Slaughterhouse by K.A. Lugo

Slaughterhouse by K.A. Lugo
Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

It’s the anniversary of the date he lost his family and Jack doubts he’ll ever find those responsible. Depression has taken hold, and he pulls out his Beretta for the last time. As he fingers the trigger, Ray shows up with the identity of the man who’d killed himself in Jack’s house weeks before, leaving a note simply saying, ”I’m sorry.”

Jack soon finds himself dragged into San Francisco’s underbelly and his life threatened at the hands of the city’s deadly Chinese gang, the Jade Dragons. When things become more dangerous, Jack must keep pushing forward, even knowing it could mean his death because the gang’s leader, Li Zihao, may have the answers Jack’s looking for—who destroyed his family and what happened to Leah.

Is Jack ready for the truth?

This is the 3rd book in the Jack Slaughter Thriller series (you can see our review of book one here. If you haven’t read the first two books, don’t worry…there are plenty of clues that let you know what happened in the previous two books and, if you are anything like I am, you’ll soon remedy that situation and go looking for the first two books. I missed book two, but it is already on the way from Amazon. I see a Jack Slaughter weekend in the future where I can read straight through the series. If you can read the books in order, though, you will have a much fuller understanding and appreciation of the characters and their relationships.

Jack has been through a lot with the death of his daughter, the disappearance of his wife, and the appearance in Jack’s house of a suicide and a note saying just “I’m sorry.” He’s reached the end of his rope and doesn’t see any sense in going on.

The characters are a big part of what makes this series work. I absolutely love the relationship between Jack and Ray, and the rest of the supporting cast also add a special spark to the book (not to give away any spoilers but I absolutely loved the 666s!)

The action is nonstop…with twists and turns I definitely didn’t see coming… and just when you think things couldn’t get any worse, you find out differently. This book will literally keep you reading just so you can find out what is coming next!

I’m looking forward to the next installment in Jack’s story. Thank you, Ms. Lugo, for a wonderful character.

A Soupçon of Poison by Jennifer Ashley

A Soupçon of Poison by Jennifer Ashley
Publisher: Self-published, Amazon Kindle
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Rating: 3 stars
Review by: Fern

London, 1880
Kat Holloway, highly sought-after young cook to the wealthy of London, finds herself embroiled in murder when she’s accused of poisoning her employer, the loathsome Sir Lionel Leigh-Bradbury. Her only help as she works to clear her name comes from the mysterious Daniel McAdam, a handsome man-of-all-work who seems to know everyone and always happens to be in the right place at the right time.

Kat and Daniel investigate the crime, but the mystery of Daniel’s background might be just as elusive and dangerous as the poisoner bent on framing Kat for murder. Prequel to the Kat Holloway Below Stairs Mysteries.

Kat Holloway might be young for her position as Chef of Sir Lionel Leigh-Bradbury’s household, but she knows her way around a kitchen and has spent years honing her skills. After strongly knocking back Sir Lionel’s amorous advances, she finds his requests for outlandish meals with only a few hours warning growing increasingly difficult – to the point where she turns to a little known friend – Daniel McAdams for help. At her wit’s end, Kat is determined to have it out with Sir Lionel and she is almost ready to leave, only to be woken in the middle of the night by the maid to find Sir Lionel has been murdered – and Kat is the prime suspect as murderess. Can Kat and Daniel uncover what really went on that fateful evening?

I picked up this short story on a whim and by the second chapter found myself engrossed in both the setting and characters. I enjoyed that Kat was a strong and fairly independent young woman and there was quite the mystery surrounding Daniel as well. There was clear chemistry between the two characters but I was also glad this didn’t turn into more of a romance novel but rather kept it’s main focus on the murder mystery and unraveling this aspect to the plot.

I do admit this was a fairly light book – readers looking for deep intrigue or a vastly complex plot might not find this fits the bill, but readers more interested in a light mystery with a strong historical context and a strong female lead character should enjoy this as much as I did. I was glad this book is definitely a stand alone style of novel. There is a whole series based around Kat and Daniel but that appears to be completely separate from this short story so readers should definitely feel able to just pick this up on a whim – as I did – and delve right in. I admit that I enjoyed it enough I plan to purchase the second short story – which appears in a similar vein as this one and to stand equally well alone – and I am also eyeing off the connected seven book series with these characters as the main protagonists as well.

