Book Review: Rhythm and Clues by Sue Ann Jaffarian @SueAnnJaffarian @midnightinkbook

Rhythm & Clues
An Odelia Grey Mystery #11
Sue Ann Jaffarian
Midnight Ink, November 2016
ISBN 978-0-7387-1885-9
Trade Paperback

This is the eleventh in Sue Ann Jaffarian’s popular Odelia Grey mystery series.  Odelia is a 220-pound, 5 ft. 1inch paralegal/amateur detective who, as far as I can  tell, doesn’t actually work at her paralegal job very much.  The story begins with Odelia having coffee at a Starbucks (where else?) with Shelita Thomas whose father, Art Franklin, lives in the Seaside Retirement Community where Odelia’s mother, Grace, also lives.  Shelita asked to meet with Odelia to discuss a phone call she received from the management at Seaside complaining that Grace and Art were repeatedly complaining to them about another resident, Bo Shank, who appears to have gone missing.  In fact, they have gone so far as to file a missing person report with the police.  Shelita wants Odelia to do something to stop her mother whom she believes is goading Art into taking action.  Odelia, quite sensibly it seems to me, believes they are both adults and there is nothing she can or should do to stop them from looking for their friend.

However, Odelia is drawn to the problem because Bo Shank happens to be the former lead singer of Acid Storm, a band Odelia adored when she was a teenager.  So, she agrees to help look for Bo.  And therein lies the story.  Odelia is assisted in her search not only by her mother and Art but also by her niece, Lorraine, a somewhat ditzy young woman who is visiting from Chicago.  When Grace and Lorraine go off without Odelia to sleuth they find a dead body and the chase is on.

Despite the dead body, this is an amusing mystery, fast-paced and full of memorable characters with the obligatory detective that Odelia does not get along with.  Rhythm & Clues is a great summer read!

Reviewed by Melinda Drew, July 2019.

TTT: Ten Books to Read if You Like Female Sleuths (Nancy Drew)

This is a fun post, reminding me of some of my favorite girl detectives and giving me leads on some I haven’t tried…yet 😉

Hidden Staircase

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday (TTT) brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s prompt is “Ten Books To Read If You Like This Super Popular Book/Author.” I’m going back to my roots this week at Hidden Staircase – that’s right, Nancy Drew. Girl detectives. Female sleuths. Women solving mysteries. However you like to phrase it, she’s a leading lady with brains, spunk, and a sense of justice.

In the spirit of keeping things fresh, I will do my best to list books that don’t frequently appear in my TTT lists.

Nancy Drew #2. Nancy Drew #2.

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Book Reviews: Ghosts of the Grand Canyon by Judy and Brian-James Martinez and Concussion Comeback by Kyle Jackson @LlewellynBooks @JollyFishPress

Ghosts of the Grand Canyon
Personal Encounters that Will Have You on the Edge
Judy & Brian-James Martinez
Llewellyn Publications, April 2019
ISBN 978-0-7387-5944-9
Trade Paperback

Although I’ve never been to Arizona, when I hear “Grand Canyon”, an image of sheer, sunbaked cliffs, surrounding an almost-angry, definitely-defiant crater, instantly pops into my mind. That, and the time during a family dinner when I may have missed my mouth and my father said, “Damn. That’s like throwing a rock at the Grand Canyon and missing,” which is not covered in Judy and Brian-James Martinez’s Ghosts of the Grand Canyon: Personal Encounters that Will Have You on the Edge.

These spooky stories, rich with history and humanity, are exponentially more entertaining and even educational. I enjoyed learning how the El Tovar Hotel came to be, how it has changed since opening in 1905, and who may still call it home.

I did not know that, only a quarter of a mile from the canyon’s rim, is the largest ponderosa pine forest in the world. Within said set of trees is a lodge named for the Hopi Nation kachina god who guards the gulf, “Maswik”.

Pioneer Cemetery, inside of the National Park, continues to be a place to visit, with walking trails and benches along the route. There’s an RV park, Trailer Village, purported to be a paranormal portal.

The Navajo needed their very own word for ghost, “Chindi”. And they believe in “skin-walkers”—an interesting tale, in and of itself.

In 1910, two brothers boarded a boat to travel the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. One sibling carried a movie camera to capture the entire adventure. To tourists’ delight, the resulting silent film was played, daily, for a full 17-year-run.

