Book Review: Waterfall by Amber Garr

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Title: Waterfall
Series: The Water Crisis Chronicles #1
Author: Amber Garr
Publication Date: April 2014
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian

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Who Me…Scared?

Leah St. JamesLeah St. James is a worrier, a self-described neurotic who tends to imagine the worst-case scenario in response to brewing troubles. She hasn’t decided if this leaning toward the dark side is what draws her to write edgy, gritty stories, or if the suspenseful mysteries and Gothic romances that filled her childhood bookshelves somehow imprinted their shadows on her psyche. Despite (or maybe because of) this propensity for infusing her fiction with murder and mayhem, she still craves those happily-ever-after endings and the romance of everlasting love. A native of the Central Jersey Shore, Leah now lives happily (Jersey Devil free) with her husband in southeastern Virginia.

You can read more about Leah at

Connect with Leah on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Tomorrow is Halloween, either the second- or third-favorite holiday of the year for most Americans…at least according to my very unscientific Google search of the topic. Either way, it’s clear most of us love Halloween. And judging by the popularity of Halloween-ish stories, it’s clear we love being scared…at least in fiction.

Curious about this phenomenon (why people like being scared), I went to Google and found some interesting theories.

According to a few articles I read, you have to know that you’re not in any real danger to enjoy the feeling of fright. Like when you go through a haunted house at an amusement park, you know it’s all staged, so even when that monster jumps out at you from behind a door, you can laugh it off. (Although the haunted house I went through as a kid felt VERY REAL. I could have sworn those were real rats nibbling on my toes as I walked down the rat corridor. Ugh.)

Anyway, the enjoyment apparently comes from the kick of the flight-or-fight hormones, followed by that almost instantaneous comprehension that you’re not in any real danger.

Another article I read speculated that we need that come-down effect on a psychological level, not just physical. That we push ourselves to experience fear so we can have an accompanying sense of satisfaction at having survived and vanquished that fear. … Um, really? I’m not sure I buy that one.

All I know is that I like scary books and movies. (I’m not counting slasher films. Those aren’t scary to me, just gross.)

I know that when I read a book, or watch a movie, and I find myself holding my breath, motionless, or the hairs on the back of my neck lift, or my skin starts to prickle, I’m hooked. And when the story is over, I wish I could stay in that make-believe world—scary and all—just a bit longer.

That’s the joy of story-telling isn’t it—to forget who and where we are, even for a short spell.

So in honor of those great scary/suspenseful story-crafters, I thought I’d share a few that have impacted me most.


Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier

If you haven’t read this classic Gothic novel, go to your library and grab a copy, read the first line, and tell me you aren’t sucked right in. The dark and mournful tone throughout. The imagery. It’s just perfect. Here’s one of my favorite quotes: “The road to Manderley lay ahead. There was no moon. The sky above our heads was inky black. But the sky on the horizon was not dark at all. It was shot with crimson, like a splash of blood. And the ashes blew towards us with the salt wind from the sea.” Love it.

The Taking by Dean Koontz

I have to preface this by telling you my sister recommended this book to me. My sister who likes light, comedic mysteries, like the Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, recommended this terrifying book filled with dark and disturbing visions that kept my eyes glued to the pages for several nights…so much so I could not close them long after putting the book down. Thanks so much, sis.

The Passage by Justin Cronin

Another epic novel that kept me turning pages as I read one horrifying scene after another, and decided that the world could indeed be overrun by vampire creatures. I haven’t had the guts to try the sequel yet.


The Terminator (the original from 1984) with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton. Every time I watch this movie, no matter how much my logical brain tells me I’m watching 30-year-old fiction, I’m transported to that city with poor Sarah Connor who is running for her life from this…this… merciless, relentless, killing machine that looks like a man. The ending few minutes where the machine’s red-eyed endoskeleton is hunting Sarah through the flames—every time I see it, I try to scrunch myself into the couch….back, back, back so the monster can’t get me. (I’m scaring myself just thinking of it!)

