Sunday, June 30, 2024

Writing on Empty by Natalie Goldberg Book Review

About the Book:


Bestselling author and teacher Natalie Goldberg shares her inspiring personal journey out of a devastating period of writer’s block and back into a life of growth, creativity, and healing.

Natalie Goldberg has been writing for the past fifty years. But at the beginning of the pandemic, she suddenly wasn’t able to write anymore. Her imaginative wellspring had dried up, and she was forced to ask herself: what do I do when what has always worked for me doesn’t work anymore?

In this beautifully written, inspiring personal account, Natalie shares her harrowing journey out of creative paralysis and back onto the page. When all of her tried and true methods – meditation, sitting still, writing practice – stopped working, she had to take drastic action. She got into her car and left New Mexico in search of a new inventive source. In her journey through the western states, she visited famous literary sites, searching for the spark that would reignite her ability to write.

And, next to Hemingway’s grave, she found it. “Get going,” he seemed to say to her, and she did. Now, Natalie shares her story of traveling through literary and personal memory to clarify her way forward, struggling to make sense of her difficult relationships with parents and teachers, and digging into her long-held grief. Ultimately, she discovers how to write through the emptiness in order to fill up the world with compassion, healing, and renewed liveliness.

For anyone struggling to reconnect with their own creative source, Writing on Empty is a gentle and instructive guidebook back to remembering what truly matters.

My Review:

I've been interested in writing since my first short story attempt written in loopy penciled cursive in the third grade. I have notebooks filled with daily reflections. I have even recently used Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones Deck of writing prompts. I was very interested in reading about how she would handle a dry time during the pandemic.

The part of this book I liked the best was her time in Port Townsend. I live on an island just a ferry ride away and appreciate the opportunities the PNW offers for reflective writing with its views of ocean and mountains. I appreciate Goldberg breaking through her silence by writing about memories and her daily events, such as the books she read, the walks she took, and the people she talked to, while adding interesting additional information. I like her comments about the internet too.

This is a good book for people who would like to read an example of reflective writing. It is also good for those who have come to a point of wondering the reason for their writing. You find good encouragement and a road map to continue to put pen to paper.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


About the Author:


Natalie Goldberg is a poet, teacher, writer, and painter. A student of Zen Buddhism for 24 years, she trained intensively with Katagiri Roshi for 12 years, and is ordained in the Order of Interbeing with Thich Nhat Hanh. Natalie Goldberg teaches writing workshops nationally based on the methods presented in Writing Down the Bones. Her other books include Wild Mind; Long Quiet Highway; Banana Rose; and Living Color. Photo credit: J. Halifax

St. Martin's Essentials, 176 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, June 29, 2024

Breath of Bones by Tricia Goyer and Nathan Goyer Blog Tour Book Review


About the Book

Book: Breath of Bones

Authors: Tricia Goyer & Nathan Goyer

Genre: Adult Historical Fantasy

Release date: June 18, 2024

When darkness falls, a new guardian emerges.

Kateřina Dubová has always aspired to walk in her father’s footsteps as a respected journalist, and the Second World War presents a unique opportunity for her to prove her worth to the world. A tip about an assassination attempt on a high-ranking Nazi official, Reinhard Heydrich, the “Butcher of Prague” leads Kateřina into the shadows of the Nazi occupation. Soon she discovers things are not as they seem.

As intrigue unfurls, Kateřina joins forces with Josef Loew, a descendant of the famous Rabbi Loew, renowned for creating a mystical guardian in the form of a golem to protect the souls of 16th-century Jews in Prague. In the chaos of war, some believe a new golem can once again bring help to those in need.

Like flickering candles in the abyss, Kateřina and Josef work to protect the innocent and end the evil that plagues their world. Yet, in their quest to save the Jewish people, have they inadvertently created a new danger? Could the very entity they had forged to protect become their greatest enemy?

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

This novel is a combination of speculation and history. The World War II setting is the foundation for an adventure in Jewish folklore and mysticism. Hitler was interested in the possibility of using the power mysticism and alchemy promised and here we see Jews activating a mystical being with great power.

Readers who like alternative history novels will find this one interesting. The Nazis have articulated spider like tanks, for example, and there is much mention of clockwork kinds of gadgets, all powered by steam. That places this novel in the subgenre of science fiction called steampunk, something with which I am not familiar.

