Book Review: Judgment of Murder by C.S. Challinor

Judgment of Murder
A Rex Graves Mystery #8
C.S. Challinor
Midnight Ink, November 2016
ISBN 978-0-7387-5009-5
Trade paperback

For a mystery, this British entry into the field is so low key that I think even I might have a more exciting life. Scottish barrister Rex Graves’ old mentor, Lord Murgatroyd–also known as Judge Murder, has passed away. Phoebe, his daughter, thinks he may have been murdered, although the evidence is flimsy. An unlocked window? A not very valuable stamp album gone missing? None of it seems very convincing, but Rex travels from Edinburgh to Canterbury upon her invitation to see what he makes of the situation.

Not much, as it turns out. But he makes a few phone calls when he gets back to Edinburgh, and oddly enough, is put in danger by a man the judge had put in prison, but who has been released.

Meanwhile, a schoolgirl from the area has been kidnapped and is feared dead. It happened not far from the judge’s house, and is a subplot that runs through the story. Actually, it’s the most interesting part, as the characters in this story did not intrigue me, nor were they particularly sympathetic. The most interesting is Rex’s pal Alistair, who also has the most action. Turns out the judge’s daughter is a tippler and a would-be man eater, not that that sort of thing works on a man like Rex.

The dialogue seemed mundane to me, and old-fashioned in the extreme for people who carry mobile phones and drive a Jaguar, but it does get the job done. In the climax, all the ends are tied, the plot holes explained, and everyone gets their due.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, April 2018.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder, Four Furlongs and Hometown Homicide.

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Book Review: The Price of Vengeance by James R. Scarantino

The Price of Vengeance
A Denise Aragon Novel #3
James R. Scarantino
Midnight Ink, February 2018
ISBN 978-0-7387-5067-5
Trade Paperback

In this third book in the Denise Aragon series, the tough-as-nails Santa Fe police detective runs up against an unscrupulous United States Senator Sam Baca Valles. His family is being held hostage by Peter Cervantes, a contractor who blames the senator for the death of his two sons, by supporting political schemes.  Cervantes believes Valles is one of those people who make decisions other people pay for while he lives a comfortable life at a safe distance. Aragon had dinner with Cervantes and was overheard saying “take him out,” regarding the senator. She meant that Valles should be ousted in the next election, but that comment brought her to the attention of the FBI. The federal agents believe she is withholding information about Cervantes, and she is considered an accomplice to the kidnapping.

Aragon’s dislike of the senator goes back twenty years.  She knew Valles and his wife Patricia in college—Valles raped her friend who died shortly thereafter in a suspicious hiking accident. She has always blamed him for her death.

Valles, an opportunist who never misses a chance to make himself look good, has gathered a team around him to manipulate the kidnapping to fashion himself as a hero. He plans to rush to the house in an effort to save his family, only to be turned back. He considers having an FBI agent shoot him to add veracity to his effort, while leaving his wife and two sons to the kidnapper.

While Aragon is on another case, hunting for the killer of a Boy Scout, she discovers a meth lab, and she is seriously hurt while arresting the killers—she has no feeling in her legs. When she discovers that the FBI considers her a suspect in the Valles case, she starts her own investigation from her hospital bed.

The Santa Fe setting of this series is spectacular and is the perfect backdrop for the tough detective. Readers who enjoy a main character with nerves of steel and hidden depths, like J.D. Robb’s Eve Dallas or Ann Cleeve’s Vera Stanhope, should meet up with Denise Aragon.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, May 2018.

Book Review: The Traitor’s Game by Jennifer A. Nielsen

The Traitor’s Game
The Traitor’s Game, Book One
Jennifer A. Nielsen
Scholastic Press, February 2018
ISBN 978-1-338-04537-6
Hardcover

Abruptly abandoning her beloved Lava Fields, based solely on a demand from her paternal parental unit, is aggravating. The fact that it’s been three years and no reason was given for the reunion, is infuriating. When Kestra’s security carriage is attacked on the journey home, she flips from frustrated to fiercely furious, forgetting all about fear.

