothing can be done. However, these three lawmen believe Tim and Jason are obsessed with Gina, even though she always wears baggy, unflattering clothing to teach in and never paid the two students any attention. Gina must suddenly fear for her boys' safety, as well as her own.
Gina soon believes she and the twins are safe again. She even becomes involved with one of the detectives that helped her deal with Tim and Jason. Yet as their relationship grows, so does the danger around them. Gina's family and friends are certainly no help, mentally or physically. But oddly enough, her elderly next door neighbor helps out more than anyone would have ever guessed possible.
*** I could not help but think that this entire story could have been told in half the pages. The book begins slowly, but soon picks up speed as the detectives enter the picture. The first problem is solved too easily for my liking though. It was followed by several chapters about Gina's family and her growing romance with the officer. Yet this part felt long winded. There are many unneeded and slow moving scenes. The ending is very well done. I closed the book feeling satisfied. If you are looking for a light romance with only a bit of suspense, this is for you. If you want more romance or adventure, look elsewhere. ***
Author: Janet Elaine Smith
Title - Old Habits Die Hard
(A Patrick & Grace mystery)
Retired NY cop Patrick O'Mally and Grace Johnson arrive at Philip Douglas's office just in time for another mystery. Philip is the director of the Haven of Rest Homeless Shelter and is almost beside himself due to the constant phone calls from Father O'Brien. Father O'Brien needs Patrick and Grace to locate the Mother Superior. No one seems to know where Mother Superior has disappeared to. Their only clue is a cryptic note attached to a bottle of Old English Furniture Polish and set upon a pile of old nun habits.
Things get really odd when Sister Babs enters the picture. Sister Babs is known to be psychic, having some sort of premonition powers. One thing is for sure, Sister Babs seems to know a lot more than she is telling. There is no love lost between Sister Mary Margaret and Sister Babs either. Yep, something smells and it is NOT just Old English.
**** A prim and proper mystery, appropriate for all ages. I found the plot getting more and more interesting as curious, and often humorous, events led up to a fantastic ending. Author Janet Elaine Smith writes compelling mysteries that no one would be ashamed to have found by a teen on the book shelf or coffee table. I loved every minute reading this tale. ****
Author: Debbie Macomber
Title - 6 Rainier Drive
Events in Cedar Cove unfold in many complex patterns as readers catch up on the lives of old friends and make new ones. The primary focus of the story is seeing how Justine and Seth sort out their marital woes following the arson that consumed their family's restaurant. However, things are happening all over Cedar Cove. A father and son struggle to reconcile, a child is born and another is hurt, romance blossoms, and friendships support the people involved in all these struggles. The most interesting of all the plots is the one involving Terri Miller and the visiting chess master's whirlwind romance. That could make for a story all on its own, easily.
*** Told in a rambling, relaxed style, this story covers a lot of ground. It's a sweet novel that touches on many aspects of life gently. ***
Author: Monica McInerney
Title - Family Baggage
Turner Travels is a family owned travel agency in Australia. They have arranged hundreds, if not thousands, of tours that are specially made for their customers. Harriet Turner has headed many of those tours before. But that was before her parents died, within two months of each other, and Harriet was the only family member that did not make it to their bedsides. Even Lara, her adopted sister, was there at the end. Harriet began having anxiety/panic attacks. As they get worse, it begins to hinder her business and her personal life. During one tour, she has a breakdown.
James Turner breaks his leg and is unable to guide the Willoughby Tour. It has been nine months since Harriet's horrible tour and he has been trying for months to get his sister back on duty. He is amazed, and very relieved, when Harriet agrees to take over. The Willoughby Tour is a group of a dozen senior citizens, two men and ten women. The group consists of die hard fans of an old TV about a postman with a mysterious past that goes around solving mysteries in the Cornish countryside. Harriet gets everyone to Bristol airport with no trouble. But when Lara fails to appear as planned Harriet finds herself in trouble. According to Lara's flatmate, Lara had packed up earlier that day and disappeared to places unknown. Harriet holds it all together and gets her eccentric seniors settled into their hotel. The group is excited because Mr. Patrick Shawcross, who played the character Willoughby fifteen years ago, is making a special guest appearance! However, due to some major mixed up communications, Patrick had agreed to be flown from Boston, where he now lives, to England only because he thought it was for an article interview. He does NOT want to be part of a tour and Harriet finds herself in uncharted territory all over again.