When just these few facts are so intriguing, the mandatory myths and folklore mixed in are bound to be good. The authors convey the peoples’ stories, using the peoples’ words, for an authentic, fun-fact-filled read.

Reviewed by jv poore, August 2019.


Concussion Comeback
Mac’s Sports Report
Kyle Jackson
Jolly Fish Press, September 2018
ISBN 978-1-63163-227-3

Stewart “Mac” McKenzie takes his sports-reporting role very seriously, even if he is writing about Middle-Grade activities. As a hard-working student-athlete, who rolls circles around his competitors to crush it on the basketball court, Mac sees both sides of every story. Which is why he is so worried about his next article.

The football coach provides Mac a spot on the sidelines, alongside the team and their supporting staff. But the view from his wheelchair is slightly different and he definitely saw the star quarterback crack his head on the final play. He kept his eyes on Ryan Mitchell and knew he wasn’t imagining the symptoms he saw.

He tried talking, but Ryan wouldn’t listen. Now, it’s not a matter of what he has to do, but rather, finding the best way to do it. Fortunately for Mac, his best friend didn’t just know every fact and stat about practically all of the sports; but, Samira Ahmad is also incredibly thoughtful and kind. She always gives Mac the best advice.

It won’t take a sports fan to enjoy and appreciate Mr. Jackson’s Mac’s Sports Report: Concussion Comeback. Simply written, it is a quick, effortless and entertaining read; but it tackles a timely and important topic. I loved the real-life, varied examples of a few famous NFL players handling this very issue. I’m still stunned to know that one player was hit so hard, it took him more than a year to re-learn how to read.

Reviewed by jv poore, October 2018

Book Reviews: Black Site by Philip Mudd and November Road by Lou Berney @RoguePhilMudd @LiverightPub @Lou_Berney @WmMorrowBooks

Black Site
The CIA in the Post-9/11 World

Philip Mudd
Liveright Publishing, July 2019
ISBN 978-1-63149-197-9

Here is an eye-opening, compelling inside narrative of our premiere intelligence agency during one of the most upsetting periods in the life of our nation. Remember that the Central Intelligence Agency was not very old when Al-Qaeda flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and literally shocked the American public to its core. In intelligence and political circles especially, the question arose: is there a plan to protect us against a second attack?

None of the law enforcement and counter-intelligence operations in our government could answer that question with any assurance and the political organizations of the nation were peopled with a lot of very nervous individuals.

Written in the third person, by a former executive in the CIA and at the White House, and also at one time an executive at the FBI, the author has a deep experience with the changing mores and culture of the intelligence world pre- and post-9/11 world. He draws on his knowledge of the important players at all levels from the Oval Office to some of the regular workers at Langley, striving to make sense of ever-increasing flows of information.

The Central Intelligence Agency was never planned as a keeper of prisoners. It had no jails and it had no protocols to deal with high or low value prisoners who had been members of the CIA’s principal target, Al-Qaeda. Author Philip Mudd follows the torturous path of interrogation techniques through the Department of Justice, the politicians and the operators, agents and analysts of the agency, the creation of black site jails and much of the rising and falling tension and shifting attitudes throughout the nation.

From it’s very first incident to the final conclusion this is a riveting exploration of the secret and the prosaic world of intelligence gathering.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, August 2019.
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.


November Road
Lou Berney
William Morrow, October 2018
ISBN 978-0-06-266384-9

A powerful, engaging crime novel of unusual breadth and perception: the story is a kind of road novel, involving a savvy canny New Orleans mob facilitator named Frank Guidry and an ordinary Oklahoma housewife and mother of extraordinary grit and talent.

Charlotte, mother of two small girls, is married to a husband who seems stuck in a bottle of booze and she’s frustrated with her work limitations and life in general.

It’s November 1963, and readers may remember what happened in Dealey Plaza in Dallas. The assassination of President Kennedy sends Guidry to Dallas to retrieve an unused get-away-car he assumes was parked there to be used by an assassin. Real life interfered with mob plans and Guidry is expected to clean up loose ends. He divines that he is a loose end to the New Orleans mob and takes a runner.

In Oklahoma, one more drunken episode with her husband and a putdown by the local newspaper editor is the final insult and Charlotte packs up her children and departs for the west coast.

