Book Reviews

Book Review: The Howling Cliffs by Mary Deal

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The Howling Cliffs (Sara Mason Mysteries Book 2)The Howling Cliffs by Mary Deal

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mary Deal has become one of those authors whose books always deliver strong story, memorable characters, and beautiful narrative that’s easy to read and highly engaging. The Howling Cliffs, the second book in her ‘Sara Mason Mysteries’ series is the sixth book I’ve read in the last two years from her growing list of works. Between the title and the cover, it’s no wonder I loved the book, but I’ve also been reading several books with tropical locations such as Hawaii in the last few weeks. I’ve apparently got a theme going…

Sara has had a hard life, but she is a survivor and will never back away from a challenge. Months after solving a major crime involving a serial killer in the last book, she heads back to Vietnam to search for MIA heroes for two close friends: Esmerelda, a widow whose husband was murdered in the first book, and Huxley, Sara’s potential future husband soon. Esmerelda’s daughter never returned from her medical mission. Huxley’s brother, a strong leader of his group, also disappeared. Both are surely gone, killed in action during the awful Vietnam War from decades earlier. After finding a few scattered remains, the crew heads back to California (and other places) to see if they can find a DNA match. Sara returns to Hawaii where she’s renovating a house for travelers to stay when going back and forth on missions to Vietnam. She’s also visiting old and new friends and recuperating from a tough few years. Only it’s gonna get worse.

Some neighbors welcome her. Some do not. She’s an outsider, a haole, not of Hawaii’n birth. But it’s one neighbor, an angry and distant young man who lost his sister to a predator ~12 years ago when she was a child, whom attracts Sara’s focus. She wants to solve the cold case, and in doing so, digs up several secrets and lots of dirt somebody wants to remain buried. Through a series of near-death experiences, Sara explores her neighboring town’s beautiful landscape, researches and investigates the case, and tries to understand what makes the weird noise coming from the nearby cliffs. The Howling Cliffs is part-mystery, part-chronicle of life suspense. We follow Sara through several key changes in her life as she decides what she wants to do next. She’s a strong female lead with solid intuition and a zest for helping others. Admirable on many levels, she’s also forgetful about protecting herself. We see her deal with a little bit of pain and remorse, but also her desire (and need) to find new friends, like her neighbor who helps in the search for the child killer from twelve years earlier.

Deal’s novels handle complex, emotional experiences and tragedies while keeping a tight grip on the plot. We easily bounce from the main mystery to all the sub-plots that weave throughout the book, knowing it will come together, and thirsting for what’s the surprise waiting for us in the end. The author’s own life experience and knowledge of various remote parts of the world make the dialog, setting, and descriptions not only real but vivid and lively. You believe you’re trapped in a jungle with snakes and danger. You think the mudslide has trapped you in its grip. You enjoy the entire ride and feel satisfied with the ending. I’m really excited that she’s writing a third book in this series, which will have a takeoff from a plot in this book. I love when an author keeps those connections, and I’ll be the first in line to get a copy when it’s released. Thanks for another winner, Mary Deal.

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. There are two books: Academic Curveball and Broken Heart Attack. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

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Book Review: Death of an English Muffin by Victoria Hamilton

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Death of an English Muffin (Merry Muffin Mystery, #3)Death of an English Muffin by Victoria Hamilton

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

A strong cozy mystery [for me] must contain a complex mystery with a mean victim, a group of solid core characters, a bevy of potential culprits who are tied together in a fascinating manner, and an easily visible and charming locale. The third book in the Merry Muffin Mystery series by Victoria Hamilton, Death of an English Muffin, has all that and more. I give this one 4.5 muffins, I mean stars.

The Villain
A nasty old woman visiting the castle with her friends is killed. Cleta had some of the most offensive (for a cozy) and ruthless dialog I’ve ever seen. She’s a miserable lady who takes her frustrations out on everyone else, and therefore, she deserved to be the one to die in this book. Readers will love seeing her get her just desserts!

The Core Characters
Merry is awesome. She’s a realistic and smart woman who is trying to figure out her path. Sometimes she pushes too hard, others she backs away in appropriate measures. I like her character a lot and she makes me want to find my own castle to renovate. Her friends are growing and she’s building connections among the people in Autumn Vale. In the last book, I worried she didn’t have better ties, but they are growing. I like the budding friendship / relationship with Sheriff Virgil, too.

The Suspects
Cleta’s fellow 80-something gals from New York City came with her. Friends (or frenemies) for more than 50 years, they hold secrets over one another and use them to get whatever they want. Which one is lying? Which one is telling the truth? Why are they all so bitter? Oh, those high society biddies need to be taken down a notch or two, and Merry is just the gal to do it.

