Down Among The Dead by Damien Boyd


Down Among The Dead by Damien Boyd
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Somerset’s bloody past meets a dangerous present in this thriller from the bestselling DI Nick Dixon crime series.

When a badly decomposed body is discovered during an archaeological dig on the Sedgemoor battlefield, Avon and Somerset police are notified immediately. The remains are recent, and Detective Chief Inspector Peter Lewis knows exactly who they have found.

A single stab wound from a curved blade implicates convicted serial killer Daniel Parker, who Lewis arrested fifteen years ago.

With Parker’s appeal hearing imminent, Lewis comes under intense pressure to pin this new murder on him quickly and quietly. It’s an open and shut case—and Lewis should know—so why then does he insist on assigning it to DI Nick Dixon?

As Dixon starts to re-examine the original investigation, shocking revelations come in from the forensics team. And just as Dixon’s worst fears begin to surface, another body is found…

Fifteen years ago, DCI Lewis was just an underling who happened to be in the right place at the right time for a major arrest – that of a notorious serial killer. Only, in his gut, Lewis never felt the conviction was right and he hasn’t enjoyed an easy sleep since what he felt might be the wrong man was imprisoned. Now, as a new body is discovered on the very cusp of this prisoner having his appeal heard, there is only one man Lewis can trust to do the investigation right and not bow to any pressure – no matter how high up it comes from.

This is an interesting and enjoyable British police procedural murder mystery. There is a tiny bit of archeology and historical re-enactment that I thoroughly enjoyed, and I thought added well to the plot. I also was glad the author did an excellent job of laying out the groundwork for a few moving parts of the plot including both the victims and police working both in the past and present. I felt this was a well plotted story and it absolutely kept my attention right from the beginning.

I was also pretty relieved that a number of the more regular members of DI Nick Dixon’s team were back in play. The last few books Dixon has been working with a few other divisions and officers and while his regular team has always remained in the background, I was pleased to see the team come back together and I greatly enjoyed the familiarity and smooth way they all meshed back together and worked as a team. I strongly feel this added to the appeal I had for this story. I also was pleased Dixon’s fiancé – and her half-sister – added to the storyline. I was pleased the author seemed to be returning Dixon back to his roots a bit more.

Readers looking for a heavily action base plot or something really fast paced won’t find that here. I definitely felt the investigation moved at a decent clip, but this was solidly a police procedural and smaller town type of murder mystery – no massive car chases or helicopters or movie style of shenanigans here. This was a well written and very well plotted British police mystery and exactly what I was hoping for.

A good story in a great series I definitely enjoy.

Angie and Me by Sam Telpin


Angie and Me by Sam Telpin
Publisher: Shalchufa Books
Genre: Middle Grade (8 – 12 y.o.), Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Sam loves his home and social life but hates his new teacher, Ms Brown. She enjoys humiliating Sam and his friends (or, at least, he believes she does). After a classroom incident, Sam’s best friend, Angie, decides to take matters into her own hands. Angie knows it won’t be easy for her to get Ms Brown fired, but, whatever it takes, she’s determined to make it happen. Even if it means lying to adults, deceiving parents, bullying friends and stealing money from a charity. Sam has to reconcile his desire for Ms Brown’s downfall with his conscience as Angie hatches, reveals and executes her ruthless plan.

Justice can only be delayed for so long.

Even one year with an awful teacher can seriously damage a student’s self-esteem, grades, and interest in learning. I loved the way this book showed how all of these things can happen and why it’s so important to recruit kind and emotionally stable teachers who love spending time with kids and teaching them. Readers had plenty of opportunities to discover why Sam and his classmates disliked their teacher and why she should have never been hired to work in a school.

I found myself wishing for more descriptions in this book. For example, it was hard to imagine what the characters looked like because of how little time was spent on that topic. The settings were given more attention, but even some of them were difficult for me to picture in my mind as well. I would have happily gone with a higher rating if this hadn’t been the case as the storyline itself was humorous and memorable.

