Book Review: Lost Girl by Holly Kammier @hkammier @PublishingAcorn @XpressoTours

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Title: Lost Girl
Series: A Shelby Day Novel
Author: Holly Kammier
Publisher: Acorn Publishing
Publication Date: January 5, 2020
Genres: Mystery, Young Adult

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Lost Girl
A Shelby Day Novel
Holly Kammier
Acorn Publishing, January 2020
ISBN 978-1-947392-61-8
Hardcover

From the publisher—

AN APPALLING ACT OF VIOLENCE AND AN UNSOLVED DOUBLE MURDER.

SMALL-TOWN INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, SHELBY DAY, IS DETERMINED TO HUNT A KILLER. 

As her search draws closer to uncovering the twisted truth, she begins receiving ominous warnings to stay quiet and drop the story. The young journalist is in danger. Her cameraman and best friend, a person with his own secret past, says he wants to protect her. But Shelby is headstrong and dodging anything that could lead to love. She can’t allow anyone to distract her as she fights for the two women who deserve justice. 

She never expects along the way she’ll have to stop and save herself.

Ticktock… If Shelby doesn’t solve the crime soon, she’ll become the killer’s next victim. 

“Lost Girl is a compulsive thrill-ride that reads as if it’s been pulled straight from the headlines. Kammier’s journalism background brings undeniable authenticity to a novel that has it all– a love story, a murder mystery, and a real-life introduction into the distinctive world of television news.” 
-CAROLINE MITCHELL, New York Times best-selling author

This book is for anyone who loves:
Young Adult love stories
Murder Mystery
Redemption
Books with journalism elements
Intended for a mature YA audience

Fans of Veronica Mars, In The Woods, and One Of Us Is Lying, will love this novel.

Lost Girl is, in itself, a puzzle because it’s listed as Young Adult but I don’t know why. The characters are not high schoolers, which is what you usually find in YA, and the setting is not YA-related so the designation really doesn’t make much sense. I’m not particularly fond of the New Adult categorization that started cropping up a few years back but that is what this is so why not call it that or nothing age-defining at all?

Shelby Day is an interesting protagonist largely because she’s not very likeable and that’s fine with me. A character with flaws nearly always enhances things for me and I imagine some of the traits that make an investigative reporter good at her job are exactly those that can irritate other people. Shelby has that dogged determination and pushiness that drives a reporter to get the story. Is she annoying? Yes, and she made me cringe with some of her behavior and her zeal to get the story despite some bad decisions but I also understood her emotional connection to the murder victims. On the other hand, I didn’t buy her claim that PTSD is built into Jewish DNA and actually thought that was a bit dismissive of those who really do suffer from PTSD. Her cameraman and friend, Jack, is nearly as problematic in his somewhat controlling attitude but I did appreciate his willingness to stick by her. The romance between the two may or may not develop but Jack certainly hopes so.

As mystery investigations go, this one is a little weak primarily because I never could figure out why Shelby would be privy to so much information and exclusive interviews and the like. Surely a cub reporter would have to pay a lot more dues to achieve such favored status. Still, the various leads and rising tension kept me reading till the end.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2020.

About the  Author

Co-owner of Acorn Publishing, the UCLA honors graduate is an accomplished content editor/writing coach (her authors have gone on to become USA Today best-sellers and a New York Times best-seller). With a background in journalism, Holly Kammier has worked everywhere from CNN in Washington, D.C. and KCOP-TV in Los Angeles, to the NBC affiliate in small-town Medford, Oregon.

She is the best-selling author of the novel, Kingston Court (Acorn Publishing 2015), and Could Have Been Hollywood, a memoir. Holly recently published her third book, Choosing Hope, a harrowing story of passion and deceit, and the things we do for love. Her next novel, the YA Romantic Suspense, Lost Girl, is scheduled for release in early 2020.

Holly resides in her hometown of San Diego, California, close to family and friends. An avid reader with a passion for timeless books and beautiful writing, she also enjoys long walks, romantic movies, and pink peonies.

Author links: 
Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads

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Book Review: Oasis by Katya de Becerra @KatyaDeBecerra @MacmillanUSA @FierceReads @The_FFBC

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Title: Oasis
Author: Katya de Becerra
Publisher: Imprint/Macmillan
Publication Date: January 7, 2020
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
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Google Play // Amazon // Indiebound

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Oasis
Katya de Becerra
Imprint, January 2020
ISBN 978-1-250-12426-5
Hardcover

From the publisher—

The oasis saved them. But who will save them from the oasis?