As Harriet's group makes its way through the picturesque landscape, Harriet must uncover Lara's whereabouts, confront some long-held family secrets, and deal with her past.
*** I found this story to be a very good distraction for a rainy afternoon or a sleepless night. It has drama, but runs much like a soap opera. A few of the flashbacks are a bit long, but none are too distracting. You will find no suspense to keep you awake, but you will not be bored and fall asleep either. Pick this novel up for some beach reading or for some light reading as you travel somewhere, but if you want some suspense to keep things lively, reach elsewhere. ***
Author: Brian M. Wiprud
Title - Crooked
Fans of author Brian M. Wiprud already know how exciting, yet humorous, the character Garth Carson is from the previous books titled "Pipsqueak" and "Stuffed". Garth is the taxidermy collector who is minds his own business, but somehow always ends up in a deadly mess. In this story, however, Garth takes a back seat.
Nicholas Palihnic is Garth's hustler brother. He knows every nook-and-cranny of New York. Insurance companies hire him to locate stolen objets d'art for them. Problem is that Nicholas does it in such a way that by the time he brings back the art, he has racked up more bills in damages than the art work is worth.
Nicasia Grieg heads Trident Mutual's investigative unit. She is devastated when she is informed that her boyfriend, Barney Swires, had been eaten by crocs in Costa Rica and only a foot is left. But Nicholas does not buy it. His gut says Barney is alive. He is out to prove it and find out why someone wants everyone to believe Barney is dead. And just what is Barney up to now anyway? He gets assistance from Maureen NcNary, owner of Park Slope Investigations. At the same time, Nicholas is on the hunt for a stolen Moolman's painting. Leads point to Beatrice Belarus "BB", a greedy Manhattan art dealer who will do whatever she must to make a deal.
**** The author has succeeded in creating a sleazy character that I could not help but like. Nicholas, in my opinion, is not as cool as his brother, Garth; however, the sense of humor as a defense mechanism seems to run in the family. I would dearly love to see the brothers get together for a full length adventure or two in the future. If you love mysteries, humor, and those old black-and-white P.I. movies, this title is for you! ****
Author: Carrie Bebris
Title - North by Northanger
(A Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery)
In North by Northanger the newly wedded Elizabeth Darcy finds a letter to her that was written twenty years previously from her mother-in-law’s deathbed. In the letter Anne Darcy directs her future daughter-in-law to find a missing family heirloom. Through letters exchanged between Lady Anne and a dear friend, Mrs. Tilney, Elizabeth comes to truly know her husband’s cherished mother and also discovers a bigger mystery that involves the missing family heirloom. With the birth of their first child fast approaching and having to deal with the ever difficult and imposing Lady Catherine, Darcy’s aunt, Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam seek out who has stolen the precious heirloom and who has caused Darcy to be accused of stealing diamonds from Northanger Abby. Will Elizabeth and Darcy discover the scoundrels responsible before their first child is born or will Darcy have to appear before the courts?
***** Carrie Bebris has created a wonderful mystery novel in the charming and delightful Jane Austen style. The story is written with such elegant prose that I believe Austen would very much approve. Elizabeth’s quick wit in the face of such stuffiness of the upper class manners of the English ton makes this such a wonderful story. The intimacy that Elizabeth and Darcy exhibit toward each other is very refreshing and romantic. North by Northanger is a real treat for Jane Austen fans! *****
Author: Sarah Bilston
Title - Bed Rest
Quinn Boothroyd would seem to be living the perfect modern woman’s life. She is a successful lawyer. Her husband, Tom, is working hard toward becoming partner in one of New York’s most prestigious law firms, and they are about to have their first child. Yes, Q seems to have it all until complications in her pregnancy force her into bed for the next three months until her baby is born. The doctor will not even allow Q to work from home because it would cause too much stress on the baby.
