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.

The Sage Stone Prophecy by N. S. Wikarski


The Sage Stone Prophecy by N. S. Wikarski
Publisher: self
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full (260 pages)
Rating: 5 stars
Review by Rose

Where do you hide a mysterious artifact that could change the course of history? You scatter clues to its whereabouts across the entire planet. Five objects buried beneath the rubble of lost civilizations point to the hiding place of the fabled Sage Stone. A secret society and a fanatical religious cult vie against one another in a global treasure hunt to claim the prize. The Arkana wants to preserve it for posterity. The Blessed Nephilim wants to exploit it to create a terrifying new world order. Only one faction can win. More importantly, only one can survive.

This is the seventh book in the Arcana Archaeology Adventure series and I regret I’ve not read the other books in the series. Not because this book cannot stand on its own, but because this is a darn good read and I hate that I’ve missed out on six books of this kind of writing!

The Sage Stone Prophecy is exciting, the characters are well-drawn and three dimensional, and the writing is tight—it was so exciting that I finished the book in only two nights (it was good enough that, had I had the time to read during the day to my heart’s content, I could have finished it in one day).

I don’t want to give away any spoilers—and I do plan on going back and buying the first six books in the series then rereading this again—because there are so many things going on. It reminds me a great deal of the books by Dan Brown – you not only have an exciting treasure hunt with clues that need to deciphered along the way, you will learn a lot about matriarchal societies and the role of the goddess in those.

Great job, Ms. Wikarski. I’m only sorry I was so late discovering you and this series.

A Study in Temperance by Ichabod Temperance


A Study in Temperance by Ichabod Temperance
Publisher: Goldenbear Creative Works
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (214 pages)
Rating: 5 stars
Review by Rose

“Gee, Miss Plumtartt, after our calamitous arrival on this unsuspecting city, do you think we are still under threat of imminent murder by gangs of assorted, yet stylish, assassins?”

“I say, I do fear this to be the case, Mr. Temperance. The machinations of intrigue are not unlike one of your ingenious spring-driven contraptions, sir. Yes, plots boil and swarms of suspicious characters are at our every turn, eh hem?”

“Yes, Ma’am, Miss Plumtartt, Ma’am. It’s a good thing we have enlisted the assistance of this notorious, Victorian-era London detective to assist us in this baffling murder mystery adventure, for I fear there is more to this tale than meets the eye!”

What fun! This steampunk mystery is told very much (and unapologetically) tongue-in-cheek. It is obvious that it’s not the first volume of the series, but can be easily read on its own.

Ichabod Temperance and his companion Persephone Plumtartt arrive in England and are instantly plunged into a rousing adventure and well as making the acquaintance of a certain detective whose last name is Holmes and who has a brother high-placed in British circles. The brother wishes his younger sibling would settle down and do something with his intellect.

The story is told from many different POVs which is surprisingly not as confusing as I would have thought. Each POV character has very much his/her own voice so it was instantly evident who was doing the talking.

And, the laughs! My poor husband was trying to read his own book but kept being interrupted. “Let me read you this part!”

I adore Temperance and Plumtartt, however I would be amiss if I did not mention the supporting characters and how much they added to the story. My very favorites had to be the BarbaraHaughnne brothers, Yababadabadoiah and Scubidubeduiah. As you can see, there are many cultural in-jokes that will not detract from your enjoyment of the book if you don’t get them, but add another level of pleasure when you do—so much so I now want to reread the book just to find them!

I am so going to go back and buy the rest of the books in the series—starting with book one. Mr. Ichabod Temperance, you have found a new fan!

In Irina’s Cards by Christine Hart

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In Irina’s Cards by Christine Hart
Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (209 PAGES)
Rating: 4 stars
Review by: Rose

Irina Proffer leaves mundane small-town life behind when she experiences visions inspired by a strange deck of tarot cards. To get answers, she travels from her northern British Columbia home to the province’s coastal capital. She quickly discovers a world of fringe genetic science and supernatural mystery.

Working for Innoviro Industries, Irina is drawn in by a powerful first love and compelling, yet dangerous questions about the nature of the company’s business. Meeting other ‘variants’ brings Irina closer and closer to the dark truth about her origins. She finds herself at the heart of two overlapping love triangles as she scrambles to escape her employer’s grip. Before she leaves the city, Irina realizes she has merely scratched the surface of a frightening conspiracy on a global scale.

