Complicating Roy by Megan Slayer


Complicating Roy by Megan Slayer
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, LGBTQ
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Moonflower

Complication doesn’t always have to be a bad thing.

Duke Charles needs a break. He’s tired of life on the road and never having a place to settle down. He decides to head to Norville for a rest in his childhood home. Once there, he realizes his life isn’t quite so relaxed—he’s not only inherited the house, but a cat to go with it. When his friend from high school sends him on a date, he finds out how complicated life can be…in a good way.

Roy Mars likes his life as an artist. He paints, sells work and takes his cat, Raphael, for walks through Norville. He channels his emotions into his art…until he goes on a date and meets Duke. His uncomplicated life gets thrown into chaos, not least because Duke has rabid fans who insist on knowing every detail of his life.

Can Roy handle a little complication in the form of Duke, or will he quit before he finds his forever?

When social media runs your life, you sometimes have choices to make.

Duke is the drummer in a famous band who has been on tour constantly for the past 15 years. He needs some time away to get his head back on straight. Roy is famous in his own way as an artist. They get set up by the fairy godmother of Norville, James, and fall victim to insta-lust followed by insta-miscommunication.

I much preferred Duke in this story to Roy. Duke is relatable, he has his issues and has worked/is working on them. Roy seems more along the lines of ‘this is me, deal with it.’ As with book one, there were storylines that didn’t seem to go anywhere – with Ted and with the Mayor. It will be interesting to see if these are picked up in future books.

This is a low-angst book that moves at a fast pace, continuing along the lines of book one. It was a good read, but I would prefer it to be a bit more in-depth with the characters as they felt sort of wooden in places. An enjoyable read that I enjoyed and have no hesitation in recommending.

Restless Dead by David J Gatward


Restless Dead by David J Gatward
Publisher: Vellum
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

His latest case has him chasing ghosts. But the murderer is flesh-and-blood hiding in the ashes…

DCI Harry Grimm is on the cusp of a stunning decision. Considering making his move to the scenic Yorkshire Dales permanent, he ends up reviewing details of a terrible car accident that killed a retired colonel’s beloved wife. But when the panicked widower calls the police claiming the deceased woman’s spirit is haunting him, the dedicated detective wades in to piece together a less implausible explanation.

With suspicions running high after a cabin on the property burns down, Grimm and his team are shocked to identify the scorched human remains that leave behind a twice-grieving family. And when he uncovers evidence the fire wasn’t simple misfortune, the no-nonsense investigator is certain the culprit is more than a ghastly ghoul…

Can he nab the phantom killer before they vanish into thin air?

DCI Harry Grimm is settling in well to life in the Dales, both the small police force he’s working with and the friendly community. When a road accident tragically kills a woman Harry and his team are drawn into the strange goings on at Black Moss House – which the community whisper tales about, believing it was – and maybe still is – haunted. With the additional stress of a herd of valuable sheep being stolen by a seemingly well-established gang there is plenty going on for Harry and his team.

I really enjoyed this book, an excellent addition to the DCI Harry Grimm series. While the book can be read by itself, I feel readers will definitely get much more out of it having read the previous books in the series. The sheep/animal rustling plot in particular had been started in previous book and the lingering sub-plot of Harry, his brother and their father has been going on in the background for a few books now. The main plot – that of the car accident and death – along with how the family cope with their grief and the strange goings on at their home can certainly be read by itself and I feel the reader can easily enough follow along with the two plots intertwining in this story, so readers shouldn’t be too put off by it being the middle book in a series.

The slower pace and the freshness of the small-town feel and close community really was a pleasure to read, and I enjoyed how the small police force all had easily differentiated characters who were well drawn. I found them engaging and easily got sucked back into this authors world.

Readers who enjoy a solid mystery with interesting characters and a small-town feel should definitely enjoy this book, though I would recommend going back to the start of the series and enjoying each of these works. Recommended.

High Force by LJ Ross


High Force by LJ Ross
Publisher: Dark Skies Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Hell has unleashed a demon – and he’s coming for you…

Detective Chief Inspector Ryan’s worst nightmare has just become a reality. Notorious serial killer The Hacker has escaped prison and kidnapped one of his best detectives from her own home. His brutality is the stuff of legend – Ryan lost his sister and nearly his own life bringing the man to justice first time around. Can Ryan do it again to save his friend?