Certainly, the people of Antora have a healthy respect for that anger. After all, her father is second in command to Lord Endrick. Those who actually know the scrappy, skilled teen are more realistically wary of her wrath. The band of rebels, however, has too much at stake and too pat a plan to be thwarted.

Kestra is kidnapped. Her guard and governess held as collateral.

One captor poses as her lady-in-waiting, the other her driver and Kestra is taken into Highwyn and tasked with finding the Olden Blade to overthrow evil Lord Endrick. No one actually knows that the magic dagger exists. If it does, and she is able to locate it; then she will have to determine how much, if any, of the legend is true. This seemingly insurmountable problem pales when Kestra realizes the reason for her return.

She is to be wed. Groom selected, arrangements made, the ceremony…stupidly soon. She has no say in the matter.

With several sticky situations to solve, and only a small window of time, the story flies faster than Lord Endrick’s condors. Along the way, secrets are revealed. Kestra begins to believe that she fell in love with the idea of her country, without ever knowing the realities of her world. Burdened by new knowledge, the difference between enemies and innocents becomes blurry, but she must choose someone to trust.

Kestra may be one of my favorite characters of all time. She is courageous, bold beyond belief and also positively petulant, with a tendency for tantrums. The perfect protagonist for this adventurous, action-packed fantasy. Mixed with a bit of magic, a completely captivating saga is created; a stellar start to a tempting trilogy (I’m guessing, here).

Reviewed by jv poore, February 2018.

Book Review: Flux by D. T. Dyllin

Author: D.T. Dyllin
Narrator: Ashley Holt
Length: 6 hours 59 minutes
Series: Starblind, Book 3
Publisher: Tik Tok Press
Released: Dec. 20, 2017
Genre: Romantic Science Fiction

Taken captive, experimented on, and rescued by a mysterious bounty hunter…all things Zula, The Pittsburgh’s second-in command, didn’t have on her to-do list. She isn’t worried though. After all, as a Galvraron, she has her superior logic to rely on. At least she did….

Suddenly Zula finds her cognitive skills compromised by a device that puts her emotions in control, turning her entire world upside down. Add in the fact that she’s forced to spend time with a man from her past, and soon Zula finds herself wondering: How does one fight adversaries such as love and lust? And does she really want to?

 

 

D.T. Dyllin is a bestselling author who writes paranormal, sci-fi, and contemporary romance. Basically, anything with a love story is her kryptonite. Her obsession with affairs-of-the-heart is what first drove her to begin twisting her own tales of scorching romance.

D.T. was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Black & Gold for life, baby!) She now lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with her husband, and two spoiled German Shepherds.

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Narrator Bio

Former NPR PBS FM radio host/announcer in a major media market, with a warm mezzo female voice. I have a background in opera and can present in English, Italian, German, French, Latin. With a background in the performing arts and opera, I can sing as well as do some accents.

Home includes a husband shaped person, 2 cats, volunteerism and an active online gaming presence.
No audiobook genre is taboo, which makes for very interesting dinner table discussion.

Member, Audio Producers Association

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Zula is the third character to be the focus of a book in the Starblind series and I like her and her story best of all. Zula is kind of a female version of Mr. Spock, coming from a race that dismisses emotions, always behaving with logic. Having been kidnapped by a bounty hunter, she becomes the subject of experimentation culminating with an implant that causes her to feel for the first time in her life.

This juxtaposition of logic and emotion forms the basis of a funny, alarming, raucous story and the conflict is most obvious when Zula begins to fall for Kade, something that would not, could not have happened when she had total control of her mind and heart. Will she still have these feelings for him once the implant is removed? I’m not telling 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2018.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. This tour is being sponsored by Spectrum Audiobooks. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

