Thursday, November 30, 2023

RSVP to Murder by Carol Pouliot Blog Tour Book Review

 

RSVP to Murder

by Carol Pouliot

November 6 - December 1, 2023 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

A new twist on the 1930s English country house mystery.

Embarking on their most daring time-travel experiment to date, Depression-era cop Steven Blackwell and his 21st-century partner-in-crime Olivia Watson travel to the Adirondack Mountains for a Christmas party at one of the legendary Great Camps. Their host, a wealthy New York publisher, has planned a weekend filled with holiday activities, but, as the last guest arrives, temperatures plummet and a blizzard hits. Before long, the area is buried in snow, the roads are impassable, and the publisher is poisoned.

Unwilling to wait until the local police can arrive, the victim’s widow convinces Steven to launch an unofficial investigation. Soon, a family member goes missing and Steven and Olivia discover a second victim. Trapped with a killer, Steven and Olivia race against the clock before the murderer strikes again.

Praise for RSVP to Murder:

"A classic holiday movie and Agatha Christie novel mashup"
~ Shawn Reilly Simmons, author of the Red Carpet Catering Mystery Series

"RSVP to Murder is Agatha Christie with a time-travel twist. Pouliot supplies us with just what we crave in a great locked-room mystery: a blizzard, closed roads, dead phone lines, roaring fires, and lots of suspects and motives—all set in a luxurious Adirondack Great Camp in 1934. Snap on your seatbelt and travel with Steven and Olivia, you’ll be happy you did!"
~ Tina deBellegarde, Author of The Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery Series.

"A Great Camp in the Adirondacks serves up a sumptuous setting of plump armchairs, roaring fireplaces, and the heady scent of Christmas pines—all begging to be settled into with this thumping good vintage whodunit set in the 1930s. Cleverly plotted with plot-twists aplenty and some time-travel to boot, this immersive mystery is a gem."
~ Laurie Loewenstein, Author of the Dust Bowl Mystery Series

"Readers are invited to the glamour of the Thirties, where the rich are putting on the Ritz, until there’s a murder to solve. Join time-travelers Blackwell and Watson in a race to the Racines’ Adirondack Great Camp to catch a killer. A clever...and a thoroughly unique must for fans of the paranormal and historical. RSVP today!"
~ Gabriel Valjan, Author of the Shane Cleary Mysteries series

"The Blackwell and Watson Time-Travel Mysteries’ latest installment, RSVP to Murder, combines the thrilling and “timeless” aspects of Jack Finney’s classic TIME AND AGAIN mixed with the wit and charm of a modern, puzzling mystery. Highly recommended for all lovers of time travel, history, romance and wily sleuths."
~ L.A. Chandlar, Best-selling author of the Art Deco Mystery Series

My Review:

This is a good mystery of the locked room style with a snow storm preventing victims and suspects from leaving the frigid gathering. Pouliot has provided many suspects in the murders, each having some violence in their past and a possible motive. Practically no evidence left behind behind means the murders must be solved through reasoning and persistent questioning of suspects.

I like the added tension of Will, Steven's detecting partner back in Knightsbridge, being suspicious of Olivia and her background story. That added a personal element and a bit of suspense to the plot. I also like the setting, a remote camp location in the Adirondacks the wealthy owners normally used in the hot summers. The main characters continue to entertain as they work together, combining 1930s detecting with insight from 2014.

While I was initially skeptical of the time travel element in this series, I appreciate how Pouliot has incorporated it in the plot resulting in an entertaining historical mystery. While the mystery here is resolved, we are left with a tantalizing hint of a future adventure. I'll be watching for it.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

 You can read my review of the previous book in this series, Death Rang the Bell.

Book Details:

Genre: Traditional mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: September 2023
Number of Pages: 305
ISBN: 9781685123857
Series: The Blackwell and Watson Time-Travel Mysteries, #4
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop.org | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

December 31, 1902
New York City, New York

She was marrying the wrong man.

With a silk-gloved hand, Margery Belleville lifted the bottom of her wedding gown and peeked around the heavy, carved doors into the nave of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Several hundred guests—ladies in expensive finery, wool coats trimmed with ermine and fancy hats with brims reaching out over their shoulders, and tuxedoed men in black silk top hats—awaited the wedding of the decade. St. Patrick’s reminded Margery of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris with its Gothic-style pointed arches and rich stained-glass windows set in lacey webs. The soaring, vaulted ceiling, lit by crystal chandeliers suspended on long rope-like cables, rose hundreds of feet in the air. Light from the chandeliers reached into the far corners of the church and mingled with the glow of candles twinkling in wrought-iron stands. Inhaling the scent of balsam fir from the many holiday decorations, Margery gazed down the long center aisle, where she would soon walk with her father.

