Caves in the Rain by Bob Bickford


Caves in the Rain by Bob Bickford
Publisher: Champagne Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (259 pgs)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Mike Latta can’t forgive himself for the death of his daughter. It was a freak accident, but fathers should protect little girls from the bad things that can hurt them. He didn’t, and a descent into divorce and the bottle has gotten rid of every happy ending he ever hoped for.

A year of solitude on an island in northern Hollow Lake, away from the booze and the reminders of grief, may be the last chance he has. There’s more than peace and quiet on the lake though, because the ghosts of a long-ago murder haunt Echo Island. If Mike can’t figure out what the ghosts want from him, it may cost another little girl her life.

This story begins with a young boy setting his mother’s bed on fire and killing her. It’s easy to tell this read has a wicked character in it. He’s a bit like a chameleon and doesn’t show his true colors often.

A recently divorced male comes to town ready to settle on an abandoned island. His daughter died and it tore his marriage apart. His wife gave him the island and he plans to try to get himself together there. The only problem is that the island has ghosts. And the ghosts follow him…

Murder surfaces several times in this story. If you have a man who has no guilt, no conscience and a volatile temper that’s a very bad combination.

Mike tries to avoid the ghosts. He doesn’t recognize them as such when he first sees them but when he gets accused of acting wildly and talking to himself by his pickup, he realizes nobody else sees them. They pester him. And one day he finally understands why.

The story moves right along and has lots of action. The killer is someone easy to hate. He also has lived in the community long enough everyone believes his side of the story. That makes it hard when a ghost has told you how they got that way. Who believes in ghosts? And how do you solve a ten year old murder?

The ending was a bit abrupt and seemed a bit false but sometimes life is strange. Nobody that evil should have survived so long…

Little Girl Gone by Margaret Fenton


Little Girl Gone by Margaret Fenton
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (254 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Claire Conover is back in the sequel to Little Lamb Lost. She has taken a 13-year-old girl into custody after she is found sleeping behind a grocery store. The girl’s murdered mother is found at a construction site owned by a family friend, then the girl disappears. Her mother worked in an illegal gambling industry in Birmingham. Things only get more complicated from there. Is it possible the girl pulled the trigger? She doesn’t have a lot of street smarts, so where could she have run? Claire has to find the answers, and the girl, fast.

She works for the county child welfare division. It’s the beginning of a new school year and she knows her workload will pick up. Teachers see a lot more than they should on the line. They report injuries and she must intercede and get the child help. She gets a phone call about a young girl found sleeping in a box outside. The girl won’t tell them anything…

The first thing Claire does is try to get the girl to talk. All she gets is a name. She is lucky that the home she wants to place her in has an opening. This lady is sincere and helps the children get off to better start in life. The only problem is that as soon as she’s been fed and cleaned up, the girl skips. Then they find out her mother is dead. Did the girl kill her?

The social worker keeps trying to trace her. She meets a lot of volatile people, visits homes she wouldn’t want to live in, finds abuse in other places, and she keeps closing in on the girl. However, will she get there before the killer does?

This is a hard look at family dynamics and expectations. Children experiment, children rebel and children defy. Not all parents react the same way. Some hurt their children in their frustration. That’s inexcusable but it happens. You can tell the author has worked in social work because she’s very honest and believable as you read the story. It flows well and she keeps your mind going trying to figure out what happened before the end.

Hear Me Roar by Joy Smith


Hear Me Roar by Joy Smith
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (273 pgs)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Jan Simmons never expected trouble to move into her quiet Charming Way cul-de-sac. Nor did she expect her husband Jeff’s weakness for fast money to drag their once happy family into danger.

When her husband turns to crime, Jan, a people-pleaser with little self-worth, must release the death grip she has on her failing marriage for the sake of her children and draw on her inner strength.

As Jan fights to free her family from a web of lies and deceit she also battles to save herself.

