Beginning January 1, 2013

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Silent End by Nancy Springer

Silent End by Nancy Springer
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Short Story (11 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Stephantois

When Judith discovers a dead body in the kiln of her pottery store, she's convinced it's the work of her ex-husband in an attempt to cause her trouble. After discussing the incident with members of her Scrabble Club, Judith soon learns that her ex may be off the hook, and that sticks and stones may break bones, but words can definitely get you killed.

This is the second mystery I’ve read by Nancy Springer and like the first one, Silent End kept me entertained from start to finish.

This is a short read but the author did a great job throwing us into the action with the discovery of a body in a kiln. The dialogue is snappy, Judith, the main character, is part quirky, part resourceful business woman, and best of all, amateur sleuth.

I loved the way the story unfolded and how the clues were set out but yet still kept me guessing. If you enjoy mysteries but don’t have time for a full-length novel, Silent End is perfect for you.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Catch Your Breath by Kathryn J Bain

Catch Your Breath by Kathryn J Bain
Publisher: White Rose Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (233 pgs)
Heat Level: sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Calley Regan only wants to get through her cousin’s bridal shower without anyone discovering her secret—she’s pregnant. Her sanctimonious family would never understand. Then the one person she confides in happens to tell the incredibly handsome, but seriously uptight, sheriff, Riley Owens—who’s just given her a speeding ticket! How can she trust the brooding, inflexible lawman when he’s everything she’s not? Riley Owens is instantly attracted to Calley Regan, but it won’t come to anything. For years, he’s lived mired in guilt, and carefree Calley is his polar opposite. But, when someone attacks Calley, Riley is determined to protect her no matter what it takes, and when her family deserts her, he takes Calley into his home. Years ago, he couldn’t save the woman he loved. He’s not about to let that happen again.

It’s bad enough when you find out that the attractive man you’ve been dating got you pregnant. It’s a lot worse when you find out he’s been married all along…

Ms. Bain gives you two main characters, Calley and Riley, who are independent and have no plans on getting involved again. Calley is still trying to get over the rat that got her pregnant, and Riley lost his fiancé in a bank robbery and doesn’t want to risk love again. This sets the stage for a lot of banter, a good batch of stubbornness and some antagonism on both sides. The author writes the dialogue realistically and makes the developing romance charming. The story begins with Calley throwing up on Riley’s shoes right after he gives her a ticket for speeding. She told him he needed to let her use the bathroom, but he ignored her. He deserved it.

The murder attempts are odd. Calley has no enemies and has blown off the baby’s father; she will raise the baby independently. The author writes a twisted tale that is strange enough to be true. I had no clue who the killer was until I was almost at the end of the story. Even then, I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out.

Another interesting part of the plot is how Calley is treated by her family when they find out she’s pregnant. Her mother claims she’s a Christian, but she doesn’t act like one.

All in all, the author’s words flow well, the story is interesting and the romance blossoming is sweet. I enjoyed this read. Why not try it yourself and see if you can guess the murderer sooner than I did?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Further Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman by J B Lynn

Further Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman by J B Lynn
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (275 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Knocking off a drug kingpin was the last thing on Maggie Lee's to-do list, but when a tragic accident leaves her beloved niece orphaned and in the hospital, Maggie will go to desperate lengths to land the money needed for her care.

But the drug kingpin is the least of her worries. Maggie's aunts are driving her crazy, her best friend's turned into a bridezilla…and a knock on the head has given Maggie Dr. Dolittle abilities—she can talk to animals. Unfortunately, they talk back.

It's just another day in the life of this neurotic hitwoman…

She really didn’t want to play “hitwoman” again, but she also really needed more money. Not just for her niece’s hospital care, but to fight a long-lost aunt who wants to adopt Katie and take her to Vegas. So when Maggie goes out for chocolate pudding with the mob boss and he asks her to take out an opponent, she tells him she’ll think about it.

Ms. Lynn’s first book was a joy to read and I’m very happy to have had the opportunity to read this sequel. The stories are busy, full of laughs, and always leave me wondering what will happen next.