Margery stepped back into the vestibule, her pure-white gown rustling softly as she moved. She was, at least, happy her parents had allowed her the choice of her wedding dress, if not the groom. Margery and her mother had searched in several shops, nearly deciding to have the dress custom made when they came upon this elegant, sleek gown. The moment Margery laid eyes on it, she knew it was the one. The high neckline draped in soft folds beneath her chin, flattering her face. The form-fitting bodice hugged her curves, yet avoided the dreaded hourglass silhouette, with its yards of smooth satin skirt billowing around her. Margery’s unadorned veil revealed topaz eyes and soft lips, but covered her rich auburn hair and cascaded down her back. This was the gown of a modern, independent woman. If only her life matched the dress.

His conversation with the bishop finished, Anthony Belleville joined his daughter. “Are you ready, my dear?”

The organ began Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March,” and a rumble echoed throughout the nave as the guests stood and turned toward the back of the cathedral. Trembling, Margery took her father’s arm.

He must have felt her shaking because her father leaned over and, to Margery’s astonishment, whispered, “I know he’s not your first choice. But you will be well cared for and you know Gil adores you. I don’t know which man has captured your heart, but you won’t lack for anything with Gilbert Racine. The publishing empire he’s going to inherit will provide a comfortable, even pampered, life. He’s the best choice to keep you in the style your mother and I have provided. I can’t bear the thought that you would ever lack for anything, my dearest daughter.”

Margery was further shocked when her father wiped a tear from his eye.

It was at that moment when Margery Belleville, soon to be Margery Racine, accepted her fate. She would be a good wife for her successful businessman husband. She would provide him with children and a well-run home. She’d bury her feelings deep inside, lock them away in a cupboard, and throw away the key. She could not marry the man she loved. But she might grow to love the man she married.

Margery forced a smile and reached up to give her father a kiss on the cheek. “I’ll be alright, Papa. Gil will be a good husband.” She patted his hand. Straightening her spine, Margery gave a sharp nod of her head. “I’m ready.”

***

Excerpt from RSVP to Murder by Carol Pouliot. Copyright 2023 by Carol Pouliot. Reproduced with permission from Carol Pouliot. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

A former language teacher and business owner, Carol Pouliot writes the acclaimed Blackwell and Watson Time-Travel Mysteries, traditional police procedurals with a seemingly impossible relationship between Depression-era cop Steven Blackwell and 21st-century journalist Olivia Watson. With their fast pace and unexpected twists and turns, the books have earned praise from readers and mystery authors alike.

Carol is a founding member of Sleuths and Sidekicks, Co-chair of the Murderous March Mystery Conference, and President of her Sisters in Crime chapter. When not writing, Carol can be found packing her suitcase and reaching for her passport for her next travel adventure.

Learn more and sign up for Carol’s newsletter on her website:
www.carolpouliot.com
Goodreads
BookBub - @cpouliot13
Instagram - @carolpouliotmysterywriter
Facebook - @WriterCarolPouliot
Sleuths and Sidekicks

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and opportunities to WIN in the giveaway!

Click here to view RSVP to Murder Tour Hosts.

 

JOIN IN ON THE GIVEAWAY:

This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for Carol Pouliot. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.

 

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Tours


I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Partners in Crime Book Tours. My comments are an independent and honest review.  The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Partners in Crime Book Tours.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

The Face of Greed by James L'Etoile Book Review

About the Book:


When a prominent Sacramento businessman is killed and his wife injured in a brutal home invasion, Detective Emily Hunter and her partner, Javier Medina, are called to investigate. At first glance, it seems like a crime of opportunity gone horribly wrong, but Emily soon finds there might be more to both the crime and the dead man.

The high-stakes investigation also comes at a time when Emily is caring for her mother, who has early-onset Alzheimer’s, and Emily struggles to balance her job with her personal life. The city’s political elite seem to want the case solved quickly, but darker forces want it buried.

Could there have been a motive behind the attack, making it more than a random home invasion? Emily uncovers clues that cause her to reconsider her understanding of the crime. A deadly game of greed and deception pulls Emily deeper into the shadowy world of gang violence and retribution. She has to walk the razor’s edge to identify the killer—without becoming the next victim.


My Review:

While I have read a couple of L'Etiole's novels, this is the first one featuring Detective Emily Hunter. I really like her feisty nature. She continues to pursue a murder investigation even when powerful city politicians want her to stop. It seems corruption might be the reason for her being shut down. I like her character because she comes across as a real person too. She has issues with the care of her mother, something many readers can relate to.

This is a good police procedural where persistence in the face of opposition pays off. There is a good deal of action and the pace is consistent and kept me reading. I hope we'll see more of Emily Hunter.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


About the Author:


James L’Etoile
 uses his twenty-nine years behind bars as an influence in his award-winning novel, short stories, and screenplays. He is a former associate warden in a maximum-security prison, a hostage negotiator, and director of California’s state parole system. Black Label earned the Silver Falchion for Best Book by an Attending Author at Killer Nashville and he was nominated for The Bill Crider Award for short fiction. His most recent novel is the Anthony and Lefty Award nominated Dead Drop. Look for Devil Within and Face of Greed, both coming in 2023.