Life can give us the unexpected, but when your husband turns to living a life breaking the law what does a wife do? Jan Simmons has a lot she is dealing with. It’s hard when her husband Jeff, the breadwinner of the household, lost his job and has to take a lesser paying job. I am not sure if the loss of his job ignited this change for the worst in Jeff, but this is the path he is traveling…a bickering, cheating drunk. Jeff is a character that I found very unlikeable. His priorities never seemed to be on his family and as the story goes on he gets caught up in a web of a mess and loses all sight of being a family man.

I enjoyed the author’s style of writing, but the story starts out slow. There wasn’t anything exciting about the life of a stay-at-home mom tending to kids, baking and conversations with other stay-at-home moms.The lack-luster husband who shows signs of a second life helped give the story something to look forward to. It’s a predictable story that was drawn out too long.

The new neighbor to Charming Way, Frank Carlucci (Digiorno) brought interest to the storyline but left me wondering why did he only have one card game at his house and why did he let Jeff accrue such a debt which in turn set the stage for Jeff to veer down his path of lawlessness.

Even though the story told of mafia behavior with drug dealing and kidnapping there wasn’t really any action. The story tells of a kidnapping but doesn’t show the events. I would have liked to have read the action. There were more details shared on the mom’s day than there were on the action details that must have taken place during the kidnapping and the trouble Jeff was involved in.

Jan didn’t start out as a strong woman but she eventually saw she had to provide for her family and protect their lives from the life her husband started to bring home. I like that Jan is a survivor and a fighter. She always kept her children’s best interest in mind. Maybe her growth and strength is the reason behind the title. Jan evolves from a housewife to finding her footing to being a business owner and mom of two.

The story is well written. It shows the courage of a woman taking charge of her life and the livelihood of her family. If you enjoy reading stories of women and their growth into a strong lioness be sure not to miss Hear Me Roar.

Charmed by Charlie by Amanda Uhl


Charmed by Charlie by Amanda Uhl
Publisher: Boroughs Publishing Group
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (232 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Everybody loves marketing whiz Charlie Solanger–except the woman he really wants.

Creative genius Charlie Solanger has it all: good looks, money, intelligence, charm. And when he swoops in to save Reynolds Paint Company with a brilliant marketing campaign, he has all the ladies in the office vying for his attention. Everyone except math whiz Valerie Wilson.

Val’s not happy Charlie stole her promotion. Worse, his brand of flirtatious charm is reminiscent of her cheating ex-fiancé. So, how come she can’t get him out of her head? The more she challenges him, the more interested–and interesting–he becomes. What secrets is Charlie hiding, and who or what is behind the sudden mysterious drain on their company’s funds? The only way to find out is to join forces. Then it will be a battle of wills…and a triumph of hearts.

If you enjoyed any of these following soap operas: General Hospital with Luke and Laura, or Days of our Lives with Hope and Bo, or Santa Barbara with Eden and Cruz, then you might love Charmed by Charlie.

This book was just what I needed in my life to escape the reality of Hurricane Irma approaching. Which was no small task given the nonstop media coverage. Valarie, the heroine, wasn’t the only one charmed by Charlie, the hero. I was completely smitten.

There’s no other way to explain it other than to say I felt like I was watching a soap opera that was predicted to win the Daytime Emmy award for Outstanding Drama Series. Valarie would win the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series and Charlie would win the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama series. Bernie would win the Outstanding Supporting actress in a Drama Series. George would win the Outstanding Supporting actor in a Drama Series. If there was a trouble maker award then it would go to Julie. Amanda Uhi would win the award for Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama writing series.

I enjoy books where I find myself being emotionally invested in all the characters. I enjoyed the dialog between them, the drama, the misunderstandings, the suspense/mystery, the chemistry, the banter and even the moments of heartbreak. The plot with the characters was brilliantly orchestrated into a “charming” romance story. The pace of the book was a lot faster and consistent than Irma was traveling towards Florida. I couldn’t put the book down.