The Wizard of Oz

Admittedly, the doesn’t have the same effect on me now as it did when I was in pre-school, but that Wicked Witch of the West and those horrible flying monkeys…..I shiver just thinking about them! You know what I’m talking about, right?

The Birds

Many people say Psycho is Hitchcock’s scariest movie, but for me, it was The Birds. Again, it might have been because of my age when I first saw it, but there is something so disturbing about a bunch of seemingly harmless birds sunning themselves on an overhead wire, then suddenly start circling overhead, then gathering and swarming, then attacking. For days after I saw that movie I ran inside the house with my arms over my head and face…fearful the neighborhood sparrows would peck my eyes out!

Mysteries of the MacabreLegend

There’s only one that truly scares me – the Jersey Devil. This mythical hoofed, leather-winged monster has been terrorizing residents of the New Jersey Pine Barrens for … well, as long as I remember.

The legend tells of Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Leeds who lived in what is now Atlantic County in the mid-1700s. Upon the birth of their 13th child, Mrs. Leeds shouted, “He’ll be the devil,” or words to that effect, at which point the newborn turned into the creature that to this day haunts the woods in the area. It is cruel and heartless…and relentless, like the Terminator. Or think of the velociraptor chasing the kids in the lab in Jurassic Park….which would have been a fourth in my movie list!

Historians claim the whole thing started as a political prank, by Benjamin Franklin of all people. But those of us from Jersey who grew up hearing the stories…we believe.

What are your favorite scary stories and legends?

Book Review: Red Tide by Jeff Lindsay

Red TideRed Tide
A Billy Knight Thriller #2
Jeff Lindsay
Diversion Publishing, October 2015
ISBN 978-1626817210
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Billy Knight wants to ride out Key West’s slow-season with the occasional charter and the frequent beer. But when he discovers a dead body floating in the gulf, Billy gets drawn into a deadly plot of dark magic and profound evil. Along with his spiritually-attuned terrier of a friend, Nicky, and Anna, a resilient and mysterious survivor of her own horrors, Billy sets out to right the wrongs the police won’t, putting himself in mortal peril on the high seas.

The mood is somber in the opening pages of Red Tide as Billy’s charter boat business is down in a slow economy, his girlfriend is drifting away from what seems to be a moribund relationship and he spends his afternoons in the morose company of a bunch of diehard barsitters. Things get worse when Billy picks a fight in the bar, landing himself and said girlfriend, Nancy, in the Key West jail. In the drunk tank, Billy meets a rich kid named Rick Pearl who will show up in Billy’s life later but he’s probably seen the last of Nancy.

So begins the second in the Billy Knight series following Tropical Depression which was first published more than 20 years ago and re-issued this past August. Red Tide itself is new and may or may not lead to more stories featuring Billy, a retired cop relocated from Los Angeles to Key West, a world away from his past.

While the plot is done quite well, it’s the characters that really appealed to me, and not just Billy who’s kind of a romantic at heart and a man who’d rather leave the detecting life behind but can’t help himself. I also have become very fond of his annoying friend, Nicky, who is as hyper as they come, no more than five feet tall, and determined to rescue Billy from his own unhappiness.

In this entry, Billy finds himself involved with the Haitian refugee problem and a touch of voodoo but it’s a woman named Anna who gives him reason to investigate when the police have no interest in the dead body he and his wacky pal, Nicky, found in the Gulf. Following leads in Miami, Billy soon learns that human trafficking has come too close to home and he’s soon in pursuit of a mysterious ship on the high seas.

Lindsay’s Dexter series has had its fans—in droves—as well as its detractors—also in droves. After all, not everyone has a taste for serial killers and those books are rather gruesome at times. Readers who’ve avoided Dexter should give Billy a try as these books are much more in the private investigator vein (but a bit on the dark side) and Billy himself is a likeable guy with a dry sense of humor that lightens the mood now and then. In fact, this is a story that nicely blends a typical thriller with adventure, some humor and an interesting mystery. I’m a Dexter fan but I’ve also come to like Billy and I do hope Mr. Lindsay will give us more.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2015.



