review

Book Review: The Cracked Altar by Timothy J. R. Rains

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The Cracked AltarThe Cracked Altar by Timothy J. R. Rains
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Cracked Altar, a fantasy novel by Timothy J. R. Rains, first interested me because of its intriguing title. Would it have a religious theme? What dastardly action would happen, as when something says cracked, it usually has a clever twist. As soon as I dove in, Hinkle’s near-capture captivated me. I’m not typically a reader in this genre, but the more I sample some works, I find myself becoming a fan.

Hinkle’s family tree is complex. We immediately learn that her mother is gone. She’s been living with a grandmother in a world where her family has suffered. There’s an uncle who’s a mystery and aunt who’s either a pious nun or a nefarious witch. Which will it be? Hinkle is rescued by her own special brand of knight, and her grandmother engineers a solution that will benefit them all in the future. It’s a powerful scene and sets a fantastic tone for the book. We follow Hinkle’s path with her new protector only to learn nothing we’ve thought true is indeed accurate. In this world, what’s gray is more important than what’s black and white.

Rains builds a fascinating and well-developed world where the rich are rich, and the poor are poor. Part-fairy tale and part mystical quest, the novel will engage your visual senses as each scene and action are vividly described. The battle scenes were strong but not over-the-top. The secrets were revealed at timely moments. And the clues were in abundance. The story is gripping, and I’m hopeful there will be a sequel. Kudos to the author for gaining a new fan in the fantasy genre.

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Book Review: Chaos by Patricia Cornwell

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Chaos (Kay Scarpetta, #24)Chaos by Patricia Cornwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Chaos is the 24th book in the ‘Kay Scarpetta’ thriller and suspense series focusing on a medical examiner’s investigations. It is currently the last book Patricia Cornwell has written in this series as of 2016 as well as serves as the third issue in an arc about serial killer Carrie Grethen.

The novel is a slower read than usual. We spend a lot of time in Kay’s head worrying about things that we don’t know a lot about yet. For the most part, the book takes place in just a few days. Several odd deaths occur, and little by little, Kay, Marino, Benton, and Lucy connect them together with the help of various staff. It seems like Carrie Grethen has found another accomplice, and she’s sought revenge on Kay. Unfortunately, someone close to Kay pays the price in this installment. We also end the books with an incredibly concerning secret reveal about a new character who was introduced a couple of books ago. What drama!

As a three-book arc, it was definitely interesting to see the progression of the serial killer’s mind. I almost wish we had chapters from Carrie’s perspective, so that we fully appreciated her psychotic need to get revenge. That’s my biggest concern in this series right now… if an author wants to build up a huge nut as the crazy killer, we need to know why not just through other people’s views, but through the killer’s mind, too. We get that only if they provide messages in writing, make phone calls, or interact in scenes with dialog. That hasn’t much happened in this arc, so I struggled to really understand ‘why’ it was so important to hurt Kay.

As a standalone book, other than being a little too slow of a read, it was fascinating to learn all about the technology and weapons being used. It’s probably one or two levels above my knowledge base and capability of understanding the detail, but not so much I felt removed. It clicked, but I found myself skimming on occasion when we got into paragraphs about exactly how it came to be in the hands of the serial killer. The best aspects were seeing Kay’s connections with Marino and her staff. She shines with them. Not with Benton. He’s a bit too boring for her. And Lucy has been too far removed for a boatload of books, so I’ve kinda lost any interest in her. The new girlfriend and son angle is interesting, but I wish we’d met them sooner.

That said, it’s a fine ending for the arc. I’m left wondering where the books go next… she’s due for one this year, but I can’t find anything about it. I’ll get it when it comes out… this installment was a 3.5 for me.

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Book Review: Deck the Hallways by Kate Carlisle

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Deck the Hallways (A Fixer-Upper Mystery, #4)Deck the Hallways by Kate Carlisle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Deck the Hallways is the 4th book in Kate Carlisle’s ‘A Fixer-Upper Mystery’ series. This one has a Christmas theme as Shannon and her construction crew renovate a home for multiple low-income families to move into over the holiday. As a feel-good, cozy story about a small town and the fun inhabitants, I enjoyed this book. As a mystery, it fell short for a few reasons. Let’s dive in.

