Posted in Book Reviews

Book Spotlight: Girls’ Night Out: Liz Fenton , Lisa Steinke

SYNOPSIS: 

For estranged friends Ashley, Natalie, and Lauren, it’s time to heal the old wounds between them. Where better to repair those severed ties than on a girls’ getaway to the beautiful paradise of Tulum, Mexico? But even after they’re reunited, no one is being completely honest about the past or the secrets they’re hiding. When Ashley disappears on their girls’ night out, Natalie and Lauren have to try to piece together their hazy memories to figure out what could have happened to her, while also reconciling their feelings of guilt over their last moments together.

Was Ashley with the man she’d met only days before? Did she pack up and leave? Was she kidnapped? Or worse—could Natalie or Lauren have snapped under the weight of her own lies?

As the clock ticks, hour by hour, Natalie and Lauren’s search rushes headlong into growing suspicion and dread. Maybe their secrets run deeper and more dangerous than one of them is willing—or too afraid—to admit.

MY THOUGHTS: It’s been a while since I was so engrossed in a novel that I read it every chance I had. But, I did just that with ‘Girls’ Night Out’. As the memories and realities of the ladies’ lives are revealed, the mystery just deepens and deepens. Each of the women is an awful friend and each has their own demons to fight. But, every time I thought I knew the plot, it twisted again.

Our authors expertly went back and forth, each chapter belonging to one of the three women main characters, never missing a beat. There were AHA moments and wow factors galore. But, the whole thing may make you rethink and trips you may have in the works.

Even the end itself blew my mind. The author duo also penned ‘The Good Widow‘ which was great, too. They work incredibly well together. I certainly hope they’ll collaborate again soon. ‘Girls’ Night Out’ is worth every bit of a 5 star rating.

*Synopsis belongs solely to the author/publisher.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Spotlight: The Irish Inheritance: M.J. Lee

SYNOPSIS: June 8, 1921. Ireland.
A British Officer is shot dead on a remote hillside south of Dublin.
November 22, 2015. United Kingdom.
Former police detective, Jayne Sinclair, now working as a genealogical investigator, receives a phone call from an adopted American billionaire asking her to discover the identity of his real father.
How are the two events linked?
Jayne Sinclair has only three clues to help her: a photocopied birth certificate, a stolen book and an old photograph. And it soon becomes apparent somebody else is on the trail of the mystery. A killer who will stop at nothing to prevent Jayne discovering the secret hidden in the past
The Irish Inheritance takes us through the Easter Rising of 1916 and the Irish War of Independence, combining a search for the truth of the past with all the tension of a modern-day thriller.
It is the first in a series of novels featuring Jayne Sinclair, genealogical detective.

MY THOUGHTS:Jayne Sinclair plays our no-nonsense, female lead. She brings her baggage with her. As an ex-cop, she has PTSD and martial problems as a result. When we first meet up with her, she’s just come from her sister-in-law’s funeral. We meet her when she is at her most flawed, needing a major distraction.
Her husband can be approached from both sides. True, he is self-centered and not the understand type. But, it’s also true, that he has stood by Jayne’s side through her partner’s death and a change of career. As to whether the two will come out strong, the reader will have to discover.
The plot was quite intriguing. Not many fictional novels involve the Easter Rising, a pivotal moment in Irish History. In fact, most of what I read was new to me. Our author deserves credit for interweaving the historical components with present day. Had Jayne not had the tech know-how, it would have been impossible for her to even work the case.
It was nice to read about a seldom covered, historically significant event. Her client, a billionaire, isn’t the nicest chap, but in the hearts of readers, you want him to discover his roots. The twists in the ending chapters give the book it’s second wind. It finishes strong.
As a first outing in the series, it’s a 3.5-star novel. I will continue with the series. I look forward to the new history lessons and what will become of our Jayne.
**Synopsis belongs solely to the author/publisher

Posted in Book Reviews

River Road: Carol Goodman

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Nan Lewis has had enough heart ache to last a lifetime. Losing a child is never easy. Losing them to a violent death is even worse. Nan’s Emmy was taken from her by a drunk driver. Seven years later, Nan faces an eerily similar situation.

While walking home from a party, Nan’s favorite student, Leia, is struck & killed in a hit & run. Unlike Emmy’s story though, Nan is the prime suspect. Knowing that the circumstantial evidence is piling up around her, the only thing Nan has to hold on to is the knowledge that she didn’t do it. In the court of public opinion, she’s already been convicted. Now she must fight an uphill battle to clear her name & get what’s left of her life back.