While I totally understood Sam’s anger about how terribly his teacher was treating him, I also found it interesting to see how his behavior affected someone whose patience for the typical antics of kids his age was already paper thin. His mischievousness could be disruptive in class, and he didn’t always listen the first time he was told to do something. This is in no way a defense of the horrible way Sam was treated, but it did show off memorable portions of both his personality and his teacher’s personality in ways that I don’t think either of them were necessarily aware of. It’s cool to discover stuff like that in stories, and it made me curious to check out more of the author’s work.

Angie and Me made this reader smile.

Mind Games by AJ Graham


Mind Games by AJ Graham
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Rafael has been called many things throughout time — demon, fairy, monster — but even he has no idea what he truly is. The only thing he knows for sure is that he’s not human… and that he can influence the minds of those around him without even trying.

He hides in plain sight, making a living as a magician and stage hypnotist, allowing his audiences to assume that his feats of mind-reading are mere illusion. Most humans succumb easily to his powers of persuasion, but when his very presence robs people of free will, it’s hard to truly get close to anyone.

When he meets Carrie, a strong-willed and wounded woman uniquely resistant to his abilities, Rafael is intrigued. But Carrie fears his powers. She won’t easily open up to him, but he’s determined to get into her head.

A hardheaded woman and a mystery man…

I’ve read other books by AJ Graham and liked them, so when I saw this one, I had to pick it up. I’m glad I did. Carrie and Rafael are great together. I liked that she didn’t just give in to him. He had to work for her. It was relatable and fun.

This is a short story, so it got wrapped up a bit fast, but it was perfect for an afternoon read. I liked the heat, too. Rafael and Carrie really scorch the page. I liked that he had to work for her affection and that she wasn’t really interested in him right away.

If you’re looking for something hot and short, then this might be the book for you. I recommend it.

A Reservoir Man by L.J. Ambrosio


A Reservoir Man by L.J. Ambrosio
Publisher: Film Valor
Genre: Coming of Age, Literary Fiction
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

A Reservoir Man, critics have hailed this explosive and timely work as “a must-read coming-of-age story of 2022.” Twists and turns further pull the reader in to Michael’s action-packed tale, with powerful themes, from betrayal and family to secrets and identity. “Be sure not to blink because you just might miss a pivotal moment in Michael’s rousing, larger-than-life story.” –R.C. Gibson, Indiestoday.com. “This book is a dream, a gamble, a utopia, even.” — Kalyan Panja, Bookmarkks.

This story spans the years from 1947 – the current time. Part coming-of-age, part an insightful look at one man’s journey through life in a very intense time of history, especially for a gay man.

It makes me think of an autobiographical memoir instead of fiction. The character of Micahel truly expresses the confusion he goes through trying to figure his life out and the pain he feels as he begins losing friends to AIDS.

Michael’s desire is to not be a reservoir man – not to be the kind of person who only does what’s expected of him instead of who he truly is. Michael’s sole aim in life is to find his own truth…and to help others find theirs. He does this throughout his life, and he finds he does some of his best thinking on a bench, watching the sunset. I really admired this character – in all his decisions, his main goal was to do the right thing.

The book was easy to read, and the dates at the beginning of each chapter helps ground the reader. There are some heartbreaking parts, especially the last chapter. But, even with that, the book ends on a hopeful note with the author stating “Non, je ne regrette rien.” (No, I do not regret anything)

Thank you, Mr. Ambrosio, for giving me the opportunity to find out a part of life I did not previously know much about.

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Hurricane Ryan by Katya Summers


Hurricane Ryan by Katya Summers
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Carly
I never planned on becoming a lifeguard at Sea Side Cove, but now it’s the one thing that’s right in my life. At least until the new guy shows up, and throws me off my game. Ryan’s the most amazing man I’ve ever met.

There’s just one problem. I’m not available.