This book ticks a number of boxes for me being a historical novel with strongly written characters as well as a good murder mystery at its heart and just a flutter of romantic chemistry, I feel it should appeal to a wider range of readers and I’m eager to try more by this author around these characters. Enjoyable.

Overdue by Jo A Hiestand

Overdue by Jo A Hiestand
Publisher: Cousins House
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

A spate of three murders in as many months has Derbyshire’s local police and populace in near panic. And there will most likely be a fourth killing in two weeks unless something happens to stop the cycle. Former police detective Michael McLaren is that “something” that his best mate, Jamie Kydd, is counting on to end the alarming deaths. He enlists McLaren’s help to look into the events, hoping his friend can solve what, so far, has confounded the Constabulary.

Each of the three crime scenes is the same, yet different: the same types of things but not the same specific things left with each body. As McLaren becomes enmeshed in the hunt for the killer, his friend Melanie arrives for a planned visit. Can his days become more complicated than simultaneously playing host and unmasking a killer? They can when he’s aware that each tick of the clock brings them closer to the next planned murder. And perhaps an unplanned one…thrown in for fun.

It was such a treat to visit Michael McLaren again and catch up with the people I’ve come to know and love.

Once again, he is caught up in a mystery that takes not only his own work, but insights from his friends to solve. There were so many twists and turns, and the clues were clever. Too clever for me, in fact, and I pride myself on usually being able to figure out who the villain is before it’s revealed. Not this time…no way.

I loved the “overdue” theme that winds its way through the book. That was also cleverly done.

This series would make a great tv series (producers of Shetland, are you listening?) I hope someone who has contacts with the right people pick these books up.

Great job, again, Ms. Hiestand. 5 stars from me.

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The Peninsula by Amy Craig

The Peninsula by Amy Craig
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

Hadley lost her sister to cancer. When an explosion puts her in the middle of a family squabble, Johann asks for a week of discretion to protect his brother. Torn between her research and the loneliness in his gaze, she agrees, but family dynamics upend her understanding of loyalty.

Hadley has come to a breakthrough moment in her research, but all of a sudden everyone is taking a more active interest in it. Her mentor is all for having his nephew financially back it, which Hadley’s not at all sure about. She is much more altruistic and doesn’t want to be indebted to someone who might want to monetize it. Then her mentor is killed by a mail bomb, and suddenly Hadley is questioning everything and everyone she knows – and this is when this story really takes off.

I loved the premise of this story. I liked the chemistry between Hadley and Johann. The mystery was good and keeps the reader guessing. The secondary characters added a lot to the story and give you another look at Johann and his life.

At first, Hadley drove me crazy. I couldn’t understand her reluctance at getting with the program. Even after she realized she was in danger, she was bound and determined to do it her own way. Because of her past, she had had to develop a single-focus in her life, so it was part of her, but it still made me want to shake her.

This is the first book I’ve read by Amy Craig, but I’ll be looking out for more. I really enjoyed her writing style. Great job!

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The Early Case Files of Sherlock Holmes by Liese Sherwood-Fabre

The Early Case Files of Sherlock Holmes by Liese Sherwood-Fabre
Publisher: Little Elm Press
Genre: Historical Mystery/Suspense
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

A murdered midwife. A body in the stable. At the age of thirteen, Sherlock Holmes is thrust into his first two cases. At stake: the lives of his own family.

Before Sherlock Holmes met Dr. Watson in 1895, he had already developed his skills as the world’s most famous consulting detective. Arthur Conan Doyle provided little information about his detective’s formative years or how he created his singular profession. These first two books in The Early Case Files of Sherlock Holmes series reveal how Sherlock’s past shaped the sleuth he became.

Faced with the possibility of losing his mother to the gallows for a murder she did not commit, Sherlock must uncover the true killer before she hangs in The Adventure of the Murdered Midwife.

In Case Two, unexpected guests and a murder arrive in time for the family’s Christmas celebrations. For the safety of his family, Sherlock is compelled once again to bring the perpetrator to justice in The Adventure of the Murdered Gypsy.

Fans of Sherlock Holmes and traditional historical British detective mysteries will love The Early Case Files of Sherlock Holmes as a welcomed addition to the originals.

What a really neat look at what Sherlock’s early life might have been like. I loved the fact that he is a normal, albeit very intelligent, thirteen-year-old. He has emotions he is learning how to process, and he’s also showing signs of the man he will become as he learns that emotions need to be kept in check as he investigates, i.e. “Once again, I observed the unemotional detachment required for such work.”

