Book Review: ENCORE IN DEATH by J.D. Robb

ENCORE IN DEATH by J.D. Robb coverEncore In Death, In Death #56, by J. D. Robb
ISBN: 9781250284082 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250284310 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250878267 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781250878274 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B09YHZCR89 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B09Y46SX9G (Kindle edition)
Page Count: 384
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: February 7, 2023
Genre: Fiction | Romantic Suspense | Suspense | Police Procedural

The homicide cop with a passion for justice returns in the captivating crime thriller series by the #1 New York Times bestselling author.

It was a glittering event full of A-listers, hosted by Eliza Lane and Brant Fitzhugh, a celebrity couple who’d conquered both Hollywood and Broadway. And now Eve Dallas has made her entrance—but not as a guest. After raising a toast, Fitzhugh fell to the floor and died, with physical symptoms pointing to cyanide, and the police have crashed the party.

From all accounts, he wasn’t the kind of star who made enemies. Everyone loved him—even his ex-wife. And since the champagne cocktail that killed him was originally intended for Eliza, it’s possible she was the real target, with a recently fired assistant, a bitter rival, and an obsessed fan in the picture. With so many attendees, staff, and servers, Eve has her work cut out determining who committed murder in the middle of the crowd—and what was their motivation. As one who’s not fond of the spotlight herself, she dreads the media circus surrounding a case like this. All she wants is to figure out who’s truly innocent, and who’s only acting that way…

If you’ve been following my blog for more than a year, you’ve probably noticed that I eagerly await the release of the new additions to the “In Death” series each Winter and Fall. I never tire of reading and re-reading this series. I re-read at least the previous five books before each new release and every other year I actually re-read the entire series including the novellas. (Yes, I know that I never seem to tire of re-reading a lot of books, but that’s one of my book diva things!) Encore in Death is the 56th installment of the “In Death” series, and although it contains some elements seen in previous books (see book 10: Witness in Death and book 34: Celebrity in Death), it still presents as a fresh and altogether new story. Encore in Death features a beloved and well-respected actor dying from a poisoning in his own home during a farewell party (he’s scheduled to leave the country the next day to film a movie). Lieutenant Eve Dallas must determine if this death was a simple mistake as the poison was found in a drink made for someone else or intentional. Was the wife the intended victim? If so, why? If not, who could possibly want to kill such a loved and respected man?

It’s always a pleasure being reunited with Lieutenant Eve Dallas, her beloved billionaire husband Roarke, various members of the NYPSD (Detective Delia Peabody, Detective Ian McMcNab, Captain Ryan Feeney, Dr. Charlotte Mira, Commander Jack Whitney, Coroner Li Morris, and others), as well as Eve’s friends: Reporter Nadine Furst, Singer/Performer Mavis Freestone, Clothing Designer and Mavis’s Spouse: Leonardo, Mavis & Leonardo’s adorable daughter: Bella, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney: Cher Reo, the butler/majordomo of the Roarke household: Charles Summerset, and the household pet: Galahad). Yes, there are plenty of other “regular” characters that make an appearance in this story, but you’ll simply need to read Encore in Death to see if any of your favorites appear.

As with most of the “In Death” stories, this centers around death. The death is very public and most of the witnesses seem to respect if not care for the deceased. No one really has a bad thing to say about the man. His wife, on the other hand, is respected but found to be somewhat exacting. She is respected but not as “beloved” as her husband. The problem is that the poisoned drink was made specifically for her and raises the question of whether someone intended for her to die rather than her husband or not? That question keeps coming up and, after a few days, forces Eve to re-evaluate the context of the murder in an effort to determine just what happened. Yes, she solves the case and yes, there’s a nice twist (no, I didn’t figure it out). In addition to the murder mystery, the reader gets to follow along with the ongoing renovation of the house purchased by Mavis and Leonardo. Ms. Robb (aka Nora Roberts) seems to have an endless supply of fresh stories for her readers to enjoy. And I did enjoy Encore in Death and will probably re-read it before the next book is released in the Fall. Encore in Death has the requisite murder investigation, continued development of Eve and Roarke’s romance/marital relationship, the ongoing development of Eve’s friendships with coworkers and others, as well as the continued progression of the renovation of the home of Eve’s friends. The action was plausible and the characters realistic. I found Encore in Death to be a fast-paced and gripping read. I can only hope that you’ll enjoy reading Encore in Death as much as I did.

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: A BRIGHTER FLAME by Christine Nolfi

A BRIGHTER FLAME by Christine Nolfi book cover, blue background with a large orange-red leaf behind a orange-yellow thin leaf mimicking a flameA Brighter Flame by Christine Nolfi
ISBN: 9781542038843 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781799783862 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B09WPKL13Q (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B09RK5VJLX (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: September 27, 2022
Genre: Fiction | Family Life

She’s always wanted a sense of belonging. The last place she expects to find it is home.

