Book Review: 101 by Tom Pitts—and a Giveaway! @MrTomPitts @DownAndOutBooks

101
Tom Pitts
Down & Out Books, November 2018
ISBN 978-1-94823-538-9
Trade Paperback

A violent, gritty, aptly named novel, about the illegal marijuana and miscellaneous drug trade along Highway 101 on California’s Pacific coast. The action, and there’s plenty of it, rages from Fulton Street in San Francisco to Garberville and surrounding grow sites in Humboldt County. The novel is a deep dive into the weeds—both legal and illegal—that conceal the lives and perambulations of cops, growers, federal agents and ordinary citizens often caught in the cross-fire of brawling drug dealers.

Twenty-five-year-old loose cannon Jerry Bertram offends some drug-dealing bikers. To save his own life and mend his wounds, he races north from the city to a hideout near the small community of Humboldt County. His destination is with an old friend of his mother. Vic has become a very private pot farmer who does not appreciate Jerry’s intrusion. When the bikers, led by a Russian called Vlad the Inhaler, descend on the rural community, chases, murder, violence of several kinds erupts. Several members of local and federal law enforcement agencies also become entangled. Eventually Vic is forced back to the city into a confrontation with several criminal elements.

The story evokes the climate, the physical locations, the people and the culture in a very engaging way. Pace is fast and furious most of the time and the characters are really real. This is not a novel for the faint of heart. Brutal and explicit, there are few redeeming characters or resolutions for most of the cast. Excellent of type.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, May 2019.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

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Book Review: Diary of a Dead Man on Leave by David Downing @soho_press

Diary of a Dead Man on Leave
David Downing
Soho Crime, April 2019
ISBN 978-1-61695-843-5
Hardcover

Josef Hoffman isn’t his real name. He’s a German who has recently returned to his native country, to the town of Hamm. It’s April, 1938. Adolf Hitler is in power.

Josef has a mission. He works for the International Liaison Section of the Communist International and with a list of members of the Comintern his orders are to locate the men on his list and confirm they are still members of the Party. The Soviet Union’s leaders, sure that another war in Europe is imminent, want to find out whether there are enough Communists in Germany to form an underground group willing to undermine and disrupt the Third Reich.

Josef manages to get a room in a boarding house near the railway yards, where he has landed a job. The boarding house is run by Frau Anna Gersdorff, her father Erich who is blind and bedridden, and Walter her eleven year old son. There are also three other lodgers staying at the boarding house, Askel Ruchay, Jakob Barufka and Rolf Gerritzen.

Josef knows he shouldn’t get too friendly with the people around him. He is there to observe and report, and track down the men on his list. But he finds himself drawn to Anna and her son Walter, especially when he discovers Walter, an intelligent boy, is being bullied at school and not just by other children. A teacher is determined Walter is too clever by far and makes it his mission to degrade and diminish him at every turn. Walter’s only friend is Marco a younger black boy, the son of Verena who works as the cook at the boarding house and this does not sit well with the current regime.

Every six weeks Josef is instructed to meet with a colleague to report his progress. He has decided to keep a journal detailing his day to day efforts to track down these men…and it is through his journaling he reveals the characters of the lodgers, as well as the men he works with at the Railway Yard. We also see his growing attachment to the Gersdorff family.

As the days unfold, Josef slowly becomes ever more entangled with the lives of the people in the boarding house. HIs progress in finding his Communist brothers is slow. His need to be careful approaching these men intensifies, fearful at any moment he will be reported to the authorities or arrested and questioned by the Gestapo. Tension is rising throughout the country as Hitler and his Third Reich grow more brutal and violent.

I found this book engrossing. Written in journal form makes for an easy read, but throughout, the author is adept at keeping the stakes high.
Check this one out…and find out what becomes of Josef and the people he has grown to love.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, September 2019.

