Color of Deception by Ruth J Hartman

dECEPTION
Color of Deception by Ruth J Hartman
Publisher: esKape Press
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (172 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

When artist Kitty Sullyard draws a strange symbol in her toy panorama, she doesn’t expect it to be life threatening. Tossed into a situation she never asked for, she learns the hard way who not to trust.

After Kitty mysteriously disappears, Nathaniel Bexley has only a single clue with which to find her. It’s something only he would know. Will he be able to decipher the secret message she’s hidden in a drawing, or will Kitty be doomed to the hands of her kidnappers?

The Sullyard sisters are talented artists. The eldest, Kitty, is commissioned to paint a panorama for a sporting magazine but the owner’s son and his nephew are her real interest. Stratford Bexley, the son, is a rake who fascinates Kitty. Nathaniel, the nephew, also appears to be a rake but there is something about him that draws on Kitty’s deeper feelings.

In regency times society requires a chaperone for young ladies at all times. The Sullyard’s great aunt fits the position, but only in body. In reality the elderly lady goes off into a corner to either read or sleep, giving Kitty plenty of leeway to dally with the Bexley men.

This book is really entertaining. It provides the propriety of the time with a little bit of spice and danger in the mix. Kitty often finds herself in awkward circumstances when she hasn’t thought things through properly, or in some cases thought too much about the need to earn money and not upset Stratford’s father.

When the seamier side of the age interrupts her dalliance with the Bexley men, it is up to her sisters to save her.

This is the beginning of an entrancing series and I really enjoyed the twisting of Kitty’s feelings from one man to the other.

Murder in the Aisles by Olivia Hill

mURDER
Murder in the Aisles by Olivia Hill
A Felicia Mystery Book 1
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full length (191 Pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Sorrel

Murderous intent is no match for killer intellect accessorized with stiletto heels.

A Felicia Swift Mystery, Book 1

If there’s one thing Felicia Swift likes more than sex, it’s books. But her dream job at the Library of Congress takes a macabre turn when she finds a linguistics specialist lying dead between his least favorite subjects: Anthropology and Astrophysics.

Worse, the utterly sexy detective seems to have his eyes on Felicia’s curves more than the evidence, which she is convinced points at the wrong man. And she plans to convince him of just that—right after he buys her an apple martini.

Mark Rizzo plans to wrap up this investigation as quickly as possible. Until he realizes the witness isn’t some dumpy, wizened librarian, but a researcher with endless legs, bottomless intellect, and a bulldog determination to complicate this open-and-shut case all to hell.

As Felicia and Rizzo dig closer to the truth, the real culprit gets jittery enough to try something desperate. Leaving Felicia to wonder if their investigation will lead them down the aisle of no return.

This book’s heroine was nothing like I expected. Felicia is not the usual type of librarian and I loved that. Who is she? She’s a fashionista who not only loves books but also loves sex. Her meeting with the sexy detective was funny because she’s not what she seems. It’s deliciously good.

Felicia has been working long enough with her colleagues in the library to know that there was no way that a linguistics specialist would have been found dead in that section of the library. Literally dead. She could have just let the detectives do their work and uncover the truth but she knew that the detectives would need her expertise. But of course they wouldn’t actually ask, right? An alpha male like Mark asking Felicia for help? That does not happen that easily. So, she did exactly what she needed to do–she started investigating and uncovering the mystery. That led to a lot of ‘accidents’ that could have almost either killed or significantly maimed her.

This was a wonderful story that captured my attention when I saw the title. The story was good but the mystery element of it was a little too stretched. By that I mean, it was almost glossed over. There’s more focus on Felicia and Detective Rizzo’s chemistry. Plenty of that and the hot action to back it up. The romance became the backdrop or background until halfway through. This is a good romantic mystery read and a good beginning to a new series. It’s like a cozy mystery with an extra shot of sizzle.

The Hermit Bookstore by Linda Westphal

HERMIT
The Hermit Bookstore by Linda Westphal
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Short Story (60 pgs)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

On Tuesday the old farmhouse on Lotus Road is empty and locked, with a For Sale sign out front. On Wednesday of the same week, it’s a charming used bookstore. How is this possible? That’s the mystery Mary June, Mario, and Elisa haven’t been able to figure out. And it’s not the only surprise they encounter. The eccentric owner, Jolene Fields, happens to know exactly what book they should be reading.

