Book Review: Malice by Pintip Dunn @pintipdunn @EntangledTeen @The_FFBC

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Title: Malice
Author: Pintip Dunn
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Publication date: February 4, 2020
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

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Malice
Pintip Dunn
Entangled Teen, February 2020
ISBN 978-1-64063-412-1
Hardcover

From the publisher—

What I know: a boy in my class will one day wipe out two-thirds of the population with a virus.

What I don’t know: who he is.

In a race against the clock, I not only have to figure out his identity, but I’ll have to outwit a voice from the future telling me to kill him. Because I’m starting to realize no one is telling the truth. But how can I play chess with someone who already knows the outcome of my every move? Someone so filled with malice they’ve lost all hope in humanity? Well, I’ll just have to find a way—because now they’ve drawn a target on the only boy I’ve ever loved….

Pintip Dunn has a knack for coming up with young adult science fiction stories that are interesting and creative but are not hardcore science fiction so they appeal to a wider readership that prefer scifi-lite, so to speak. That doesn’t mean they’re weak, by any means, just more accessible and I appreciate that.

The beauty of time travel is that there’s so much you can do with it, so many ways to make it the core of an intriguing tale and that’s true here. By offering a look at certain characters during different stages of their lives that haven’t happened yet, the focus can be on those characters and not so much on the setting or worldbuilding.

Alice is a perfectly normal teen or, at least, as normal as possible for a girl whose mother disappeared years ago and whose father has been emotionally distant ever since. In fact, Alice is the steady one in this family, especially in looking after her older brother, Archie, a prodigy who definitely has a few screws loose and a deep distrust of people. These two and a boy named Bandit are all crucial to the plot and, although I pegged the future creator of the global virus early on, that certainly didn’t keep me from wanting to see how everything would pan out.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2020.

About the Author

Pintip Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of young adult fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B., and received her J.D. at Yale Law School.

Her novel FORGET TOMORROW won the 2016 RWA RITA® for Best First Book, and SEIZE TODAY won the 2018 RITA for Best Young Adult Romance. Her books have been translated into four languages, and they have been nominated for the following awards: the Grand Prix del’Imaginaire; the Japanese Sakura Medal; the MASL Truman Award; the TomeSociety It list; and the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award.

Her other titles include REMEMBER YESTERDAY, THE DARKEST LIE, GIRL ON THE VERGE, STAR-CROSSED, and MALICE.

She lives with her husband and children in Maryland.

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Instagram // Goodreads

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Giveaway

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Book Review: Blood on the Chesapeake by Randy Overbeck @OverbeckRandy @WildRosePress

Blood on the Chesapeake
The Haunted Shores Mysteries #1
Randy Overbeck
The Wild Rose Press, April 2019
ISBN 978-1509223282
Trade Paperback

History teacher/coach Darrell Henshaw has taken a new job in a small town on the Chesapeake Bay. An unwanted shock comes when the first thing he sees as he approaches the high school is a naked young black man on the widows walk outside his office. No one else admits to seeing him, although, to Darrell’s dismay, there are rumors of a ghost. It’s said the ghost is that of a high school boy back in the sixties who committed suicide.

This is not Darrell’s first experience with the occult and an episode in his past proved that to ignore the sighting is the wrong thing to do. Soon the ghost begins visiting him, pleading for his help. The ghost says he was murdered and needs Darrell to prove it using clues provided to him to bring the perpetrators to justice. Darrell, with the help of a charming young woman he meets, figures he has no choice but to do as the ghost asks, especially since there are peculiar things going on in the school and in the town. He soon finds it isn’t the ghost he has to fear, but the living.

The racism of the sixties is front and center in this story, with effects that linger into the nineties when the action is set. It’s a sad story, too often true of the day–although the ghost is a twist. I found the story a bit predictable, and the big, ample breasts bouncing on practically every woman’s chest rather annoying. But if you like ghost stories, this one carries through to a satisfactory conclusion.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, July 2019.
https://carolcriggercom.sitelio.me/
Author of Five Days, Five Dead, Hereafter and Hometown Homicide.