The author has made Maggie one unique individual. Since a head injury during a car accident, she can now hear animals talk. God (Godzilla) is a lizard, who is pretty smart and pretty smug, likes to give her advice. Doomsday is a Doberman who is really a big sweetie but puts people off by her size. Her favorite statement is: “Gotta! Gotta!” You can guess gotta what.

If the animals weren’t enough, she now has three romantic interests. None of them are quite right for her. One is a cop who appears to have some excess baggage; one is man who’s already married twice; and one is an old crush from school she thought was gay. Watching her balance relationships and worrying about her feelings for all three is fun. She’s not sure what she wants or who with; they all have their attractions. Thank goodness one of them is an expert killer and can offer her advice on how to take out her assigned hit.

Ms. Lynn always amazes me with her ideas. For example, did the animals expedite her hit or didn’t they? Did someone else help her? We don’t know, but we can sure imagine. That’s part of why these books are such fun to read. They aren’t boring, they aren’t typical, and the murders are almost an accident.

Oh, I forgot to mention the three crazy aunts Maggie has. They’re all unusual, have quirks most people don’t, and they love Maggie. Sometimes that’s a problem. Haven’t you had relatives like that?

Why not grab both books and sit down and follow Maggie along on her adventures. You’ll laugh at loud, moan at some of the antics, sigh over some of the relatives and when you finish you’ll have a smile on your face. Ms. Lynn writes stories that flow well, make you care about her characters, and make you want to read more. It’s a winning combination for a book.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Shadow Cabinet by Harol Marshall

The Shadow Cabinet by Harol Marshall
Publisher: Storyteller
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (320 pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

In a top-secret bunker... buried deep beneath FEMA headquarters on Mount Weather, a mysterious doppelgänger organization know as THE SHADOW CABINET prepares for the unthinkable. Secretly appointed by Congress, members of the Continuity of Government initiative prepare to carry on government functions in the event of a catastrophic national emergency. But Shadow President Fred McGuire has other ideas. His unhappiness with the current Administration translates into a cold-blooded plot to overthrow the executive branch and seize control of the White House. McGuire s co-conspirators include high-ranking government officials, a wealthy corporation, and a notorious private military contractor.

Tensions mount when CIA analyst Malcolm Hall stumbles across evidence of the conspiracy, a discovery that costs him his life. Acting on clues Malcolm left behind, Dan Chavez at the National Counterterrorism Center, and Henry Larson, Director of the CIA s National Clandestine Services, begin a secret investigation that extends from Washington to Hawaii and beyond. Determined at all costs to disrupt the planned coup d état by tracking down the homegrown terrorists and preventing high-level assassinations, Dan and Henry place their lives and those of their colleagues in mortal danger.

A person who would seem a powerless cog in the scheme of things uncovers evidence that costs him his life but starts an avalanche of toppled government officials.

This political thriller sends chills and shudders skittering all over the body—goose bumps, prickly hair, and breath-catching moments. The Shadow Cabinet is hard to put down when once started for fear the “bad guys” will get away with their horrible plans if left alone. Of course, trying to separate the “bad guys” from the “good guys” is no easy task—lots of shades of gray between the distinct black and white.

Fred MacGuire and Zachery Browning, both high ranking government officials, crave POWER, making them uneasy co-conspirators. Each has an agenda of his own and needs the other to reach that brass ring each strives for.

Henry Larson is a thorn in MacGuire and Browning’s sides. Henry, directory of Clandestine Services, is not good at sharing information; plus, he seems to march to the beat of a different drum. When Dan Chavez, one of his special agents calls about his friend Malcolm Hall’s death, Henry listens to Dan and Malcolm’s wife. The alarming information prompts Henry to start an investigation. A tiny crack is found in the Shadow Cabinet’s plan and the race to pry that crack open wide to reveal the conspiracy begins AND the reader gets to share the adrenaline-pumping experience vicariously. From Prague to Hawaii and in the hotbed of Washington, D.C. politics, agents manipulate, deceive, and do whatever is necessary to get the job done.