In no way am I making light of Hurricane Irma; I’m well aware of the destruction she has left behind. I am merely pointing out the strength of Charmed by Charlie. The fact that I was given a few hours of reprieve from my harsh reality is a testament to the quality of this book. Therefore, I enthusiastically recommend this book to all my friends and family.

The Berghof Betrayal by Michael McMenamin and Patrick McMenamin

The Berghof Betrayal by Michael McMenamin and Patrick McMenamin
Publisher: First Edition Design Publishing
Genre: Historical, Thriller, Mystery/suspense
Length: Full (433 pgs)
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

“Weiland Herzfelde has absolutely reliable information that the Nazis plan a fake attempt on Hitler’s life which is to be the signal for a general massacre. The sources of his information are the SA in Dortmund and a tapped telephone conversation between Hitler and Röhm.”
The Diaries of Count Harry Kessler, February 1933

Winston Churchill receives startling news from a German aristocrat in early 1933 after Adolf Hitler is appointed Chancellor of Germany. The aristocrat has learned of a plot to stage a fake assassination attempt on the new German leader that the Nazis will use as a pretext to declare martial law and liquidate their political opponents. Unknown to Hitler, however, his enemies within the Nazi party—the Black Front—are conspiring with renegade elements of his own SS to turn the fake assassination attempt into a real one.

Churchill tells the American newspaper titan William Randolph Hearst of the fake plot and, together, they persuade Mattie McGary, Hearst’s top photojournalist and Churchill’s adventure-seeking Scottish god- daughter, to investigate. Mattie readily agrees in large part because exposing the fake plot may help her finally shed the unfortunate reputation she has in Germany as “Hitler’s favorite foreign journalist”.

Soon after she leaves for Germany, Mattie’s fiancé, the American lawyer and former MID agent Bourke Cockran, Jr., also travels to Germany to help his publisher client, Freedom House, acquire the rights to Rear Area Pig, an expose of Hitler’s less-than-heroic wartime service. Once in Germany, both Mattie and Cockran find themselves in peril at the hands of the SS loyal to Hitler who will stop at nothing to keep Cockran from acquiring the book and Mattie from learning the truth about the fake plot.

Threats to Mattie multiply when SS agents working for the Black Front attempt to coerce her into joining the real plot to kill Hitler. When Cockran learns the Black Front intends to kill Mattie along with Hitler at his alpine retreat, the Berghof, he reluctantly seeks the help of Reichspresident Herman Göring and Kurt von Sturm, a top Göring aide who is also one of Mattie’s former lovers. The one-time rivals for Mattie’s affection quickly conclude that there is only one way to protect Mattie. They must take out the Black Front snipers before they can assassinate Hitler. And time is running out…

This is the fourth book in the Winston Churchill 1930s Thriller series, but it’s the first one I’ve read. Oftentimes that would be a bad idea, but I’m so glad I took a chance on this. Sure, I might have had a deeper understanding of the characters had I read the earlier two books, but I had absolutely no trouble following this one.

It’s a long, complicated story and is not a quick or easy read. It is, however, one of the best thrillers I’ve read in a long time. It’s detailed, nuanced, and beautifully written. Be aware, it’s very much true to the times and what was going on in the world. There were some pretty depraved individuals around, and the authors do not hesitate to show you what they are capable of.

A blend of historical figures and characters created for the story make this look the world in the 1930s an easy way to learn about what was going on– it’s obvious the authors did their homework. There is a wonderful addition at the back of the book where they share what parts of the story are historical fact and which are created for the story. I appreciated this completely because the two were so seamlessly woven together that I wasn’t sure which were which!

A wonderful job! I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

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Serial Intent by Steve Bradshaw


Serial Intent by Steve Bradshaw
Publisher: Griffyn Ink
Genre: Contemporary Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (306 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

When Lindsey Fetter opened her eyes, the man that killed her husband was standing at the end of her bed. When Charlie Dunn pocketed his cell phone, he could only stare at the empty ice on Lake Michigan; the man that killed his wife and son had been released. When Ellen Dumont visited her parent’s gravesite alone, it never occurred to her that would be her last moment on earth.