Alif had exciting summer plans: working on her father’s archaeological dig site in the desert with four close friends . . . and a very cute research assistant. Then the sandstorm hit.

With their camp wiped away, Alif and the others find themselves lost on the sands, seemingly doomed . . . until they find the oasis. It has everything they need: food, water, shade—and mysterious ruins that hide a deadly secret. As reality begins to shift around them, they question what’s real and what’s a mirage.

The answers turn Alif and her friends against one another, and they begin to wonder if they’ve truly been saved. And while it was easy to walk into the oasis, it may be impossible to leave . . .

Katya de Becerra’s new supernatural thriller hides a mystery in plain sight, and will keep you guessing right up to its terrifying conclusion.

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The first thing that caught my eye about this book was the absolutely beautiful and brilliant cover. Elynn Cohen is listed as the book designer and I assume this also means she designed the cover but can’t be sure. Whoever the artist is, brava!

The second thing that got my attention about this book was the synopsis—there is nothing I like better than an archaeology setting in a crossgenre science fiction and mystery story and this one offers hints of horror and supernatural goings on.

The third thing that struck me about this book was the statement shown above, found on the copyright page, hilarious and very much to the point 😁

So, did Oasis and its author come through for me after so much promise? You betcha, but with a tiny bit of disappointment because I was hoping for a creepy horror show and this doesn’t quite get there. Having said that, I was intrigued by the author’s continual introduction of one strange thing after another, such as a desperate man who walks out of the desert, a mindblowing sandstorm (no pun intended), equipment that doesn’t work, an oasis that seems to mean survival but, hmm, perhaps not…

The oasis has a weird and frightening effect on the six people who have reached it and I enjoyed seeing their darker sides and how Alif, in particular, copes with unexpected personality changes in herself and others. In fact, it was refreshing to have characters whose friendships are not all sunshine and lollipops for a change.

When all is said and done, what’s real, what’s hallucination? Or is there maybe something out there?

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2020.

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An Excerpt from Oasis

You don’t really know heat until you come to a place like Dubai. The air was so humid it was like being in a sauna with your clothes on. Every inhale burned and tickled my throat. I tried breathing through my mouth to see if that was any better, but it made it worse. The second we stepped outside, Tommy produced a baseball cap from his pocket and put it on. Watching him, I felt irresponsible for packing all my headgear in my checked-in luggage and not in my carry-on, where it’d be easily accessible. During our short walk to the airport parking lot, the top of my head got so hot I was surely headed for heatstroke. Luke mimicked Tommy and put a cap on, pulling the brim as low as he could to shade his pale, freckled face. Lori unfurled the tasteful silky gauze scarf she had wrapped around her neck and spread it over her head in a casual but stylish way. Only Minh, Rowen, and I remained at the sun’s mercy until we reached Tommy’s monstrous four-wheel drive.

Tommy and Rowen secured some of our luggage to the top of the car, while the rest of our stuff was pushed into the spacious trunk. At last, I climbed inside the blissfully cool car, grateful for air-conditioning.

“Well, this is Dubai, kids,” Tommy said, eyeing our oddball group in the rearview mirror. “I hope you’re ready for the experience of your lives.”

“Yeah, that didn’t come off cheesy at all.” Minh snorted, and I caught a glimpse of Tommy grinning at her. I promptly looked out the window, focusing on the view instead of wondering whether Minh’s exchange with Tommy counted as mutual flirting.

As we drove farther and farther away the airport, the city of Dubai rose from the desert. A mirage of modernity, complete with skyscrapers glistering in the sunlight. The excitement that was pummeling blood against my ears dwindled when we didn’t enter the limits of the city proper, instead veering left and setting course for Tell Abrar, where Dad and the endless sea of dust awaited us. That was the reason we were here—the dig site. I could always check out Dubai with my friends on one of the weekends.

My eyes were glued to the car window, busy taking in the desert’s Mars-like scenery, alternating with modest houses and gas stations. A deafening roar of engines preceded a small group of motorcyclists speeding past us. The riders were wrapped in leather and the spirit of adventure, and I recalled a period of my childhood spent obsessing over Lawrence of Arabia. I imagined T. E. Lawrence himself standing on a dune somewhere, lungs filling with the clean hot air of the limitless desert. Or, perhaps, he was surrounded by the bedouin in the hinterland, or riding his motorcycle through the ocean of sand, leaving it forever haunted by his dagger-wielding white-clad ghost.

I exchanged an excited look with Minh and then with Lori, their eyes equally bright. The three of us had trouble suppressing our burbling anticipation. This was it. We’d made it.

