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.

Everything We Left Behind by Kerry Lonsdale


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.

This story is the sequel to Everything We Keep and I’m glad the author chose to write Aimee and James’ story from his perspective because I’d been fascinated to know what really happened to him.

All is answered in this book. James is now Carlos, a widower with two boys and living in Mexico. As the story unfolds…it’s told in both the present and past as we learn what happened and how he ended up in a fugue state.

Aimee is now married with a child and I thought perhaps the story would focus on their reconnecting but instead it takes different course and the suspense deepens when his brother is released from prison. He was the catalyst for the drama surrounding James’ disappearance and in this book; he’s trouble with a capital T.

I thought this had more of a page turning quality to it than the first one and found myself reading more as I got farther into the book. It’s got a ticking clock quality to it and I found the characters really compelling

I obviously won’t give away the ending but let’s just say these two books have turned me into a die-hard fan of Ms. Lonsdale.

I strongly suggested reading the books in order to appreciate the sweeping and suspenseful story line.

Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale


Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (292 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

A luminous debut with unexpected twists, Everything We Keep explores the devastation of loss, the euphoria of finding love again, and the pulse-racing repercussions of discovering the truth about the ones we hold dear and the lengths they will go to protect us.

Sous chef Aimee Tierney has the perfect recipe for the perfect life: marry her childhood sweetheart, raise a family, and buy out her parents’ restaurant. But when her fiancé, James Donato, vanishes in a boating accident, her well-baked future is swept out to sea. Instead of walking down the aisle on their wedding day, Aimee is at James’s funeral—a funeral that leaves her more unsettled than at peace.

As Aimee struggles to reconstruct her life, she delves deeper into James’s disappearance. What she uncovers is an ocean of secrets that make her question everything about the life they built together. And just below the surface is a truth that may set Aimee free…or shatter her forever.

Do we truly know the person we’re in love with?

That’s a question that springs to your mind as you delve deeper into the plot of this book.

I loved the opening to this story. No backstory but straight into the main character Aimee’s nightmare. A wedding that turns into a funeral for James whose body was washed up on shore.

The opening had me thinking that maybe this was going to be about love lost, its heartache and maybe Aimee would find love again but I quickly realized this wasn’t all romance and that’s what made the book so enjoyable.

There’s a strong suspense thread in this story and that’s what had me turning the pages. I loved the character of Aimee. From the opening you’re on her side as she tries to not only get on with her life, but put the pieces of James disappearance together.

The pacing is just about perfect and I now have the follow up sequel to read and review and I’m looking forward to it.

If you like a book that makes you think about the people in your own life and love a good suspense, I highly recommend this go on your to read list.

Hunger by Eve Langlais, Kate Douglas, A.C. Arthur


Hunger by Eve Langlais, Kate Douglas, A.C. Arthur
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (532 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

In The Alpha’s Mate, villains aren’t supposed to rescue damsels, and pack alphas are known to have complete control of their wolf. But when Fabian saves a certain lady from drowning, everything he knows gets tossed away and only one thing becomes clear: she’s his mate—and someone wants to kill her. Hell no. Protecting her, though, is only part of his problem. He also has to convince her she belongs to him. In her words, “Hell no.”

When she flees, little does she realize this wolf loves to chase. And when he catches the woman he wants? She’ll become the Alpha’s Mate.

Previously published in the 2-in-1 e-original Claimed by the Mate Volume 3 and in print for the first time!

In Dangerous Passions, finding a mate shouldn’t be all that difficult for a sexy werewolf on the prowl. Modern women want romance and seduction, and Feral Passions Resort has served that purpose for providing both for the men of the Trinity Alps pack. Only two are still unmated—alpha leader Traker Jakes and his lieutenant Evan Dark—but danger stalks the women they’ve chosen. Danger that threatens everyone in the pack at Feral Passions.

In Bound to the Wolf, Marena Panos is an attorney with a dark secret that follows her into the mountains and into the bed of a Phelan Sava, a lycan whose strength and shared penchant for pleasure/pain will eventually own her body and soul.

Who could say no to the opportunity to read a book by Eve Langlais? Not me. I’ll admit up front that she’s one of my favorite authors in the paranormal genre. I always enjoy her stories and the one contained in Hunger (called The Alpha’s Mate), was no exception.

What did I love about this one? It had Ms. Langlais trademark writing style stamped on it. An opening that scene that pulls you in. A heroine that you find yourself cheering on from the first sentence. And let’s not forget humor and a sexy hero.