The characters are richly drawn and are true-to-life… nobody, including Holmes… is perfect. They are all a mixture of positive and negative qualities, all the while being true to the time they live in.

The mysteries are interesting and showcase Sherlock’s growing skill at investigating and observation, encouraged by his mother – a woman I would love to find out more about and one that is barely touched on in the canon. I’m looking forward to seeing her more in future volumes of this work.

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Trial Show: The Resistance Rises by Konstantina P.

Trial Show: The Resistance Rises by Konstantina P.
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: speculative fiction, spy thriller
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

Forced into the shadows while waging war on an oppressive regime intent on controlling those born with unnatural powers, the Resistance feels like a family. And although all families harbour secrets, theirs are world-shattering.

When Ava Moore foresees the death of her sister Brooklyn and Resistance leader Parker Quinn is forced to appear in a televised trial accused of murder, the web of lies begins to unravel. For not only is Resistance’s second-in-command, Jay Frazer, fighting a guerrilla battle with deadly consequences, he’s also trying to bury his deep-seated love for Parker.

With Parker and Jay temporarily out of the picture, double-agent Trent Reese is left responsible for leading the Resistance. Trent is willing to adapt his moral code to any situation, but what—or whom—does he believe in? As for innocent Ava, who’s plagued by unsettling visions, it’s becoming clear that everyone she loves is in peril. Given, however, that Parker is concealing a mighty gift of his own, one that could change the entire course of the rebellion, the future of the all-seeing state is on the line too.

When the web of secrets is untangled, who will survive?

The Trial Show – the ultimate in reality TV – where the audience, supposedly, chooses the guilt or innocence.

This is an exciting new look at a possible future, where the public is controlled even as they think they have free will…controlled by misinformation.

I enjoyed the book, and I enjoyed the characters. The book starts off with a bang and you are right in the middle of the action. I had to double check to make sure I was not reading a book in a series – I was, but it’s the first book in the series. It took a bit for me to put together all that was happening. But, once I did, things meshed nicely.

It’s written from multiple points of view, even minor characters with no names. Once I realized that it was written as if I were watching a television show with an ensemble cast, I was able to enjoy the book a lot more. It did take me a little while to get used to this sort of narrative though. There were some nice twists and turns to keep me on my toes.

The blurb is an important part of the book in this case. It fills you in on a lot you need to know going into the book.

I will definitely be following this series – I’d like to know where these characters go and how what they do affect their society. 4 stars.

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Gambling with Murder by Lida Sideris

Gambling with Murder by Lida Sideris
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

A late-night call is all it takes for rookie lawyer Corrie Locke to kiss her day job at the movie studio goodbye, and do what she does best: flex her sweet P.I. skills and go undercover to find a senior who’s missing from a posh retirement community. One small stumbling block: skirting past security to gain inside access to the exclusive Villa Sunset. Time to call in the heavy artillery. Besides former security guard turned legal assistant—now wannabe P.I.—Veera, Corrie relies on a secret weapon: her mother, a surprisingly eager addition to Corrie’s team. Armed with enough pepper spray to take down a band of Navy Seals, Mom impersonates a senior to infiltrate the Villa, Corrie, and Veera in tow. Turns out the job’s not as easy as they’d thought. These seniors have tricks tucked up their sleeves and aren’t afraid of using them.

The action gets dicey when the missing senior case turns into attempted murder by a criminal mind who’s always one step ahead. Corrie’s hot on the trail, but finds more than she bargained for…when her mother becomes a target.

This is actually the fifth book in this series and, no worries, it reads very well as a standalone. My only regret is that I didn’t get to know these characters earlier! I will definitely rectify that forthwith by buying the earlier books in the series. As with every series, I’m sure reading the books earlier in the series gives the reader a richer journey as they get to know the characters better with each book and see how their interactions make them grow.

That being said, I absolutely loved the characters – but my favorite, hands down, was the mom. She was a hoot. Corrie is so afraid her mom was going to be upset with Corrie following in her late father’s footsteps and turning more toward private investigations, but instead Mom jumps in feet first to help Corrie and Veera out with the case.

There are many twists and turns to this case. Although it started off with a plea to find a missing resident from a luxury retirement villa (just a note… I’m ready to move in from the descriptions.. wow!), it soons turns into a lot more. These seniors take things seriously.