Vale Lightner’s dreams turn to ash when the Pittsburgh bar she owns goes up in flames. Just like the past she escaped, very little seems salvageable. Facing unavoidable change, Vale returns to her hometown of Philadelphia to stay with her grandmother.

She knows that returning also means facing everything she left behind: a mother and stepfather who shunted her into the background from the day they married, and her charmed and favored half-sister, Blythe, who has abandoned a perfect marriage and is now at a crossroads of her own. Everyone has their secrets, and this reunited family racked by them is about to reach a crisis point.

For a mother and her two daughters, this reunion is a chance for closure, newfound love, and forgiveness. As each of them reassesses her own memories of the past, only the truth can bring them together—in ways that could last forever. From the bestselling author of The Passing Storm comes a poignant novel about family secrets, healing, and the hope of second chances.

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Vale Lightner is like so many others, in that she doesn’t feel that she quite fits in with her family. She is also constantly struggling to “fit in” various work environments. Vale is estranged from her mother, stepfather, and half-sister. The only “family” she currently has a relationship with is her father and maternal grandmother, but she strives to maintain those relationships no matter what. Sadly, Vale’s relationship with her father is tottering on the edge as they deal with their jointly-owned bar burning down. Vale isn’t quite sure what she wants to do with her life at this point, but owning another bar and returning to Philadelphia isn’t it. Vale is forced to accommodate her grandmother, who seems to be dealing with a major health issue. Returning to Philadelphia isn’t her first, second, or third choice, but she is used to starting over. This time around, she has to do it with her half-sister watching. As Vale begins to deal with the memories of her past, she comes to realize that there is a thin line between what we remember and what actually happened. Is it possible her relationship with her mother, stepfather, and half-sister was built on misperceptions? Is it possible for her to craft a new relationship with her sister? Vale has to decide if she’s willing to start over with her family? Can she forgive them as she seeks forgiveness for her own mistakes and start anew?

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Tolstoy

I found A Brighter Flame by Christine Nolfi to be a fast-paced and engrossing read. Vale was all-too-familiar in that she doesn’t feel like she quite fits in with her family. Vale is struggling on so many levels. She has to contend with the idea that her father is irresponsible and will never quite grow up and be the parent she wants. She is tormented by the idea that her mother didn’t really want to keep her but refused to give up custody to an irresponsible parent. She worries that her grandmother might be seriously ill. Vale also comes to the realization that her sister is dealing with just as many issues as she is and the only way to rebuild that relationship is by being the “big sister” her younger sister wants and needs. I won’t even get into the whole budding romance with her neighborhood pharmacist. I thought all of the characters were not only realistic but realistically flawed. Some were idealistic, others were pessimistic, and others were realistic with a touch of idealism. There aren’t any “bad guys” in this story, just a family filled with flawed individuals trying to make a way the best way they know how.

I have a huge list of “favorite” authors but only a handful that I will buy any and everything they write. Christine Nolfi is in both categories. A Brighter Flame is a multi-faceted multigenerational story that portrays relationships with all of their flaws. Each character is struggling with something major and it is only when they voice their struggles and fears that they are capable of moving forward with the help of family and friends. A Brighter Flame is not just about family or second chances, it is also about forgiveness, acceptance, and growth. If you can’t tell, I enjoyed A Brighter Flame. Even though I was afforded the opportunity to read this early via a digital review copy, I pre-ordered a digital copy for my personal library and ordered a print copy for my 87-y.o. mother (she loves reading Christine Nolfi books almost as much as I do). If you’re interested in reading a well-written contemporary story about family, hope, love, and second chances, then I strongly encourage you to go and get a copy of A Brighter Flame for yourself (I can’t wait to reread this one!).

Happy Reading, y’all! ♦

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the author via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: DESPERATION IN DEATH by J.D. Robb

Desperation in Death, In Death #55, by J. D. Robb
ISBN: 9781250278234 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250278241 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250859259 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B09Q7ZGLL8 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B09NTJRDJ3 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: September 6, 2022
Genre: Fiction | Mystery | Thriller

“The #1 New York Times bestselling author presents a gripping new thriller that pits homicide detective Eve Dallas against a conspiracy of exploitation and evil…

New York, 2061: The place called the Pleasure Academy is a living nightmare where abducted girls are trapped, trained for a life of abject service while their souls are slowly but surely destroyed. Dorian, a thirteen-year-old runaway who’d been imprisoned there, might never have made it out if not for her fellow inmate Mina, who’d hatched the escape plan. Mina was the more daring of the two—but they’d been equally desperate.

Unfortunately, they didn’t get away fast enough. Now Dorian is injured, terrified, and wandering the streets of New York, and Mina lies dead near the waterfront while Lt. Eve Dallas looks over the scene.

Mina’s expensive, elegant clothes and beauty products convince Dallas that she was being groomed, literally and figuratively, for sex trafficking—and that whoever is investing in this high-overhead operation expects windfall profits. Her billionaire husband, Roarke, may be able to help, considering his ties to the city’s ultra-rich. But Roarke is also worried about the effect this case is having on Dallas, as it brings a rage to the surface she can barely control. No matter what, she must keep her head clear—because above all, she is desperate for justice and to take down those who prey on and torment the innocent. 