Weather and fate bring these two adults together down the road and new adventures ensue as Charlotte and Frank meet and grow ever closer. The time period is the weeks immediately after the Kennedy assassination and Charlotte still plans to make it to Los Angeles with her daughters. Of course, other forces are at play, other characters have different plans. Carefully and thoughtfully with excellent attention to pace and environment, the author carries readers along and steadily draws us into his unique world.

This is an excellent crime novel in every aspect. NOVEMBER ROAD is not a bang-bang-shoot-up with ever increasing time-sensitive tension. The tension, and there is plenty, lies in the author’s attention to important detail and the smooth artistry of his narration as well as the thoughtful and understandable conclusions.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, December 2018.
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Sad But Long-Awaited Times

Whether you support our president or not, as a nation we can take no joy from yesterday’s news. Impeachment of a president is not done lightly, by any means, but Trump has never accepted that a president can’t just do whatever he wants to do and I’m sorry it’s taken so long for the existing checks and balances to kick in.

It’s important to note that this first step is an inquiry as to whether impeachment is truly warranted and should be taken to the House floor for a vote. If that happens, and a simple majority of the House votes for impeachment, then the Senate would need a two-thirds majority to remove him from office and, quite frankly, I believe that is unlikely to happen.

So why go to all this trouble? For one thing, the proceedings should at least make Trump understand that he is not above the law, a one-man show with no holds barred, and hopefully reign in his egregious behavior somewhat. Maybe he and his appointees would show a little restraint before destroying more of what makes America a good place to be. Truthfully, I’m not sure I want Trump to be convicted and ousted from office because I believe Pence is even more dangerous because he is a man who would be taken seriously and some of his beliefs are alarming.

Whatever finally plays out, the coming months are going to be both painful and compelling. I have a strong sense of relief that many of our elected representatives are finally saying “NO” to the man and I hope it won’t backfire on us. If nothing else, it might help us regain a small bit of our reputation in the global community.

We’ll see.

Book Review: Death by the Bay by Patricia Skalka—and a Giveaway! @PatriciaSkalka @UWiscPress

Death by the Bay
A Dave Cubiak Door County Mystery #5
Patricia Skalka
University of Wisconsin Press, May 2019
ISBN: 978-0-299-32310-3

Door County Sheriff Dave Cubiak is at a hotel restaurant having lunch with old Doc Bathard, the retired coroner, when screams ring out. Apparently, The Institute for Progressive Medicine is holding its annual conference in the hotel, and a very important man has had a heart attack and fallen down dead. As if this isn’t enough, soon another scream leads Cubiak to another room, where a Hispanic cleaning woman is weeping and pointing to a photo on the wall. Since she’s speaking Spanish, Cubiak doesn’t understand what’s she’s saying, but since this room is also part of the Progressive Medicine Institute’s conference, he’s for darn sure going to find out. When the dead’s man’s autopsy provides suspicion of murder, the hunt is on as Cubiak, Bathard, and Deputy Mike Rowe dig through old history.

The story premise is a sad one–think of the days when lobotomies were performed. In this case, children with disabilities of various sorts were taken from their families and never seen again. What happened to them is only part of the mystery. Finding who is taking vengeance now is the mystery that needs solved. Cubiak depends on solid police work and a bit of intuition to finally discover the culprit.

The setting, on the shores of Lake Michigan and Green Bay, lends itself to mysterious doings. Very atmospheric throughout. The characters are well fleshed out and clear. Cubiak is a deep thinker, compassionate when called for, relentless when it comes to bringing miscreants to justice. The story is fast-paced, well-written and entirely feasible in its outcome.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, August 2019.
Author of Five Days, Five Dead, Hereafter and Hometown Homicide.


To enter the drawing for a hardcover
copy of Death by the Bay, just leave a
comment below. The winning name will
be drawn Friday evening, September 27th.
Open to residents of the US and Canada.

Spotlight on Remote by Lisa Acerbo @Apocalipstick_ @YABoundToursPR


Title: Remote
Author: Lisa Acerbo
Published by: Digital Fiction Publishing Corp.
Publication date: December 2018
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopia, Romance, Young Adult



When technology fulfills every dream, reality is a nightmare.

