Book Reviews: A Measure of Murder by Leslie Karst and Mile High Murder by Marcia Talley

A Measure of Murder
A Sally Solari Mystery #2
Leslie Karst
Crooked Lane Books, February 2018
ISBN 978-1-68331-493-6
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Sally Solari is busy juggling work at her family’s Italian restaurant, Solari’s, and helping Javier plan the autumn menu for the restaurant she’s just inherited, Gauguin. Complicating this already hectic schedule, Sally joins her ex-boyfriend Eric’s chorus, which is performing a newly discovered version of her favorite composition: the Mozart Requiem. But then, at the first rehearsal, a tenor falls to his death on the church courtyard–and his soprano girlfriend is sure it wasn’t an accident.

Now Sally’s back on another murder case mixed in with a dash of revenge, a pinch of peril, and a suspicious stack of sheet music. And while tensions in the chorus heat up, so does the kitchen at Gauguin–set aflame right as Sally starts getting too close to the truth. Can Sally catch the killer before she’s burnt to a crisp, or will the case grow as cold as yesterday’s leftovers?

Good food and good music go together beautifully but not so much when death—most likely murder—is in the mix. Sally Solari had looked forward to singing in the chorus performing this special piece but gets drawn into the peculiarities surrounding Kyle’s death. She has very little spare time in her life for this, though, because she’s working at both her family’s restaurant and the one she recently inherited from her aunt but Sally is a Type-A Energizer Bunny who can be downright exhausting. In fact, the one weakness (in my mind) was that, because Sally is often off chasing leads, we don’t get to spend as much time as I would like in the restaurants but then I’m an unofficial foodie 😉

Nobody wishes death on people but Kyle was not a pleasant person and, quite frankly, he won’t be missed by many other than his girlfriend, Jill. It isn’t long before possible motives seem to pile up and Sally becomes suspicious about several possible killers but I have to say it took me a while to settle on one. Before Sally can bring the perpetrator to justice, she becomes a target herself.

As a former attorney, Sally is probably more qualified than most amateurs to investigate a crime and that lends her snooping a certain credibility other amateurs don’t have but her rationale still doesn’t hold much water. That’s okay, however, because (1) this is a cozy and sleuths in cozies don’t need a lot of justification and (2) I enjoyed this mystery as much as the first in the series. Let’s face it, Sally and her family and friends are fun to be around—I especially enjoyed re-connecting with Javier and Eric—and we’re rewarded at the end with a handful of recipes that just might entice you to try them out. I’m feeling the munchies for the grilled cheese sandwich right now 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2018.

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Mile High Murder
A Hannah Ives Mystery #16
Marcia Talley
Severn House, April 2018
ISBN 978-0-7278-8768-9
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Hannah Ives embarks on a trip to the Mile High City on a fact-finding mission. But is she about to get ‘high’ on murder?

It’s a well-known fact that some of the Reach for Recovery cancer support group survivors Hannah Ives works with take marijuana. Recreational use of the drug may be illegal, but a few, like Maryland State Senator Claire Thompson, are prescribed it on medical grounds.

Claire has co-sponsored a Cannabis Legalisation Bill and wants Hannah to be part of a fact-finding task force that testifies before the Maryland State Senate.

Before long, Hannah is in Denver, Colorado – the Mile High City – staying at a B&B with a group of pot pilgrims and medical refugees – some of whom, like her, are on a mission for information. But when one of the group is found dead, and a closer inspection of the body reveals they may not be who they seem, Hannah is plunged into a dangerous cocktail of drugs and death.

Hannah Ives has been a comfortable fictional friend for a long time now and I’m always happy to see a new book come out. This time she gets involved in “research” to bolster State Senator Claire Thompson’s hopes to get a marijuana bill passed in Maryland, one to broaden and organize the specifics of already passed legislation that legalized the drug for medical use. To do this, they have to go to a state where recreational pot use is already lawful so they head out to Colorado, Denver to be specific. As a long-term cancer survivor, Hannah doesn’t need medical marijuana but Claire has a prescription and is inclined to use it even if she’s at risk of being caught breaking the law.

Hannah decides to go, mainly because she’ll have a chance to testify before the senate, a taste of the old days when she dealt with bureaucrats on a regular basis. This seems like a fairly simple task but Hannah did try to tell Claire that Hannah seems to attract dead bodies, a lengthy list of them, in fact. Still, they didn’t expect to find themselves so completely surrounded by hippie types and a million different ways to indulge at their “bud-and-breakfast”, Bell House…nor did they expect a fellow guest to be a victim of foul play.

