Saturday, June 22, 2024

The Last Hunt by Audrey J Cole Book Review

About the Book:


A missing body. A bloody bear trap. Is a serial killer back from the grave?

Tok, Alaska. Cameron Prescott hopes the past stays buried. After believing her murderous husband is finally dead, the fierce survivor longs to start over with her state trooper boyfriend. But her illusion of peace shatters when she hears of a fresh killing that resembles her late husband's grisly signature.

Horrified to learn the evidence points to a member of law enforcement, Cameron questions how well she knows her new man. And as the lies and bodies pile up, Cameron is convinced she's being stalked by a killer.

My Review:

This novel is a sequel and would be best appreciated if the earlier one in the series is read first. Much of the content of the plot in this novel is based on the events from the previous one.

Cole does a good job of building up suspense by giving us initially what we think is a murder scene. Cameron has finally rid the world of a serial killer. Or has she? She thinks he might have survived and is killing again. As we near the end of the novel, we are still in the dark as to who is committing the murders.

There is a good deal of suspense as we near the conclusion of the novel. I was unsure of the true murderer and, like Cameron, did not know who was trustworthy. The aftermath of the suspenseful situation may have been a little too neatly tied up but I still enjoyed this novel.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

You can read my review of the first book in this series, The Final Hunt.


About the Author:


Audrey J. Cole
is a USA TODAY bestselling thriller author. She resides in the Pacific Northwest with her two children. Before writing full time, she worked as a neonatal intensive care nurse for eleven years. She’s also a pilot's daughter.

Rainier Publishing, 318 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.)

Friday, June 21, 2024

Secrets and Photographs by A K Ramirez Blog Tour Book Review

 

SECRETS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

by A. K. Ramirez

June 17-28, 2024 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

The Marissa Ambrose Witness Series

 

How do you stop a killer you can't even see?

It’s been two years since Detective Marissa Ambrose nearly lost her life working the Couple’s Killer case, but time hasn’t stopped the vivid nightmares. She still carries the heavy guilt of her partner’s death, and the Seattle Police Department refuses to support her theory that the suspect they arrested had an accomplice. With her ex-husband regretfully out of the picture, Marissa was supposed to be focusing on adjusting back to something resembling normalcy in her quiet tourist town. Then the letters came.

Unmarked envelopes full of photographs have been arriving at Marissa’s door. Candid shots of her at home. Now, Marissa is certain the missing murderer is stalking her, tracking her every move to finish what he started. As she obsesses over the strange images, the Seattle PD unexpectedly asks for her help. A serial killer is on the loose and targeting members of the Port Townsend community. Despite a personal connection to the first victim, Marissa agrees to pin her badge on once more.

The photographs are piling up and the suspect can’t be seen by surveillance cameras. Like a ghost, this killer is haunting her.

Praise for Secrets and Photographs:

"This book is Amazing!! I couldn't put it down. I need book 2!!!"
~ Nicola Jamieson

"We love a messy family and a plot thick with dark and winding paths. Truly enjoyed this book and read it very quickly! I am very excited to get a signed copy of the next book that was just released!! AK Ramirez is "one to watch" in the crime/thriller genre. You have a fan for life now."
~ Molly Badgett

"I had the pleasure of meeting this author in Richmond at a convention. I really enjoyed the story. The author pulls you in from the first page. Quick read"
~ Chris Kennedy

"A friend recommended this book to me as I was looking for a new mystery novel and I was so sad when it ended because I wanted more! The writing was exceptional and the story captivated me. Twists I didn’t expect had me reading this book in record time. Absolutely recommend!"
~ Melissa Brown

"I’m a sucker for a good crime novel and this one kept me hooked. I also love books set in the Pacific Northwest - I might be biased since I live in the PNW but I thought the author did a good job of using the coziness of Port Townsend to contrast with the horror of the crimes. I’m looking forward to reading book 2!"
~ April O'Brien

"I was hooked on the book from the beginning. It was a great read. I really enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone that likes mystery and suspense."
~ Diana

"I wasn't sure how much I enjoyed this book at the beginning. It felt like it was moving very slowly. In fact, I was wondering if there was ever going to be a murder when I was about a third done. Then a couple minutes later, a murder! That's when the book sped up! I had a little trouble keeping the two investigations separate. The twist was great! And I did enjoy how the two cases crossed. I felt for Marissa that no one believed her and was thankful when the police started listening to her. She's a great detective and I'm looking forward to revisiting her and hopefully solving the big mystery soon!"
~ CMC

My Review:

This is a very unsettling novel with a flawed heroine. While there are two mysteries going on, the focus of the novel by far is an exploration of Marissa, a police detective in the throes of PTSD from an experience a couple of years previously. While we get hints of her past trauma, a devastating experience in a warehouse, I felt like I was missing enough to understand what had happened and kept checking to see if I had missed an earlier novel in the series. We do ultimately find out why Marissa is acting so irresponsibly, getting drunk way too often and making so many unwise decisions. I have hope for a less flawed heroine in the future.

Marissa is asked by the local police to help with the murder of her good friend. Marissa is also being stalked but law enforcement will not take her concerns seriously. There is a twist near the end I did not see coming that solves the murder. The stalking issue is left unresolved at the end of the novel and we are set up for a sequel.

This is a good novel for readers who like one concentrating more on a character than on the mystery. I have become quite interested in Marissa so will be watching for the sequel.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery Thriller
Published by: 4 Horsemen Publications
Publication Date: November 15, 2022
Number of Pages: 362
ISBN: 9781644506639 (ISBN10: 1644506637)
Series: Marissa Ambrose Witness Series, #1
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop.org | Goodreads | 4 Horsemen Publications

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

Marissa felt cold. She couldn’t see anything, a blindfold tied tightly against her eyes. Music blared against her ears, the throbbing in her head synced with the beat of the music. The cold, rough concrete burned her bare legs, and every time she attempted to adjust them, she felt sharp sensations rush through. She was stiff and cold and tired. Her right hand was handcuffed to something that felt heavy and unbreakable, though she tried to pull away. Time had blurred, and her mind swam, unable to focus on anything. She was thirsty, hungry, and tired. Marissa had never been so frightened in her life.

