Book Review: No Saints in Kansas by Amy Brashear

No Saints in Kansas
Amy Brashear
Soho Teen, November 2017
ISBN 978-1-61695-683-7

In your debut novel, do you dream of going up against somebody like Truman Capote and his seminal novel, In Cold Blood? I don’t think so. I also don’t think you take your story to a Young Adult level and tell the story through the eyes of a deeply distressed teen aged girl who is a relative newcomer to a small Kansas town named Holcomb.Well, author Amy Brashear has done exactly that in her stunning debut novel. Through the persistent and sometimes blurry eyes of Carly Fleming, a horrible multiple murder of a farmer family near the town upends many of the town’s long-time relationships. The principal player in the novel is Carly, relative newcomer to Holcomb, transferring with her criminal defense attorney father from the big city of Manhattan, NY.

Carly’s transition to small town life is not without trouble and as she proceeds into the mid-levels of high school, things become less placid. She has few friends, her brother has problems with his athletics, and Carly’s persistent nosiness is becoming a hindrance.

And then, the multiple murders happen. Carly’s inquisitive nature irks the local sheriff, leads her into multiple fraught situations, attracts and repels her classmates and drives her family nuts.

Carly is a very real rural teen who jumps off the page almost immediately. The author, probably drawing on her own teen experiences, has almost perfectly created a charming, irritating, typical teen-aged girl on the verge of womanhood who will persist in her attempts to solve the crime and live through her father’s experience as the hated defense attorney for a killer.

The atmosphere is true and relevant, Carly’s language and that of her friends and high school adversaries is real and the shifting reactions of the community as the search for a killer and the resulting trial is also real. This is a fine young adult novel that will appeal to a wider adult audience. It is true, there are no saints in Kansas.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, March 2018.
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

A Passel of Teeny Reviews, Part 4

Once again, big surprise, I find myself with
an overload of books read but not yet reviewed
so I think it’s time for a roundup or two…

Unsub #1
Meg Gardiner
Dutton, June 2017
ISBN 978-1-101-98552-6

If you’re ever in the mood for a nail-biting, gut-wrenching tale of police work, this is it. Detective Caitlin Hendrix comes very close to her own kind of obsession that plays like a counterpoint to the unsub’s sick and deadly obsession and, at times, it’s a little difficult to tell them apart. I don’t mean that literally—on the page, of course you know who is who—but the emotional turmoil that each feels has a sort of certain similarity and you can’t help wondering just how much the killer is affecting her, perhaps even twisting her mind, not to mention the agitation stemming from her own baggage. This unsub is pretty well terrifying and Ms. Gardiner had me flying through the pages.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2018.


Poor Things
Daniel Barnett
CreateSpace, June 2016
ISBN 978-1533613080
Trade Paperback

Are you ready for some creepy vibes of the horror variety? From the opening scene of a deer dying on the road, I had a sense of what the title might refer to in a vague sort of way but I wasn’t prepared for how much I would like these characters, especially Joel and a new friend, Ash, a tomboy with an inner strength and a no-nonsense attitude. A high school superjock, Joel is typically obnoxious and a bit of a bully towards his kid brother but his life changes in an instant. He’s naturally full of anger and resentment but a kernel of compassion is there. All he can really hope for is to find acceptance for his new circumstances and, just maybe, a little happiness.

Too bad there’s something evil beginning to stir, maybe the end of the world…

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2018.


Renting Silence
A Roaring Twenties Mystery #3
Mary Miley
Severn House, December 2016
ISBN 978-0-7278-8653-8

Jessie Beckett isn’t really a private investigator but she seems to have a knack for it so, when Mary Pickford asks her to look into a starlet’s death, she agrees, having no idea where her search for the truth will take her. Vaudeville’s colorful past, blackmail, an impending death sentence…all come into play but will these varying pieces lead Jessie to Lila Walker’s real murderer before Ruby Glynn hangs?

The mystery here is topnotch but it’s Ms. Miley‘s evocation of Hollywood in its early days that’s really the star of the show, pun intended. Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Myrna Loy, Zeppo Marx,  even Rin Tin Tin fill the pages with so much history and fun it’s easy to become mesmerized. I thoroughly enjoyed this episode in Jessie’s life and will be staring the next book, Murder in Disguise, as soon as I can.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2018.


