Book Review: Oregon Hill by Howard Owen

Reblogging from Kevin Tipple’s site.
Why? Because I’m a fan of Howard Owen
and he once visited my book club in
Richmond, VA. Lucky for me, I’ll be
going to
Richmond in August and
he’ll be the guest again 😉

From Kevin’s Corner, June 14, 2019    

FFB Friday’s Forgotten Books) Review: Oregon Hill by Howard Owen

As Oregon Hill by Howard Owen begins, Will is back on the night cop’s beat. He is luck he still has a job at the Richmond newspaper where he has worked for many years. Lucky to have a job and not just because of the status of the newspaper industry as a whole. He is lucky to have a job because his own personal behavior has been pretty rocky in recent years on and off the job. Mixed race with a serious drinking problem, a history of divorce, and a daughter, Andi, who is at the local college with little direction in her life, Willie Black, is a newspaper reporter trying to keep a job in a dying industry. He is very much on old school reporter knowing he is one corporate mandated layoff away from being homeless and without a job. In short, he is as close to rock bottom as he can get, without actually hitting rock bottom.

Isabel Ducharme also attended classes at Virginia Commonwealth University. Andi did not know her directly, but she sort of knew of her through friends. She went to school there until somebody killed her and put her headless body into the South Anna River. It might have gone away with no one the wiser if not for the body getting snagged on a tree branch in the river.

It takes the cops two days to identify the killer who also confesses very quickly. Martin Fell is in police custody and he very well may have done the horrible crime. He is known to have spent time with Isabel in prior weeks and there are witnesses that state they were together and arguing the night she was murdered. He also confessed.

Willie Black thinks it is all wrapped up, but then an ex-wife of his, Kate, who is a successful attorney about to make partner at her firm takes on Mr. Fell’s case. He begins to learn things that indicate Mr. Fell may not have done it. He begins to pursue the idea that Mr. Fell is innocent and that puts him at odds with his newspaper bosses, the police, and just about everyone he knows.

Oregon Hill by Howard Owen is a very good and complicated start to this series featuring Willie Black. Along with the main complicated mystery, there are several secondary storylines featuring the complicated relationships he has with his mother and the current man in her life, his daughter, and various other folks. These secondary storylines are in as much rich detail as the primary storyline, making the nearly 240 page read a meaty one with plenty to work through as the pages pass. Through it all, the main mystery remains in focus to power much of the action forward.

Willie Black is a bit cynical, a bit sarcastic, and at all times a realist regarding everything around him. He sees the windmills, tilts at one or two anyway while being very self aware as to what he is doing, and keeps going forward through his days and nights as best as he can. You can’t ask for much more than that.

Oregon Hill by Howard Owen is highly recommended.

Oregon Hill
Howard Owen
http://www.howardowenbooks.com
The Permanent Press
http://www.thepermanentpress.com
ISBN# 978-1-57962-208-4
Hardback (also available in audio, digital, and paper formats)
241 Pages

Material was received and read by way of the Interlibrary Loan Program where a copy owned by the Houston Public Library System was shared with the Dallas Public Library System.

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Book Review: Deeper Than the Grave by Tina Whittle

Deeper Than the Grave
A Tai Randolph Mystery #4
Tina Whittle
Poisoned Pen Press, November 2014
ISBN 978-1-4642-0164-3
Trade Paperback

This is the fourth novel in this series by Tina Whittle, but my first introduction to her characters, Tai Randolph and Trey Seaver. The setting is Atlanta where Trey, an ex-cop who suffered a brain injury in an accident, is now an agent for a corporate security firm, and Tai, who inherited a gun shop from her late Uncle Dexter that caters to a group of Confederate re-enactors. Tai is working to get the gun shop back up and running and worried about the fast approaching first anniversary of Trey’s traumatic accident.

When a tornado sweeps through the old Kennesaw Mountain Cemetery disturbing the mausoleum of a Confederate hero and scattering his remains, Tai is called in to help find the missing bones. She uncovers a skeleton, but it doesn’t belong to the Confederate soldier. They are the remains of a young man recently murdered.

