Book Review: Monsterland by Michael Okon

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Book Review: The Truth Beneath the Lies by Amanda Searcy

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Book Review: The Body in the Casket by Katherine Hall Page

The Body in the Casket
A Faith Fairchild Mystery #24
Katherine Hall Page
William Morrow, December 2017
ISBN 978-0-06-243956-7
Hardcover

From the publisher—

For most of her adult life, resourceful caterer Faith Fairchild has called the sleepy Massachusetts village of Aleford home. While the native New Yorker has come to know the region well, she isn’t familiar with Havencrest, a privileged enclave, until the owner of Rowan House, a secluded sprawling Arts and Crafts mansion, calls her about catering a weekend house party.

Producer/director of a string of hit musicals, Max Dane—a Broadway legend—is throwing a lavish party to celebrate his seventieth birthday. At the house as they discuss the event, Faith’s client makes a startling confession. “I didn’t hire you for your cooking skills, fine as they may be, but for your sleuthing ability. You see, one of the guests wants to kill me.”

Faith’s only clue is an ominous birthday gift the man received the week before—an empty casket sent anonymously containing a twenty-year-old Playbill from Max’s last, and only failed, production—Heaven or Hell. Consequently, Max has drawn his guest list for the party from the cast and crew. As the guests begin to arrive one by one, and an ice storm brews overhead, Faith must keep one eye on the menu and the other on her host to prevent his birthday bash from becoming his final curtain call.

Full of delectable recipes, brooding atmosphere, and Faith’s signature biting wit, The Body in the Casket is a delightful thriller that echoes the beloved mysteries of Agatha Christie and classic films such as Murder by Death and Deathtrap.

If you’re ever on the lookout for a gentle yet lightly adventurous cozy series, this is it and the newest episode adds a dollop of fun by presenting a scenario very reminiscent of the boardgame (and movie) Clue. The Body in the Casket is a bit of a featherweight compared to some of the other books in the series—more time is spent on the lives and times of various continuing characters in and around Aleford than on the actual mystery—but it still offers a few hours of pure pleasure.

Faith has never catered a weekend-long house party before but she’s intrigued by the prospect and even more so by Max Dane’s conviction that one of his guests intends to kill him. He’s not sure who it is but he knows the potential killer is someone connected to the last musical he produced; it’s up to Faith to figure out who before the deed can be done.

A few sidestories add even more interest to the core tale, such as a fight to keep a developer from tearing down an historic building and a couple of romantic issues but, as always, it’s Faith’s sleuthing and her scrumptious food that held my attention. The identity of the killer wasn’t much of a surprise but that was okay with me as I quite enjoyed my time with Faith & company.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2017.

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Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon // Indiebound

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An Excerpt from
The Body in the Casket

Chapter One

“Have Faith in Your Kitchen,” Faith Fairchild said, answering the phone at her catering firm. She’d been busy piping choux pastry for éclairs onto a baking sheet.

“Mrs. Fairchild?”

“Yes? This is Faith Fairchild. How may I help you?”

“Please hold for Max Dane.” The voice had a plummy, slightly British tone, reminiscent of Jeeves, or Downton Abbey’s Carson. The only Max Dane Faith had heard of had been a famous Broadway musical producer, but she was pretty sure he’d died years ago. This must be another Max Dane.

She was put through quickly and a new voice said, “Hi. I know this is short notice, but I am very much hoping you are available to handle a house party I’m throwing for about a dozen guests at the end of the month. A Friday to Sunday. Not just dinner, but all the meals.”

Faith had never catered anything like this. A Friday to Sunday sounded like something out of a British pre-World War II country house novel—kippers for breakfast, Fortnum & Mason type hampers for the shoot, tea and scones, drinks and nibbles, then saddle of lamb or some other large haunch of meat for dinner with vintage clarets followed by port and Stilton—for the men only. She was intrigued.

“The first thing I need to know is where you live, Mr. Dane. Also, is this a firm date? We’ve had a mild winter so far, but January may still deliver a wallop like last year.”

A Manhattan native, Faith’s marriage more than 20 years ago to the Reverend Thomas Fairchild meant a radical change of address— from the Big Apple to the orchards of Aleford, a small suburb west of Boston. Faith had never become used to boiled dinners, First Parish’s rock hard pews and most of all, New England weather. By the end of the previous February there had been 75 inches of snow on the ground and you couldn’t see through the historic parsonage’s ground floor windows or open the front door. Teenage son Ben struggled valiantly to keep the back door clear, daily hewing a path to the garage. The resulting tunnel resembled a clip from Nanook of the North.

