Book Review: Thriller & Suspense

Book Review: A Matter of Latitude by Isobel Blackthorn

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A Matter of LatitudeA Matter of Latitude by Isobel Blackthorn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Matter of Latitude is the second book I’ve read by author Isobel Blackthorn. In this tale of corruption and psychological fear, readers get to know Celestino and Paula, a married couple with a young daughter who live in the Canary Islands. From the gripping opening when Celestino is nearly killed in a car accident, attacked by a dog, and almost swallowed by the sea, we know we’re in for a traumatic ride…

The novel alternates between Celestino and Paula as they attempt to find their way back to one another. Celestino is wounded and knows someone is trying to kill him. He’s an artist who was trying to work on a painting with a client, but there seems to be something going on with his role in the widespread corruption occurring throughout Lanzarote, the island where they live. Paula is waiting for him to return for their daughter’s birthday party, but he never shows. She relies on her parents, who’ve moved to the island during retirement, but they aren’t as helpful as they could be. Throw in a few neighbors and friends, and Paula spends most of the book tracking down Celestino’s whereabouts on the day of the storm when he went missing. What she learns about her husband is not something she’s prepared to understand. Is he dead? Has he crossed to the evil side? Is he purposely leaving her in suspense? Is he protecting her from someone? Celestino finally finds some help, but it might be too late for him to return home further unharmed. Add in a couple more deaths, and this thriller will have you nonstop guessing what’s going on with this captivating couple.

Blackthorn’s writing prowess can easily be seen in her descriptions. She always leaves a clear visual of the landscape, expressions, and action happening on each of the pages. I particularly enjoy how her novels are set outside of an area where I have any familiarity. Despite not having been to the islands, I feel like I know them well now. I also like the details she provides about each character’s background and personality, enabling readers to feel connected to the tale as if they’re involved in the action themselves. Another strength is the layers involved in the corruption on the island. While we’re fairly certain how to feel about the primary couple, beyond them, I couldn’t tell who was innocent and who was guilty. From the kind / not-so-kind neighbor, to the best friends, to the guy following Paula around begging for help… one of them had to be involved. But who!?! Blackthorn kept me guessing until the very end. A good pay-off too…

If you enjoy international stories full of drama and culture, this is definitely one to put on your list. There’s a fine balance of intrigue and serene comfort between all the action that leaves you thirsty for more of the author’s work. Beyond a few books on the Canary Islands, there are others in her canon, too. I’m excited to check them out in the coming months.

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If you missed my Author Alert & Spotlight on Isobel Blackthorn last week, check it out here.

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 but with a twist. There are five books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, Mistaken Identity Crisis, and Haunted House Ghost. 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: The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

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The Family UpstairsThe Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell was one of my favorites so far this year. I’ve read several of her other books, and for me, this one is the best yet. I devoured the book in two chunks, one larger read in the afternoon and the other shortly before bed. I couldn’t fall asleep for at least an hour as my mind continued to process everything that had happened in the complicated and messy (in a good way) tale.

There are 3 main voices in the novel: Lucy, a runaway/homeless mother of two; Henry, the son of a former rich couple who fell for a scam; and Libby, a 25-year-old girl who inherits a house from the biological parents who committed suicide nearly a year after she was born. As the stories unravel, we begin to understand some of the connections between the three protagonists; however, in true Jewell fashion, what you know is not quite what you know. The lines are blurry, the connections are misleading, and the identities often change. If you just look at the shell of this book, Libby is a sweet and wonderful girl in search of the truth, Henry is quirky and possibly a little crazy, and Lucy is either truly down on her luck or causes her own pain time and time again.

That’s only the beginning. Lucy acts the way she does because of what happened to her as a child. We don’t know all the details, but it’s easy to judge her in the beginning. While I still think she should’ve been partially punished for some of her actions, all-in-all, she definitely suffered more than any human should. Libby is 100% faultless… and she’s the kind of girl I’d like to be friends with (before or after the money, in case you were wondering!). Henry… well… that’s complicated. Sometimes, he seems very attractive. Others, I think he might try to kill people because his brain is just a little different than the rest of ours. Was he a victim of his circumstances? Was he properly punished? Do we truly know the whole story, or only the parts he wanted to share with us?