The Shadow Cabinet is full of alpha personalities that create riveting action. Some secondary characters that keep the action revved up to fever pitch are Alicia Michel and Tom Kerrington in Hawaii. They stir up a deadly fire storm, while Evan and Elena in Prague start something that ends up in the U.S. in a hotbed of lethal secrets and driven megalomaniacs. Seemingly innocuous old Charlie, with his secretive ways adds a new diminish to the plot.

Bjorn Nilsson, boss of the powerful Sigma Services, a para-military contract group, is known for hiring out to the highest bidder with no concern for moral issues. His group is made up of people with proven military skills. They have the best equipment available and operate with few restraints imposed on them. With big corporate money to finance their deal with the Shadow Cabinet, they become a threat to be reckoned with.

Dead bodies mount up, assassination plans race along and evidence of moles in the system, putting even the best of agents on edge. Tension, fears, and suspense keeps one turning pages and about the time it looks like the “good guys” have thing under control, sleepers in powerful places reveal plans that send shock waves rippling—could it really happen?

Harol Marshall weaves together a multitude of intriguing characters ranging from the quiet, reclusive computer operator to some of the most powerful people in government. She weaves sub-plots into the major plot and keeps the reader enthralled with actions that seem shockingly real. The format she uses keeps the reader tuned in to both protagonist and antagonist activities while showing the inmost desires of both major and minor characters. The foreshadowing, clues, and hints she sprinkles in along the way make THE SHADOW CABINET spine-tingling. Ms. Marshall has created a political thriller that comes alive like today’s news, making one hope the “good guys” keep winning.

An intense, compelling read!

Monday, October 15, 2012

In the Name of Freedom by Carol Marvell

In the Name of Freedom by Carol Marvell
Slave Trader Book One
Publisher: Wild Child Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Action/Adventure, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (321 pgs)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

For the past three years, young prostitutes and destitute women have been vanishing without trace. The only common links to their disappearances are their good looks and prison records.

Never before has a cop been taken.

Detective Billie McCoy, a member of an elite undercover squad, is on assignment when she stumbles onto a slavery racket that goes deeper than she could ever have imagined. Plunged into a web of corruption and evil, not only does she have to contend with the slave traders, but also her fellow prisoners – all who hate cops.

Stretching from the streets of Sydney to the rainforests in far north Queensland, it’s a race against time. Filled with determination, disappointment and twists, the story follows Billie’s fight for freedom and her greatest ever challenge. She will need all her cunning and skill to get out alive and see justice done.

Blood will be spilt, hopes will be destroyed – all to uncover a plot so unpredictable that only fate can decide . . .

A split second decision changes Billie’s life forever.

While on a standard undercover mission, Billie hears a woman in distress and decides to stray from the task at hand. Though Billie puts up a good fight, she soon finds herself caught in the clutches of a ruthless slave trader. Even if Billie can free herself and the other prisoners, her life will never be the same.

Billie is certainly a skilled fighter who has no qualms about taking on enemies twice her size. Even when she’s out numbered, Billie often makes a stand and manages to make her captors wish they’d never laid eyes on her. I admire Billie’s confidence and the fact that she keeps a positive attitude no matter how dire her situation appears. I have no doubt that her refusal to accept defeat will keep her going through her ordeal. Not only is Billie a tough as nails cop, but she is a compassionate person as well. Billie has every intention of escaping and she won’t leave any of the other prisoners behind when she does, even though the other women have made it clear they hate her. I really respect Billie’s determination to do the right thing, especially when she is face with such animosity.

Billie is the only character I really got to know with any depth. The other prisoners are basically stereotypes. They are women who have had rough lives and have a chip or two on their shoulders. They act tough, but are much more vulnerable than they let on. I didn’t learn much about the other women’s lives until the very end of the story during a scene where they are all sharing their “stories.” While it was nice to finally learn a bit more about each of the women, I felt that the scene had an awkward feel to it because so many details tumbled out all at once. I think it would have been a bit more realistic if the flow of information had been spread out through the story a bit more.