 
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It has to be incredibly difficult for an author to continue writing a series after a few books and keep not only the characters but the action fresh. Thankfully, J.D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts) doesn’t seem to have a problem with this and her “In Death” series featuring homicide detective Eve Dallas and her zillionaire husband, Roarke. Eve Dallas was initially presented as someone whose background was unknown. It has gradually been revealed that she grew up in the foster care system, was sexually and physically abused as a child by her father – a grifter and thief, had a grifter and drug addict as her biological mother, and was never given a name by her biological parents. The trauma of her childhood has caused a host of issues for both Eve and Roarke as Eve has confronted her past. Cases dealing with children and sex crimes are difficult for anyone to deal with, but doubly so if that person has dealt with these issues in their own past. But Eve Dallas is not only a strong woman, but a good detective as she truly cares about each homicide victim she stands for with an impressive support system in her husband, friends that are now family, and her co-workers. The big question for Eve in Desperation in Death is whether she can find the guilty parties before someone else suffers the same fate as the murdered young girl.

Desperation in Death is the fifty-fifth installment to the “In Death” series and is just as fresh, to this reader, as the first book. Although we know Eve, Roarke, and all of their family and friends a bit better, we’re still learning about them as individuals, as a couple, and as friends. The world they live in is changing and they are definitely changing with the times. This particular case deals with child abduction, sex trafficking, sexual abuse, torture, and murder. Eve may not have an issue dealing with the murder, but the reason for the murder is one that touches a little too close to home. As with all of the previous books in this series, there are emotionally charged moments along with plenty of suspense. I found Desperation in Death to be an engrossing read and finished it in one sitting over less than six hours. I know that this series might end at some point, but I’m hopeful that Eve, Roarke, family, and friends will re-appear in many more stories before the inevitable end occurs. If you’ve been reading this series, then you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of Desperation in Death to read. If you’ve never experienced the awesomeness of the “In Death” series, then I encourage you to begin with Naked in Death and read your way through all of the books leading up to Desperation in Death, I doubt you’ll be disappointed. Something tells me that I’ll be re-reading this one at some point over the next few months (what can I say, I’m an avid re-reader!).

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  

Book Review: THE KAIJU PRESERVATION SOCIETY by John Scalzi

THE KAIJU PRESERVATION SOCIETY by John ScalziThe Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi
ISBN: 9780765389121 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780765389138 (ebook)
ASIN: B098GQYDZG (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B0927B1P8L (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: March 15, 2022
Genre: Fiction | Science Fiction

The Kaiju Preservation Society is John Scalzi’s first standalone adventure since the conclusion of his New York Times bestselling Interdependency trilogy.

When COVID-19 sweeps through New York City, Jamie Gray is stuck as a dead-end driver for food delivery apps. That is, until Jamie makes a delivery to an old acquaintance, Tom, who works at what he calls “an animal rights organization.” Tom’s team needs a last-minute grunt to handle things on their next field visit. Jamie, eager to do anything, immediately signs on.

What Tom doesn’t tell Jamie is that the animals his team cares for are not here on Earth. Not our Earth, at at least. In an alternate dimension, massive dinosaur-like creatures named Kaiju roam a warm and human-free world. They’re the universe’s largest and most dangerous panda and they’re in trouble.

It’s not just the Kaiju Preservation Society that’s found its way to the alternate world. Others have, too—and their carelessness could cause millions back on our Earth to die. 

 
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Let’s suspend belief in what we know or think we know and imagine an earth that looks remarkably like this earth but it’s just one of many in the multiverse. Now imagine there are creatures on this alternative earth that look nothing like anything on our earth. Due to a fluke, okay, due to humanity’s destructive nature, we’ve ripped the barriers between this earth and that earth and periodically creatures cross over. We now know what causes these rips in the barriers and the “powers-that-be” have aligned and are working together to ensure the barriers remain intact and that these creatures are protected. Sounds a bit outlandish, but that’s the basic premise behind The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi. After being fired from his job at an up-and-coming food delivery service company, Jamie Gray is offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with KPS and help protect the kaiju from mankind. The job comes with great benefits, a wonderful salary, and requires him to sign a formidable NDA. Of course, the job might end up being the death of him but every job has a downside.