The story starts with an attempted murder and an heroic rescue by a sexy wolf named Fabian and after that it’s one sexy ride as he realizes this is his true mate and that some bad guys want her dead.

I won’t give away the outcome but let’s just say I think you’ll like it.

The next book in this anthology was Dangerous Passions by a new to me author, Kate Douglas. Once again who doesn’t love a sexy werewolf who happens to be on the prowl? And of course, there’s a resort called Feral Passions where wolves in the pack can find their mates. You’d think it would be smooth sailing but Ms. Douglas provided an air of suspense and danger in this sexy tale. If you like a plot dripping with sexual tension while feeling the mystery then this one’s for you.

The final book is Bound to the Wolf by A.C Arthur who was also a new to me author. I immediately loved her heroine (Marena), because who doesn’t enjoy a lead character with a secret? The hero is a super sexy, a lycan who loves pleasure and pain and is determined to possess Marena, secret and all.

These were three fun and sexy reads, and if wolf shifters are your thing then I highly recommend Hunger for your summer reading pleasure.

The End of Temperance Dare by Wendy Webb


The End of Temperance Dare by Wendy Webb
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (316 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

When Eleanor Harper becomes the director of a renowned artists’ retreat, she knows nothing of Cliffside Manor’s dark past as a tuberculosis sanatorium, a “waiting room for death.” After years of covering murder and violence as a crime reporter, Eleanor hopes that being around artists and writers in this new job will be a peaceful retreat for her as much as for them.

But from her first fog-filled moments on the manor’s grounds, Eleanor is seized by a sense of impending doom and realizes there’s more to the institution than its reputation of being a haven for creativity. After the arrival of the new fellows―including the intriguing, handsome photographer Richard Banks―she begins to suspect that her predecessor chose the group with a dangerous purpose in mind. As the chilling mysteries of Cliffside Manor unravel and the eerie sins of the past are exposed, Eleanor must fight to save the fellows—and herself—from sinister forces.

A rolling fog, an isolated creepy property and a heroine who’s headed there to take over as director of an artist’s and writer’s retreat. I haven’t read a gothic novel in what seems like forever, and I can’t remember ever reading one set in contemporary times so I’m glad I got to enjoy this one.

I’ll make a confession here…I like gothic novels and I haven’t found one I couldn’t finish but I’ll give credit to this one for making not just like but love the story.

The opening had all the great things that makes me enjoy the genre. The flashback to the past and what seems to be a very creepy little girl. The fog so thick you can’t see where you’re heading and house, or in this case, a previous TB sanatorium, and the heroine’s feeling that something bad is about to happen.

As with all good gothics, this one is told from a first person narration. You sort of feel sorry for Eleanor as she seems to take on more than she can handle when the previous director is found dead in her bed. While I did guess one of the big reveals that happens at the end, I found myself reading faster and turning the pages. I know there’s no set number of pages for chapters but Ms. Webb seems to have found the key to keeping them at just the right amount for what’s happening in the scene. I read the last part of the book in one sitting and was determined to read to the end no matter the time. Yes, that’s the sign of a great story.

The story gets creepier as it progresses and you find yourself throwing all sorts of theories out there as to what’s going on and if it’s going to end well. I’ll just say it does, but hang on to your hats for the finale.

If you, like me, miss the gothic of yesteryear definitely pick up a copy of this one.

Red Door Inn by Liz Johnson


Red Door Inn by Liz Johnson
Publisher: Revell
Genre: Contemporary, Inspirational
Length: Full Length (354 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Marie Carrington is running from a host of bad memories. Broke and desperate, she’s hoping to find safety and sanctuary on Prince Edward Island, where she reluctantly agrees to help decorate a renovated bed-and-breakfast before it opens for prime tourist season.

Seth Sloane didn’t move three thousand miles to work on his uncle’s B&B so he could babysit a woman with a taste for expensive antiques and a bewildering habit of jumping every time he brushes past her. He came to help restore the old Victorian–and to forget about the fiancée who broke his heart.
The only thing Marie and Seth agree on is that getting the Red Door Inn ready to open in just three months will take everything they’ve got. Can these two wounded souls find hope, healing, and perhaps a bit of romance on this beautiful island?

Step into the Red Door Inn, a lovely home away from home tucked along the north shore of fabled Prince Edward Island. It’s a place where the wounded come to heal, the broken find forgiveness, and the lonely find a family. Won’t you stay for the season?

A One-Click that was totally worth the risk.