I thoroughly enjoyed In Irina’s Cards, the first book in the Variant Conspiracy series, in which we are introduced to Irina and find out, along with her, that her life may not be exactly as she thinks it is. She begins having strange visions after purchasing a deck of old Tarot cards and – out of character for her (she’s not exactly the adventuresome type)—packs up her backpack and sets off to discover the meaning of them.

The story is told from Irina’s POV so the reader can take the journey along with her and discover as well the mystery behind Innoviro. We bond with other variants on the journey and enjoy the feeling of being part of a larger group.

I really like the character of Irina—once she gets out and gets on her own (even if the way is paved for her by Innoviro) she really begins to come into her own. We get to see her grow up a bit.

The story is well-written (there was one minor issue at the beginning that took me out of the story a little where a key became a key card, but that was the only bobble I can remember). I was sucked into the story and stayed up way too late reading it because I had to know what happened next.

Because this is the first in the series, do not expect a clear cut ending—there is a bit of a cliffhanger that leads you into book two—which I will be starting this weekend! The third book in the series is being released soon and I want to make sure I’m caught up!

The Gun by Daithi Kavanaugh

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The Gun by Daithi Kavanagh
Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full (236 pages)
Rated 4 stars
Review by: Rose
Garda Detective Tadhg Sullivan leads a special unit that investigates politically motivated crime. A man known only as The Deerstalker is a cancer who has infected the Irish political system.

Sullivan teams up with journalist Helen Carty, and together they try tracking down the mysterious killer. Carty adds to Sullivan’s problems, when he finds himself falling in love with her. And further complicating things, he starts losing trust in his partner, Detective Pat Carter, who appears to be on the side of the Garda Commissioner, who Sullivan is rapidly falling out with.

Sullivan’s case is further thrown into confusion when a copycat killer, Tommy Walsh, is shot dead by the CIA. When the CIA discovers that they’ve killed the wrong person, the two agents involved–Simon, who has become disillusioned by his time stationed in the Middle East, and Joey, a psychopath who confuses zealotry with patriotism–are also in pursuit of The Deerstalker.

Sullivan finds himself in a race against time, if he is to arrest The Deerstalker before the CIA take him out, and use his death as a pawn in a political game of chess. Who will win out in the end?

The Gun is the first book in the Tadhg Sullivan series and introduces us to Tadhg Sullivan, the head of a special task force within the Irish Police. I was very interested in reading this book, because… let’s face it… Ireland holds a special place in my heart…and I was not disappointed.

Because this is the first of the series, there was of necessity some setting up so we get to know Tadhg and his personality (he’s facing burn-out in his job and he drinks way more than is good for him). However, this case comes along and really revitalizes him—and the developing romance with journalist Helen Carty doesn’t hurt either. Of course, it has to be kept quiet, because not only are they romancing, they are also working together to help solve the crime.

It’s not a mystery, as such. The reader knows from the very beginning who the culprit is, and I love getting to know (and understand) his motivation. The suspense for this story comes from wondering if Tadhg is going to be able to discover who he is before he kills more people.

I love these characters; they are well-drawn and multi-dimensional)– as I was reading it, I felt like I was watching a BBC series or Masterpiece theater! (producers, are you listening?) I could see the action playing out on the TV screen of my mind– set against the backdrop of Ireland (and being able to visit several different cities as The Deerstalker seeks his revenge is a nice extra!)

I’m really looking forward to the rest of the series! Good job, Mr. Kavanagh!

Collective Ramblings Volume 1 Anthology

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Collective Ramblings Volume 1 Anthology by John Langmaack, Anthony Clark , Kayla Krantz, Ian Jordan, Dennis Barbee, Alexandra Peel, Virginia Carraway, David Martin, Jordan White, Jacky Liquori, Chris Todd, N.O.A. Rawle, Katie Cook, Steve Moore
Publisher: Rambunctious Ramblings Publishing Inc.
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Historical, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (259 PAGES)
Rating: 5 stars
Review by: Rose

2015’s Twenty Short Story Contest winners assembled in one place. Five stories from each category (Super Powers, Deserted Island, Horror, and Labyrinth), including the top winners of each contest shown below.

