Fatal Hunt by Michelle Godard-Richer

Fatal Hunt by Michelle Godard-Richer
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc
Genre: Contemporary, Action/Adventure, Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

After being widowed and surviving the wrath of a serial killer, Jessica believes her misfortunes are over. She’s reunited with her first love, Jon, and together, with her son Bryce, and a baby on the way, they’re living their happily ever after on their ranch in Montana. That is until secrets, lies, and a formidable foe from Jon’s past emerge to shake the foundation of their relationship, forcing them to flee for their lives.

A decade earlier, Jon worked undercover for the FBI. He infiltrated Hugh Jones’ Kansas City Mob, and almost destroyed his empire. Unaware of the breach in his own defenses, Hugh, obsessed with revenge, unleashes every weapon in his arsenal, targeting those Jon loves the most.

All seems to finally be going well for Jessica and Jon Kent until the head of the Kansas City Mob is set on seeking revenge for Jon’s betrayal. Will the Kent family survive this fatal hunt?

Fatal Hunt has an interesting and suspenseful plot. The characters are tender and likable, yet ferocious. Jon Kent has retired from working as an FBI agent and is very familiar to violence but yet he is a loving father, husband and farm owner. Head of the Kansas City Mob, Hugh Jones holds his title very well as he has a violent reputation but soon finds a soft spot. I like that the author showed the men’s strength, but readers also get to see their gentle side. The author definitely planted an emotional hook that remains throughout the chase.

The story is told from multiple points of view which I think was a great idea. This gives the reader the full story and helps the reader understand all sides of what is happening. In addition to being hunted by the mob boss this story has a lot going on. Secrets are revealed, a mysterious woman has helped Jessica on more than one occasion, there are twists and surprises that kept me reading. I thought the story had too much going on for one book and it would be better to spread out the side stories. Jessica was stalked by a serial killer, her son Bryce was previously kidnapped, her deceased husband is now a paranormal supernatural guardian, Jessica’s friend was murdered by her husband, and Jon is also a widow and now the family is on the run for their lives. There was just too much misfortune for such nice people to have in one novel. Even though the family had a lot going on, the relationship between Jessica and Jon was very endearing to read. The plot has an edge that gives something in addition to the romance, following Jessica and Jon along the states and Canada as they run from the army of killers chasing them.

I enjoyed the author’s way of telling the story. I can actually see myself witnessing the story firsthand because of the author’s skill with words. My favorite scene would be when the men had an encounter with Jessica’s aunt. Those men did not stand a chance against Aunt Debbie. She showed them what an old lady can do.

I enjoyed the story; it is well written, and I am glad I was able to finish until the surprising end. It didn’t reach my highly recommended list, but I would definitely recommend it to readers that enjoy an intriguing suspense that revolves around the protection of family.

The Thong Principle: Saying What You Mean and Meaning What You Say by donalee Moulton

The Thong Principle: Saying What You Mean and Meaning What You Say by donalee Moulton
Publisher: Business Expert Press
Genre: Non-Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The Thong Principle has little to do with beachwear and everything to do with effective communication. It’s about ensuring messages are successful for the sender – and the receiver.

The book delves into the elements that comprise successful communications – conciseness, clarity, concreteness, and much more. It also puts those elements into context. Communications that miss the mark confuse and annoy. They fail to deliver their message. They damage our credibility and erode goodwill.

The Thong Principle overflows with real-world examples to help us understand why we fail to get our messages across as intended.

Then it explains how we can anticipate, identify, and correct errors and oversights. This is both at the highest level – including building and maintaining trust – and down in the weeds where even one word makes a difference.

The Thong Principle will draw you in and keep you reading with:
Information that resonates.
It’s also funny. Laughter and learning are wonderful partners.

Clear communication makes everything easier.

The most memorable passages were the ones that shared stories about various written forms of communication that accidentally gave their recipients the wrong first impression. For example, one letter began with compliments only to abruptly deny a request to place a sign on private property. It was a jarring thing for me to read and was no doubt even more upsetting for the person who had made the request. Tone matters, and anecdotes like this one explained why a softer approach does not necessarily have to come with flowery language or vague writing.

It would have been helpful to have more concrete information about what to look for when revising a piece of business writing. While this was covered briefly in a section or two, I would have appreciated a more condensed list of what should and should not be included in, say, a letter to a client or an email to one’s boss. I would have happily chosen a higher star rating if it had been included.

I appreciated how many examples the author shared of messages that were and were not easy to understand. Her commentary about what made one message effective and another one too dense or vague was even more helpful. This is the sort of writing advice that works better when the audience has plenty of opportunities to practice their skills and learn to correct imprecise communication.