I think the mystery here is a little less suspenseful than in Hannah’s previous adventures but I still had a good time learning all the ins and outs of legalized marijuana and watching Hannah do what she does so well, identify a murderer. Fans will be happy to see her again (and, Paul, her lovely Navy professor husband) but new readers might want to start with at least the first book to have a better idea of who Hannah is.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2018.

Book Reviews: The Snapped Series Books 1 and 2 by Ketley Allison

 A New Adult Contemporary series
with all the romance you’d expect, but
the killer—and lovers—that you don’t.

SnappedSnapped
The Snapped Series, Part One
Ketley Allison
Ketley Allison, November 2014
Ebook

From the author—

“We have someone who saw you struggling with the deceased before using that knife. Your best friend, and our eye witness.”

In nine weeks Charlie Miller’s life goes from high-rolling perfection to a crypt of sin. All it takes is one night, one blade, and her boyfriend, best friend and new friends all either end up as suspects or dead.

Nate Westcott, a pierced, tattooed, charismatic lawyer, is a man she can’t have—but a seductive danger she can’t ignore. He’s cocky, infuriating, brilliant and wrong, yet he makes her question whether she really is the good girl she wants to be or more like the selfish killer everyone thinks she is.

And her body wants him in ways she’s not supposed to crave.

As the weeks close in, cracks start forming in her everyday world of pro football golden boys, law school domination and New York City nightlife. Everyone she cares about is at risk because one of them doesn’t love Charlie back. In fact, they want her out of the way. Disposed of. Set up.

One more step, and all Charlie has to do is fall through.

Week 1 starts now.

WHO WILL SNAP?

When I started reading this, I was more than a little apprehensive about what precisely I was going to find. My concern was that, when I first heard about this series, I thought it was a straightforward mystery with some romance thrown in, which is fine with me. Then, as time approached for the blog tour to begin, some pictures came to light which are considerably racier than I anticipated, one in particular bordering on going too far (for me, not necessarily for others). I’d promised, though, so I soldiered on.

I’m very happy to say, on behalf of those readers who lean toward the clean side, that this is perfectly fine. There are a few scenes that you won’t want your 11-year-old to read but they’re not even close to erotica, just a little bit heated. Besides, this is an adult mystery, not intended for your 11-year-old  😉

The story opens in New York City with a scene from the future, 9 weeks ahead, and our heroine, Charlie, is being grilled by a detective about what seems to be a murder. She doesn’t react well to what she considers an interrogation and plays the law student card. Her prickliness seems likely to put her in the crosshairs at some point in the investigation.

The scene shifts and we’re now in Week 0 with this particular novella covering two weeks. We’re introduced to what we think may be the major characters—law student Charlie, her football-playing boyfriend, Slade, her best friend, Lara, new friend and fellow law student Reagan, and Reagan’s brother, tattooed rock drummer Nate. While Charlie tries to cope with being in the sports world limelight, Lara is kind of footloose but a spark appears in her eye when she meets Nate.

By the nature of the beast, a novella is difficult to review because there hasn’t been enough time to get really in depth with the characters or the plot but Snapped is more than entertaining and, while I don’t have a good handle yet on who I like and who I don’t or who’s going to be involved in the crime, Ms. Allison has offered enough to entice me on to the next part of the story, Shade.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2014.

Goodreads

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ShadeShade
The Snapped Series, Part Two
Ketley Allison
Ketley Allison, November 2014
Ebook

From the author—

Famous boyfriend, penthouse on Park Avenue, full scholarship and best friend along for the ride?

Awesome.

A smartass drummer-lawyer boy, dark obsession and a hint of betrayal?

Unexpected.

Murder?

Inevitable.

Charlie Miller’s life in New York City is just getting started.

Shade opens at Week 3 and covers three weeks. Lara is now working for Nate in the family bar and clams up when Charlie asks how things are going. Why all the mystery?

I appreciate Charlie’s self-deprecation. Here’s a girl who attracted and still holds the attention of a hot-looking football player who could easily have any girl he wants but she’s full of insecurities. She can’t pull off sexy texting and gets squirmy when football groupies hang on Slade. It’s kind of nice to see a golden girl who isn’t sure she belongs where she is rather than the self-absorbed girl in love with herself that Charlie could have been. Still, Slade truly loves her. Doesn’t he?

And then the connections among the five friends begin to crumble, just a little. Cracks in the foundation, hints of betrayal, and it all touches Charlie. Suddenly, loyalties come into question and the one person who’s the most enigmatic, Nate, suddenly has much more of a presence in Charlie’s life. At the same time, there’s a side to Slade that’s new to Charlie.

