Book Review: Baby’s First Felony by John Straley

Baby’s First Felony
A Cecil Younger Investigation #7
John Straley
Soho Crime, July 2018
ISBN 978-1-61695-878-7
Hardcover

Baby’s First Felony brings back Cecil Younger and the wonderful setting of Sitka, Alaska.  Before even starting the book, I would strongly urge readers to turn to the end and read through the A Guide to Avoiding a Life in Crime. The rules as outlined are referenced frequently, so you might want to keep a book mark there as well.

Cecil is called to the jail to arrange bail for a client who asks that he go pick up a box containing things that will prove her innocence which she left with friends. Two things about this cause Cecil angst. First, the box contains money. Lots of money. And secondly the place she left the box is the house where a friend of Cecil’s daughter’s friend is now living and a place that his daughter Blossom has run off to when her mother gets on her nerves. But that is just the beginning of Cecil’s problems. There are drugs, a kidnapping and a murder to contend with causing Cecil to break nearly every one of his rules as outlined in the book.

Along with the criminal plot is an interesting side story involving the use of humor as therapy for autism leading the book to be packed with jokes as told by Todd, the sort of adopted son of Cecil. Some of these are really pretty funny. There is a very brief note at the end of the book lending credence to this as a real therapy. This also brings in the very real issue of who has a right to post someone’s comments on line.

It has been a very long time since the last of the Cecil Younger book was published so it was especially fun to catch up with Cecil and life in Sitka, Alaska.  Perhaps an odd benefit of the long delay in bringing Cecil back to print is that it gives readers new to the series a chance to jump in as Baby’s First Felony does not rely on past plots and Straley does an excellent job of giving readers what little back story is necessary. Hopefully we’ll be seeing more Cecil very soon.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Caryn St. Clair, July 2018.

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Book Review: Echoes of Terror by Maris Soule

Echoes of Terror
Maris Soule
Five Star, March 2017
ISBN: 978-1-4328-3281-0
Hardcover

Skagway, Alaska, is a small northern community with a small police force. In spite of the tour ships that visit, bringing many short-time visitors, and an active tourist industry, major crimes are not part of their usual operation. The Chief of Police is recovering in the hospital from a procedure. A senior officer with a day off is not responding to radio calls and an oddly emotional woman stands at the intake desk announcing abrasively that her step-daughter, also just off a cruise liner, is missing. The lone woman law officer on the force, Katherine Ward, is assigned to take care of the woman.

It turns out the girl is the daughter of an extremely wealthy businessman, now in China. The case quickly becomes a kidnapping for ransom and then yet another young girl goes missing. Katherine Ward, an experienced police officer, is beset by conflicting pressures and the odd feeling that there are parallels here to an earlier case, one directly involving Ward. Readers will quickly realize that this is far more complicated than it seems, and with Officer Ward leading the way, we’re drawn into a brutal murder thriller.

The characters are well-delineated and the plot moves forcefully through the book to its conclusion. Along the way there are several surprises which add dimension and heft to the story line. Echoes of Terror is a worthwhile, interesting novel.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, June 2017.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Reviews: Whenever I’m With You by Lydia Sharp and Keep Me In Mind by Jaime Reed

Whenever I’m With You
Lydia Sharp
Scholastic Press, January 2017
ISBN 978-1-338-04749-3
Hardcover

Gabi’s natural grace is fascinating.  Poise, pragmatic manner and confidence rarely coexist in mere human beings; but this 17-year-old possesses all three.  Of course, she doesn’t realize that.  Her Alaskan acquaintances see only the novelty of a “rich Latina from L.A.”  and they don’t even have as much information ‘about’ her as the tabloids do.

Kai is not like that, but he isn’t living the typical teen-age life either.  When Gabi and her father moved in next door, Kai’s father had been gone for almost a year.  His departure turned Kai and his twin brother, Hunter, from full-time high-school students to home-schooled home-makers.  The boys cared for their younger siblings, their mother worked double shifts.

When Kai slips away to search for his father, he doesn’t tell anyone.  He’s been alone in the Alaskan wilderness, following his father’s footsteps for a couple of days when Gabi and Hunter figure out where he’s gone.  The two immediately realize the dire need to reach him ahead of an upcoming storm.  Even an experienced, outdoors-loving-Alaskan could not be prepared for this.

The dangerous expedition is but part of the plot.  Each twin has a secret and when secrets are shared it is as if someone pulled the missing piece of the almost-completed-jigsaw puzzle from a pocket and asks, “Were you looking for this?”  Fiercely frustrating; a remarkable relief.  Each person that participates in this quest has a solid strength inside.  The individual discovery and use is a pretty great thing to witness.

Aside: I have a particular fondness for the West-Virginian transplant.  Vicki easily embodied traits I recognize in the people from my home state; she amused and delighted me.   Special thanks to Ms. Sharp for that.

Reviewed by jv poore, January 2017.

