Ghost Killer by Robin D. Owens

Ghost Killer by Robin D. Owens
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (269 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Something wicked this way comes…

When her aunt died, level-headed accountant Clare Cermak inherited a fortune—as well as a phantom dog and the power to help ghosts move on. Her new gift led her to Zach Slade, a sexy private investigator with a unique psychic gift of his own, and the man who’s slowly opening her heart. But as they work toward building a future together, a sinister threat emerges.

An evil ghost is ravaging Creede, Colorado, threatening to devour the spirit of an innocent boy. Inexperienced in facing such a powerful ghost—and knowing her spirit, too, could be ripped away—Clare still can’t refuse to help. With Zach’s support she uncovers the ghost’s identity, and the ancestral weapon required to slay it. But does Clare dare to use that weapon before the ghost destroys the man she loves—and her own spirit?

Ghost Killer wastes no time in making chills run up and down a reader’s spine. The being called “The Other” not only creeps out the heroine, Clare, and the hero, Zach, but me too. In the first book it seemed omnipotent and wise. In this novel, Zach stood up to ‘it’ and wow, was that a revelation. The results of that confrontation added another layer of depth and intrigue to an already stunning and fantastical premise by the amazing Ms. Owens.

One thing I like about the Ghost Seer series is that each novel seems to have a complete resolved mystery even while the romance between Zach and Clare grows and blooms and strengthens. And, unlike regular murder mysteries, these books solve the deaths of people in the past whose ghosts want closure. Some ghosts go crazy, which is a unique concept, and become evil. Such is the case with Ghost Killer. What a reader will discover is that the title of the book is wonderfully clever and I did enjoy the insight.

Their romance goes through some growing pains in this novel. It was passionate, eye-opening and romantic. I like that the hero isn’t perfect and neither is the heroine. I liked how they both wanted to sacrifice for the other and how they handled the realization that they went about it the wrong way. Even though everything turned out alright, they couldn’t know that it would, so it was especially poignant.

I was fascinated as to how Clare doggedly pursued trying to identify the evil entity. There was a lot of drama and suspense because not only were they running out of time, the heroine was at risk of losing one of her very dear friends if she failed. Talk about pressure!

The dialogue, the descriptions of the environment, the interaction between Clare and Zach and even between Zach and Enzo were strong and well written elements throughout the entire book. In fact, I learned a bit more about Zach’s crows and I saw Zach come closer to accepting his own possible gifts and a relationship with Enzo, such as it is. There was so much going on, time passed by in a blur and I couldn’t stop reading until I got to the final wonderful, beautiful and oh, so romantic final page. My eyes got a teeny bit watery at the final paragraph.

Ghost Killer is a powerful story and a must read for fans of the series. Of the three so far, this one is the most intense because so much more was riding on Clare’s success. I’m thrilled that Zach is with her every step of the way. They are so good together and I enjoy watching them seduce each other in tiny, subtle and not so subtle ways. The plot is excellent and the romance delightful. I’m a very happy reader.

The Alchemist’s Daughter by Mary Lawrence

The Alchemist’s Daughter by Mary Lawrence
Publisher: Kensington Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (290 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

In the year 1543 of King Henry VIII’s turbulent reign, the daughter of a notorious alchemist finds herself suspected of cold-blooded murder…

Bianca Goddard employs her knowledge of herbs and medicinal plants to concoct remedies for the disease-riddled poor in London’s squalid Southwark slum. But when her friend Jolyn comes to her complaining of severe stomach pains, Bianca’s prescription seems to kill her on the spot. Recovering from her shock, Bianca suspects Jolyn may have been poisoned before coming to her—but the local constable is not so easily convinced.

To clear her name and keep her neck free of the gallows, Bianca must apply her knowledge of the healing arts to deduce exactly how her friend was murdered and by whom—before she herself falls victim to a similar fate…

Bianca can do nothing but watch in horror as her friend collapses and dies in front of her. She was a young woman in good health. Could Bianca’s herbal tea she’d shared with her be the cause?