Q&A with Narrator Ashley Holt
  • Do you read reviews for your audiobooks?
    • Yes, and my husband wishes I wouldn’t. 😉 People either love me or hate me. Years ago, an actor friend once told me that you shouldn’t read reviews, because you might start to change your style based on what you read. Wise words, I think.
  • If so, which ones stand out to you most, positive or negative?
    • When people get what I’m trying to do with the character. Someone said about Starblind that they “loved Jane’s sass and snark”. Made my day! Um, negative? Do we really have to go there? I’ve had someone say I never should have been chosen for that book. Another time I had someone get angry at me because the author anthropomorphized animals. That just killed me, because I LOVED voicing those kittens. They were all boy cats, and I could have done it all day!
  • What type of the review comments do you find most constructive?
    • Things like “she spoke too quickly”. That means the listener isn’t getting everything I say! Also I found out that a lot of people listen at 1.5x speed. Again thats the radio voice creeping in. Radio is fast, because you have to hit certain marks at exactly the right time.
  • Who is your “dream author” that you would like to record for?
    • Not dream author as much as dream GENRE. LitRPG is fantastic. It combines many of my favorite things. (I was an onlinegamer long before women were accepted in that world)
  • If you could narrate one book from your youth what would it be and why?
    • Dickens, Dickens, Dickens.
  • What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?
    • Here have your dope slap.
  • What bits of advice would you give to aspiring audiobook narrators?
    • Be patient, don’t be afraid to ask for advice, be very careful about who you hire as a coach.
  • What’s next for you?
    • I am currently working on: Book 4 of the Starblind series!!!A revision of a BDSM Best Seller I did a year ago.A fictional history of Maria Luisa of Spain, wife to Leopold II, Holy Roman EmperorA university textbook about an American woman who settled in Palestine in the 19th centuryMain Street, by Sinclair Lewis (my first classic I am SO EXCITED)A firefighter romance. I jokingly call it book 3 of the triumvirate. Because I have already done the sports romance (my life was VERY meta during that book) and the cop romance.2 very dystopian novels, one by an Australian author that is BRILLIANT. The second one is by an Italian author, and I haven’t gotten too far into it, but the premise is great and the translation is excellent.An Encyclopedia of musical terms.
  • Bonus question: Any funny anecdotes from inside the recording studio?
    • Not so much from the studio, but its still funny. For a while, I kept getting sent auditions/books with lesbian lead characters. I was the go-to apparently. Coach says its the resonance in my voice. I did 19 short books about a lesbian dominiatrix, in addition to a couple of other full length books. After a while, my husband started to get shall we say, CONCERNED, which just cracked me up.
    • Mostly the in studio stuff are the “derps” we have. In the narrators group on Facebook, we have threads of the day where we post phrases that are tripping us up. Those can get pretty funny.

Giveaway

Starblind Series Giveaway: Amazon Echo Dot
https://js.gleam.io/e.js

Starblind, Book 1

Feb. 6th:

Dab of Darkness Audiobook Reviews

The Book Junkie Reads . . .

T’s Stuff

Feb. 7th:

Audiobook Romance

Jazzy Book Reviews

Feb. 8th:

Buried Under Books

Feb. 9th:

Notes from ‘Round the Bend

La libreria di Beppe

Feb. 10th:

Lilly’s Book World

Haddie’s Haven

Feb. 11th:

Smada’s Book Smack

Loves Great Reads

Feb. 12th:

The Book Addict’s Reviews

Parallax, Book 2

Feb. 13th:

Dab of Darkness Audiobook Reviews

The Book Junkie Reads . . .

Feb. 14th:

Audiobook Romance

T’s Stuff

Feb. 15th:

Lilly’s Book World

Jazzy Book Reviews

Feb. 16th:

Notes from ‘Round the Bend

La libreria di Beppe

Feb. 17th:

Buried Under Books

Loves Great Reads

Feb. 18th:

Smada’s Book Smack

Haddie’s Haven

Feb. 19th:

The Book Addict’s Reviews

Flux, Book 3

Feb. 20th:

Dab of Darkness Audiobook Reviews

The Book Junkie Reads . . .