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An Excerpt from Red Tide

Miami has this problem with its boaters. Some of them are still sane, rational, careful people—perhaps as many as three or four out of every ten thousand of them. The rest act like they escaped from the asylum, drank a bottle of vodka, snorted an ounce of coke, ate 25 or 30 downers and decided to go for a spin. Homicidal, sociopathic maniacs, wildly out of control, with not a clue that other people are actually alive, and interested in keeping it that way. To them, other boats are targets. They get in the boat knowing only two speeds: fast and blast-off.

I mentioned a few of these things to the boats that tried to kill me. I don’t think they could hear me over the engine roar. One of the boats had four giant outboard motors clamped on the back; 250 horsepower each, all going at full throttle no more than six inches from Sligo. If I had put the boom out I would have beheaded the boat’s driver. He might not have noticed.

“To get a driver’s license,” I said to Nicky through gritted teeth, “you have to be sixteen, take a test, and demonstrate minimal skill behind the wheel.”

Nicky was busy fumbling on a bright orange life jacket, fingers trembling, and swearing under his breath.

“To drive a boat—which is just as fast, bigger, and in conditions just as crowded and usually more hazardous—you have to be able to start the motor. That’s all. Just start the motor. There’s something wrong with this picture, Nicky.”

“There is, mate,” he said. “We’re in it. Can you get us out of here?”

My luck was working overtime. We had four more close scrapes—one with a huge Italian-built motor yacht that was 100 feet long, cruising down the center of the channel at a stately thirty knots, but I got us out of the channel alive and undamaged. When I cleared the last two markers and turned into the wind I told Nicky, “Okay. Raise the sails.”

He stared at me for a moment. “Sure. Of course. How?”

It turned out Nicky had never been on a sailboat before. So he held the tiller while I went forward to the mast and ran the sails up. Then I jumped back into the cockpit and killed the engine.

“Home, James,” said Nicky, popping two beers and handing me one. “It’s been a bitch of a morning.”

I took the beer and pointed our bow south.

It was a near-perfect day, with a steady, easy wind coming from the east. We sailed south at a gentle five knots, staring at the scenery. Cape Florida looked strange, embarrassed to be naked. All its trees had been stripped away by the hurricane. Farther south, the stacks of Turkey Point Nuclear Reactor stuck up into the air, visible for miles. It was a wonderful landmark for all the boaters. Just steer thataway, Ray Bob, over there towards all them glowing fishes.

• • •

The weather held. We made it down through the Keys in easy stages, staying the first two nights in small marinas along the way, rising at dawn for a lazy breakfast in the cockpit, then casting off and getting the sails up as quickly as possible. Part of the pure joy of the trip was in the sound of the wind and the lack of any kind of machine noise. We’d agreed to do without the engine whenever we could.

That turned out to be most of the time. Nicky took to sailing quickly and without effort. We fell into the rhythm of the wind and the waves so easily, so naturally, that it was like we had been doing this forever, and would keep doing it until one day we were too old and dry and simply blew gently over the rail, wafted away on a wave.

The third night we could have made it in to Key West. But we would have been docking in the dark, and working a little harder than we wanted to. So we pulled in to a small marina with plenty of time left before sunset.

Nicky used the time doing what he called rustling up grub. I don’t know if that’s how they say it in Australia, or if he heard it in some old John Wayne movie. From what he’d told me about Australia, there’s not much difference.

I sat in the cockpit with a beer, stretched out under the blue Bimini top, and waited for Nicky to get back. I had a lot to think about, so I tried not to. But my thoughts were pretty well centered on Nancy.

It was over. It wasn’t over. I should do something. I should let it take its course. It wasn’t too late. It had been too late for months. Eeny meeny miny mo.