Oceanview Publishing, 320 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Mayhem in the Mountains by Kelly Oliver Book Review

About the Book:

1918 Italy

When a deadly blizzard traps Fiona Figg and Kitty Lane in the Dolomite Mountains, it’s all

downhill from here.Their hotel is snowed-in, and no one can get in or out. Then a man is found dead in his locked hotel room – and the killer is still on the premises. But with no murder weapon and too many suspects, their investigation is treading on thin ice.

The colder it gets outside, the hotter it gets inside as Fiona squares off with both her beloved

Archie and her nemesis Fredricks. With her love-life on a slippery-slope, Fiona risks everything in one bold move…

My Review:

This novel did not capture me as much as the previous ones in the series. The murder weapon was no surprise and Fiona seemed out of her element in the snow. The relationships Fiona has with Archie and Fredrick seemed to be the same, not evolving one way or the other.

I did find including the actual historical character of Mussolini to be interesting. There was no author's note at the end so I do not know if the covert acts to keep Mussolini in line were based on actual history or not.

Fiona is a good amateur sleuth and perhaps government agent and I did enjoy the cozy mystery in general.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


You can read my reviews of earlier books in this series: Chaos at Carnegie Hall and Covert in Cairo.

About the Author:

Kelly Oliver
 is the award-winning and bestselling author of three mystery series: the seven-book suspense series, The Jessica James Mysteries; the three-book middle grade kids’ series, Pet Detective Mysteries; and the four-book historical cozy series, The Fiona Figg Mysteries, inspired by those trips to the Green Hills Library.

Currently, Kelly is the Vice President of Sisters in Crime.

When she’s not writing novels, Kelly is a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University.

Boldwood Books, 296 pages.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Lest She Forget by Lisa Malice Blog Tour Book Review

Lest She Forget

by Lisa Malice

November 20 - December 15, 2023 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Haunted by a forgotten past. Hunted by a ruthless killer. No one to save her but herself.

After surviving a car crash, Kay Smith wakes from a coma with amnesia, a battered face, and no one to vouch for her identity. Her psychiatrist is convinced that her memory loss is connected to the horrific flashbacks and nightmares haunting her. As she digs for clues to her past, Kay uncovers a shady character following her every inquiry. Who is he? And what does he want from her?

As Kay’s probes deepen, she realizes that everyone around her has deadly secrets to hide—even her. Emerging memories, guilty suspicions, and headline-screaming murders push Kay to come out of the shadows and choose: will she perpetuate a horrendous lie or risk her life to uncover the truth?

Praise for Lest She Forget:

"Lisa Malice’s debut, Lest She Forget, is filled with twists and turns that will leave you guessing until the very end!"
~ Debra Webb, USA Today Bestseller

"Brimming with intrigue, Lest She Forget takes readers on a dark and twisted journey with surprises around every corner. It’s a thriller that grips you from the first page!"
~ Ellery Kane, award-winning author of the Doctors of Darkness series

"This twisty thriller takes you deep into Kay’s psyche, even as she runs for her life. Whoever you think this woman is, whatever you think she’s seen or done, prepare to be surprised!"
~ Sarah Warburton, author of Once Two Sisters and You Can Never Tell

"Lisa Malice’s psychological thriller Lest She Forget is a tense and twisty debut, an intricately plotted story that grows more and more complex with each new revelation. Don’t even try to guess how this novel ends; just put yourself in Malice’s capable hands and enjoy the ride!"
~ Karen Dionne, author of the #1 international bestseller The Marsh King’s Daughter and The Wicked Sister

"Lisa Malice turns an amnesia story on its head in this twisty, unique tale of intrigue, suspense and unexpected turns. You won’t be able to predict the next chapter, much less the ending."
~ Lisa Black, NYT bestselling author of the Gardiner & Renner and Locard Institute series

My Review:

At first I thought this was going to be your typical amnesia mystery. But Malice has hung that aspect of the novel on a frame of murder at the highest level. It is a good combination of murder mystery and the conspiracy behind it. There was a serious twist near the end that was not a surprise but did explain so much.

There was quite a bit of information included about traumatic memory loss and the possible techniques to regain it. It was really interesting to learn about dissociate fugue, caused by severe psychological trauma.

This is a novel for readers who like much character thought with good doses of suspense added from time to time. The characters were well developed and the novel's pace was consistent. It is a good debut and I will be looking for more from Malice.

My rating: 4/5 stars. 