Feb. 21st:

Audiobook Romance

Feb. 22nd:

Up ‘Til Dawn Book Blog

T’s Stuff

Feb. 23rd:

Notes from ‘Round the Bend

Feb. 24th:

Lilly’s Book World

Haddie’s Haven

Jazzy Book Reviews

Loves Great Reads

Feb. 25th:

Buried Under Books

Feb. 26th:

The Book Addict’s Reviews

Book Review: Fools’ River by Timothy Hallinan

Fools’ River
A Poke Rafferty Thriller #8
Timothy Hallinan
Soho Crime, November 2017
ISBN: 978-1-61695-750-6
Hardcover

The author writes in an afterword: “I had a vague idea when I started writing Fools’ River that it might be fun to bring together three or four simultaneous stories and see whether I could tell them all in a very compressed span…”  And so he did, relating several threads within 36 hours.

So we begin with Edward, the leading man in a play with Miaow, Poke Rafferty’s adopted daughter, begging Poke to find his father who is missing for 12 days; the travail of the father, one of a series of men lured by sex and imprisoned while his capturers milk bank accounts and credit cards; the life and times of Lutanh, a boy-girl, which permits descriptions of the seedier side of Thailand and its sex-obsessed trade; then there is Rose, former bar girl, married to Poke for seven years and now bearing his child in a difficult pregnancy, and mother of Miaow; and lastly Poke’s constant worry about Rose, while attempting to find Edward’s father.

The descriptions of the corruption of the Bangkok police is penetrating as are observations of the sex establishments: the Cherry Girls, the bars and of the farangs chasing after them.   Each of the sub-plots is fast-paced and absorbing and brings the reader along to a thrilling finish.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, November 2017.

Book Review: Disappeared by Francisco X. Stork

Disappeared
Francisco X. Stork
Arthur A. Levine Books, October 2017
ISBN 978-0-545-94447-2
Hardcover

Existence in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico requires a combination of courage, vigilance and restraint.  The typical work-day commute equals exposure to potential harassment and harm.  Truly dangerous, totally unavoidable.  Students don’t have the luxury of focusing on academics or sports.  Families need financial support.

Emiliano attends his high school classes and participates on his soccer team, but he focuses on family and ‘his’ Jiparis.  Intelligent, innovative and driven, Emiliano creates a small business of collecting hand-made folk art from his pseudo-Mexican-Boy Scouts, which he sells to small shops. The Jiparis’ families receive the bulk of proceeds, of course, but Emiliano’s cut helps at home and his business has been noticed.

A journalist with El Sol, Emiliano’s sister writes a weekly column about the city’s missing girls.  Sara had shared her own story of loss, writing of the day her best friend was kidnapped.  Friends and family members of other missing girls responded to her article, and Sara was assigned a weekly column.  After reporting progress, Sara was stunned when she was ordered to drop the investigation and the article.

Emiliano becomes acquainted with several of the city’s successful businessmen and his views seem to shift.  Hard work is nothing without the willingness to get “a little dirty”.  A person can only truly move up, in this world, when illegal activity is going down.  Clearly, everyone is doing it; but it takes Emiliano time to realize how closely it is all connected.

Mr. Stork deftly displays the complexities of life in Mexico, even as he highlights the hope, strength, determination and compassion in the people that call it home.  Disappeared is a fictional story about Mexico’s missing girls, but the fact is, hundreds of Mexican women do disappear in this border city every year.

Reviewed by jv poore, September 2017.

Book Reviews: Ruff-Housed by Susan J. Kroupa and KIDNAP.org by Peg Herring

Ruff-Housed
A Doodlebugged Mystery #5
Susan J. Kroupa
Laurel Fork Press, March 2017
ISBN 978-0-9985700-0-6
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Sit. Stay. Be Polite with Strangers. What could be easier? That’s what Doodle thinks when Molly signs him up to take the Canine Good Citizen Test at the annual DogDays Fair. Compared to the certifications he has to pass for his job as a bed-bug sniffer dog for the “boss,” Molly’s father, this should be simple. But the test turns out to be no walk (or sit) in the park. Did he miss the memo about the explosions? And the stolen pets? While Molly and her friends investigate, another dog disappears, with repercussions that threaten the bonds of an entire family. Throw in a bullying neighbor and a chase across a squirrel-infested park near the White House, and Doodle begins to wonder if he and Molly have bitten off more than they can chew.