Resurrection Mall
A Penns River Crime Novel #3
Dana King
Down & Out Books,
ISBN 978-1-943402-65-6
Trade Paperback

A town that’s down on its luck, economically speaking, is ripe for drug trade and mob activity along with a rise in petty crime and that’s what’s happened to Penns River, leading to corruption on multiple fronts and a police department that’s sorely tested. The “Resurrection Mall” of the book’s title actually is a shopping mall, one that’s being refurbished by a minister trying to help the community or so he says.

Doc Dougherty, the quintessential cop we all want on our side in a crunch, still goes home for Sunday dinner because that’s the kind of guy he is, rooted in family and the truly important things in life. Police work in Penns River is generally not exactly unusual but this time it most certainly is, beginning with the mass murders of five top level members of the drug trade.

Resurrection Mall is a little more dismal than I usually like but Mr. King‘s elegant writing, his plot development and his characters (who are refreshingly normal) all kept me going because I became invested in this Rust Belt community and in Doc. There are two earlier books and I think I’m going to have to check them out.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2018.


Crimson Earth
Modi Series #2
Anna Soliveres
Anna Soliveres, December 2015
ISBN 978-0-9960149-3-9
Trade Paperback

Aeva is a most unusual girl, even in her world that’s so different from our own, and is currently passing as the missing Queen Violet. Aeva is also right in the midst of the fight against a man who is obsessed with power, no matter what he has to do to obtain it and Aeva’s people look to her intelligence and strength to protect and lead them in this time of crisis. To do that, this remarkable young woman has become the strong, self-reliant heroine she was destined to be.

Crimson Earth is the sequel to Violet Storm which I read and enjoyed more than three years ago ( I didn’t feel quite the same connection to this second installment but I blame myself for not re-reading the first book before getting into this one and I really do recommend reading them in order to get the full effect of a really well-conceived dystopian tale.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2018.

Book Review: The Sham by Ellen Allen

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Title: The Sham
Author: Ellen Allen
Publication Date: September 7, 2014
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Mature Young Adult

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Book Reviews: Hunting Shadows by Charles Todd and Reaper’s Legacy by Tim Lebbon

Hunting ShadowsHunting Shadows
An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery #16
Charles Todd
William Morrow, January 2014
ISBN 978-0-06-223718-7

Hunting Shadows by Charles Todd is yet another thrilling historical mystery in the Inspector Ian Rutledge series.

Charles Todd is actually a mother-son writing team and I was fortunate enough to hear the mother part of the team talk about their writing process at a Malice Domestic a couple of years ago. Mother and son live in different states, so this is a fascinating collaboration of two gifted writers.

Hunting Shadows is well-written and equally well researched. The novel takes place in 1920s England, where Inspector Ian Rutledge, haunted by his experience in World War I, is called to Cambridgeshire to solve a double murder. The local police are puzzled by a phantom killer and it is up to Rutledge to find and bring the murderer to justice.

Todd brings the terrors of the trenches alive. The voice of Rutledge’s killed friend Hamish is buried deep in his subconscious, commenting on the case and pointing him in different directions. Other characters in this novel are equally tormented by their war experiences.

Apart from the novel’s well-rounded characters, I especially liked the setting. There is the continuous underlying danger of the Fen country’s fog and marshes. Throughout the novel, I felt as if I was walking around the small town of Ely along with Rutledge, questioning witnesses, driving in his motor car and trying to make sense of a world that had just been shaken to its core by a World War.

For anyone who enjoys historical mysteries, this is another gem that should not be missed.

Reviewed by Anika Abbate, April 2014.




Reaper's LegacyReaper’s Legacy
Toxic City Book Two
Tim Lebbon
Pyr, April 2013
ISBN 978-1-61614-767-9

There are so many things I love about this story. First are the characters, which should always be the heart of a good book. Here we have two basic main characters, Lucy-Anne and Jack. They are part of a small group of teens who have snuck into London, a city that has been closed off from the rest of the world for a few years due to a contagion that was released within it. This contagion has killed many but for some it has given them advanced psychic abilities.