Luckily, Nicky came back before I went completely insane. He was clutching a bag of groceries and two more six packs of beer.

“Ahoy the poop,” he shouted. “How ’bout a hand, mate?”

I got him safely aboard and he went below to the little kitchen. It sounded like he was trying to put a hole in the hull with an old stop sign while singing comic opera, so I stayed in the cockpit, watching the sun sink and thinking my thoughts.

There is something very special about sunset in a marina. All the people in their boats have done something today. They have risked something and achieved something, and it gives them all a pleasant smugness that makes them very good company at happy hour. A few hours later the people off the big sports fishermen will be loud obnoxious drunks and the couples in their small cruising sailboats will be snarling at them self-righteously from their Birkenstocks, but at sunset they are all brothers and sisters and there are very few places in the world better for watching the sun go down than from the deck of a boat tied safely in a marina after a day on the water.

I sipped a beer. I felt good, too, although my mind kept circling back to Nancy, and every time it did my mood lurched downwards. But it’s hard to feel bad on a sailboat. That’s one reason people still sail.

Anyway, tomorrow we would be home. I could worry about it then.

Early the next morning we were working our way towards Key West, about two miles off shore on the ocean side. We had decided on the ocean side because of the mild weather. With the prevailing wind from the east, we would have a better sail on the outside, instead of in the calmer waters of the Gulf on the inside of the Keys.

And because the weather was so mild, we went out a little further than usual. Nicky was curious about the Gulf Stream, which runs close to the Keys. I put us onto its edge, and by early afternoon we were only a few miles out of Key West.

Nicky had dragged up his black plastic box and, surprise, pulled out a large handgun.

Like a lot of other foreigners who settle in the USA, Nicky had become a gun nut. He was not dangerous, or no more dangerous than he was at the dinner table. In fact he had become an expert shot and a fast draw. The fast draw part had seemed important to him out of all proportion to how much it really mattered. I put it down to the horrors of growing up a runt in Australia.

Somehow Nicky managed to rationalize his new love for guns with his philosophy of All-Things-Are-One brotherhood. “Simple, mate,” he’d said with a wink, “I’m working out a past life karmic burden.”


“All right then, I just like the bloody things. How’s that?”

Nicky had a new gun. He wanted to fire off a few clips and get the feel of it. Since we were out in the Stream and the nearest boat was almost invisible on the horizon, I didn’t see any reason why not. So Nicky shoved in a clip and got ready to fire his lovely new toy.

It was a nine millimeter Sig Sauer, an elegant and expensive weapon that Nicky needed about as much as he needed a Sharp’s buffalo rifle, but he had it and so far he hadn’t blown off his foot with it. I was hoping he would stay lucky.

“Ahoy, mate,” called Nicky, pointing the gun off to the south, “thar she blows.”

I turned to follow his point. A bleach bottle was sailing slowly out into the Gulf Stream.

“Come on,” Nicky urged, “pedal to the metal, mate.”

I tightened the main sheet and turned the boat slightly to give him a clear shot and Nicky opened up. He fired rapidly and well. The bleach bottle leaped into the air and he plugged it twice more before it came down again. He sent it flying across the water until the clip was empty and the bottle, full of holes, started to settle under.

I chased down the bottle and hooked it out with a boathook before it sank from sight. There’s enough crap in the ocean. Nicky was already shoving in a fresh clip.

“Onward, my man,” he told me, slamming home the clip and letting out a high, raucous, “Eeee-HAH!” as he opened a new beer. We were moving out further than we should have, maybe, out into the Gulf Stream. It’s easy to know when you’re there. You see a very abrupt color change, which is just what it sounds like: the water suddenly changes from a gunmetal green to a luminous blue. The edge where the change happens is as hard and startling as a knife-edge.

“Ahoy, matey,” Nicky called again, pointing out beyond the color change, and I headed out into the Gulf Stream for the new target. “Coconut!” Nicky called with excitement as we got closer. It was his favorite target. He loved the way they exploded when he hit them dead on.