Book Details:

Genre: Psychological Thriller
Published by: CamCat Books
Publication Date: December 2023
Number of Pages: 368
ISBN: 9780744307153 (ISBN10: 0744307155)
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop.org | Goodreads | CamCat Books

Read an excerpt:

The loud heavy beat of my heart echoes in my ears, pulsing in sync with the car’s wipers as they furiously slap at the snow alighting the windshield. The frantic rhythm draws me in as I stare ahead into the darkening night and the thick snowflakes swirling in the beams of the headlights. The effect is almost mesmerizing.

My eyelids start to droop. I want nothing more than to sleep, let my mind shut off. Under slumber’s spell, the ache in my heart would subside, the guilt in my soul would vanish, and, if I was lucky, I’d wake up to find that the words I heard earlier today were just part of a gruesome dream, an awful nightmare.

She’s dead.

My chest tightens, my heart races as my thoughts are pulled toward our last moments together. Fraught with suspicion, accusations, anger. My eyes tear up.

It’s your fault.

The words reverberate in my ears as my head starts to throb. How could I have been so stupid and naïve to fall for that man’s lies, his manipulations? If I could go back in time and change everything, fix my mistakes, right a host of wrongs, I would. Things would have turned out differently. Two—no, three—people would still be alive. But there’s no going back. Worse, I see no path forward, at least not one I can live with.

My gaze is drawn to a hazy pair of headlights reflected in the rearview mirror. A chill runs down my spine, even as a bead of sweat trickles down the side of my face. My fingers, clenched atop the steering wheel, go numb as my foot presses down on the accelerator.

“Calm down,” I tell myself. I can’t let fear trick me into imagining what is not there.

I squeeze my eyes shut for a second, then open them again and glance into the side mirror. They’re still there, those headlights, keeping pace with me. I focus on the road in front of me, take a deep breath, and let it out slowly. “Get a grip,” I tell myself. “If he wanted me dead, I wouldn’t have made it this far.”

Staring ahead, a forest of tall pines engulfs the road, blocking out much of the remaining daylight and casting a gloom all around that grows blacker and grimmer with each fleeting moment. But I can’t go back. Not now. I’d have to face the truth, accept my own culpability, surrender myself, my life, my future. I’m not ready to do that.

I turn on the radio and press the scan button, hoping for a distraction. Music pours through the speakers in short clips—Spanish, hard rock, country, polka—and then a soft, familiar melody, its words just on the tip of my tongue.

“. . . I would surrender my soul, if it would bring back yours . . .”

My gut twists with remorse. The pain is cut short as the radio scanner moves to the next station.

“. . . Could you forgive me, if I made it to Heaven . . .”

Tears well up in my eyes as the radio, again, moves on.

“. . . My name won’t be on St. Peter’s list . . .”

A mournful sob erupts from deep inside me. My hands, clutching the steering wheel, suddenly go weak and start to tremble. Those songs, their lyrics—words that never held any personal meaning—now haunt me. It’s as if some cosmic disc jockey knows what I’ve done and doesn’t want—no—won’t let me forget it.

“Please, no more!” I shout.

A woman’s voice pops over the speakers, a news program. “Finally, I sigh, poking the scan button to set the station.

“. . . it’s time for a quick station break, after which we’ll go to a weather update with WCVA’s meteorologist, Alec Bohanan. Our weather team says this blizzard hitting Virginia and much of the East Coast, the first significant snow event of 2017, is a bad one. It could be a killer, so sit tight at home and keep your radio dial tuned to this station . . .”

She’s right. The snow is coming down thicker and heavier with each passing mile. The roads will only get worse. But I need to press on. I must get home. I can think better there. Figure out what options I have left.

My attention is pulled back to the voice on the radio. “When the last segment of The June Jeffries Show returns, we’ll join the Virginia State Police press conference with breaking news on the missing person case of—”

It’s your fault.

The words echo in my ears, pulsing louder and faster with each echo, drowning out the newscaster’s voice. I slam my fist down on the radio’s power button.

Suddenly, flashes of light bounce off the windshield. The muscles in my jaw tighten. My neck stiffens. My hands, locked in a death grip on the steering wheel, grow cold, numb. My gaze darts to the rearview mirror. Unable to look away from the looming vehicle behind me, I throw my left arm up to block its intense beams.

The steering wheel jerks to the right, pitching the passenger-side wheels off the road. I grasp the steering wheel with both hands and pull to the left, but overcorrect. The car careens across the snow-swept blacktop, skids beyond the center line.

When I finally pull the car into the right lane, my heart is pounding, my body trembling, while my grip on the steering wheel goes weak.