Someone grabbed her by the arm, squeezing tight as they unlocked her cuff from whatever she was attached to and ushered her along. She whimpered in protest and tugged away from the fingers that dug into her. She thought she heard a laugh in her ear over the music before that hand shoved her hard. She nearly toppled over but fell into another set of hands that caught her in their arms. These weren’t as rough and didn’t grip her as tightly. They held her up as she pulled her legs back under her, and one of the hands rubbed her arm where the other had aggressively gripped. She could feel his breath on her neck as his lips touched her ear, whispering something she couldn’t quite hear.

She gasped, sat up with a start, and sighed, acknowledging she was safe in her room. Ellie was lying on top of her legs, her cold nose poking at her in concern. She rubbed Ellie’s ears, feeling her heartbeat slow to normal. Her chest heavily convulsed as tears fell down her cheeks. Pulling the dog in close, she hugged her tight—a solid reminder she was no longer in that place but inside her bedroom, in her home. Safe.

“Good girl,” she whispered, gripping Ellie’s fur. The shepherd leaned in close, burying her cold nose into her neck.

Leaning back, Marissa glanced over at her clock. It was nearly five.

“Come on. Let’s go downstairs.”

With a heavy sigh, she shifted as Ellie bounced off the bed and toward the door. Marissa swung her legs over the side and winced, aches traveling through her body from her heels as they hit the floor.

“It’s going to be a day,” she mumbled and forced herself to stand.

It was still dark outside, and she was sure the air outside was cold, but the old house was warm. It may have been old, but her mom had updated everything except for the walls. Marissa wandered into the bathroom; she could still hear Ellie bouncing in the hallway, excited to start her day. She did not share the dog’s enthusiasm.

She washed her hands and stared at the reflection that stared back at her. Her dark hair was a tangled mess, and dark circles were under her eyes. Marissa remembered when she took pride in how she looked, brushed her hair several times a day, and had a whole skincare routine. She had been a beauty queen when she was younger. It all seemed so pointless now. Her eyes drifted from her face down to her shoulder with the long, dark scar. Then they drifted to the scar that ran from the bottom of her collarbone across her chest. Her tank top covered most of it, but she knew the rest ran down her side and to her back. She was full of scars now.

She turned the light off and followed Ellie to the hallway, stopping at the top of the stairs. It was the same every morning: the stairs were always daunting. Her ankles locked up like they usually did, forcing her to take slow and precise steps. Once she reached the bottom, she headed to the kitchen and opened the back door, letting Ellie bound out into the dark yard. Sunrise was still a way off, but the sky was beginning to lighten.

She went to the cabinet above the sink and dug out her meds. Since her recovery from the events at the warehouse, Marissa had received a long list of diagnoses: fibromyalgia brought on by trauma, panic attacks, PTSD, and arthritis. Not to mention a rapid heart rate they couldn’t pin down, chronic migraines—so many meds.

Putting on her tea kettle, she set up her teacup and waited for the water to boil. It had taken some time, but Marissa had made her childhood home her own again. Her mom had signed the house over to her while she healed, which gave her full rein to do as she pleased with the place, taking the opportunity to downsize without selling. Port Townsend was not where Marissa thought she would be, especially after so many years in Seattle. She loved the city: the noise, the crowds, the food. The fact that almost everything was open until at least midnight. Not like this tourist town, which felt like it had a town-wide bedtime of 9 p.m. It was known as a charming, quaint town by the sea, and as far as she was concerned, it had lost its charm decades ago.

Slowly but surely, the house was coming together. She sighed, grabbed her hoodie off the hook by her back door, and threw it over her head while letting Ellie back inside. Her mom had done all the hard stuff, remodeling the upstairs and downstairs to an open-concept floorplan and updating the plumbing and electricity. Marissa could see her front door, the living room, the dining room, and a study from the kitchen. Below the stairs was a full bathroom.

As the tea kettle screamed, she poured the water into the cup and watched the steam rise. This was not where Marissa expected to be at thirty-six. Growing up, all she wanted was to get the hell out of this town. She would be married to her high school sweetheart with kids, living in a big city, and making detective. The funny part was, Marissa had married her high school sweetheart. Twice. They’d also had two divorces. She had been living in a big city, owning not one but two properties in Seattle. She had made detective, reaching incredible heights as one of the youngest promoted in her unit. And now, she was back in her childhood home, divorced and alone, still a detective but benched for the unseen future. It felt like a punishment.

Of course, some of it was her doing. She had pushed Jared away and moved back home. Her nightmare wasn’t only when she slept. Her precinct had done all but call her a liar during her recovery when she told them there was more than one assailant. She couldn’t see, so it was simply her word. She had undergone so much; she couldn’t have been sure. That was what her unit had said because it didn’t fit into the profile the SPD had given. People she had trusted with her life didn’t have her back.

She paused for a moment before retrieving the hidden key from her hutch and carefully climbing onto her counter. Despite telling herself she wouldn’t, most mornings she would pull down the box. She winced, pain stretching through her leg as she reached the top of her cabinets to recover a lockbox. Once it was on the counter, she paused as her feet hit the ground. She hoped that one day, something new would stand out. Some tangible clue she could hold in her hands. Ellie came right alongside her and whined, sensing her discomfort. Marissa stretched a hand down, scratching her ear as she unlocked the box and let the photographs pour out onto the countertop. There were candid shots of her going about her day, walking down the street, leaving the bakery, checking her mail. A good stack of them was just Jared. Sometimes they would arrive weekly, and sometimes she would go a few weeks without receiving anything. Or maybe it was just a good reminder of why this was her life now. Why she had chosen to be here, alone. A reminder that her life was in danger.

