Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar


Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar
Publisher: Cemetery Dance Publications
Genre: Recent Historical, Mystery/Suspense, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (180 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

The little town of Castle Rock, Maine has witnessed some strange events and unusual visitors over the years, but there is one story that has never been told… until now.

There are three ways up to Castle View from the town of Castle Rock: Route 117, Pleasant Road, and the Suicide Stairs. Every day in the summer of 1974 twelve-year-old Gwendy Peterson has taken the stairs, which are held by strong (if time-rusted) iron bolts and zig-zag up the cliffside.

At the top of the stairs, Gwendy catches her breath and listens to the shouts of the kids on the playground. From a bit farther away comes the chink of an aluminum bat hitting a baseball as the Senior League kids practice for the Labor Day charity game.

One day, a stranger calls to Gwendy: “Hey, girl. Come on over here for a bit. We ought to palaver, you and me.”

On a bench in the shade sits a man in black jeans, a black coat like for a suit, and a white shirt unbuttoned at the top. On his head is a small neat black hat. The time will come when Gwendy has nightmares about that hat…

I have to admit I’m a Stephen King junkie. I am. I’m also a bit of a short story junkie, too. When I saw this book at my local library, just sitting there unassumingly on the shelf, I had to sneak a peek.I mean, why not? So I picked it up. I’m glad I did. This was a quick read and even though it’s short, when I had to put it down to deal with life, I didn’t have to do a bunch of rereading to catch back up.That’s the good thing about this short story. There isn’t a lot of rereading that needs to be done if you have to walk away.

Gwendy is an interesting character. She has an awesome power within her and within the button box. Will she use it? Will she succumb? Will she get a big head from the power? I liked that Gwendy is relatable. There are things that made her more than she was, but I liked her human-ness. Now I would’ve been more than a little freaked out if some random guy wanted me to sit with him. Even more if he’d have offered me a box. I don’t know how Gwendy did it, but she did.

I liked how she grew through the story, too. The creep factor isn’t as strong in this story, which was nice for me because I wasn’t looking for a freaky story. But might be a turn off for others. There are plenty of characters and some are hard to keep straight, by the end, I felt like I knew them all. My heart bled at the end. I won’t give away spoilers, but it’s a tad gut-wrenching.

If you want a recent historical story with more than few twists, then this might be the short story you’re looking for. Oh and try a chocolate. I hear the detailing is fantastic.

The Dead Mothers Club by Mary Henning


The Dead Mothers Club by Mary Henning
Publisher: Blue Turtle Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery, Young Adult
Length: Full Length (282)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

What could drive Erin Wei, an Advanced Placement student and the only child of her widowed father, to suicide? This is the question plaguing her four closest, and in fact, only, friends; Jenny Long, Tony Armeni, Raejean Carlton and Mark Reynolds.

Before swallowing her father’s tranquilizers, Erin carefully wrapped and labeled several of her possessions and left them to her friends. Among them was her private journal, In its pages, they will discover a crime that will rock her remaining family, the church, and the sleepy town of Pine Valley to its roots, and be faced with decisions that will affect each of them for the rest of their lives.

Good kids with real life troubles in a mystery? But it works.

This is a really great book. I rarely ever give something 5 stars and yet this author’s story and her character development all deserve a 5.

Since this book has much dialogue by teens, I really thought it was going to be a YA (Young Adult) classification. But the truth is I can’t think of any age that wouldn’t enjoy reading it as both a mystery and a story about everyday problems. I’m calling the problems in this book “every day” but only because I unfortunately think that although many are hidden, these problems do exist in everyday life. They are not always something we want to think about but they do exist. I personally got a lot out of reading it…enjoyment, a few laughs, a few tears, a few ideas, some good feelings about people, and some anger at others.

Even though this book jumps from character to character, I never lost track of who was who. It never seemed like the book was jumping around. Since I really hate reading and wondering “now who is this?” I think it takes a very talented author to craft a book this way and never once frustrate me. She taught me each characters’ personality so well it was almost as if I knew them. Characters in a book are very important to me. In fact, they have a lot to do with how much I enjoy a book.

To sum this book up…not a long read, in fact a really easy read. But very involved. Well worth your time.

The Fortune Teller’s Secret by Ron D. Voigts


The Fortune Teller’s Secret by Ron D. Voigts
Publisher: Champagne Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (234 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

A dead man on a Ferris wheel and a cold-case murder take Cavendish Brown into a world of carnival exotics, ghosts, and killers.