Lucy-Anne has come to London in search of her brother while Jack has come to find his family, only to learn that his father has developed a psychic ability to kill. This is so extraordinary that he is hunted by the government and his sister and mother are being held prisoner by that same government. While Jack seeks to save his family, he finds that he is also affected by the contagion that was released, while his close friends were not. He struggles with the changes within him and to keep his humanity in tact while protecting those he cares about. His gifts are extraordinary and have been bestowed upon him directly by a woman known as Nomad.

On the other hand, Lucy-Anne was born with certain gifts and coming to London may have enhanced them or maybe has given her the freedom of trusting those gifts. Either way, she splits from Jack and his group, joins with a boy called Rook, and together they search for her brother.

The world that Tim Lebbon has created is both fascinating and original. I don’t want to give away too many details, but I like the fact that in this genre of “Armageddon fiction” he has created a scenario where the battle is being fought on a smaller scale which makes it more manageable and relatable to the reader than most. His details are fantastic, at times wondrous or horrifying, depending on the circumstances and both main characters struggle to achieve their goals, knowing that they might not like what they find either within others or themselves.

It is clear that both are tied to either saving or ending the city, both have links to the mysterious Nomad and while now separated, belong together to fight their battles.

The only complaint I have about Reaper’s Legacy is the ending. Like many books in this genre, the book ends mid-story, to be picked up in the next book. I guess I’m old-fashioned but I prefer my books to have a complete, more satisfying ending while hoping and expecting the story to continue. This quibble is small and probably dated, but it won’t stop me from reading the next book in this series and I suppose that’s the point.

Reaper’s Legacy is a good book that is well worth the read.

Reviewed by Erin Farwell, April 2014.
Author of Shadowlands.

Book Review: Uncovering Cobbogoth by Hannah L. Clark

Earlier this month, I was supposed to be a host
for the Uncovering Cobbogoth blog tour but, as
sometimes happens, real life got in the way and
I had to beg off due to illness. Here, then, is my
belated review with apologies to the author,
Hannah L. Clark, and the tour organizer,
Nereyda Gonzalez at YA Bound Book Tours.



Uncovering CobbogothUncovering Cobbogoth
Cobbogoth #1
Hannah L. Clark
Cedar Fort Publishing, May 2014
ISBN 978-1462114269
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Norah Lukens needs to uncover the truth about the fabled lost city of Cobbogoth. After her archaeologist uncle’s murder, Norah is asked to translate his old research journal for evidence and discovers that his murder was a cover-up for something far more sinister.

When she turns to neighbor and only friend James Riley for help, she realizes that not only is their bitter-sweet past haunting her every step, but James is keeping dangerous secrets. Can Norah discover what they are before its too late to share her own.


After months away at boarding school, Norah is returning home to her uncle, the only family she has. This is not an easy homecoming though, because of the strain between her and her best friend, James, but even that awkwardness pales when Norah and James find the police at her home. Why would anyone want to kill an archaeologist? Could his government work have something to do with it? And why is the police detective so eager to have her translate a journal written in a secret code without having an official cryptographer look at it?

These are only a few of the questions that arise and it soon becomes very obvious that much more is at stake than just identifying a murderer. Uncle Jack has always been involved with proving the reality of myths and legends and, this time, he may have gone too far. Unfortunately, Norah and James find themselves at the center of a fable gone rather mad. Fantastical creatures that are both awe-inspiring and frightening, loss of memory, powers that Norah never dreamed she had, a crystal city in the caves of Iceland, secrets that have lasted for millenia, all converge to turn this girl’s life topsy-turvy  while she’s on the run from the law and from what may or may not be gods and demons…or perhaps they’re all just hallucinations.

Uncovering Cobbogoth is an intriguing blend of mystery and fantasy with a heavy dose of mythology and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Of particular appeal to me is that the focal point of these myths is Iceland, a country few authors choose as a setting, yet these are not your usual Norse legends. Ms. Clark’s real strength lies in her worldbuilding, down to the details of certain stones and the personalities of the characters both mortal and immortal, and I could envision everything that was happening in Norah’s quest to find the truth. She herself is almost larger than life and I connected with her and with James on several levels.

The pacing of the story is a little slow in the beginning but picks up before too long and, near the end, is close to breakneck. There’s a sort of cliffhanger that isn’t *quite* a cliffhanger as you might expect and the author could easily have a choice facing her; a sequel would fit very nicely but it would also be possible to have the tale end here. After rummaging around on Ms. Clark’s blog, I’m happy to say that she refers to the Cobbogoth series and mentions working on the second book, so I think we’ll be seeing more of Norah. This reader is very happy about that 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2014.