Local cops and SPD, while agreeing she was a victim of a stalker, wouldn’t connect it to that case because before the warehouse, Marissa hadn’t received any photos. She had been given police protection across the street, but she knew no one had taken her seriously. In the eyes of the law, she hadn’t been threatened and couldn’t identify anyone. She only had pictures that appeared on her doorstep or in her mailbox. She kept them safely locked away, spending most of her days trying hard to forget them. But too often, she found herself thumbing through them. It had become an almost daily ritual.

Once she was satisfied the tea had steeped long enough, she returned the photos to the box and put everything back in its place. Her former partner, Tom, would tell her dwelling over the same pieces of evidence wouldn’t get her anywhere. He had always given her advice like that. He had been so much like the older brother she’d never had, having been the oldest of three sisters. Taking her mug with both hands, she headed out to the backyard, not bothering to turn the light on. She stretched out on her swinging bench and scrolled through her socials. Occasionally, she found her eyes wandering over the backyard, watching for anything or anyone out of place. She knew there was always an officer across the street, watching over her and her home, but they hadn’t proven very helpful yet. They hadn’t managed to see who or how things were being left on her doorstep.

The early morning air was chilly and quiet. The only noises she could hear were Ellie’s panting as she plopped herself down next to Marissa and the occasional breeze blowing by. She glanced at the clock on her phone. Barely any time had passed. Putting her feet up, she finished her tea, put the empty cup down on the side table, and looked out into her dark yard. She needed to rest, but she knew sleep would keep eluding her. She didn’t want to sleep anymore; the nightmares had worsened.

If she had stopped to think about it, she would have realized why. All that mattered was every time she closed her eyes, she was back there again.

***

Excerpt from Secrets and Photographs by A. K. Ramirez. Copyright 2024 by A. K. Ramirez. Reproduced with permission from A. K. Ramirez. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

A.K. Ramirez is a mystery writer tucked in a corner of the Pacific Northwest. She likes to weave mystery, and family drama with a little bit of romance all in one. She has participated in NaNoWriMo on and off for years, reaching her goal three times with three different novels, in both the mystery and fantasy genres. When she isn’t writing, she runs a dog training, boarding, and daycare facility or spends time with her husband, kids, and pack of dogs.

Catch Up With A.K. Ramirez:
www.akramirezwrites.com
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Facebook - @AKRamirezWrites

 

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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.)

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

The Honeymoon Homicides by Jeanette de Beauvoir Blog Tour Book Review


THE HONEYMOON HOMICIDES

by Jeannette de Beauvoir

June 17 - July 12, 2024 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

A Sydney Riley Provincetown Mystery

 

Despite an unforeseen disaster ruining her carefully planned wedding reception, hotelier Sydney Riley is undaunted as she and her brand-new husband Ali leave for their honeymoon in the dunes of Cape Cod’s National Seashore. But even in this deserted location, Sydney uncovers clues that might have a bearing on the wedding fiasco. Despite hoping for a new life, she’s drawn into yet another murder investigation—this time to protect Ali, who’s been called away on a secret and dangerous assignment.

Can Sydney find the murderer(s) before Ali is harmed, or will a week in the dunes be her only memory of their married life?

 

My Review:

 I enjoyed this mystery. De Beauvoir is a good writer and includes interesting information within the mystery plot. I like learning about something new and in this novel it was the historic dune shacks of Provincetown. I appreciated this background information and an adventure woven through them.

I also appreciated an interesting discussion de Beauvior included between co-owners of the inn, Sydney and Mike. After the death of an acquaintance, Mike questions whether helping wealthy people have a good vacation made his life worthwhile. This was a surprising and welcome serious discussion in the midst of a mystery.

This is the first novel I have read by de Beauvoir and I really enjoyed it. I recommend it. Be ready for a good mystery that is informative and includes an interesting discussion on what gives life meaning.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Book Details:

Genre: Cozy with an edge; Amateur Female Sleuth.
Published by: Homeport Press
Publication Date: June 13, 2024
Number of Pages: 188
ISBN: 9798986865447
Series: Sydney Riley (Provincetown) Mystery, 10th in a Series of Stand-Alone Books
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop.org | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

The victim generously waited to be murdered until the final vows had been spoken and we were officially declared married. And that’s pretty much the best thing I can say about my wedding.

Not that it hadn’t begun auspiciously. I used to be wedding coordinator at Provincetown’s Race Point Inn—of which I was now co-owner—and so I had considerable experience wrangling vendors, petulant family members, and weather forecasts. And my partner Ali and I had reached an uneasy compromise with my mother in terms of the size and lavishness of the affair—no small feat, as my mother is abnormally addicted to big weddings. We were in addition juggling two religions and two cultures, as Ali is Muslim and his parents and extended family are all Lebanese. And we had somehow navigated all that.

What we hadn’t reckoned with, of course, was the body falling through the awning onto the terrace and, of course, the screams that followed.

***

“Sydney, you are not going to make this stop you,” was what Mirela said.

“Stop me from doing what?” I probably sounded distracted, mainly because I was distracted. The police, in the persons of a bunch of uniformed officers and my sometimes-sort-of-friend Julie Agassi, who was the head of Provincetown’s small detective unit, were swarming all over the place, putting up tape and directing people away from the immediate area. The rescue squad was there, too, though what they thought they could do to help a man who seemed to have broken every bone in his body and spread a great deal of his viscera around the patio was unknown. The wedding guests, in various stages of shock and occasional hysteria, had allowed themselves to be herded into the inn’s restaurant, already set up for the wedding dinner.

My mother was demanding loudly how such a thing could have been allowed and asking about suing the owners, apparently forgetting for the moment that I was one of them. My newly minted husband, Ali, was dealing with his parents, who’d seen more than enough of this kind of violence before they’d permanently fled Beirut and were dealing with some sort of PTSD shock.