The characters are developed rather well. There are heroes and villains in addition to arrogant and aggressive Nazis. The plot pacing was consistent with suspense at times. There is a strong sense of revenge against the Nazis by some and strong language about it. Since this is my introduction to steampunk, I cannot comment on that aspect of the novel. I do know we are left with the possibility of a sequel. I enjoyed this novel enough to be watching for the next one.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

 

About the Authors

Tricia Goyer is a celebrated writer, speaker, and co-host of the Daily Bible Podcast. Author of 80 books, Tricia has won four Golden Scrolls, two Carols, and a Christian Book Award. In addition to Christy and Gold Medallion nominations, her book sales exceed 4 million copies. Tricia is a highly sought-after conference speaker, sharing on writing, parenting, and purposeful living. Tricia’s most recent work, Breath of Bones, is a historical steampunk fantasy co-authored with her son Nathan Goyer.

Nathan Goyer is an upstart designer and science fiction author, who has been writing since he was young. He has written the novel Bask: City of Shadows and solo-developed the mobile RPG game Heedless, which has surpassed 30,000 downloads. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science from the University of Arkansas Little Rock, he is now pushing forward with new endeavors, starting with his newest novel, Breath of Bones, which he wrote alongside his fellow author and mother, Tricia Goyer.

More from Tricia and Nathan

He Said/She Said: Behind the Scenes with Breath of Bones

By Tricia and Nathan Goyer

Writing Breath of Bones turned out to be one of the most surprising and rewarding adventures I’ve ever embarked on. Let me take you behind the scenes of how this all came to be.

It all started when I decided to treat myself to something special for my 50th birthday: attending the Realm Maker’s Conference with my son Nathan. I’ve been writing books for years, over 90 of them actually, but I’ve always stuck to what I knew best. Speculative fiction? That was Nathan’s thing, not mine. But, there we were, surrounded by an incredible community of sci-fi and fantasy writers and fans. It was inspiring..

Reconnecting with my old buddy Steve Laube at the conference was a highlight. “Come to the dark side,” he joked when I marveled at how amazing everyone was. I laughed it off, but little did I know how prophetic his words would be.

After that second conference, something strange started happening. Ideas began bubbling up in my mind, and they were far out of my usual writing lane. The trigger? Believe it or not, I was doing something as mundane as sweeping near my bookshelf, filled with my favorite books about Prague, when I got an idea. That’s when it hit me—blending the Jewish legend of the Golem with my love for WWII stories. When I shared the idea with Nathan, his eyes lit up. “I love it,” he said, and that was all the encouragement I needed.

The idea really took shape when I ran into Steve Laube again at another conference. I pitched it to him during my keynote, and his enthusiasm confirmed my need.

The most surreal part of this whole journey? I first met Steve when I was pregnant with Nathan. When Nathan and Steve were introduced, Nathan joked, “No wonder your voice sounds familiar.” I thought that was perfect!

It felt like things were coming full circle. I was writing a book in a genre I never thought I’d explore for an editor I’ve admired for decades, alongside my son, who, in a way, met Steve alongside me all those years ago.

Breath of Bones is more than just a book to me. It represents stepping out of my comfort zone, embracing a new genre with the help of an incredible community, and the unique joy of collaborating with my son. It’s a reminder that it’s never too late to try something new. Also, the support of friends and loved ones can turn even the most daunting challenges into rewarding journeys. I hope this story inspires others as much as it inspired me during its creation.

He Said:

Writing Breath of Bones was certainly something I never expected to do. I had been trying to get my mother Tricia to write speculative fiction for a while, but I never thought she’d do it! It’s been very interesting to see her come to embrace the more fantastical side of writing.

When she asked me to write the novel with her, I was excited to do so. Writing something like this was right up my alley, of course, but co-authoring was a brand new experience that comes with its challenges and plenty of rewards. I really think it pulled out the best of both of us. What emerged is a story neither of us would have ever written on our own.

I may be revealing some of our secrets here, but when we first started writing, the only fantastical element in the whole book was going to be the Golem itself! I was proud of Tricia when partway through writing, she said, “This feels like another historical fiction book, we need to do more.” From then on, we dug in and got creative. There is so much to discover, and I can confidently tell you there is plenty more excitement to come as the Clockwork Chronicles continues.

