Book Review: Who Rescued Who by Victoria Schade—and a Giveaway! @VictoriaSchade @BerkleyPub

Who Rescued Who
Victoria Schade
Berkley, March 2020
ISBN 978-0-593-09883-7
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Where can you turn when the world turns against you? When Elizabeth Barnes’ life fell apart she never imagined that she’d be rescued by a new friend on four paws.

The plan was simple: Elizabeth would ignore the fact that she was unjustly fired from her dream job, fly across the pond to settle an unexpected inheritance in her father’s home country and quickly return to reclaim her position among the Silicon Valley elite.

But when Elizabeth stumbles upon an abandoned puppy, she’s shocked to realize that her brief trip to England might turn into an extended stay. Her strict itinerary is upended completely by the pup’s dogged devotion, and soon the loveable puppy helps her to connect with a tight-knit community of new friends on two legs and four, from the aunt and uncle she didn’t know existed, to a grumpy coffee shop owner to two very opinionated sheep. Along the way Elizabeth is confronted by long-kept family secrets, hard truths about her former life and a new romance that might lead her to question everything she knows about love. Because sometimes rescue magic happens on both ends of the leash.

Just a couple of months ago, a story about someone who rescues a pet would have been very heartwarming, of course, a feel-good tale to pass a few hours of comfortable reading. That’s all true with Who Rescued Who but life today gives it a whole new meaning and, while I’m sure there are other newly-released animal rescue books, this is the one that came to my attention and I’m SO glad it did.

Besides the obvious attraction of a cute puppy, Ms. Schade has created a really good tale full of what makes family and friends mean so much to us and we’re treated to a bit of mystery, romance and family secrets along the way. Bess is an especially appealing protagonist, one we can really sympathize with when she’s faced with more than her share of angst-causing adversity and the people and animals, especially Georgina, that soon surround her are just as engaging. I loved watching Bess come to terms with the past and learn to be the person she’s meant to be. Perhaps best of all, we get to escape our current health/economic/political crisis for just a little while and, these days, that’s a very good thing. Ms. Schade and her publisher had no way of knowing how timely this would be but we readers surely do benefit from serendipity.

We’re a household of four rescues, including three cats and one dog, and the pup on the cover of this book reminds me of our Rosie even though they don’t look at all alike. What they do have in common is an intense stare, as though they don’t want to miss even a nanosecond of their humans’ attention. Rescues KNOW they’ve found a forever home and love their people just as much in return, certainly more than some humans do. If you can, please consider rescuing a critter—of any kind—and help out an overwhelmed shelter at the same time, won’t you? 🙂

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2020.

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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: Ray vs The Meaning of Life by Michael F. Stewart

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Title: Ray vs The Meaning of Life
Author: Michael F. Stewart
Publication Date: May 15, 2018
Genre: General Fiction, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
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Ray vs The Meaning of Life
Michael F. Stewart
The Publishing House, May 2018
ISBN
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Grandma’s Last Will and Testament names Ray to inherit the trailer park. It’s a million-dollar estate with one hitch: to prove he’s not as aimless as he seems, Ray must discover the meaning of life by the end of the month. (She left the answer in an envelope.) If he fails, the camp goes to his estranged family.

How does anyone find the meaning of life while running a park full of misfit miners, would-be truck racers, and one demanding little girl? There’s a bear too. A grizzly. Maybe that’ll help?

TIMELY CRYOGENICS—DON’T MISS A BEAT. NOW ON ANDROID!

Barely into the second chapter, I knew I was in for a real treat and that I was going to love spending time with Ray and his trailer camp neighbors…and, well, Grandma, even if she is dead in very unfortunate circumstances. Grandma may have bitten the dust, so to speak, but she ain’t done yet, not by a long shot. Her frozen brain is plugged in and stuffed into a 12-foot fiberglass replica of herself in younger days and she has plans for her future.

Ray knew his mom and his sister, Crystal, could very well do without him but he—and they—certainly didn’t expect what Grandma had done in her will. Mom had been looking forward to a million dollar inheritance but Grandma went and left the camp to Ray IF he can pull off a miracle in one short month. Of course, nobody thinks he can do it.

And the clock starts counting down.