And now my best friend Mirela was giving me… what? A pep talk?

“You should go now,” she said. “Leave for the honeymoon. You and Ali. There is no dinner. There is no dancing.”

“We weren’t doing dancing anyway,” I said blankly. After the initial shock, it was dawning on me that I was standing twenty feet from a corpse, wearing a bloodied wedding gown, and realizing—priorities being priorities—that I was not going to have, after all, a wedding feast catered by Adrienne the diva chef, who kept our restaurant’s Michelin stars intact and who has made P’town a destination for world-class dining. “This,” I said to Mirela, “is the worst wedding I’ve ever planned.”

She tossed the blonde hair escaping from her up-do—not that she looked any less gorgeous a little bedraggled—and peered at me. “Are you feeling all right?”

“No,” I said.

She took my elbow and turned me away from the scene unfolding on the terrace. “What you need,” she said firmly, “is a drink.”

“What I need is fourteen drinks,” I said. “But I should check on my mother—”

“The last thing you do is check on your mother,” she said. Mirela and my mother are not what you might call simpatico, mostly due to my mother’s criticisms of Mirela’s single status and her underappreciation of Mirela’s art (which earned her grudging respect only when she learned that the work routinely sold in the six-figure range).

“It doesn’t look like anything,” was her response to the abstract paintings that were now exhibited worldwide, and, “I don’t understand why she can’t find a husband.”

Mirela steered me to the bar area, already filling up with wedding guests in various stages of shock and all, apparently, requiring alcohol. She caught the bartender’s eye—a skill all the Bulgarians I’ve ever met have perfected—and he uncorked a bottle of wine and handed it across to her. She grabbed it without letting go of my elbow, and pulled me out of the restaurant and over to the small lounge area that had the advantage of having a door, which she closed behind us right away. “Here,” she said, handing me the bottle, and rooting around in a cupboard for a glass.

I was looking at the label in some dismay. “This is Châteauneuf-du-Pape,” I protested.

“Of course it is.” Her voice was brisk. “You need a drink.”

“A deplorable reason to drink this,” I insisted. It’s my favorite wine ever.

“Even more deplorable, sunshine,” said Mirela, “is that your guests will drink it if you do not.”

I sat down on the couch. I was understanding what romance writers were talking about when they used terms like “crumple.” I took a swig of wine straight out of the bottle, heaping blasphemy on blasphemy. “Where’s Ali?”

“He will find us.” She gave up trying to locate a glass and slanted a look over. “You are regaining color,” she informed me.

Which was more than we could say about the fellow out on the inn’s patio.

When the door opened, it wasn’t Ali standing there, but Julie, officious and sharp, her blonde hair and blue eyes making her look, always, like some kind of ice princess. “I thought you might be hiding somewhere,” she said.

I gave a weak gesture with the wine bottle. “Join the party,” I said.

She narrowed her eyes. “Are you drunk?”

“Not yet.”

“Then hold off.” She half-turned and spoke to someone behind her, and another cop came in, pulling the door closed behind him. He looked around the room, fast, the way cops do when they go anywhere, and found a straight chair and pulled out a notebook.

I know about what cops do. My husband is one of them. “It’s an odd word, isn’t it, husband?” I said. “Sounds sort of like a thump.”

Julie ignored me and said to the uniform, “Interview Sydney Riley, eight-fifteen pm.” She sat on a chair she pulled over close to the couch, snapping her fingers in front of my face. “Focus, Sydney,” she said.

I sighed and put the bottle on the floor. Not too far away, just in case.

She still wasn’t sure of me. “Can you go find Ali?” Julie asked Mirela, who nodded and slipped out the door. Even Mirela knows not to argue with her. “Tell us what happened here,” said Julie.

I was having some trouble focusing on her. How can you feel drunk on one swig of wine? “I got married,” I said. “Somebody died.” I paused. “Who was he?”

“Not one of your wedding guests,” Julie said, almost absently. She was looking at a list, probably supplied by Mike, the Race Point Inn’s co-owner. He’s frighteningly competent. “Unless he was a last-minute addition? Do you know someone named Barclay Cargill?”

“That can’t be a real name,” I said automatically, then realized she was serious. “No. No, I’ve never heard of him.”

“He was staying at your inn.”

I stared at her. “We have eighty rooms,” I said. “I’m not the manager. You really think I know everybody?”

“You may remember him.” She produced her iPhone, flipped around a bit, then extended it to me. The man in the photo had dark hair and a beard that were starting to turn gray; what was most remarkable was that he was wearing a three-piece suit. People in P’town don’t wear three-piece suits.

Some people in P’town don’t wear much at all.

Julie retrieved her phone. “He’s an attorney,” she said.

She’d gotten her information remarkably quickly. “Okay,” I said. “So did he jump, or was he pushed?”

She was unamused. “You’re being remarkably flippant about someone’s violent death.”

“I’m remarkably flippant about anyone who gets murdered in the middle of my wedding.” I plucked at my ivory lace overskirt. “Just thought I’d remind you, in case you thought I was wearing this for a costume party. If he weren’t already dead, my mother would have killed him by now.”

She sighed. Julie sighs a lot when she’s around me. She’s even been known to refer to me as Provincetown’s answer to Miss Marple, and she doesn’t mean that in a good way.

It’s not exactly my fault that when someone gets murdered I end up having something to do with figuring it out. Julie thinks there’s some sort of cause and effect, but there really isn’t. I just know a lot of people—and it’s a small town.

But having a murder committed during my wedding? That was taking this whole amateur sleuthing thing just a little too far.

As though reading my thoughts, Julie said, “All right. You don’t know this man. Good. Can I take it that you won’t be trying to figure out what happened to him?”