Book Review: Past and Present by Judy Penz Sheluk @JudyPenzSheluk @AnAudiobookworm

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Title: Past & Present
Series: A Marketville Mystery #2
Author: Judy Penz Sheluk
Narrator: Kelli Lindsay
Publication Date: April 8, 2019

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Past & Present
A Marketville Mystery #2
Judy Penz Sheluk
Narrated by Kelli Lindsay
Judy Penz Sheluk, April 2019
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

Sometimes the past reaches out to the present. It’s been 13 months since Calamity (Callie) Barnstable inherited a house in Marketville under the condition that she search for the person who murdered her mother 30 years earlier. She solves the mystery, but what’s next? Unemployment? Another nine-to-five job in Toronto?  

Callie decides to set down roots in Marketville, take the skills and knowledge she acquired over the past year, and start her own business: Past & Present Investigations. 

It’s not long before Callie and her new business partner, best friend Chantelle Marchand, get their first client: a woman who wants to find out everything she can about her grandmother, Anneliese Prei, and how she came to a “bad end” in 1956. It sounds like a perfect first assignment. Except for one thing: Anneliese’s past winds its way into Callie’s present, and not in a manner anyone – least of all Callie – could have predicted.

Callie solved the mystery her deceased dad set before her, not necessarily in a golden glow but at least satisfactorily according to the terms of his will, but then found herself kind of betwixt and between, wondering what to do with herself next. It didn’t take long for her to realize that she and her best friend, Chantelle, should become private investigators since they had learned a lot about doing that sort of work, particularly with regards to genealogy. Soon enough, they have a case, but Callie is about to be gobsmacked when one of the leads they’re following takes them down a very unexpected path.

Setting that tidbit aside—no need to inform the client just yet—the search for Anneliese’s past begins and, being interested in family history myself, I was really interested in seeing how they looked into old medical records, photos, even ship records for immigrants. As is almost always true, a lot of surprises come to light before Callie and Chantelle get to the truth about Anneliese and her difficult life.

Curiously, Callie’s great-grandmother, Olivia, enters her life just when hers is about to end and Callie learns much more about her own past and perhaps a little about why her grandfather is so hostile towards her. Unfortunately for Callie, she’ll soon learn just how horrible he can be.

This second audiobook in the series has a different narrator and, while I appreciated both for different reasons, Kelli Lindsay appealed to me more. Her voices are quite distinctive but I especially enjoyed her lively interpretation and pacing.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2019.

About the Author

Judy Penz Sheluk is the Amazon international bestselling author of the Glass Dolphin Mystery and Marketville Mystery series. Her short stories can be found in several collections, including Live Free or Tri and The Best Laid Plans, which she edited. Judy is also a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she serves as Vice Chair on the Board of Directors. Find her at http://www.judypenzsheluk.com.

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About the Narrator

Kelli Lindsay’s versatile style and years of experience with commercial, corporate and e-learning projects have created a dream career for her. She has lent her talents to TV, radio, video games, and various other fantastic projects, but she proudly admits that her true passion is narrating audiobooks. Her professional training has taught her how to put herself into the script or audiobook and deliver an incredible performance. With her professionalism and love for what she does, Kelli ensures that her clients and listeners get to hear exactly what they’re looking for!

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Book Review: Eggs on Ice by Laura Childs @BerkleyMystery

Eggs on Ice
A Cackleberry Club Mystery #8
Laura Childs
Berkley Prime Crime, December 2018
ISBN 978-0-425-28172-7
Hardcover

Eggs on Ice is the eighth in Laura Childs’ Cackleberry Club Mysteries so for those of you who are fans of this series the characters will be familiar.  For those of you who are new to the series I think you’ll catch up quickly.  The main character is Suzanne Dietz, one of the co-owners of the Cackleberry Club and an amateur investigator.  As the story begins, Suzanne and one of her co-owners, Toni, are helping with costumes, sets, and lighting for their neighbors who are rehearsing for a production of “A Christmas Carol”.  The rehearsal comes to an abrupt halt when lawyer Allan Sharp who is playing Scrooge is murdered by the Ghost of Christmas Past.  Suzanne chases the Ghost but stops when he, she, or it turns on her and threatens her with a knife.