My relationship is complicated at best. I haven’t been happy in a long time, but I owe Travis. I can’t just walk out on him. And if Ryan knew the truth, he wouldn’t want me anyway.

Now if I can just convince him of that.

Ryan
I’ve never met anyone like Carly. This tiny little spitfire is the most determined woman I’ve ever met. She’s been dealt a bad hand in life and I’m determined to convince her she deserves better. But when Sea Side finds itself in the path of a Category 5 hurricane, I have to do more than convince her. I have to save her when she runs off into the storm.

Coworkers to friends to lovers with elements of forbidden romance. First person, dual POV. A standalone suspense romance with a guaranteed Happily Ever After and no cliffhanger. Carly and Ryan flirt, but she never cheats. Recommended for readers ages 18 and up.

Two lifeguards, a hurricane and a burning desire between them. What can go wrong?

Plenty.

I picked up this book because the premise caught me. Lifeguards, a hurricane…simmering romance. It sounds like a great read. So I picked it up. I’m glad I did. These characters were fresh and fun. Carly is determined and seemed to have a lot go wrong for her. She’s relatable. Sometimes life just gives you a gigantic turd and it’s up to you to figure out how to handle it. How she does is interesting and relatable. I liked Ryan, too. He’s sweet and seems almost too perfect. He’s the quintessential romance hero. For sheer fantasy, he’s the one.

There were times when the writing wasn’t my cuppa, but it was the cadence of the sentences that drew me out of the story a few times. That might not be a deterrent for everyone, but it was for me. There were moments I questioned what Carly did and the lots life threw at her, but again, not everyone will feel this way.

If you’re looking for a romance where there’s hope and sweetness while in the midst of a hurricane, then this might be the one for you.

Run, Rose, Run by James Patterson and Dolly Parton


Run, Rose, Run by James Patterson and Dolly Parton
Publisher: Little Brown and Co
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

From America’s most beloved superstar and #1 New York Times bestselling author James Patterson comes a thriller about a young singer-songwriter on the rise—and on the run—and determined to do whatever it takes to survive.

Every song tells a story.

She’s a star on the rise, singing about the hard life behind her.

She’s also on the run. Find a future, lose a past.

Nashville is where she’s come to claim her destiny. It’s also where the darkness she’s fled might find her. And destroy her.

Run, Rose, Run is a novel glittering with danger and desire—a story that only America’s #1 beloved entertainer and its #1 bestselling author could have created.

Dolly Parton’s written a book? With James Patterson? Sold.

I picked up this book because it was highly recommended. I can honestly say I’ve never read anything else by James Patterson and I was a bit skeptical going into this one. I wanted to like it because Dolly Parton is well…Dolly Parton. The writing is decent. It moved along rather well and kept my interest, but the chapters are very short, so it has no choice but to go quickly.

I liked Ruthanna and could see Dolly Parton all over that character. I could hear her in the character’s voice and mannerisms, so that was great. I liked the interplay between AnnieLee and Ethan, too. They made a good couple.

That said, I wasn’t a fan of AnnieLee. Her trajectory is rather…it took a lot to suspend my disbelief. It’s like she never does manage a wrong step with her career. She has talent, that’s not to be argued, but she gets a lot of breaks a lot of others wouldn’t get.

I had a hard time with the suspense portion of the book, too. At times, it was too vague and at others, seemed like it didn’t fit. Maybe it was just me, but it felt like two books put together and cobbled into one. There seemed to be a lot of repetition in the book, too.

That said, there’s a sweet romance between AnnieLee and Ethan. I liked that. And there’s a CD of music that goes along with the book that’s Parton’s music, which is fantastic.

If you’re looking for a mystery and a romance that’s got a touch of country, then this might be the one for you.