The events of the past hour were starting to turn nasty on me, and I really wanted to be with Ali, not Julie. “No more than you are,” I said sweetly. It was a jab, of course: in Massachusetts, possible homicides are investigated by the state police, not the local force. I knew it was a sore spot with Julie, who thinks she’s better at it than they are. She can secure the scene, take preliminary statements, and assist the Staties when they arrive. “Is that all? Because—”

The door swung open and I’ve never, I think, been happier to see anyone. “Are you all right?” asked Ali. He didn’t even wait for me to respond. “She can give her statement later,” he said to Julie.

“She needs to do it while it’s fresh in her mind,” Julie said.

“Like most of our guests, she didn’t see anything until the individual was already on the ground,” said Ali. “She doesn’t need this now.”

“Maybe you two could stop talking about me like I’m not here?” I asked, my voice sharper than I’d meant it to be. Ali came and sat beside me, carefully moving the bottle of Châteauneuf aside so he wouldn’t knock it over. He knew I’d need it later; it wasn’t exactly an occasion for Champagne, despite all the Veuve Clicquot that Martin, the maître d’, had waiting for us on ice.

Not that Ali drank alcohol, anyway.

I slid my hand into his; for all my rather aggressive petulance, I was feeling a little lost and a little sad. It was finally dawning on me that someone had died. At my inn. At my wedding.

Ali looked, of course, wonderful. He annoyingly always does. He has beautiful dark eyes and beautiful olive skin and dark hair that curls ever so slightly and is always just a little too long, and designer stubble that makes him look sexy and a little dangerous.

Well, he is an agent for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The danger is real.

Julie was giving up. She jerked her head towards the other cop, who closed his notebook, stood up, and left the room. “You may be needed later on,” she said to me. “Both of you, in fact. Should the state police have any questions about the individual.” Oh, yeah, I’d hit a nerve.

I liked that business about the “individual.” I’d come way too close to saying something about him crashing the party. It must have been the shock; I hadn’t had nearly enough wine to account for it.

“We’re leaving in the morning,” I said.

“You can’t—” she started, automatically, and I interrupted her. “Honeymoon,” I said firmly.

“We’ll be back next week,” said Ali.

Even Julie Agassi knows when she’s beaten. She gave us one last stern official look, and fled.

“Well,” said Ali, putting his arm around my shoulder. “How do you like married life so far?

***

Excerpt from The Honeymoon Homicides by Jeannette de Beauvoir. Copyright 2024 by Jeannette de Beauvoir. Reproduced with permission from Jeannette de Beauvoir. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Jeannette de Beauvoir is the author of mystery and historical fiction—and novels that are a mix of the two—as well as a poet who lives and works in a cottage beside Cape Cod Bay. She is a member of the Authors Guild, the Mystery Writers of America, the Historical Novel Society, and Sisters in Crime.

Catch Up With Jeannette de Beauvoir:
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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.)

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Pitch Dark by Paul Doiron Book Review

About the Book:


Legendary bush pilot Josie Jonson can’t believe her luck when a skilled builder just happens to show up after she purchases land near Prentiss Pond. All Mark Redmond asks in return for building Josie’s dream cabin is that he be left alone to homeschool his 12-year-old daughter, Cady.

For Maine game warden investigator Mike Bowditch, the intensity of Redmond's secretiveness is troubling, especially in light of suspicious criminal activity being reported around the area―including rumors of an armed man offering large sums of money in exchange for the location of Redmond and Cady. Josie, though hesitant to violate the trust of her prized builder, eventually agrees to fly Mike and his father-in-law Charley Stevens to the secluded pond in an attempt to protect Redmond and Cady. But hours after landing, the trip takes a dark turn when they witness a horrific murder and are taken captive themselves.

Freeing himself, Mike is forced to set off through the impenetrable Maine forest towards Canada, alone and unarmed in pursuit of a mysterious fugitive. As he navigates a windblown landscape choked with deadfalls and blocked by swollen streams, he marvels at his enemy’s bush craft. The killer possesses skills surpassing his own, and Bowditch can't tell if he is the cat or the mouse in this dangerous game. Can Mike Bowditch stop his adversary in time to save the life of a young girl, or will he be forced to watch another innocent soul die?

My Review:

This is an intense novel set in the wilderness of the Maine woods bordering Canada. It is action packed with lots of suspense and bodies piling up.

This novel shows the tenacious attitude of Mike Bowditch as he pursues a relentless villain. With no way of calling for help, he is on his own. I like how he manages to find ways to continue his pursuit with limited resources. This is more of a survival story for him rather than an intellectual investigative one. There are many deadly scenes and a twist near the end. The circumstances at the very end might be a little unbelievable but makes for a surprising conclusion to this adventure.

Doiron is a capable writer, taking readers on an action packed survival adventure in the wild woods of Maine. Be prepared. This novel is a wild ride and an engaging read.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


About the Author:


A native of Maine, bestselling author PAUL DOIRON attended Yale University, where he graduated with a degree in English. The Poacher’s Son, the first book in the Mike Bowditch series, won the Barry award, the Strand award for best first novel, and has been nominated for the Edgar, Anthony, and Macavity awards in the same category. He is a Registered Maine Guide specializing in fly fishing and lives on a trout stream in coastal Maine with his wife, Kristen Lindquist. Photo credit: Kristen Lindquist

Minotaur Books, 304 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, June 17, 2024

The Rom-Commers by Katherine Center Book Review

About the Book:


She’s rewriting his love story. But can she rewrite her own?

Emma Wheeler desperately longs to be a screenwriter. She’s spent her life studying, obsessing over, and writing romantic comedies―good ones! That win contests! But she’s also been the sole caretaker for her kind-hearted dad, who needs full-time care. Now, when she gets a chance to re-write a script for famous screenwriter Charlie Yates―The Charlie Yates! Her personal writing god!―it’s a break too big to pass up.