The tension ratchets up in this second novella in the series and the distrust that begins to creep in is palpable. At the end of this three week period, I have no clue where this is all heading or what’s going to happen to these five people. I’m sure I’m beginning to dislike Slade and perhaps Reagan but…I could be wrong. Guess I’ll have to wait for the third novella, Sin, due out in December.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2014.

Goodreads

Purchase Links:

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About the Author

 

Ketley AllisonKetley Allison began her career by writing books as birthday presents for her friends (with her friend as the main character and opposite a super sexy lead, of course) before ending it in order to walk down a path she thought she was supposed to follow.

The writing bug never left her—and, in fact, would often bleed into the official papers she was supposed to write—so now Ketley’s putting down her suit and finally following her dream. While her friends are no longer the stars of her books, she still throws in bits and pieces of them into each and every one of her characters.

As a result, her books tend to focus a lot on friendships as well as love, because let’s be honest, friends are what really get you through—especially when your epic love turns into epic heartbreak.

Ketley’s debut indie ebook, DARK SOULS, the first in the Dark Souls Series, is available on Amazon right here and Barnes & Noble.

ENTWINED, Book II in the Dark Souls Series, is also available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble!

Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Follow the tour here.

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Book Reviews: The Bridge from Me to You by Lisa Schroeder and The Sun Is God by Adrian McKinty

The Bridge from Me to YouThe Bridge from Me to You
Lisa Schroeder
Point, July 2014
ISBN 978-0-545-64601-7
Hardcover

Lauren has had a rough life. After an incident involving her mother and younger brother, she is sent to live with her aunt and uncle in a small town in Oregon, where she meets Colby. Colby is the wide-reciever and one of the team’s (and town’s) celebrities. And in this town, football is everything to everybody. Except Colby.

Themes of family, acceptance, friendship, and following your heart are the biggest tackles in the narrative. Lauren is trying to find acceptance in an absent mother while not realizing she’s already a part of another family. Colby is forced to see what friendship means to him when his best friend is involved in a life-changing accident. And both main characters have to follow their heart, both in their relationship and in their individual lives. Colby faces this challenge more than Lauren, as he is pressured by his dad (and sometimes the whole town) to make football his present and future when all he wants is to be himself.

Lisa Schroeder presents this story as a verse novel, where poetry and prose coincide with each other. Lauren’s point of view is always in poetry format, except when she’s talking to her psychiatrist. I assume that the chapters that are presented as poetry are from her journal, which you find out Lauren is supposed be writing in. Colby’s point of view is presented as first-person prose, and I found myself wondering how different it would have been if their views had been switched, and it had been Colby’s voice seen as poetry and Lauren’s as prose? Would it had made Colby seem less masculine? Or made him more relatable as a human being?

While I thought it was beautifully written and there were certain scenes that made me want to curl into a ball and cry, Lauren and Colby’s relationship didn’t feel as real as I hoped, and I felt they had more of a platonic relationship than romantic. However, Schroeder does an excellent job in portraying realistic views of teenagers in a small town (being from a small town myself). There’s the wanting of a life outside the city limits, the little excitement of things to do, and how a community will rally together for one of its own. Even though some characters and their scenes felt cliche, the realism of the book made the town, and the narrative as a whole relatable. Schroeder makes the story feel like a work of non-fiction, even though it isn’t.

Reviewed by Kristina Akers, September 2014.

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The Sun Is GodThe Sun Is God
Adrian McKinty
Seventh Street Books, September 2014
ISBN 978-1-61614-068-7
Trade Paperback

Will Prior, a former British military police officer, only thinks he’s in for a life of peace in Deutsch Neu Guinea. It is 1906. Will, booted out of the British service wants to be left alone with his blighted rubber plantation and his servant girl, Siwa. But then his friend, German policeman Klaus Kessler, knowing Will’s background in the military police asks him to help find a killer when an autopsy reveals a cult member in a nudist colony has been poisoned.

What a cast of characters! From the least to the lead, fully fleshed and fully intriguing. The setting, a tropical forested island, is fascinating and very real. Made me hot and sweaty—and not in a comfortable way—just to read about it. Will finds sunburn a real problem. Near starvation for nudists required to dine only upon coconuts and bananas is a twist. As is the fact all of them take good old Bayer produced heroin for their health’s sake along with every meal. Will has a job ahead of him in discovering who, in this wacky group, is also a murderer.

Best line in the book: Evans hadn’t commented on his (Will’s) Plimsolls, which were squeaking now like poisoned rats in a granary. Very graphic and evocative.

Plimsolls, in case you don’t know, are a type of athletic shoe with a rubber sole and canvas top developed in the 1830s.

I wouldn’t call this historical mystery fast-paced, but it is a fascinating look at a lesser-known time and part of the world. We’re told it’s based on a true story.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, October 2014.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.