Now her world has shrunk to the four walls of her living room as Q is relegated to lying on her left side on her couch and worrying about the health of her child. She wonders how she will survive the boredom as her workaholic husband is barely at home and she has few friends here in America. But soon enough an elderly Greek neighbor and a co-worker start visiting and delight Q with the delectable treats that they bring her. Q quickly finds herself caught up in her neighbor’s fight against the landlord and captivated by her co-worker’s affair with a married man all the while struggling to mend her troubled marriage and prepare for the arrival of their baby. Then when one by one her sisters and mother visit from England Q’s stress is heightened because at best her relationship with her family is tenuous.
All from her perch on the couch, Q gives both legal and relationship counseling, does some soul searching and tries to sort through her inadequate family relationships. With an inward look at her life Q makes some discoveries about herself that she never would have realized if she was not put on bed rest. But will Q’s marriage survive all the changes or will she have to face raising her baby alone?
***** I found myself quickly immersed in Q’s new life from the living room couch as she wonders who is going to feed her and keep her from going insane due to the shear boredom of constant bed rest. Much praise to Sarah Bilston for an outstanding first novel. Bed Rest is funny, poignant, and nitty gritty truthful. I am very much anticipating the sequel to Bed Rest! *****
Author: Carolyn Hart
Title - Death of the Party
This whodunit which is the next tale of Annie and Max Darling, amateur sleuths, in Hart’s Death on Demand Mystery series quickly sets the scene introducing all of the possible suspects of a murder that happened over a year and a half ago. Britt Barlow knew that her arrogant, media tycoon brother-in-law, Jeremiah Addison’s deadly tumble down the marble staircase was no accident. But when she is blackmailed for her coverup of the murder by one of the nine guests who was on the island that fateful weekend, she is determined to find the true murderer and entices all the possible suspects back to the scene of the crime, Golden Silk Island off the South Carolina coast.
Britt, now owner of the private island/resort, also invites Max and Annie Darling for the weekend to help uncover Jeremiah’s murderer. Max and Annie quickly learn that all of the suspects had ample motive for doing in the overbearing Jeremiah. The plot heats up as all communication to anyone off the island disappears with the island handyman along with the boats and another murder occurs. Stranded on the island until the charter is due to arrive at the end of the weekend, Max and Annie feverishly set about to reveal the murderer before the murderer strikes again.
***** This is a wonderfully plotted whodunit reminiscent of the crafty Agatha Christie style. With the intriguing plot twists involving all of the suspects, Hart keeps the reader constantly guessing who the real murderer is and cleverly keeps the secret until the very end of this murder mystery. The quick dialog of the very likable Annie and Max has the reader feverishly turning the pages as this couple goes about their sleuthing. This is the first Death on Demand Mystery book that I have read, but I now want to read them all! Anyone who is an Agatha Christie fan would enjoy this cleverly plotted mystery. *****
Author: Joan Medlicott
Title - A Covington Christmas
Ah! Yes! Our Ladies are back, and just in time for Christmas. To say I was absolutely delighted when I saw this newest book would be to put it lightly. Why? Because, through the years, the adventures of Grace Singleton, Hannah Parrish and Amelia Declose have entertained me more than I can put into words. Their lives are never dull, and, through this book, we have an opportunity to meet even more of their friends and neighbors and have another peek into their warm and creative personalities.
As the story opens, we find Grace hard at work with the Church’s new pastor, Denny Ledbetter, in the neglected attic of the Cove Road Church. As they clean away the layers of dust, they find a letter from 1963 that gives away the secret of a former minister and has quite an impact on five couples whom he married in the church many years ago. As it turns out, Richard W. Simms, the former minister, was never really a minister, so the marriages he had performed were invalid. Since these couples were never legally husband and wife, what will be the implications for their grownup children and grandchildren?