When Tai learns the victim was known to her Uncle Dexter, and that Dexter might be a suspect, she decides to investigate, vowing to find the real killer, and clear her Uncle’s name. Trey cautions Tai, worried she may put herself in danger.

Throughout the story we meet an interesting cast of friends and locals as well as the family of the Confederate hero. But as Tai diligently follows the clues, getting ever closer to the truth, the killer becomes desperate to stop her.

I was intrigued by the history of the Confederate Hero and drawn to Tai’s efforts to uncover the truth. Trey and Tai care deeply for each other and their relationship is one of mutual respect and love. There were enough twists and turns to keep this reader engaged until the killer was finally revealed.

I’ve made a note to seek out the writer’s earlier novels in this series. I certainly recommend checking out Deeper Than the Grave.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, April 2019.

Book Review: Deadly Southern Charm ed. by Mary Burton and Mary Miley

Deadly Southern Charm
A Lethal Ladies Mystery Anthology
Edited by Mary Burton and Mary Miley
Wildside Press, March 2019
ISBN 978-1-4794-4839-5
Trade Paperback

The Sisters in Crime – Central Virginia Chapter has been releasing anthologies for quite some time and, for this latest volume, a few “friends of the family” have joined in on the fun.

The stories included here all have two things in common—they revolve around a mystery in some way and they’re set in the South. I’m not generally a fan of short stories unless they’re by an author whose work I already like a lot but I’m a pushover for Southern fiction so reading Deadly Southern Charm was a no-brainer.

As you might expect, I didn’t unreservedly love every single story but each one did have something I appreciated and I had some favorites. Country Song Gone Wrong by Sherry Harris had some surprising moments and Frances Aylor’s The Girl in the Airport tickled my fancy while Deadly Devonshire by Samantha McGraw reminded me of a cozy series I’m fond of. On the grittier side, Burn by K.L. Murphy satisfied my need for a little darkness and Ronald Sterling’s Just Like Jiminy Cricket was creepy enough to set my Spidey sense on high alert.

All in all, Deadly Southern Charm is an entertaining compendium of stories that whiled away a couple of rainy days for me, a most satisfying read that I can wholeheartedly recommend.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2019.

Contributors—Frances Aylor, Mollie Cox Bryan, Lynn Cahoon, Judy Chalkley, Stacie Giles, Barb Goffman, Libby Hall, Bradley Harper, Sherry Harris, Maggie King, Kristin Kisska, Samantha McGraw, K.L. Murphy, Genille Swope Parente, Deb Rolfe, Ronald Sterling, S.A. Warwick, and Heather Weidner.

P.S. Disclaimer: Until January of this year, I was a non-author member of the chapter, only giving it up when I moved from Richmond, VA, to St. Augustine, FL. I do admit to a certain predilection for the organization and its members but I’ve done my best not to let that creep into my reading/reviewing of Deadly Southern Charm 😉

Book Review: Rules We’re Meant to Break by Natalie Williamson

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Title: Rules We’re Meant to Break
Author: Natalie Williamson
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Publication Date: June 11, 2019
Genres: General Fiction, Romance, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // iBooks
Google Play // Amazon // Indiebound

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Rules We’re Meant to Break
Natalie Williamson
Swoon Reads, June 2019
ISBN 978-1-250-31326-3
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Rule #1: Don’t get attached.

Amber lives by strict rules to survive her mother’s love life: Always keep your eyes on the horizon and never get close to anyone connected to Mom’s boyfriends.

But after they move in with Kevin, the latest of her mom’s “soul mates,” the rules become increasingly difficult to follow. Kevin’s daughter, Cammie, keeps acting like Amber’s friend, even though she’s definitely not. And Jordan—star basketball player, hottest boy in school, and Cammie’s best friend—keeps showing up at the most inconvenient moments.