The Thong Principle: Saying What You Mean and Meaning What You Say was a thought-provoking read.

Travel For As Long As You Wish: The Blueprint For Budget Travel, Backpacking And Escaping The Rat Race by Mark James Murphy

Travel For As Long As You Wish: The Blueprint For Budget Travel, Backpacking And Escaping The Rat Race by Mark James Murphy
Publisher: Amazon KDP
Genre: Non-fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Chamomile

Learn how to escape the 9 to 5 and live your dream life, without delaying any longer!

What if you could say goodbye to the daily grind and fill every day with adventure and experiences, packed with true value and meaning right now?

From humble North-East roots, in the industrial city of Sunderland, U.K to becoming an artist, adventurer and teacher, Mark James Murphy did exactly that and wants to show how it’s possible for everyone.

This book gives you the ultimate tools and knowledge to get unstuck from the rut of the rat race once and for all and travel for as long as you wish. Whether you are young and inexperienced in travel or a seasoned globetrotter or you have retired and have more time on your hands to explore the world, this book will give you the very latest travel advice and explore the following topics:
How to prepare for your trip, what and how to pack
The latest digital devices for travelling and useful apps
Insightful personal experiences from my own adventures
Reasons why we want to travel and what meaningful travel is
Why you can travel with very little money
How to find your own value and generate finances from this as you travel
Avoid scams while in a new country
Great tips and discount information for senior travelers

Travel For As Long As You Wish is a great resource and is good for both first time travelers as well as those who haven’t traveled in some time and would like to get back into the habit! I loved the detailed tips and suggestions. I also appreciated that the author used many of his own personal experiences and lessons he’s learned along the way as examples of how to get the most out of your journey.

While this one focuses quite a bit on the Middle East and similar destinations, since that is the author’s preferred travel region, many of these tips are things that can easily be modified to fit other travel locations as well. He also mentioned teaching classes online or other similar jobs as a great way to make traveling possible. This is also a wonderful way to both practice skills to avoid getting rusty and gain useful connections. This option makes it possible to work and afford to live anywhere you want without being limited on job options based on location as there are countless things that can be taught, and good teachers are always in demand.

This was a wonderful read for those looking to fit more into their travel plans, would love to travel, but don’t know where to start, or those who are just looking for ways to up their travel game. This book is sure to have a little for everyone and is both a quick and entertaining read!

In Search of the Animalcule by Steven L. Berk, M.D.

In Search of the Animalcule by Steven L. Berk, M.D.
Publisher: iUniverse
Genre: Historical, Fiction
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

When he is born in 1847 Vienna, Jacob Pfleger shares just two days with his mother, a female obstetrician who dies, like thousands of other women around the world, of the mysterious childbed fever. Because his birth father wants nothing to do with him, Jacob is placed in an orphanage. His mother’s dying wish is that he will grow up with resilience and independence.

As Jacob matures into a precocious twelve-year-old, he is told about the legacy of his mother by her colleague, Ignaz Semmelweis, and learns that his father is a winemaker in Lille, France. Determined to find his father and his destiny, Jacob embarks on a quest to locate him. When he arrives in France, Jacob is introduced to Louis Pasteur who is working with is father to determine why the wines of France are spoiling. As he is led on an intense scientific journey, Jacob eventually also works with Joseph Lister and Robert Koch, participating in the great discoveries of the era that uncover the animalcules, the bacteria, that have caused global disease and death. Later Jacob studies to become a doctor under the mentorship of Sir William Osler at Johns Hopkins.

In this amazing story that captures the real lives and work of the great scientists of the time, an orphan assists in shocking discoveries that change the worlds understanding of disease and uncovers the field of infectious disease.

To read an entertaining and engaging account of what is probably the most important medical breakthrough of the nineteenth century—germ theory—this book should not be missed! It is seen through the eyes of the highly likeable orphan boy, Jacob, whose mother died birthing him at the hands of doctors who didn’t wash their hands. Jacob’s mother was a doctor who believed that germs, or rather, animalcules, were responsible for many deaths. This sets young Jacob on a life-long course to discover more and save lives, but first, he must find the father he never met.

Jacob starts off on an adventure and runs away from the orphan home in a quest from Vienna to France to find his father, a vineyard worker. What comes next is a tale of danger, showing what a brave boy Jacob is. He heads out on foot with little food.

Over the course of the story, he runs into interesting people, both fictional and real. The characterization is done with excellence, and readers are treated to wonderful inside views of doctors and scientists who made history: Pasteur, Lister, and others. The author of this story is not only a doctor who understands the medical aspects involved but knows how to write these concepts in a way that laypeople can understand and enjoy.