There’s a nationwide manhunt underway but the trail has gone cold and fear spreads like a virus. Ryan and his team must find The Hacker before he takes another life – but are they too late?

The clock is ticking…

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

This book follows on almost immediately after the conclusion of the previous book (Angel). Angel ended on a high-stakes cliffhanger with DI Denise MacKenzie being kidnapped by DCI Ryan’s greatest foe. While this kidnapping and the immediate ramifications are detailed from the very first page of this story – so I feel reading Angel is not strictly necessary to understand what’s going on – I do feel much of the readers’ connection to the characters as well as much of the suspense/tension is better gained for readers having read at least some of the previous books, so they have an emotional investment in what’s going on, particularly for Denise. That said, readers shouldn’t feel like it’s critical to have read any of the previous books as the author does a very good job of explaining the plot, the real danger Denise is in and enjoy the thriller aspects as the team hunt for their colleague.

I was pleased that the author managed a good balance between keeping the conflict/suspense and tension very high but didn’t resort to too many gritty details nor dwell on the serial killer aspect merely for titillation purposes. I strongly feel that there was ample conflict as it was, so I really thought there was no need to go over the top with more delicate or grisly aspects to the story. Rather obviously, the entirety of the book focused on the team hunting Denise to rescue her and bring her safely home, but also return The Hacker to prison.

At times I wondered if there could have been a little more to the plot – because when you really boil it down the book is only about chasing the Hacker and rescuing DI MacKenzie. I feel maybe some readers could feel like the plot of this book is a little one-dimensional for a full-length novel – but there was enough adrenaline, action, suspense and tension I lean toward thinking the book didn’t need more plot to it, but I really did wonder a few times while reading this. I readily admit had there been another sub-plot that it could easily have detracted away from the importance of the team focusing on Denise and her rescue, or stolen pages away from Denise surviving her capture. This could very well have been a Catch-22 for the author with no “correct” answer.

With exceptional characters and a boatload of tension in this thriller/suspense novel this is a good read that might tempt you to finish it in one sitting. Not for the faint of heart (this is about a main female character surviving being kidnapped for a period of time by a serial killer and known enemy), this is a page-turning kind of story that I feel will suit a wide range of readers.

*The Bodyguard by Katherine Center


*The Bodyguard by Katherine Center
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Women’s fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

She’s got his back.
Hannah Brooks looks more like a kindergarten teacher than somebody who could kill you with a wine bottle opener. Or a ballpoint pen. Or a dinner napkin. But the truth is, she’s an Executive Protection Agent (aka “bodyguard”), and she just got hired to protect superstar actor Jack Stapleton from his middle-aged, corgi-breeding stalker.

He’s got her heart.
Jack Stapleton’s a household name—captured by paparazzi on beaches the world over, famous for, among other things, rising out of the waves in all manner of clingy board shorts and glistening like a Roman deity. But a few years back, in the wake of a family tragedy, he dropped from the public eye and went off the grid.

They’ve got a secret.
When Jack’s mom gets sick, he comes home to the family’s Texas ranch to help out. Only one catch: He doesn’t want his family to know about his stalker. Or the bodyguard thing. And so Hannah—against her will and her better judgment—finds herself pretending to be Jack’s girlfriend as a cover. Even though her ex, like a jerk, says no one will believe it.

What could possibly go wrong???
Hannah hardly believes it, herself. But the more time she spends with Jack, the more real it all starts to seem. And there lies the heartbreak. Because it’s easy for Hannah to protect Jack. But protecting her own, long-neglected heart? That’s the hardest thing she’s ever done.

The Bodyguard is an entertaining and heartwarming story. It centers on Hannah, a personal bodyguard who is dedicated to her job. In fact, Hannah is so consumed with her job she doesn’t have time for anything else in her life. Everything is going well in Hannah’s life, until it all falls apart and she is left feeling adrift and confused.