‘River Road’ crosses a number of genres. Mystery, suspense, thriller, & even a bit of romance are all twirled together to make one superb novel. Carol Goodman also hits a number of social issues with fictional characters who could definitely be real people. Alcoholism, drug addiction, social class discrimination- none of them are easy, feel-good topics. But, our author doesn’t shy away from them. Instead, she uses the good & bad to show the good & bad in everyone. No one is immune from battling them or being victimized by them.

The plot was definitely tricky to navigate at some points. Just when I thought it was over, there was another loop. It made for a darkly fun read. Our heroine, Nan, is easily likeable but just as easily detestable. In other words, she’s uncomfortably real. Readers will feel as if they have the whole book figured out and then sadly realize they don’t. Plots such as this are what keep mystery/thrillers exciting! My only complaint would be that there are a few places that got a bit wordy. Other than that, it definitely provides a surprise ending many won’t be expecting.

Carol Goodman has done a fantastic job with ‘River Road’. It’s easily a 5 star novel.

Sensitive readers: there is some strong language, sexual scenes (pretty tame by today’s standards), and minimal violence. None of that is a deal-breaker for this book because it’s not overly done.

Posted in Book Reviews

Slip Out the Back Jack: Willow Rose

Book 2 in the Jack Ryder Series, ‘Slip Out the Back Jack’, picks up where ‘Hit the Road Jack’ left off. Readers will revisit Cocoa Beach single dad/detective Jack Ryder as he copes with two simultaneous mysteries. First, Jack’s new girlfriend & famous country singer, Shannon King, has been receiving cryptic emails. Although they began years ago, the author hints towards violence to come & that he or she is doing it for Shannon. No stranger to erratic fans, Shannon initially blew off the emails, but in light of certain events, she knows it’s time to involve Jack.
Meanwhile, we learn of missing grandfather, Stanley. Having disappeared after a car accident, we first encounter Stanley while he’s being held captive. Like most kidnappings, it won’t be pleasant for Stanley, but he’s hardly expecting the extreme treatment he receives. Who would want to force feed plate after full plate of food into someone? Poor Stanley isn’t even sure what he’s done to deserve this, but someone wants to feed him until he bursts.
Like Stanley, Jack has a full plate. Between trying to find the MIA grandfather & deciphering the emails to Shannon, he has three kids to watch out for as well as keeping an eye on Shannon’s abusive ex-husband. Everyone seems to need Jack & that’s the way he likes it.
Willow Rose keeps her imagination busy, that’s for sure. She certainly has a knack for including obscure methods of murder. This novel is a prime example. No doubt it’s a gross method, but unique nonetheless. Our new villain is creative & alert readers will notice certain similarities between recent headline news events & things that inspire our antagonist.
Jack continues to be a bit too accommodating to the people in his life. Shannon, who started off as a strong heroine type, begins to cave into a weaker, less likable Shannon. I definitely preferred the debut to this sequel, but I am holding out hope that Jack will rise up to the challenge of Book 3 when it arrives. I still give it a 4 star rating.

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Hit the Road, Jack: Willow Rose

Willow Rose debuts a new series, a new lead character, & a new setting all in one. Jack Ryder is the newest hero put to paper by Willow & he’s an American, too. Cocoa Beach, Florida is where he calls home & this dashing detective does it all as a single dad/detective/surfer. Raising three kids alone, he relies on his parents to fill in when he’s working so the kids spend a great deal of time at their grandparents’ beachfront motel. Having transferred to Cocoa Beach from busy Miami, he enjoys a slower pace in his life & the kids’. But, tranquility doesn’t last long in any of Willow’s stories. Soon Jack finds himself investigating murders once again.
With a new series comes new villains. This time we have ‘The Snakecharmer’. Accompanied by his two slithering snake friends, The Snakecharmer is set to wreak havoc on Cocoa Beach. Jack’s on the case when a report comes in saying a young boy believes his parents have been murdered. Afraid to move, the poor little guy figured it was bad news when his dog brought his mother’s finger to him, no longer attached to his mother. Being that the boy is a classmate of Jack’s twins, he feels a personal dedication to finding out what happened.
Clues are few & the boy’s father had been drugged heavily to sleep through the murder. Jack had better move quickly as the Snakecharmer has an agenda. To further complicate matters, famous country singer, Shannon King, rolls into town, fleeing her abusive husband. Shannon has brought her daughter with her & seeks refuge at the motel run by Jack’s parents. She’s beautiful, talented, & Jack is soon drawn to her. Romance will have to stay on the back-burner until the investigation is complete. But, now Jack must worry about Shannon’s safety as well as the case.

Being the full-time dad & full-time detective are hard enough, but Jack’s jobs won’t get any easier any time soon. The Snakecharmer is unlike anything Cocoa Beach has ever seen.