***

Excerpt from Lest She Forget by Lisa Malice. Copyright 2023 by Lisa Malice. Reproduced with permission from CamCat Books. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Lisa Malice earned her B.S. in psychology at the University of Minnesota, her M.S. and Ph.D. at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Her debut novel, Lest She Forget, a psychological thriller, was a finalist in five unpublished manuscript contests. Lisa is an active member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America, and the Authors Guild. A native of Minnesota, Lisa lived in the Atlanta area with her husband for nearly thirty years before moving to the Tampa area in 2019 to enjoy a life of sailing, fishing, and shelling on the Florida Gulf Coast. They have two adult children and a granddog.

Catch Up With Lisa Malice:
www.LisaMalice.com
Goodreads
Instagram - @LisaMaliceAuthor
Twitter/X - @LisaWMalice
Facebook - @LisaMaliceAuthor

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and opportunities to WIN in the giveaway!

Click here to view Lest She Forget by Lisa Malice Tour Hosts.

 

Enter for a Chance to WIN:

This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for CamCat Books and Lisa Malice. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.

 

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Tours

I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Partners in Crime Book Tours. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Partners in Crime Book Tours.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

The Warsaw Sisters by Amanda Barratt Book Review

About the Book:


On a golden August morning in 1939, sisters Antonina and Helena Dąbrowska send their father off to defend Poland against the looming threat of German invasion. The next day, the first bombs fall on Warsaw, decimating their beloved city and shattering the world of their youth.


When Antonina's beloved Marek is forced behind ghetto walls, along with the rest of Warsaw's Jewish population, Antonina knows she cannot stand by and soon becomes a key figure in a daring network of women risking their lives to shelter Jewish children. Meanwhile, Helena finds herself drawn into the ranks of Poland's secret army, joining the fight to free her homeland from occupation.

But the secrets both are forced to keep threaten to tear them apart--and the cost of resistance may prove greater than either ever imagined.

You can read an excerpt here.

My Review:

We are coming to the era where those who personally experienced WW II will no longer be alive to share their stories. That's why novels like Barratt's are important. Well researched, it tells the human drama, the pain, the senseless death of civilians, and the heartbreaking effect on relationships.

This is not a light novel nor a feel good one. It took me a while to get through it. Perhaps that is what war is about, the continuous sad news and ongoing struggle to help those in need. I was overwhelmed by the devastating hurt some endured. Yet, in the end, there is hope in the midst of the destruction.

I really appreciate the Historical Note Barratt provides at the end. The facts from the Polish invasion and occupation reinforce the fictional tragedy she created for the novel. How encouraging to read of real people who were willing to face danger to save others.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


About the Author:


Amanda Barratt
 is the bestselling author of numerous historical novels and novellas, including The White Rose Resists (a 2021 Christy Award winner) and Within These Walls of Sorrow. She is passionate about illuminating oft-forgotten facets of history through a fictional narrative. Amanda lives in Michigan. Learn more at AmandaBarratt.net. Photo Credit: Emerson Kloostra

Revell, 384 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Monday, November 20, 2023

The Medusa Murders by Joy Ann Ribar Blog Tour Book Review

 The Medusa Murders by Joy Ann Ribar Banner

The Medusa Murders

by Joy Ann Ribar

November 13-24, 2023 Virtual Book Tour

The Medusa Murders by Joy Ann Ribar

Synopsis:

Professor Bay Browning has more snake problems than the Garden of Eden in this twisted mystery. The English Literature instructor is busy preparing for a new semester when a serial killer, known as Medusa, bites her quiet life in the behind.

A wild ride ensues when Bay and her grifter sister, Cass, assist a perturbed Detective Downing with the investigation. What else can the sisters do, once they become Medusa’s targets? Will the slithering trail of mythology, art history, and family secrets help them catch a killer before she turns them to stone?

Praise for The Medusa Murders:

"This first-in-series held me captive on the edge of my seat where I frantically turned the pages of this intricately crafted story, desperate to solve the mystery. And, oh, what a revelation it is!"
~ Laurie Buchanan, author of the Sean McPherson crime thriller novels

"A gritty and intense mystery that grabs you and won’t let go until the end. The personal relationships are complex, just like many in real life, and the familial drama pulls you in."
Kelly Young, author of A Travel Writer mystery series and Haunted and Harassed paranormal mystery series

"Ribar effectively wraps mythology, academia, archeology, and a touch of paranormal phenomena together to produce a more than satisfying read. Looking forward to spending more time with Bay."
~ Debra H. Goldstein, author of The Sarah Blair Mysteries

"A well-written, fast-paced and vibrant debut novel.
A highly recommended new series."
~ Christine DeSmet, writing coach and author of The Fudge Shop Mystery series and Mischief in Moonstone series

My Review:

I like amateur detectives being involved in murder investigations. It was refreshing to see an amateur involved with the blessing of the police. Bay's knowledge of mythology is essential to understand the clues. She enlists a friend to help understand art work. There is quite a bit of information about mythology and the world of art included.

An interesting aspect of the novel was the relationship between Bay and her ex-con sister, Cass. I like how Cass became an essential part of Bay's life, even though Bay initially opposed it. The family relationship issue gave a very personal aspect to an investigation centered on academic information.