I decided to read The Bodyguard because It sounded intriguing. Jack is a famous actor and I love reading stories revolving around Hollywood. Hannah is a bodyguard, and I liked the idea of a woman protecting a man, especially a hot Hollywood actor. I liked Jack and Hannah and I enjoyed their story, however, at times, I had a difficult time connecting with them. Overall, I liked the premise of the book and the characters, but it just felt like something was lacking.

Even saying that, the story has its strong points, it kept my interest and I enjoyed reading it. I think other readers will like it too.

Loving Summer Rain by Megan Slayer


Loving Summer Rain by Megan Slayer
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, LGBTQ
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Moonflower

A match made in heaven? More like a match made in Norville and made to last.

Arthur Burton wants a lover and partner, but no man seems to want to be with the local insurance agent. He’s not the bland two-dimensional man on the billboards, but he hasn’t been given the chance to show his colors.

Summer Rain Davis embodies the bohemian lifestyle. He loves his arts and crafts. He’s always had a thing for the buttoned-up professional types and when he’s set up with Arthur, sparks fly.

Love is possible in a small town if Arthur and Summer Rain are willing to give their romance a try.

Can these two men, seemingly total opposites, find common ground and love to last a lifetime? Or will their differences keep them apart?

Very fast-paced with lots of smoochy bits.

On paper, Summer Rain and Arthur are not a match. However, the resident fairy godmother/hairdresser/dog rescuer James, thinks they are perfect for each other. They agree to be set up on a date and there you go. They click instantly and their relationship moves at supersonic speed.

It is low angst for the most part. Some of the relationships and occurrences didn’t make sense to me. Billy – I got. I understand where he was coming from. But Cash? Don’t get him at all. Or Benji for that matter. The whole scene with him felt off, including Summer Rain’s reaction to him.

This is the first book in the series (Love Me Do) so I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next in the town of Norville. Recommended by me for a light read.

Winning Over Harmon by Megan Slayer


Winning Over Harmon by Megan Slayer
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQ, Romance
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Moonflower

Second chances are possible if you’re willing to give love a chance.

Harmon Keyes wasn’t looking for romance when he visited Roy Mars’ gallery show, but the moment he sees Winston Saint, he’s smitten. He has no idea who Winston is, but the attraction is off the charts. He also isn’t sure if he’ll ever see the man again. Can a trip to Dye Hard Style help get him together with Winston?

Michael Winston Saint knew the second he spotted Harmon that he’d fallen head over heels. He’d never forget the geeky guy who talked too much or that kiss full of electricity and passion. Unfortunately, he has to leave the gallery show before he can give Harmon his number. He returns to Norville for a rest and the chance to connect with his dream man. Winston’s determined to win over Harmon at all costs.

Will the teacher and the rock star be able to make a go of their relationship? Or will the gossip and complication of small-town life be more than they can handle?

Things are never easy when you fall in love with a rock star.

Harmon is a schoolteacher in Norville. As such, he believes he should be above redemption, allowing nothing to mar his reputation. However, when he meets Michael (Winston) he realizes just how lofty that ideal is and, together, they work out just what is realistic whilst still allowing them to have a life together.

As with most of Megan Slayer’s books that I have read, this is very low-angst. Harmon doesn’t even blink at some of the shenanigans that people get up to, to get close to Winston, including some of his old students.

A gentle, easy read with some steamy moments that I can happily recommend.

Small Stories: A Perfectly Absurd Novel by Rob Roy O’Keefe


Small Stories: A Perfectly Absurd Novel by Rob Roy O’Keefe
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Satire, Fiction
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

One town is just like another.

Except when it’s the focus of a wild experiment gone off the rails.

Duncan and Maya Small have just moved to an out-of-the-way town full of odd characters, quirky customs, and a power-obsessed local official who believes he should be declared emperor. Duncan is sharp enough to know something needs to change, and delusional enough to believe he’s the one to make it happen. The only thing standing in his way are feral ponies, radical seniors, common sense, and Duncan’s inability to do anything without a list. Oh, and an entire town that won’t take him seriously.