This story is set in London in the 16th century. The author does a very good job of getting the atmosphere of the period in place. It’s not a pleasant place for those who are short on money. Those with money tend to use other people to enhance their place in society. There are those who live on the streets, those who man carts to try to earn some money, rat catchers who eat their catch, muckrakers, prostitutes, and more on these streets. When someone dies in an alchemist’s house, there’s no need to look further. Bianca is the murderer, of course.

The author has made Bianca a complicated character. She’s so into the chemistry of herbs and trying to create salves for healing that she ignores her love. She’s not politically correct, so the constable is more than willing to hang her for the murder. No one is going to save her except herself. John is willing to help, but she won’t let him. She’s going to regret that.

Trouble from the past is tied into this murder. Ms. Lawrence has done a good job of showing the underhanded dealings of the merchants as well as generally showing the nature of the folk living on the poor side of town. You can feel the darkness and hopelessness that abounds in the shadows. It’s a dangerous place at night and even in the day.

This story is not for the weak of heart. There are some ugly truths here and justice does prevail, even if it is administered by God and not by the law. Ms. Lawrence’s story will stay in my mind for a while, as I chew over the details. If you read it, you won’t forget it.

Side Trip to Kathmandu by Marie Moore

Side Trip to Kathmandu by Marie Moore
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (188 Pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

Sidney Marsh’s job as a New York travel agent is on the line. On her last two tours, she and her colleague Jay ended up smack in the middle of murder and mayhem. Their sleuthing sideline did not endear them to their employer, Itchy Feet Travel, so naturally they are relieved when their wealthy friend Brooke requests their presence on a no expense spared tour of India and Nepal. Another agency has made the arrangements, so all they need do is sit back and enjoy the ride.

Well, not quite all. Brooke has enlisted them to keep a sharp eye on their fellow travelers, all “friends” who have grown rich from the demise of others. After surviving an attempt on her life, Brooke is certain the culprit must be one of the five: a handsome Scotsman, a Bollywood actress, an investment banker, a Parisian filmmaker, or a twice widowed blonde. Many of the tour accommodations prove to be as dodgy as the reputations of the travelers themselves. After one of the members of the moving house party dies of an apparent heart attack, everyone’s nerves are on edge. Sidney can hardly be blamed for assuming a deadly game is afoot… or for falling for Adam, the doting Scotsman. Now, if only she can unmask the killer before the killer beats her to the punch.

Sydney Marsh sits in her boss’s office at Itchy Feet Travel and listens as he gives her the next assignment, one which she will share with her friend and fellow travel agent Jay Wilson. The thought of a luxury tour to India excites her until her boss tells her that this is her final chance. He goes on to say, “And I really mean it this time. Your last two trips were disasters.” Sidney tries to defend herself, saying that the murders which happened on her last trips were hardly her fault, but her boss won’t listen. He only tells Sidney that “on the trips you’ve been leading lately, stuff happens. Bad stuff. People die. It may be just bad luck, it may not be your fault, but somehow it happens. And if your luck doesn’t change—and I mean right now—you are out of a job.”

Sidney is a delightful young woman, and she and Jay work well together. They are very glad that their wealthy friend Brooke has insisted that Sidney and Jay lead this tour. The only problem is that once they are in India, they discover that all the arrangements have already been made and they aren’t needed at all. Instead, Brooke lets them know that she wants them to discover which of her friends is a murderer.

The descriptions of India and Nepal are fantastic, and the reader quickly becomes another member of a fantastic tour. The sights, sounds, smells, and even tastes of these countries is conveyed in a vivid and exciting way. And the characters on the tour are certainly very different and each seems to have secrets they don’t want to reveal. Mysteries abound in this exotic location, especially after one member of the tour dies.

This is a fun novel, but I do have to admit that I guessed the murderer early on, although I didn’t know all the details until the end. Personally, I would have preferred a bit more mystery and then, when the action did heat up quite dramatically, everything was resolved rather too quickly for my tastes. However, I learned a lot about countries I’ve never visited and the atmosphere was very well done.