I enjoyed the novel and will be looking for more from Ribar.

My rating: 4/5 stars. 

Book Details:

Genre: Amateur Sleuth, Mystery, Crime
Published by: Wine Glass Press
Publication Date: November 2023
Number of Pages: 316
ISBN: 9781959078203
Series: Bay Browning Mysteries, #1
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop.org | BookBub | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Back at the parking space, Bay opened the passenger door and looked at the white particles in brighter light. They were sprinkled like powdered sugar over the right side of the back seat, directly underneath the bag of clothes Bay had gone through last night. She felt certain the particles must have come from the lululemon coat pocket. She remembered seeing Detective Harris turn the pocket inside out over one of the evidence bags. Had there been feathers in either of the pockets?

The empty parking lot at Giorgio’s put a smile on Bay’s face when she parked the Subaru a few minutes later. She was impatient to get to the bottom of the dry-cleaning mix-up and anxious to shake some details out of Giorgio. She could see him standing behind the customer counter, grooming his dark slicked-back hair and straightening his blue and white polo shirt that matched the building.

“Good morning, L.L. I see you have nothing in your hands, so what can I do for you today?” Giorgio’s velvety voice was smoother than grease.

“Cut the crap, Giorgio. You know why I’m here. Obviously, you sent the police to see me about my lululemon. What’s the story?” Bay frowned and her dark eyes narrowed.

Giorgio backed away as if Bay might punch him, marring his handsome face. He was Stasia’s youngest brother, probably around Bay’s age. Bay had learned more Andino family facts than she cared to after attending the mandatory gatherings at Stasia’s home the past year.

He held up both hands, placatingly. “I’ll tell you what I know, which isn’t much. My niece, Aria, was working on the day of the mix-up. She’s in back. I’ll go get her.”

“Get my lululemon, too, while you’re back there.” Might as well kill two birds as they say.

Aria was short and pretty with wide dark eyes and thick black hair pulled into a neat bun on top of her head. She wore the same blue and white polo over hospital-style light blue pants. Bay guessed she was barely out of high school. What was that expression: fear or guilt on Aria’s face?

“Good morning, Professor Browning. My uncle is looking for your raincoat.” Aria didn’t look Bay in the eyes.

Dialing down from accusatory to neutral tone, Bay began her questions. “I understand you were working when my lululemon was switched with the one the police confiscated.” No point in lollygagging her way to the matter at hand.

Aria looked down at her fingers, which were drumming methodically on the counter as if playing a tune on a piano. One hand stopped while the other slowed to a quiet tapping. “Yes. There were three other coats almost identical to yours when he brought in the one the police were after.”

Bay registered the information. “Who is he that brought the coat in, please?” The girl seemed quite fragile, so kid gloves were in order for this interrogation. Bay was accustomed to communicating with students Aria’s age, and she knew the best methods for building trust and rapport.

The finger tapping continued at a leisurely pace. Bay could almost pick out a rhumba beat. Aria continued to focus on her fingers, not looking up.

“He said his name was Chance.” She closed her eyes, conjuring his image. “He was wearing a black hoodie but took the hood off to talk to me. He had short dreadlocks swept up to one side and had smart glasses on. You know, his glasses made him look smart.” She smiled, caught up in the memory.

It was clear to Bay the boy had charmed Aria, and just maybe she would do anything for him. “Did Chance ask you for a favor, Aria?”

She blushed, then turned a deep red. “He used me…” She choked back tears.

“Yeah, boys are scum,” Bay empathized, glaring at Giorgio who had emerged from the back room empty-handed.

The finger tapping quickened as the incident unfolded, from a waltz to a cha-cha, Aria’s eyes remained closed during the telling. “He asked me if people brought their expensive clothing here. Like could we be trusted with their stuff, you know. He said he had his mom’s lululemon, and he was kind of flirting with me.” She paused, thinking.

“I told him we had three of those same coats in the back right now, and they were already cleaned and ready to pick up. I offered to show him, so he would know he could leave his mom’s coat here.”

Aria stopped tapping and looked at Bay’s face where empathy greeted her like a warm embrace. “I didn’t know Chance wanted to swap coats until he asked if I could swap one of the clean coats for his mother’s dirty one.” I figured that he was responsible for getting it dirty, and he didn’t want her to know about it.

“So, you randomly chose my coat and made the switch.” Bay wanted to sound helpful by filling in details, so Aria’s head shake surprised her.

“No. That’s when things got weird. He asked me if we had L.L. Browning’s coat. He specifically wanted to trade his coat for yours.”

Giorgio interrupted his niece, casting a warning look with shifty eyes.

Bay couldn’t be fooled. “Why didn’t you call me Friday to let me know about the switch or the police? You knew they were coming to question me.” She darted daggers at Giorgio, who winced and backed away.