Penshaw by LJ Ross


Penshaw by LJ Ross
Publisher: Dark Skies Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Fern

When you sell your soul, the devil gives no refunds…

When an old man is burned alive in a sleepy ex-mining village, Detective Chief Inspector Ryan is called in to investigate. He soon discovers that, beneath the facade of a close-knit community, the burn from decades-old betrayal still smoulders. When everyone had a motive, can he unravel the secrets of the past before the killer strikes again?

Meanwhile, back at Northumbria CID, trouble is brewing with rumours of a mole in Ryan’s department. With everyone under suspicion, can he count on anybody but himself?

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

When an old man is burned alive in his small, village home DCI Ryan first things it should be a fairly simple case. Only he quickly discovers there is plenty of decades-old tension simmering just under the surface and a number of old grudges and betrayals that have never really been put to rest. Also, with a number of the police divisions merging together – lines are blurring, and DCI Ryan’s team are no longer exactly who is trustworthy and who might have sinister other agendas.

I found this to be an interesting and decently plotted police procedural type of mystery story. There is a bit of romance in the sidelines between some of the main characters – two sets of very well-established couples and Jack and Mel are trying to sort out will they or won’t they take that plunge. I found the two main mystery plots to be very well written and solid additions to the story but found myself a bit disappointed with the whole Jack/Mel situation. Without giving too much away I found them both to act a bit immaturely – with Mel throwing a number of Jack’s previous mistakes in his face during an argument and Jack knowing he was in a bit over his head and refusing to reach out to Frank or Ryan to even get their advice – let alone ask for help. While each problem is excusable, it really felt to me like they were both showing how immature and not sensible they were being, particularly considering the fact they’ve each been in similar situations before and clearly not learned anything from it. It soured me a little on them both which was a shame.

That said I thought the arson investigation was a solidly written plot and I enjoyed the way the author linked the small mining town back to the past and really captured the feeling of both the residents in a small village like that and the way wounds can fester over time. I also thought the tensions and inter-office conflict with a number of the various police forces coming together and needing to work together as a unit was exceptionally well handled. With so many different groups – all having worked in their own divisions and teams for so long – and so many different dynamics and ego’s all being crammed together and suddenly needing to share and co-exist the drama and issues really felt well-handled and realistic. It added a lot of conflict and drama to the interactions and story without feeling as if plot devices were being dragged around the regular team and dynamics and things being added just to create tension. I thought it was a good idea and will be interested to see how it unfolds in the next few books.

This is a good story with two solid plots. While I feel it could be picked up without the reader having read any of the previous books, I don’t feel this is a good book to try that with. Personally, I’d read at least a few of the previous installments as many of the characters, history and teamwork that so strongly ties them together would need some explanation prior to this story. Having at least some idea on how the team works together and a general grasp of their history together is fairly important to fully enjoy this story I feel. But it’s a great British mystery and police procedural style of plot and well worth the investment.

The Devil’s Lover by Alexa Piper


The Devil’s Lover by Alexa Piper
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, LGBTQ, Erotic Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Lionel and Lucifer are drawn deeper into a murder case, but they are set on solving it together.

Just when Lionel’s love life has gone back to normal — normal meaning the kinky Devil making his ownership known — Lionel’s murder case gets stranger. Lionel’s birth father seems to have his hands in the mystery, and Lionel finds himself in the sights of Eris, goddess of discord.

Lucifer used to be a prime example of a powerful underworld deity with all the knowledge and skill to take care of a lover in the bedroom. But that was before Lucifer fell properly in love and won over his necromantic boyfriend, who also happens to be a demigod. Lionel’s innate magic, magical skill, and stubborn nature make it exceedingly difficult for Lucifer to be the alpha god he wants to be for Lionel.

Lucifer is set on finding a way to provide for the man he loves and to fulfill Lionel’s every desire. But before he can focus entirely on his necromancer, the two of them must solve the case, prevent primordial deities from being raised and destroying the world, and learn to communicate better. It’s what relationships and crime solving are all about.

The devil and a necromancer meet…they fall in love and solve mysteries. What a series.