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About the Author


Hannah  L. ClarkHannah L. Clark is the author of the YA fantasy-adventure Uncovering Cobbogoth. It is the first book in a planned 7 book series. It was released by Cedar Fort Publishing on May 13, 2014.

Hannah lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with her husband and son.


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Book Review: The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher

The Killing WoodsThe Killing Woods
Lucy Christopher
Chicken House, January 2014
ISBN 978-0-545-46100-9

What if you were to see your father walking out of the woods carrying the body of a popular girl from your high school? This is the opening scene of The Killing Woods. It grabbed my attention from the first page, and it was easy to keep reading. It is a dark book, more so than anything I will reveal here. It is not a book for everyone.

This was my first Lucy Christopher book, her third YA novel (Stolen and Flyaway). She chose an interesting style to write it in, alternating perspective between the book’s two main characters: sixteen year old Emily, whose father is arrested for the murder and Damon, the boyfriend of the dead girl. But The Killing Woods is predominantly Emily’s story, as she struggles to discover and understand the events of that night, including her father’s PTSD.

The mystery of what really happened that night is revealed gradually, building to a surprising conclusion. Since it is a mystery thriller, I want to be careful not to reveal too much of the plot. I will say that I thought for a while that I had it figured out, but I was happy to be wrong.

The writing is lovely at times, in particular the descriptions of Darkwood, where much of the novel occurs. The woods are as much a character here as Emily and Damon.

The Killing Woods pushes the adult-content limits for a YA audience and some teens or parents may find it inappropriate for this age group. I was surprised by how little attention is paid to the dead girl’s character. I definitely wanted to know more about her. I think the novel would have been even better if it had been told from a third perspective, that of the dead girl.

Still, it was an engaging read and I read the book quite quickly.

Reviewed by Constance Reader, December 2013.

Book Review: Out of the Black Land by Kerry Greenwood

Out of the Black LandOut of the Black Land
Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen Press, February 2013
ISBN: 978-1-464-20038-0
Also available in trade paperback

Ancient Egypt; the land of power, luxury and intrigue. Soon-to-be Princess Mutnodjme rallies against expectations and forges her own path no thanks to her manipulating mother. Ptah-hotep finds himself thrust suddenly into a position of power that threatens his life and the lives of those he loves. Together, they must traverse the dangers of Egyptian life when the new, mad King plunges Egypt into despair. Will they survive in a world where anyone can be an enemy?

Out of the Black Land was a book that initially made me apprehensive when I saw three pages of characters listed in Egyptian names that I was convinced I’d forget instantly. But the story itself is absorbing, full of mystery, intrigue and more back stabbing than a good old episode of Dallas. From the crazy Prince to the slightly shallow, but beautiful Nefertiti, this book is full of interesting and well-rounded characters. Told from two points of view, namely that of Mutnodjme and Ptah-hotep, the story criss-crosses between the two as their lives run parallel and then over each other, bringing them together in a desperate effort to return Egypt to stability.

I loved the fact that female characters in the book had a lot of power and freedom compared to most girls today. They had rights to land, power and marriage settlements and what’s more, they were listened to and afforded the respect of men and women, regardless of their age and position. In many ways, it seemed to be a society that was more accepting and tolerant than some you see today. Marriage was made more for political reasons than love and yet both partners were free to be in relationships with others without recrimination. Homosexuality was tolerated without prejudice or fear and the older generation were given much more respect than I’ve seen lately. So, in many ways, this book is very interesting because of how advanced the Egyptians were so many years ago compared to our own technologically advanced society. People had more value then compared to nowadays and yet the same forces drove them; money, position and health.

This title does give a very interesting insight into the lives of the ancient Egyptians but it would be much more suitable for a slightly older age group rather than younger readers. This is mainly due to the frequent sexual scenes within the book that are probably not far off the mark historically but may be unsuitable for younger readers. Let’s just say those Egyptians sure got around. But, sex scenes aside, this is basically just a really good book with a tight plot, full of interesting characters that are both believable and dynamic. I would certainly recommend it to older readers aged 17+.

Reviewed by Laura McLaughlin, May 2013.