The annual carnival comes to Maiden Falls, a small town in the West Virginia Mountains, but everything is not merry.

The ghost of a woman appears to Cavendish Brown, a carnival worker lies dead aboard a car on the Ferris wheel, and a bullied teenager plots to kill people at the carnival with a homemade bomb. More complications arise. Cavendish again butts heads with the local sheriff, Clinton Pike.

Marbella Wellingway, owner of the newspaper where Cavendish works, receives a visit from the Angel of Death. And a Fortune Teller at the carnival knows something that could forever change Cavendish’s life.

With the aid of Jane, a disturbed psychic, and Alexandra, a Goth witch, he must find the killer, help the mystery woman, and risk his life to prevent more deaths.

Cavendish gets awakened at night by a woman who asks him to help her. She’s a ghost. He sees her die and since he can’t touch her or talk to her, he’s not sure how he could solve her mystery. He also doesn’t speak of it. Everyone around him seems to have powers but he thinks this is just a dream…

Nobody is actually what they show the public world. In this case, the women have witchly powers. Cavendish has some, too, but he doesn’t know it. He was adopted and knows nothing about his real parents.

He works with Alex, who comes and drags him out of his house and takes him to the carnival. He sees a ghost again while he’s there but he tells Alex he needed to relieve himself. And when the Ferris wheel come down to the ground, there’s a dead man in the seat…

With the sheriff arresting the wrong man, the discovery of a body from years ago, and a father who misses his daughter and wants to avenge her, there’s a lot of clues and a lot of misdirection.

This author makes you believe all these powers are real and how people use them is both amazing and amusing. He also throws in a budding romance between Alex and Cavendish.

With a fortune teller who keeps trying to get Cavendish to visit her, Alex’s mother seeing the Angel of Death and knowing someone in her family is going die, a family curse, blackmail and murder, there’s plenty to keep your attention.

The story flows well, has several subplots, and it entertains well. This was a very good read.

September Sci-Fi/Fantasy or Mystery/Suspense Book of the Month Poll Winners ~ Everything We Left Behind by Kerry Lonsdale AND Mothers and Other Strangers by Gina Sorell

We have a tie for this month’s poll!!


Everything We Left Behind by Kerry Lonsdale
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (327 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Two months before his wedding, financial executive James Donato chased his trade-laundering brother Phil to Mexico, only to be lost at sea and presumed dead. Six and a half years later, he emerges from a dissociative fugue state to find he’s been living in Oaxaca as artist Carlos Dominguez, widower and father of two sons, with his sister-in-law Natalya Hayes, a retired professional surfer, helping to keep his life afloat. But his fiancée, Aimee Tierney, the love of his life, has moved on. She’s married and has a child of her own.

Devastated, James and his sons return to California. But Phil is scheduled for release from prison, and he’s determined to find James, who witnessed something in Mexico that could land Phil back in confinement. Under mounting family pressure, James flees with his sons to Kauai, seeking refuge with Natalya. As James begins to unravel the mystery of his fractured identity, danger is never far behind, and Natalya may be the only person he can trust.

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE!!

And…


Mothers and Other Strangers by Gina Sorell
Publisher: Prospect Park Books
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (320 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

“My father proposed to my mother at gunpoint when she was nineteen, and knowing that she was already pregnant with a dead man’s child, she accepted.”

Thus begins this riveting story of a woman’s quest to understand her recently deceased mother, a glamorous, cruel narcissist who left her only child, Elsie, an inheritance of debts and mysteries. While coping with threats that she suspects are coming from the cult-like spiritual program her mother belonged to, Elsie works to unravel the message her dying mother left for her, a quest that ultimately takes her to the South African family homestead she never knew existed.

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE!!

The Walls by Hollie Overton


The Walls by Hollie Overton
Publisher: Century
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (416 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by: Cholla

A heart-stopping psychological suspense novel about a Texas prison official driven to commit the perfect crime, by the author of the international bestselling thriller Baby Doll.

WOULD YOU KILL TO PROTECT YOUR FAMILY?

Working on death row is far from Kristy Tucker’s dream, but she is grateful for a job that allows her to support her son and ailing father.

When she meets Lance Dobson, Kristy begins to imagine a different kind of future. But after their wedding, she finds herself serving her own life sentence—one of abuse and constant terror.

But Kristy is a survivor, and as Lance’s violence escalates, the inmates she’s worked with have planted an idea she simply can’t shake.

Now she must decide whether she’ll risk everything to protect her family.

Does she have what it takes to commit the perfect crime?