Small Stories: A Perfectly Absurd Novel, is a tale of power, bake sales, manipulation, the Welcome Wagon, deception, and yes, diabolical forces at work in the shadows, although the Smalls soon discover nothing is as it seems. One thing is certain – there’s something funny going on here.

Everything has a rational explanation, right?

My favorite scenes were the ones that dug into the unexpected results of small town politics. Sometimes conflicts with the lowest and pettiest stakes can be the most interesting because of how personally invested people can be in making sure that they receive recognition for their work or that someone they dislike is not chosen for a particular position or award. The author did an excellent job of portraying how frustrating and unintentionally hilarious these moments can be, especially to outsiders who are not yet aware of how seriously some folks take these matters.

I had trouble following the plot due to how often it veered off track to explain all sorts of random bits of information that were loosely related to what the characters were currently doing. This is something I’m saying as someone who generally enjoys these sorts of rabbit trails in stories. They can be a great deal of fun to read, but they happened too often here for this reader’s tastes.

The dialogue was funny and well written. All of the characters had natural speaking voices, and I could easily imagine their conversations happening in real life. This was true even for the zany ones that talked about things like how to keep pufferfish out of their community even though no pufferfish had yet been found there. People do sometimes talk about silly things like this, and the way they spoke in this book rang true to me.

Small Stories: A Perfectly Absurd Novel made me chuckle.

Think Twice by John Carson


Think Twice by John Carson
Publisher: Vellum
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

As the end of the year draws to a close, Detective Chief Inspector Sean Bracken is called to a murder scene near the Writer’s Museum. The body of a woman is sitting on a bench in the square, her frozen hand holding a paperback.

The book is by famous American professor of psychology and crime writer, Edwin Hawk. Who has just ended a book tour, culminating in Edinburgh.

Hawk doesn’t know her and thinks she may be just a fan of his.

Knowing he is the number one suspect, he sets out to convince Bracken of his innocence. But Bracken has dealt with people like Hawk before. Is the man telling the truth or using psychology to get away with murder?

Bracken discovers the real reason the professor is still in Edinburgh, and it’s not for Hogmanay. And when he discovers the secrets he’s been keeping, not only could his own life be in danger, but those around him.

Bracken will have to deal with not only a vicious killer but somebody who doesn’t like to lose. But Bracken has played these games before, and one of them has to lose.

And for the loser, life will never be the same again.

DCI Sean Bracken has been back in Edinburgh for only a few weeks and already he’s drawn into another murder investigation. A woman is murdered and left holding a book – the author of whom she was a strong fan of and had been to a small soiree for just hours before her death. The more DCI Bracken investigates the deeper and more complicated the mystery – and everyone’s motives – become.

This is the second book featuring Sean Bracken and I really enjoyed it. I’m a big fan of this author’s DCI Harry McNeil’s books but while the tone of the author’s voice is similar in a “more-ish” manner I was really pleased that the actual feel and structure of the story was quite different for this series. Sean Bracken is a fair bit harder and grittier than Harry McNeil and there’s a noticeable amount of more force and swearing in this series. The whole feel to the story rather than a fun romp through a police investigation is a lot harder and sharper. Readers who enjoy the darker edge many British based stories tend to lean towards should really enjoy this series and this book in particular.

I strongly feel readers can pick this book up as a standalone. The entire events of the first book were all crammed into a little over one week of story timeline – so quite a bit of explanation and background/character history was parceled out in this story. This should help keep fresh readers completely aware of what’s going on and the plot itself is very well written and completely contained in this book.

With a small cast of vibrant characters and a solid plot that kept me turning the pages and guessing well into the story this was a good book and an exceptional new series I plan to thoroughly enjoy.

Redemption by David Baldacci


Redemption by David Baldacci
Publisher: Pan Books (Pan McMillan)
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery /Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Fern

Decker is visiting his hometown of Burlington, Ohio, when he’s approached by a man named Meryl Hawkins. Hawkins is a convicted murderer. In fact, he’s the very first killer Decker ever put behind bars. But he’s innocent, he claims. Now suffering from terminal cancer, it’s his dying wish that Decker clear his name.