The Setting
Autumn Vale is in upstate New York. It’s a gorgeous and inspiring village. I love the landscape, the castle and the small-town feel. To see the rivalries with neighbor cities is also amusing. I feel immediately transported to it.

All-in-all, this series is developing strongly. I recommend it for most cozy readers. I can’t wait to pick up the next one.

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. There are two books: Academic Curveball and Broken Heart Attack. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Murder on the Orient S.S. by C. A. Larmer

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Murder on the Orient (SS): (Agatha Christie Book Club, #2)Murder on the Orient (SS): by C.A. Larmer

3.5 stars to the second book, Murder on the Orient (SS), in the Agatha Christie Book Club mystery series, written by C.A. Larmer. I read the first book in this series last year and hadn’t realized several more were already written. This installment was on-sale via Amazon last week for only .99, so I purchased it and found time to catch up this week as I’m focusing on a goal to get current with all my book series. All-in-all, it was a clever mystery with lots of fun stuff.

Alicia and her sister take a cruise near Australia. It’s a modernization (of sorts) of a similar one that tread the ocean in the early 20th century when the Titanic went down. It’s meant to be similar to the fateful train ride in Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. With a cast of a dozen or so strange and hilarious travelers, Alicia’s book club friends try to settle into a good time… until the Captain’s wife is thrown overboard and another patron has a supposed heart attack. When a third victim turns up, something is definitely off! The book club tries to investigate, but one of them, Anders, asks them to stay out of it, as he’s the temporary doctor on the ship. Something’s not right, and Alicia won’t let it sit tight. Of course, she must investigate. When she solves the crime, there are remnants of the fateful train ride it’s meant to shadow, but I assure you, the killer is not the same sort of type. It’s quite a new version in this book.

I’ve got mixed feelings on this book. Parts were very strong. Parts were weak. I felt the book club characters were a little too vague and disconnected. Alicia wasn’t as invested as she was in the first book, but she did play a good detective again. It was missing something, yet I can’t quite put my finger on the root cause. That said, much of it was good. The mystery was strong and had lots of red herrings, angles and valid facts. There were a few plot lines weaving together, and ultimately, they had something to do with each of the deaths. But how they all interacted was quite a mystery until the very end.

I like Larmer’s writing style. There are a few quirks in the story and character dialog, which may or may not be American versus British English, then some Australian being thrown in on the cruise. I found myself thinking “that’s an odd response” hoping it would later be clarified, but it wasn’t. Maybe it was me! I still enjoyed the story and the overall setting. I will read the next one soon, too.

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. There are two books: Academic Curveball and Broken Heart Attack. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Of Murder and Men by Lynn Cahoon

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Of Murder and Men (Cat Latimer Mystery, #3)Of Murder and Men by Lynn Cahoon

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I’ve completed reading the four books currently published in the Cat Latimer mystery series by Lynn Cahoon. Today’s review is for Of Murder and Men, the 3rd in the series; I read the 4th one first because I’d won it in a giveaway and then went back to read them in order. I wish I started properly, but overall, this series keeps getting stronger and stronger. I think this is my favorite thus far, and it earns 4.5 stars.

Cat is a late 20s widow who inherited her ex-husband, Michael’s, house when he died. At this point, we know he was somehow involved with the mob who has ties to the small town outside Denver, Colorado where they lived. What Cat didn’t know was that he’d been sucked into the accounting issues with a mob-related property, and before long, he had to pretend to be doing bad things in order to survive. Unfortunately, he couldn’t extricate himself quickly enough and was killed. We finally learn in this book who likely killed him, and how the killer’s family may or may not still be be after Cat. Instead of ignoring it, Cat has been trying to solve Michael’s death while using the house he left her as a writer’s retreat. Her high school boyfriend (and new love interest), Seth, and her best friend, Shauna, help run the retreat, where 5 writers show up for a week each month to finish their current WIPs. Almost always, one of them is a murderer, dies, or has a connection to the victim.

In this one, it’s Shauna who suffers. Kevin, her distracted boyfriend-turned-fiance, is found dead in his barn. Cat, Shauna, Seth, and Uncle Pete find connections between Michael’s death and Kevin’s death. One of the writers, Shirley, an ex-cop, helps investigate while she warms up to Pete. Ah, romance is brewing… the other writers are busier than usual and not as involved in the plot, but one of them turns up to have a connection with Kevin. Shauna’s battling it out with Kevin’s two ex-wives and their children for his estate, too. She doesn’t want the money, just a few things to remember him by. At the same time, Cat finds out Michael left her another building and never closed their joint account. Except… there’s WAY more money in it than he could have ever earned. Someone’s play games here, and Cat is determined to find out before Dante, the hot guy from the mob family who turns out was Michael’s childhood best friend, gets her all excited and bothered in a good way. No, poor Seth!

