Book Review: Turn It Up! by Jen Calonita

Turn It Up!
Jen Calonita
Point, January 2018
ISBN 978-1-338-16115-1

Meeting your mother’s expectations when you’re a high school sophomore is often tough, but when your mom is the headmaster of your school and was one of the founders of a once elite a cappella group, the ante is really upped.

That’s what Lidia Sato is looking at when the school year begins. The situation is immediately complicated by her seeing her co-captain and long time best friend Sydney, kissing Griffin Mancini, the boy she’s been crushing on forever. Lidia had bought into all the encouragement her bestie had given her, but every time she was in a position to talk to Griffin, her mind went blank and words failed her.

Despite Sydney’s best efforts to explain that Griffin initiated the kiss and she was as shocked as Lidia when it happened, what her friend saw (or so she believed), was painfully different. Lidia has a very public and messy meltdown during the recruiting party for the Nightingales, the group she and Sydney are trying to bring back to glory. What she says in front of the prospects would be bad enough, but she does it again not long after and then quits the group. Granted she’s also committed to dance and a shot at some really good performance options, but the way she reacts, coupled with some rather evil pranks by the boys a cappella group, the Kingfishers, puts Sydney and the other group members behind the eight ball in terms of coming together and restoring the Nightingales to prominence.

While interactions between the girls themselves and with the guys in their rival group are decently portrayed, the immaturity and repeatedly annoying behavior by both Lidia and Sydney gets pretty old as the story goes on. I can live with unpleasant, flawed or annoying characters if the author reveals a justification for their behavior, but that doesn’t happen here and the two come across as whiny.

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, December 2017.

Book Reviews: The Guise of Another by Allen Eskens and License to Dill by Mary Ellen Hughes

The Guise of AnotherThe Guise of Another
Allen Eskens
Seventh Street Books, October 2015
ISBN: 978-1-63388-076-4
Trade Paperback

Following the success of his debut novel, The Life We Bury, author Allen Eskens has produced another winner. Intelligently constructed and almost perfectly written, this dark, dangerous and fast-paced noir thriller will be an example to study for budding writers in the genre.

The story begins with an auto accident in which a man abruptly dies on a highway in Minneapolis. Award-winning detective Alexander Rupert, facing a potentially troubling appointment with a grand jury, suddenly discovers a possible way out of his dilemma. If he can solve the mystery of the deceased James Putnam, who appeared to have fallen to earth fully formed a mere three years before, he might escape serious censure.

His case takes him to New York, and entanglement with a company engaged in government contracted black ops. He returns to Minneapolis, carrying the seeds of an insidious conspiracy. The plot is up-to-date, the action is relentless and the characters are consistent in their language and actions. While the outcomes, different for different characters, may become fairly obvious, the author is clever and fresh in his resolutions. This is an excellent novel and will be welcomed by readers of black arts, conspiracy theories, and multiple merciless murder.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, December 2015.
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.


License to DillLicense to Dill
A Pickled & Preserved Mystery #2
Mary Ellen Hughes
Berkley Prime Crime, February 2015
ISBN 978-0-425-26246-7
Mass Market Paperback

Piper Lamb fled her job at a New York state tax office and opened a shop, “Piper’s Picklings,” in upstate Cloverdale. She sells pickles, spices, and canning equipment, has met Will Burchett—a tall, blond Christmas tree farmer—and life couldn’t be better.

The town is excited about the arrival of a semi-pro Italian soccer team, which will play a tournament against an all star team from Cloverdale. It turns out the coach of the Italian team was once an exchange student at the local high school, and all the high school girls had a crush on him. All the boys envied his position as a star on the soccer team.

All these years later, he’s still a flirt, and stirs up resentment among the women and their husbands. When the Italian’s body is found in a farmer’s dill field, everyone suspects a jealous man did the deed. Piper is shocked by the murder, and her shock grows when her ex-fiance, lawyer Scott Littleton, comes to town with a surprising announcement. For fans of foodie mysteries, like Laura Childs and Diane Mott Davidson. Of course, recipes are included.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, September 2015.

Book Review: Sin, The Snapped Series Book 3 by Ketley Allison

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


Continue reading

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.

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

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.


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.


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

From the author—

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


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




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.


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!

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