I’ve been plagued with migraine headaches of late and often can’t complete a book in one sitting anymore. (Okay, it might also be that I’m getting older and the eyes just aren’t what they used to be.) However, I started reading The Kaiju Preservation Society shortly before noon on a Thursday afternoon and was finished before 6:00 PM the same day. I literally and figuratively could not put this book down. I’m not a big science-fiction reader, but I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by John Scalzi to date: Redshirts, The President’s Brain is Missing, Fuzzy Nation, Lock In, and Head On. I enjoy the humor found in his writing. I even enjoyed the scientific references because they were presented in manner that made sense, meaning the science isn’t dumbed down or glossed over but presented matter of factly. His works often reference other works of science fiction, whether they’re books or movies, and that always piques my interest in finding out more. The Kaiju Preservation Society references the Godzilla movies, Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, and the Doom video games. There is action in this story, heroic action in my opinion, and that helped send the story into overdrive. I enjoyed the characters (good and bad guys) and their interactions. Jamie is the main character, but he couldn’t function in isolation and it’s his ability to get along with a variety of people in a variety of circumstances that makes him “that guy.” The basic premise of this story is preserving an environment and it’s inhabitants from all of the destruction that might be wrought by mankind. Unfortunately, mankind is responsible for protecting this world and that’s a recipe for disaster. Mr. Scalzi has, once again, provided a well-written, thought-provoking, yet entertaining story that I think any reader can pick up and enjoy. I strongly encourage you to grab a copy of The Kaiju Preservation Society to read for yourself. I sincerely hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Now I need to get a copy for my 87-y.o. mother to read.

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: ABANDONED IN DEATH by J.D. Robb

Abandoned In Death, In Death #54, by J. D. Robb
ISBN: 9781250278210 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250278227 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250835512 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781250835482 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B094DM5TWR (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B092T8K767 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: February 8, 2022

Homicide detective Eve Dallas must untangle a twisted family history while a hostage’s life hangs in the balance—in the new In Death novel by #1 New York Times bestselling J. D. Robb.

The woman’s body was found on a bench in a New York City playground. She was clean, her hair neatly arranged, her makeup carefully applied. But other things were very wrong—like the tattoo and piercings, clearly new. The clothes, decades out of date. The fatal wound hidden beneath a ribbon around her neck. And the note: Bad Mommy, written in crayon as if by a child.

It seems clear the killer’s childhood was traumatic—a situation Eve is all too familiar with herself. Yet the clues point to a perpetrator who’d be around sixty, and there are no records of old crimes with a similar MO. What was the trigger that apparently reopened such an old wound and sent someone over the edge? When Eve learns that other young women have recently vanished, the case grows even more urgent—and to solve it she’ll need to find her way into a hidden place of dim light and concrete, into the distant past, and into the depths of a shattered mind.

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I’ve mentioned before that I eagerly await the release of the new additions to the “In Death” series each Winter and Fall. This is one of the few series that just never seems to get old for me and I never tire of reading and re-reading. (Yes, I know that I never seem to tire of re-reading a lot of books, it’s what I do!) Stop and think about it folks, there are 55 books in this series. Yes, that’s 55 and each story is fresh, often introducing new characters and new action even though it’s basically someone commits a crime and Eve Dallas, along with her police partner, co-workers, husband, and friends work together to solve said crime. Sometimes the crimes might involve one of Eve’s friends or her acquired family, but often not. It never really matters who is involved, the reader knows that the crime will be solved and it’ll be solved by Eve Dallas, NYPSD murder cop extraordinaire, and Abandoned In Death is no different.

This begins with what appears to be a simple murder, but it touches a little too close to home for Eve since the body is found in a park that is used by her friend Mavis and daughter Bella. Eve may not have any biological family, that we know of, but Mavis is her sister in everything but blood. Eve may not know the “rules” of family, friendship, or marriage, but she knows that you protect the ones you love and she doesn’t want anything to touch the life of her innocent niece-in-love, Bella. Her investigation quickly uncovers a number of abducted women in the area and when a second body is found, also in a prominent area used by children and teens, Eve knows that she’ll need to use everyone and everything at her disposal to ensure there aren’t any more bodies left in her city by this killer. Can she uncover the reasons why this killer is targeting these particular women when the clues seem to point to a time before most police departments even shared documentation? Why is this killer branding the victims as “bad mommy?” What set off this killing spree and who will be next if Eve can’t find the killer and stop the killings in time?

As I stated earlier, you know with each “In Death” novel that there will be a crime and that Eve and friends will try to beat the clock and solve the crime before more people die. has similarities to previous storylines in that this murder seems to affect the lives of Eve’s family and friends. Obviously, there is a lot more going on in this story as there are women being abducted, dressed in a very specific manner, and then killed apparently for the crimes of someone else. Eve and friends must determine who the victims are surrogates for and, hopefully, that will provide the necessary link to identifying the killer. If only it were that easy! This story involves child abandonment, child abuse (emotional and verbal), drug abuse, abduction, torture, murder, and more. As always, there’s a lot happening in the story and J.D. Robb ties it all together for us at the very end with a nice neat bow. Many of the stories in this series were initially classified as romantic suspense, but the past few have been straight suspense thrillers. Although it is possible to read any book in this series without reading any of the previous books, I feel that would be like starting a movie in the middle and don’t recommend it. So, for those of you that have been reading this series all along, I know I don’t have to tell you to grab a copy of Abandoned In Death to read because you probably had it pre-ordered like I did (yes, that’s in addition to receiving a digital review copy). If you’re into suspense reads and think you’re up to the challenge, then I suggest starting with Naked In Death, the first book in this series, and work your way up to Abandoned in Death. You can thank me later.