THE HERMIT BOOKSTORE takes place in the small California gold rush town of Lotus, where three friends get the unexpected push they need to make fateful shifts in their lives. Come along and discover with these three characters one of life’s magical moments.

Sometimes all you need is a little push to change your life in a big way.

In a tiny Californian town one morning a mysterious new bookstore opens in a long run-down farmhouse. The Hermit Bookstore and its old, curious owner pops up seemingly out of nowhere. Jolene, the owner, has an almost magical, uncanny knack for recommending the perfect book for the right person. This is a mysterious, intriguing story of how Jolene and The Hermit Bookstore change the lives of a few of the locals.

At first I didn’t really understand why this book was described as a mystery. Each chapter cycles through three different characters’ points of view and shows us how they came to stumble upon the bookstore, interact with Jolene and what difficulties they currently face in their individual lives. Mary June has unresolved family issues in her past – a weight she’s been carrying around for more than nine years. Mario has spent his life focusing on work, to the detriment of his personal relationship and especially his non-existent romantic life. And Elisa is in a dead-end relationship with a man totally unsuitable for her. While at a first glance none of these circumstances seem mysterious, the manner in which the bookshop and Jolene come to effect their lives – the serendipity of it – does lend an air of intrigue and mystery. There is an interesting twist right at the very end, which not only wraps everything up wonderfully – but definitely helps lend the overall air of mystery around the story.

This is not a regular “who-done-it” but more of a “life changes in mysterious ways” kind of story. I feel it has a heavy dose of the epic style of story – lives intersecting, chance meetings, Fate and destiny – but in an old style, sweeping story kind of way. While relationships and challenges of life are certainly involved, romance – in the traditional sense – is not. This story shows us the lives of the three main characters, it doesn’t focus on romantic entanglements. There are any number of strange happenings that are left for the reader to wonder at – foremost how Jolene “knows” exactly which book to pair with which person, and how they lead the main characters exactly where they need to go. Realism isn’t particularly strong here, but that adds to the mysterious, older style of story that I found this to be. I don’t need hard, harsh reality in my stories, not when the plot and characters are good – which I thought they both were here.

I was quite grateful the author stopped at three main characters. While the book itself isn’t long – having a chapter per point of view meant that once we’d been introduced to Elisa, Mary June and Mario I’m not sure I could have mentally kept hold of yet another character and story. While each of the three do live in the small town, they don’t really otherwise intersect and so keeping everything straight in my mind would have become difficult had we added another character into the mix. I feel the author did an excellent job of balancing it so that the story was complicated, but not so difficult I felt overwhelmed or unable to follow along.

I can easily see myself recommending this story of story to my mother – or grandmother. This is a happy, positive story about how our actions can change or influence other people’s lives. I feel certain nearly everyone would love to have a Hermit Bookstore nearby – I know I sure would! – to help lead us down the paths we need to head down. Leave realism and the real world behind, just relax and enjoy the story and ignore the many startling coincidences. This is a happy book that I think is meant to simply be read and enjoyed. The larger story – that we can draw solace and comfort from books and see our own lives and paths mirrored therein – is a brilliant tone to take.

Immaculate Heart by Camille DeAngelis

HEART
Immaculate Heart by Camille DeAngelis
Publisher: St Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (291 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

When visiting Ballymorris in Ireland for a funeral, a down-on-his-luck American reporter learns of a story that happened only months after his last visit many years before. A group of four teenagers, three of whom are family friends, claimed to have been visited by the Virgin Mary. Almost twenty years later, one of them denies it ever happened, another has left the small town, never to be heard from again, another has become a nun, and the fourth has been locked away in a psychiatric ward for many years. At the time, news of the visitation brought much wealth and tourism to this dreary Irish town, but as the years went by, and after the Pope refused to officially recognize it as a true Marian Apparition, what had been seen as a miracle began to feel like a curse, and this reporter believes there is more to the story than the townspeople are letting on.