I did like the show Lucifer, but I rather wondered what it would’ve been like had the lead character been gay. Now, through this series, I get to find out how it would play out. I do like it a lot.

Lucifer and Lionel make a good pair. They’re kind to each other, considerate and complement each other well. Their love story is cute, too. It’s also pretty hot. Can’t knock that.

This is a mystery and I liked that I wasn’t able to figure out the mystery right away. That kept me in my seat needing to know what would happen next. It felt like there were a few loose ends in this book, but it’s also part of a series and I haven’t read all of the others yet. I wasn’t lost, but there did seem to be a bit that wasn’t rectified at the end.

Still, it’s a hot book and great for an afternoon that’s chilly. If you’re looking for a book featuring the devil and a necromancer, filled with love and sweetness, plus a mystery, then this might be the one for you.

Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat by David Dosa M.D. (Author), Ray Porter (Narrator)


Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat by David Dosa M.D. (Author), Ray Porter (Narrator)
Publisher: Hyperion (Print), Blackstone Audio, Inc. (Publisher)
Genre: Contemporary, Non-Fiction
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

A remarkable cat. A special gift. A life-changing journey.

They thought he was just a cat. When Oscar arrived at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Rhode Island he was a cute little guy with attitude. He loved to stretch out in a puddle of sunlight and chase his tail until he was dizzy. Occasionally he consented to a scratch behind the ears, but only when it suited him. In other words, he was a typical cat. Or so it seemed. It wasn’t long before Oscar had created something of a stir. Apparently, this ordinary cat possesses an extraordinary gift: he knows instinctively when the end of life is near. Oscar is a welcome distraction for the residents of Steere House, many of whom are living with Alzheimer’s. But he never spends much time with them — until they are in their last hours. Then, as if this were his job, Oscar strides purposely into a patient’s room, curls up on the bed, and begins his vigil. Oscar provides comfort and companionship when people need him most. And his presence lets caregivers and loved ones know that it’s time to say good-bye. Oscar’s gift is a tender mercy. He teaches by example: embracing moments of life that so many of us shy away from. Making Rounds with Oscar is the story of an unusual cat, the patients he serves, their caregivers, and of one doctor who learned how to listen. Heartfelt, inspiring, and full of humor and pathos, this book allows readers to take a walk into a world rarely seen from the outside, a world we often misunderstand.

This is an unexpected gem – totally out of my comfort zone and yet one of the best accidental reads I’ve ever experienced.

The narrative style is smooth, well-paced and it included wonderful descriptives, dialogue, in-depth and heartfelt patient portrayals with insights, emotion, respect and warmth. Dr. David Dosa, an attending physician at Steere House, shares stories of his impressions as he went from skeptic to believer with regards to the amazing skills of Oscar, the resident cat. As far as I’m concerned, this novel is definitive in proving that animals have a special place in soothing and helping people when they are sick, in pain, or in Oscar’s case, providing comfort while signaling that death is imminent for a patient.

Dr. Dosa quoted this, “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous” from a famous person. I liked that quote. I enjoyed watching the doctor slowly but surely come to the realization that Oscar really did have a special way of knowing. He comes to the conclusion that it’s not just for the patient, but for all the family going through the journey of watching their loved one being torn down by dementia or Alzheimer’s. One of the concepts is that the sufferers of the disease go through a process of un-learning everything, including even how to use a spoon. It’s a downward spiral that is unstoppable. I learned along with Dr. Dosa aspects of the disease process and how it affects the spouses left behind, their sons and daughters left behind, and the memories of who these people used to be before – just how much is lost. Yet, in the sharing, I saw amazing ways to deal with the loss, a different way to think, of little daily victories, and what is really the most important thing in life – slaving away to a deadline, a job, everything and anything other than our loved ones and family is NOT it – it’s that it IS our family and our loved ones that should be number one. When they’re gone, they’re gone and all the what-ifs, and If-onlys will only drag you down and follow you the rest of your life.