This was the kind of book that leaves you puzzled in a good way. There is a lot left to a reader to decide. Jewell has written a defined ending, and we know what happens to everyone, but… there’s some doubt as to which version of the truth we want to believe. The relationships between Phineas, Lucy, Henry, Finn’s sister, the various moms and dads living in their lives, and the people they meet along the way are dark and deceptive. It’s a perfectly complex family drama that really hit the sweet spot for me.

Of course, there were a few areas I wasn’t 100% thrilled with, e.g. where did Julian go? why did Henry Sr. have so many strokes? how did no one discover the murders going on? I can suspend that bit of disbelief, but overall, it was inconsequential to the whole of the story for me. The writing style and tone are superb, thus I can only trim away a partial star. 4.5 from me… and I’ll definitely be reading more of the author’s novels in the future.

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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 but with a twist. There are five books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, Mistaken Identity Crisis, and Haunted House Ghost. 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: Coco’s Nuts by Tyler Colins

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Coco's Nuts (Triple Threat Mysteries Book 3)Coco’s Nuts by Tyler Colins
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Coco’s Nuts is the third book in the ‘Triple Threat Mysteries’ series written by Tyler Colins. I previously read the first two books in the series and noticed the author has signed on with a new publisher, updated the covers, and launched two more books in the series. It’s time to catch up before I fall behind, as these are full of witty characters, memorable stories, and tons of wonderful descriptions. Let’s chat about Coco’s Nuts and the random body parts we find with tattoos on them…

First off, the title and the cover. Can you get any more eye-catching? Are they bombs? Is the author playing with the word coconut? Is it about eating fruits and nuts, being crazy nuts, or leaning toward that all-too-familiar and funny euphemism? Before reading the book, I didn’t know… after reading it, I can say with hilarity, it’s all three! I love when an author can be both serious and amusing in his/her books. Tyler Colins has a great balance of delivering snappy dialog and natural conversation. At times, there are breaks in conversation and questions being ignored (to be later responded to), matching how people really engage with one another. I like the reality of this world.

It takes place in Hawaii, and let me tell you… Colins knows how to visually create a scene. Between the descriptions in the narrative and the add-ons when someone is speaking or physically doing something in a scene, you kinda feel transported to this fictional place. I like that immersive feeling, and it’s not always included in these genres of books. Often a mystery is entirely about the mystery, but Colins ensures there is just as much ambiance and background to make you feel part of the story.

Of the three private eyes, we tend to follow JJ the most. In this caper, she’s much stronger and more pushy than the last two. The girl knows how to solve a crime, even if the client only hired the agency to prove she wasn’t guilty of murder. The ladies know that in order to do that, they need to find the guilty party. And it isn’t easy! There are a few victims and a couple of different killers / lawbreakers in this edition. Buddy, the beautiful female truck driver who’s accused of murder, isn’t all we think she is, which makes the plot even murkier and layered. I like those types of stories, as you never know what you’re getting yourself into. In this one, each chapter unfolds like a clue… we think we have a lead only to find out it opens up another murder or subplot. Then, they all come back together. You have to really keep yourself focused to know who stole Coco’s Nuts!

Kudos to Colins for another splendid entry in the Triple Threat investigations. I look forward to getting to know our main characters even more, as Colins continues to drop details left and right, but we always wonder what they’re doing when they’re not present in the chapter. I suspect there is something big coming in the next book, which I’ll be reading next month. Thanks for the opportunity to get lost in another good book, Ms. Colins… 4.5 stars for this caper.

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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 but with a twist. There are five books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, Mistaken Identity Crisis, and Haunted House Ghost. 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: Trip to Birmingham by Lisa Reynolds

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Trip To Birmingham (Rory Murphy Mysteries #2)Trip To Birmingham by Lisa Reynolds
Trip to Birmingham is the second novella in the Rory Murphy Mysteries series by Lisa Reynolds. I read the first book in the series last year and an entirely different series by the author earlier this year. Some of the key elements I enjoy about her books are that they’re quick and easy reads, offer a non-American point of view, and focus on atypical characters (in terms of what you traditionally see in mainstream fiction).