After about an hour on the road, we arrived. Here at Tell Abrar the sand-swept landscape unfolded as far as the eye could see.

Tainting my excitement with unfounded worry, Tommy’s post on Dig It came back to me all of a sudden. Being here, away from modernity and surrounded by sand on all sides, the unforgiving sun over my head, it was easy to surrender to the idea of meteors crashing into the sands, their fiery spirits lingering to haunt the land to this day. I was about to ask Tommy about his strange blog post, but he finished parking our car and it was time to get out and get going.

Let the adventure begin.

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About the Author

Katya de Becerra was born in Russia, studied in California, lived in Peru, and then stayed in Australia long enough to become a local. She was going to be an Egyptologist when she grew up, but instead she earned a PhD in Anthropology and now works as a university lecturer and a researcher. Katya is a short version of her real name, which is very long and gets mispronounced a lot. What The Woods Keep was her first novel (out now), which is followed by another standalone Oasis in 2020. She has also authored and co-authored academic articles, book chapters, guest posts and opinion pieces.

Website // Twitter // Goodreads // Instagram

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Giveaway

Finished copy of OASIS by Katya de Becerra (US Only)
Starts: January 1st 2020
Ends: January 15th 2020

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Book Review: Vegas Lies by Andrew Cunningham @arcnovels @GH_Narrator @AnAudiobookworm

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Book Review: Puddin’ on the Blitz by Tamar Myers @severnhouse

Puddin’ on the Blitz
A Pennsylvania-Dutch Mystery #21
Tamar Myers
Severn House, December 2019
ISBN 978-0-7278-8915-7
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Although the culinary fare at Magdalena Yoder’s new restaurant, Asian Sensations – a unique combination of Asian and Amish cuisine – is not to everyone’s taste, the good citizens of Hernia are unanimously agreed that the desserts concocted by the restaurant chef, Barbara Hostetler, are to die for.

Not literally however. When a guest at the PennDutch Inn drops dead shortly after consuming a slice of Barbara’s delicious Blitz torte, Magdalena finds herself arrested for murder. Did someone deliberately set her up? In order to clear her name and protect her nearest and dearest, Magdalena must identify a ruthless killer – before they strike again.

Tamar Myers has been entertaining mystery readers—including me, most decidedly—for many years and this latest Pennsylvania Dutch entry is no exception to the rule. Magdalena Yoder is an enduring protagonist and, after so many adventures, has gotten amateur sleuthing down to a fine science, you might say.

Now, if you’re looking for a dynamic crime thriller with a well-tuned sleuth, you’re in the wrong place. Magdalena isn’t always the nicest person around, a bit too sharp-tongued, and, as cozies often do, a lot of attention is directed towards her personal life and the goings-on in the inn and the village. The mystery to be solved isn’t as strong as in some earlier books but it’s interesting and there are some  unusual aspects to it, not least of which is the true identities of the couple who rented the restaurant for an exclusive meal.

This is the first in the series that I’ve read in several years but I had no trouble catching up, so to speak, and I enjoyed it even though it’s not quite up to snuff with some of the previous books. It’s a nice read for a lazy day and I’ll definitely be back.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2019.

Book Review: Spirit Wind by Marilyn Meredith—and a Giveaway! ‎@MarilynMeredith

Spirit Wind
Tempe Crabtree Mystery Series #18
Marilyn Meredith
Marilyn Meredith, March 2019
ISBN 978-1092112086
Trade Paperback

From the author—

A call from a ghost hunter changes Deputy Tempe Crabtree’s vacation plans. Instead of going to the coast, she and her husband are headed to Tehachapi to investigate a haunted house and are confronted by voices on the wind, a murder, and someone out to get them.

Marilyn Meredith has been writing the Tempe Crabtree series for a long time and this one is every bit as good as those that preceded it and just as fresh. Tempe herself is an appealing police officer but the Native American elements add a special touch, not to mention Tempe’s ability to communicate with ghosts. Not only do we get an entertaining police procedural, we also actually have the chance to learn something about tribal life and customs in today’s world.

This time, a haunted house adds to the allure and spirits play an integral part in the search for a murderer as well as the truth about what happened to a woman who walked out of an earthquake-damaged prison into oblivion. Tempe and her husband, Hutch, intend to help the local police without stepping on toes but soon become potential victims themselves; perhaps the biggest puzzle is figuring out why a spirit is in the house and what it really wants.

Spiritual beliefs often play a part in Tempe’s investigations but they’re particularly important in Spirit Wind and blending them with modern police work, always tempered with the culture of the surrounding area and people, makes for an especially intriguing case and, once again, I was drawn in to a story that’s compelling in many ways. The next Tempe Crabtree mystery can’t come soon enough for me 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2019.