Book Review: Crimes Past by Lauren Carr

Crimes Past
A Mac Faraday Mystery #13
Lauren Carr
Narrated by Mike Alger
Acorn Book Services, December 2018
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

It’s a bittersweet reunion for Mac Faraday when members of his former homicide squad arrive at the Spencer Inn. While it is sweet to attend the wedding of the daughter of a former colleague, it is a bitter reminder that the mother of the bride had been the victim of a double homicide on her own wedding night.

The brutal slaying weighing heavy on his mind, Mac is anxious to explore every possibility for a break in the cold case – even a suggestion from disgraced former detective Louis Gannon that one of their former colleagues was the killer. 

When the investigator is brutally slain, Mac Faraday rips open the cold case with a ruthless determination to reveal which of his friends was a cold-blooded murderer.

When Mac Faraday hosts a former colleague’s daughter’s wedding at the Spencer Inn, it’s not just because he’s being nice to Gina. For sixteen years, he’s been frustrated with his inability to solve the murder of Gina’s mother and her new husband on their wedding day, back when Mac was a homicide detective. Now, many of the same cops are gathered again and Mac hopes to ferret out the killer, most certainly one of his former colleagues.

Meanwhile, Mac’s German shepherd, Gnarly (who happens to be the mayor of Spencer) has apparently murdered one of the feral cats who lives next door and Mac has asked his brother, police chief David O’Callaghan, to get rid of the body before the crazy cat lady carries out her threats against Gnarly. It seems the woman hates Gnarly with a passion but David’s desk sergeant, Tonya, is on the case and soon sees what she believes is a murder…and the cat’s body is missing.

David’s long lost love, Hope, who happens to be in the military, has shown up with her fifteen-year-old son, the irrepressible Gabriel, in tow. Gabriel is quite sure not having a license shouldn’t stand in the way of driving a flashy Porsche and he’s surprisingly comfortable around all these former and current detectives, not so comfortable getting dressed up for a wedding.

So, there’s a lot going on in this story and, with her usual panache, Lauren Carr blends the grittiness of murder(s) with a good deal of humor, the latter revolving largely around Gnarly and David’s Belgian shepherd, Storm, who would much rather be couch potato-ing than anything involving exertion. Tonya also brings a certain levity to her determination to out a murdering fiend and Gabriel is a hoot. Still, the murders from the past are serious business and there may very well be more during this special occasion; every time I thought I had pegged the killer, Ms. Carr threw me off track and I would head off in another direction.

I’ve skipped around quite a bit in this series but that’s never kept me from loving each book I’ve read. I think it’s time I catch up on a few of the previous books and I’ll be doing audiobooks again because Mike Alger is absolutely perfect in his narration with a plethora of voices and great pacing.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2019.

Here’s the real life Gnarly!

The real-life Gnarly on his throne.

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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About the Author

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Now, Lauren has added one more hit series to her list with the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries. Set in the quaint West Virginia town of Harpers Ferry, Ice introduces Chris Matheson, a retired FBI agent, who joins forces with other law enforcement retirees to heat up those cold cases that keep them up at night.

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

​Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with the author: Website // Twitter // Facebook // Instagram

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About the Narrator

Channel 2 Meteorologist Mike Alger joined KTVN-TV in May, 1989. Prior to that Mike had worked at KNDU-TV in Washington. Mike has provided northern Nevada “Weather Coverage You Can Count On” during the 1990 President’s Day Blizzard, the drought in the mid- 1990s, the New Year’s Flood of 1997 and the historic Snowstorms of 2005.

Mike has been married for more than 30 years and has two grown children. His hobbies include golf, music, biking, tennis, scuba diving, writing. He has written and published one novel and is working on a second. He is also a narrator of several audio books, and his work can be found on Audible.com.

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(ends July 6, 2019)

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Book Review: Murder with Fried Chicken and Waffles by A.L. Herbert

Murder with Fried Chicken and Waffles
A Mahalia Watkins Soul Food Mystery #1
A.L. Herbert
Kensington, January 2018
ISBN: 978-1-4967-0502-0
Mass Market Paperback

Murder With Fried Chicken and Waffles was first released in 2015, but has been re-released this year in mass paperback form. I don’t know how I missed this book the first time around but I am glad I caught it now. The author, A.L. Herbert, has given readers a  mystery with a likable protagonist in Mahalia Watkins.