All the makings of a fine whodunit are in place. Shannon and several people clash with the executive from the bank who’s making their lives miserable as they rush to close on the renovations. A mysterious woman claims a Santa Claus helper inappropriately touched her during a meeting. Jewelry has been stolen. Many people want that banker to leave for good. At about 20% in, we’re prepped for a wonderful mystery full of culprits and side stories. Then things kinda fell apart for me, which is unusual. Rather than kill him off at the normal place in a story, it doesn’t happen until almost 50% into the book, allowing for more people to show potential motives. I would’ve been okay with this except more suspects kept creeping up rather than exploring the 4 or 5 already noted. And then the book quickly jumped through 7 days to get to Christmas Day, giving maybe a page to a few lines of narrative telling us what happened each day. There were lots of those “***” markings noting scene changes which didn’t work well in this style of book.

By the time the villain was revealed, it was a little too much for me. I normally try to find the reasoning and get on board, but in this book, it felt like this was rushed way too quickly. I saw several other methods including starting the book closer to Christmas, fleshing out 1 or 2 stories in more detail rather than add 4 or 5 odd red herrings, and adding more twists to the core action. A few items were also left a little too open, and I was jarred out of reading because of the frequent scene changes. All that said, it’s not bad… just not the normal caliber I’ve seen from the author. It felt sort of average, so I ended up with 3 stars on this one. Worth a read to see character growth, learn all about the remodels, and find some good mystery elements… just not complete enough to say it’s better than others.

On the good side, Shannon’s relationship with Mac changes. I loved the bonding scenes with her father. She and her core group of friends have a solid connection. The town feels real. I like the potential change between Whitney’s and Shannon’s tension, although it could go in either direction based on what happened in this book. I’ve already ordered the next one to read soon. I’m sure it was just a one-off, but I look forward to getting back on track.

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Book Review: Crowned and Moldering by Kate Carlisle

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Crowned and Moldering (A Fixer-Upper Mystery, #3)Crowned and Moldering by Kate Carlisle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Crowned and Moldering is the 3rd book in Kate Carlisle’s ‘A Fixer-Upper Mystery’ series, also adapted as a TV show on the Hallmark channel. I haven’t caught the shows yet, but as soon as I catch up on the books, I will check it out. I don’t want it to alter my perspective until I’m current. As a stand-alone book, this one was good and I’d recommend it to all cozy readers.

Shannon Hammer inherited a construction business from her father in California. She’s doing well, but a former high school student returns home and tries to put Shannon out of business. While she’s renovating the lighthouse home for new love-interest, Mac, she finds a dead body jammed into a unique, early twentieth century home feature. It’s actually just a skeleton that’s nearly ten years old. Unfortunately, one of her employees realizes it must be his long-lost sister. Without trying to get in the way, Shannon ultimately falls into the same social circle as the deceased girl when she visits the high school on career day. Was it the guidance counselor? The principal? A rival student? A secret older boyfriend? A teacher? This one is packed full of suspects and had a lot of complex angles to consider.

I enjoy the descriptions of the houses and construction projects. The characters are all good. None are super amazing stand-out, but they work well and make me want to read more of the books. The writing style is simple and clean making it a quick 3-hour read for me. I began and finished this one on two flights and a layover last weekend. Although there is a typical 3-way romance building that will push readers to choose sides, it’s not thrown directly at us, which makes the story-line easier to accept. I do like how genuine and kind Shannon is, allowing me to root for her despite how close she is to the investigation. I plan to get the next book at the library over the weekend.

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Book Review: Murder Once Removed by S. C. Perkins (Blog Tour Stop)

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Welcome! I’m a stop today on the blog tour for a new book titled Murder Once Removed by S.C. Perkins. A few key facts about the book before I share my review and other information about the blog tour:

Cozy Mystery

1st in Series – An Ancestor Detective Mystery

Minotaur Books (March 19, 2019)

Hardcover: 336 pages

ISBN-10: 1250189039

ISBN-13: 978-1250189035

Digital ASIN: B07D2BJ2JT

*** Purchase links ***

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Overview

S.C. Perkins’ Murder Once Removed is the captivating first mystery in the Ancestry Detective series, in which Texas genealogist Lucy Lancaster uses her skills to solve murders in both the past and present.