Emma’s younger sister steps in for caretaking duties, and Emma moves to L.A. for six weeks for the writing gig of a lifetime. But what is it they say? Don’t meet your heroes? Charlie Yates doesn’t want to write with anyone―much less “a failed, nobody screenwriter.” Worse, the romantic comedy he’s written is so terrible it might actually bring on the apocalypse. Plus! He doesn’t even care about the script―it’s just a means to get a different one green-lit. Oh, and he thinks love is an emotional Ponzi scheme.

But Emma’s not going down without a fight. She will stand up for herself, and for rom-coms, and for love itself. She will convince him that love stories matter―even if she has to kiss him senseless to do it. But . . . what if that kiss is accidentally amazing? What if real life turns out to be so much . . . more real than fiction? What if the love story they’re writing breaks all Emma’s rules―and comes true?

My Review:

Romantic comedy is not my preferred genre but I am glad I read this one. Besides being an entertaining novel, I learned what a rom-com actually is and how it is plotted. There were also some interesting discussions about fiction. Emma notes that one can learn more about love from screenplays and movies than real life. She also notes we gravitate toward the stories we need in life. We look for answers to our questions in stories.

While I am not a fan of romantic comedy, I recommend this one. The development of the romance is fun and the novel itself is informative and thought provoking. Center is a good writer and I enjoyed this novel.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


About the Author:


BookPage calls Katherine Center “the reigning queen of comfort reads.” She’s the New York Times bestselling author of ten novels, including How to Walk Away, Things You Save in a Fire, The Bodyguard, and her newest, Hello Stranger. Katherine writes laugh-and-cry books about how life knocks us down—and how we get back up. She’s been compared to both Jane Austen and Nora Ephron, and the Dallas Morning News calls her stories, “satisfying in the most soul-nourishing way.” The movie adaptation of her novel The Lost Husband (starring Josh Duhamel) hit #1 on Netflix, and the movie of her novel Happiness for Beginners, starring Ellie Kemper and Luke Grimes, opens July 27 on Netflix. Katherine’s summer 2022 book, The Bodyguard, was an instant New York Times bestseller, a People Best New Books pick, and nominated for Book of the Year by Book of the Month Club. Bestselling author Emily Henry calls The Bodyguard “a shot of pure joy,” and bestselling author Helen Hoang calls it “a perfect feel-good rom-com.” Katherine lives in her hometown of Houston, Texas, with her husband, two kids, and their fluffy-but-fierce dog.

St. Martin's Press, 336 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, June 16, 2024

From Comfort Zone to Trust Zone by Cecil Taylor Blog Tour Book Review

About the Book

Book: From Comfort Zone to Trust Zone: How Jesus Urges Us to Take Leaps of Faith for His Kingdom

Author: Cecil Taylor

Genre: Christian Living

Release date: March 6, 2024

The innate human longing for comfort is undeniable. However, Jesus challenges us to step beyond the boundaries of our comfort zones and venture into the profound realm of faith, aptly described as trust zones by Cecil Taylor. These are the spaces where we dare to take risks in service of Christ’s Kingdom. In this enlightening exploration of the Bible, Cecil Taylor delves into 12 narratives of Jesus encouraging individuals to forsake their comfort zones in favor of trust zones. Through insightful interpretation, he unveils the valuable lessons these stories impart for contemporary followers of Jesus.

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

Taylor provides good examples of biblical characters to encourage us to leave our comfortable setting and be willing to take a risk for Jesus. I like how he reminds us this choice needs to be repeated as a trust zone becomes a comfort zone over time. Good reviews are provided at each chapter end. There is also a good chart at the end reviewing all of the topics.

My favorite chapter was Taylor helping us understand how we recognize God's call to take a risk for Jesus. God does not speak to everyone the same way so there are a number of methods given. The most insightful chapter was on trading political power for Jesus' kingdom. Taylor suggests our trust is misplaced when put in a political leader. He reminds us to focus on Jesus' priorities, not on fading political power.

This is a good book to encourage Christians seeking God for His will for life.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


About the Author

With more than 30 years’ experience as an adult Sunday School teacher and as many in youth ministry, Cecil Taylor has impacted lives in local churches throughout his adult life. He founded Cecil Taylor Ministries to broaden that impact, teaching Christians to live a 7-day practical faith through books, video studies, and speaking engagements. His ministry is cross-denominational, focused on the common struggle Christians face in putting their faith into practice and applying scripture and faith principles to life situations.

From Comfort Zone to Trust Zone has won the 2024 Living Water Award (nonfiction, third place) from the Blue Lake Christian Writer’s Conference. This is the fourth award that Cecil has been presented across his three books.

More from Cecil

Comfort zones can be positive. Not only do we feel good about ourselves, but we also can be effective and efficient. We can find a groove. We may even be able to mentor others and cause a ripple effect of good.

But comfort zones can fool us. Our comfort zones can become invisible. They can limit us and tell us not to take risks. Comfort zones can keep us from going all-in on what Jesus has to offer us.

As I read the Gospels, I see how Jesus frequently pushed people out of comfort zones and into his trust zones, where they would take leaps of faith for the sake of his kingdom. Similarly, Jesus calls us out of comfort zones today, inviting us to take risks while deepening our faith.

A woman who read From Comfort Zone to Trust Zone said one of the most gripping moments in the book is when I shared my own story of going all-in for Jesus. I had grown up in the church as a preacher’s kid. Throughout decades of my adult life, I was a leader in my church, a highly committed volunteer, someone others might think was all-in for Christ.

But I wasn’t all-in, though I fooled myself into thinking I was. In a time when I asked for more comfort zone, Jesus gave me a trust zone: to forget about volunteering so much and to focus on giving my heart to God. I was busted, as I foolishly thought I had hidden from God that I wasn’t fully yielding control of my life. I didn’t know what Jesus would ask of me, so I held him at arm’s length. My prayers zeroed in on what was comfortable for me rather than what the Holy Spirit was beckoning me to do.