Readers who enjoy a cozy mystery, especially one that takes them to new locations, are sure to find Side Trip to Kathmandu to be a delightful experience.

Chaysing Destiny by Jalpa Williby


Chaysing Destiny by Jalpa Williby
Chaysing Trilogy Book 3
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (342 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Sorrel

Will you find your destiny? Or will destiny find you? Lesson One: Follow your instincts. Lesson Two: Trust no one. Lesson Three: Don’t hesitate. Truth is nothing but lies. Light is overshadowed by darkness. Hope is replaced by despair. Innocence is lost. Only anger and bitterness remain. Don’t miss this final installment as destiny’s path is ultimately unraveled in Chaysing Destiny.

A twist that readers will love to hate and but ultimately love!

First of all, I would very much recommend readers to start this series from the first book, Chaysing Dreams. Yes, the first book may not be what you expect but patience pays off. In this case, the second and the third books are very good in every way. I completely devoured them.

The third starts two years after where the second book ends. A lot has happened but to explain it here would spoil the second book’s ending. It’s exciting and shouldn’t be missed.

Tess is in a place in her life where she has to strengthen her resolve and herself for the protection of those she loves. She has great motivation for becoming stronger and more independent.

More than a year later she goes on a mission. A whirlwind of a mission that would give more questions than answers. There’s so much action, so much that happens in this final chapter of the trilogy but it brings the story to satisfying end.

For a lot of readers, this book would probably only be classified as a Contemporary Romance and Mystery. However, in my opinion there is a little bit of Sci-fi in it.

Chaysing Destiny is full of twists and turns and mystery that any reader with a love for the genre will be glad to read.

Butterfly Kills by Brenda Chapman

Butterfly Kills by Brenda Chapman
Publisher: Dundurn
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (371 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Jacques Rouleau has moved to Kingston to look after his father and take up the position of head of the town’s Criminal Investigations Division. One hot week in late September, university student Leah Sampson is murdered in her apartment. In another corner of the city, Della Munroe is raped by her husband. At first the crimes appear unrelated, but as Sergeant Rouleau and his new team of officers dig into the women’s pasts, they discover unsettling coincidences. When Kala Stonechild, one of Rouleau’s former officers from Ottawa, suddenly appears in Kingston, Rouleau enlists her to help. Stonechild isn’t sure if she wants to stay in Kingston, but agrees to help Rouleau in the short-term. While she struggles with trying to decide if she can make a life in this new town, a ghost from her past starts to haunt her. As the detectives delve deeper into the cases, it seems more questions pop up than answers. Who murdered Leah Sampson? And why does Della Monroe’s name keep showing up in the murder investigation? Both women were hiding secrets that have unleashed a string of violence. Stonechild and Rouleau race to discover the truth before the violence rips more families apart.

This was a new author to me and after reading Butterfly Kills I’ll be checking out her other titles too. This was a well-layered mystery story that kept my interest throughout the book. It begins with what you assume are two very unconnected events but as the story advances you along with the police begin to put the pieces together. Nothing’s rushed but the pacing is far from slow.

The characters are well drawn and each have their own backstory (even the secondary characters) which I felt added just another layer to this novel. I especially liked the setting and have to admit it’s the first Canadian based mystery I’ve ever read and given me an incentive to seek out more. What I liked best was the author revealed elements in the story at the same time the detectives found out about them. It felt like you were the detective rather than being one step ahead of them.

The dialogue is natural sounding and many of the problems the characters faced in this story are ones I think most of us can relate to as well. Caring for aging parents and balancing that with a career. Lost and new loves, and moving on with your life.

If you like a good whodunit, and want to discover a new author and locale for your mystery fix then I’d say this is one definitely worth checking out.

Echoes by Laura K Curtis

Echoes by Laura K Curtis
Publisher: Penguin
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (282 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Who is she?

A single photo of herself as an infant on a beach, taken before the date on her birth certificate, throws everything Calliope Pearson knows about herself into question. Hoping to find answers, she takes advantage of her job as a travel writer to make a reservation at the Caribbean island resort in the picture.