“I didn’t think you were in danger, or I would have called you. How could I know that the lululemon was murder evidence?

***

Excerpt from The Medusa Murders by Joy Ann Ribar. Copyright 2023 by Joy Ann Ribar. Reproduced with permission from Joy Ann Ribar. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Joy Ann Ribar

Joy Ann Ribar is an RV author, writing on the road wherever her husband and their Winnebago View wanders. Joy’s cocktail of careers includes news reporter, paralegal, English educator, and aquaponics greenhouse technician, all of which prove useful in penning mysteries. She loves to bake, read, do wine research, and explore nature. Joy’s writing is inspired by Wisconsin’s four distinct seasons, natural beauty, and kind-hearted, but sometimes quirky, people.
Joy holds a BA in Journalism from UW-Madison and an MS in Education from UW-Oshkosh. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Blackbird Writers, and Wisconsin Writers Association.

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I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Partners in Crime Book Tours. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Partners in Crime Book Tours. 

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Sunday, November 19, 2023

The Night I Died by Anne Frasier Book Review

About the Book:

Private detective Olivia Welles hasn’t been to her hometown since her childhood, not since the night she died. She has no memory of the world before the car crash or of coming back to life in the morgue. But now, years later, when fellow survivor Bonnie Ray calls from a Kansas jail begging for help, Olivia feels the tug of a dark and unremembered past.

Bonnie looks guilty of murdering her young son—Bonnie’s third child to die under suspicious circumstances. Intrigued and seeking closure, Olivia agrees to investigate.

Back in the foreboding town where her heart stopped and started again, Olivia finds an unexpected ally in Will LaFever, a journalist with his own motives for uncovering the truth. Together they unearth more than they expect about Bonnie, her traumatized family, and the crime.

You’re lucky you don’t remember any of it, Olivia’s father used to say. But Olivia’s luck is running out. This time, escaping Finney County with her life might be impossible.


My Review:

This novel has a complex murder plot but it is well crafted. The current deaths had much to do with past events. We discover the truth along with Olivia. There were quite a few twists as secrets were revealed involving her life and childhood experiences.

I liked Olivia as a private detective. She is a brave woman for being willing to go back to the scene of her life-changing childhood experience. Will is a good sidekick and I appreciated the dog rescue, both aspects of the plot adding some interest. And the motive for the murders was something I had never seen before.

This is the first novel I have read by Frasier and will be looking for more.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


About the Author:

Anne Frasier is the New York Times, #1 Amazon Charts, and USA Today bestselling author of the Detective Jude Fontaine Mysteries, the Elise Sandburg series, and the Inland Empire novels. With more than a million copies sold, her award-winning books span the genres of suspense, mystery, thriller, romantic suspense, paranormal, and memoir. The Body Reader received the 2017 Thriller Award for Best Paperback Original from International Thriller Writers. Other honors include a RITA for romantic suspense and a Daphne du Maurier Award for paranormal romance. Her thrillers have hit the USA Today bestseller list and have been featured in the Mystery Guild, Literary Guild, and Book of the Month Club. Her memoir The Orchard was an O, The Oprah Magazine Fall Pick; a One Book, One Community read; a B+ review in Entertainment Weekly; and one of the Librarians’ Best Books of 2011. Visit her website: www.annefrasier.com.


Thomas and Mercer, 288 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Steal Fire From the Gods by Clint Hall Blog Tour Book Review


About the Book

Book: Steal Fire from the Gods

Author: Clint Hall

Genre: Science Fiction

Release Date: November 7, 2023

The Human Alliance knew the war was over when the machines started using magic to cast fire, shake the ground, conjure storms, and part the seas.

We fought back anyway.

22-year-old soldier Gunnar Graves lost his faith and his family when a platoon of AI-driven war machines—led by an android fire mage— destroyed his unit. Forced to live in a machine-controlled village and hiding a dark secret, he spends his days trying to learn elemental power so he can take his revenge. After years of failure, his ability ignites when he least expects it.

On the run and hunted by the war machines, Gunnar discovers that an ancient, life-based strength has awakened to help humanity fight back. Joined by the other life mages, Gunnar is thrust into a mad world of android overlords, cyborg clans, and evil forces bent on his destruction.

To protect his newfound family, Gunnar must discover the truth behind a power he doesn’t understand and wage a war he doesn’t believe they can win.

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

Hall's novel is a combination of science fiction and fantasy. The ability of AI has been extrapolated to a future time. AI robots have been given the assignment of correcting the mistakes humans have made but they go too far, trying to be like God.

There is plenty of action in this novel as Gunnar battles deadly forces. I wish there would have been more of his backstory early on so we could better understand his crisis of faith and his obsession with acquiring certain abilities. There were several other characters, such as Catriona, that were introduced without sufficient information early on to appreciate their actions and abilities and reasons for them.