I highly recommend this book… and now I’m on the way to pick up the earlier four in the series. Thanks, Ms. Sideris!

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Mile High with a Vampire by Lynsay Sands

Mile High with a Vampire by Lynsay Sands
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Romance, Mystery/Suspense
Rating: 5 Stars
Review by: Xeranthemum

In the latest Argeneau novel from New York Times bestselling author Lynsay Sands, an immortal and her mortal pilot are on the run from hungry vampires…and discover they’re life mates along the way.

Quinn Peters never wanted to be immortal. Once a renowned heart surgeon, she was turned against her will and now she has to drink blood to survive. Before she can ask how her “life” can get any worse, she’s in a plane crash. One of the few survivors, Quinn is desperate to get the mortal pilot to safety before her fellow immortals succumb to their blood lust and drain Jet dry.

But hungry vampires are the least of their worries—the crash wasn’t an accident, and someone is trying to kill Quinn. Will she and Jet find their happily ever after as life mates, or will her assassin find her first?

It’s been a while since I’ve read a book that I enjoyed from beginning to end and I’m happy to share that Mile High with a Vampire delivered a quality read from the very first pages. It starts with a plane crash, a race for survival, a close call and a revelation that the crash was intentional. That’s just in the beginning chapters, the rest of the plot is figuring out who is trying to kill one of the passengers and why, especially when they’ve done nothing wrong to anyone. Who would do something so foul that they’d be willing to murder everyone on the plane, not just their target? The suspense, the interesting interplay between characters and the well-written plot kept me glued to the story. I didn’t stop turning the pages until I finished the epilogue. Ms. Sands has delivered another winner for fans to enjoy.

It took me a while to remember that Quinn was Pet’s sister in the book, The Trouble with Vampires. That’s when I first learned about their horrific background when they were little kids. This novel, Mile High with a Vampire, completes the story of the two sisters. Quinn finally gets her happy ever after, but of course, she has a bunch of hoops to jump through to get it. She has finally accepted the fact that she needs therapy to deal with what her husband had done to her and their son, what she’s become and to heal enough to start living again. However, therapy ends up giving her a lot more to deal with than she expected. Which of course is the point. The villains who traumatized both Quinn and Pet all those years ago are back in the picture.

Now, the villains are not what I expected. Ms. Sands wrote a scene describing what happened to one of the villains from back in the past and I have to tell you, it’s freakishly horrifying. I actually felt really bad for the guy because it was over the top violent. You may wonder how that past event effects the present and it’s a good question. It’s one of the surprises that impressed me in this book. I would never have guessed it. It helped make the climactic fight scene more meaningful. I know this probably doesn’t make a lot of sense but once you read the book and get to that part, you’ll understand. I didn’t expect to feel any empathy but I kind of did. Don’t get me wrong – a bad guy is still a bad guy – and comeuppance is meted out, but Quinn and Petronella (Pet) weren’t the only ones affected by the past and that’s all I’m going to say.

Now, to get to the good stuff. The romance between Quinn and Jet. It works, it’s great, I thought they were wonderful together, and I liked both their personalities. I thought Jet was a studly hero but it turned out he’s a smart cookie. He’s not just a pretty face. Quinn is adorable. I liked a lot of her internal dialogue and the insight it provides gives a reader a reason to want her to be happy – and that she would choose Jet when she finally was ready.

Their physical chemistry is of course off the charts. Life mates are always hot and bothered for each other. Readers will get plenty of examples of just how ‘hot’ it gets. Fortunately, the book has just enough of those scenes to satisfy readers who like the nitty gritty details, but for readers who are looking for a solid plot conflict, dialogue, action, intelligence with great storytelling and pacing, this story delivers.

I would be remiss if I didn’t give a hearty shout out to Lucien, Margarite, Sam, Tybo and so many others in the Argeneau and Notte families that came to help Quinn and Jet survive so they could enjoy their happily ever after. I adore that whole family dynamic and how they all come together to party when things are good, and when things get hairy, they band together to defend and fight for the ones they love when there’s trouble. I believe this is the 33rd book in the series – so that’s a lot of family ties to keep track of. Oh, it might be naughty of me, but I actually snickered when Lucien accidently gets … well, I’m not going to actually tell you what happens… Fans of the series will more than likely understand why I found that scene humorous and why I giggled. Since I didn’t expect that to happen, I’m not going to ruin the fun and surprise by letting the cat out of the bag. You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens.

