Book Review: A Bad Day for Sunshine by Darynda Jones @Darynda @StMartinsPress

A Bad Day for Sunshine  
Sunshine Vicram Series, Book 1  
Darynda Jones
St. Martin’s Press, April 2020
ISBN 978-1-250-14944-2
Hardcover

I haven’t quite made up my mind what I think of this book, the first in a new series from author Darynda Jones. On one hand I find it supremely entertaining, with a couple mysteries to be solved although, despite strong hints, we’re left still wondering about one of them.

Strong characters people the town of Del Sol, New Mexico in this romantic suspense tale. They are a quirky bunch, and as Sunshine Vicram takes over the role of newly elected sheriff, (although she didn’t actually run for the office) she has to deal with an odd “book club,” a group of hormonal teenagers, and a couple potential kidnappers, all on her first day. As though getting run over by a Mercedes, looking for an escaped convict and fighting through a blizzard aren’t enough. Oh, and the fact her fourteen-year-old daughter is having just such a day herself, what with making enemies left and right and falling in love.

Sharp dialogue and pointed characterization carry the suspenseful plot in a story rife with heartwarming friendships—once you get past the old enemies. These are the parts I particularly enjoyed.

But then, there were things that irked me. For instance, the “Where is Bobby Britton” schtick got old fast. Quite often it was hard to tell who was the more mature, Sunshine or Auri, her teenage daughter. This character is supposed to be a sheriff, for goodness sake. Have a little gravity. Giggles? Way too many giggles.  But I repeat, supremely entertaining.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, April 2020.
http://www.ckcrigger.com
Author of The Woman Who Built A Bridge (Spur Award Winner), Yester’s Ride,
Hometown Burning and Five Days, Five Dead: A China Bohannon Novel

Book Review: Dusk of Humanity by M.K. Dawn

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Title: Dusk of Humanity
Series: The Decay of Humanity, Book 1
Author: M.K. Dawn
Publication Date: January 10, 2018
Genre: Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic

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Dusk of Humanity
The Decay of Humanity, Book 1
M.K. Dawn
CreateSpace, January 2018
ISBN 978-1983904158
Trade Paperback

From the author—

An asteroid brought about the destruction of the world…in a way no one thought possible.

After the death of her parents, Sloan Egan left their Montana ranch determined to make a difference in the world. Now a prominent surgeon with an exceptional career in her future, life has turned out exactly as she expected. Until a government summons arrives with an order to report to Fort Hood for a top-secret weekend retreat.

Major Lee Archer’s reassignment as head of military operations at The Bunker felt more like a prison sentence than a promotion. To make matters worse, he’s been assigned to babysitting detail, as a group of the country’s most brilliant young minds come together to test the vitality of the cutting-edge fallout shelter he commands.

But the retreat was nothing more than a ploy. One devised to safeguard the future of humanity, as a catastrophic event renders the world above uninhabitable.

Or so they’ve been led to believe.

Those in charge have a secret. One so horrifying they would do anything to keep it concealed. Because what lurks beyond The Bunker is deadlier than anyone could have ever imagined.

And it’s only a matter of time before it finds a way in.

When people from a wide variety of professions are brought together in a bunker with apparently all the necessities of life, it doesn’t take long for questions to arise. It’s not surprising that some of the “invitees” would have misgivings but so does Archer who should have been more aware of what was going on. Although he has to follow military orders, he’s uneasy with the attitudes of the VIPs towards people they consider unworthy of being saved if a major disaster should happen. When the President comes on screen and tells everyone in the Bunker the truth, the reaction is overwhelming dismay as you would expect but, even after all the revelations, they have no clue what’s really happening.

It’s a minor point but there’s one thing about Sloan that I didn’t like and that’s her stereotypical surgeon superiority. That was obvious early on when she told Major Archer, “If I go on vacation, patients die.” Um, no, you’re not the only surgeon in the world, even if you are one of the best. Other than that, I liked Sloan a lot and Archer appealed to me, too, as did Travis, Evelyn and others. In fact, I’d say all the primary characters were very well developed and they felt real, whether I liked them or not.