I will also say Tricia isn’t the only one stepping out of their comfort zone. It’s been a learning experience for me to write within the bounds of actual history! Sure, there are spider tanks and giant machinations, but much of the story comes from people’s real experiences at that time and our carefully crafted characters who needed to take on these challenges. I loved both learning and writing about the true history. In fact, my favorite scene I wrote had no Steampunk at all. (But I’ll keep which scene a secret. No spoilers here!)

Writing Breath of Bones has been a fantastic learning experience for me. I’ve absorbed a lot of information writing alongside such an experienced author and have loved seeing the characters and storylines I created come to life in such interesting ways. Above all else, I hope all our readers can get lost in the world of Breath of Bones and go on an adventure they won’t forget anytime soon.

Blog Stops

Giveaway

To celebrate their tour, Tricia and Nathan are giving away the grand prize package of a $50 Amazon gift card and a 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/2c562/breath-of-bones-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.)

Friday, June 28, 2024

Murder on Devil's Pond by Ayla Rose Book Review

About the Book:


When thirty-three-year-old Hannah Solace returns to her hometown to renovate and reopen the inn she co-owns with her sister Reggie, her mission is to give the old Victorian hotel an entirely new life. She’s even planting pollinator gardens around the inn–native flowers and fruit trees to lure honeybees and houseguests alike. 

Hannah’s fresh start is stymied by Reggie’s continual interference, unreliable contractors, a check-the-couch-for-coins budget, and townspeople Hannah left behind fifteen years ago. Her main source of camaraderie is Ezra Grayson, an eighty-year-old recluse who lives nearby. After an unsettling conversation with a disgruntled Ezra, Hannah is horrified to discover him dead on her property later that day. 

Ezra had always had plenty of people to complain about, especially locals trying to force him out of his property for its prime real estate. As buzz around town grows after his death, Hannah finds herself on the short list of suspects. Hannah starts digging and quickly discovers that secrets lurk beneath the charming surface of the town she once again calls home.

My Review:

I enjoyed this cozy mystery. It has the typical amateur sleuth who is under suspicion and must discover the murderer to keep herself from being arrested. Hannah manages her sister's B&B and is good friends with an elderly neighbor. When she finds him on the B&B land and it is determined he was murdered, she becomes a suspect. Her investigation is more figuring out past events and relationships than finding current evidence.

The characters are a bit unusual for a cozy mystery. None of them seem particularly happy so the character development was not upbeat. The best part of the book was the good descriptions of the setting.

It is a good start to a new series and an interesting read. I enjoyed it enough that I will be watching for the next one.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


About the Author:

Ayla Rose is an author and lawyer who lives in the Green Mountains of Vermont. When not writing, she enjoys kayaking, hiking, gardening, and spending time with her husband, sons, and the family’s three dogs.


Crooked Lane 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.)

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Tangled Secrets by S F Baumgartner Blog Tour Book Review

About the Book

Book: Tangled Secrets: A Suspense Thriller (Mirror Estate Series: Book 3)

Author: S.F. Baumgartner

Genre: Christian Suspense Thriller

Release date: April 29, 2024

Two women. One targeted by an unknown enemy. One being accused of murder. Will they overcome their obstacles?

The twenty-five-year-old schoolteacher Grace Benson is living a quiet life until she receives a threatening note. Her life turns upside down when the FBI becomes involved.

The middle-aged wedding planner Sheila Mitchell comes home to find her husband dead before she’s knocked out. When she comes to, the murder weapon’s in her hand.

Will Grace survive? And will Sheila’s ex-husband, an FBI agent, clear her name? Who is targeting these women?

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

This novel is the third in a series (fourth considering the prequel). It can be read on its own as Baumgartner gives a good synopsis of each of the previous books at the beginning of this one. The relationships in this novel are complex and I appreciate a chart illustrating them at the very beginning. Many of the characters have previous or current code names and/or false names. I had to really pay attention to keep them all straight.

Baumgartner writes the narrative by having each chapter focus on one of nine people. Each chapter has the focused character clearly identified at the chapter heading. That is not a favorite style of mine as I feel it makes the flow of the narrative seem fragmented.