The investigation is complicated by the fact that no one liked Allan except his law partner, but the investigation quickly focuses in on Amber, a woman who worked for Allan for a short while but quit when he sexually harassed her.  Amber and Suzanne have a mutual friend and that friend suggested Amber ask Suzanne for help.  However, it soon becomes clear that Amber has a motive for killing Allan but so do several others and narrowing the suspect field is more difficult than Suzanne anticipated.  Enlisting Toni’s help, Suzanne begins her own investigation much to the annoyance of the Sheriff and the fears of her fiancé, a doctor at the local hospital.

Eggs on Ice is a cozy mystery with well-drawn characters and a couple of nice twists.  It’s set during the holiday season and the cold and snow might be just what you need when our sweltering August/early September heat and humidity return.

Reviewed by Melinda Drew, August 2019.

Book Review: Smoke Screen by Terri Blackstock @TerriBlackstock @ThomasNelson @partnersincr1me

Smoke Screen
Terri Blackstock
Thomas Nelson, November 2019
ISBN 978-0-3103-3260-2
Hardcover

From the publisher—

One father was murdered. Another was convicted of his death. All because their children fell in love.

Nate Beckett has spent his life fighting wildfires instead of the lies and rumors that drove him from his Colorado hometown. His mother begs him to come back now that his father has been released from prison, but it isn’t until he’s sidelined by an injury that he’s forced to return and face his past. But that means facing Brenna too.

Fourteen years ago, Nate was in love with the preacher’s daughter. When Pastor Strickland discovered Brenna defied him to sneak out with Nate, the fight between Strickland and Nate’s drunken dad was loud—and very public. Strickland was found murdered later that night, and everyone accused Roy Beckett. When the church burned down not long after, people assumed Nate set the fire to get even for his father’s conviction. He let the rumors fly and left town without looking back.

Brenna is stunned to learn that the man convicted of murdering her father has been pardoned. The events of that night set her life on a bad course, and now she’s fighting a brutal custody battle with her ex and his new wife where he’s using lies and his family’s money to sway the judge. Brenna is barely hanging on, and she’s turned to alcohol to cope. Shame and fear consume her.

As Nate and Brenna deal with the present—including new information about that fateful night and a wildfire that’s threatening their town—the past keeps igniting. Nate is the steady force Brenna has so desperately needed. But she’ll have to learn to trust him again first.

Old wounds are ripped open when several different events converge. Nate returns to his hometown to recover from wildfire injuries; his father, incarcerated for killing his girlfriend’s father fourteen years ago, is pardoned; that girlfriend, Brenna, is deeply affected by a nasty custody battle and appalled by the release of her dad’s killer. Smoke Screen can be considered a multiple entendre since everyone is hidden by their own personal smoke screens. The big question is can all these people find redemption and learn that trust is still possible?

Brenna is probably the most embattled character and deserving of sympathy. She’s never really recovered from her father’s death and knowing that her relationship with Nate was the impetus for the murder. That emotional damage eventually led to a bad marriage and a custody battle and alcohol has become a crutch. Some will say that no “real” mother would let an addiction get in the way of caring for her children but that really isn’t true. ANY mother can be brought to her knees when life becomes nearly unendurable and perhaps only Nate can lift her up again. Nate, though, has his own battles to fight with the past while he and Brenna try to find the way back to each other.

I haven’t read anything by Ms. Blackstock before this one but I’m intrigued enough to want to try more. Now I just have to figure out where to begin 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2019.

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon // Indiebound

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An Excerpt from Smoke Screen

I woke up in a blinding bright room, my clothes off and something clamped to my face. I tried to reach it, but I couldn’t bend my right arm, and my hand stung. An IV was taped to my other hand, but I moved carefully and touched the thing over my face.

An oxygen mask. I tried to sit up. “What happened?”

T-bird came to my bedside, a sheen of smoky sweat still soiling his face. “Nate, lie back, man.”

“The fire,” I said. “Need to get back. My men.”

“They’re still there. Making progress. But you’re not going anywhere near a fire for a month or so.”

I took the mask off and coughed a little, but managed to catch my breath. “A month?”