The Era of Super Weapons – Roger, America’s super-soldier, embarks on what seemed a routine mission –until his enemies turn to allies against a horde revealing information that will turn the entire world on its head.

Synchronysi – A steampunk masterpiece. After her volunteer operation, a woman awakens to a world made entirely of tine crystals. As she travels the shining island, the product of her surgery reveals much more than she may be able to handle—neither the land of crystals nor the world from which she arrived are exactly what they seem.

Terrors Great and Small – A couple barricades themselves in their home to escape a viral outbreak carried by mosquito bites. As the days of panic and solitude stack up, they battle with both their own crumbling sanity and the terror of what really awaits them beyond their front door.

The Walls Are Alive – in a world where violent offenders are placed in a deadly, automated labyrinth—designed to let no one escape alive—the labyrinth’s caretaker steps inside for a routine maintenance. When the automation turns on him, he’s forced to run the maze like all the criminals he’s sent to their own demise.

This is an intriguing collection of short stories from four different categories—a wonderful mix of genres and styles. I enjoyed every story—and many of them left me wanting to read more about the characters and the worlds they are set in, so I’ll be checking out several of the authors to see what else they have available.

I love short stories because they are easy to read right before bed without investing the time a novel takes, but I have to admit that I ended up not reading just one story a night. The stories were so good that I didn’t want to stop reading!

It’s very hard to pick a favorite because the stories are all so different—and I could easily see many of them being my “favorite” depending on the mood I was in and what I was wanting to read. That said, some of my favorites are below.

“Heroes” by Ranger Reid. I would love to find out the circus freaks and where they all are now.

“Wake” by Anthony Morgan-Clark. This reads so much like a Twilight Zone show… gave me the shivers and I hope I never have to have surgery.

“Wrong Turns” by John Lanmaack. What a wonderful twist on a time travel story… love and redemption.

I’m looking forward to the next installment of short stories!

Black Diamonds by Vogue

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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.

Brooklyn Secrets by Triss Stein

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Brooklyn Secrets by Triss Stein
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (231 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Erica Donato, Brooklyn girl, urban history grad student and single mom, is researching the 1930s when Brownsville was the home of the notorious organized criminals the newspapers called Murder Inc. She quickly learns that even in rapidly changing Brooklyn, Brownsville remains much as it was. It is still poor, it is still tough, and it still breeds fighters and gangs. Doing field research, Erica stops in at the landmark local library and meets Savanna, a young woman who is the pride of her mother and her bosses, and headed for an elite college and a future. A few days later, Savanna is found beaten and left for dead. Her anguished mother is everywhere, insisting someone knows something. After a massive, angry demonstration, a young girlfriend of Savanna s is found dead, too. Is there a connection? Did perfect Savanna have a few secrets? Erica s curious. But she s focused on the 1930s and has located a few women who are happy to share memories. Two are childhood friends who disagree on much but guard secrets, too ones kept for a lifetime. Never one to resist looking deeper than her research requires, Erica keeps encountering an apparent derelict white man, a vengeful rejected girlfriend, the role of boxing as a way out of poverty, and fading evidence of long-ago crimes.

She’s doing a thesis on Brooklyn in the past. That involves looking into the people who were around then and their activities. When she finds an old file with photographs that depict life at that time, she starts trying to identify them.

The author has a good knowledge of Brooklyn. She talks about the past and the buildings that are gone as well as about the ones that still stand. She adds in the criminal element that is still present today. When she adds in a murder, too, it starts to get even more interesting.

Inner city gangs are still around. In earlier days they were different nationalities but the crime and fear squads have always been there. When Erica goes to the local library to do research, four black boys harass her. Luckily, the museum guard comes to her rescue.

Even when they know who attacked a young black girl, nothing can be done. They have solid alibis even if they are lies. Life starts to get dangerous in the ‘hood. When the next girl shows up dead, the case ramps up. While Erica is concerned about the girls, she also dealing with two oldsters who lived in the neighborhood in the time period she’s researching. One of them asks her to find out what happened to her brother. The two ladies are good friends but they fight as much as they get along.