I had a lot of trouble believing the premise of this story and so did some of the major characters. For one thing, there is no way the VIPs (which clearly includes government personnel) would be able to keep the approaching asteroid a secret for so many years what with all the backyard astronomers, especially in the last few days. Also, with so much advance notice, it makes no sense that the plan would be to save only 2,000 people. However, this is the core of the story so I decided to just read on and enjoy the tale and enjoy it I did. Trouble is, I can’t tell you why because that would be total spoilery so, suffice it to say, Dusk of Humanity is a fun romp through a world we’ll have to hope we never see…and now I have to wait for the next book 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2018.

An Excerpt from Dusk of Humanity

The room fell silent. President Edward Patterson sat behind a small desk in a make-shift office with an unnatural stillness. An American Flag hung on the cavern wall behind him. It took Sloan a moment to realize he too was in The Bunker.

His expression was grave and his normal youthful demeanor was replaced with an unsmiling, unfocused stare that could only mean one thing: the announcement wasn’t good.

“My fellow Americans,” President Patterson began, “first, on behalf of our great country, I would like to personally thank every one of you for joining us this weekend.” He dropped his head and swallowed so hard the sound echoed off his microphone. When he raised his head, his eyes were wet and bloodshot. “Secondly, I owe each of you an apology. I’ve always considered myself an honorable man. My word is as important to me as the air I breathe.” Another extended pause. “It’s with a heavy heart I share with you my deception.”

The sound of Sloan’s heartbeat thrashed in her ears.

“We brought you here under false pretenses, not out of malice but out of fear. Fear that without each of you the world as we know it would be lost. I will spare you the tedious details and get straight to the point.” He lifted his wrist to check the time. “Approximately five minutes ago, an asteroid close to six miles wide struck the earth. An asteroid this size is known as a global killer. Over the course of the next few months, billions of lives will be lost, as will most of the animals and vegetation.”

The room erupted in a mixture of cries and gasps. Sloan couldn’t think. She couldn’t breathe. This couldn’t be happening.

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About the Author

As a lifetime reader, M.K. Dawn always dreamed about becoming a writer. Then one day an idea came to her and then a story; so she started to write. And when she started to write, she couldn’t stop. Not only does she love to write fantasy, paranormal and dystopia books she can almost always be found with her nose buried deep in them as well.

M.K. lives in South Texas with her husband and two children. When she isn’t writing, she is reading, watching her favorite TV shows or dreaming about sitting on a beach somewhere.

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

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Book Reviews: Grave Consequences by David and Aimee Thurlo and Night Life by David C. Taylor

Grave ConsequencesGrave Consequences
A Charlie Henry Mystery #2
David and Aimee Thurlo
Minotaur Books, April 2015
ISBN: 978-1- 250-02900-3
Hardcover

Charlie Henry and his sidekick, Gordon, are ex-Special Forces soldiers, now partners in the FOB Pawnshop in Albuquerque, NM, but civilian life hardly is a retiring one for either of them. Trouble seems to find them on a regular basis in this second of a series of action-packed adventure.  Mysteries and mischief seem to just walk into their store.  In this latest story, it begins when a young woman pawns a valuable Navajo necklace.

Soon three gunmen enter the pawnshop in an attempt to retrieve the bracelet. And a shootout results in one of them dead and another wounded, with Charlie and Gordon none the less for wear, but off and running to find out what prompted the invasion.  This leads to a wild goose chase all around the New Mexico city with violence galore until they learn what lies behind they mystery of the bracelet and the death of its creator.

While the plot follows a traditional pattern of a police procedural, and there are plenty of cops involved, with enormous assistance from Charlie and Gordon, the novel really centers on the swashbuckling duo and their antics, rather than detecting clues to solve a crime or murder.  And there is plenty of this type of action to satisfy the most bloodthirsty reader.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, February 2016.

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Night LifeNight Life
A Michael Cassidy Novel #1
David C. Taylor
Forge Books, March 2015
ISBN 978-0-7653-7483-7
Hardcover

Michael Cassidy is a detective in New York City’s midtown precinct during the 1950’s in the era of McCarthyism.  He is a dramatic character drawn in the classic mold of a tough hombre.  His godfather is the mafia stalwart Frank Costello, his father an immigrant who started with less than nothing and rose to become a well-known Broadway producer.  Cassidy picks up a murder case, the victim actually a dancer in the show his father is producing and now in rehearsal.