On the whole, Mile High with a Vampire is a sure bet. It’s a fun and exciting adventure. I had a great time watching Quinn and Jet fall in love and you can be sure that I am adding this novel to my very large book pile of keepers. Many of Ms. Sands’ books have made it to my re-read list so many times, I’ve lot count. I’m thrilled with everything about this story and I heartily recommend it to paranormal romance fans in general, and to Ms. Sands’ fans specifically. It’s a great addition to the series and one not to miss.

The Wall by David Pereda

The Wall by David Pereda
Publisher: Drake Valley Press
Genre: Contemporary, Thriller
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

THOMAS BERTRAM is an American living in San Salvador with his fiancée CECILIA. They own a popular neighborhood restaurant and plan to wed soon. Thomas’s dream is to obtain a resident visa for Cecilia and return to the United States.

DOMINGO JIMENEZ and his wife BLANCA own a small repair shop across the street. Domingo’s dream is to move to America as well so that his seven-year-old daughter NANCY can grow up speaking English and having a good education and a better life than he and Blanca had.

When armed gang members invade their neighborhood to demand “protection” money and threaten them with death if they don’t pay, Thomas and Domingo’s dreams for the future take on a new perspective. They decide to flee the country with their families through Guatemala and Mexico to seek asylum in the United States.

But their journey is more challenging than expected, and they face a myriad of difficulties and must overcome multiple obstacles that put not only their dreams but also their lives at risk.

This is a brilliantly written tale of two families, with mention of many more, who are trying to escape the danger of their homelands to travel to a land they think may offer them better hope for the future.

The characters are richly drawn and my heart ached for what they went through. Although the paths the two families took were different, the emotions and desires were the same. They yearned for a better life, a safer life. There were many side characters too… some better, some worse. I was especially touched by the volunteers who helped in Brownsville.

The settings were vibrantly described – I could place myself in their shoes and could feel their fear and despair. It was hard to put this fast-paced book down. I could so see this on the big screen. There were definite scenes that would leave you with your heart in your throat, and there was one scene in particular that had me in tears.

This book touched me on so many different levels and dealt with so many issues. It’s obvious that Mr. Pereda did his research, but the book doesn’t come across as preachy or political. And, while it has its moments of heartbreak, it is, at the end, a story of hope.

Thanks, Mr. Pereda. You earned a solid 5 stars for a wonderful thriller! I will definitely be looking for more from this author.

Harlot’s Fire by LM Pampuro

Harlot’s Fire by LM Pampuro
Publisher: Grateful Publishing
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Contemporary
Rated: 3 stars
Reviewed by Poppy

Harlot Grace, the brains behind the street drug Gray Death, has escaped from the hospital.

Brendan Curry’s tour bus is missing. Curry’s father is the lead prosecutor on Harlot’s case.

Special Agent Alia Price needs to find both – one for justice, the other to save his life.

With help from a Rockstar and his caravan, Price goes on an undercover journey that takes her from a major music festival to deep within a national forest.

Will she reach both in time?

The continuation of the earlier released Harlot’s Grace, Harlot’s Fire brings a strong female lead to the spotlight.

I’m going to say something I’ve never said before — this book would have been much better as a movie. That’s not to say the book wasn’t decent, it’s just that it was dark and gritty and action-packed. Sometimes those things can be difficult to portray with words and play out better on the screen.

The story was interesting, and I liked that the author did a recap, more or less, of book one using a newspaper story. Since I didn’t read the first book in this series, it helped catch me up. It didn’t help me to understand the interpersonal relationships well, so that I did struggle with a bit as I got up to speed. Although, technically this book can stand alone, I absolutely think it would be best to read book one first to get a deeper understanding the characters and their backgrounds.

I did like the strong female lead. Her life is on the line here, right at the start, as the previous book’s wrap up slowly comes unraveled with the escape of Harlot Grace. Alia takes it pretty well in stride and, although she has very believable moments of worry and certainly has flaws, she doesn’t let that stop her from her ultimate goal. She’s a good, strong woman who does whatever she needs to in order to get the job done. She’s the best part of this book.

The author writes the book with plenty of details and the setting is its own character. Despite a few editing errors, I was able to read it very smoothly from start to finish.

I do honestly wish I’d read book one first, but other than that, a decent read. And I’d definitely go see it in the theater!

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