Of course these couples must remarry – and quickly. So, they enlist the help of our Covington Ladies and settle on a multiple wedding with a Christmas Eve ceremony in the Cove Road Church. There is much work to be done with the new brides, which our Ladies can certainly handle, but the unexpected extra work in getting the church itself ready was soon almost overwhelming. Here in the middle of November, the church furnace dies and there are no extra funds in the church budget to cover the repairs. Of course, everyone recognizes that there must be heat in the church, not only for the Christmas Eve weddings, but also for the yearly Christmas Eve church service! Then, to add to their problems, it is soon realized that the very walls and windows (which sustained a lot of smoke damage during the fire a couple of years ago) must be scrubbed and then painted. Last of all, there was also the problem of rotting floorboards in several areas of the church, which simply must be replaced.
As you might guess, due to the absence of any church funds our Ladies soon organize a wealth of volunteers to help with the work and supplies – no small task in itself. Then, we add to this mix the accidental finding of a valuable painting in the church, an unexpected snow storm, and a mysterious visitor who delivers beautiful, and very expensive, flowers every day as the work progresses.
***** I was enthralled with this story and with all the brides as they planned their wedding day. Each bride was unique and we got a glimpse into each of their lives up to this point, but I found that the predicament of one of them (May McCorkle) truly tugged at my heart. Regardless of whether you are new to the adventures of Grace, Hannah, and Amelia or a veteran of their antics, you will be mesmerized with this special holiday story. Joan Medlicott has done it again! *****
Author: Danielle Steel
Title - Second Chance (Audio CD)
Fiona Monaghan, editor in chief of a high-fashion magazine, had vowed never to marry. She enjoyed the company of a few select men, but had determined that no man would ever have the opportunity to hurt her. When she was a child, her father had abandoned her and the pain of that experience reared its ugly head every time she allowed a man to become too close to her emotionally.
Fiona was not just beautiful; she was exotic. Although she certainly knew she was considered beautiful, she didn't seem to think too much about her looks. Her obvious weakness, and the one thing that seemed to consume her, was the clothing that filled her closets. Indeed, Fiona had often been known to say that no man would ever be worth giving up closet space for. As she wrapped herself in her high fashion job and lifestyle, her constant companion was a snoring English bulldog by the name of Sir Winston whom she loved completely.
Fiona lived her life in the style of her work, jetting to Europe for fashion shows and supervising model shoots on glamorous beaches, as if there was nothing else - and for her, there truly wasn't. She was at the peak of her career, totally self absorbed and enjoying every minute when John Anderson stepped into her life.
John is the head of a thriving ad agency, and is also a handsome widower with two daughters. Although John and Fiona are attracted to each other at first sight, it soon became clear (to Fiona at least) that they are total opposites. John doesn't seem to notice this small fact, though, and of course they do marry.
Throughout this story, we come to think of Fiona as oblivious to certain situations, inflexible and more than a little bit selfish - especially where John's living space and her clothes closets are concerned. On the other hand, we find that John is a headstrong widower who caters to the whims of his two almost-grown daughters, who are complete brats. Add to that mix Fiona's flamboyant houseman who runs around her apartment half-naked wearing her high heal shoes, and John's two brats and maniac housekeeper who sic the psycho dog from Hades on Fiona - not once but twice - and you have a story to hold your interest. It certainly held mine.
Divorce was inevitable, of course, because John finally realized that Fiona's lifestyle was vastly different from his - plus there were those two half-grown college-age brats (who wrapped him around their little fingers) to consider. So, less than a year after they married, John filed for divorce causing Fiona's worst fear to come true. Once again a man she loved abandoned her, and she was devastated. She quit her job, moved to Paris, and began to purge herself of her demons by writing a book that that closely resembled her life. That's where John found her again and thus the title of this book, Second Chance.
*****Because I could listen without interruption to Danielle Steel's latest book, Second Chance, on audio CD, I found lots of excuses to get into my car and run errands for everyone. I enjoyed it tremendously!*****