Even the sourtempered and greedy mom is a character to remember and Grandma is a total hoot; thrown into a hilarious and charming tale, every player has an important part to play. I have to say this is one of the funniest books I’ve read in a while and I adore how Mr. Stewart has “the meaning of life” as the Holy Grail in the story, a focus adult readers will enjoy every bit as much as young adults and might even learn a thing or two. With all the humor, Ray and everyone else have to contemplate all kinds of serious topics, like grief and love and the pitfalls and pleasures of growing up. In the end, Ray vs The Meaning of Life is all about finding ourselves and making the changes in our lives that will bring us to a place of personal peace and it’s going right on my list of best books read in 2018.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2018.

About the Author

Michael F. Stewart embraces all forms of storytelling. In 2009, he created Bully For You for Scholastic Canada, a fully functioning social media platform with an embedded interactive story. He’s written graphic novels for Rubicon Publishing’s Boldprint series, illustrated early readers and novellas for Pearson (coming in 2019!), non fiction texts on Corruption and Children’s Rights; he even tried to convince the world that we needed a location based storytelling app with augmented reality (NARR8R)-we still do! He’s written adult horror, sci-fi, urban fantasy, and adventure. He’s even written books you’ll never find. But nothing is ever wasted. His most recent book, Counting Wolves, a contemporary YA, was named to Kirkus Reviews “Best Books of 2017” list. The Boy Who Swallows Flies (2018) won Killer Nashville’s Claymore Award, and the Assured Destruction Series won The Creation of Stories: Best YA Award at the Toronto International Book Fair. In 2016, Michael was selected to join the CFC/Entertainment One TV Adaptation Lab. Herder of four daughters, Michael lives to write in Ottawa where he was the Ottawa Public Library’s Writer in Residence and runs free writing workshops. To learn more about Michael and his next projects visit his website at www.michaelfstewart.com or connect via Twitter @MichaelFStewart.

Author links:

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads

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Book Review: An Unconventional Mr. Peadlebody by D.L. Gardner

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Book Review: Four Dog’s Sake by Lia Farrell

four-dogs-sakeFour Dog’s Sake
A Mae December Mystery #4
Lia Farrell
Camel Press, December 2015
ISBN: 978-1-60381-246-7
Trade Paperback

Let’s see. Mae December is in a relationship with the sheriff of Rosedale, Tennessee, Ben Bradley. Tammy is having a baby, and she is married to Patrick. Dr. Lucy Ingram is thinking about inviting her boyfriend, Chief Detective Wayne Nichols to live with her, and Rick Willis and Meredith Flynn are about to get engaged. Then there’s Chester Willis and Brooke Piper . . . oh, wait a minute. Chester has been murdered and they think Brooke might’ve done it since she was short of money and stood to inherit a bundle from the Willis brother’s father. Whew! And those are just a few of the featured characters.

This is one book where a cast of characters section at the front might’ve been helpful. I don’t usually have a problem keeping track of who is who, but this story almost overwhelmed. Many characters seemed extraneous. Same for the dogs. The title seems odd to me since the dogs are just there to be cared for and serve no other real purpose.

That said, the mystery part of the plot is solid and law enforcement works hard to bring the right person to justice. The medical parts of the story seem spot on and well done. We can all hope our emergency room physician is as on-the-mark as Dr. Lucy Ingram who discovers Chester has even been murdered. In the end, it takes the entire medical community and a large group of friends to finally solve the mystery.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, July 2016.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder and Four Furlongs.

Book Review: June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore—and a Giveaway!

JuneJune
Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
Crown, May 2016
ISBN 978-0-553-44768-2
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Twenty-five-year-old Cassie Danvers is holed up in her family’s crumbling mansion in rural St. Jude, Ohio, mourning the loss of the woman who raised her—her grandmother, June. But a knock on the door forces her out of isolation. Cassie has been named the sole heir to legendary matinee idol Jack Montgomery’s vast fortune. How did Jack Montgomery know her name? Could he have crossed paths with her grandmother all those years ago? What other shocking secrets could June’s once-stately mansion hold?

