Careful Little Eyes: Willow Rose

Book #4 in the 7th Street Crew Series

Book #3 left us with a cliffhanger ending. Mary & Joey’s son, Salter, had been abducted by Mary’s psychotic brother, Blake. Here, Book #4 picks up right where we left off. However, in true Willow Rose style, we see multiple stories intertwine and are told together until they meet up in the present.

The first storyline is, of course, Salter’s kidnapping. Mary & Joey have embarked on a road trip to New Orleans. Internet guru & friend, Chloe, has picked up Blake’s picture from a security camera. She gives all the help she can and the ex-spouses are determined to find their son.

Next, we have a ‘ghost’ story. New Orleans in the early 1900s was terrorized by a murderer known only as the Axeman. Now, in the current time period, murders are occurring via the same M.O. Initially, residents attribute it to the original killer ‘returning’ to kill some more. Regardless, the city is again in the grips of terror as victims stack up.

A more recent yet still blast from the past story involves a woman trying to do the right thing. Robyn is childless & lonely. Little Suzy is an abused, neglected child. When they meet, they are a help to one another. But, Robyn’s kindness & Suzy’s volatile home life are on a crash course. How this connects to the other 2 will be up to curious readers to discover.

Book #4 is a great read. It is almost impossible to guess the ending. Very few clues are given to the reader. With many authors, that would’ve been a disaster. Willow Rose made it work just as she does with all her 2 to 3 plot books.

Unlike many of her works, this one isn’t as gory/graphic. Yes, there’s violence, but it’s not distracting and it isn’t over the top, either. The plot was more of an in-depth mystery than straight horror. I really liked that although the Axeman is attributed by some characters as a paranormal fiend, it doesn’t match the reality. It would’ve ruined the book for me if it had been.

Not all the members of the 7th Street Crew play a role this time. Mainly, it’s all Mary & Joey with a little Chloe. There’s a lot of character development for these two. Blake remains every sister’s nightmare & the mega-villain that he’s meant to be.

All told it’s a fantastic mystery & a definite 4 star read.

Four Cheese Murder: Patti Benning

Book #7 in the Papa Pacelli’s Pizzeria Series

Kittiport, Maine is experiencing a particularly nasty winter blast. The local community center is helping the locals who’ve experience power outages from the weather. Wanting to help, Ellie begins donating pizzas to the center on a regular basis.

During one of her deliveries, Ellie comes face to face with yet another death. A young, community volunteer is found dead, in the snow, outside the center’s doors. Never one to shy away from a mystery, Ellie decides she wants to find justice for the young lady. Unfortunately, there are a lot of layers in this mystery. Disgruntled roommates, jealous co-workers, and no murder weapon won’t make things easy for her. Adding in the fact that the Sheriff is out with an injury and Ellie is knee-deep in more than snow.

‘Four Cheese’ has more character development as we have Ellie & Russell’s relationship beginning to take a more serious turn. We also have more development in the town as Ellie visits more local places and we get a better feel for Kittiport.

The mystery was well-developed and with multiple suspects this time. As the series continues, the books are definitely getting better and more complex while maintaining that cozy mystery feel. This installment is a 4 star book. It can also be read alone, but I believe in reading a series from the first book on.

Gourmet Holiday Murder: Patti Benning

(Papa Pacelli’s Pizzeria #6)

It’s Christmastime in Maine & as Ellie Pacelli prepares to celebrate the season, she assumes there will be peace on Earth. Shopping & decorating take a temporary backseat to restaurant renovations. Ellie has her heart set on a drive thru window being installed at the pizzeria. Hoping it’ll encourage time-crunched patrons to continue to buy pizza.

After she picks a contractor, she assumes the project will continue. But, soon after he starts work, he’s found dead in the snow. At the most wonderful time of the year, who’s the murderous Grinch?

Although it is still technically a mystery, Book 6 seems more like regular fiction. We find out much more about Ellie & her friend, Russell. For most of the book, it’s a feel good story. The mystery portion is pretty routine. I won’t take much for readers to figure it all out.