As he seeks out each of the four stories, each begins to take a different and sinister turn. Surrounded by secrecy and confusion, the journalist must decide how much of what he’s uncovering is the truth, how much of it is lies, and much he can trust the four witnesses-one of whom he’s become infatuated with-or for that matter, himself.

What happens when the story gets bigger than anyone ever imagined? It’s a real humdinger.

I’ve got to start by saying I’m not sure what to think of this book. I went in with one frame of mind, but have since changed it. I thought about this book after I finished and discussed it with friends. Yeah, I discussed it.

The main thrust of the story is an American reporter who happens to be in Ireland and is interested in a story about four teenagers who claim to have been visited by the Virgin Mary. I went into the book with the mindset that this doesn’t really happen. But I also mentioned that I changed my mind. The author isn’t trying to force the reader to believe in these sightings, but rather to get the reader to reconsider his or her beliefs. I did.

The book also brought into mind how four people can be a witness to a certain occurrence and each handle it in a different way. We’re all different and we should celebrate that. We should celebrate what makes us that way and how there really are one-size-fits-all…anything.

Now I mentioned earlier that I had a hard time with this book. I did, but maybe that was what the author wanted. To get me to think and wonder. If so, she succeeded.

If you want a book that will make you think, wonder and reconsider, then this might be the book for you.

Black Diamonds by Vogue

MediaKit_BookCover_BlackDiamonds

Black Diamonds by Vogue
Publisher: Self
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full (215 pgs)
Rating: 4
Review by: Rose

Within the last year, acclaimed fashion designer, Carmen Davenport, has witnessed the ups and downs of being romantically linked to one of New York’s most prominent men. On the heel of her engagement to Jay Santiago, a Puerto Rican businessman, she learns her oldest daughter has been kidnapped. A direct result of an ongoing war between her fiancé and a disgruntled drug kingpin, Carmen becomes determined to put an official end to the conflict. She sets out to track down her daughter only to be met with unforeseen obstacles. A criminal investigation, led by her soon-to-be ex-husband, Michael Kane, leaves her fiancé behind bars. Due to Jay’s incarceration, Carmen is placed in the care of his estranged cousin, Gully. He constantly reminds Carmen of the price of fame, ultimately forcing her to take matters in her own hands. Determined to bring her daughter to safety, she takes a no holds barred approach to ensure her daughter’s return.

This is the fourth book in the Diamond Collections series by Vogue, continuing the saga of Carmen Davenport and her relationship Jay Santiago. Now, his past criminal enterprises have reached out and touched Carmen’s daughter, Kristian, and Carmen is determined to make things right.

I’ve not read the previous three books in the series and was able to follow the action—the author does a good job at explaining the characters and their relationships to each other—but I feel like a reader would more fully enjoy the book is she were to start with the beginning and see how the characters grow and develop in their relationships. There were a lot of anger issues going on that made me wonder why Carmen and Jay were even together, and I feel if I truly understood the entire dynamics of their relationship some of the dialogue between the two would make more sense to me.

Even with that, though, this book was enjoyable. It’s definitely fast-paced, and the reader didn’t know what was going to happen next. I could definitely see this as part of a TV series—and it would be interesting to see who the author would have in mind for the main characters. It’s dark, gritty, and in your face—filled with secrets and revelations.

I understand it’s part of a proposed 10 book series, so it would be very interesting to see where Vogue takes her characters next.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Case of the Questionable Quadruplet by Jacqueline Diamond

QUESTIONABLE
The Case of the Questionable Quadruplet by Jacqueline Diamond
A Safe Harbor Medical Mystery
Publisher: K Loren Wilson
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (133 pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Dr. Eric Darcy is on the trail of his patient’s killer.

The mother of triplets stuns the young obstetrician by claiming there was a fourth baby, a quadruplet stolen from her at birth years ago. Is there a deadly secret hidden in an old medical file… which has just disappeared?

When someone murders his patient, Eric believes the police in his small town are dismissing a vital clue. Then the bodies start to pile up. Never imagining his own life might be in jeopardy, the widowed doctor turns amateur sleuth, partnering with his private investigator sister-in-law. Don’t miss this fun cozy mystery with a touch of medical thriller!