The story starts with Marie who is down to her last few dollars and needs to buy a ferry ticket to go to Prince Edward Island. While waiting she meets, an older man, Jack who just so happens to be in need of someone to help him pick colors for an inn he’s just purchased. While at the inn Marie meets with a few of the local residents, Aretha and Caden and things seem to be going okay for her until Jack’s nephew, Seth enters the picture and things begin to get rocky.

I loved all the characters in this book. They came across as lifelike and loveable and I found myself cheering each of them. What I enjoyed the most was the speed at which the author revealed why Marie was running so far from home. Nothing was dumped too soon into the story which I felt added to its appeal. Seth too has his own demons to bear and as they slowly begin to trust one another you find yourself wanting to read more at each sitting.

There’s a second romance weaved into this story which was also enjoyable and that’s the one between Aretha and Jack. The conflict was believable and just when you thought they’d turned a corner there was something else that got in the way and made you want to read on.

I can’t remember ever reading a book set on Prince Edward Island but Ms. Johnson did such a good job describing it, I think I’d like to see it for myself. If you like sweet romances with lovable characters, a realistic plot and an island setting, then I’d definitely check this one out.

Submerged by Dani Pettrey


Submerged by Dani Pettrey
Publisher: Bethany House
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense, Inspirational
Length: Full Length (322 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Bailey Craig vowed never to set foot in Yancey again. She has a past, and a reputation–and Yancey’s a small town. She’s returned to bury a loved one killed in the plane crash and is determined not to stay even an hour more than necessary. But then dark evidence emerges and Bailey’s own expertise becomes invaluable for the case.

Cole McKenna can handle the deep-sea dives and helping the police recover evidence. He can even handle the fact that a murderer has settled in his town and doesn’t appear to be moving on. But dealing with the reality of Bailey’s reappearance is a tougher challenge. She broke his heart, but she is not the same girl who left Yancey. He let her down, but he’s not the same guy she left behind. Can they move beyond the hurts of their pasts and find a future together?

Dani Pettrey is a new to me author and I stumbled upon this book while browsing the free books you can read with your Amazon Prime membership and the tag “romantic suspense” drew me in. I’m happy to say, so did the book. The opening was riveting. There’s nothing like a plane crash to get your pulse racing and force you to turn the pages.

It’s set in small town Alaska and the two main characters, Bailey and Cole seemed to jump off the page as real life characters. Baily is determined not to return to Alaska but when her aunt is one of the victims of the plane crash she has no alternative.

Cole is a deep sea diving expert and has a soft spot in his heart for Bailey who at first comes across as someone with both a broken heart and spirit but I liked the way the author handled the character development. By the end of the story, Bailey was someone who was stronger and it was great to see her evolve and find peace with her past.

The action is literally non-stop, some strange things begin to happen to Bailey and the deep sea diving scenes to recover evidence from the crash, really puts you on the edge of your seat.

This is an enjoyable romantic suspense that will have you guessing until the very end and has made me want to check out more books by this author.

The Halo Effect by Anne D. LeClaire


The Halo Effect by Anne D. LeClaire
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary, Mainstream Fiction
Length: Full Length (374 pgs)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

In this tour de force, a father, shaken by tragedy, tries to avenge his daughter’s murder—and restore his family’s shattered life.

It was supposed to be a typical October evening for renowned portrait artist Will Light. Over dinner of lamb tagine, his wife, Sophie, would share news about chorus rehearsals for the upcoming holiday concert, and their teenage daughter, Lucy, would chatter about French club and field hockey. Only Lucy never came home. Her body was found, days later, in the woods.

The Eastern Seaboard town of Port Fortune used to be Will’s comfort. Now, there’s no safe harbor for him. Not even when Father Gervase asks Will to paint portraits of saints for the new cathedral, using the townspeople as models. The only thing Will sees in each face is a mask of the darkness of evil. And he just might be painting his daughter’s killer.

As Will navigates his rage and heartbreak, Sophie tries to move on; Father Gervase becomes an unexpected ally; and Rain, Lucy’s best friend, shrouds herself in a near-silent fugue. Their paths collide in a series of inextricably linked, dark, dangerous moments that could lead to their undoing…or to their redemption.

There’s nothing better than a good whodunit and while The Halo Effect isn’t your run of the mill one, it’s nevertheless a page turner. I love the opening lines: Every day is ordinary. Until It isn’t.

One thing I liked about this book was that the author chose to dive straight into the story. While there was a prologue to set the stage, Ms. LeClaire introduced us quickly to the main character Will who is also the first person narrator of the story. He’s a sympathetic one and not just because his daughter Lucy doesn’t return home one night. There’s something of everyone in him, strength and yet vulnerability all wrapped into one. Something which I found make him complex and likeable.