Jacob’s interaction as he lives and works with those who have dedicated their lives to unfolding the mysteries of germ theory is not only charming but also enlightening. Readers will learn things, which is a bonus to being entertained. They will see what it was like to be a researcher in an era without modern equipment.

The author doesn’t forget the women who were involved and includes their important contributions. Jacob’s relationships are at times motivating and at others heartbreaking.

Setting in this story is done in a way to bring in even more realism and put readers there with a sense of time and place.

This is a fascinating account that is sure to touch readers’ hearts and inspire their minds. It is worth the read!

Death in the New Land by Kaye George

Death in the New Land by Kaye George
A People of the Wind Mystery, #3
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Historical
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Enga Dancing Flower and her tribe have reached a place they can stay in safety. Or have they?

It’s clear the groups of other settlers in the area do not want more neighbors, and this is made even more evident when a male of Enga’s tribe is murdered, and a baby is kidnapped.

The future of the tribe is immediately put into question. Can Enga and her people find the killer and rescue the baby? Or will the security and bright future the tribe has dreamed of fall to pieces?

No one can hide the truth forever.

The mystery was exciting and well done. I appreciated how much time Ms. George spent reintroducing the main characters and explaining how their lives had changed since the events of the previous book. It gave me time to connect with everyone again, remember what I’d previously learned about them, and begin wondering who might be involved in Enga Dancing Flower’s latest case. She was the sort of character who thought carefully about her actions before making decisions, so this was a great decision from a character development perspective as well. Once the pacing picked up, I only became more emotionally invested in who was responsible for the murder and the kidnapping and if they’d be brought to justice. There is so much more I want to say about this, but I don’t want to spoil anything for other readers!

World building is especially important in stories like this one that are set so far in the past. The narrator painted a vivid picture of what life was like for hunter-gatherers in prehistoric times. It was difficult to tear myself away from this world, and I often found myself staying up later than usual or putting off what I could in order to read just a few more pages. There is definitely something to be said for creating such an immersive experience for the reader, and I will eagerly anticipate whatever the author comes up with next based on how many times I’ve enjoyed her world building abilities so far.

My review of Death in the Time of Ice mentioned some trouble I had with getting to know the large cast of characters when they were first introduced. It was a thrill to revisit these characters for the third time now that I know them so well. The periodic reminders of how certain people were connected to each other were helpful, too, as I settled back into their prehistoric society and found out what they had been up to since I last heard from them. I’d like to commend Ms. George for all of the hard work she’s put into developing her characters and giving them time to shine. Her efforts truly paid off here, and they were greatly appreciated by this fan.

This is the third instalment in the People of the Wind series. It is best read in order for character and plot development reasons.

Death in the New Land was well worth the wait. I was delighted by these characters and hope to hear more from them in the future.

The Wasp Child by Rhiannon Rasmussen

The Wasp Child by Rhiannon Rasmussen
Publisher: Robot Dinosaur Press
Genre: Young Adult (14 – 18 y.o.), LGBTQ, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Caught between two worlds. Wanted in neither.

Kesh is afraid—of his classmates, his allergies, his odd sense of smell, and his prospects for the future. Born into Meridian Colony, where corporate values dictate human worth, Kesh longs for escape. He gets what he asks for in the worst possible way when his classmates kidnap and dump him in the middle of an alien rainforest. Alone.

Faced with certain death, Kesh encounters the sansik, giant insects native to the planet. Though the sansik seem to care for him, their pheromones set off a horrific metamorphosis in Kesh. Claws sprout from his fingertips. A monstrous exoskeleton grows beneath his skin. And then the bugs do the unthinkable: trade him back to Meridian, where life as a living scientific curiosity awaits him, a bleak future void of autonomy.

Caught in a tug-of-war between Meridian’s laboratories and a harsh alien world, Kesh has to make a choice: convince his people to accept him, or break free and face an uncertain future alone in an alien world.

Some things are far scarier than death.

This was an excellent example of young adult fiction that transcends its genre and trusts its audience to come up with our own theories about which portions of modern society the author may have been critiquing. I have some pretty firm opinions about the answers to that question, but I appreciated how much space the narrator gave me to reach those conclusions on my own. Growing fond of Kesh was all I needed to begin to understand the flaws of the rigid society he’d been born into. As much as I want to share specific examples of some of those ideas, it’s really best for other readers to slowly understand the unjust and dangerous side of his world for themselves.