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: NEVER TELL by Stacey Abrams

Never Tell by Stacey Abrams writing as Selena Montgomery
ISBN: 9781250805829 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9781250847645 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250847881 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250841575 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B094L8S6LD (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B0966B2CTW (Kindle edition)
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Page Count: 320
Release Date: January 25, 2022
Genre: Fiction | Psychological Suspense | Romantic Suspense

From popular political leader and lawyer Stacey Abrams comes a reissue of her romantic suspense novel, Never Tell, written under the name Selena Montgomery.

Criminal psychologist Dr. Erin Abbott wants nothing more than to live a quiet life. That means no danger, no intrigue—and absolutely no romance. But when Erin suspects a serial killer is roaming New Orleans, her investigation throws her straight into the arms of the only man who can help her.

Journalist Gabriel Moss is hot to find his next huge story—and he knows Erin is on to something big. From the moment they meet, Gabriel senses that Erin is hiding something. One thing is certain: Erin’s boxy suits and sensible shoes hide a delicate beauty waiting to emerge…and Gabriel is just the man to reveal the woman inside.

As they join forces to find the killer, Gabriel slowly seduces Erin with his soft kisses. But Erin knows their love can never be. For she is hiding a terrible secret—and if Gabriel reveals the truth, Erin’s life will be shattered forever…

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Dr. Erin Abbott knows that there’s someone playing a deadly game of “find me.” All of the clues are tied to a secret past life and the deceased mentor in that past life. Erin thought she was starting anew in New Orleans. Wearing dowdy clothing and trying to be as unappealing and unassuming as possible was supposed to be her mask. Unfortunately, the ABC killer knows all about Erin’s past, and journalist Gabriel Moss isn’t fooled by her disguise. Fortunately, Gabriel does believe Erin’s declarations about a local serial killer. The more Gabriel and Erin uncover, the more Erin realizes each murder is linked to her, and those links are benign acquaintances. Not wanting any other innocent to die because of her, Erin tries to push Gabriel away in order to protect not only him but his sister. But Gabriel isn’t budging. Can they uncover the motivations of the killer and the killer’s identity before it’s too late and someone else dies?

I’m an eclectic reader, but one of my go-to genres for the past two years has been romance, especially romantic suspense. Needless to say, I was beyond thrilled when offered the opportunity to read and review Never Tell by Stacey Abrams writing as Selena Montgomery. Although billed as a romance or romantic suspense story, the romance (in my opinion), plays a close second to the psychological suspense that builds with Erin’s attempts to preserve her secrets and secret identity while facing the killer’s taunts head-on. Yes, there’s a definite romance factor and a bit of steaminess, and the relationship between Erin and Gabriel is definitely important, but there are quite a number of other things going on as well: murder, psychological torture, physical abuse, physical torture, psychological and mental abuse, and more. Ms. Abrams has taken quite a number of dark topics and combined them into one immensely readable story. Although the abuse elements might be a trigger for some, I felt it was presented with a deft touch that didn’t diminish the impact of the abuse or provide detailed descriptions that might be repulsive. Never Tell isn’t exactly a light read due to the topics presented, but it is one I found to be intriguing. For those of you into slightly darker reads, I encourage you to grab a copy of Never Tell to read. I’m putting Never Tell on my TBRR or to be re-read list.

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: DESOLATION CANYON by P. J. Tracy

DESOLATION CANYON by P.J. Tracy book cover

Desolation Canyon, Detective Margaret Nolan #2, by P. J. Tracy
ISBN: 9781250754950 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250830197 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250845498 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B09557MV5Z (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B092T9QHCS (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Page Count: 320
Release Date: January 18, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Thriller | Mystery

P.J. Tracy “seems to have found her literary sweet spot” (New York Times Book Review) with her dazzling new series, and in Desolation Canyon, fans get a deeper look into the complex characters who call Los Angeles home.

LAPD Detective Margaret Nolan is struggling to move forward after the death of her brother in Afghanistan and taking a life in the line of duty. Her stoic parents offer little support – they refuse to address anything difficult, and she’s afraid their relationship is eroding beyond the point of recovery.

The days off are the hardest, because they give Margaret time to think. A moment of weakness leads to cocktails with a colleague—an attraction she knows could be dangerous —at the luxurious Hotel Bel-Air bar. A stroll through the grounds leads to a grim discovery beneath the surface of Swan Lake: the body of a successful attorney who made his fortune in international trade.

It initially appears to be death by misadventure, but the case is anything but straightforward. As a series of shocking revelations emerge, Nolan finds herself confronting a sinister cabal that just might destroy her and everyone she loves.