For as long as she can remember, it’s been her, her dad, and her little boy. So, when Kristy Tucker meets Lance Dobson, she’s wary at first, but is soon won over by his charm and gregarious nature. But is he too good to be true or are years of having to survive on her own dragging her down?

Kristy Tucker has worked hard to give her son, Ryan, everything he needs. She hates her job working in public information officer for the Texas Department of Corrections, but it pays well and helps her get what she needs. Even though her job is difficult on both physical and mental levels, Kristy always manages to give her family and the inmates she’s responsible for one hundred percent of her best effort. She’s an extremely complex character who has a lot going on internally.

I think it’s easy to see that there’s something very wrong with Lance from the beginning. Anyone who has managed to develop as much blind devotion as Lance has is a giant red flag. You can’t fault Kristy for wanting to believe, however. She’s a loving and devoted wife and daughter and deserves a little happiness for herself. Lance makes sure to take every ounce of it away in the end.

Although there were many times when Lance came across as over the top, he remains frightening and intense throughout the entire novel. Thankfully, I’ve never been in this kind of situation so it’s hard for me to judge whether he’s overly dramatic or if this is possibly real life. When Kristy finally makes her decision to stand up for herself, protect not just her own life but those of her loved ones, I found myself all in with her crazy plan. While I don’t think it would have succeeded in real life, it still took guts to do what needed to be done for everyone involved.

The Walls is an interesting look into death row in Texas as well as an intense rollercoaster ride of a story. One of the best books I’ve read this year and had me turning the pages as fast as I was able.

River City Dead by Nancy G. West


River City Dead by Nancy G. West
Publisher: Henery Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (224 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

Advice columnist Aggie Mundeen and SAPD Detective Sam Vanderhoven plan their first rendezvous at a San Antonio River Walk hotel during Fiesta Week—sumptuous sights, sounds, and festivities in the middle of America’s Venice. A vacation from crime and a reset for their tumultuous relationship.

But murder descends on the Casa Prima Hotel. Disturbing revelations surface about the Fabulous Femmes, Aggie’s new friends holding a convention. Evil emerges at parties in La Villita. Calamity plagues Aggie’s debut dance performance at the Arneson River Theater, the celebration skewed by carousing, crazies, and corpses. Even in idyllic River City, crime complicates relationships.

All Aggie wants is a quiet vacation cozied up to her new boyfriend, Sam. With the relationship still fresh and new, she wants to spend some quiet time with Sam and get to know him better. But when you’re dating a cop, things don’t always work out the way you had planned. Case in point: when a woman is murdered in the hotel you’re staying in, your boyfriend tends to get really busy really quickly. Not that Aggie is about to let that stop her fun.

Aggie Mundeen is an advice columnist who takes her real life experiences and uses them to guide others. I was amused that the letters from her readers were included in the story, giving us a little insight into Aggie’s downtime rituals. Her boyfriend, Sam Vanderhoven, is also an interesting character. Although he’s a rather typical cop-like character, his frustration and affection for Aggie make him a more complete character. That he knows he wants to keep her safe and yet realizes at the same time that he’ll never get her to heel, is both sweet and reassuring.

I really enjoyed the setting in Austin, Texas. It’s a city I hear so many good things about and yet have never visited, despite having lived in Houston for a year. The characters are also very interesting and likable, despite Aggie’s penchant for getting herself into trouble, even though her boyfriend and cop, Sam, warn her to stay out of it. That said, if every lead in a cozy mystery took that advice, we’d never have any novels, right? At times I felt like the dialogue was a bit stilted and awkward, but the overall story was entertaining and engaging. I’m going to hunt down the prior three books in this series now and find out how it all began. A story with a few twists and turns and an unforgettable cast.

Sacrificial Lam by Gary Guinn


Sacrificial Lam by Gary Guinn
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (268 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

When English professor Lam Corso receives a death threat at work, he laughs it off. A liberal activist at a small Southern conservative college, he’s used to stirring up controversy on campus. It’s just part of the give and take of life. Even when violently attacked, Lam is convinced it must be a mistake. He can’t imagine anyone who would want to kill him for his beliefs.

When his home is broken into and his wife’s business vandalized, Lam is forced to face the truth. His wife—a passionate anti-gun crusader—is outraged when Lam brings a gun into the house for protection. The police can’t find a single lead. Left to their own devices, Lam and Susan are forced to examine their marriage, faith, and values in the face of a carefully targeted attack from an assailant spurred into action by his own set of beliefs.