450 murders is a slow year for Chicago Homicide Detective Aaron Wolfe, but he carries them with him. Long ago he had to learn how to bury the pain and angst so he could navigate the carnage and hunt the killers. But years of a rising crimson tide and failing legal system were more than he could bear. There were too many innocent victims, and too many killers escaping through the legal cracks. On the eve of his resignation, Wolfe saw the man convicted on the Dunn murders would be released–another legal maneuver. When Wolfe took on the Fetter and Dumont cases, his sick world took another turn. Some were killed by sniper fire and others had their skulls crushed with bare hands. Wolfe knew two horrific factions had engaged in a dark war that would change everything.

Can Wolfe uncover the secret force on a reckless mission to remedy a failing legal system? Can he stop the skull-crushing beast terrorizing the city? Or will Wolfe succumb to his scars and allow a new justice to prevail in a city of predators?

The justice system can be manipulated and no one sees this more glaringly than the police that enforce the laws.

Aaron Wolfe is a veteran homicide detective that has seen his share of death. When it appears that a vigilante group is hunting down criminals that manipulate the system, Aaron must decide which side of the line he stands on. Aaron has a past and many scars from his years of service; this proves beneficial as he sizes up the crime scene in a matter of seconds but can be very detrimental in his interpersonal relationships.

Serial Intent is a startling look inside the American Legal System and the long standing impacts that various plea bargains and judgments have on those personally affected by the crimes. When the reader first opens the book, there is a neat listing of 16 main characters. While reading through the book, the reader gets to experience life from each of the 16 characters’ point of view. This can be both fascinating and daunting.

Steve Bradshaw has a unique story telling ability-essentially he is able to bring the reader into the moment of time that the character and story is focused on at that moment. From time to time this can be difficult to track and follow and I occasionally found myself confusing characters. Realistically, this story seems to be most effectively told in the fashion that the author writes it. There is a strong sense of mystery and suspense throughout the book and each character is fascinating and dynamic.

Each character brings a deep back story and a reason for existing in the story. The dialogue between characters is crisp and believable and the confrontation and conflict between the many primary characters is realistic. The description of forensics is strong and very in-depth throughout the entire story. The entire flow of the story is smooth from beginning to end.

If you love a good mystery that focuses on the legal aspects of modern crime, you won’t want to miss Serial Intent!

Chimera Catalyst by Susan Kuchinskas


Chimera Catalyst by Susan Kuchinskas
Publisher: Pandamoon Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (192 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Who Decides What is Human…The

Corporations, Clones or Chimera?

When Finder is hired to locate charismatic, green-haired Miraluna Rose, it seems like an easy job. Crack into corporate databases, brew up some biologics to enhance his thinking, and get the job done with the help of the Parrot, a bird/dog chimera with the finest traits of both species.

The search takes Finder and the Parrot to the sun-broiled streets of Laxangeles, the canals of Seattle and the weirdly mutated vegetation of the Area. It turns out that it’s not a simple missing-person case after all.

Finder discovers that ReMe, a corporation providing medical cloning services, is illegally breeding human/animal chimeras. ReMe is selling these exotically beautiful female creatures, branded as ArcoTypes, as playthings to the wealthy and ruthless.

Miraluna Rose is its finest creation, but she has other ideas. She’s holed up at Refuge, a haven for ArcoTypes, where she’s planning a future of freedom for her sisters. To help the ArcoTypes fight ReMe, Finder and the Parrot will need the help of a couple of sympathetic AIs, the CEO of the world’s largest advertising company and a posse of highly modded, celebrity-crazed media kids.

This exciting adventure is a must read for anyone concerned about where our world and humanity is possibly headed…

Sometimes science causes just as many problems as it solves.