One murder leads to three others, and Michael becomes involved in a web of conspiracies involving the FBI and the CIA, and with Roy Cohn and J. Edgar Hoover, no less.  Cassidy is taken off the murder case by higher-ups, but true to fashion, he persists.  Faced with complications of monumental proportions his doggedness continues.

This novel, a debut, is excellent.  The background of New York City just after World War II is superb, and the atmosphere of the Red Scare years and McCarthyism is very real, especially for those who lived through the period.  The book has much to recommend it, and indeed is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, December 2015.

Book Review: Until the Beginning by Amy Plum

Until the BeginningUntil The Beginning
Sequel to After The End
Amy Plum
Harper Teen, May 2015
ISBN 978-0-06-2225634
Hardcover

Juneau and a now convinced Miles are trying to find the imprisoned clan members being held somewhere in New Mexico. When Miles is shot and they have to hide from his father as well as the group that Whit, former shaman of the clan, is working with, Juneau is tested. Not only must she cloak them, the vehicle and the cabin with invisibility, she has to save Miles’ life. That results in her making a frightening choice and giving him Amrit. If she doesn’t he’s certainly going to die. He survives and begins to develop his own powers as they return to the road.

The closer they get to where the clan is held captive, the more challenging things become. Juneau has to become more comfortable with modern technology, while Miles has to wrap his head around the fact that not only was Juneau telling the truth about her powers, but he has them as well and must learn to use them quickly because he has no choice.

They have to break into a private hunting preserve that’s guarded by mercenaries as well as a sophisticated electric fence. Once inside, they not only have to deal with someone desperate to get the Amrit, but must free the clan as well as rescue separately held hostages. Things are further complicated by the arrival of the other party interested in the formula just when it looks like Juneau and Miles are ready to make their escape.

The first part of this book is slower paced than book one, but that’s because Juneau and Miles are getting to know each other while she’s wrestling with how reality contradicts almost everything she was led to believe as she grew up in the Alaskan wilderness. However, once they start the rescue effort, the action is fast and furious, leading to a very satisfying ending. If you’ve read book one, you will certainly enjoy this one. If you haven’t, you’re in for a double treat.

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS., January 2016.

Book Reviews: Sister Eve, Private Eye by Lynne Hinton, Speak of the Devil by Allison Leotta, and The Black Stiletto: Endings and Beginnings by Raymond Benson

Sister Eve, Private EyeSister Eve, Private Eye
A Divine Private Detective Agency Mystery #1
Lynne Hinton
Thomas Nelson, December 2014
ISBN 978-1-4016-9145-5
Trade Paperback

Sister Eve has been a Benedictine nun for twenty years, but changes in Church policy are making her question her vocation.  When she learns that the Captain, her detective father, is about to lose a leg to diabetes, she takes a leave to nurse him, whether he likes it or not.  The irascible Captain–a retired police officer–was hunting for a missing movie producer when his illness spiraled out of control.  The discovery of the man’s body and Sister Eve‘s conviction that his client, the producer’s mistress, did not kill him, leads her to join in the investigation.

I like Sister Eve, the Captain, Meg Finch, his client–all of the characters feel real to me.  I love the Southwest setting.  The plot twists around nicely, and I didn’t spot the killer.  I spotted the clues after I finished the book.

I can see no easy answer to Sister Eve‘s spiritual dilemma.  Her talent for and love of detecting call her one way, her Community calls her another.  Her family needs her, but so does her Church. The situation isn’t resolved in this book, so I’m really glad that it’s the first in a series.   I hope there will be many more.

Reviewed by Marilyn Nulman, October 2015.

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Speak of the DevilSpeak of the Devil
Anna Curtis #3
Allison Leotta
Touchstone, August 2013
ISBN 978-1-4516-4485-2
Hardcover

Anna Curtis, a tough sex-crimes prosecutor in Washington D.C., is in the process of asking her lover to marry her when she’s notified of a horrific murder and mutilation case. Assigned the investigation, she soon finds even the victims who lived through the attack are unwilling to testify. Why? Because “the Devil,” leader of the wicked MS-13 street gang, will retaliate, and he is brutal beyond compare.