What will it cost to survive?

Sometimes your job forces you to push on the limits of society.

Lambert Corso is an individual with just such a job. As an English professor with very liberal views teaching at a religious college, Lam has stepped on his fair share of toes. Suddenly unnerving written threats against his life and then physical attempts against both Lam and his family cause a deeper concern for what is happening at the university. Lam is suddenly forced to question everyone and everything in order to protect his own family.

Sacrificial Lam is an enveloping story told from the viewpoint of Lambert Corso and his wife Susan. The story highlights the various types of personalities that exist on a college campus as well as the frustrations that occur from being the voice for those oppressed when the majority of those on campus have very opposing views.

The threats and Lam’s reaction to the increased threats are understandable and realistic, given Lam’s history and views. The dialogue is smooth and concise and the descriptions of work, personality conflicts, student concerns and the main plot line of fear and mystery focused on Lam and his family weave together to form a great mystery!

I really enjoyed the various conflicts and frustrations that Lam encountered, both internally and externally. Lam’s marital concerns and even his stress impacting his parenting of his two sons speak volumes into the psychology of the storyline. The depth of human nature and our response to external stress is a great pivotal point in the story.

If you enjoy suspense and mystery stories, be sure not to miss Sacrificial Lam!

Gone in the Night by Anna J. Stewart


Gone in the Night by Anna J. Stewart
3rd book in the Honor bound series
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (288 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

A childhood terror rears its ugly head in USA TODAY bestselling author Anna J. Stewart’s latest Honor Bound romance. Psychologist Allie Hollister is still haunted by the unsolved death of her childhood best friend. She never expects her past to meet her present when a young patient is abducted and the cold case is reopened. Allie knows she shouldn’t get involved, but the child’s uncle, firefighter Max Kellan, needs her as much as she needs him. Once, Max simply wanted to put his past to rest; now he demands nothing short of justice. As he and secretive, sexy Allie track a lethal criminal, their chemistry is an undeniable adrenaline rush. Their attraction will be put to the test when they confront their most dangerous threat yet: the truth.

Aaaaaaaaah!! Thank you Anna J. Stewart for writing yet another spectacular book! I was combusting with excitement as I read Gone in the Night. It was so awesome!!

Gone in the Night is the third book in the Honor bound series written by Anna J. Stewart. The first was More than a Lawman and the second was Reunited with the P.I. All three can be read as standalones however it is much more fun to read them all in consecutive order. I was fortunate to be able to do just that.

Anna J. Stewart is a consistent writer. All three books are riveting! I’m talking about the kind of book that is impossible to put down once you start. Since I knew this I didn’t even start reading Gone in the Night until I had a rainy day so I could just sit and read it all in one sitting. I was not disappointed at all. Reading Gone in the Night was just as unpredictable and complex as the other books in the Honor bound series. Suspense that was thrilling! Romance that was passionate!

More Than a Lawman ended with one case solved and one unresolved. The unresolved one continues to be threaded through out Reunited with the P.I. along with a new case. The new case gets resolved but left the unresolved still unresolved. Gone in the Night finally resolves the unresolved case! Yahoo!! It was worth the wait!!

Aden, Simone and Allie are three best friends that share a childhood trauma that unites them in an unbreakable bond of friendship that has lasted into their adult lives. More Than a Lawman was Aden’s story. Reunited with the P.I. was Simone’s story and Gone in the Night is Allie’s story.

I couldn’t wait to read Allie’s story. All three leading ladies were relatable and I loved all three but Allie was my favorite. I was able to relate to her difficult childhood. I found Allie to be intelligent, strong and witty. She was perfect for Max, the hero. Oh my Gosh, Max. I loved the banter they had going with each other throughout the book. They had this ongoing guessing game that was so much fun to read. I loved Allie and Max! Max was my dream guy and I definitely have a book glow going on.

The final culmination of the unresolved case was epic! I did not see that ending coming. What a lovely final twist. I was left feeling completely satisfied. I am so happy for Allie that she found a happily ever after with Max. I loved how all the plot threads were tied this time. I would encourage anyone who loves suspense/mystery romance to pick up all three books in the Honor Bound series. Heck, I just might read them all again, they were that good!

