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Friday, November 30, 2012

November Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Mooner by Selah Janel



Mooner by Selah Janel
Publisher: No Boundaries Press
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (19 pages)
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Astilbe



Like many young men at the end of the 1800s Bill has signed on to work in a logging camp to earn a fast paycheck to start his life. Unfortunately his role model is Big John, the camp’s golden boy known for blowing his pay as fast as he makes it. On a cold Saturday night they enter Red’s Saloon to forget the work that takes the sweat and the lives of so many. Red may have plans for their whiskey money, but something else lurks in the shadows, something that badly wants a drink that has nothing to do with alcohol. Can Bill make it back out the shabby door or does someone have their own plans for his future?


READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE

Monday, November 26, 2012

Tulip Season: A Mitra Basu Mystery by Bharti Kirchner



Tulip Season: A Mitra Basu Mystery by Bharti Kirchner
Publisher: Booktrope Editions
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (248 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

A missing domestic-violence counselor. A wealthy and callous husband. A dangerous romance.

Kareena Sinha, an Indian-American domestic-violence counselor, disappears from her Seattle home. When the police dismiss suspicions that she herself was a victim of spousal abuse, her best friend, Mitra Basu, a young landscape designer, resolves to find her. Mitra's search reveals glimpses of a secret life involving her friend and a Bollywood actor of ill repute. Following the trail, Mitra is lured back to India where she uncovers the actor's ties to the Mumbai underworld and his financial difficulties - leading her into a web of life-threatening intrigue where Mitra can't be sure of Kareena's safety or her own.


Does Mitra really know Kareena?

When Mitra’s best friend Kareena goes missing, Mitra is determined to find out what happened to her. With no evidence of foul play, the police can’t offer much help. Even Mitra’s friends think she should stay out of what they view as a marital squabble. I could feel Mitra’s frustration as she struggles to make others take her seriously, and was very pleased to see Mitra take matters into her own hands. However, as she began to dig into the mystery, she gradually discovers she might not know Kareena as well as she thought. Layer by layer, Mitra steadily uncovers the truth of Kareena’s circumstances. What she finds will change her life forever.

Mitra is a very solid and likable character. She’s warm, caring, and very loyal. I’d certainly want a friend like her on my side if I were in serious trouble. Mitra’s pain and disbelief were palpable as she unearthed some hard truths concerning Kareena. Even though Mitra was at times deeply hurt by her new found knowledge, I admire her loyalty to Kareena and her determination to find out the truth no matter what. Mitra also seems to be at a place in her life where she is struggling to balance her past with her desire to find her current place in the world. Her inner turmoil makes her a very real and relatable character.

I had a very hard time understanding Mitra’s relationship with Ulrich, a relatively new romantic interest. He seemed like a nice guy at first, but as I read, it became clear that something wasn’t right. However, just like Mitra wouldn’t give up on Kareena, she didn’t seem to be able to let go of Ulrich either. While her devotion to those she cares about is admirable, I have a feeling someday she’s going to end up in serious trouble.

I must also mention that I love the way Ms. Kirchner works description into her writing that touches on all five of the senses. All the description in Tulip Season is blended so seamlessly into Mitra’s everyday experiences that it never feels overwhelming.

I truly enjoyed reading Tulip Season and getting to know Mitra. Anyone looking for a mystery with a solid, steady pace that awakens all the senses would do well to pick up a copy of Tulip Season today.





Friday, November 16, 2012

Mooner by Selah Janel



Mooner by Selah Janel
Publisher: No Boundaries Press
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (19 pages)
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Astilbe



Like many young men at the end of the 1800s Bill has signed on to work in a logging camp to earn a fast paycheck to start his life. Unfortunately his role model is Big John, the camp’s golden boy known for blowing his pay as fast as he makes it. On a cold Saturday night they enter Red’s Saloon to forget the work that takes the sweat and the lives of so many. Red may have plans for their whiskey money, but something else lurks in the shadows, something that badly wants a drink that has nothing to do with alcohol. Can Bill make it back out the shabby door or does someone have their own plans for his future?