“Yep. Second degree burns on 20 percent of your body. Some of the burns are deep.”

It came back to me, the event that had gotten me here.

“The family. Were they injured?”

“Not a scratch or burn. Turns out it was a U.S. Senator from Kansas. He says you’re a hero.”

“You know I had no choice. They were in the path—”

“Take the praise where you can get it, man. We don’t get that much.”

I looked at my right side. My right arm was bandaged, and so was my side and down my right leg to the point where my boots had stopped the flames. Second degree wasn’t so bad, I told myself. Third degree would have been brutal. I’d be able to leave the hospital soon. I’d heal.

“I won’t need a month,” I said.

“Yes, you will. They can’t let you go back. Doctor’s orders. You’re grounded until he releases you.”

I managed to sit up, but it was a bad idea. The burns pulling on my skin reminded me why I shouldn’t. “I can’t be grounded during fire season. Are you crazy? I need to be there. You don’t have enough men as it is.”

“Sorry, Nate. It is what it is. Why don’t you go home to Carlisle for a while? Take it easy.”

Go home? Pop had just been pardoned, and he and my mom were trying to navigate the reunion. Though she would love to have me home, I didn’t know if I was up to it. My father could be challenging, and fourteen years of prison hadn’t done him any favors.

Required text: Taken from “Smoke Screen” by Terri Blackstock. Copyright © 2019 by Terri Blackstock. Used by permission of http://www.thomasnelson.com/.

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About the Author

Terri Blackstock has sold over seven million books worldwide and is a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author. She is the award-winning author of Intervention, Vicious Cycle, and Downfall, as well as such series as Cape Refuge, Newpointe 911, the SunCoast Chronicles, and the Restoration Series.

Catch Up With Terri Blackstock On:
Website // Goodreads // Twitter // BookBub // Facebook

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Book Review: Cradle to Grave by Rachel Amphlett @RachelAmphlett @AnAudiobookworm

Audiobook Tour: Cradle to Grave by Rachel Amphlett
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Author: Rachel Amphlett

Narrator: Alison Campbell

Length: 7 hours 56 minutes

Series: Detective Kay Hunter, Book 8

Publisher: Saxon Publishing

Genre: Mystery, Police Procedural

Released: Oct. 15, 2019


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When a faceless body is found floating in the river on a summer’s
morning, Detective Kay Hunter and her team are tasked with
finding out the man’s identity and where he came from.

The investigation takes a sinister turn when an abandoned boat
is found, covered in blood stains and containing a child’s belongings.

Under mounting pressure from a distraught family and an unforgiving
media, the police are in a race against time – but they have no
leads and no motive for the events that have taken place.

Will Kay be able to find a ruthless killer and a missing child before it’s too late?

Cradle to Grave is the eighth book in the Detective Kay Hunter series
by USA Today best-selling author Rachel Amphlett and perfect
for listeners who love fast-paced murder mysteries.

Buy Links

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Before turning to writing, Rachel Amphlett played guitar in bands, worked as a TV and film extra, dabbled in radio as a presenter and freelance producer for the BBC, and worked in publishing as a sub-editor and editorial assistant.

She now wields a pen instead of a plectrum and writes crime fiction and spy novels, including the Dan Taylor espionage novels and the Detective Kay Hunter series.

Originally from the UK and currently based in Brisbane, Australia, Rachel cites her writing influences as Michael Connelly, Lee Child, and Robert Ludlum. She’s also a huge fan of Peter James, Val McDermid, Robert Crais, Stuart MacBride, and many more.

She’s a member of International Thriller Writers and the Crime Writers Association, with the Italian foreign rights for her debut novel, White Gold sold to Fanucci Editore’s TIMECrime imprint, and the first four books in the Dan Taylor espionage series contracted to Germany’s Luzifer Verlag.

WebsiteTwitterFacebookGoodreadsInstagram

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Narrator Bio

Alison Campbell is an actress based in Bristol, U.K. She has lent her voice to 50+ audiobooks, cartoons, documentaries and dramas. She can be found treading the boards across the country, in everything from Shakespeare to hip hop kids adventures. On screen she has appeared in dramas and science documentaries, her most recent co star was a CGI elephant. She can also be found performing the Natural Theatre Company’s award-winning surreal brand of interactive comedy around the globe.