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Giveaway

To enter the drawing for a very gently
used print copy
of Spirit Wind,

leave a comment below. The winning
name will be drawn on Friday evening,
December 20th. Open to residents
of the US and Canada.

Book Review: Valley of Shadows by Steven Cooper—and a Giveaway! @TheStevenCooper @SeventhStBooks

Valley of Shadows
A Gus Parker and Alex Mills Novel #3
Steven Cooper
Seventh Street Books, September 2019
ISBN 978-1-64506-000-0
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

A cop. A psychic. And a dead socialite. Who killed Viveca Canning and where is the Dali masterpiece that hung on the walls of her estate? So many people had a motive. Phoenix Detective Alex Mills is on the case with the help of his sometimes-psychic buddy Gus Parker. You won’t find another duo like them. And once you hop on the wild ride, you won’t want to get off. Who will survive a doomed flight over the Pacific? Who tried to blow up an art gallery? Who saw Viveca Canning as a threat and shot her twice in the head? Those questions hound Gus and Alex as the case unravels. It’s an art caper wrapped in a murder mystery. The Valley of the Sun becomes a Valley of Shadows, where everyone has something to hide and the truth lies beneath Phoenix in a labyrinth of tunnels and dungeons.

There’s a lot at stake for Gus and Alex. With the case swirling all around them, the future of Gus and his rock n’ roll girlfriend hangs in the balance. For Alex, it’s a test of family loyalties as a health scare for his wife brings him to the breaking point.

A really good crime novel is dependent on two major components, vivid characters and intriguing plot, and there’s no doubt that Steven Cooper‘s Valley of Shadows has both, in spades. I have to say, though, that Mr. Cooper also has given his readers a setting that has to be considered the third and, perhaps most unforgettable, element.

At first glance, Alex Mills is a typical police detective but his friendship with Gus takes things to another level. After all, most of law enforcement looks at psychics with jaundiced eyes, but these two men have moved well beyond any distrust and, in fact, value each other’s contributions to crime solving. In this story, we’re also treated to in-depth looks at their personal lives, adding much to our understanding of them.

As for this particular case, the various threads lead Alex and Gus in a myriad of directions, largely because they uncover so many potential motives for Viveca Canning’s murder. From a simple art heist to greedy children to a cult and everything in-between, all must be considered and proven invalid before they land on the truth. Along the way, the tension continues to rise and I had to keep turning those pages as fast as I could while also wanting to savor the author’s wonderful wordcraft.

I’ve spent just a few days in Arizona but I was struck by how much Mr. Cooper immersed me in the surroundings, the desert sun and sand, the beautiful scenery. Somehow, I feel that this is where Alex and Gus belong and I definitely want to visit with them again.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2019.

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Giveaway

To enter the drawing for a print copy
of Valley of Shadows by Steven Cooper,
leave a comment below. The winning
name will be drawn on Wednesday evening,
December 11th. Open to residents
of the US and Canada.

Short Story Review: A Charming Christmas by Tonya Kappes @tonyakappes11

A Charming Christmas
Magical Cures Novella
Tonya Kappes
Cozy Mystery Publishing, November 2014
Ebook

From the author—

Whispering Falls is having a winter storm warning. Not only from a blizzard, but a thief. . . the Whispering Falls Grinch. Sheriff Oscar Park is snowed in the nearby town of Locust Grove and unable help catch the unwanted visitor in their magical town. It is up to June Heal and her familiars, Mr. Prince Charming and Madame Torres, to put their amateur sleuthing skills to work and bring the Whispering Falls Grinch to justice.

Psychic June Heal is on her own, sort of, in finding a local thief who’s messing with Christmas in the magical town of Whispering Falls. She’s on her own because her beloved wizard sheriff is snowed in in another town but she does have her familiars, Mr. Prince Charming and Madame Torres, to give her an assist.

This town of spiritualists doesn’t really celebrate Christmas usually but the Village Council decided to have a month-long bazaar to draw in shoppers. A few citizens are disgruntled about it but most get into it with lots of decorations, caroling, festive street lights and the like. Too bad some misguided grinch is stealing the shop decorations; is this thief all that upset about celebrating the season? Then again, perhaps June will discover something else entirely and save the bazaar.

There are no murders here, just a fun little story to enjoy along with a cup of cocoa and a Christmas cookie; fans of the series as well as new readers will relish this visit to Whispering Falls  😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2019.