Ryder is certainly far different from other Willow Rose characters. I was surprised that she moved her story to the US. Usually she sticks close to Denmark. Regardless, she did a fine job of switching scenery. Also, I’ve known her to stick with female leads. Jack can be a little too nice & a little too accommodating to those around him. He’s a fabulous detective who doesn’t take shortcuts & readers will find him endearing during family interactions.

Our villani is well done & readers will go back & forth for a while about his identity. Diabolical yet not too over the top, The Snakecharmer is when of Willow’s better creations. Hopefully, Jack Ryder will become a compliment to his female predecessors as the series progresses. A great debut, I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

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The Inn At Ocean’s Edge: Colleen Coble

_225_350_Book.1563.coverTwenty-five years ago, a little girl went missing. One year after her disappearance, she simply returned with her name on a note, pinned to her dress. At the time of her disappearance, she’d been attending her own birthday party. Hotel Tourmaline was where her family was vacationing at that time & it was where she reappeared. Claire is now twenty-five years older & has no recollection of her year away. Having to return to the Hotel to broker a merger, memories are sparked. When she witnesses a murder, she has no doubt that bad things continue to occur here.

Twenty-five years ago, a woman heard crying in the woods near her home. Not willing to forgo helping a child, she enters the woods & never returns. Most folks in town believed she’d run away from her husband & his cranberry farm. Her children believe something sinister happened to her. Now grown, her children cannot forget her memory. Luke & Meg Rocco have suspicions about their father. When a storm unearths bones, they brace themselves for the inevitable.

A chance meeting places the Rocco’s & Claire in each other’s lives. Luke & Meg remember the stories surrounding young Claire’s disappearance. Beautiful Claire has caught Luke’s full attention & he eagerly agrees to help her piece together her childhood. Too many coincidences exist between the story of Claire & the disappearance of Mrs. Rocco. But, as the three work together, more strange & violent incidents occur. Someone doesn’t want either side to know the truth. Wading through betrayals, lies, & family ties, they know the truth is there somewhere.

Colleen Coble is a new author for me. I was impressed with the twists & turns of the plot. It too a while for me to piece together what had happened. That’s rare & I like that. The plot is unique & well done.

My only issue with the novel is the interaction between the main characters in many places. The Sheriff’s flippant attitude towards such violence in a small town was confusing. Claire seemed like the type of woman who tries too hard to be well liked. With her affluence, she shouldn’t have appeared so weak especially considering she worked to broker mergers with high-powered clients.

However, these instances are enough to detract from a well-written mystery. I give it a 4 star rating.

I received a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.

Posted in Book Reviews

Wilderness Rising: A.L. Shields

_225_350_Book.1564.cover

Most people recognize the name ‘Pilate’. More than a name, he infamously washed his hands of Jesus’ crucifixion. Truth be told, not a whole lot is known of him apart from this event. But, his role in Jesus’ life made him famous, regardless.

In ‘Wilderness Rising’, we find that many highly influential people are talking about Pontius Pilate. According to legend, Pilate penned thoughts, specifically about Jesus, onto a piece of stone. Supposedly the ‘Pilate Stone’ had been hidden for centuries.

Two powerful factions are competing to be the first to find the stone. Caught in the middle is Bethany Barclay. Having been framed or bombings & murder, Bethany has lost several loved ones to these warring groups. Now, she’s been tasked by one group with finding the stone in order to save another life. Call it life insurance or pure manipulation, finding it is also her only chance to remain alive.

With the Garden on one side & the Wilderness on the other, it’s hard to know who she can trust. For the Garden, the mission is to protect the Church. Wilderness members are atheists who wish to discredit all those associated with any religion. Each faction has a purpose for the stone. Following clues left by a deceased friend, killed during the groups’ activities, Bethany heads to Europe.

Still a fugitive regarding the murders & bombing. she’s on the lam. Dodging police, outrunning hired killers, & seeking out Biblical scholars are no easy task. If the stone does truly exist, can she find it before she, too, becomes history?

Book 2 in the Church Builder Series, ‘Wilderness Rising’ can certainly stand alone. What sets it apart from other books on Biblical archaeology is the relic. Although I’ve read many in that genre, I haven’t encountered Pilate as the center.

Conspiracy theories involving networks of influential people -good & bad- isn’t new territory. However, the way they’re portrayed is fresh. Throughout the plot, we see errors on both sides. Christians aren’t portrayed as perfect. Atheists are shown to have a conscience. Bethany is a perfect lead who doesn’t follow either side nor is she led around by the nose. Cautious & intelligent, she makes a great heroine.

If you love conspiracy theories and/or Biblical archaeology, this novel is perfect for you. I will be watching for the next installment. Beautifully done & realistic, I give it a perfect 5 stars.

I received a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.