Body horror is one of the scariest sub-genres of horror in my opinion, and it was handled beautifully in this novella. I shuddered while I read Kesh’s descriptions of the bizarre and frightening changes happening to his body that he could neither control nor predict. The blurb gave just a taste of what was to come, and I was glad to see how many plot twists it left for me to discover on my own.

Speaking of plot twists, this was one of the most creative things I’ve read so far this year. I kept assuming I knew what the author might have up their sleeves only to be once again surprised by their vivid imagination. Based on how much I loved this tale, I will definitely be keeping an eye out for what Rasmussen comes up with next!

The Wasp Child made me yearn for more.

When You Look Like Us by Pamela N. Harris

When You Look Like Us by Pamela N. Harris
Publisher: Quill Tree Books
Genre: YA (ages 14+), Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Action/Adventure
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

When you look like us—brown skin, brown eyes, black braids or fades—everyone else thinks you’re trouble. No one even blinks twice over a missing Black girl from public housing because she must’ve brought whatever happened to her upon herself. I, Jay Murphy, can admit that, for a minute, I thought my sister Nicole just got caught up with her boyfriend—a drug dealer—and his friends. But she’s been gone too long. Nic, where are you?

If I hadn’t hung up on her that night, she would be at our house, spending time with Grandma.

If I was a better brother, she’d be finishing senior year instead of being another name on a missing persons list.

It’s time to step up, to do what the Newport News police department won’t.

Bring her home.

He’s determined to find his sister, and no one will stand in his way.

I’ve read a few books like this one, but this was a fresh take on the ‘find my sister’ trope. It felt real. It was like reading what a friend would be saying. I felt for Jay immediately and I liked how he was human about the whole thing–first he thought she was missing and on drugs, then he started to realize it might be worse than he expected. He’s a good younger brother and he’s determined.

This read very realistically, too, in that this isn’t an easy investigation. As the title insists, for people like Jay, it’s not easy to find your missing siblings. The cops dismiss him, even though they know his grandmother, and the people he has to talk to aren’t the greatest characters in the neighborhood. It’s tough and as I read, which I flew through, I rooted for him to find her, but I also knew stories like this don’t always end well.

I liked his interactions with Riley and Bowie. Like a regular teen, Jay dismisses them at times, but realizes he needs more than just himself to make this work. Riley was my favorite character because she was more than she seemed and so sweet, but determined as well, and not willing to give up on Jay or his sister.

The twist at the end was one I didn’t see coming and I liked it. The ending was satisfying, though life rarely is satisfying, and I’m glad it turned out how it did.

If you want a story that will make you think, make you feel and root for the characters, then this might be the one for you. Recommended.

Ryan’s Christmas by LJ Ross

Ryan’s Christmas by LJ Ross
Publisher: Dark Skies Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Christmas can be murder…

After a busy year fighting crime, DCI Ryan and his team of murder detectives are enjoying a festive season of goodwill, mulled wine and, in the case of DS Phillips, a stottie cake or two—that is, until a freak snowstorm forces their car off the main road and into the remote heart of Northumberland. Their Christmas spirit is soon tested when they’re forced to find shelter inside England’s most haunted castle, where they’re the uninvited guests at a ‘Candlelit Ghost Hunt’. It’s all fun and games—until one of the guests is murdered. It seems no mortal hand could have committed the crime, so Ryan and Co. must face the spectres living inside the castle walls to uncover the grisly truth, before another ghost joins their number…

Murder and mystery are peppered with romance and humour in this fast-paced crime whodunnit set amidst the spectacular Northumbrian landscape.

It’s the week before Christmas and DCI Ryan and his wife have spent an enjoyable weekend day with Ryan’s colleague’s and their best friends Frank and Denise at the Edinburgh Christmas festival. On their trip back home, however, the weather turns against them and they’re forced off the main road and into the wilds of Northumberland. Seeking refuge inside England’s most haunted castle, they find themselves uninvited guests at a “Candlelight Ghost Hunt” while staying overnight. They try to take the fun in stride, only to find a real-life murder has taken place and their holiday cheer quickly becomes the grim reality of finding yet another murderer before the year is out.

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this series and was excited to find this slightly shorter Christmas-themed story. Despite the slightly shorter length (but still a solid 250 ish pages) everything I as a reader enjoy about the regular books in this series was here on display in this Christmassy story as well. Ryan, Anna, Frank and Denise are well-rounded characters and have been working together seamlessly for a number of years – this being the 15th book in the series – and yet I still feel readers new to the author and series could pick this story up and find a fun murder-mystery and police procedural style of story. I do feel readers who have read at least a few of the previous books and understand some of the history and friendship between the main characters will find a deeper emotional connection to the book and characters, but I don’t feel that knowledge is necessary to enjoy this book on its own merits.