Halia, as she’s known to her friends, took a chance and opened an upscale restaurant serving soul food  in Prince George’s County Maryland. Being a life long resident of the county she wanted folks to be able to go out for a nice meal without having to drive into Washington. By all appearances, her gamble has paid off. Mahalia’s Sweet Tea is packed most days for both lunch and dinner. They come for the fried chicken and waffles, macaroni and cheese, corn casserole and airy light biscuits and stay for the banana pudding and red velvet cake. The fly in the ointment was that Mahalia had to borrow some money from one smooth talking Marcus Rand to open her restaurant. This leaves her at his beckoned call. So when Marcus comes by asking for special dinner items for his guests, no matter how inconvenient she feels she must oblige.

If only the special menu items were the only problems Marcus brought down on Mahalia’s Sweet Tea.  But sadly it isn’t. That fast talking smooth operator ended up dead on the kitchen floor of the restaurant apparently clunked on the head by one of Mahalia’s heavy duty cast iron skillets. If the body is found in the restaurant, the restaurant might be closed for days as a crime scene. And the customers! Would people still come to a place where a person was found murdered? On impulse, Mahalia and her cousin Wavonne lug the body outside and down the alley to behind the bookstore. Problem solved right? Wrong. From there the story takes off with plenty of twists and turns until Mahalia figures out who killed Marcus.

There are plenty of reasons to love this book. The protagonist, her cousin and mother are all very likable, well defined characters. The three of them make up a household that will resonate with some readers. In some families, adult children live with an aged parent to help out and for everyone to save money.  Mahalia is a strong, ambitious African American – a character mostly missing from the cozy genre. She runs a highly successful business but she hasn’t forgotten where she came from. She employs her less than reliable cousin Wavonne to help keep her on the straight and narrow. She chose to put her restaurant in her home community so the town could have something nice. Mahalia is a person of character.

The mystery – who killed Marcus, takes some interesting turns. Mahalia is perhaps a bit more vested in finding the killer than some because Wavonne acts impulsively and ends up as a suspect so Mahalia is trying to solve the case to get Wavonne off the hook. If I have any quibble at all with the book, it is that the author didn’t really give readers ample clues to solve the murder completely, but the end solution does make sense.

Cozies are often set around food establishments, but this is the first that I am aware of with soul food as the focus. I have to say, as a bit of a foodie, my mouth was watering reading the descriptions of the food. There are recipes sprinkled throughout the book. I hadn’t even finished reading the book when I tried out the cornbread recipe and it is melt in your mouth good. The fried chicken has a surprising ingredient and the banana pudding has a different twist to it from what I have made before. Both are on my try list in the near future.

Murder with Fried Chicken and Waffles is a wonderful start to a series. I know there is a second book already out, and I hope there are many more to follow.

I received this book from the publisher for review.

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

Book Review: Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman—and a Giveaway!

Wilde LakeWilde Lake
Laura Lippman
William Morrow, May 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-208345-6
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Luisa “Lu” Brant is the newly elected—and first female—state’s attorney of Howard County, Maryland, a job in which her widower father famously served. Fiercely intelligent and ambitious, she sees an opportunity to make her name by trying a mentally disturbed drifter accused of beating a woman to death in her home. It’s not the kind of case that makes headlines, but peaceful Howard county doesn’t see many homicides.

As Lu prepares for the trial, the case dredges up painful memories, reminding her small but tight-knit family of the night when her brother, AJ, saved his best friend at the cost of another man’s life. Only eighteen, AJ was cleared by a grand jury. Now, Lu wonders if the events of 1980 happened as she remembers them. What details might have been withheld from her when she was a child?

The more she learns about the case, the more questions arise. What does it mean to be a man or woman of one’s times? Why do we ask our heroes of the past to conform to the present’s standards? Is that fair? Is it right? Propelled into the past, she discovers that the legal system, the bedrock of her entire life, does not have all the answers. Lu realizes that even if she could learn the whole truth, she probably wouldn’t want to.