I’d call this a mystery but at the same time it has a literary feel to it as Will narrates the story of his struggle to survive after Lucy’s gone, his relationship with his wife, and how he sets out to find the truth about his daughter.

Although this is a long book, it’s definitely a fast paced page turner. It’s almost as if, like Will, you want to find out what happened and who took Lucy’s life. The tension mounts and finally you’re given the relief you’re been craving as you read on to finish the story and say goodbye to Will.

If you’re mystery fan looking for something just a little different, I’d say give this book a try because I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

In The Light of The Garden by Heather Burch

light
In The Light of The Garden by Heather Burch
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: Full Length (352 pgs)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

In the Light of the Garden is a novel about unearthed family secrets, the enchantment of past loves, and the indelible power of forgiveness.

Inheriting her grandparents’ island estate on Florida’s Gulf coast is a special kind of homecoming for thirty-one-year-old Charity Baxter. Raised by a narcissistic single mother, Charity’s only sense of a loving home comes from childhood summers spent with Gramps and Grandma. But piercing her fondest memories is her sharpest grief—the death of her beloved grandmother, when Charity stopped believing in the magical healing power of the weeping willow that still casts a shadow on their property.

Now that Charity has returned, she’s full of longing and regret, until she befriends her neighbor Dalton Reynolds, who has come to Gaslamp Island carrying his own heartache. As other exiles arrive—a great uncle harboring secrets, a teenage runaway—Charity begins to reconsider what makes a family. When her own estranged mother shows up in crisis, Charity is challenged to search her heart for forgiveness. But forgiving herself may require a little magic from the last place she’d expect to find it.

Lately I’ve been discovering all these wonderful new to me authors, and Heather Burch is another one of them.

I really enjoyed reading this story. The main character Charity Baxter is someone who you both like and can relate to. She’s shaken by the death of her grandpa who along with her grandma played a huge part in her early life. The book starts almost at the point where she inherits her grandparent’s house and it’s there Ms. Burch does a wonderful job revealing bit by bit Charity’s childhood and her relationship with her estranged mother.

This story has everything, childhood dreams about fantasy and magic, the baggage we carry with us into adulthood, finding yourself, and stumbling upon a new love. And best of all, finding somewhere in your heart to forgive someone who hurt you in the past. I think Charity finds that it’s part of the process of growing up and it was great taking that journey with her as the story unfolded.

I also liked her love interest, Dalton, who’s got some hurt of his own. I felt like these two were made for one another.

If you love stories with a realistic setting, dialogue and theme, and a fan of books that focus on the meaning of family, I think you’ll enjoy this one.

Nights in Rodanthe by Nicholas Sparks

nights
Nights in Rodanthe by Nicholas Sparks
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (212 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author Nicholas Sparks comes a tender story of hope and joy; of sacrifice and forgiveness — a moving reminder that love is possible at any age, at any time, and often comes when we least expect it. At forty-five, Adrienne Willis must rethink her entire life when her husband abandons her for a younger woman. Reeling with heartache and in search of a respite, she flees to the small coastal town of Rodanthe, North Carolina to tend to a friend’s inn for the weekend. But when a major storm starts moving in, it appears that Adrienne’s perfect getaway will be ruined — until a guest named Paul Flanner arrives. At fifty-four, Paul has just sold his medical practice and come to Rodanthe to escape his own shattered past. Now, with the storm closing in, two wounded people will turn to each other for comfort — and in one weekend set in motion feelings that will resonate throughout the rest of their lives.

I don’t think I’ve read a Nicholas Sparks novel that’s not packed with emotion and this one was no exception.

This story focuses on two middle aged people whose once perfect lives have seemed to unravel. They’re both divorced and meet by chance at an inn in the seaside town of Rodanthe in North Carolina. There’s a storm brewing and Paul who is a surgeon is there to meet with the husband of a patient who died and who’s holding Paul responsible. Adrienne is just looking after the inn while her friend’s away and soon Paul checks in. What starts out as a casual get to you know you encounter turns into a passionate relationship. But then, Paul’s off to Ecuador to be with his estranged son and Adrienne goes home to her three children and ailing father.

I always say be prepared with a box of tissues when you read one of the author’s works because you’re going to shed a tear at some point in the story. I won’t give away the plot and ruin this story but while you do feel some sadness, I felt the story’s main focus was about taking chances and living for the moment, and holding onto those memories.

If you like a romance with a slightly older than normal couple and a book with a good emotional pull, I’d say definitely don’t miss this one.