The story sweeps the reader along with Anna as she builds her case, finds her witnesses and, as the gang leaders come to trial, almost becomes another of the Devil’s victims. I thought Ms. Leotta did a particularly good job of showing the reader how certain gang members became murderers and rapists, among their other crimes, whether that was their nature or not.

Even as all of this is going on, Jack, who first turns down Anna’s proposal, turns the tables and asks her to marry him. She says yes, but troubles are on the horizon, partially because Jack is African-American with a young daughter from a previous marriage.

The rest of the tale gets messy (in a good way) and I’m not giving out any spoilers here. The twist at the end is quite emotional. The plot, pacing, and characterization in the story are excellent. There is one rather graphic sex scene that would’ve been better omitted, in my opinion. Otherwise, this is a most satisfying book.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, December 2015.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

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The Black Stiletto Endings and BeginningsThe Black Stiletto: Endings and Beginnings
The Black Stiletto #5
Raymond Benson
Oceanview Publishing, November 2014
ISBN: 978-1-60809-103-4
Hardcover

Prolific crime writer Raymond Benson has a genuine flare for the use of words. He demonstrates that talent many times in this overlong tale. He also is talented in his ability to translate narrative and dialogue into the flavor of words and phrases that might be used by a young troubled girl growing up in Texas in the latter half of the Twentieth Century

A lot of girls grew up in Texas during that era but none of them had the kind of family represented by the mystery woman known as the Black Stiletto. She was a woman who traveled fast and quietly, associated with gangsters and cops and carried a very sharp knife. She embodied the legend of Lilith, the first woman. A woman who could take a life when necessary.

This novel moves effectively back and forth between time periods, delineates characters precisely and often wittily, and drives the twisted complicated plot and its many intertwined relationships to final fruition with multi-generational windings. It’s a fascinating novel, well-done in nearly every aspect and will undoubtedly expand the legion of followers.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, December 2015.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: The Summer the World Ended by Matthew S. Cox

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Title: The Summer the World Ended
Author: Matthew S. Cox
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Publication Date: June 29th, 2015
Genres: General Fiction, Post-apocalyptic, Young Adult

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The Summer the World EndedThe Summer the World Ended
Matthew S. Cox
Curiosity Quills Press, June 2015
ISBN 978-1-62007-904-1
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

As far as Riley McCullough is concerned, her best friend getting ‘dragged’ off to Puerto Vallarta for the first two weeks of summer vacation was the end of the world―at least until the bombs fell.

Life in suburban New Jersey with her mother has been comfortable, not to mention boring, to an introverted fourteen year old. As if her friend’s surprise trip wasn’t bad enough, her expectations for the ‘best summer ever’ disintegrate when she gets sent across the country to stay with a father she hasn’t seen in six years. Adjusting to a tiny, desert town where everyone stares at them like they don’t belong proves difficult, and leaves her feeling more isolated than ever. To make matters worse, her secretive father won’t tell the truth about why he left―or what he’s hiding.

Her luck takes an unexpected turn for the better when she meets a boy who shares her interest in video games and contempt for small town boredom. In him, she finds a kindred spirit who might just make the middle of nowhere tolerable.

Happiness is short lived; fleeing nuclear Armageddon, she takes shelter with her dad in an underground bunker he’d spent years preparing. After fourteen days without sun, Riley must overcome the sorrow of losing everything to save the one person she cares about most.

If I had any doubts about what is meant by the title, The Summer the World Ended, they were driven out by the very first pages  when a 14-year-old girl is confronted with a devastating loss and, because it truly is the first pages, it’s easy to figure out that a whole world of hurt is coming at Riley this summer. Riley herself is a teen you could find just about anywhere—excited to be starting high school in the fall, squabbles with her mom sometimes but also loves to have movie day with her, somewhat addicted to video games, looking forward to a summer hanging out with her BFF, Amber. How could she possibly know that her entire world would be turned upside down in a matter of minutes and that so much more is yet to come?

Accompanying Riley as she maneuvers her way through this new life is the core of the story and I found Riley to be equally engaging in moments of deepest sorrow or fits of giggles or rampant fear. I had to wonder if there might be a 14-year-old girl in the author’s life because he certainly knows how to create one.