I made the turn, adjusting the sheet line and again presenting our broadside, and swiveled my head to watch.

Nicky was already squinting. His hand wavered over the black nylon holster clipped to his belt. He let his muscles go slack and ready. I stared at the coconut. From fifty yards it suddenly looked wrong. The color was almost right, a greyish brown, and the dull texture seemed to fit, but—

“Hang on, Nicky,” I said, “Just a second—”

But the first two shots were already smacking away, splitting the sudden quiet.

I shoved the tiller hard over and brought us into the wind. The boat lurched and made Nicky miss his second shot. He looked at me with an expression of annoyance. I nodded at his target. He had hit the coconut dead center with the first shot. It should have leapt out of the water in a spectacular explosion. It hadn’t. The impact of the shot pushed it slowly, sluggishly through the water and we could both see it clearly now.

It wasn’t a coconut. Not at all. It was a human head.


About the Author

Jeff LindsayJeff Lindsay is the award-winning author of the seven New York Times bestselling Dexter novels upon which the international hit TV show Dexter is based. His books appear in more than 30 languages and have sold millions of copies around the world. Jeff is a graduate of Middlebury College, Celebration Mime Clown School, and has a double MFA from Carnegie Mellon. Although a full-time writer now, he has worked as an actor, comic, director, MC, DJ, singer, songwriter, composer, musician, story analyst, script doctor, and screenwriter.

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Waiting On Wednesday (6)

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event that
spotlights upcoming releases that I’m really
looking forward to. Waiting On Wednesday
is the creation of by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s “can’t-wait-to-read” selection is:

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Book Review: Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters by Lida Sideris—and a Giveaway!

Murder and Other Unnatural DisastersMurder and Other Unnatural Disasters
Lida Sideris
The Wild Rose Press, September 2015
ISBN 978-1-5092-0240-9
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Watch out Southern California! There’s a new entertainment attorney in town and she’s got game. Only problem is, it’s not the one she should be playing. Corrie Locke belongs behind a desk, not behind a Glock. She should be taking VIP calls, not nosing around a questionable suicide. Instead, she’s hot on the trail of a murderer.

Luckily, she’s the daughter of a late, great private eye and she’s inherited his love of sleuthing…and illegal weaponry. It doesn’t help matters that her gene for caution is a recessive one. Corrie finds herself in the center of a murder case, unearthing suspects in shocking places. With a cold-blooded killer on the loose, Corrie will have to up her game, or die trying.

If ever there was a fictional character I’d love to hang out with it would be Corrie Lake. What a hoot this woman is even if she is more than a little obsessed with criminal activity. I mean, who thinks of an everyday backpack as a possible repository of pressure cooker bombs? Corrie is a wannabe private investigator locked in a lawyer’s body and the interesting thing is she’s good at lawyering while she has some chops at sleuthing, learned from her father. It’s her past with her dad that leads to Corrie poking around into a purported suicide as well as working out what happened to a certain missing Georgie.

Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters is a rollicking adventure with a whole passel of eccentric and goofy characters that become part and parcel of Corrie’s life and her unplanned investigations add to the fun. The mystery of the possible suicide, despite all the humor of the surrounding story, is compelling and a plethora of suspects and red herrings make for a denouement that’s full of surprises.

Besides Corrie, Gwenaveera Bankhead aka Veera, security guard and aspiring lawyer, is my favorite character. She’s big and brash and pushy and all kinds of personality and, by golly, she’s going to be Corrie’s sidekick whether Corrie wants her or not 😉 I’m really looking forward to seeing these two again, along with a bunch of other cohorts, in the next book which can’t come soon enough.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2015.



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About the Author

Lida SiderisLike her heroine, Corrie Locke, Lida Sideris hails from Southern California and worked as an entertainment attorney for a film studio. She has written numerous magazine and newspaper articles, a poem or two and a teleplay. She shares her home with her family and an assortment of dogs and chickens.