It’s a good read no matter which genre it’s filed under. It certainly is better than the last one and hopefully will continue in this fashion throughout the series. I give it a solid 3 stars.

To Hell in a Handbasket: Willow Rose

Two senior citizens driving a powder blue Cadillac may not be what you think of as typical villains. In fact, they’d probably overlooked as suspects in anything. For Tim Robertson, they are evil incarnate.

As a child, Tim’s best friend went to sell cookies to two older ladies who’d lived on their street. Once he entered the house, the boy never came out again. Fast-forwarding twenty years, a grown-up Tim and his family are living far from the neighborhood he’d grown up in. Imagine his surprise when a moving truck shows up across the street carrying the belongings for two very familiar faces.

Taking up residence in their new house are the exact same little, old ladies who’ve haunted his dreams. They haven’t changed a bit. When unfortunate occurrences begin to plague Tim’s neighborhood, he knows exactly who to blame. But, no one believes him. After all, they’re the picture of innocence. To stop the madness, TIm needs to confront his worst nightmare head-on.

This novel is one of the few that Willow Rose has penned that isn’t attached to a series. Horror fans will notice that she crosses over a number of sub-genres in this one- shape shifting, murder, and paranormal among others. Unfortunately, this is not her best work.

The original encounter with a younger Tim is the best part. Once he enters adulthood, things become jumbled and hard-to-follow. It zig zags through introducing insignificant characters while neglecting any development with the main ones. Although most horror novels require the readers to suspend belief in realty for a while, this one goes beyond that to the point that I was ‘seriously? That doesn’t even make sense in horror’. It isn’t unreadable, but if I was to recommend one of her books, it wouldn’t be this one. I give it 3 stars.

Better Watch Out: Willow Rose

The title of this novella may be from a popular Christmas tune, but the story is far from it. Sara has a phobia about Santa. According to her, he isn’t a jolly, cookie-loving elf. No, to her, he’s a vicious killer. Her story is relayed to the reader as she is telling it to a psychiatrist.

Warning: this is not one for sensitive readers. You’ll never view Santa the same way again.

Full of mayhem and the antithesis of Christmas cheer, Willow Rose does what she does best- scare the pants off of her readers. At only 55 pages, it’s definitely a quick read that you’ll finish in one sitting. Other than the synopsis above, telling anything more would ruin the novella.

It was a fun read. I can tell you that much, though. I give it a 4 star rating and encourage those who enjoy a good scare to try this one.

Murder Train: Stacey Alabaster

Bakery Detectives Book #10

When Rachel is offered a buyout by a big chain bakery, she & Pippa plan a trip to the ‘Big City’. Boarding a train, they decide to hold off on any decision-making until hearing the company’s sales pitch. However, in pure Rachel/Pippa fashion, things go very wrong, very quickly.

Soon after boarding, there’s a murder. Usually, Rachel is the only amateur detective around when these things occur. But, this time, a young man on the train fancies himself a better detective than Rachel. Both launch investigations. Only one will be right.

In the midst of solving the crime, stuck on board an unmoving train, Rachel & Pippa aren’t sure that they’ll ever make their big meeting. If they do make it, will Rachel really sellout her dream?

Stacey Alabaster has created a great series. Unfortunately, this one wasn’t near the quality we’re used to from her. I didn’t mind so much that it ended with a cliffhanger. What was a surprise to me was the need, I felt, to skim through some of the dialogue and even the action. She’s a better writer than this for sure.

The setting of the train had endless possibilities. But, the direction it went in wasn’t one I was particularly fond of this time. Still, I look forward to Book 11 to find out how the bakery’s storyline goes. This installment is a 3 star novel.

Olivet Discourse (2 Days Before the Crucifixion)

Matthew 24New International Version (NIV)
The Destruction of the Temple and Signs of the End Times
24 Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 2 “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.
9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
15 “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’[a] spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. 18 Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 19 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 20 Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.
22 “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time.
26 “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.
29 “Immediately after the distress of those days
“‘the sun will be darkened,
    and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
    and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’[b]
30 “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth[c] will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.[d] 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.
32 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33 Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it[e] is near, right at the door. 34 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.