A Measure of Murder by Leslie Karst


A Measure of Murder by Leslie Karst
Publisher: Crooked Lane
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (336 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Sally Solari is busy juggling work at her family’s Italian restaurant, Solari’s, and helping Javier plan the autumn menu for the restaurant she’s just inherited, Gauguin. Complicating this already hectic schedule, Sally joins her ex-boyfriend Eric’s chorus, which is performing a newly discovered version of her favorite composition: the Mozart Requiem. But then, at the first rehearsal, a tenor falls to his death on the church courtyard–and his soprano girlfriend is sure it wasn’t an accident.

Now Sally’s back on another murder case mixed in with a dash of revenge, a pinch of peril, and a suspicious stack of sheet music. And while tensions in the chorus heat up, so does the kitchen at Gauguin–set aflame right as Sally starts getting too close to the truth. Can Sally catch the killer before she’s burnt to a crisp, or will the case grow as cold as yesterday’s leftovers?

In a stew of suspects and restaurateurs, trouble boils over in the second in Leslie Karst’s tasty and tantalizing Sally Solari mystery series, A Measure of Murder.

I grew up reading cozy mysteries and jump at any chance to read one. A Measure of Murder has everything that’s fun to read about in this genre. It’s peppered with characters, any of which could have committed the crime, an easy to like sleuth, and clues that have you guessing about which one should I follow and which one’s a red herring.

This was a new to me author but I knew this is the second book in the Sally Solari mystery series which is centered around cooking and restaurants. And who doesn’t enjoy a good culinary mystery? This one also focuses on music, classical music to be exact. When a tenor falls to his death and no, it wasn’t by accident, it sets in motion a determined lead character to find out who did it and why.

This is a fast paced story with enjoyable characters and has me wanting to go and seek out the first book to learn more about sleuth Sally Solari. I don’t think you need to read the first one before this installment because I had no trouble figuring how who she was or what she did for a living.

If you like quick paced mysteries with some humor thrown in, and of course a recipe or two, then this might be one to add to your end of summer reading.

Mothers and Other Strangers by Gina Sorell


Mothers and Other Strangers by Gina Sorell
Publisher: Prospect Park Books
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (320 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

“My father proposed to my mother at gunpoint when she was nineteen, and knowing that she was already pregnant with a dead man’s child, she accepted.”

Thus begins this riveting story of a woman’s quest to understand her recently deceased mother, a glamorous, cruel narcissist who left her only child, Elsie, an inheritance of debts and mysteries. While coping with threats that she suspects are coming from the cult-like spiritual program her mother belonged to, Elsie works to unravel the message her dying mother left for her, a quest that ultimately takes her to the South African family homestead she never knew existed.

I don’t know where to start on my review for this book. The author’s writing style captured me from the very start of the novel. This is a well written book that includes a wondrously structured plot of suspense. I couldn’t help but feel for Elsie as she opened up revealing various pains that all seem to have generated from the soiled relationship with her mother. Elsie has made the best of her life, but with the recent death of her mother, Rachel, old wounds start to open up and Elsie is challenged to face not only her demons but also her mother’s.

Elsie is a strong young lady who, even though she lacked her mother’s love and approval, still seemed to get through life. No, she wasn’t perfect and she had her faults but I guess that’s what made her so easy to connect with. She was a teen performance dancer, she dealt with being anorexic, she loses her best friend but gains the lead dance role. Any mother would be proud to have a daughter with such a successful early career. That’s one thing, even after finishing the novel I still didn’t understand why Elsie’s mother treated her like she did. She was her mother’s only child and yet in a way Elsie was motherless. Elsie’s self-pity is so strong that she’d rather be alone in the world; pushing away the one man that loves her beyond measure.

Elsie’s ex-husband Ted is her stronghold and voice of reason. I enjoyed reading their story. I was sad to read that Elsie’s willingness to give up and free Ted, but I was glad and found it touching that Ted’s love continued during the bad. I was glad Ted is true and consistent in Elsie’s life and that even though they are divorced he still took time to answer her calls and to help her when he could.

I enjoyed the writing style and the voice of Elsie as she looked for answers in finding herself and along the way making sense to find answers to her life. Her mother’s death didn’t necessarily mean an end, but it seemed to give Elsie strength and purpose. As I mentioned earlier, I still didn’t understand Elsie’s mother’s reasons for her actions and way of mothering. The many years that her mom had ties with the Seekers was strange to me. This part of the story is different and I tried thinking of some other reason that could put a wedge between a mother and a daughter; I guess Rachel’s deep involvement with the Seekers is good enough reason for a wedge. Reading about a cult-like religion is something new to me and it worked for this story.

I highly recommend this story for readers who enjoy going deep into a character’s emotional life where their story remains long after the you’ve turned the last page.