I’m quickly falling hard for this series. Cahoon has created some magic with the setting and action surrounding a writer’s retreat. Add in the mystery of Cat’s friends, and the mob-connections about town, there’s story in abundance. I love the clues Cahoon’s dropped in each book about future stories, too. I can already see plots formulating and know what might happen to certain characters. She’s a strong planner author (like me) which may be why I really like her writing style and these books. I need to read her other series next, especially since I’m now fully caught up with the four in this one. The 5th book won’t release for a few months, so I have time to start another of hers. Anyone else tried the Tourist Trap series?

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About Me

For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. The debut book, Academic Curveball, in my new mystery series, Braxton Campus Mysteries will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. I read, write, and blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge –and multiple Readathons. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Muffin But Murder by Victoria Hamilton

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Muffin But Murder (Merry Muffin Mystery, #2)Muffin But Murder by Victoria Hamilton

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I read the first book in the Merry Muffin series by Victoria Hamilton almost two years ago, then moved on to sample as many other cozy mysteries as I could. I’d also read another one of Hamilton’s series, Vintage Kitchen Mysteries, and am catching up on those now, too. I’m finally back to reading a few of the earlier ones from this series in publication order, which made Muffin But Murder (#2 of 5) next on my list. I’d forgotten enough about the characters and setting, but by about twenty percent into this book, it all came back… and it’s gotten even better in this edition.

Merry used to be a NYC fashion and style consultant. After a model falsely accused her of stealing something, and Merry’s great uncle passed away, she hightailed it to Autumn Vale in upstate New York to find out what she inherited and re-group. Surprise, he owned a castle! Merry decided to sell the estate and in this second book, she’s battling a supposed cousin for ownership, townspeople who think she’ll sell them out, and a killer with a vendetta. With her best friend’s help, Merry holds a costume ball to help showcase the estate to wealthy folks in the hopes they’ll buy the place, but when one uninvited attendee ends up dead at the end of the party, she’s back to sleuthing. What’s even scarier: the victim was the unknown twin brother of the guy who caused problems in the first book of the series!

Character – Good; they’re developing but we need a few more supporting ones
Writing – Strong; I enjoy the witty dialog and narrative / descriptions
Setting – Good; reminds me of my trips to Hudson, NY and its surrounding towns
Voice – Good; I like the tone of the books and the perspective changes on the action

The mystery was medium-complex. There were several red herrings, lots of potential culprits, a few side stories, a secondary mystery to keep us distracted, and a strong, clear finish. When the various side stories began to weave together, I figured out what was going on, but it was still fun to watch it finish. I will definitely continue reading the series and already ordered the next one to begin in late January.

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. There are two books: Academic Curveball and Broken Heart Attack. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

VOTE for Academic Curveball – Critters Award

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Friends,

Academic Curveball has been nominated for a Critters Workshop award in the ‘Other Novels’ category. I’m grateful for the nomination and the support. The polls are opened through January 14th. I’d love your help if you want to promote the first book in my Braxton Campus Mysteries series. You can see current standings here.

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To vote, go to this page. You will scroll down, find ‘Academic Curveball’ and click the radio button. It will be under “Other Novels” if you can’t find it. You will need to enter your email address and then click “Confirm” in the email once it arrives in order to complete the voting process. If you don’t want to create an account, you can skip that process and opt out of any emails once done. This is to ensure voters aren’t able to vote multiple times.

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If you’re up for voting in other categories, check out my friend, Brian L. Porter’s, two books which are also up for awards in different categories: (1) Last Train to Lime Street (Mystery) and (2) Cassie’s Tale (Non-Fiction) . Thanks!

Book Review: Grimoires, Spas & Chocolate Straws by Erin Johnson (Blog Tour Stop)

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Welcome! I’m the next stop today on the blog tour for a new book titled Grimoires, Spas & Chocolate Straws, the 8th book in the Spells & Caramels cozy witch series by Erin Johnson. A few key facts about the book before I share my review and other information about the blog tour:

Self Published (December 29, 2018)
Paperback: 332 pages
ISBN-10: 1792728727
ISBN-13: 978-1792728723
Digital ASIN: B07LB49VBR

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grimoires spas and chocolate straws

DESCRIPTION OF BOOK

Sandy slaughter. An enchanting suspect. Can a magical baker protect her friends from a dangerous paradise?