It’s unthinkable. The case was open and shut, with rock solid forensic evidence. But when Hawkins turns up dead with a bullet in his head, even Decker begins to have doubts. Is it possible that he really did get it wrong, all those years ago?

Decker’s determined to uncover the truth, no matter the personal cost. But solving a case this cold may be impossible, especially when it becomes clear that someone doesn’t want the old case reopened. Someone who is willing to kill to keep the truth buried, and hide a decades-old secret that may have devastating repercussions . . .

Amos Decker has returned to his hometown in Ohio to lay flowers on his daughter’s grave on what would have been her fourteenth birthday. When he is approached by a newly released prisoner who was his first arrest as a homicide detective Amos was not expecting the man to not only insist on his innocence, but for Amos to actually believe him. Drawn back into the old case, can Amos right the wrongs he unwittingly committed all those many years ago?

Even though this is the fifth book in the Amos Decker series I feel many readers should be able to pick this up and still thoroughly enjoy the complicated murder mystery. While this is absolutely the re-looking at a cold case, there is clearly still aspects of the original murder that continues into the present day as people who were peripherally involved continue to be involved and more murders are committed as Amos looks deeper into the issues.

Much of Amos’ past and his connection to the other primary characters – ie the FBI, Alex and Melvin etc – is well explained though it’s quite obvious there are previous books that delve far deeper into these friendships. Readers wanting a fast paced, movie-style action plotline might not find this suits their tastes. There is a wonderfully complicated plot with a number of twists and turns, but the pacing is a bit slower than an action-orientated storyline, and this means many of the items unfold at a slightly slower pace than some readers might prefer. Personally, I enjoyed this slower pace – it made me feel like I was understanding exactly what was happening and discovering things alongside Amos and not trailing behind or lost.

With an interesting plot and plenty of secondary characters in the cast who were part of the investigation this is a solid book and I feel it’s a well-woven plot. This isn’t a fast-paced ride, but I feel it’s more of a complex and inter-woven style of story where untangling everything is part of the pleasure and it’s always interesting to see how Amos’ brain works and all the myriad of smaller things his perfect memory can recall and turn for a new interpretation.

A strong book and a good series I really enjoy.

Neither by Airlie Anderson


Neither by Airlie Anderson
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), LGBTQ, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

In this colorful and touching story that celebrates what makes each of us unique, a little creature that’s not quite a bird and not quite a bunny–it’s “neither”–searches for a place to fit in.

In the Land of This and That, there are only two kinds: blue bunnies and yellow birds. But one day a funny green egg hatches, and a little creature that’s not quite a bird and not quite a bunny pops out. It’s neither!

Neither tries hard to fit in, but its bird legs aren’t good for jumping like the other bunnies, and its fluffy tail isn’t good for flapping like the other birds. It sets out to find a new home and discovers a very different place, one with endless colors and shapes and creatures of all kinds. But when a blue bunny and a yellow bird with some hidden differences of their own arrive, it’s up to Neither to decide if they are welcome in the Land of All.

This colorful, simple, and touching story promotes diversity and offers a valuable lesson to the youngest of audiences: it is our differences that unite us.

Some things in life need a little bit more explanation.

One of the biggest strengths of this picture book in my opinion was how open-ended the storyline was. While it was originally written to help explain people who are gender non-conforming to kids, the message in it could easily be used to talk about race, disability, or any other number of differences that little ones might notice in others. To paraphrase certain key elements in the plot, not everyone can be easily categorized into this box or that one.

From a storytelling perspective, I found my wishing that the narrator had spent more time explaining why the rabbits and birds had never thought to explore places beyond their homeland or even to wonder what they were like. There didn’t seem to be any barriers between their land and what lay beyond it, so I was a little surprised to learn that they knew nothing about the geography of the world they lived in other than the little piece of it they were born on. It would have been nice to be given some logical reason for them to be unaware of such things.

I loved the positive and hopeful ending. It fit the age group this tale was written for perfectly while still leaving space for more exploration for kids who had additional questions or who wanted to keep talking. It’s reassuring for little readers to know that there is a place in this world for everyone even if they feel out of place at the moment, so I was also pleased to see that idea included as well.

Neither was a good conversation starter.