In the opening scene, a gay couple are enjoying the day when one basically says to the other ‘hey, did you hear about the murder in Birmingham?’ Rory’s boyfriend knows what that means, and the next day he’s rolling Rory onto a train (Rory is in a wheelchair) to investigate it… all because of an agreement about sex! From there, the guys and two friends get cozy with the family of the deceased woman in order to determine their suspects. Rory and his boyfriend’s relationship changes in this book, and the ending while not entirely a surprise to me, presents a different kind of justice.

Another fun entry in this cute series… refreshingly honest and quirky, it’s a simple but dynamic tale to show you why you love to read.

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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 but with a twist. There are five books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, Mistaken Identity Crisis, and Haunted House Ghost. 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: Third Time, Not a Charm by H. Berkeley Rourke

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Third Time, Not a Charm (Josie DuPuy Book 1)Third Time, Not a Charm by H. Berkeley Rourke
‘Third Time, Not a Charm’ is the second book I’ve read by H. Berkeley Rourke. It is the first mystery in the ‘Josie DuPuy’ series and was published in 2012. Since I try to always read books in order (when part of a series), I went back a few years to catch up on this one. Let’s dive into the review.

In Arizona, a group of cops from different precincts have banded together to rid the area of drug pushers and other nasty criminals. This vigilante group, while containing an understandable motive, have taken it to the umpteenth degree by not only killing people but torturing them before death. It gives new meaning to the phrase… ‘if you do the crime, you do the time’ … except what happens when those responsible for capturing the criminals are the secret criminals?

Jaime, Jim, and Josie are stuck in that position. Jaime and Jim are the bosses. Josie respects them, but she’s probably the strongest of them all — both mentally and physically. In quite a number of scenes, the super cop tosses her colleagues to the floor so quickly, it ain’t even funny! I do love a strong female lead, and while she shares the spotlight in this book, it’s clear that she’ll be the main one we want to follow. Kudos to Rourke for developing a solid protagonist with great appeal and lots of potential.

I haven’t read a ton of police procedural novels, but this definitely seems to hit the mark in that regard. The author clearly knows a tremendous amount about criminal law and police processes, which easily lends an authority and intrigue to the story and its web of subplots. At times, I found myself lock step in line with the detectives, thinking and reacting like them. At others, I would never have thought about those consequences – nice job! While I wouldn’t quite thrust this in the thriller category, although it arguably could be there, it has tons of suspense and mystery that draw readers in. The crimes are viscerally described. The relationships are complex. And the fallout is tremendous.

When cops are sitting around idly, discussing who to kill next, and then turn on one another… it’s a great story that makes you want to keep turning the pages. Rourke creates fantastic characters and gives them a meaty tale to attack. I enjoyed it a lot and plan to read more in the series later this year.

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 but with a twist. There are five books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, Mistaken Identity Crisis, and Haunted House Ghost. 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: Black Sparrow by A.J. Griffiths-Jones

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Black SparrowBlack Sparrow by A.J. Griffiths-Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Black Sparrow is a thrilling adventure that completely surpassed my expectations… and that’s only because the plot was so tightly woven and the characters were so incredibly complex, it just floored me in a super positive way. This was the second book I’ve read by A.J. Griffiths-Jones, and while I really enjoyed the first one, this was truly a fantastic and memorable read of a different level. I definitely recommend this to those who like international connections, religious beliefs buried in character’s logic, and tons of surprises in the story.

There are several main characters that connect to two primary travelers on a flight to Paris. One is a young Muslim girl who longs to be with her French boyfriend and to escape the clutches of her very religious and overprotective parents. Another is a man nearing retirement who must finish one last contract before he can decide where to spend the remaining years of his life. They notice one another at the airport and again on the plane, but what they don’t know at the time is how connected their lives will be for the subsequent week. Throw in a hotel owner, the young French boyfriend, the extended Muslim family, and a couple of other people who fill out the story, and you will truly not know what to expect. This is an adventure I will not forget anytime soon!

This wouldn’t be a proper review if I didn’t tell you how much the Muslim girl’s family thoroughly annoyed me beyond any reasonable expectation. I understand different religions have different beliefs, and I respect it. I recognize that there are extremists who fail to understand the delicate balance to a successful life. I get that there are still men in this world today who think they can control women. But all of it can still develop an intense hatred for the way some of these people behave — and thanks to the phenomenal style of delivering these character’s emotions and motives, Griffiths-Jones successfully pulled that utter frustration and anger from me. She created such tension and drama, I wanted to leap into the book to hurt these people.