I must mention that there is a lot of fighting in this book described in blow by blow detail. In fact, the fight scenes make up a majority of the content in this suspense. While the action seemed realistic, it became a bit much after a while, and I could have done with less description on some of the more minor fights. I also couldn’t believe the amount of fighting that went on between Billie and the other prisoners. It was very counterproductive, especially after Billie went out of her way to help the other girls a couple of times. Billie could have simply looked after herself, but she repeatedly put her life on the line for women who clearly didn’t appreciate her efforts. I think Billie’s actions would have warranted more respect from her fellow prisoners much sooner in the story. I also question how Billie was able to continue fighting at such a high level given the sheer number of battles she found herself in and the fact that she wasn’t getting very much good food or sleep.

The ending of Slave Trader is very hard to swallow. Knowing this book was the first in a series, I anticipated an open ended conclusion. However, after everything that Billie and the other women had been through, I thought they would have been in a better place at the end of this installment. I was left feeling that everything Billie and the other women had gone through was all in vain. I certainly hope Billie’s situation improves drastically in the next book.

Overall, I thought Slave Trader was a good read. Billie is an admirable character and she and her fellow prisoners have attitude to spare. Anyone looking for a suspense loaded with action and fighting might want to give Slave Trader a try.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Face of the Enemy by Joanne Dobson & Beverle Graves Myers

Face of the Enemy by Joanne Dobson and Beverle Graves Myers
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (380 pages)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

December 1941: America reels from the brutal attack on Pearl Harbor. Both patriotism and paranoia grip New York as the city frantically mobilizes for war. Nurse Louise Hunter is outraged when the FBI, in a midnight sweep of prominent Japanese residents,storms in to arrest her patient’s wife. The desperately ill Professor Oakley is married to Masako Fumi, an avant-garde artist who has befriended Louise, a newcomer to the bustling city. The nurse vows to help the professor free Masako.

When the murdered body of Masako’s art dealer is discovered in the gallery where he’d been closing down her controversial show, Masako’s troubles multiply. Homicide detective Michael McKenna doubts her guilt, but an ambitious G-man schemes to lever the homicide and ensuing espionage accusations into a political cause célèbre.

Louise hires a radical lawyer famous for shouldering human rights cases as the Oakleys’ friends and colleagues desert them one by one. She also enlists the help of her journalist roommate. But has the nurse been too trusting? Sensing a career-making story, Cabby Ward sets out to exploit Masako’s dilemma for her own gain, bumping heads with Lieutenant McKenna at every turn.

Struggling to focus on one man’s murder while America plunges into a worldwide war, Louise and McKenna defy both racism and ham-fisted government agents in order to expose the real killer.

A talented artist in New York, a lovely person, becomes the victim hatred and false accusations. Why? She’d never hurt anyone. But, it’s December 1941, and the kind-hearted artist is Japanese.

Masako’s art dealer is murdered. In the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, could someone really be so hate-filled as to kill a man for featuring Japanese art in his gallery, and then setting up circumstances to make it look as if the artist herself did it? Well, this is a murder mystery, so there’s a little more to it.

Louise is a nurse assigned to care for Masako’s husband because he is deathly sick with pneumonia. To make matters worse, Masako is roughly rounded up by the FBI and put into containment due to her heritage. Louise witnesses this and wants to help.

Louise lives in a home with other women, an interesting group of characters. One is a pushy reporter, Cabby, who works for the Times. Cabby gets into her own predicaments. The housemother is German and has a teenage son. When the boy discovers that his missing father is a Nazi, he’s disgusted and runs away out of state to sign up for the American military. Things don’t turn out as he plans. The Nazi returns for his boy, and the boy’s mother refuses him. Meanwhile, Louise hires a great lawyer to help out her patient’s Japanese wife.