If I had to name just one crime fiction writer who I think is the best out there, not only at creating stories that grip me from the beginning but who also has a sure hand with words, it would have to be Laura Lippman, hands down. I first met Ms. Lippman years ago when I had my bookstore and would run into her at book conventions but I fell in booklove with her very first novel, Baltimore Blues, a few years earlier and I admire her work today even more than I did back then. That comes as no surprise because each succeeding book has been exponentially better than those that have gone before. Wilde Lake is no exception.

There are secrets in the Brant family but, since the death of Lu’s mother shortly after her birth, Lu and her brother, AJ, and their dad have made a comfortable life for themselves and Lu practically worships their father, a virtual paragon. Over the years, though, these secrets have festered beneath the surface and the day finally comes when truths begin to come out, triggered by Lu’s first case as state’s attorney for Howard County. No one could possibly have guessed that this trial of a homeless man would become so crucial to the Brants and their past.

Lu is the character who really stands out and she’s a lesson in what a Type A personality is all about. Driven all her life to be perfect, to get nothing wrong, to be like her father, she’s more than a bit cold and ambitious but she still wants to do what’s right and she’s compassionate and likeable. Her controlling nature and her focus on the present have allowed those family secrets to remain hidden for years but when some things begin to come to light, the door is wide open and Lu goes through it. Much of what she learns is devastating but getting to the truth and questioning memories is going to change lives forever.

Ms. Lippman is the author of both series and standalones and Wilde Lake is one of the latter. In a way, I’m sorry about that because I’d like to see who Lu becomes now that there have been so many changes in her life but I’ll just have to look forward to whatever this wonderful author will be bringing us next. In the meantime, Wilde Lake will go on my list of favorite books read in 2016.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2016.

 

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To enter the drawing for a hardcover
copy of Wilde Lake, leave a comment
below. Three winning
names will
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May 28
th. This drawing is open
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“Ultimately, Wilde Lake is not so much a crime novel that
rises to the level of serious literature as serious
literature that rises to the level of great crime fiction.
(Chicago Tribune)

“A heady brew of twisting tale and accelerating
introspection, Wilde Lake at once disturbs and delights, as
Lippman impels not only her characters but also her readers
to question the depth of their understanding of the past…”
(Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Book Review: The Survivors by Robert Palmer—and a Giveaway!

The SurvivorsThe Survivors
A Cal Henderson Novel #1
Robert Palmer
Seventh Street Books, October 2015
ISBN 978-1-63388-082-5
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Psychologist Cal Henderson has a successful practice in Washington, DC, and big plans for the future. But he can’t escape a terrible secret. When he was a boy, his mother murdered his father and two brothers and severely wounded Cal’s best friend, Scottie Glass. Desperate to keep the nightmare at bay, Cal has turned his back on everything that happened that night.

On the twenty-fifth anniversary of the killings, Scottie shows up at Cal’s office—edgy, paranoid, but somehow still the loveable kid he once was. Though their lives have taken very different paths, they both believe Cal’s mother couldn’t have been a murderer. She loved them too much, no matter what dark place she found herself in. They set off to dig up the real story.

Cal uncovers one shocking secret after another about his family.  The trail leads to a shady defense contractor, a scheming US Attorney, and, ultimately a billionaire with the kind of power and connections that can only be found in Washington.  But Cal is paying a price.  The memories he has avoided for so long have come flooding back, sending him into a tailspin from which he may never recover.

It’s not often that I feel the need to take issue with other reviews but this is one of those times when I feel compelled to because I disagree with some of them quite a bit. First, the use of both first and third person point of view is a very minor thing; first person is used for the bulk of the story and third only for the prologue and epilogue and the switch is not, in my opinion, out of place. (If you’re a reader who heartily dislikes prologues, that’s another issue but I contend that it makes complete sense in this particular story.)