Except for a good taco, genealogist Lucy Lancaster loves nothing more than tracking down her clients’ long-dead ancestors, and her job has never been so exciting as when she discovers a daguerreotype photograph and a journal proving Austin, Texas, billionaire Gus Halloran’s great-great-grandfather was murdered back in 1849. What’s more, Lucy is able to tell Gus who was responsible for his ancestor’s death.

Partly, at least. Using clues from the journal, Lucy narrows the suspects down to two nineteenth-century Texans, one of whom is the ancestor of present-day U.S. senator Daniel Applewhite. But when Gus publicly outs the senator as the descendant of a murderer—with the accidental help of Lucy herself—and her former co-worker is murdered protecting the daguerreotype, Lucy will find that shaking the branches of some family trees proves them to be more twisted and dangerous than she ever thought possible.

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My Review

Murder Once RemovedMurder Once Removed by S.C. Perkins
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Sometimes I get so busy that I don’t catch all the books flying at me for giveaways, ARCs, or blog tours. Other times, I’m lucky to have friends who know me incredibly well. Nina (@TheCozyPages) privately messaged me to ensure I saw this book was available for a blog tour. I hadn’t caught it, but then I immediately signed up for a read and review. I have limited time while I’m writing my own books to allow me to take on anything more than a regular read / review, but this was one blog tour I didn’t want to miss. My post isn’t for another 7 days, but I’m writing the review now while it’s fresh in my mind! Then I’ll add in all the graphics and other content to lure the readers in! What a funtastic read… I’m glad and grateful for the opportunity. Where to start?

A genealogical mystery? Hmm… three of my favorite things include genealogy, mysteries, and book series. It’s a setup, I was bound to love it. S.C. Perkins’ debut in the ‘Ancestry Detective’ cozy series, Murder Once Removed, is a strong lead in for the future. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I began reading it. For instance, would the murder occur in history or in something more current? Would it potentially contain murders in both as well as flip between time periods so we know what happened years ago? Possibly… I can’t give away all the secrets, now can I? Ultimately, I was quite happy with the structure, story, and approach.

Lucy Lancaster, a ~30ish genealogist in Texas, is hired to trace the family tree for a wealthy family whose son is running for office. It seems the opponent is someone who has it in for the family, too. When the patriarch also asks the protagonist to prove someone murdered a relative in the mid/late 19th century, Lucy digs up photographic evidence that it wasn’t just an accident. But when she traces a long-lost journal that identifies the initials and a few facial features of the killer, it can only be referring to a handful of people from that period. And one of them is related to the opponent. How deadly will this secret be to keep? Quite deadly if you don’t watch you back. Someone wants Lucy to stop her research, but she’s passionate about solving her cases.

What a different way to tell the story! From reading land records to tracing family trees, the various suspects are revealed along with the usual motive, opportunity, and means thrown in by the pesky police. Yes, if you’re not a fan of genealogy, you might not love the frequent references to “third cousin once removed” versus “great great great this or that…” but for me, it was a thrilling ride. I love this type of stuff and truly connected with the characters and the investigation. A few folks might notice some minor liberties with what documentation or artifacts were available specific to that region or time period, but ultimately, this is fiction… and it will always have some level of exaggeration to fit the plot. I read a book for the story and the beauty in how it comes together, not to find an exact perfect replica of reality. I already have that am trying to escape it! 🙂

I will definitely continue with this series and can’t wait for the next one!

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About the Author

S.C. Perkins is a fifth-generation Texan who grew up hearing fascinating stories of her ancestry and eating lots of great Tex-Mex, both of which inspired the plot of her debut mystery novel. Murder Once Removed was the winner of the 2017 Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery competition. She resides in Houston and, when she’s not writing or working at her day job, she’s likely outside in the sun, on the beach, or riding horses.