The world building was wonderful. Ms. Kuchinskas’ vision of what life will be like in a few generations was as chilling as it was fascinating. I especially liked her descriptions of how climate change seriously affected the lives of everyone in this society no matter how wealthy or well-connected they were. They painted a very thorough picture of how a culture attempted to rebuild itself after nearly being completely destroyed. What impressed me even more was that this was only one of about a dozen examples of the author stretching her ideas out until they’d reached their logical conclusion. She made me feel like I’d really traveled to the future, and that made it impossible for me to stop reading.

I would have liked to see a little more time spent on character development. While Finder’s personality was described with plenty of detail, there wasn’t enough attention paid to how he changed over the course of the plot. The changes I noticed in him were pretty subtle even though he experienced some pretty exciting, frightening, and unimaginable things during his adventures. There were so many opportunities for him to grow as a person. Had he taken advantage of a few more of them, this book would have easily earned a much higher rating from me as I loved everything else about it.

One of the things I enjoyed the most about the mystery was how much effort it required from me to find any major clues at all. I hadn’t know that kind of storyline was waiting for me when I first began reading, so it was even more fun than usual to shift the way I interpreted certain scenes and start paying attention to anything that might give me a hint about who Miraluna Rose was or why Finder was being paid so handsomely to discover what happened to her.

Chimera Catalyst was the perfect blend of science fiction and mystery. I’d heartily recommend it to fans of either genre!

Murder Beach by Rena Leith


Murder Beach by Rena Leith
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (341 pgs)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

Her husband’s infidelity turns Cass Peake’s world upside down. Hoping to start fresh, she moves to a sleepy little town called Las Lunas on the northern California coast. The cute seaside bungalow is surprisingly affordable and Cass snaps it up. She soon discovers why the place was so cheap; it’s haunted! And the beach by her new home is called Murder Beach by locals. She can’t even get a pizza delivered.

Back in the Roaring Twenties, the bodies of Doris Pierpont, a notorious bootlegger’s daughter, and her lover were discovered on the beach. Summoned by a séance in the Swinging Sixties, Doris returned to the house. Now she wants to know who murdered her.

As Cass tries to make a new life and solve Doris’s murder, the corpse of the local bookstore owner is found in the sand. Is Murder Beach living up to its name once again?

Can a book about a haunted house and a witch be funny?

If you told me I would enjoy a mystery that contained a witch, I’d think you had never met me. But…I did enjoy Murder Beach and its witch. The dialog was humorous which always entertains me. The setting of this book is in a little town with an old house on a beach that needs fixing up. Wow, I wanted to be there with my tools. Well…maybe I wanted to be there sitting on the beach. Nonetheless, the picture painted by the author wanted me to get involved.

Let’s talk a minute about the good and the not so good in this book. There was a little dialog about vampires that ran through this book. It is not my thing but it didn’t turn me off. That in itself means it had to be a fairly good read. This book moved a little slowly and it might be because some of the same actions went on a lot but it never made me want to put the book down. The principal characters were readable but not really fleshed out enough to “know” them. It was the dialog and the humor that I enjoyed most of all.

It’s a quick fun read, kind of sweet, not deeply involved, and I’m glad I spent the time reading it.

The Atlas Defect by A.J. Schudiere


The Atlas Defect by A.J. Schudiere
The Nightshade Forensic Files Book 3

Publisher: Griffyn Ink
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (350 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

Eleri wanted a different kind of case. She should have been careful what she wished for. When an odd human skeleton in Michigan’s Manistee-Huron National Forest triggers a NightShade investigation, Eleri and Donovan arrive to find it missing. But two other skeletons are a little too easily uncovered—each displays different anomalies that raise alarming questions. The bones aren’t from the area or probably even the continent. A decades-old abandoned building doesn’t register on satellite images. Files detailing genetic experiments on children are even more disturbing, and most of the children are unaccounted for. Who were the test subjects and where are the bodies? Eleri and Donovan believe there are others out there who haven’t died yet. But they will, if something isn’t done. Fast. If the case itself wasn’t enough of a problem, someone is watching. Someone with a particular interest in Donovan’s own skeletal anomalies . . .