Soon Jack’s famous daughters come knocking, determined to wrestle Cassie away from the inheritance they feel is their due. Together, they all come to discover the true reasons for June’s silence about that long-ago summer, when Hollywood came to town, and June and Jack’s lives were forever altered by murder, blackmail, and betrayal. As this page-turner shifts deftly between the past and present, Cassie and her guests will be forced to reexamine their legacies, their definition of family, and what it truly means to love someone, steadfastly, across the ages.

When I first started reading June, I have to admit I was thinking I might be sorry because the opening pages smack of magical realism and I REALLY don’t like that. Happily, though, I pushed on and the story soon became a pretty straightforward tale, albeit set in two time periods 60 years apart. The POV in 1955 is from a girl named Lindie whose best friend, and object of her affection, is June. In present day, the focus is on June’s grandaughter, Cassie. It’s during Lindie’s and June’s time that we get the first hint of the dark things that happened back then.

These three young women are each very interesting in different ways. June appears to be the proper daughter raised in gentility who never breaks the rules and always does what’s expected of her. Lindie is the girl exploring her lesbianism and she goes overboard in trying to make herself unattractive, perhaps an effort to play down her girlness. And then there’s Cassie who initially seems to be in the grip of a deep depression, unable to cope with the necessities of everyday life, but she’s soon rocked out of her somber, uncaring mood by the news that she has inherited a huge fortune from a man who claimed he was her grandfather.

The coming battle between Cassie and Jack Montgomery’s acknowledged family is just what you might expect but her search for the facts leads to answers she certainly never anticipated and it’s June’s and Lindie’s stories that are really compelling.

Beautifully written prose and easy transitions from one time period to the other and back add to characters who are as appealing as any reader could want. Author Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, unknown to me before now, already has a reputation as a fine writer and June should be seen as another feather in her cap.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2016.

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About the Author

Miranda Beverly-WhittemoreMiranda Beverly-Whittemore is the author of three other novels: New York Times bestseller Bittersweet; Set Me Free, which won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, given annually for the best book of fiction by an American woman; and The Effects of Light. A recipient of the Crazyhorse Prize in Fiction, she lives and writes in Brooklyn.

Connect with Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Book Reviews: The Twenty-Year Death Trilogy by Ariel S. Winter

Malniveau PrisonMalniveau Prison
The Twenty-Year Death Trilogy Book 1
Ariel S. Winter
Hard Case Crime, July 2014
ISBN: 978-1-781-16793-9
Mass Market Paperback

This noir novel, written in the style of classic crime writer Georges Simenon, is the first in a trilogy, originally a single novel, entitled The Twenty-Year Death.  With or without that homage, it certainly stands on its own as recommended reading.  (Each of the three books that make up the trilogy was published by Hard Case Crime in July of 2014, with the original comprising all three published in August of 2012.)  They are set in different decades of the last century (1931, 1941 and 1951), with the 2nd and 3rd written in the style of the equally famed writers Raymond Chandler and Jim Thompson.  The whole follows an American author and his much younger French wife, as well as several other well-written protagonists to greater and lesser degrees, varying with each book.

The book opens in the French village of Verargent, with the discovery of a body lying dead in the street, a local baker having come upon the corpse while walking home after work during a deluge.  The investigation falls to Chief Inspector Pelleter and the local chief of police, Letreau.  The novel unwinds over a period of less than a month, with the case getting more and more curious.  And it begins and ends in the nearby eponymous prison, where Pelleter has been called, after a fashion, by a sadistic murderer incarcerated there for several years, Mahossier, who has in the past given him information leading to the inspector being able to close theretofore unsolved cases.  Further investigation uncovers the fact that the dead man had been a prisoner at Malniveau, and had been murdered.  As things proceed, there are several more dead bodies discovered, and two young boys go missing, as well as a young woman, the French wife of the American author mentioned above.

Pelleter has his work cut out for him, it would seem.  He muses:  “He knew what had happened in many instances, but he did not know why or how, and therefore he did not know who.  He knew nothing.”  Although newly written, this is a classic noir procedural, and it is recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, January 2015.