Then there’s the notion that the writing is stilted and contains too much telling as opposed to showing, too little action and suspense, too much talking. Put simply, I just didn’t see it that way at all. Yes, there’s a good bit of talk but these men are trying to get to the bottom of a 25-year-old tragedy and that kind of investigating necessitates a lot of talking to each other and to the people they track down during their probe. By its very nature, sleuthing has to involve a lot of discussion unless it’s one lone cowboy who talks only to himself. Also, I’ve always thought that first person POV, as popular as it is these days, is somewhat limiting in that the reader can only experience what the narrator tells or shows him and some of that has to be at a distance because the narrator isn’t present during all the action. For instance, in this case, there’s a scene in which a body is being pulled out of the water. Cal wasn’t there when the body went in so of course all he can do is tell us; he can’t let us see what happened.

Finally, there’s the thought that Cal is unemotional. All I can say to that is of course he is! After all, he’s spent most of his life holding in his emotions, for good reason, so he’s not going to suddenly let loose now. If anything, he has to be even more guarded because he feels the need to look out for Scottie who is a complete mess and highly likely to get himself and Cal into serious trouble.

I do think there are some flaws in Mr. Palmer‘s debut, especially the flatness of some of the secondary characters. On the other hand, I found Cal and Scottie to be rather compelling, particularly in the vastly different ways they have coped with their terrible past. Scottie would get on anyone’s nerves and I thought Cal’s choice of profession is what allowed these two men to come together with a common goal. Their attempts to rebuild their childhood trust were as appealing to me as the mystery itself. And just incidentally, that mystery is full of twists and turns and not everything is resolved. I don’t mean that we’re left with a cliffhanger, just that not everything gets tied up in pretty little bows and that’s OK with me. I’ll be looking forward to seeing more of Cal and perhaps some of the other characters.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2015.

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To enter the drawing for a print
copy of The Survivors by Robert
Palmer, leave a comment below.
Two winning names will be drawn
Thursday evening, October 22nd. One
will receive an advance reading copy
and one will receive a finished copy.
This drawing is open to residents
of the US and Canada.

Book Review: Neverwas by Kelly Moore, Tucker Reed and Larkin Reed

NeverwasNeverwas
Book II of the Amber House Trilogy
Kelly Moore, Tucker Reed & Larkin Reed
Arthur A. Levine Books, January 2014
ISBN 978-0-545-43418-8
Hardcover

For those in search of “something different”, this is the trilogy for you. Neverwas: Book II of the Amber House Trilogy is a mixed-up, mashed-up composite of time travel, ghost story and “what if”…..in the most phenomenal way possible.

As her new home, Amber House does not give Sarah the comforting vibe she’d grown accustomed to when visiting the estate-in-the-family-since-the-1600s. Contrarily, now she feels assaulted by the past, tugged by history. The American Confederation of States, using Sarah’s wise words is, “…..a country that still justified “separate but equal” facilities for the races. Not that “separate” had ever actually been “equal”.”

As an Astorian, Sarah knows all people are equal; she has always been free to eradicate ignorance. This sweetly stubborn sixteen-year-old will not pretend that white males are superior to white females and all non-whites. She will be anti-Nazi whether or not she’s “in public” and she certainly won’t give up her pursuit of Jackson just because his skin is darker than hers. He may act like a hard, serious young man now with his secret meetings and mysterious yellow handkerchiefs; but she knows the boy she admires and adores is still there. More importantly, he is the only one that can help her fix the past to save the present.

Social issues, subtly addressed, seep into the reader’s subconscious…..sneaking up later, seemingly from nothing at all……much like the echoes appear to Sarah as she opens herself to the past. Autism affects Sarah’s young brother Sammy as well as her aunt, Maggie. Deplorable acts against women and non-Caucasians are reminiscent of the happenings in southern states in the 1960s. Sadly, some still occur today. This book incites emotions. Reigning that empathy is as easy as stopping the ripples from a stone tossed into a still pond.

For me, the absolute brilliance of this book lies in the clever, sneaky way that urges….compels…the reader’s brain to consider concepts previously not pondered. On the surface, I found myself immersed and thoroughly enjoying an entertaining, captivating, unique story packed with intriguing characters, hidden agendas and secrets tucked deeply away. On the other hand, I often found myself wondering, what if……

Aside: Could the mention of ley lines be a nod to Maggie Stiefvater’s enchanting Raven Cycle?

Reviewed by jv poore, May 2015.