These characters are realistic, and the 1940s world drawn by the authors is perfect for the unrolling of the plot. Things keep happening, moving the pace right along. For a good murder mystery set in a vintage world, why not check this one out?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Last Resort by Toy Davis

The Last Resort by Toy Davis
Publisher: No Boundaries Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (44 pgs)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Stephantois

A group of college friends decide to spend winter break at Flow's cabin. They invite Hailey to join them for the first time, and she agrees to go because of her crush on Flow. Unbeknown to most of them, this cabin is known as the last resort due to the families that were killed there. The situation changes as people start to disappear. Hailey is the only person to notice, and can't seem to get the others to listen. She's determined to make them see the danger before its too late.

There’s nothing better than a story about a house with secrets. And the one featured in this story has many. One thing I liked about this story is it started as what I thought would be a romantic suspense between two characters and then to my surprise, more characters showed up.

The author did a good job unfolding the back story about all the murders that had taken place and it gave the tale an eerie feel. The pacing was fast which made it a quick read. I would have liked to have seen this story longer so that the characters could have been fleshed out a little more and I would have gotten the chance to know them more in depth.

However, if you’re looking to read a quick eerie tale, especially for Halloween, this might be one for you.

Monday, October 1, 2012

No Wake Zone by Linda Lovely

No Wake Zone by Linda Lovely
Publisher: L and L Dreamspell
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (280 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

A murderer taps exotic biotech know-how to kill a billionaire and a passel of his heirs. Does greed fuel the killing spree or is it something more sinister?

Visiting her crusty 79-year-old aunt in northern Iowa, Marley Clark tries to save a billionaire when he tumbles from an excursion boat captained by Marley’s cousin. But the victim—founder of a biotech empire—is dead before his body hits the water. Soon Marley is consoling the widow, an old college friend and prime murder suspect.

As Marley becomes embroiled in the investigation, members of the tycoon’s family perish faster than overripe fruit, and the arrogant head of a security firm renews a vendetta. Once the murder spree is linked to biological weapons, Marley’s former Pentagon boss joins the probe. To unmask the villains and protect her kin, Marley taps homegrown resources and debates the wisdom of trusting a handsome attorney with a suspicious past and a killer smile.

Can Marley solve the mystery before someone else falls prey to a crazed murderer?

Marley is a spunky baby boomer who doesn’t go looking for trouble, but trouble seems to find her just the same. A simple vacation to visit her aunt turns into a race against time as Marley tries desperately to prove that her old college friend, Darlene, is innocent of her husband’s murder. I really liked the fact that not every move that Marley makes is perfect. She takes several missteps in the course of her investigation that cost her time and evidence. However, this gives No Wake Zone a very realistic feel. Ms. Lovely also makes it clear that Marley isn’t superhuman. Even though Marley is strong mentally and physically, sometimes her body fails her. This makes Marley a very vivid and relatable character.

One of my favorite things about Marley is that she doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. She lets her internal sense of right and wrong guide her as she navigates through life. She’s the kind of woman who is always willing to help a friend, but Marley is not so naïve as to believe her friends are infallible. She’s not afraid to ask her friends some tough questions when there are important issues that need to be cleared up. The fact that Marley is willing to stand up to her friends is a true testament to her character.

Aunt May is certainly the most interesting secondary character. She’s a tough woman who can be a bit nosy at times, but clearly cares for her friends and family. Aunt May and her antics inject some much needed humor into a story where so many people were being victimized by a killer with a horrendous agenda. I particularly liked the time Aunt May had Marley pick up a certain item of clothing at a department store for her.

I think the mystery in No Wake Zone is well thought out and moves at a good pace with a short list of suspects.  It's truly an entertaining mystery. Marley is a compelling main character and her Aunt May is definitely a hoot. This is Ms. Lovely's second book following Marley and her adventures, but this tale can certainly stand on its own. Are you wondering who could be devious enough to murder so many members of Darlene’s family? Read No Wake Zone to find out!