Start with a few dozen men who make their living in a socially isolated and extremely dangerous occupation. Add copious amounts of whiskey, one cup of tall tales, a teaspoon of sexual tension, and four heaping tablespoons of ill intentions. Stir vigorously. The result? A recipe for disaster.

Nineteenth-century saloons are no place for people who trust others easily. From the moment a gullible young man named Bill walks in with an older companion the proprietors of Red’s Saloon smell trouble. As soon as I thought I knew what was going on, though, Ms. Janel massaged the plot into directions I never would have predicted it would go. If this is any indication of her writing ability and creativity I cannot wait to read more of her work in the future.

It took a few paragraphs for me to adjust to the colloquialisms and non-standard speech patterns used by these characters. I had to look up a few words and phrases with which I was unfamiliar but once I grew accustomed to how the characters spoke the author’s use of authentic dialogue created such a vivid picture in my mind of what happened to these characters that it felt as though I was sitting in the saloon alongside them. I can still smell the potent combination of sawdust, blood and stale sweat lingering in the air and even though I’ve never actually tasted it I almost believe I’m a connoisseur of whiskey as well!

I had some difficulty deciding whether to classify Mooner as a mystery or as science-fiction/fantasy. The two genres are effortlessly blended that in some ways this is two stories in one. Fans of either one will be delighted by this fast-paced, exciting story full of shocking twists.





Wednesday, November 14, 2012

In Search of Gwen Guattari by Hamilton Waymire



In Search of Gwen Guattari by Hamilton Waymire
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (10 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

When porn starlet Gwen Guattari fails to show up for the shooting of The Gwen Commandments, her shady husband and manager hires private eye Benson Keirstad to find her. Keirstad soon learns that none of the people around Gwen, from producer to husband to secretary, are quite what they seem.


It’s easy to assume the worst when someone you love goes missing. The definition of the term worst, though, depends on who you ask. Have they been kidnapped? Did they run off with someone? Was anyone else involved in their disappearance?

Benson Keirstand is a difficult guy to like. From the moment he meets Gwen’s husband Horace and the other porn stars at 1000 Volt he judges their body art, occupations and trustworthiness in the blink of an eye. To make matters worse, he lets his assumptions about their lives cloud how he interacts with them. Yet despite this I found myself rooting for Benson as he conducts his investigation. It’s not easy to confront prejudices you may not even be fully aware you possess. I’ve certainly been embarrassed by things I’ve said and done without thinking in the past, especially when I don’t realize until much later how they may have come across.

The premise of this story snagged my attention immediately. At first I assumed Benson’s prejudices were going to be challenged as he inched closer to the truth. It was disappointing to see how stereotypically the porn star characters in particular were portrayed. This tale could have easily earned a higher rating had Benson met even one porn star at 1000 Volt whose well-adjusted life pleasantly surprised him. The plot was quite engaging but I just couldn’t get past the fact that an otherwise great mystery was so predictable in its characterization.

In Search of Gwen Guattari kept me on my toes. It’s a good choice for anyone who has ever wished they could sit down and talk with a character in their favorite book. Benson’s biggest flaw turns out to also be what made this reader eventually sympathize with him. He’s definitely not a perfect person. Then again, neither am I or you!





Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Humpty Dumpty Tragedy by Herschel Cozine



The Humpty Dumpty Tragedy by Herschel Cozine

Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (8 pages)
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Astilbe

Now, for the first time, the true story behind Humpty Dumpty’s fall. Was it an accident? Did the Nurseryland government try to cover it up? Nathaniel P. Osgood III, working as his own client, delves into the old tragedy and makes a startling discovery.


Once upon a time an egg sat on a wall. When the king’s men found his body poor Humpty Dumpty was too broken to be fixed. Did he fall? Was he pushed? What was an egg doing perched on a wall in the first place? Come peer behind the headlines and discover what really happened that fateful day.

Nathaniel P. Osgoode III has seen everything. As a private investigator his passion in life is digging until he discovers the truth. In a few strokes of the pen a portrait emerges of a highly intelligent, thoughtful, trustworthy and empathetic man emerges. I can easily see how the author could bring him back for future adventures. There’s so much we haven’t learned yet about Nathaniel’s life and I for one sincerely hope that this isn’t the last we hear from him.

