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: 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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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:
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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.

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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.

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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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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:
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Book Review: Skeletons in the Attic by Judy Penz Sheluk @JudyPenzSheluk @AnAudiobookworm

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Title: Skeletons in the Attic
Series: A Marketville Mystery #1
Author: Judy Penz Sheluk
Narrator: Claira Jordyn
Publication Date: July 31, 2017

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Skeletons in the Attic
A Marketville Mystery #1
Judy Penz Sheluk
Narrated by Claira Jordyn
Judy Penz Sheluk, July 2017
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

What goes on behind closed doors doesn’t always stay there.

Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville – a house she didn’t know existed. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder.

Callie’s not keen on dredging up a 30-year-old mystery, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who is more than happy to expose the Barnstable family secrets. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge. But is she ready to face the skeletons hidden in the attic? Find out.

Callie and her dad got on just fine without her mother, who disappeared when Callie was a young child, and she’s going to miss her dad now that he’s passed. It’s odd that he left her a house she didn’t know existed, odder still that the will requires that she live there for a year to get the rest of her inheritance. It’s not a tremendous amount of money but she’ll get half of it to live on for the year and then she can sell the house if she wants to. The most surprising provision is that she must investigate her mother’s murder…but Callie had never been told that her mother was murdered.

As Callie follows one thread after another, some taking her deep into the past, unexpected questions arise that could lead to answers she doesn’t want. Could her dad’s 30-story fall on a construction site have any connection? Why do her grandparents hold such animosity towards her when she obviously couldn’t have been the cause of all the trouble so many years ago? How does Misty Rivers, who calls herself a psychic, fit into this mess and, most of all, is Callie’s mother really dead? Callie’s lucky to have a new friend, Chantelle, and neighbor Royce for support and to help her get to the truth.

Claira Jordyn narrates with a very pleasing tone and she does most voices quite well. I did think there was not enough emotion or energy; it was more as though she was reading out loud without any kind of performance. Having said that, I’d be happy to listen to her again.

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.

WebsiteTwitterFacebookGoodreadsInstagram

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About the Narrator

Claira Jordyn is an on-camera and voice over actress based in New York City. She can most recently be heard on a variety of television and radio commercials encouraging you to ski in Colorado, shop at Old Navy and also to try a particularly popular makeup brand this holiday season. She can also be heard reading countless books including Opaque, The Endless Horizons Sagas and an upcoming retelling of children’s fairytales. She lives just north of New York with her husband and super mutt Junebug, loves telling stories for a living and is incredibly grateful for the opportunity to do that every day.

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Book Review: The Call of Death by R.J. Garcia @rj_dreamer @parliamentbooks @YABoundToursPR

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Title: The Call of Death
Author: R.J. Garcia
Publisher: Parliament House
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Romantic Suspense, Young Adult

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The Call of Death
R.J. Garcia
Parliament House, November 2019
ISBN 978-1703743708
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Fourteen-year-old Hannah Priestly crashes into a terrifying future. She wakes up in her dorm room now knowing the name of an infamous serial killer, Norman Biggs. He will attack her in the future unless she and her three male friends can change fate.

Hannah is a suntanned, obsessive-compulsive California girl dropped off at an English boarding school by her celebrity mother. Hannah has difficulty understanding algebra, let alone her increasingly dark visions. Rory Veer is Hannah’s smart, easy-going and romantically challenged friend and school crush. When Norman Biggs unexpectedly appears in Rory’s reality, terror is set in motion. It is Rory who must acknowledge a past he has denied if the mystery is to be unraveled.

This was a twisty ride for sure; imagine suddenly having “knowledge” of someone or something you shouldn’t and then discovering that this person will do serious harm to her in the future. In Hannah’s case, it’s a good thing she has friends to help her stop what’s going to happen. Those friends have become her family away from home at the boarding school and, of course, one of those friendships becomes something more but not so quickly as to seem inappropriate or rushed. That’s a really good thing, in my opinion, because these are young teens and we get to see them grow over a period of time, making the emotional attachments seem more natural.

Seeing one’s future must be unsettling, especially for a young girl who is just now learning about her psychic abilities. For Hannah and the reader, it means sudden flips of time, keeping us all on tenterhooks until various threads begin to come together and Hannah and her friends reach a surprising yet satisfying conclusion.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2019.

About the Author

R.J. Garcia is a wife and proud mom. She earned her MSW and worked with foster children and as a school social worker. Writing has been her other great love. She has published several non-fiction pieces. She has been writing short-stories for as long as she can remember. To her amazement, those short stories became novels!

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Book Review: Dressed to Kill by Kathleen Delaney @kdkoppang @severnhouse

Dressed to Kill
A Mary McGill Canine Mystery #4
Kathleen Delaney
Severn House, November 2019
ISBN 978-0-7278-8894-5
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Mary McGill and her cocker spaniel Millie get the fright of their lives on Halloween when they hear gunshots coming from the bank and the robber, dressed in a clown costume, points his gun at them before fleeing the scene. Mary is horrified when she discovers Police Chief Dan Dunham has been shot in the shoulder and a woman has been killed. Why would the clown shoot an ordinary citizen?

Mary soon learns that the victim is Victoria Witherspoon, a local woman who owned a sewing shop and must have recognised the clown costume – because she made it herself. With Dan in hospital and unable to investigate, can Mary and Millie unmask the savage killer clown before he strikes again?

Like a whole lot of other people, I really hate clowns and I felt this way even before Stephen King gave us IT (a great book, BTW, despite my aversion). Still, I know Kathleen Delaney‘s work and had no doubt this particular clown would leave my nerves alone…and I was right 😉

Police Chief Dan Dunham, Mary McGill’s nephew-in-law, is shot by a bank robber dressed as a clown but he’s not the only victim. The local seamstress, Victoria Witherspoon, might have been killed because she could identify the robber, despite the rubber mask. Dan will be recovering from surgery for a while and Mary saw the robber run out of the bank so she decides she’ll need to help Detective Sean Ryan from San Louis Obispo Homicide even though he’s rude and obnoxious. Mary has to oversee the cleanup from the very successful Halloween in the Park event she chaired but, more importantly, she’s pretty sure there’s something familiar about the clown and she needs to figure it out.

With more than a little help from her Cocker Spaniel, Millie, and some human friends, Mary thinks her way through some baffling leads, frequently a half-step ahead of law enforcement officials. That’s at least partly because the locals soon tire of the “imported” detective and his supercilious attitude that actually gets in the way of seeing clues; those same locals have come to believe in Mary’s sleuthing abilities after several earlier crimes. Soon enough, another death increases the pressure and Mary’s common sense and the wisdom that comes with age become invaluable in identifying the killer and the “why” behind the crimes. I thoroughly enjoyed not only this story but also spending time with some old friends and new, not to mention the delightful four-legged variety.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2019.

Note: Goodreads, Amazon and other sites all have this incorrectly listed as Book 19 but it’s really Book 4 in the series. Mary McGill appears in several earlier books but she’s the central character in these four books.