As if that wasn’t enough, the torture of some characters was simply brilliant. After several chapters of thinking someone will suffer a certain type of pain — BAM — you’re thrown for a loop and down a different awful pathway. I hated it and loved it at the same time. Hated it because of the end result, loved it because I didn’t want to put the book down. All-in-all, this story will take you up and down several peaks only to slap you with the truth in the end. It’s often difficult to keep things under wraps for voracious readers, but this time I didn’t see the end coming.

Part of me believes that I was so engrossed in the story and the wonderful writing tone that I didn’t want to think about what would happen… I just wanted to experience it as the words hit each page. That’s the kind of story and book that makes you thrilled by an author’s talent. A strong recommendation for me on this novel. Be prepared, there are some extremes, and while the author is merely choosing characters and beliefs that aren’t always the reality, it definitely happens and represents the truth of what some people experience even in today’s modern society. Sit back and enjoy it… and let your passion develop for a multitude of reasons. It’ll be the kind of read that prompts you to shake the book or tablet like a madman at times!

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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 but with a twist. There are five books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, Mistaken Identity Crisis, and Haunted House Ghost. 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: Death Among Us by Stephen Bentley (editor of the anthology)

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Death Among Us: An Anthology of Murder Mystery Short StoriesDeath Among Us: An Anthology of Murder Mystery Short Stories by Stephen Bentley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My favorite book genre is mysteries. With so many wonderful authors and series, it’s often difficult to decide what to read next, especially when you’re looking to expand your horizons with something new. That’s often why I’ll turn to an anthology of short stories, as collections allow you to sample a dozen or so writers who hold a vast array of experiences and styles. This month, I took a chance on one called ‘Death Among Us,’ published in July of 2019 and edited by Stephen Bentley. In this fantastic collection, readers are exposed to ~10 authors who have each contributed 3 stories. What’s even better is that the three stories are generally connected to one another, so it’s almost like reading a mini novella several times over.

Prior to each author’s stories, there’s a lively and informative intro about what readers are getting themselves into. The writer will tell us if the stories are connected by the same character or a similar murder plot, a continuation of the previous tale but with a twist, or something even more dastardly and thrilling. I enjoyed this aspect of the anthology, as often in these types of books, each author only has a single story. With three, we get a better feel for their voice, style, and tone. The collection kicks off with the award-winning editor’s ‘The Rose Slayer’ stories, where homicide cops trace a killer who leaves behind a calling card. It spoke to me for many reasons, but to watch the transition from the first to the second and the last story, I felt like I could understand the motivation and operating procedures / boundaries of the heroes (and possibly the serial killer too!).

Another favorite is Robbie Cheadle, an author who’s participated in another short story collection that I’ve read as well as written many children’s books with her sons. What a vastly different style across her entire inventory of books and stories… to kick off with, in ‘Justice is Never Served,’ we have a woman who murders babies! Then there are the chimney sweeping killers (not what you’re thinking either!)… Cheadle delivers just the right amount of gore and thrills without going over the top, as the topic could be quite difficult to swallow. The best parts of her three stories are how they are all based on some sort of true story… which makes the tale even more horrific. She’s definitely cultivated her talents in these three tales, and I hope to see a full-length horror novel from her one day.

In addition to these two clever authors, I found many new writers I plan to follow. All of the stories were strong, none left me bored or confused. It’s a vibrant collection of twisty horrors, delicious death plots, and witty dialog among killers, cops, and victims. There are even a few lines of paranormal / fantasy / science-fiction being crossed, enough to make us afraid to enter a dark room in the future. Between those chills, and the crazy over-arching theme of what happens to both good and bad children in this book, it’s a prime candidate for anyone who wants to be frightened or read about something over-the-top, devilish, and evil.

If you’re up for a seasonal read, I’d recommend buying now and reading an author every few days in the month of October. Death and Halloween go so well together, and this is definitely one to keep in mind for pushing the envelope with creativity, complexity, and dark drama. That ‘side serving of revenge’ we often hear about… is the prime motivating factor in so many of these stories… and who doesn’t like to see someone get their just desserts?

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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 but with a twist. There are five books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, Mistaken Identity Crisis, and Haunted House Ghost. 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.