Readers who enjoy an older style – almost Agatha Christie-esque – small town, who dunnit, style of closed-door murder mystery should find this book right up their alley. At the party in the castle there are a finite number of characters assembled who had access to the body and so unlike many of the other books in this series the set-up wasn’t traditional to find a list of possible candidates but more to just figure out who present had the means, motive and opportunity. I also feel this style of mystery lent itself to the slightly shorter length of the book which was a clever move by the author.

I found this an enjoyable and solidly plotted read with a good Christmas theme and a solid murder mystery. The slightly slower pace of the police procedural mode of solving the puzzle appealed strongly to me and while readers used to more action orientated plots might find it a little slow, I personally thoroughly enjoyed the more realistic pace.

A good book with strong characters and a well-planned plot – this was a great and fun read I enjoyed.

A Very Private Woman by Connor Whiteley

A Very Private Woman by Connor Whiteley
Publisher: CGD Publishing
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

An Invitation Like No Other. Sister Rivalry. A Very Private Woman.

Nothing is as it seems.

Private Eye Bettie English receives a visitor. She hears a top-secret job offer. Bettie knows something is afoot.

Bettie needs to find the truth.

If you enjoy gripping, unputdownable private eye mysteries holding you from the first to last word. You will love this book!

Be careful whom you trust.

The pregnancy subplot added some nice twists to this mystery. I can’t say much about it without giving away spoilers, but I liked seeing how the author used common pregnancy symptoms to encourage his characters to do certain things that they probably would not have otherwise done. This isn’t something I’ve seen very often in this genre, and I found it refreshing to have such an ordinary but important part of life included in the character arcs.

While I understand that there are additional books coming about Bettie and the other characters, I did find myself wishing that the narrator had spent more time on character development in this introduction to their world. I certainly didn’t expect to figure everything out about the characters right away, but it would be tricky for me to describe their personalities in depth at the moment. My fingers are crossed that we’ll get to know Bettie and the people closest to her better in the future because I really wanted to give this a higher rating. The storyline itself was exciting and fun.

Speaking of the plot, I enjoyed the author’s dedication to keeping everything moving along at a quick pace. That was an excellent choice for this particular mystery, and it kept my interest levels high from the first scene to the last one. There was always something to urge me to continue reading for just one more page which was a wonderful excuse to ignore the outside world for a while and see what happened next.

A Very Private Woman was an intriguing start to a new mystery series.

*Cold-Blooded Liar by Karen Rose

*Cold-Blooded Liar by Karen Rose
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group, Berkley
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

Sam Reeves is a kindhearted psychologist who treats court-ordered clients. After one of his patients—a pathological liar—starts revealing plausible new details from a long-unsolved serial murder case, he’s compelled to report anonymously to the SDPD tip line, though his attempts to respect patient confidentiality land him facedown and cuffed by the aggressive (and cute) Detective McKittrick.

San Diego homicide detective Kit McKittrick loves the water. She lives on a boat, and when she’s not solving crimes with the SDPD, she’s assisting her foster sister with her charter fishing business or playing with her poodle. But there’s nothing that intrigues Kit more than a cold case, so when an anonymous caller leads her on the path of a wanted killer, she’s determined to end the decade-long manhunt.

Sam is soon released but goes home with both a newfound distaste for the SDPD and a resolve—not unlike Kit’s—to uncover the truth. Kit and Sam repeatedly butt heads in their separate investigations but are forced to work together to find one of the deadliest serial killers the city has faced in years.

Cold-Blooded Liar is a fast paced, thrilling ride. It is filled with colorful and entertaining characters, and I was on the edge of my seat throughout the entire book. I was quickly turning the pages because I needed to know what would happen next in this intriguing story.

The main character in the story is Kit, a homicide detective. She works hard on all her cases and also tries to solve many cold cases when she has some free time. She has a good reputation and is respected by her peers.

Kit meets Dr. Sam Reeves, a psychologist when he becomes a suspect in a serial murder case she is working on. Sam is a good guy who gets in trouble trying to do the right thing.

There is an immediate attraction between Sam and Kit but neither of them take the next step while trying to solve the case. This is a slow burn romance with an unresolved ending to Sam and Kit’s romance. I wish there was an epilogue at the end of the story letting me know how everything worked out between them.

I love reading suspenseful stories and I like everything Karen Rose writes. She knows how to paint a picture with intricate plot weaving. The characters in this story are believable and easy to relate to and I found myself devouring every word.