Amber has reasons for every one of her rules, and following them is the only way to protect her heart when her mom inevitably moves on. But as she spends more time with Kevin, his daughter, and especially Jordan, she starts to wonder if the rules might be worth breaking this time.

The very first thing that struck me in this story is how much I REALLY didn’t like Amber’s mom. If you’re looking for a first class narcissist who cares only about her own needs and has no regard for her daughter’s feelings, this woman is it. She also can’t maintain a relationship with any guy and should have a warning label plastered on her forehead. I just can’t imagine having a mother uproot her child time after time because she wants to shack up with one more guy. Apparently, letting Amber have a real home doesn’t mean anything to her mother and I find it hard to sympathize with or forgive such a person.

On the other hand, all of the above pre-disposed me to have a soft spot for Amber. This is a girl with a lot of emotional damage so it’s no surprise when she reaches her limit and puts up a wall to keep attachments at bay. Mind you, Amber isn’t always the nicest or most likeable person so I was kind of surprised that Cammie and her friend, Jordan, kept trying. After all, many teens would just shrug and move on. Amber just might have to re-think that wall.

On the whole, I thought the characters here lacked fullness, so to speak, but the story is sweet and leaves the reader with the feeling that good things happen when you open yourself to them.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2019.

About the Author

Natalie Williamson is an HR person by day and a YA writer by night and nap time. She referenced Harry Potter in her first ever full time job interview, which tells you almost all the things you need to know about her. Other important things to know include: she loves her husband, daughter, dogs, and cat; she has a serious dessert problem; and she frequently Wikipedias movies and TV shows to find out if they have happy endings. RULES WE’RE MEANT TO BREAK is her debut novel.

Website // Twitter // Goodreads // Instagram // Pinterest

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Book Reviews: The Pros of Cons by Alison Cherry, Lindsay Ribar & Michelle Schusterman and Trapped in Room 217 by Thomas Kingsley Troupe

The Pros of Cons
Alison Cherry, Lindsay Ribar & Michelle Schusterman
Point, March 2018
ISBN 978-1-338-15172-5
Hardcover

This quintessential Young Adult read is quirky, cubed. A mad mash-up of three (and a half) conventions under one roof results in a delightfully amusing tale that is not without substance. And it has a pretty great title, you know I love it when something can mean two things.

It isn’t Phoebe’s first time. She’s come before with her high-school percussion ensemble, to participate in the Indoor Percussion Association Convention. Perhaps there is a bit more pressure this time, though.

Vanessa is very excited to finally meet her girl-friend, face-to-face, for the first time. Sweetly naïve, she really does not know what to expect from the We Treasure Fandom con.

Callie came as her dad’s assistant for the World Taxidermy & Fish Carving Championship, but she’s only here hoping he will see her as his daughter, instead.

The story starts properly, with a literal bang. A collision in the lobby leads to a shuffling and unnoticed exchanges of carrying cases. From that point forward, nothing goes as planned.

Phoebe finds that her mallet bag is actually filled with tools for Buchannan Taxidermy, definitely not the mallets she needs. But, she’s only thrown for a second. Since she has the xylophone solo, she has to improvise. She uses the scalpels.

Vanessa is feeling confused and out-of-place. People are different in real-life than online and she’s just beginning to figure that out.

Callie is bummed that her dad continues to treat her like a disappointing assistant, but when she realizes his cold-shoulder is just the tip of the ice-berg; she plots sweet, public revenge.

I learned a lot from The Pros of Cons. I hadn’t heard of half of the percussion instruments played, nor did I know that “critical listening” is different from “analytical listening. “Fan-fic” and “cons” were familiar terms, but I had no inkling of the depth. Or that it gave way to its own language. By the way, I also know what sock-puppeting means now. Oddly, I did know a bit about taxidermy.

Reviewed by jv poore, September 2018.