There is a great deal of subterfuge in this novel. Sometimes I was as puzzled as the agents were as to who was doing what and the motive behind actions. Everything comes to light at the end and is pretty well wrapped up except for a surprise which means I'll be watching for the sequel. There is a good faith message in the novel.

My rating: 4/5 stars. 

You can read my reviews of the previous books in the series: Buried Secrets, Living Secrets and Forgotten Secret.

About the Author

S.F. Baumgartner is a Christian suspense thriller author. She graduated from the University of Hawaii and the University of Cincinnati. When not writing, she enjoys spending time with her cats, staying active, and binge-watching crime TV shows. She lives in Ohio with her family.

More from S.F.

Crafting “Tangled Secrets” was an exhilarating experience, as it brought clarity to several unresolved mysteries within the series. The enigmatic question of a leak or mole introduced in “Living Secrets” – specifically, the mystery surrounding how Lily’s secret was discovered – finds its resolution in this latest installment. Moreover, “Forgotten Secret” cast a shadow of suspicion over characters like Rook and Uncle Bill, whose motives and truths are finally unearthed in “Tangled Secrets.”

Inspiration for this narrative complexity came from diverse sources: a television episode sparked the concept of a daughter relinquished for adoption, while a film suggested the thrilling double life of a secret agent. These ideas were not only incorporated but also transformed to enrich the tapestry of the story, intertwining with elements of chaos and confusion to enhance the intrigue and excitement.

This series, starting from the prequel, has been a journey of dropping subtle hints and planting seeds that would flourish into the full narrative of “Tangled Secrets.” The series is a vast landscape of potential stories, each more compelling than the last. I hope “Tangled Secrets” not only captivates and satisfies but also invites readers deeper into its intricately woven world. Enjoy the latest dive into our unfolding saga.

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, June 26

Life on Chickadee Lane, June 27

Betti Mace, June 28

Stories By Gina, June 29 (Author Interview)

Boondock Ramblings, June 29

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, June 30

Locks, Hooks and Books, July 1

A Reader’s Brain, July 2 (Author Interview)

Texas Book-aholic, July 3

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, July 4

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, July 5 (Author Interview)

For Him and My Family, July 6

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, July 7

Fiction Book Lover, July 8 (Author Interview)

The Lofty Pages, July 8

Lily’s Corner, July 9

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, S.F. is giving away the grand prize package of a $50 Amazon gift card and an eBook 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/2c55f/tangled-secrets-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.)

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Crossfire by Sarah Hall Book Review

About the Book:


When Abigail Brooks was fifteen, her world was shattered when she lost her beloved sister in a car accident. And she has always blamed her alcoholic mother. Now years later, she is a millennial cop that is thrown into another world in a Florida high school when she goes undercover- where she meets someone who begins to feel like a new sister. The only problem? Her boyfriend is the school bully that may prove to put everyone in danger- including Abigail’s belief that God cannot be real.

In this suspenseful Christian novel that sheds new light on the topics of faith, loss, and acceptance, Abigail must rely on her fellow officers, classmates, and the townspeople to help accomplish a new mission- keep everyone alive.

My Review:

I enjoyed this Christian youth fiction. I liked the capable heroine, Abigail. She had to overcome a trauma in her youth and a dysfunctional parent. The novel reveals the childhood experiences of other characters too, such as the sheriff, through flashbacks. There is a good faith message included with a clear presentation of the gospel.

The construction of the narrative was unusual as there were first person accounts from six different people. While the character from whom the action is being seen is clearly identified at the beginning of each chapter, it took some concentration while reading to remember which character was the focus of the narrative. Regarding the plot development, the first half of the book had a slow pace, setting up the situation. The plot picked up halfway through and had continuous and exciting action to the end.

This is a good novel for high school age readers as it gives examples of adults overcoming troubling experiences in their youth. There are some possible trigger situations in this book and some of the content may be a bit uncomfortable for guys (sister dialogue about a female bodily function).

My rating: 4/5 stars.


About the Author:


Sarah Hall is a Christian author and filmmaker. She was born and raised in Florida, the state that many of her stories take place in. Whether on the big screen or in book form, she believes part of her calling as an artist is to tell stories that bring people closer to Jesus. She also owns and operates My Sunshine Media, a Christian production company.

My Sunshine Media, 258 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Book Sirens. 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, 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.

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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.

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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.)