The setting of this story was almost more intriguing than the plot itself. Imagine a society populated entirely by characters from nursery rhymes and children’s books! Whispers of personality conflicts between the most unlikely individuals and the politics of governing mystical and human subjects whetted my appetite for more information about this world.

What surprised me the most about this tale, though, was how effortlessly so much humor was packed into a handful of pages. From slightly dark wisecracks - scrambled eggs, anyone? - to clever wordplay I giggled from beginning to end.

Whether you’re a fan of mysteries, fantasy worlds or nursery rhyme humor The Humpty Dumpty Tragedy has something to pique the interest of almost any reader.





Monday, November 12, 2012

Mrs. Jingles by Vickie Britton & Loretta Jackson



Mrs. Jingles by Vickie Britton and Loretta Jackson
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (13 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Cassie humors her fragile sister, Mia, who is recovering from a nervous breakdown, by purchasing two Harlequin dolls at a local antique store. The two dolls, one light-haired and the other dark, are a matching pair—like sisters!

Sibling rivalries from childhood begin to surface, as well as jealousy over Jason, who has married Mia, but was once Cassie’s boyfriend. Cassie soon fears for her life when she receives a disturbing phone call in the eerie voice of Mrs. Jingles, her sister's doll. Is the toy bent on revenge for a sister scorned, or is Cassie about to encounter something even more sinister in the form of someone she's loved for years?


The best part about visiting antique shops is that no one ever really knows what they’ll find there. A one-of-a-kind treasure could be just around the corner. Of course not all surprises are good as the woman who spies two dolls sitting on a shelf is about to discover.

The relationship between Cassie and Mia was so well thought out. Like many adult siblings their bond has been strengthened over a lifetime of memories. Yet as much as they love one another sometimes old childhood rivalries cannot help but to creep into the present.

At first I was impatient to know the history of the dolls Mia purchased. Who knows how many other homes they’ve lived in or what they’ve witnessed? By the time I reached the climax, though, I was glad that this information wasn’t revealed. It leaves room for me to imagine my own prequels or sequels without bogging down the real plot.

Unfortunately this story’s portrayal of someone living with a mental illness left something to be desired. Mia’s exact diagnosis is never revealed but she is painted as an extremely emotionally fragile person who must be protected from the truth at any cost. As someone who has lived with mentally ill relatives I wish Mia could have been written in a less stereotypical manner. The reader learns a lot about her social and emotional dysfunctions but not very much about Mia the individual and I think the ending suffers because of it. Empathizing with someone who has only been described in some fairly negative ways isn’t easy after all.

After reading Mrs. Jingles I’ll never look at antique toys the same way. Why not give this book a try and see if it changes your opinion, too?





Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Mixed Signals, A Grace Street Mystery by Jane Tesh



Mixed Signals, A Grace Street Mystery by Jane Tesh
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (235 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Stephantois

It’s Christmas in Parkland, North Carolina, and PI David Randall is looking forward to his mother’s visit to 302 Grace Street, even though he knows she’ll want to talk about his daughter, Lindsey, who died in a car accident. Then he and his friend Camden find Camden’s friend Jared Hunter brutally stabbed. Cam has violent flashbacks to the crime, making him fear he’s linked with the killer. The suspects include Boyd Taylor, who hires Randall. Randall’s investigations reveal Jared served time for breaking into the Parkland Museum of History, and Bert Galvin, son of Ralph Galvin, editor of the Parkland Herald, was also involved.

Randall believes inept superhero, the Parkland Avenger, is a set up by award-hungry Herald reporter, Brooke Verner. The Super Hero Society of Parkland insists the Avenger isn’t one of them. To his dismay, Kary, wanting a more active role in his cases, joins the SHS.

Brooke tells Randall she saw a letter from Bert promising not to tell about the museum funds. By comparing museum records and newsletters, Randall discovers a collector of valuable letters was never paid the full amount and died in a car crash suspiciously soon after the sale. He realizes Galvin used the museum break in to cover up this embezzlement scheme.