Below the streets of New State, the Grounders fight to remain free
of the technological control of the world above. When dusk falls, Wren
risks her life by entering the capital city as a raider to secure resources
for the rebellion. Each step further inside puts her life in jeopardy from
New State’s deadliest weapons – Phantoms. More machine than
human, tortured until devoid of emotion and caring, Phantoms have
only one objective. Kill. And they do it with exacting precision.

Wren is good at her job as a raider and committed to the cause
until she meets Codex, a New State citizen who doesn’t quite fit
her preconceived expectations. After a couple of awkward
encounters, he shows her the meaning of hooking up—a computer
simulation that allows people to live out their fantasies—without
the complication of emotional entanglements or physical reality. But
what Wren feels for Codex is very real. And it’s punishable by death.

As she and Codex grow closer, Wren convinces him to leave New State
for the underground. But unrest between New State and the Grounders
escalates, and Phantoms move in to destroy her world. Nothing goes
as Wren planned. Families are arrested, loyalties are strained, and Wren’s
forced to choose between her people and her feelings. The wrong choice
could mean the end of her people, and reality could slip away—forever…

Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Amazon


An Excerpt from Remote

The beat of her heart pounded a symphony against her ribs. Adrenaline tripped through her veins. Wren stepped back, not sure whether to run or fight.

“Wait,” the stranger said. “I won’t turn you in. I’m out here too.”

He didn’t realize who Wren was. Yet. She did a quick assessment. No weapons. This man-boy appeared harmless in regulated baggy white New State sleepwear covering his tall, thin frame. She could see knobby elbows peeking out of the sleeves while a shock of bright blond hair radiated from his head like a lion’s mane. The diamond-shape port by his ear was almost hidden, but not quite.

A scowl forced a harsh line across her lips as she took a step closer. Wren should relieve him of his life now, but she’d never killed a New State citizen. The military had trained her to do so, and she’d disposed the abominations known as phantoms, but human life made her hesitate, especially after glancing at the boy who was roughly the same age. Innocence lived in his expression.

Angrily, she shook the thoughts away. Don’t delude yourself. He isn’t human. There’s a CHIP in his brain. She forced chilled fingers around the cold handle of a knife hidden inside her coat pocket. Watching and waiting, the weapon provided much needed courage.

Instead of being scared, the silly boy smiled and brushed the hair out of his shamrock-green eyes. His robotic voice was loud and jarring in the silence. “I’m Codex15111. What are you doing out?”

“Codex.” She tried out the strange name. “I could ask you the same thing.” Wren bounced lightly, ready to spring. She tried to hold his gaze, hoping to read his actions.

“Enjoying the night sky.” Each word was monotone. He refused to meet her eyes, his head tilted, gaze focused on the stars. “Beautiful, right?”

“Um hum.”

“I was waiting for you,” he said.

Silence built like an incoming wave. “Me?”

He looked at her quickly before lowering his eyes. “I think I saw you here before.”

The voice.

Questions exited Wren’s mouth as if they had a life of their own. “Aren’t you supposed to be hooked up, Codex? It is nighttime.” She emphasized the odd name. “Shouldn’t you be enjoying your alternate universe? Battles, booze, and boobs, or whatever perverted fantasy you want to live tonight?” Anger from being caught by a New State loser leaked into the words, but then Wren instantly regretted them. A citizen would never say anything negative against New State. She had to get control. No wonder her dad called her careless and impulsive.

“It’s not like that.” His slim shoulders hitched.

For the first time, his voice took on a more humanistic quality, sounding peeved.

She grunted in response. She knew nothing of the sort.

Codex15111 bright eyes narrowed to slits. “Wait, exactly what do you know? I mean, you’re with the rebels, right?”

Oh no. Wren’s thoughts careened. I have to kill him.  “What rebels?”

“Everyone knows about the rebels.” His gaze focused on her clothes and backpack. He took a step back, but he didn’t flee. “You must be one.”

Wren’s feet refused to obey her swampy brain. She couldn’t form a coherent sentence. This wasn’t time for talk, but she felt ill prepared to fight. She’d never actually met a New Stater before because they were always hooked up. This one would not be quiet. Staring at the blathering man-boy, she stroked the handle of her knife. The ritual brought her calm and steadied her. She could kill him to make him shut up but curiosity got the best of her.

I’ll do it before I go. I have to kill him, right?


About the Author

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Twitter: @Apocalipstick_





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