“I’m afraid the date is firm. The thirtieth is my birthday. A milestone one, my seventieth.” Unlike his butler or whoever had called Faith to the phone, Max Dane’s voice indicated he’d started life in one of the five boroughs. Faith was guessing the Bronx. He sounded a bit sheepish when he said “ my birthday,” as if throwing a party for himself was out of character. “And I live in Havencrest. It’s not far from Aleford, but I’d want you to be available at the house the whole time. Live in.”

Leaving her family for three days was not something Faith did often, especially since Sunday was a workday for Tom and all too occasionally Saturday was as he “polished” his sermon. (His term, which she had noticed over the years, could mean writing the whole thing.)

Ben and Amy, two years younger, seemed old enough to be on their own, but Faith had found that contrary to expectations, kids needed parents around more in adolescence than when they were toddlers. Every day brought the equivalent of scraped knees and they weren’t the kind of hurts that could be soothed by Pat The Bunny and a chocolate chip cookie. She needed more time to think about taking the job. “I’m not sure I can leave my family…” was interrupted. “I quite understand that this would be difficult,” Dane said and then he named a figure so far above anything she had ever been offered that she actually covered her mouth to keep from gasping out loud.

“Look,” he continued. “Why don’t you come by and we’ll talk in person? You can see the place and decide then.  I don’t use it myself, but the kitchen is well equipped—the rest of the house too. I’ll email directions and you can shoot me some times that work. This week if possible. I want to send out the invites right away.”

Well, it wouldn’t hurt to talk, Faith thought. And she did like seeing other people’s houses. She agreed, but before she hung up curiosity won out and she asked, “Are you related to the Max Dane who produced all those wonderful Broadway musicals?”

“Very closely. As in one and the same. See you soon.”

Faith put the phone down and turned to Pix Miller, her closest friend and part-time Have Faith employee.

“That was someone wanting Have Faith to cater a weekend long birthday celebration—for an astonishing amount of money.” She named the figure in a breathless whisper. “His name is Max Dane. Have you ever heard of him?”

“Even I know who Max Dane is. Sam took me to New York the December after we were married and we saw one of his shows. It was magical—the whole weekend was. No kids yet. We were kids ourselves. We skated at Rockefeller Center by the tree and…”

Her friend didn’t go in for sentimental journeys and tempted as she was to note Pix and Sam skated on Aleford Pond then and now, Faith didn’t want to stop the flow of memories. “Where did you stay? A suite at the Plaza?” Sam was a very successful lawyer.

Pix came down to earth. “We barely had money for the show and pre-theater dinner at Twenty-One. That was the big splurge. I honestly can’t remember where we stayed and I should, because that’s where—” She stopped abruptly and blushed, also unusual Pix behavior.

“Say no more. Nine months later along came Mark?”

“Something like that,” Pix mumbled and then in her usual more assertive voice, added “You have to do this. Not because of the money, although the man must be loaded! Think of who might be there. And the house must be amazing. We don’t have anything booked for then and I can keep an eye on the kids.”

The Millers lived next door to the parsonage and their three now grown children had been the Fairchilds’ babysitters. Pix played a more essential role: Faith’s tutor in the unforeseen intricacies of childrearing as well as Aleford’s often arcane mores. Faith’s first social faux pas as a new bride—inviting guests for dinner at eight o’clock— had happily been avoided when her first invite, Pix, gently told Faith the town’s inhabitants would be thinking bed soon at that hour, not a main course.

Faith had started her catering business in the city that never slept before she was married and was busy all year long. Here January was always a slow month for business. The holidays were over and things didn’t start to pick up until Valentine’s Day—and even then scheduling events was risky. It all came down to weather.

Pix was at the computer. Years ago she’d agreed to work at Have Faith keeping the books, the calendar, inventory—anything that did not involve any actual food preparation.

“We have a couple of receptions at the Ganley Museum and the MLK breakfast the standing clergy host.”

The first time Faith heard the term, “standing clergy”, which was the town’s men and women of any cloth, she pictured an upright somberly garbed group in rows like ninepins. And she hadn’t been far off.

“That’s pretty much it,” Pix added,  “except for a few luncheons and Amelia’s baby shower—I think she baby sat for you a couple of times when she was in high school.”

“I remember she was very reliable, “Faith said.

“ Hard to believe she’s the same age as Samantha and having her second!” Pix sounded wistful. She was the type of woman born to wear a “I Spoil My Grandchildren” tee shirt. Faith wouldn’t be surprised if there were a drawer somewhere in the Miller’s house filled with tiny sweaters and booties knit by Pix, “just to be ready.” Mark Miller, the oldest, was married, but he and his wife did not seem to be in a rush to start a family.