This mystery series is a bit of a hybrid. Aimed at children with its young sleuth, it can also appeal to adult readers who enjoy a decent puzzle, a curious and intelligent tween and a delightful dog. That dog, Doodle, actually narrates the story so it’s all from a doggy point of view, an approach that will remind fans of the Chet and Bernie series by Spencer Quinn although this is more mildmannered, not as rambunctious.

Doodle works with Molly’s dad as a bedbug sniffer but, this time, Molly has entered him in a Good Citizen trial which should be a piece of cake for this smart dog. Besides his bedbug sniffing prowess, advancing through the Canine Good Citizen system could certify him as a therapy dog for rest homes which would be a really nice thing to do. Unfortunately, there’s an explosion of sorts at the test and that naturally gets everyone all riled up. Before it’s all said and done, Molly and Doodle, along with her friend, Grady, and his dog, Snippet, will get involved in all sorts of adventures including dognapping, lonely children, fanatic animal activists—you name it—and it’s all told by the funny and loveable Doodle. Anyone looking for an entertaining, fluffy (no pun intended) read will like Ruff-Housed.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2017.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

KIDNAP.org
Peg Herring
Peg Herring, April 2017
ISBN 978-1-944502-07-2
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Robin Parsons is in the middle of a very bad day when a neighbor calls to ask for her help. The socially inept Carter “accidentally” kidnapped a county official, and he doesn’t know what to do with the guy who is, Carter admits, “pretty mad” about it.

The man is a crook who cheated Carter’s dying mother, and when she hears the story, Robin is furious. What can she do to right the wrong and at the same time keep Carter out of prison? A plan comes to mind—a way to make the man admit he’s sleazy and agree to make amends. It’s weird, but it’s also satisfying.

So begins a secret quest for justice, paybacks for little guys who’ve been cheated, lied to, pushed around, and otherwise bamboozled by those with power and arrogance—those who say to their victims, “Life isn’t fair. Deal with it.”

Robin deals—in a (sort of) non-violent, proactive process they call KIDNAP.org.

Along the way she picks up a following, but it’s definitely not a gang of superheroes. Odd to the point of weirdness, the KIDNAP.org crew bonds as they take on the bullies of the world and work to right the wrongs done to them and others.

Though Robin’s “gang” is always just a step ahead of disaster, she can’t quit. And if she’s only a half-step ahead of the private investigator determined to track her down, a half-step will have to do.

Most of us have experienced those times when we’re at the mercy of others whether they be bureaucrats, petty bosses, officious academics, you name it. What those people inflict upon our sensibilities is 100% exacerbated by the annoyance and frustration of not being able to fight back so wouldn’t it be great if you could fight back or, better yet, get someone else to do it for you?

This is where Robin Parsons steps in, mainly because she wants to help a friend (keep him out of jail) and also get a little revenge for him; KIDNAP.org is born and, before too long, Robin picks up a few helpers, a “crew” if you will and there’s no shortage of cases for them to take on. It’s just a little tough to stay out of trouble but, my goodness, the results of their activities can be most satisfying.

We’re a group of citizens that has had it with crooks like you.

Too bad Robin and her cohorts are themselves committing crimes (not very proficiently) and, by the way, there’s a P.I. hot on Robin’s trail.

Peg Herring has a plethora of books and I have yet to find one I didn’t like, especially because, in some of them, she has an irreverent sense of humor but she can take a deeper look at the vicissitudes of life and has a sure hand at crafting a mystery. Now, technically, KIDNAP.org is a caper (think “Oceans 11”) rather than a mystery but it’s crime fiction nevertheless and I love the premise, sort of like the TV show “Leverage”. Yes, I admit it, I’ve had my moments when I might have hired KIDNAP.org myself 😉 Since I’ll probably never do such a thing, I’ll have to content myself with waiting for Ms. Herring‘s next book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2017.