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Good day, book people. Although it’s a new year with plenty of new books and new-to-me authors to discover, I find myself leaning in on reading favorite authors. I’ve been hooked on the writings of P.J. Tracy since reading Monkeewrench and the subsequent books in that series. Needless to say, I was thrilled to hear that a new series was beginning last year and devoured Deep Into the Dark. I’m eternally grateful that I was given the opportunity to read the second book in this series, Desolation Canyon. I enjoy smart, taut, and well-written mystery or suspense thrillers, especially those involving realistic characters, like LAPD Detective Margaret “Maggie” Nolan. This time around Maggie has to deal with the apparent suicide of a divorced attorney that is ruled murder by poisoning, a subsequent murder and torture of the attorney’s ex-wife, “…kidnappings past and present, a Russian import-export company, and maybe the Russian Mob up in Death Valley hiding behind a cult. Oh, and nerve gas…” One of the kidnappings is personally tied to Detective Remy Boudreau, a possible love interest for Maggie. And if that’s not enough, her mother is visiting the “cult” to deal with the grief over her deceased son. The big question seems to be if Maggie and friends can tie everything together without getting any of the innocent bystanders hurt or worse.

Desolation Canyon introduces us to a host of characters in addition to Maggie Nolan and Sam Easton from Deep Into the Dark. We get to know Maggie’s parents, York and Emily Nolan, a bit better and understand how and why they opt to deal with their grief in a certain manner. Maggie’s partner, Al Crawford, is featured a bit more in this story, as well as the pathologist Dr. Weil, and a private investigator hired by Remy Boudreau, Malachai Dubnik. Ms. Tracy takes the reader through a variety of twists and turns while introducing the Russian Mob angle, along with the money laundering, reverse money laundering (yes, it’s a thing), and more. Desolation Canyon features kidnapping, poisoning, murder, torture, trafficking, and more. Yes, it’s a lot to throw at the reader, but it works. It might not be possible to see how all of the puzzle pieces will fit, but Ms. Tracy does a fantastic job of putting everything together to provide the reader with a picture-perfect resolution. I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for stories that feature a group of characters working together even if it’s an ever-changing cast of characters. Police officers/detectives don’t work in isolation and it’s always nice to see books reflecting this fact. It takes a village to raise a child and it usually takes a team to solve crimes. Desolation Canyon has plenty of crimes and a great team working together to solve them. If you enjoy reading thrillers or if you read Deep Into the Dark, then I encourage you to grab a copy of Desolation Canyon to read. For those of you not sure about thrillers, I suggest you grab a copy of Deep Into the Dark and Desolation Canyon to read. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. I, for one, can’t wait to see what’s next for Maggie Nolan and her friends.

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: FIND ME by Alafair Burke

FIND ME by Alafair Burke Book CoverFind Me by Alafair Burke
ISBN: 9780062853363 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062853387 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780062985019 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B0876GPJGF (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08728FV3Y (Kindle edition)
Publication date: January 11, 2022
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Fiction | Suspense Thriller | Psychological Thriller

The disappearance of a young woman leaves her closest friend reeling and an NYPD homicide detective digging into her own past in this thrilling mystery full of twists from the New York Times bestselling author of The Better Sister and The Wife.

Some pasts won’t stay forgotten . . .

She calls herself Hope Miller, but she has no idea who she actually is. Fifteen years ago, she was found in a small New Jersey town thrown from an overturned vehicle, with no clue to her identity. Doctors assumed her amnesia was a temporary side effect of her injuries, but she never regained her memory. Hope eventually started a new life with a new name in a new town that welcomed her, yet always wondered what she may have left behind—or been running from. Now, fifteen years later, she’s leaving New Jersey to start over once again.

Manhattan defense lawyer Lindsay Kelly, Hope’s best friend and the one who found her after the accident, understands why Hope wants a new beginning. But she worries how her friend will fare in her new East Hampton home, far away from everything familiar. Lindsay’s worst fears are confirmed when she discovers Hope has vanished without a trace—the only lead a drop of blood found where she was last seen. Even more ominously, the blood matches a DNA sample with a connection to a notorious Kansas murderer.

With nowhere else to turn, Lindsay calls NYPD homicide detective Ellie Hatcher, the daughter of the cop who dedicated his life to hunting the Kansas killer. Ellie has always believed there was more to the story of her father’s death twenty years earlier—and she now fears that Hope’s recent disappearance could be related.

In pursuit of answers, three women search for the truth beneath long-buried secrets. And when their searches converge, what they find will upend everything they’ve ever known.

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A woman with no sense of a past decides, after 15 years in a small town, to move on with her life. Hope Miller survived a car accident but has no idea where she came from or even who she was before the accident. She’s been dealing with amnesia for 15 years. The woman that discovered the accident scene is now Hope’s best friend. Hope decides to move from New Jersey to the Hamptons in New York. She has no driver’s license, no social security number, and doesn’t officially exist due to her amnesia. She finds a kind landlord willing to rent to her without documentation, as well as an employer willing to hire her and pay her in cash. Then Hope disappears. Her friend, Lindsay Kelly, is determined to find her no matter what. Little does Lindsay know that her “investigation” will open the proverbial “Pandora’s box” linking Hope’s past to murder. Sometimes it’s best to leave the past in the past…or is it?