Since that moment, my life has changed. I believe your life needs to change, too, if you’re feeling comfortable. It’s time to get uncomfortable, to overcome your desire for certainty, and to inspect the ways in which you have limited the Spirit’s power to work through you. I invite you on a journey to identify subtle comfort zones that you never knew you had and to uncover trust zones that will take your faith to new levels while mightily serving Christ. I invite you to the experience that is From Comfort Zone to Trust Zone: How Jesus Urges Us to Take Leaps of Faith for His Kingdom.

Blog Stops

Blossoms and Blessings, June 15 (Author Interview)

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, June 16

Artistic Nobody, June 17 (Author Interview)

Mary Hake, June 17

Jodie Wolfe – Stories Where Hope and Quirky Meet, June 18 (Author Interview)

Lots of Helpers, June 18

Beauty in the Binding, June 19 (Author Interview)

Texas Book-aholic, June 20

Guild Master, June 21 (Author Interview)

Locks, Hooks and Books, June 22

A Reader’s Brain, June 23 (Author Interview)

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, June 24

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, June 25 (Author Interview)

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, June 26

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, June 27

Fiction Book Lover, June 28 (Author Interview)

Giveaway

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

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/2ca3c/from-comfort-zone-to-trust-zone-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.)

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Forever Lovely by Linore Rose Burkard Book Review

About the Book:


1819, England
Miss Margaret Andrews' sister disappeared into the future three years ago and Margaret hasn't seen her since. Julian St. John brings her to visit, but only for a day, since his wife Claire is about to give birth to their first child. He doesn't know Margaret's real desire is to find a modern invention to bring back with her. A bluestocking by nature and lacking her sister's famous beauty, Margaret knows she must make her way in society by becoming an inventress. But when the tallit, the magical time-travel shawl goes awry, she finds herself alone and stranded in 21st century New York City!
Present Day, Manhattan
Stewart Russell is a grad student studying early British female writers when he meets Margaret at a Jane Austen Society Conference in New York. Margaret is mistaken for an attendee but fits right in. Stewart is thrilled by her knowledge of the writers he's studying, almost as much as her effortless acting with the speech and manners of Jane's day. Until she claims to be from Jane's day! Worse, he is a wanted man due to a mix-up, and time is running out.
Margaret longs to keep him safe from the blackguards pursuing him, but first she must convince him she really is from the past. But when she can't even get herself back to 1819, how can she hope to bring Stewart too? It's a race against time and she must find a way before the unthinkable happens!

My Review:

I enjoyed this fun time travel novel. Burkard has done a good job of placing readers in the contemporary world and the Regency period. I like how Margaret, a young woman who fears being a spinster in her era, reacts to modern technology when transported to the present day. I also like how her present day romantic counterpart, Stewart, reacts to the Regency era. There is a little bit of suspense and a mild romance with a happy ending. There is a bit of a Christian faith message as the way time transport is possible is because God exists outside of time.

While this novel is a sequel, it reads well on its own. It does not contain sensitive issues other than the possibility of sisters having an antagonistic relationship. It is a nice, light novel and an enjoyable read.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


About the Author:


Linore Rose Burkard is a serious watcher of period films, a Janeite and hopeless romantic. An award-winning author best known for Inspirational Regency Romance, her first book with Harvest House (Before the Season Ends) opened the genre for the CBA. Linore is a magna cum laude English Lit. grad from CUNY, but now resides in Ohio with her husband and family, two cats, and a Shorkie. Active in church and in two monthly writers’ groups, (one of which she is president of), Linore loves to craft stories that fill a sweet spot for readers who, like herself, savor a happy ending. Influenced by Georgette Heyer, Linore's historical romances, steeped in Regency authenticity, provide the light-hearted, comedic effects that first sparked her love for the genre. Besides romance, Linore writes young adult apocalyptic suspense. (The Pulse Effex Series, as L.R. Burkard, her alter-ego!) You can find out more at https://www.linoreburkard.com/ 

Lilliput Press, 245 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the author. 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.)

Friday, June 14, 2024

Adult-O-Nomics by Tez Brooks Blog Tour Book Review

About the Book

Book: Adult-o-Nomics: How To Nail It On Your Own

Author: Tez Brooks

Genre: Nonfiction (self-help)

Release date: April 30, 2024

Launching out and making your way in life can be hard. But it doesn’t have to be.

One study revealed that over fifty percent of young adults boomeranged home in the first five years. Often, this is caused by underestimating how many curveballs life throws. You may not want to return home, and helicopter parents don’t help as they sympathetically offer to cushion you in the name of “setting you up for success.” But you know there’s nothing more rewarding than making it on your own.

Mom and Dad couldn’t teach you everything. Your peers can’t offer the wisdom of experience. Even mentors don’t often know what you need guidance for. You need preventive counsel; information obtained before a crisis hits. Well, you found it! Within these pages is experience and know-how collected from famous personalities and others who’ve forged the path ahead of you; from all different ages and walks of life.

This mix of ancient wisdom (adapted from God’s Word) and modern advice from contemporaries will place you ahead of the curve as you increase in know-how and understanding for more effective adulting.

Adult-o-Nomics is a gift book to yourself or others. It’s a collection of 500 short quotes, scriptures, and suggestions for those leaving home for the first time. Topics cover everything from practical housekeeping, automotive maintenance, and career advice, to romance and spiritual living.

If consumers in the target market read Adult-o-Nomics, they will:

  • Discover practical tips for becoming independent.
  • Handle setbacks and trials with know-how, confidence and courage.
  • Understand societal norms for more effective life skills.
  • Learn how to walk closer to God.

Because the book will:

  • Inspire readers to step out and take risks.
  • Encourage young adults to mature and grow a thick skin.
  • Produce a growing dependence on God rather than others.
  • Offer peace in the midst of turmoil and stress
Click here to get your copy!