Prepare for a book that will challenge how you view the world around you.

The Atlas Defect is the third book in the Nightshade Forensic Files series by A.J. Schudiere. The story centers on Eleri and Donovan, two F.B.I. agents from the Nightshade Division that is tasked with investigating some of the cases that fall outside of the regular realm of investigation. As such, these agents possess deep insight and strong investigative techniques.

The book is strong in description and research. The characters are believable and the events surrounding the ongoing investigations make the reader feel enveloped in the story. Although this is the third book in this specific series, a new reader should not feel that they would be lost just jumping in. While there may be some lingering questions; the author does a great job at filling in the missing back story that appeared in the other two books.

Action scenes and dialogue have a great flow throughout the book. This is mixed with strong medical and procedural research which gives an amazing combination and flow, making the reader feel at home even if the forensic field is somewhat new to the reader. Secondary characters each possess a strong backstory as well as their own character development. Transitions between events are not forced and move smoothly, leading the reader to want to continue reading and not put the book down.

The suspense factor is constant throughout the book. From the constant suspicion that someone is always watching to the mysterious events that plague the characters; there is the knowledge that something is not quite right. As the reader progresses through the book, more and more questions produce answers, which create even more questions in the end.

If you are a fan of forensic investigations I assure you that you will not be disappointed in The Atlas Defect!

Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar


Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar
Publisher: Cemetery Dance Publications
Genre: Recent Historical, Mystery/Suspense, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (180 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

The little town of Castle Rock, Maine has witnessed some strange events and unusual visitors over the years, but there is one story that has never been told… until now.

There are three ways up to Castle View from the town of Castle Rock: Route 117, Pleasant Road, and the Suicide Stairs. Every day in the summer of 1974 twelve-year-old Gwendy Peterson has taken the stairs, which are held by strong (if time-rusted) iron bolts and zig-zag up the cliffside.

At the top of the stairs, Gwendy catches her breath and listens to the shouts of the kids on the playground. From a bit farther away comes the chink of an aluminum bat hitting a baseball as the Senior League kids practice for the Labor Day charity game.

One day, a stranger calls to Gwendy: “Hey, girl. Come on over here for a bit. We ought to palaver, you and me.”

On a bench in the shade sits a man in black jeans, a black coat like for a suit, and a white shirt unbuttoned at the top. On his head is a small neat black hat. The time will come when Gwendy has nightmares about that hat…

I have to admit I’m a Stephen King junkie. I am. I’m also a bit of a short story junkie, too. When I saw this book at my local library, just sitting there unassumingly on the shelf, I had to sneak a peek.I mean, why not? So I picked it up. I’m glad I did. This was a quick read and even though it’s short, when I had to put it down to deal with life, I didn’t have to do a bunch of rereading to catch back up.That’s the good thing about this short story. There isn’t a lot of rereading that needs to be done if you have to walk away.

Gwendy is an interesting character. She has an awesome power within her and within the button box. Will she use it? Will she succumb? Will she get a big head from the power? I liked that Gwendy is relatable. There are things that made her more than she was, but I liked her human-ness. Now I would’ve been more than a little freaked out if some random guy wanted me to sit with him. Even more if he’d have offered me a box. I don’t know how Gwendy did it, but she did.

I liked how she grew through the story, too. The creep factor isn’t as strong in this story, which was nice for me because I wasn’t looking for a freaky story. But might be a turn off for others. There are plenty of characters and some are hard to keep straight, by the end, I felt like I knew them all. My heart bled at the end. I won’t give away spoilers, but it’s a tad gut-wrenching.

If you want a recent historical story with more than few twists, then this might be the short story you’re looking for. Oh and try a chocolate. I hear the detailing is fantastic.