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Trapped in Room 217
Haunted States of America Series
Thomas Kingsley Troupe
Jolly Fish Press, September 2018
ISBN 978-1-63163-215-0
Hardcover

A father seldom has spare time when single-handedly raising a seventh-grade daughter and second-grade son. Jayla and Dion get that, and the late-night call did wake the whole house only hours ago. They won’t razz their dad, too much, just because the place they are staying during their impromptu Spring Break get-away doesn’t have a pool.

First sight of the historical hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, had them both second-guessing their generosity. Check-in was only slightly less than creepy. Jayla could not have imagined the murmurs when “Room 217” was spoken. But, The Stanley is beautiful and possibly interesting. Two bright and resourceful kids will find plenty to do. Although, assisting a spirit was not an item they would have imagined.

Seemingly strange occurrences compelled the siblings to research their current residence. After reviewing reading material spread throughout the common rooms, it was time to for a self-guided tour of the tantalizing tunnels below. There, Jayla and Dion may just be in over their heads.

I have always loved ghost-stories so, I was thrilled to hear about this historical-fiction series, The Haunted States of America by Thomas Kingsley Troupe. Trapped in Room 217 gave me exactly what I wanted. Cool characters (Dion packed his own suitcase, with books only, and he is my hero now) caught up in a mystery, moving at the perfect pace. Absolutely appropriate for younger readers, I will be introducing it to my favorite HS students because I believe they will dig it as much as I do.

Reviewed by jv poore, September 2018.

Book Review: Baby Blue by Pol Koutsakis

Baby Blue
Stratos Gazis Series, Book 1
Pol Koutsakis
Translated by Anne-Marie Stanton-Ife
Bitter Lemon Press, July 2018
ISBN 978-1-908524-91-1

Modern day Athens is rife with corruption. Stratos Gazis makes his living by dealing with that corruption. He doesn’t consider himself a hit-man, although plenty of other people do. He sees himself as more of a problem solver; often the problem requires removing a person from a given situation on a permanent basis. Stratos is OK with that; some people deserve their fate. Stratos does have a code: if a client lies to him, he keeps the deposit and doesn’t do the job. Many people don’t believe this. Stratos believes that when you’re the best, you can afford to make the rules for your job.

One evening a friend, Angelino, calls in a favor. Angelino has a protégé, Emma. Emma wants Stratos to find out who killed her adoptive father several years ago. Definitely a cold case. Emma is blind, and has an amazing talent for card tricks. Angelino, who normally deals in information in and around Athens, plans on making a bundle of money by promoting Emma. Concurrently, there is a group (or maybe just one person) who killed pedophiles; there is a definite signature to the killings and this resembles the way in which Emma’s father was killed. Was Themis Raptas, once a well-known and respected reporter, a pedophile?  Why is there virtually no trace of him on the Internet?  Why was his adoption of Emma expedited?  The more Stratos looks into this old case, the worse everything looks for practically anyone and everyone involved.

There is a sub-plot related to Stratos and his past. The woman he is living with, Maria,  is pregnant. Stratos is not sure he is the father; there is at least one other potential candidate, who happens to be Maria’s previous boyfriend and a man Stratos considers to be his best friend, Kostas Dragos. Drag is also a policeman, a detective. He is investigating the pedophile murders; there may be some overlap with Emma’s situation. Maria isn’t sure where her relationship with Stratos is going, considering his occupation. Life is complicated.

Koutsakis paints a very dark portrait of Athens. Corruption is the rule and there seem to be almost no exceptions to that rule. Good people are difficult to find in this city, and their lot is not generally a pleasant one. Stratos comes by his world view via American film noir; references to classic films are scattered throughout the novel. Like back alleys in some Greek neighborhoods, the plot twists and turns many, many times before the truth (if that what it actually is) is revealed. There are lots of dead bodies, most of them justifiably so. This is the second book in the Stratos Gazis crime series; if one is prone to dark reads, tracking down ATHENIAN BLUES (the first) would probably be time well spent. BABY BLUE can stand quite well on it’s own two feet.

Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, May 2019.

Book Review: Crimes Past by Lauren Carr

Crimes Past
A Mac Faraday Mystery #13
Lauren Carr
Narrated by Mike Alger
Acorn Book Services, December 2018
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

It’s a bittersweet reunion for Mac Faraday when members of his former homicide squad arrive at the Spencer Inn. While it is sweet to attend the wedding of the daughter of a former colleague, it is a bitter reminder that the mother of the bride had been the victim of a double homicide on her own wedding night.

The brutal slaying weighing heavy on his mind, Mac is anxious to explore every possibility for a break in the cold case – even a suggestion from disgraced former detective Louis Gannon that one of their former colleagues was the killer. 

When the investigator is brutally slain, Mac Faraday rips open the cold case with a ruthless determination to reveal which of his friends was a cold-blooded murderer.

When Mac Faraday hosts a former colleague’s daughter’s wedding at the Spencer Inn, it’s not just because he’s being nice to Gina. For sixteen years, he’s been frustrated with his inability to solve the murder of Gina’s mother and her new husband on their wedding day, back when Mac was a homicide detective. Now, many of the same cops are gathered again and Mac hopes to ferret out the killer, most certainly one of his former colleagues.

Meanwhile, Mac’s German shepherd, Gnarly (who happens to be the mayor of Spencer) has apparently murdered one of the feral cats who lives next door and Mac has asked his brother, police chief David O’Callaghan, to get rid of the body before the crazy cat lady carries out her threats against Gnarly. It seems the woman hates Gnarly with a passion but David’s desk sergeant, Tonya, is on the case and soon sees what she believes is a murder…and the cat’s body is missing.

David’s long lost love, Hope, who happens to be in the military, has shown up with her fifteen-year-old son, the irrepressible Gabriel, in tow. Gabriel is quite sure not having a license shouldn’t stand in the way of driving a flashy Porsche and he’s surprisingly comfortable around all these former and current detectives, not so comfortable getting dressed up for a wedding.

So, there’s a lot going on in this story and, with her usual panache, Lauren Carr blends the grittiness of murder(s) with a good deal of humor, the latter revolving largely around Gnarly and David’s Belgian shepherd, Storm, who would much rather be couch potato-ing than anything involving exertion. Tonya also brings a certain levity to her determination to out a murdering fiend and Gabriel is a hoot. Still, the murders from the past are serious business and there may very well be more during this special occasion; every time I thought I had pegged the killer, Ms. Carr threw me off track and I would head off in another direction.

I’ve skipped around quite a bit in this series but that’s never kept me from loving each book I’ve read. I think it’s time I catch up on a few of the previous books and I’ll be doing audiobooks again because Mike Alger is absolutely perfect in his narration with a plethora of voices and great pacing.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2019.

Here’s the real life Gnarly!

The real-life Gnarly on his throne.

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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About the Author

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Now, Lauren has added one more hit series to her list with the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries. Set in the quaint West Virginia town of Harpers Ferry, Ice introduces Chris Matheson, a retired FBI agent, who joins forces with other law enforcement retirees to heat up those cold cases that keep them up at night.

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

​Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with the author: Website // Twitter // Facebook // Instagram

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About the Narrator

Channel 2 Meteorologist Mike Alger joined KTVN-TV in May, 1989. Prior to that Mike had worked at KNDU-TV in Washington. Mike has provided northern Nevada “Weather Coverage You Can Count On” during the 1990 President’s Day Blizzard, the drought in the mid- 1990s, the New Year’s Flood of 1997 and the historic Snowstorms of 2005.

Mike has been married for more than 30 years and has two grown children. His hobbies include golf, music, biking, tennis, scuba diving, writing. He has written and published one novel and is working on a second. He is also a narrator of several audio books, and his work can be found on Audible.com.

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Giveaway

Prizes: Win a $50 Amazon.com gift card
(open to wherever Amazon.com delivers)
(ends July 6, 2019)

Enter here.

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