As much as I enjoyed Riley and her life journey, I had some issues. I had a real problem connecting with Riley’s dad and her relationship with him. I’ve never been in Riley’s position but I fail to understand how he could essentially abandon her for years and then she would accept him back into her life  with little to no explanation. And what kind of father has his young daughter pack up her dead mother’s things while he basically sits on his rear? Also, I find it very hard to believe that the woman paid off her house but left no money; how is it likely that she wouldn’t have at least some money in the bank? It also made no sense to me that Riley’s dad couldn’t find a way to hold on to the house for her future—why not rent it out and use the income to pay the taxes he says are so burdensome? Finally, how is it possible that the child advocate who was so very solicitous at first would then completely disappear once he’s on the scene?

I also found it nearly impossible to believe that Amber didn’t know about Riley’s mom until two weeks after her death. Not for a minute do I think that Riley could avoid telling her or that Amber wouldn’t realize something was wrong, even long distance.

All that aside, post-apocalyptic is one of my favorite subgenres and this one most certainly didn’t disappoint me once that part of the book got going.  That and the overall story are very good and the ending left me kind of breathless and quite taken by surprise. That’s a great way to end a book, don’t you think?

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2015.

About the Author

Matthew S. CoxBorn in a little town known as South Amboy, NJ, in 1973, Matthew has been creating science fiction and fantasy worlds for most of his reasoning life. Somewhere between fifteen to eighteen of them spent developing the world in which Division ZeroVirtual Immortality, and The Awakened Series take place. He has several other projects in the works as well as a collaborative science fiction endeavor with author Tony Healey.

Hobbies and Interests:

Matthew is an avid gamer, a recovered WoW addict, Gamemaster for two custom systems (Chronicles of Eldrinaath [Fantasy] and Divergent Fates [Sci Fi], and a fan of anime, British humour (<- deliberate), and intellectual science fiction that questions the nature of reality, life, and what happens after it.

He is also fond of cats.

Author links:
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Book Reviews: A Nasty Piece of Work by Robert Littell and City of Darkness and Light by Rhys Bowen

A Nasty Piece of WorkA Nasty Piece of Work
Robert Littell
St. Martin’s Griffin, October 2014
ISBN 978-1-250-05463-0
Trade Paperback

Lemuel Gunn, now a private detective in New Mexico, once was a CIA agent in Afghanistan before being unceremoniously sent home and cashiered out of the service, and, before that, a policeman in New Jersey.  While he holds a PI license, he basically whiles his time away in a gigantic trailer built for Douglas Fairbanks Jr. while he was making a movie.

That is, until one day he is approached by Ornella Neppi, a beautiful but tarnished bail bondswoman who put up $125,000 to spring one Emilio Gava after he was arrested on a cocaine charge.  Her problem (and she has lots of them) is that Gava has skipped town and she is in danger of losing the funds if he doesn’t show up in court.  She asks Gunn to find Gava, and he undertakes the task.  And what an adventure it becomes.

The author, known for his spy thrillers, has proved he can write a detective novel with the best of them, with excellent characters, unexpected plot turns, and interesting human emotions.  The plot keeps moving forward at a steady pace, and even the description of a My Lai-type massacre in the present-day Asian action is startling.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2014.

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City of Darkness and LightCity of Darkness and Light
A Molly Murphy Mystery #13
Rhys Bowen
Minotaur Books, January 2015
ISBN 978-1-250-05160-8
Trade Paperback

This mystery series, featuring Molly Murphy (now Mrs. Molly Sullivan and mother of a bouncing boy) usually takes place in Little Old New York at the turn of the last century.  But, because Capt. Sullivan has arrested the head of the mafia on the lower East Side and their home is bombed and burned to the ground in retribution, he insists that Molly and little Liam leave the city and go far away for their safety.

Molly’s friends, Gus and Sid, are in Paris, so it is decided that Molly and the baby should go there.  But when she finally arrives in the City of Light after a rough voyage, Gus and Sid are nowhere to be found.  So Molly has to trek all over the city trying to find them.  And in doing so, she becomes involved in another murder mystery.  So much for her promise to her husband to give up being a detective.

Molly is a delightful character, and in this episode, she exhibits a degree of sophistication that shows her character and development, far removed from the Irish immigrant who first landed on the shores of the U.S.  The plot pieces together an intricate mystery amid a graphic portrayal of Paris and its art scene, featuring such luminaries as Picasso and Degas.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, January 2015.