Dr Eric Darcy is an obstetrician-gynecologist and has inherited some of his deceased father’s patients. Work consumes his life since he lost his wife a year before. His day is interrupted by news of a robbery at his home, and then Malerie Abernathy, a patient of his father and the mother of adult triplets, confides some startling news to him. She is convinced her triplets were really quads.

The story is seen through the eyes of Eric Darcy and conveys information from the past without any bumps in the narrative. The people in Eric’s life each have a part to play in the discovery of a murderer. One of the triplets died six months before and it is thought she was strangled. Immediately after Malerie’s visit to Eric, she is also murdered.

Eric is a strong character who is curious about the murders in his quiet town. The females in the story add interest and mystery. Who is acting a part? Who is showing their true self? This book is a true mystery, murder tale. I couldn’t work out the identity of the murderer until the sudden twist at the end. Right from the beginning, my interest was engaged as I tried to make up my mind about Malerie’s insistence on a fourth daughter. Did she really exist? Could she or the two surviving triplets be the murderer?

Definitely a good mystery.

Incomplete Sentence by E. E. Kennedy

SENTENCE
Incomplete Sentence by E. E. Kennedy
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (149 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Dandelion

Winter is ending and business is picking up at Chez Prentice, Amelia’s B&B. All at once, a particularly brutal homicide at a retirement community sparks rumors of the Rasputin Killer, who skipped out on a murder conviction many years ago. When yet another murder hits close to home, Amelia realizes just how vulnerable they all are. With the help of her new friend, the elderly Hugh Channing, she is determined to figure out what’s going on and keep her family safe.

The characters in Incomplete Sentence seem like ordinary people we might know. However, they are faced with a situation that brings fear, mystery, suspense, and disruption into their lives. The prologue gives the reader a heads up on what to expect as the murder mystery develops.

The “who-done-it” elements come early in the story. The local newspaper, with a sagging readership, sensationalizes the possibility of a murderer being in their area. When a murder actually happens, the list of possible suspects grows bigger and bigger as the story unfolds.

However, while there is an undercurrent of the mystery, there is also delightful humor in the story. Amelia Dickensen, an English teacher on hiatus, covertly, and sometimes overtly, corrects grammar errors in ways that bring a smile. Even better is baby Janet’s antics and how she controls the adults that serve her is captivating.

For me, the many characters presented in such a short story distracted from the plot progression at times. Probably if I had read the earlier books in this series I wouldn’t have felt so.

But I loved the connection the ninety-plus-year-old Hugh Channing and Amelia had. It was special. Also, the happily-ever-after for several characters came together beautifully, in a believable and satisfying style.

Ms. Kennedy’s writing style is straight-forward and smooth reading. She does an amazing job of balancing mystery/suspense, daily living events, diverse personalities, and love, both “love thy neighbor” love and romantic love. Incomplete Sentence is an enjoyable, entertaining read.

The History Major by Michael Phillip Cash

mAJOR
The History Major by Michael Phillip Cash
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (140 pages)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

After a vicious fight with her boyfriend followed by a night of heavy partying, college freshman Amanda Greene wakes up in her dorm room to find things are not the same as they were yesterday. She can’t quite put her finger on it. She’s sharing her room with a peculiar stranger. Amanda discovers she’s registered for classes she would never choose with people that are oddly familiar. An ominous shadow is stalking her. Uncomfortable memories are bubbling dangerously close to her fracturing world, propelling her to an inevitable collision between fantasy and reality. Is this the mother of all hangovers or is something bigger happening?

Though this is pretty short, it packs a lot of suspense that kept me reading.

Amanda Greene wakes up to find herself in a foggy state and as the day continues it only gets foggier. The day begins with her sitting in a history class that she didn’t sign up for to visits from people who haven’t been alive for long time and stories that seems to bring about more confusion than answers.