Author Links 

o   www.scperkins.com

o   www.twitter.com/scperkinswriter

o   www.instagram.com/scperkinswriter

o   www.facebook.com/scperkinswriter

o   www.pinterest.com/scperkinswriter

o   www.goodreads.com/scperkinswriter

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Rafflecopter Code: a Rafflecopter giveaway https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Who Else is on the Blog Tour?

The tour has fourteen (14) 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…

Main Book Tour Page

March 5 – The Power of Words – REVIEW, INDIVIDUAL GIVEAWAY

March 5 – Babs Book Bistro – SPOTLIGHT

March 6 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

March 6 – 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, & Sissy, Too! – REVIEW*

March 7 – The Book Diva’s Reads – GUEST POST

March 7 – My Reading Journeys – REVIEW

March 8 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

March 8 – Teresa Trent Author Blog – SPOTLIGHT

March 9 – Island Confidential – SPOTLIGHT

March 9 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT

March 10 – Nadaness In Motion – SPOTLIGHT, INDIVIDUAL GIVEAWAY

March 10 – That’s What She’s Reading – REVIEW*

March 11 – Carole’s Book Corner – SPOTLIGHT

March 11 – A Wytch’s Book Review Blog – REVIEW

March 11 – Lisa Ks Book Reviews – CHARACTER GUEST POST

March 12 – Valerie’s Musings – REVIEW

March 12 – This is my truth now – REVIEW

March 13 – FUONLYKNEW – SPOTLIGHT

March 13 – Devilishly Delicious Book Reviews – REVIEW

March 14 – Baroness’ Book Trove – REVIEW, RECIPE POST

March 14 – A Holland Reads – REVIEW*

March 15 – Here’s How It Happened – REVIEW *

March 15 – Laura`s Interests – SPOTLIGHT

March 16 – MJB Reviewers – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

March 16 – Paranormal and Romantic Suspense Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

March 17 – Reading Is My SuperPower – REVIEW, INDIVIDUAL GIVEAWAY

March 18 – The Avid Reader – REVIEW*

March 18 – Back Porchervations – REVIEW

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I hope you enjoyed stopping by my blog to be part of this fun tour. Many thanks to Lori Caswell (Dollycas) @ Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours for including me in this opportunity. It’s been a blast… can’t wait until my next tour with them. Tell me what you thought of the blog tour, the review, and whether you’re gonna read this book! 
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Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours

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: Summerlypse by Gerardo Delgadillo

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SummerlypseSummerlypse by Gerardo Delgadillo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Summerlypse is the second book written by Gerardo Delgadillo that I’ve read in the last year. I knew I’d connect with his writing style and characters based on the previous one, but the over-the-top plot made this one even more endearing and welcome.

The novel is a young adult story about a 17-year-old Texan, Colton, who can’t seem to get his crush to notice him. When he pushes himself to catch her attention, she drops a bomb on him about who she really likes. So, Colton backs away. His best friend, Martin, works with Colton’s parents to obtain permission for a trip to Mexico to visit Martin’s abuelita (grandmother). And that’s where the ride of Colton’s life begins. He meets a new girl. Her father will kill Colton if he doesn’t do the right thing. She’s deaf. She’s a DJ. She needs Colton’s help to win money despite her father being super rich and super difficult. There is a bevy of hilarious and touching moments that bring the hero and the heroine together, all of which are the reasons you never let your 17-year-old go away on his own.

Delgadillo, a parent himself, likes to push the envelope, and he readily admits it. But like most people realize, this is fiction, and it’s supposed to make us laugh and love the characters even more. Great success from my point of view. I loved watching the relationship develop between Colton and Alex, even when she rebuffs him or her father tries to kill him. Colton is smart, and he knows when to retreat, but does he always listen? No! Did he get back on a plane to Texas? No! Instead, he rushes after her… so you gotta give the boy epic points for trying. At 17, I’d never been on a plane, so kudos to him for showing us how it could and should be done at times.

I’m not a frequent YA reader, but I have read at least 25 to 30 books of similar variety. Each has its own way of capturing the character through dialog and action. Colton makes mistakes, and he knows it. He’s adorable, but not perfect. He takes the ribbing from his 10-year-old sister showing up he can be a man and be vulnerable at the same time. He talks really fast around girls, and often mis-translates Spanish to say or think the wrong thing. Gotta love him for that. What set this apart for me is that multi-cultural approach, the diversity among the characters, the non-traditional plot of how the boy or girl goes after the boy or girl, and the danger they actually face.