Resort security chief Mac Brody distrusts Callie on sight. After all, she looks exactly like his deceitful missing wife, Nikki, who owns half the resort. But when Nikki’s found dead, Mac’s facing murder charges, and he’s sure that Callie must hold the key to proving his innocence.

The deeper Callie and Mac dive into the mystery of her past, the more bodies surface. And they’ll have to learn to trust each other, or become victims of a dark danger neither could’ve imagined…

After her father’s death, Calli finds a photo hidden behind another when she changes frames. The problem she has with it is that it shows her as a baby in her mother’s arms and it predates her own birth certificate. How did that happen? Were her parents lying to her? Why would they be at that Caribbean resort anyway? She has the perfect excuse to visit the resort; she’s a freelance writer that does articles about vacation spots.

Ms. Curtis writes a fast paced story with a complex plot. She combines gun running, genetics, a secret agency, and a madman all together in a mix of a search for answers and danger. Her characters are real, some a little too real. It didn’t take me long to read this entire book. I didn’t want to set it down and do something else, I wanted to see what was going to happen.

Calli didn’t expect to make an enemy as soon as she stepped in the hotel, but that’s what happened. The chief security guard thought his wife had sent her. After all, she looked like her but was a bit more filled out. Callie had no idea what Mac was talking about, but she knew she didn’t like him and his pushy ways.

As the story goes along, Ms. Curtis introduces you to the madman. You don’t know who he is and you aren’t quite sure what he’s trying to do but he still manages to scare you.

The author paces the story well, keeps spiking your adrenaline with the close misses, and it’s only with the help of the high level security agency that they have a fighting chance. She gives you strong characters and a romance to keep the story interesting. Ms. Curtis did a very nice job on this one.

Chicken Soup and Homicide by Janel Gradowski

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Chicken Soup and Homicide by Janel Gradowski
Publisher: Gemma Halliday Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (149 Pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

Amy Ridley and her friend, Sophie, have perfected their chicken soup recipe, and the winter-weary residents of Kellerton, Michigan can’t wait to watch them compete against other local chefs in the Chicken Soup Showdown. But the charity event starts out with a bang, literally, when one of the rival chefs falls out of a freezer and onto Amy. If it wasn’t stressful enough for Amy to catch a dead body, the detective in charge of the investigation targets her best friend, Carla, as the chief suspect in the murder.

In order to clear her friend’s name, Amy does her own investigating. The problem is nobody liked the arrogant murdered celebrity chef, and soon her suspect list is longer than the list of ingredients in her secret chicken soup recipe. Can Amy figure out who killed the celebrity chef? Or will Carla be spending the spring in jail?

Amy Ridley certainly has her work cut out for her after she opens the freezer door backstage at a charity cooking event and is hit by the dead body of one of the rival chefs, Chef Britton. Amy’s friend Carla is dating Detective Bruce Shepler, so he has to turn the investigation over to a new member of Kellerton’s police force, Detective Pitts. Amy quickly realizes that Pitts has no ability to investigate anything. His technique consists of badgering people until they confess, or so he hopes. He is particularly keen to pin the murder on Carla because of her relationship with Shepler, but Amy isn’t about to let that happen.

Suspects abound as Amy tries to figure out what actually happened. Chef Britton was universally hated, but who would be driven to murder him? Amy hunts for clues as she moves through this small Michigan town in the middle of winter, but nothing clicks until just before she herself is attacked and nearly killed.

The plot has plenty of twists in it to make it a very pleasant cozy mystery. I did pick the murderer early on, but didn’t have all the pieces of the puzzle until the end. My only real objection to the story was that Detective Pitts seemed way too incompetent not to be called out by his boss. He was also painted as a bad cop with a heavy hand, stalking his favorite suspects in an unrealistic way.

However, overall, the incompetency of Pitts increased the tension in the story and made Amy’s need to solve the crime correctly that much more intense. Even an incompetent cop can make an arrest and Amy didn’t want that happening to any of her friends, or herself for that matter.