I was very affected by some of the patients’ stories. My aunt was in one of those situations described – sent to the hospital but the place she lived in would not allow her back. Where do you put a person suffering from severe dementia when they have no place to go – on the street? Hospitals don’t care. No one advises families about things like this. Doctors don’t share information people really need to know about in these situations. Not knowing how to care for your loved ones causes a distress you can’t imagine until you feel it yourself. It’s not good. Dr. Dosa shares advice in short vignettes woven throughout the novel. The most impactful was the story of Mr. and Mrs. Rubinstein. Ruth was the patient. The history of their relationship, where they met, and what happened to Frank later on when he tried to celebrate their wedding anniversary hit me in my tear ducts. There were many parts that affected my emotions throughout the book, but Ruth and Frank’s story got to me. I KNEW that scenario. A couple that used to go to our church could have been Ruth and Frank. The succession of final events happened the exact same way. I think that’s why Making Rounds with Oscar affected me so strongly – I could relate. After this book, I could understand in a way I hadn’t before. I found a lot of value within the pages of this novel and I feel like I’m better for having read it.

I also liked the descriptions of all the cats, not just Oscar. Their antics, their personalities – Munchie, Billy, and others, were enjoyable. Another cute line from the doctor is, “Calling a cat fickle is like saying snow’s wet.” I cracked up at that. I seriously believe that having the furry friends made the nursing home seem more homey. I hope there more geriatric centers like Steere House out there than not. There’s value in a purr.

Ray Porter, the narrator, provided wonderful interpretations of the main characters. He imbued the dialogue with emotion. His narrative of Dr. Dosa really seemed to get into the author’s head and convinced me I was listening to the good doctor. It was a joy to listen to and I think helped make the book that much more relatable than reading the print words alone.

There is a lot I could talk about because there is so much rich content, some of which I’d never heard of or considered. I truly believe that anyone facing the challenge of a family member suffering from the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s and dementia would benefit from the insights shared in this book based on Dr. Dosa’s experiences. It’s not depressing, it’s empowering. Yes, I cried quite a few times. But I laughed too. Just like life, there are ups and downs.

I really, really liked this book and I can’t tell you how strongly I recommend others to read Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat. Its delivery is easy to read/listen to. It’s not dry at all; it’s engaging, interesting and entertainingly educational. I realize this book has been out for a while but it’s still relevant, and its message is as important now as the day it was published.

A Lovely Paradox by Mahiraj Jadeja


A Lovely Paradox by Mahiraj Jadeja
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

When Raj, a common Indian man whose background was traditional and religious falls in love with Bella living in USA through Facebook, being innocent and crazy in love, he went for an American job visa against his parents wishes selling his ancestral land to meet her love and propose her for marriage but there was to lot to prove that whether his love for her was real or was it just plain lust?

This is a quick read novella and would be suitable for readers who enjoy whirlwind romances that are unpredictable. Erotic, highly emotional and sensitive, A Lovely Paradox is a novella which will surprise you, and will make you deeply move with a twist that no one expected in the end!

Facebook brought them together, but will it keep them that way?

I liked that this book has hints of Hindi culture in it. I liked being exposed to that culture and practices. It opened my eyes in a good way. The storyline is cute–they meet on Facebook, and he leaves his homeland to meet her and fall in love with her in person. It’s cute. I liked the characters. Raj and Bella have good chemistry and I did root for them.

But I had some quibbles with the story, too. This read like English wasn’t the author’s first language. There were spots where the story didn’t flow well, and a bit of editing could go a long way. There’s promise in the story, but it reads a bit choppy. This might not bother some readers, but it took away from the overall enjoyment for me. It’s a short story and cute but could use just a bit of help to make it a fantastic story.

If you’re looking for a short romance that’s something a little different, then by all means, give this one a try. It’s got lots of love and promise.