Stranded on Badlands Island, Imogen Banks is driving herself crazy looking for her brother. So when the spell-casting baker’s friends suggest they escape for a luxurious dragon spa treatment, she doesn’t need a second invitation. But her hopes for coastal romance with Hank fall flat when a resort guest turns up roasted in the sand.

Suspecting murder, Imogen zeroes in on the town’s rumored “black widow” as a possible culprit. But when her friend falls for the beautiful woman despite the deadly track record, Imogen fears he’ll be the next victim to stay buried.

Can Imogen sift through the clues before the killer gives her one final treatment?

Grimoires, Spas and Chocolate Straws is the eighth book in the Spells and Caramels delightful paranormal cozy mystery series. If you like endearing heroines, a touch of romance, and unexpected twists, then you’ll love Erin Johnson’s magical whodunit.

Buy Grimoires, Spas & Chocolate Straws to massage a new mystery today!

READ ALL MY PAST REVIEWS OF THE FIRST SEVEN BOOKS HERE

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My Review

Grimoires, Spas & Chocolate Straws (Spells & Caramels, #8)Grimoires, Spas & Chocolate Straws by Erin Johnson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Erin Johnson is quite a prolific author. In about a year, she’s launched eight books in the Spells & Caramels cozy witch series. Part paranormal adventure, part mystery, these books whisk you away to a world like no other. In the latest book, Grimoires, Spas & Chocolate Straws, baker Imogen Banks is stranded on an island after a war began in her non-Earth world. Her boyfriend, Hank’s, royal family was up to no good, and several magical creatures escaped thru a mirror from the scary visiting monsters. Imogen and the gang put their trust in her possibly ne’er-do-well brother, Horace, only to learn, the truth is not what they thought.

Since the last book ended, the crew’s been working and living on this island with their new friends. When they go on a spa / beach trip, they meet The Black Widow, who supposedly kills her husbands and finds a new one on a regular basis. The journey introduces us to fun new characters who run the spa and are romantically linked to the woman whose husbands mysteriously die. What’s really going on? Imogen is determined to find out as the secret has a few layers to it. She’s also searching for Horace but he’s nowhere to be found. Both mysteries come to a head and change the course of the future for these traveling magical friends.

Johnson has created a truly intense and vivid world. From being buried under the sand for a massage and exfoliation treatment to walking through mirrors to reach the past or other worlds, these books have excellent escapes. The characters are all distinct and fun, even when they’re evil or make bad decisions. The ending of this one is romantic and special, and I look forward to what could happen in the next book. I miss the baking contests and fun around the royal castle, but I’m confident it will return one day. I also love meeting different kinds of creatures from vampires to snakes who transform into humans. You never really know what lurks beneath the surface.

I’m excited about the 9th book which I hear might be coming out relatively soon! Thanks for this great series.

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About the Author

Erin Johnson is a native of Tempe, Arizona, Erin spends her time crafting mysterious, magical, romance-filled stories that’ll hopefully make you laugh. In between, she’s traveling, napping with her dogs, eating with her friends and family, and teaching Pilates (to allow her to eat more).

erin johnson

Websitewww.erinjohnsonwrites.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/EJohnsonWrites

Twitter: @EJohnsonWrites

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Who Else is on the Blog Tour?

The tour has ten days of stops and you can see the blog names listed below. Stop by to check out everyone’s opinions or to enter the giveaway contest and win a free copy…

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Link to Dollycas / Great Escapes Tour Page

January 8 – Valerie’s Musings – REVIEW

January 8 – Babs Book Bistro – SPOTLIGHT

January 9 – Laura`s Interests – REVIEW

January 9 – Paranormal and Romantic Suspense Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

January 10 – Sapphyria’s Books – REVIEW

January 10 – Readeropolis – SPOTLIGHT

January 11 – The Avid Reader – REVIEW

January 11 – A Holland Reads – SPOTLIGHT

January 12 – This Is My Truth Now – REVIEW

January 12 – Bibliophile Reviews – REVIEW

January 13 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW

January 14 – Carla Loves To Read – REVIEW

January 14 – Cozy Up With Kathy – SPOTLIGHT

January 15 – The Montana Bookaholic – REVIEW

January 15 – Devilishly Delicious Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

January 16 – A Chick Who Reads – REVIEW

January 16 – Celticlady’s Reviews  – SPOTLIGHT

January 17 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT  

January 17 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – SPOTLIGHT

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I hope you enjoyed stopping by my blog to be part of this fun tour. Many thanks to Erin Johnson and Lori Caswell @ Great Escapes Virtual Tours for including me in this opportunity. Tell me what you thought of the blog tour, the review, and whether you’re gonna read this book! Only time will tell, I suppose… right?
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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. There are two books: Academic Curveball and Broken Heart Attack. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.