The fantasy aspect of the novel has elemental powers being exercised. I do wish there had been more of a spiritual identification with them, such as if they were demon enabled. That machines could harness supernatural power is intriguing but I wanted more of the how explained.

This is an action packed novel that will appeal to sci-fi and fantasy readers alike. While I wish a clearer spiritual context had been included, it is an entertaining novel.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


About the Author

Clint Hall is a storyteller, speaker, and podcast host. He has been writing stories since middle school, where he spent most of his time in class creating comic books. (Fortunately, his teacher not only allowed it; she bought every issue.) Known for instilling a sense of hope, wonder, and adventure, Clint’s work has been published across multiple anthologies and magazines. Find him at ClintHall.com or “The Experience: Conversations with Creatives” podcast, available on all major platforms.

More from Clint

When I first heard the song See A Victory by Elevation Worship, I assumed the lyrics, “You took what the enemy meant for evil and You turned it for good,” were pulled verbatim (translated, of course) from the Bible, probably one of Paul’s letters.

Despite not knowing exactly from where they came, the words stuck with me. It’s inspiring to believe that God can take the terrible things that have happened to us – or even because of us – and use them to bring about something beautiful.

When I looked them up, I found that the lyrics are actually a derivation of what Joseph said to his brothers years after they sold him into slavery. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20 NIV)

Placing the words within the context of a story makes them even more impactful for me. It’s astounding to think about Joseph’s faith and spiritual maturity to not only offer forgiveness in this moment, but also to recognize the immense benefits that have arisen from such a horrific injustice against him.

It wasn’t until recently that I realized how much this passage is related to my book. That’s the funny thing about writing stories. You often don’t know what they’re about until you’re done.

Steal Fire From The Gods is the most faith-based story I’ve ever written. It’s also the darkest and certainly the weirdest. It’s an action-packed book in which AI has discovered the secrets of elemental magic and used that power to overthrow humanity.

But that’s just the concept. This story isn’t about magic robots. It’s about a person undergoing a crisis of faith. And you could hardly blame him.

Gunnar Graves and his family did everything the right way. They were faithful, devoted, and kind. They prayed, studied God’s Word, and followed His laws. Then, they were decimated. As a result, Gunnar is angry at God and even at his late parents for their blind faith that – from his perspective – ultimately failed them all.

Gunnar spends much of the story trying to harness magic for what he believes is a righteous cause. But despite his altruistic intentions, it eludes him, causing him even more anger and frustration. How could an all-powerful, all-loving God place such an awesome power into the hands of oppressive machines instead of mankind?

To make matters worse, Gunnar and other characters in the story have secrets that I won’t spoil in this blog. Suffice to say there are aspects of who they are and what they have done that would cause most people to cast them out if the truth became known. So instead, they hide themselves from God and other humans. More separation. More shame. More darkness.

It often feels that way for believers. In our weakness, we can simultaneously be angry at God for what we perceive as injustice – getting what we don’t think we deserve, or not getting what we think we do – while also being convinced there is something about us that will prevent us from ever connecting with His love, joy, and peace.

But there is always hope. God often reminds us of His presence by not only saving us from our circumstances but also using our weaknesses as tools to create wonderful outcomes. Paradoxically, good comes about not in spite of evil, but seemingly because of it.

As believers, we understand this is not a function of necessity. To bring about this good, God did not need evil to occur. But He will use it to demonstrate His ability to turn the enemy’s own weapons against him.

These occurrences wouldn’t make sense outside the knowledge that there is an all-powerful, all-loving Father. That reminder of His presence – that He must be with us because otherwise, such good springing from such evil would be impossible – is in many cases a greater blessing than the good itself.

But He will not force these blessings upon us. We are free to choose whether we will trust and accept them. We do so through faith, selflessness, and surrender.

That’s where we find the power. That’s where we find goodness. That’s where we find hope.

That’s what I want readers to take away from this book.

Blog Stops

Texas Book-aholic, November 14

Artistic Nobody, November 15 (Author Interview)

Exploring the Written Word, November 15

Becca Hope: Book Obsessed, November 16

Guild Master, November 17 (Author Interview)

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, November 18

Through the Fire Blogs, November 19 (Author Interview)

Wishful Endings, November 20

Beauty in the Binding, November 21 (Author Interview)

Locks, Hooks and Books, November 22

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, November 23

Simple Harvest Reads, November 24 (Author Interview)

The Lofty Pages, November 24

Blogging With Carol, November 25

Labor Not in Vain, November 26

Fiction Book Lover, November 27 (Author Interview)

Giveaway

To celebrate his tour, Clint is giving away the grand prize package of a $50 Amazon gift card and signed copy of the book!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/29094/steal-fire-from-the-gods-celebration-tour-giveaway

I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)