Instagram

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I have inhaled every book in this series and Cradle to Grave is no exception. Once again, Ms. Amphlett has created a sense of mounting tension and fear while, at the same time, offering some relief through the personal lives of the team.

It’s bad enough when an unidentified body is found in the river but things get much worse when police find a boat that has a lot of blood in it but, more alarming, a child’s belongings. Where is the child? The investigation ratchets into high gear as every member of Detective Inspector Kay Hunter’s team is driven to find this child, hopefully still alive. Soon enough, attention points towards the family of a child who’s been reported missing and the race is on to find this little girl, starting with the questions: is the disappearance connected to the murdered man and is the family involved?

For me, a real strength of the Detective Kay Hunter series is the intelligent pursuit of truth evidenced by the entire team and each member has become like family to me. The author lets us visit with different characters off the job and knowing some of their personal stories gives a glimpse into why they are so dedicated to the job and to each other.

The other steady light in these books is the ongoing narration by Alison Campbell. Ms. Campbell continues to be an ideal reader with her terrific vocalizations and a spot-on sense of how the story needs to be told. No one could do a better job in my opinion.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2019.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Rachel Amphlett. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

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Book Review: Refraction by Naomi Hughes @NaomiHughesYA @PageStreetKids @The_FFBC

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Title: Refraction
Author: Naomi Hughes
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
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Amazon // Google Books // Indiebound

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Refraction
Naomi Hughes
Page Street Kids, November 2019
ISBN 978-1624148903
Hardcover

From the publisher—

After an attack on earth, all reflective surfaces become weapons to release monsters, causing a planet-wide ban on mirrors. Despite the danger, the demand rises, and 17-year-old Marty Callahan becomes a distributor in an illegal mirror trade―until he’s caught by the mayor’s son, whose slate is far from clean. Both of them are exiled for their crimes to one of the many abandoned cities overrun by fog. But they soon realize their thoughts influence their surroundings and their deepest fears begin to manifest.

There is much to like about this book but two things in particular really made me love it—(1) the main characters are boys and (2) there’s no romance. No, girls do not have to be the stars of everything 😉

Marty is a flawed character in any number of ways, not least of which is his propensity to do what’s best for himself even if it’s not legal or good for anyone else; in fact, he has been known to actually put others in harm’s way. Despite that, he works hard to control his OCD and his ultimate goal is to find his brother. Before the alien attack, Marty was making progress under therapy to manage his OCD but it’s much more difficult now without professional help and, of course, medication is no longer available.

Earth is in shambles after the aliens brought monsters and survival is predicated on a strict ban on reflective surfaces because that’s how the monsters get through. That ban, quite naturally, created a black market for mirrors and Marty is a player. When he gets caught by another teen, Elliott, both are headed for real trouble, sent into the deadly fog. The two boys are on their own and have to rely on each other, developing a real friendship as they come to know and trust each other.

The plot here is creative and well-planned, keeping me flipping electronic pages to find out what would happen next. The author’s characterizations are vivid and appealing and the monsters are just as scary as they should be…almost as much as Elliott’s mother. Also, not to repeat myself, it’s really refreshing to have a story focused on two boys.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, Novenber 2019.

About the Author

Hey! I’m Naomi Hughes, writer of quirky young adult fiction (usually involving physics and/or unicorns). I live in the Midwest US, a region I love even though it tries to murder me with tornadoes every spring. When not writing, my hobbies include reading (of course), traveling, and geeking out over Marvel superheroes and certain time-traveling Doctors. My debut YA sci-fi standalone novel, Afterimage, is available now from Page Street Publishing. My next novel, Refraction (also a standalone YA sci-fi), comes out in Nov 2019. I also offer freelance critique services at naomiedits.com.

Author Links:
Website // Twitter // Goodreads // Instagram

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PRIZE: Win (1) copy of REFRACTION
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