A map found in Jared’s comic collection leads Randall and Cam to a series of tunnels underneath several stores that have been recently robbed. Kary, in her guise as Wonder Star, helps them trap Galvin in the tunnels and end Cam’s troubling visions.


This story dives right into the action because the murder takes place in the first few pages. While the main character, David Randall is a PI, Mixed Signals is actually also a cozy mystery too. It’s filled with some quirky characters and sometimes humorous dialogue.

What I enjoyed most about this story was the sense of community that the author portrayed. Ms. Tesh offers the reader an insight into this small town and how David Randall fits in. The character I liked most was his mother, who sometimes had some great lines.

This is the second in the Great Street mysteries and while I don’t think it’s necessary to read them in order, I should say that not having read the first one did leave me somewhat unclear about the reoccurring characters. I felt like I would have known David more had I been able to catch up on more of his background.

If you’re a mystery buff looking for a new series or enjoy crime in a small town setting then it’s worth checking out.





Monday, November 5, 2012

Death in the 12th House: Where Neptune Rules by Mitchell Scott Lewis



Death in the 12th House: Where Neptune Rules by Mitchell Scott Lewis
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (332 Pages)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Foxglove

Someone is bumping off rock’s wrinkled royalty. After the death of the third aging rock star, fifty eight year old Freddie Finger, lead singer for multi-platinum Rocket Fire, astrologer detective David Lowell is brought into the case. Freddie wasn’t well liked, and Lowell has more than his hands full with suspects. Was it Freddie’s ex-wives, who seem more intent on killing each other than anyone else? His disgruntled band members, angry because Freddie’s solo career was threatening the band’s future? His greedy manager, busy promoting the death of a rock star? Or was it the musician whose career Freddie sabotaged many years ago? Freddie’s daughter, movie actress Vivian Younger, has retained Lowell’s services to help catch her father’s killer. She seems intrigued with this unusual man and his bizarre career. As they search for the truth, is there romance in the air for our stoic detective?

With the help of his staff: vivacious red-head assistant, Sarah, master hacker and psychic, Mort, and his driver and bodyguard, Andy, Lowell sifts through the birth charts of the characters and follows the clues to a surprising ending.


 Death in the 12th House is the second in Mitchell Scott Lewis’ Starlight Detective Agency series, and it is a fascinating look at the inside workings of an unusual and very different kind of detective agency. 

Someone is killing off aging rockers, and the police are more than a little stumped by it. When the body of bad boy Freddie Finger turns up, his daughter Vivian convinces the police to bring in astrologer detective David Lowell to help. With a case this high profile, the NYPD can use all the help they can get. There is a wealth of possible suspects: Freddie’s ex-wife number two and soon-to-be ex number three, a bitter ex-band member, a minor mob boss, and even Freddie’s manager are examined. With the help of master hacker and psychic Mort, and red-haired assistant Sarah, and chauffeur and bodyguard Andy, David must use his science and the stars to eliminate the innocent parties, and narrow down the field. Despite several attempts to stop him, David begins to close in on the truth, and the closer he gets, the more dangerous it becomes. Are all three murders related, or is there more than one plot here? Can David and his crew solve these murders before someone else gets hurt?

The character development is extremely well crafted, with people who are more than they seem in the lead roles. Even the bad guys are well done, and at times quite comical in their stereotypes. Mr. Lewis has done a marvelous job of incorporating the life of New York City into the world of the astrologer detective, giving a new look at many familiar locales.

This is a fast paced, edge-of-your seat mystery, with several side stories, at first seemingly related to the murders. I enjoyed watching as David slowly unraveled the threads and found the one that lead to the guilty parties, although there were times when the astrological terminology lost me for a bit. And in spite of the age difference, there is a brief fling between David and the rock star’s daughter, well crafted and sweetly done. There are some surprising twists in this, and I certainly didn’t see the ending of this one coming at all. For those who like a mystery that keeps you guessing till the end, this one works to fill that niche. A great reading experience with a surprising solution.





Saturday, November 3, 2012

September and October Book of the Month Poll



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…


Read the Full Review Here