Samantha, the middle Miller, had a long-term beau, Caleb. They were living together in trendy Park Slope, Brooklyn and Sam, an old-fashioned pater familias, had to be restrained from asking Caleb his intentions each time the young couple came to Aleford. Pix was leaning that way herself, she’d told Faith recently, noting that young couples these days were so intent on careers they didn’t hear the clock ticking.

Faith had forgotten that Amelia—who apparently had paid attention to time— was Samantha’s age and quickly changed the subject to what was uppermost in her mind—the Dane job. “Where is Havencrest?” she asked. “I thought I knew all the neighboring towns.”

“It’s not really a town so much as an enclave between Weston and Dover. I don’t think it even has a zip code. I’ve never been there, but Mother has. You can ask her about it. The houses all date to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I believe there’s a gatehouse at the entrance. It’s an early equivalent of the mid century modern planned communities like Moon Hill in Lexington. Havencrest wasn’t a bunch of architects like that one though. Just very rich Boston Brahmin families who wanted privacy and plenty of space. I wonder how Max Dane ended up there? From what Mother has said, the houses don’t change hands, just generations.”

“I think I’ll check my email and see if there’s anything from him yet,” Faith said. “And maybe drop by to see Ursula on my way home.” Stopping to visit with Ursula Lyman Rowe, Pix’s mother, was no chore. The octogenarian was one of Faith’s favorite people. She turned back to the éclairs, which were part of a special order, and added a few more to bring to her friend.

“I know you’ll take the job,” Pix said. “I’m predicting the weekend of a lifetime!”

————

Excerpt from The Body in the Casket by Katherine Hall Page.  Copyright © 2017 by William Morrow. Reproduced with permission from William Morrow. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Katherine Hall Page is the author of twenty-three previous Faith Fairchild mysteries, the first of which received the Agatha Award for best first mystery. The Body in the Snowdrift was honored with the Agatha Award for best novel of 2006. Page also won an Agatha for her short story “The Would-Be Widower.” The recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at Malice Domestic, she has been nominated for the Edgar Award, the Mary Higgins Clark Award, and the Macavity Award. She lives in Massachusetts, and Maine, with her husband.

Catch Up With Our Author On:

Website // Facebook // Goodreads

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Follow the tour here.

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Giveaway

There will be 3 winners of one (1) physical
copy each of Katherine Hall Page’s
The Body in the Casket. The giveaway
begins on December 4, 2017

and runs through January 17, 2018.

Enter here.

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Book Review: An Unconventional Mr. Peadlebody by D.L. Gardner

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Book Review: Revolutions by Carissa Andrews

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Title: Revolutions
Series: Pendomus Chronicles Book 3
Author: Carissa Andrews
Publication date: November 21, 2017
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:

         

    

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Revolutions
Pendomus Chronicles Book Three
Carissa Andrews
Carissa Andrews, November 2017
ISBN 978-0991055845
Trade Paperback

From the author—

As the timelines of Pendomus fray, one girl born with power has the ability to set things right….

Forcing her way into Videus’ vassalage may be the last thing Runa will ever do, but she knows she has to try. Not only are there others like her—others with powers—but they’re directly tied to her by blood. With Trae’s mental stability in question, and Kani missing, Runa can only rely on herself and the aid of her brother to fulfill her destiny. If she can embrace her role as the Daughter of Five, hopefully she can set things right and free Trae from whatever madness is taking over his mind.

There’s more than meets the eye to Videus’ obsession with Runa and her bloodlines. The only problem is, unraveling the mystery could unleash catastrophe on everything she holds dear, if she’s not careful. Can Runa stop Videus once and for all—or will the fate of Pendomus be locked forever by one man’s madness?

Step into Pendomus – a world that meshes mystery, magical creatures, and destiny with science fiction and technology.

You’re one click away from having all the answers to the Pendomus Chronicles secrets.

Sometimes, a series (or, as in this case, a trilogy) leaves me thinking that there’s been a lot of filler and there could have been fewer books. I don’t feel that way about the Pendomus Chronicles; instead, I think each succeeding book has built on the preceding as it should until the third and final episode is clearly where the author was heading all along.

Revolutions is full of adventure and excitement, just the way a book with such a title should be. We’ve had a really good journey through the first two books, getting to know the characters and the very uncomfortable world they live in, and now we learn who Runa was meant to be all along and how important she and her band of young companions are to each other and to the future of their world.

In the meantime, Trae has to deal with his personal demons and that in itself is a distraction for Runa. In a shattering yet very satisfying ending filled with the past, the present and the future, it finally all comes together in a breakneck race through the timeline, leading us to, well, I won’t give anything away but, suffice it to say, I’m a happy reader 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2017.

About the Author

“An author emerges from the depths of Minnesotan waters. Sci-fi/Fantasy is my pen of choice.”