Folks, as soon as I read about this book with the amnesia hook and featured character Ellie Hatcher, I knew it had to be a book on my MBR (must be read) list. It has been a few years since I read any books in the Ellie Hatcher series. I enjoyed the books I had read and definitely wanted to find out what’s happening now! I found Find Me to be a bit of a slow read at first, but when it picked up, it picked up with a bang. This story incorporated amnesia, murders (past and present), possible blackmail, secret love, and more. The more Ms. Burke revealed about Hope Miller, the more it was possible to see just how her past was intimately linked to Ellie Hatcher’s past. (No, I’m not going to tell you how. Read the book to find out for yourself!) There are plenty of twists and turns in Lyndsay Kelly’s investigation into the disappearance of her friend, Hope Miller. Some of those twists bring in Ellie Hatcher and her brother. The more Lyndsay discovers, the more she realizes that perhaps she didn’t know Hope as well as she had thought. But is it ever possible to know everything about another person? The tension in this story gradually builds and continued even after several unbelievable reveals. For those of you that have read anything by Ms. Burke or if you’re into suspense thrillers, then I encourage you to grab a copy of Find Me. I have a feeling that I’ll be re-reading the Ellie Hatcher series just so I have an excuse (not really needed, but…) Find Me. If you do grab a copy of this book, I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book 349: CITY OF TIME AND MAGIC by Paula Brackston

City of Time and Magic, Found Things #4, by Paula Brackston
ISBN: 9781250260697 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250260703 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250818874 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08TZ38281 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08R2HCFLR (Kindle edition)
Publication date: November 23, 2020
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Fiction | Historical Fiction | Fantasy | Time-Travel

Xanthe meets Brackston’s most famous heroine, Elizabeth Hawksmith from The Witch’s Daughter, in this crossover story with all the “historical detail, village charm, and twisty plotting” of the Found Things series (Publishers Weekly).

City of Time and Magic sees Xanthe face her greatest challenges yet. She must choose from three treasures that sing to her; a beautiful writing slope, a mourning brooch of heartbreaking detail, and a gorgeous gem-set hat pin. All call her, but the wrong one could take her on a mission other than that which she must address first, and the stakes could not be higher. While her earlier mission to Regency England had been a success, the journey home resulted in Liam being taken from her, spirited away to another time and place. Xanthe must follow the treasure that will take her to him if he is not to be lost forever.

Xanthe is certain that Mistress Flyte has Liam and determined to find them both. But when she discovers Lydia Flyte has been tracking the actions of the Visionary Society, a group of ruthless and unscrupulous Spinners who have been selling their talents to a club of wealthy clients, Xanthe realizes her work as a Spinner must come before her personal wishes. The Visionary Society is highly dangerous and directly opposed to the creed of the Spinners. Their actions could have disastrous consequences as they alter the authentic order of things and change the future. Xanthe knows she must take on the Society. It will require the skills of all her friends, old and new, to attempt such a thing, and not all of them will survive the confrontation that follows.

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Xanthe Westlake no longer only has Harley to rely upon when finding lost things that sing to her. She has confided her talents to step through time to her mother, Flora, and her boyfriend, Liam. The third book of this series, The Garden of Promises and Lies ended with Xanthe traveling back in time with Liam. Unfortunately, Liam was snatched from her when they attempted to return to their own time. Now Xanthe, Harley, and Flora are eager to find something that not only sings to Xanthe but will take her back to the right time to rescue Liam. Xanthe’s past travels haven’t been without danger, especially in the form Benedict Fairfax, another time spinner. But this time she has to deal with dangers that not affect those of that time period, but her loved ones as well. Is Liam safe? Where is he? How is he? What dangers, if any, are awaiting Xanthe back in time? And what would motivate another time spinner to snatch Liam in an effort to obtain Xanthe’s attention?

If you’ve been following me for any time now, you know beyond any reasonable doubt that I re-read the previous books in this series—Little Shop of Found Things, Secrets of the Chocolate House, and The Garden of Promises and Lies—to re-familiarize myself (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it), before reading City of Time and Magic. Just as the third book in this series was a bit different from the first two, this book reintroduces us to Elizabeth (Hawksmith) Balmoral, originally introduced in The Witch’s Daughter, as well as Mistress Lydia Flyte, Erasmus Balmoral — a time stepper, former lover to Lydia Flyte and now married to Elizabeth Hawksmith, Dougal Harley — publican, neighbor to Flora and Xanthe, and Xanthe’s “advisor.” We’re also introduced to a host of other characters that play major and minor roles within the story, including more time spinners. This particular chapter of Xanthe’s ongoing saga, she must not only right a wrong from the past, but she also to choose the side of the righteous spinners. Her choice will have repercussions on her friends and acquaintances from the past as well as her contemporary loved ones. Does she have to battle evil again, well you’ll need to read the book to find out for yourself!