I wasn’t really sure where the story was going, but the author created a plot that piqued my interest and made me need to finish to see how it all would play out. While I can’t say this is one of my favorite books by this author; compared to prior works I’ve read, this one has a different feel. The plot was not a simple one and I wasn’t sure what the author was accomplishing until I got to the very end of the story and after reading the author’s note.

Honesty, it had almost too many layers. There’s this cloudy back story of Amanda that contains a disturbing flash back to issues with her step brother. The book has an interesting plot, but just didn’t resonate with me. Perhaps another reader will find this “history vs. present day” type plot more enjoyable. The author’s signature writing style is still strong and to be honest, it wasn’t a bad read. With that being said, I realized when I was at the halfway mark that I couldn’t really voice what I didn’t like about the story nor can I really think of any other way to have pulled this story off. It just felt a little too convoluted. But it did make me think about the subject and perhaps that was the point.

The History Major is an original in its genre. The author created rich tapestries of Amanda’s emotional experiences. The story is enjoyable with a mystical level propelled from the author’s imagination and from his belief that we perhaps go to a special place when we die. Readers who like stories that drive the reader to think deep, will find Amanda’s unique journey a pleasure to read.

March Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Every Kingdom Divided by Stephen Kozeniewski

DIVIDED
Every Kingdom Divided by Stephen Kozeniewski
Publisher: Mirror Matter Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (292 pages)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

2035 A.D. After the 2nd American Civil War Jack Pasternak, a laid-back California doctor, receives a garbled distress call from his fiancée in Maryland before her transmissions stop altogether. Unfortunately for Jack, citizens of the Blue States are no longer allowed to cross Red America. He is faced with an impossible choice: ignore his lover’s peril or risk his own life and sanity by venturing into the dark heart of The Red States. When the armies of the Mexican Reconquista come marching into Los Angeles, Jack’s hand is forced and he heads east in an old-fashioned gas guzzling car. Stephen Kozeniewski, writer of Braineater Jones, The Ghoul Archipelago and Billy and The Cloneasaurus, brings an epic future adventure.

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE!!!

The Bottle Ghosts by Dorien Grey

BOTTLE
The Bottle Ghosts by Dorien Grey
A Dick Hardesty Mystery, #6
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Historical
Length: Short Story (149 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Hired to find a missing man—an alcoholic—Dick Hardesty discovers that an unusual number of alcoholic gay men have vanished within a relatively short period and never heard from again. Clues lead him to a support group for gay couples, where one partner is alcoholic and the other is not. Dick and his partner Jonathan infiltrate the group by claiming Jonathan is an alcoholic. When two more men from the group appear to suffer the same fate as the previous victims, Dick is determined to find out why…and who is responsible.

It’s not easy to solve a crime when no one knows what happened to the victims of it.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed the most about this series is seeing how Dick has matured over time. I’ve mentioned this in a previous review, but I especially enjoyed this character’s growth in this tale because of how long he’s been trying to change. Dick has come such a long way both personally and professionally since I first met him. His hard work started to pay off in the last instalment, but it really sped up in this one. I really loved seeing so many positive changes in this character’s life after getting to know him so well over the previous five books. This was especially true when it came to certain habits of his that he seemed to be growing tired of. It was so nice to see how he finally began to conquer them.

With that being said, there were a few times when the character development overshadowed Dick’s work. As much as I liked seeing so many examples of how the protagonist has changed, I would have preferred to see a little more time spent on the case he was working on instead. There was so much going on with the disappearances that I could have used another clue or two about what Dick was discovering and how he pieced it all together. His logic did make sense, but I would have given this tale a higher rating had I known more clearly how the main character was able to piece certain clues together.

The pacing was strong and steady from the first chapter to the last one. I stayed up late to finish the last thirty pages or so because I was so curious to see how everything would turn out. There simply wasn’t a good place to take a break and stop reading, and that’s a good thing! I definitely like getting this absorbed in a plot. It’s one of the reasons why I look forward to reading Mr. Grey’s stories so much.

While this can be read as a standalone novel, I would suggest starting withThe Butcher’s Son to anyone who is at all interested in following Dick’s adventures from the beginning.

The Bottle Ghosts kept me guessing until the end. I’d recommend it to anyone who is in the mood for a challenging mystery.