My Review

This book contains a ton of wisdom. The insights are short and to the point, easily digested. Some are practical ideas, such as on finances, dating and other relationships. There is even a list of essentials to buy when getting your first apartment. My favorite practical one was learning how to turn off the water to the toilet before finding that task necessary. Been there! There is some humor included, like tip 165: Always give your all., except when giving blood. Many of the tips are wise words but lack a strategy to do it. An example is tip 178: Know your strengths and weaknesses. That's a great idea but how does one do that?

There are many good ideas in this book. Every young person would benefit from reading it. Many adults too!

My rating: 4/5 stars.

 

About the Author

Whether he’s working as a missionary journalist, coaching aspiring writers, or writing devotions, Tez’s passion for walking with God is evident. His book, The Single Dad Detour won Book of the Decade with Serious Writer Academy and recently, Christianity.com featured him in “50 Authors You Should Know.”

As a multiple award-winning author, filmmaker, and international speaker, Brooks was recently named one of the Top Writing Coaches by the Coach Foundation. His work appears in Guideposts, Power for Living, The Upper Room, CBN.com, Clubhouse, Focus on the Family, and more. Tez is a member of Colorado Authors League and president for two chapters of Word Weavers Intl. He and his wife serve as full-time missionaries based out of Colorado Springs. They have four children.

More from Tez

AN INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR TEZ BROOKS

Q: Adult-o-Nomics shares insights and encouragement from high school and college students, parents and your own experience as a youth pastor and father of four. What led you to write it?

I wrote it because I see so many young adults struggling with anxiety after moving out on their own. By asking around, I realized it that anxiety comes from a lack of know-how. It’s so stressful to attempt something with little to no information. Google makes it so easy to avoid asking real people by just looking it up online. The trouble is, that alienates us and it doesn’t give us everything we need. People don’t know what they need to learn. I thought it would be nice to have an easy-to-read gift book filled with one-liners and tips – something you could pick up when you have a free minute just to learn something new. Many don’t have time to invest in reading a complete “How-To” book but 30 seconds of advice is easier to digest….bite-sized pieces. So I wrote it!

Q: Would you be willing to share a little bit about your observations from watching young people launch from home?

I have observed a lot of young adults boomerang back home after a few years because they underestimated the cost of living or they forgot to plan for unexpected expenses. But we’ve all had stuff happen that caught us off guard, right? It’s impossible to anticipate everything. But parents who want to be a safety net to rescue their kids don’t really help. Helicopter parents cause their adult kids to lack confidence and become overly dependent upon them. Im not saying parents shouldn’t help in time of need. Im saying help by all means, but with clear expectations and specific end dates. One parent I know bought their daughter a security camera for her apartment so they could watch her sleep and wake her if she overslept for work. Ugh! Another dad insisted on talking to his son’s professor about his grades. It’s my hope this generation will find the peace that comes from total dependence on God and total independence from Mom and Dad. Anxiety doesn’t have to be the norm for those launching out for the first time. Adulting should be a rewarding right of passage, not a dread.

Q: Many young people think living on their own is going to be either really difficult or super easy. You had a difficult event that affected your launch. Can you share with us, what was your experience as a young college student? 

Soon after I graduated high school, my mom died unexpectedly after a minor surgery. I went off to college five states away with little to no experience living on my own. My mom prepared me a little bit before she died. I knew how to do laundry and clean a bathroom but not much more. I experienced a lot of trial and error as I adapted to life away from home. When I returned home after that first semester, my dad had already re-married and started a new life that I was not a part of. My step-mom was not the nurturing type like Mom, and it was clear I needed to take care of myself. It wasn’t easy but I made it. So I have an understanding of young adults trying to adapt to adulthood. It’s way harder for them now than it was for me. Anxiety doesn’t have to rule us though. It’s my hope they will find comfort from some of the tips others have provided in this book.

Q: Adult-o-Nomics is filled with practical advice on topics like romantic relationships, employment, car maintenance, housekeeping, what food to keep in your fridge, and even financial tips. But you also include physical, emotional and spiritual advice? Why are these important?

In the end, our spiritual condition is all that matters. If we get that correct, all the other areas of our life will fall into place. But yes, I do address physical, emotional, and other aspects because these things are vital to our success. Let’s face it, if we know how to get hired for a job but don’t know how to respond in a healthy way to criticism from our employer, we’re not going to have that job very long. Many of the tips in the book are connected and play off each other.

Q: Anxiety is a common issue for this generation. They deal with it more than other generations have. This causes some young adults to delay, avoid, or even abandon their launch. Do you have any advice?

Yes, there’s no need to avoid your launch when God is in your corner. If you have large financial debt and you’re delaying the launch temporarily, that makes sense. I’d pray about how you might trust God to be your Provider. God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. He’s in your corner, cheering you on!

Q: What’s the most important thing a young adult needs to know before they move out? If you could pick one thing to tell them, what would it be?

I’ve said it before, learn total dependence on God. Seek his face. Be sold out to Him…all the rest will work itself out.

Q: What is your next book?

It’s a book based on the pre-marital counseling I have done. It’s called “Is Calling Us to Marry?: 100 Questions for the Well-Prepared Couple”

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, June 14

Guild Master, June 15 (Author Interview)

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, June 16

Library Lady’s Kid Lit, June 17 (Author Interview)

Texas Book-aholic, June 18

Jodie Wolfe – Stories Where Hope and Quirky Meet, June 19 (Author Interview)

Mary Hake, June 19

Locks, Hooks and Books, June 20

Beauty in the Binding, June 21 (Author Interview)

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, June 22

Back Porch Reads, June 23 (Author Interview)

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, June 24

Artistic Nobody, June 25

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, June 26 (Author Interview)

Lots of Helpers, June 26

Little Homeschool on the Prairie , June 27

Giveaway

To celebrate his tour, Tez is giving away the grand prize of a $75 Amazon gift card!!

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/2be3a/adult-o-nomics-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.)