Reading City of Time and Magic took me a bit longer than normal, not because I found in uninteresting but because of a variety of family trials (elderly parental health issues and a death in the family). I was simply unable to focus my attention on reading for a few days because of these situations. However, once I began to re-read this book, I was enraptured and couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next. I enjoyed the interaction between Liam and Mistress Flyte, Liam and the Balmorals, as well as Harley with everyone else. Yes, Harley gets to travel back in time to assist Xanthe. Xanthe, Liam, and Harley make quite the team in this story and although I can’t tell you more about what happens, I sincerely hope that they will have more adventures in the future, especially with Elizabeth Hawksmith Balmoral! Can you tell I enjoyed this story? City of Time and Magic has hints of romance, intrigue, magic, betrayal, and more. I can’t say that this is the best book in the Found Series because I love them all. I can say that if you’ve read any of the previous books in this series then you owe it to yourself to grab a copy of City of Time and Magic to read. This author provides the reader with fascinating glimpses of the past and usage of past items when compared to contemporary times. The juxtaposition of the timelines is just one of the many things that make this series so enjoyable, at least to this reader. If you enjoy historical fiction, contemporary fiction, bits of fantasy, or just plain good writing, then I encourage you to read this series, consider it a gift to yourself for the holiday season! Something tells me I’ll be getting all four books for my 87-y.o. mother to read.

Happy Reading, y’all!


Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

2021 Book 87 & 307: THE PASSING STORM by Christine Nolfi

The Passing Storm by Christine Nolfi
ISBN: 9781542029124 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781713592433 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B08SXRK8M1 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08MZPFY3J (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: November 1, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Contemporary Fiction | Women’s Fiction

A gripping, openhearted novel about family, reconciliation, and bringing closure to the secrets of the past.

Early into the tempestuous decade of her thirties, Rae Langdon struggles to work through a grief she never anticipated. With her father, Connor, she tends to their Ohio farm, a forty-acre spread that itself has enjoyed better days. As memories sweep through her, some too precious to bear, Rae gives shelter from a brutal winter to a teenager named Quinn Galecki.

Quinn has been thrown out by his parents, a couple too troubled to help steer the misunderstood boy through his own losses. Now Quinn has found a temporary home with the Langdons—and an unexpected kinship, because Rae, Quinn, and Connor share a past and understand one another’s pain. But its depths—and all its revelations and secrets—have yet to come to light. To finally move forward, Rae must confront them and also fight for Quinn, whose parents have other plans in mind for their son.

With forgiveness, love, and the spring thaw, there might be hope for a new season—a second chance Rae believed in her heart was gone forever.

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Small towns seem to have a lot of similarities across the world. Neighbors think they know everything about every person in the community and often make judgments based on what they see and think they know. The town where Rae Langdon and Quinn Galecki live fits this definition (as it is in most small towns). Quinn is judged based on who his parents are and their behavior rather than who he is as an individual. Rae Langdon is very aware of being judged by those in her community as she’s a single mother and never revealed who fathered her child. The judgment calls made by others in small community can be emotionally and physically taxing for even the strongest person to endure, add in keeping devastating personal secrets and it can be even more burdensome. Although Rae is dealing with some heavy emotions, she has fallen into the trap of judging Quinn and finding him lacking, or at least she was until she got to know him a bit better. Her opinion changes and her family quickly grows with the addition of Quinn to her household. This addition is not without misunderstandings and emotional turmoil.

The Passing Storm by Christine Nolfi is an amazing read. I’ve found it to be totally engrossing from the first page to the very last on both my initial read and during my recent re-read. This book could be categorized as women’s fiction and/or family fiction, I simply classify it as a darn good read. The characters are not only realistic but are realistically flawed. The action is wholly believable. The Passing Storm deals with plenty of different themes and some are incredibly weighty, such as abuse (sexual, emotional, and psychological). Ms. Nolfi has crafted a story that deals with these issues in a skillful manner, not minimizing the impact in anyway, but presenting them with deference and respect for the victims without trivializing their experiences or discussing them in a manner that could be construed as traumatizing for the reader. Some of the other themes presented are keeping secrets (from family and dear friends), forgiveness (of others and of self), tragedy, survival, second chances, love, and family (those we are born into and those we choose). Needless to say, there’s a lot more happening in this story than the little I’ve revealed. I was incredibly excited to learn that The Passing Storm was being offered as one of the Prime Reads choices by Amazon for the month of October. Yes, I already had a digital review copy to read, but I grabbed a digital copy of this book via Prime Reads and have a print copy pre-ordered to give to my almost 87-y.o. mother (her birthday is November 1st). If you’ve read any titles by Ms. Nolfi in the past, you probably already have this book pre-ordered. If you don’t I suggest you do so ASAP. Seriously people, I can’t recommend this book enough to you. There may be a few tear-filled moments while you read, but the story is one that will stay with you for quite some time after reading. What more can you ask from any book?!

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the author via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”