The story focuses around food and recipes are included for those who are cooks. However, even though I am not a foodie, I really enjoyed this cozy mystery, so I can recommend it to mystery fans, whether they are cooks or not.

To Parts Unknown by John Anthony Miller

To Parts Unknown by John Anthony Miller
Publisher: Taylor & Seal
Genre: Historical, Action/Adventure, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (378 pgs)
Rated: Best Book
Review by Snapdragon

London, January 1942. London Times war correspondent, George Adams, is a tortured soul, devastated by his wife’s death and rejected by all branches of the military. Destroyed by events he couldn’t control, he can’t face the future and won’t forget the past. His editor sends him to Singapore, a city threatened by the Japanese, hoping the exotic location and impending crisis will erase his haunting memories. Within minutes of his arrival, George is caught in a near-fatal air raid that triggers a chain of conflict and catastrophes. Injured and sheltered underground, he meets Thomas Montclair, a crafty French spy, and Lady Jane Carrington Smythe, an English aristocrat, who are destined to share his adventures. When a Japanese general is murdered, Lady Jane becomes the prime suspect. The trio flees the enemy and their own troubled pasts, confronting personal demons as well as the Japanese. They chase their dreams and elude their nightmares, evading a manhunt that spans the islands of the southwest Pacific, their lives wrapped in a swirling kaleidoscope of death, doubt, and desire.

Miller’s new To Parts Unknown thrusts us directly into the action of World War II, in, of all places, Singapore. London Journalist George Adams hasn’t yet got his bearings, when the bombing begins…not all that much different from what he experienced at home, actually. This time, he has no time, no idea where to go, but a guardian angel in the shape of a smart, quick to react, and kind lady.

The speedy, unpredictable action of the start continues throughout this wonderful novel. George, we gradually discover, is an incredibly admirable man… and the dear lady he comes to admire so quickly, is so very attached to someone else. Though there seems nothing can be done about that, he steps up to help her without a second thought.

The local conditions are appalling–the sounds and smells and destruction of bombing raids, the fear and the anxiety of what might be coming next is incredibly real and believable. Miller’s distinctive, no nonsense, straight-forward style is …well, it is very like the voice we’d expect from his lead character: Honest, descriptive, true.

Characters, from the hastily-made friends to the people on the street, and the interactions with those but briefly met in trying circumstances, all are wonderfully believable. We follow George from Singapore toward the hope of safety, via cart, boat and even plane; and every moment, we hope Lady Jane might notice his heroic actions through his efforts to save others.

Sloppy layout left the text with some odd spacing issues, and while not terribly distracting, this work deserves better. This is a gripping, believable, alarming yet heartwarming read. This is the best story I have read in a very long time.

Love or Deception by Morgan K Wyatt

Love or Deception by Morgan K Wyatt
Publisher: Secret Cravings
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (270 pgs)
Heat: Hot
Rated: 4.5 stars
Review by Snapdragon

Amy awakes to find her husband Mark missing, along with her memories. Her recollections of Mark include a whirlwind courtship and a beach wedding. Amy is determined to uncover what happened to her husband. How could a man who loved her so intensely just walk away?

The police have no interest in finding Mark. They reason he wasn’t ready for marriage and he walked. She wonders if his disappearance could be associated with her work.

Ryan, a close friend and co-worker, assists her in piecing together her missing memories. As the pair work together, they find that Amy’s actual past reveals a scenario that is so horrifying that it forces them on the run, not knowing whom they can trust. Will Amy’s newly recalled memories prove fatal to both her and Ryan?

Morgan Wyatt’s new Love or Deception is a gripping, action-packed mystery-slash-suspense every bit as exciting as its awesome cover implies.

Amy and Mark are in love…at least, we know for sure Amy is in love with her wonderful, super-sexy husband, who appears to be as happy as she; for the few moments we see them together. Their magical time together might well be ‘the deception’ here, as much as anything; for too soon, she’s talking to a detective and trying to understand what might have happened. Mark is gone.