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The Falling StarThe Falling Star
The Twenty-Year Death Trilogy Book 2
Ariel S. Winter
Hard Case Crime, July 2014
ISBN: 978-1-781-16794-6
Mass Market Paperback

The second of the books comprising The Twenty-Year Death Trilogy, this book feels more “noir” than its predecessor, “Malniveau Prison” (which took place in France), opening as it does in the world of Hollywood, at a movie studio in what is here called San Angelo, California, in 1941. Two of the characters from Book 1, Clotilde-ma-Fleur Rosenkrantz, a beautiful young woman, and her much older, alcoholic husband, Shem, are now, a decade later, respectively a movie star who goes by Chloe Rose, and a movie script writer, both at Merton Stein productions. The protagonist in the new book is Dennis Foster, ex-cop and now a private detective, hired by Al Knox, the studio’s chief of security, to act as sort of a bodyguard for Clotilde, who thinks she’s being followed. When Foster protests that he is not a bodyguard, Knox tells him “. . . . she only thinks she’s being followed. You just need to make her feel safe. For show.”

Although Chloe had “displaced champagne as America’s favorite French import,” there is nothing celestial about her. Her husband, Shem, “looked like a stereotype of the great American author, which he was.” As things progress, Foster doesn’t like that he is “just here for show, a piece of set decoration, and not a very necessary one either. This case already had a mystery man on the set, a mystery man on the phone, the mystery man that the man on the phone was bargaining for, the mystery man who was drinking and laughing with Shem Rosenkrantz upstairs. I was one too many. I felt like I had come to the party late and got seated at the wrong table,” and that he was “hired to babysit a paranoid prima donna.” And when more than one dead body is discovered, it serves only to make his assignment more complex, and much more difficult.

The author has the noir writing down pat. There is the requisite male movie star, whose butler was “bald with a horseshoe of hair around the back of his head, a pencil mustache, and a tuxedo with white gloves.” A reference to the WPA and a woman with a “tea-length skirt” place it firmly in its era. As well, nothing in these pages reflect what we today call politically correct attitudes. And when Foster is beaten up by men determined to keep him away from the case, the following morning “I had to get undressed before I could get dressed again, which only hurt a little. No more than getting gored by a bull.”  A man who keeps his word, he will not turn his back on his tasks of finding the killer and saving Chloe from herself.

As was the first book in the trilogy, the novel is very entertaining, and is recommended.  And I now have in front of me the last novel in the trilogy, Police at the Funeral, to which I am very much looking forward.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, January 2015.

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Police at the FuneralPolice at the Funeral
The Twenty-Year Death Trilogy Book 3
Ariel S. Winter
Hard Case Crime, July 2014
ISBN: 978-1-781-16795-3
Mass Market Paperback

The last of the books comprising The Twenty-Year Death Trilogy, takes place not in France, as did the first, nor in Southern California, as did the second, but in Calvert City, Maryland.  The two characters from both earlier books return here: Clotilde-ma-Fleur Rosenkrantz, a beautiful young woman who reached film stardom as Chloe Rose, and her much older, alcoholic husband, Shem, who had achieved fame as an author, later as a movie script writer.

Time has not been kind to Mr. or Mrs. Rosenkrantz:  Clotilde is now and has been for the last ten years ensconced in a private psychiatric hospital, and Shem is now washed up, and broke.  Shem returns to Maryland for the first time in 30 years following the death of Quinn Rosenkrantz, his first wife, from whom he has been divorced for 20 of those years, for the reading of her will.  Deeply in debt, Shem has traveled 3,000 miles more than anything because he is desperate for what he hopes will be the money left to him by his wife, who was from a very wealthy family, his desperation caused by his need to keep Clotilde from having to be placed in a state institution.  It had been three years since Shem had seen his and Quinn’s son, Joe, not since his high school graduation, but they of course do meet again at the office of the attorney in whose office the Will is to be read to all concerned.

The presence of the police at the funeral referenced in the title is part of an investigation into another death which follows quickly upon the scene described above.  The book is beautifully wrought, the plotting very original, and the whole a suspenseful read (more so than the two books which preceded it, in fact) that I devoured in the space of several hours.  To say more would necessitate spoilers, so I leave it to the reader to discover and explore for him or herself.  (Just to whet one’s appetite, I will only add that this was the first time I have read a book where the author makes the analogy that “killing someone was a whole lot like writing, a creative endeavor.”)

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, January 2015.