Carissa Andrews is a Minnesota-based genre bending author who writes a combination of science fiction, fantasy, and dystopia. When not writing her own books, she’s busy reading them.

Her first novel, Pendomus, was the first of a three-part series and was published in 2013. Now, four years later, Polarities (Book 2) of the Pendomus Chronicles, and Revolutions (Book 3) have recently been released.

For more information on their release, visit Carissa Andrews’ author website: www.carissaandrews.com and sign up for her newsletter notifications.

Carissa is also a freelance graphic designer, writer and content creator, social media manager, and marketing professional. She writes consistently on topics of science, technology, art, writing, photography, graphic design, health, self improvement, and more. Her articles can be found published across the interwebs. Carissa is also a Top Rated Freelancer on Upwork, and can be contacted for freelancing opportunities: https://www.upwork.com/o/profiles/users/_~011fb5962824326eaa/

Other author links:

Twitter // Facebook // Instagram // Pinterest
Google // YouTube // BookBub // Goodreads

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Follow the tour:

11/22 – Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile – Review
11/23 – Escaping Reality with Books – Review
11/25 – Carissa’s Website – Exclusive Look at Revolutions
11/27 – Buried Under Books – Review

Book Review: November Rain by Shannon A. Thompson

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Title: November Rain
Series: Bad Bloods, Book 1
Author: Shannon A. Thompson
Narrator: Jonathan Johns
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Publication Date: September 12, 2017

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Purchase Links:

Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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November Rain
Bad Bloods, Book 1
Shannon A. Thompson
Narrated by Jonathan Johns
Clean Teen Publishing, September 2017
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the publisher—

Seventeen-year-old Serena isn’t human. She is a bad blood, and in the city of Vendona, bad bloods are executed. In the last moments before she faces imminent death, a prison guard aids her escape and sparks a revolt. Back on the streets determined to destroy her kind, Serena is spared by a fellow bad blood named Daniel. His past tragedies are as equally mysterious as her connection to them. Unbeknownst to the two, this connection is the key to winning the election for bad bloods’ rights to be seen as human again. But Serena is the only one who can secure Vendona’s vote. Now, Daniel must unite with her before all hope is lost and bad bloods are eradicated, even if it means exposing secrets worse than death itself. United or not, a city will fight, rain will fall, and all will be threatened by star-crossed love and political corruption.

It’s not always easy for an author to come up with a fresh idea for a dystopian story but Ms. Thompson’s concept of Flocks for these unwanted—and, in some cases, criminal—kids is brilliant because it’s so reminiscent of today’s gangs, such as the Crips and the Bloods. In both cases, the organization is intended to provide family and protection for its members while they have deep seated hatred for each other.

I did find the story a little hard to follow because worldbuilding is weak and there’s just not enough information available to help the reader understand this world and how it came to be that certain children would be so disregarded and feared to the point of executions. While I enjoyed November Rain,  I hope things will become clearer in the next book.

Narrator Jonathan Johns has a very pleasing voice and his individual voices are good but I was happy to have chapter headings identifying the speaker as I didn’t think Mr. Johns differentiated as well as he might have. His enunciation is especially good, though, and that’s a boon for listeners.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2017.

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About the Author

Shannon A. Thompson is a young adult author, avid reader, and a habitual chatterbox.

As a novelist, poet, and blogger, Thompson spends her free time writing and sharing ideas with her black cat, Bogart, named after her favorite actor, Humphrey Bogart. Her other two cats bring her coffee. Between writing and befriending cats, Thompson graduated from the University of Kansas with a bachelor’s degree in English with an emphasis on creative writing, and her work has appeared in numerous poetry collections and anthologies. Represented by Clean Teen Publishing, Thompson is the best-selling author of the Timely Death trilogy and the Bad Bloods series. When she is not writing, she is climbing rooftops, baking cookies, or watching KDramas in the middle of the night, often done with her cats by her side.

Website // Facebook // Twitter // Goodreads // Instagram

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About the Narrator

Jonathan Johns is a professional audio book narrator, voice actor and family man.

As an audio book narrator he spends most of his time in front of a microphone spouting written words into Audacity. In his spare time he looks after his daughter Aria. He is currently recording all his audio books in Aria’s bedroom! Jonathan is known for his character work and spends far too much of his time using other characters voices in daily life. He currently has over 20 audio books to his name and has voiced hundreds of characters in them (all with varying degrees of success!). Be it Male, Female, American, British, Elderly, Youthful or anything in between, Jonathan has a voice for you.

Facebook // Twitter // SoundCloud

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Play an excerpt here.

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Follow the tour here.

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GIVEAWAY
The giveaway is for a Clean Teen Publishing Mystery Box.
Open Internationally.
Enter here.

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