Startled, suspicions, and intrigued: we readers are hooked from the start. There must be some explanation. Amy is no fool, yet seems confused by events. As she begins to puzzle out what happened, she uses everything, even her own condition, as clues to possible events. Others are looking at her possible motivations, so not only does she want to find her husband, it is looking more and more like she needs to find him, to clear herself.

Some secondary characters are a bit wooden, but others, like Aunt Remy and a couple friends are well done; clearly ‘characters’ in their own right. As Amy regains her memory, we readers get a better look at her working life, and start to develop suspicions of our unknown. Her friends are also involved, and figure out some possible scenarios, themselves. Although the plot charges forward like any good thriller, truly the ‘love’ part of it all–as her chief motivation–shines throughout. Romance fans will not be disappointed.

Although it is unclear when her memory problems began, leaving many possibilities open; the clue-hunting, critical mystery-fan in me still admits this is both well-done and clever. Do plan to read.

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Heat Trap by JL Merrow

Heat Trap by JL Merrow
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (200 pgs)
Other: M/M, anal sex
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Cactus

The wrong secret could flush their love down the drain.

It’s been six months since plumber Tom Paretski was hit with a shocking revelation about his family. His lover, P.I. Phil Morrison, is pushing this as an ideal opportunity for Tom to try to develop his psychic talent for finding things. Tom would prefer to avoid the subject altogether, but just as he decides to bite the bullet, worse problems come crawling out of the woodwork.

Marianne, a young barmaid at the Devil’s Dyke pub, has an ex who won’t accept things are over between them. Grant Carey is ruthless in dealing with anyone who gets between him and Marianne, including an old friend of Tom and Phil. Their eagerness to step in and help only makes them targets of Grant’s wrath themselves.

With Tom’s uncertainty about Phil’s motives, Tom’s family doing their best to drive a wedge between them, and the revelation of an ugly incident in Phil’s past, suddenly Tom’s not sure whom he can trust.

The body in the Dyke’s cellar isn’t the only thing that stinks.

A quick witted plumber and his PI lover have never been a better combination. In the third installment of the Plumber’s Mate series Tom and Phil are plunged into a case involving their local bar pub. The waitress is being hassled by her ex-boyfriend and said ex has no problem getting dirty with anyone who shows even a friendly interest. Phil can’t help being involved but when Tom is threatened the danger is ratcheted up a notch. Now Tom and Phil are at odds when revelations of Phil’s past come out. With so much at stake, Tom must decide what is really important and what is a deal breaker for both his relationship and his family.

Heat Trap is another great addition to the series but it’s not best read alone. I’d recommend readers start at the beginning of the series to fully understand the complexity of Phil and Tom’s relationship. Although there are enough clues and background information provided to remind readers of where things are, new readers may miss some important nuance. That said this turn is much more personal than previous books. The mystery is a whodunit with a resolution that comes kind of out of nowhere. I didn’t particularly mind but it felt as if the author wasn’t sure where the mystery was going sometimes and it made me uneasy as a reader.

That said the relationship progression between Phil and Tom is the most important aspect of the story with the mystery as the backbone to allow certain information offered and circumstances to occur. Phil and Tom are interesting, complicated characters but I do think once again the story suffers from only getting Tom’s perspective. As the narrator he’s clearly biased and I didn’t always agree with the conclusions he drew, especially in regards to Phil. Some of Phil’s actions and acceptance of Tom’s actions confused me and I would have dearly loved to see inside Phil’s head and what he was thinking during those scenes. Tom is a flawed and deeply three-dimensional character but due to the lack of Phil’s POV, Phil simply isn’t as well defined unfortunately.

This may or may not be an issue for readers since the writing is once again clean and evocative with Merrow’s great touch of humor and description. The British setting is a character all of its own and a deeply welcome one as well. I find this series very enjoyable and easy to read, pages fly by before I even notice, but none of the books have quite lived up to the first. That’s mostly because the mystery was the best in the first book while the relationship aspect is better in subsequent books. It all depends which plot readers are more drawn to I think. Either way this is a fun series and easy to recommend.