Delgadillo tugged at my heartstrings at several points in the story. I laughed out loud a few times, too. In the end, I really liked Colton and would want to be friends with him — if I were a few years younger and he was a few years older. The DJ scenes, the transportation scenes, and the tender moments showed the author’s passion for writing and ability to research and build a setting that readers will connect with.

I’m keen to read another of Delgadillo’s works, as he always presents formidable yet touching characters whom you want to see succeed — only after a few complex obstacles have been tossed in their path, of course. And this author knows how to do that with a fine line of reality and super-charged “oh no he didn’t” moments!

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Book Review: Focus Lost by Doug Cooper

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Focus LostFocus Lost by Doug Cooper
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Doug Cooper is not afraid of a challenge when it comes to his plots and characters. In his latest book, Focus Lost, due to be released next month (yes, I got an early copy!), he tackles another set of complex human emotions that many of us have experienced but usually only in the privacy of our own immediate life circle. Add the fame and fortune of the art world and Hollywood, then you’re entire existence is on display for the public and your ‘adoring’ fans to admire, impugn, and question. And Cooper gets it all right in this intense ride.

The three central characters–Levi, Eva, and Gabe–represent the actor, the agent, and the artist. Yes, they represent a whole lot more, but in this case, we’ll start there. Gabe’s a photographer who accidentally takes a few photos of Levi and his 17-year-old film co-star having a romp on the beach. Given Levi’s in his 30s and playing her father in the next movie, it’s quite compromising. Gabe’s sister sees the photos and decides to take action. Eva, Levi’s agent, is called upon to find the photos. Thus, an elaborate scheme has begun, except… it actually began much further back. You’ll have to read to find out what I mean by that.

All three of our main characters have siblings or parental figures who met some sort of tragedy. They’re bound together in a way without knowing it. Levi’s younger co-star has an odd reaction to the photos becoming public, what game is she playing? Eva plays both sides against one another, what’s she truly after? Gabe appears to be innocent but makes a few less-than-proper decisions, what is really going on? Ultimately, Gabe’s sister is the one we should all feel the emotional tugs for. She may have done something wrong, but it was for the right reason, and she’s just a teenage girl who hasn’t had enough life experience yet to know the implications of her actions. Eva should know better, but she’s had some painful experiences that have taught her to look out for number one. Levi, while he’s suffered, is your true stereotype of a golden boy-turned-egomaniac. But he’ll surprise you with his final play near the end of the book. I wasn’t expecting some of his decisions!

By now, you either love this plot or know it’s not for you. I’d urge you to give it a chance as you will see a different side of life, but it also has a sentimentality running through the story and the words like a small stream that will eventually open into a large body of water. In other books I’ve read by Cooper, he tackles sex, drugs, and the intensity of the partying lifestyle. While there are touches of those elements in here, it’s more driven by an inner desire to succeed despite what hand life has dealt you. The characters aren’t very likable, but they’re not meant to be. They’ve been jaded for years, and Cooper drops tons of memories and past events to show us what’s made them who they are today. Between the author’s descriptions and his actions, I felt fully engaged and connected with the characters’ choices. Agreeing with them is a different thing. That’s solid writing!

I found myself unable to put the book down on several occasions. Each chapter builds upon the last by showing us what’s unfolding in the primary characters’ mindsets. Since we follow a few of them around, we know when they’re making wrong decisions based on what someone else has just done. But we can’t stop them. We’re drawn in at this point. We are invested. Well-crafted and clever are the two words that quickly come to mind about this book. We’d all like to say we wouldn’t change when fame knocks on our door, but is that a true statement? How far would you go to protect your reputation or survive in a society that quickly shreds you for the littlest of mistakes?

Kudos to Cooper. Definitely my favorite of his books so far. I’m glad to get in early on this one and spread the word. High-recommendation!

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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 debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I 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 – words and humor. 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.
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