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Keep Me In Mind
Jaime Reed
Point, May 2016
ISBN 978-0-545-88381-8
Hardcover

The adage ‘opposites attract’ brings no comfort to Ellia as she tries to picture herself in a relationship with the “tearstained boy hovering over (her) bed…declaring his undying love and devotion”.  She’s come out of a coma with no recollection whatsoever of the accident that caused it or the preceding two years.  Her parents, along with some friends are familiar, if not fully known; but the oddly earnest Liam is a stranger.

Liam is a runner. An addict, actually; his entire personality changes if ever he is deprived of his daily run.  An excellent student, he works diligently for his grades and he writes ridiculously well.  Ellia firmly believes that humans should run in emergency situations only and nothing about school holds her attention, aside from the opportunity to people-watch in order to ponder and provide fashion critiques, solicited or not.

Logically, these two people do not belong together, but emotionally Liam is so confident and persuasive that Ellia is compelled to seriously consider the plausibility.  Understandably the most important thing in Liam’s world, this is really just a piece of the wicked jig-saw puzzle that is now Ellia’s life.  Her first priority is to figure out who she is and why; based on what she’s heard so far, she’s not particularly proud of the person she was.

I absolutely adore the way this author captures and conveys the sheer magnitude of emotions that teens experience.  More accurately, I admire the authenticity of her characters.  The surprisingly witty banter exchanges are straight from the hallways of any high-school and exist alongside the lyrical and somewhat haunting soliloquies throughout. I was immediately intrigued, then immersed and invested.  There were enough questions to be answered that the story-line slid smoothly along, keeping me engaged from the first page to the very last word.

Reviewed by jv poore, September 2016.

Book Review: After the End by Amy Plum

After the EndAfter The End
After the End #1
Amy Plum
HarperTeen, May 2015
ISBN: 978-0-06-222561-0
Trade Paperback

Juneau is the heir to the role of shaman in her clan. Whit, the current one, has trained her in the ways of connecting to what they call the Yara, a universal force that permeates all things. The adults fled to a remote region beyond Denali in Alaska after what they have told the children was World War III in the early 1980s.

She’s out hunting for caribou when she hears the frightening whump of a helicopter. While she’s been told that civilization has been destroyed, save for a few of what the elders call brigands, she’s heard this scary sound a couple times before and recognizes the threat it poses, so she abandons her kill and drives her sled dogs back to her village as fast as she can.

When she arrives, all clan members are gone and the dogs have been killed. Whit was supposed to be away on a retreat to a cave, but when she arrives there she realizes no one has been there for months. Her ‘reading’, a way she sees distant events and connects with other clan members, tells her that both Whit and the rest of her clan have been abducted, but Whit’s near the sea while her father and the others are much further away in what appears to be a desert location. This realization is the beginning of her odyssey, one where she intends to find and free her clan. When she reaches the sea, she’s stunned by the city and people she finds, forcing her to not only question everything she believes, but adapt quickly while evading pursuers.

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Miles has been kicked out of his private school for a third major infraction and is working in the mailroom at his father’s pharmaceutical firm. He was headed to Yale before getting expelled. When he overhears his father talking about a valuable girl who is on her way to Seattle, he decides to go and find her as a way of redeeming himself. That girl is Juneau.

When their paths cross, it’s the start of an uneasy alliance that finds them equally frustrated and disbelieving, but the longer they’re together, the more Miles realizes Juneau’s telling the truth and the stronger their attraction becomes. There’s a lot of action, a need for readers to suspend a bit of belief, a neat budding romance and a cliffhanger ending. It was good enough for me to order the sequel immediately.

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, January 2016.

Book Review: Hunting Season by Nikki Jefford

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Title: Hunting Season
Series: Aurora Sky: Vampire Hunter #4
Author: Nikki Jefford
Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Genres: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult

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Hunting SeasonHunting Season
Aurora Sky: Vampire Hunter #4
Nikki Jefford
Nikki Jefford, March 2015
ISBN 978-1508687818
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Better to be a hunter, not prey.

Ever since her partner was kidnapped, Aurora Sky has been on a personal mission to get him back. To do that she needs the vampire responsible for destroying her life.

In order to have a snowball’s chance at success, she’ll have to team up with her most loyal friends—including a certain vampire in black with a provoking talent for distraction.

Old cravings aren’t easily quenched, nor past passions. With knowledge comes danger and Aurora is at risk on all sides.

A new Aurora Sky book is always cause for celebration to my way of thinking and Hunting Season surely is everything I hoped for. Getting to spend more time with Aurora and the gang is like spending time with old friends you haven’t seen in a while.

The scrumptious Dante has fallen into some dastardly clutches and it’s up to Aurora and her pals, vampire or otherwise, to figure out how to rescue him. That’s not the only thing going on, though; now that Aurora knows she’s more than just your typical vampire hunter, i.e., she’s a vampire herself, she’s begun to question the motives of the federal agents who recruited her.

Nikki Jefford has a sure hand with the creation and development of plot but it’s her characters who really shine, who come to life on the page. Aurora has grown from a fairly clueless high schooler to a kickbutt vampire hunter who can kill the quarry with little remorse but who values her family and friends with a passion that doesn’t quit. Her close friend, Noel, is every bit as vibrant as Aurora and the two main dudes in their circle, Dante and Fane, appeal to me as much as any fictional fellows I can think of. Even the bad guys, be they vampire or human, stand out and claim their territory.