She was the recipient of the 2014 Helen McCloy/Mystery Writers of America scholarship for mystery writing. Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters is her first novel.

Find out more about Lida at her website

Connect with her on Facebook.

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Leave a comment below to enter
the drawing
for a print or ebook
copy, winner’s choice, of

  Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters
by Lida Sideris. The winning name
will be
drawn on Saturday evening,
October 31st. Print is
open to residents
of the US, ebook is open internationally.


Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters is a delightful twisting
maze complete with Hollywood film production, murder and
mayhem, sexy and quirky characters and a smart lawyer who is
trying to make sense of it all. —Kimberley Troutte, 
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author


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A Bicycle Built for One—and a Giveaway!

Edith Maxwell aka Maddie DayAmazon-bestselling and Agatha-nominated author Edith Maxwell writes four mystery series, as well as award-winning short stories.

Maxwell’s Country Store Mysteries, written as Maddie Day (Kensington Publishing), debuts with Flipped for Murder in October, 2015. Farmed and Dangerous is the latest in her Local Foods Mysteries series (Kensington Publishing, 2015). The first in Maxwell’s historical Quaker Midwife Mysteries series, Delivering the Truth, will debut in April, 2016 (Midnight Ink). The most recent Lauren Rousseau mystery, written under the pseudonym Tace Baker (Barking Rain Press), is Bluffing is Murder.

Maxwell lives in an antique house north of Boston with her beau and three cats. She blogs every weekday with the other Wicked Cozy Authors (, and you can find her at, @edithmaxwell, on Pinterest, and at

Flipped for MurderMaddie Day here – also known as Edith Maxwell. Robbie Jordan is my chef-carpenter in the new Country Store Mysteries. She’s a Californian transplanted to hilly scenic southern Indiana, and she’s still discovering new and delightful things about her new home, the town of South Lick. She’s worked hard renovating an old country store full of antique cookware into Pans ‘N Pancakes, her breakfast-and-lunch restaurant. Too bad one of her customers dies the day the store reopens – with one of Robbie’s cheesey biscuits in her mouth.

When Robbie needs to clear her head, she heads out on her bicycle. Cycling on the open road is how she gets her exercise, figures out problems, and finds some peace and quiet even as her muscles are pumping.

Brown County, Indiana, where I plopped fictional South Lick, is indeed scenic. After I moved to New England, I realized Brown County looks a lot like areas of New Hampshire or Vermont. That is, hilly! Which makes it a challenging area for a cyclist.

Edith's/Maddie's son JD

Edith’s/Maddie’s son JD

Me, I don’t like riding on hills. I have a bicycle and could ride forever on the flat, but I now live in a fairly hilly town, so my bike mostly gathers dust in the shed. However, I have a son who is a serious cyclist. JD has several times participated in hundred-mile fundraising rides, and after working hard as a farmer all day last year, would take his bike out on the hilly roads around here and ride for a few hours to relax.

So he was my consultant for Robbie Jordan’s bike and cycling habits. She rides a Cannondale like his and also finds a hard fast ride relaxing after standing and cooking breakfast and lunch all day. Too bad she also runs into a murderer on one of her rides.

I’m so delighted that Flipped for Murder releases today, and hope you’ll enjoy it. I’ll give away a copy of the book to one commenter here! What do you do for exercise and clearing the mind? Are you a hills biker or do you prefer a flat ride?


To enter the drawing for a print copy
of Flipped for Murder by Maddie Day,
leave a comment below answering one
or both of these two questions:
1. What do you do for exercise

and clearing the mind?
2. Are you a hills biker or do
you prefer a flat ride?
The winning name will be drawn on
Thursday evening, October 29th.
Open to residents of the US.

Edith's/Maddie's Son JD On The Far Left

Edith’s/Maddie’s Son JD On The Far Left