This is a good look at what things are like in the poorer sections of town. Nowadays it happens in the heart of the city as well. Everyone is searching for power, money, and more. The story is good, the motives are mixed and the killer was a surprise. This isn’t any happily ever after but it is life. I’d read another in this series.

All The Beautiful Brides by Rita Herron

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All The Beautiful Brides by Rita Herron
Graveyard Falls
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (320 pgs)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

A young woman lies dead at the bottom of a waterfall, dressed in a wedding gown with a rose stem jammed down her throat. And in the small town of Graveyard Falls, the horrifying vision stirs a long-ago nightmare back to life…

FBI Special Agent Cal Coulter gets called in to investigate the murder, which bears a terrifying resemblance to a series of killings committed thirty years ago: three teenage girls were found dead at the waterfall’s base, all bearing rose stems in their throats. But the high school football star was convicted and imprisoned for those murders, leading Cal to suspect that the killer is still out there.

Now, the body count is rising again. The monster’s sights are set on counselor Mona Monroe, Cal’s best friend’s widow…and the woman he’s always loved. Can Cal stop the killer before Mona becomes the next victim?

I’ll make a confession. I’m a fan of Ms. Herron’s Harlequin Intrigue books and there’s probably not one I haven’t read. So when the opportunity came to review one of her stories, well, I jumped at it.

I haven’t ready any of the other titles in the Graveyard Falls series, but I do have a weakness for settings like these and small towns with loads of secrets that are just waiting to be uncovered.

The one and only thing I didn’t like about this story was there early on there seemed to be a lot of information dumping about the past murders and Mona’s background. However, I did enjoy turning the pages to see if my hunches were right. It seemed just about everyone in town had something to hide.

As always with the author’s books, this was a fast paced story and I found myself sitting down for an hour or more as the stakes got higher. As well as the suspense aspect of the story, there’s also the drama of Mona trying to find her birth mother, and her relationship with Cal who just happens to be Mona’s dead husband’s best friend. There’s conflict and sexual tension like only Ms. Herron can deliver.

The ending, well, I won’t give it away and spoil this book for you. It’s made me what to check out more stories in the series, and if like me, you like a dash of romance with your mystery, then add this one to your reading list.

The Blood that Cries in the Ground by Gregory Bellarmine

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The Blood that Cries in the Ground by Gregory Bellarmine
Publisher: Christian Books Today Ltd
Genre: historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (220 Pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Rose

The Greatest Myth Ever Dispelled …

Italy. A tough master of novices, Father Dante encounters the bold young priest Antonio who challenges his identity and accuses him of being THE Saint Nicholas. But despite the Father faking his death, a determined Antonio discovers a rather alive Dante arrayed in kilt and armor.

In return for Antonio’s silence—and to protect the town from attracting all manner of darkness—Dante agrees to tell his life story. Without explanation, Dante orders Antonio to meet him at night in the abandoned Cathedral, the site of a former battle that the Church has kept secret for a generation.

Until today.

The Criskindl. Ice Steeds. The Unborn. Saint.

From the Dark Ages’ when Poet-Sorcerers ruled kings, to the Holy Land when a new civilization was rising, to Revolutionary France where love is lost and gained, Father Dante pursues the one responsible for both his master and his mother’s deaths:

Black Peter, his brother.

This book begins with Antonio, a young novice, curious about Father Dante– there’s a lot of mysterious things about him. Antonio begins to suspect that Father Dante is actually the legendary Saint Nicholas and confronts him about it. And thus sets the framework for this book: Father Dante “dies” and, to stop Antonio from talking, agrees to tell his life story to the young priest. The rest of the book is told from Nicholas’ POV, with an occasional comment from Antonio to show us where the two are physically during the book.

This is a very ambitious book, spanning centuries and different historical eras. This is both the book’s strength and its weakness. There are so many things going on and is a bit disjointed that it is sometimes hard to follow.

It is worth pushing through, though, because the characterization is wonderfully done, and the book is definitely filled with action. It is not a lighthearted book, but is a dark look at an interesting figure. The author has obviously done his research into not only St. Nicholas, but also into the history of the times.