Aurora struggles with how her life as an undead is going to play out but the betrayal she feels with each new thing she learns about the agency is paramount. She will take them down one way or another but, for right now, she’s on the run with a heartbroken Dante and everyone they care about is in danger.

Waiting for the next book is going to be endless, I think 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2015.

About the Author

Nikki Jefford 2Bookaholic, nature girl, and animal lover.

Nikki Jefford is a third generation Alaskan who found paradise in the not-so-tropical San Juan Islands (WA) where she is, once more, neighbors with Canada in a town without a single traffic light.

She married the love of her life, Sebastien, while working as a teaching assistant in France. They reside with their Westie, Cosmo, in Friday Harbor.

Loves fictional bad boys and heroines who kick butt.

Author links:

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Book Review: The Spirit and the Skull by J. M. Hayes

The Spirit and the SkullThe Spirit and the Skull
J.M. Hayes
Poisoned Pen Press, August 2014
ISBN: 9781464202827
Hardcover

Here is a mystery truly from ancient crumbling pages of a time long gone. The narrator is an ancient member of a tribe from the Paleolithic era. He inhabits a time and a nomadic tribe that is making its troubled way slowly down the western coast of what we now call the Western Hemisphere. Raven, the narrator, is a conflicted member of this tribe, because, while he is an agnostic with deep-seated questions about the spiritual construct of the tribe, he is their designated Spirit Man. Raven must play the role of mediator, detective and ultimately, judge. and what if the killer is a comely young woman with whom Raven may be falling in love?

Raven interacts with a powerful, scary Earth Mother in a long and winding trail to determine a murderer. Murderers are the most disturbing individuals in the tribe, they cause the most unrest and must be rooted out in order to preserve the fragile fabric of the tribe as it wanders south through forest and mountains, encountering great beasts and natural barriers of monumental stature.

The novel is an interesting and penetrating look at what and how it might have been in those ancient times, when some of our myths and legends and, indeed some of our cherished traditions where formed in the cradle of a time long gone.

Author J.M. Hayes is a fine and thoughtful writer with an original vision and an intriguing story to tell.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, September 2014.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.

Book Review: Bad Blood by Nikki Jefford

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Title: Bad Blood
Series: Aurora Sky: Vampire Hunter #3
Author: Nikki Jefford
Publication date: June 4th 2014
Genres: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult

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***Don’t miss STAKEOUT, Vol. 2.5, a 54,000 word novella featuring Noel Harper
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Bad BloodBad Blood
Aurora Sky: Vampire Hunter #3
Nikki JeffordNikki Jefford, June 2014
ISBN 978-1499690941
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Aurora returns from boot camp to a new assignment, an unwelcome roommate, and the increasingly amorous attentions of a certain vampire hunter.

College is starting, and so is Aurora’s undercover work at a network of swanky parties known as “Tastings” for high rolling vampires who like their blood laced with fine wine. But Aurora’s not the only one on the prowl. An underground investigation is under way to find out who killed one of Anchorage’s most prominent vampires… and Aurora is a prime suspect.

These days, there are only a handful of series that I manage to keep up with; I have so many TBRs that I just can’t stay on top of new entries coming out, much less read them. As a result, there are just a handful I make a point of not missing and the Aurora Sky series is one of them. I’m happy to say that Bad Blood has left me wanting much more.

There’s a lot to love about this series, not least of which is the ingenuity of the plot, longrange as well as in each book. Add to that the natural maturing of a high school girl who has been thrust into a world far beyond her expectations and terrific character development of all the players, major and minor, and there is very little to not like. I love the details, the little things that set this apart from other vampire stories—the whole AB blood thing is brilliant—and I really enjoy spending time with Aurora and Noel (how I love that girl!) and Dante and Valerie and Fane and even the government guys and nasty vamps.

This time, Aurora is on another threshold, moving from boot camp for vampire hunters to her first year in college. Think about it—that must be a little like going from CIA spy/assassin training to college. One minute she’s murdering a killer vampire to pass her last test and the next she’s getting the sex protection talk from her mom and meeting…er, confronting…her new roommate. Oh, and there’s the little matter of having two hunky guys, Dante and Fane, pushing all the right and wrong buttons, not to mention having to balance college classes with her vampire hunting duties.

And being a key suspect in a vampire murder investigation adds a little excitement to life, doesn’t it?

Once again, Nikki Jefford has given us a gem of a story but Bad Blood ends with everything turned topsy turvy and all I can say is thank heavens Hunting Season will be out in just a few months. Waiting to find out what happens next  just may be the end of me 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2014.

About the Author

 

Nikki Jefford 2Bookaholic, nature girl, and animal lover.

Nikki Jefford is a third generation Alaskan who found paradise in the not-so-tropical San Juan Islands (WA) where she is, once more, neighbors with Canada in a town without a single traffic light.

She married the love of her life, Sebastien, while working as a teaching assistant in France. They reside with their Westie, Cosmo in Friday Harbor.

Loves fictional bad boys and heroines who kick butt.

 

Author links:

 

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