A Passel of Teeny Reviews, Part 5

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…

Peachy Flippin’ Keen
Southern Eclectic #3
Molly Harper
Pocket Star, April 2018
ISBN 978-1-5011-7894-8
Ebook

Molly Harper has a ton of books but I had never “met” her until I came across the first book in this 4-book series and fell deeply, madly in love with Lake Sackett, Georgia, and the McCready clan, not to mention the folks in their town. These books are Southern fiction at it’s best and this novella is no exception. Nothing earthshattering happens here as it’s pretty much a set-up for the book coming out in June, Ain’t She a Peach (and I can hardly wait to start that one).

Frankie McCready has to be the cutest, most unusual county coroner and embalmer you ever did see but she fits right in with the family and the McCready Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop which is exactly what the name says. One day, there’s a new lawman in town, Sheriff Eric Linden, fresh from Atlanta, and he apparently never read the Southern charm book. Pranks are being perpetrated on the McCready premises but it’s questionable whether the sheriff will help solve the case or drive Frankie to murder (of him) first. Then again, they did have a previous encounter so keeping that secret is one thing they have in common, probably the only thing. Can you guess where this is headed?

These books can be read out of order because each one focuses on different members of the family but, for a real treat, read these in order.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2018.

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Death Promise
Jacqueline Seewald
Encircle Publications, May 2018
ISBN 978-1-893035-94-2
Trade Paperback

On the surface, this sequel is a thriller involving human trafficking and organized crime as well as maybe Russians and international intrigue but, for me, the core story is that of Daniel Reiner and the family dysfunction that suddenly mushrooms when he learns he has a much younger teenaged sister, daughter of the father who abandoned him as a child. Who is Beth and is she truly his half-sister? International consultant Michelle Hallam agrees to help Daniel look into the situation but what they learn in Las Vegas sends them into a tornado of more and more questions with frightening answers. This is a nice blend of suspense and romance with lots of action to keep the pages turning.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2018.

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The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place
A Flavia de Luce Novel #9
Alan Bradley
Delacorte Press, January 2018
ISBN 978-0-345539991
Hardcover
Random House Audio
Narrated by Jayne Entwistle
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

Great sadness and a near-cliffhanger enveloped our cheeky pre-teen detective at the end of the previous book and fans had to wait, with huge anticipation, for this newest book to find out what would become of the de Luce family and its faithful servants, Dogger and Mrs. Mullet. When Aunt Felicity becomes overbearing and a bit of a bully, Flavia decides to do away with herself but Fate intervenes when Dogger suggests an outing, a boat trip on a nearby river. Is anyone surprised when Flavia quite literally catches a corpse, setting her off on another investigation?

Rumor has it the next book, The Golden Tresses of the Dead (January 2019), will be the last we see of Flavia but, oh my goodness, I hope not and the surprise at the end of The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place gives me a little bit of hope for her future. Who knew, back in 2009 when the series began, that so many mystery readers would fall in love with this kid?

As always, narrator Jayne Entwistle kept me entranced and, at times, sitting in the car in my driveway or a parking lot so I could continue to listen. I’ve said it before and it bears repeating: Jayne Entwistle brings Flavia to life and I highly, highly recommend the audiobooks and/or the print books (I do both so I won’t miss anything) but reading in order is a must.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2018.

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The Library Ghost of Tanglewood Inn
A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Short Story
Gigi Pandian
Henery Press, November 2017
ISBN 978-1-63511-314-3
Ebook

“Jaya, for the love of all that’s good and holy, please remember that not everything is a murderous plot.”

With that, Jaya and Tamarind (the latter wearing stylish purple combat boots) are rescued from the Denver airport in a snowstorm by a pair of friendly guys and are soon ensconced at a Victorian hotel, the Tanglewood Inn. Did Jaya really see someone at the window of the turret room she’s been assigned? Kenny thinks the hotel is perfect but it puts Jaya more in mind of a spooky haunted house. Sure enough, the owner, Rosalyn, shares the tale of her hotel library’s “avenging ghost”.  A former guest, a Mr. Underhill, died there in the 1930’s and an Agatha Christie book had something to do with it in a classic locked room mystery.

And then they hear a scream in the night…

I’m already a devotee of Jaya’s historic treasure hunting adventures and this little story is a perfect interlude before the next novel. Besides, who could ask for more than a locked room mystery?

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2018.

A Pair of Teenies

The Three SistersThe Three Sisters
A Whispers Story
Lisa Unger
Pocket Star, January 2015
ISBN 978-1-4767-9780-9
Ebook

From the publisher—

When Eloise’s granddaughter, twenty-year-old Finley, comes to live with her, Eloise’s abilities start to change—things seem to be getting easier. Her load is lighter, and rather than chasing down people she needs, they are coming to her. She teams up with detective Jones Cooper to help a desperate father bring his daughter’s killer to justice. Meanwhile, Finley, who is developing gifts of her own, has bigger problems than she’s willing to admit. Will Eloise help Finley and others see the difference between justice and revenge, or will things spiral out of control first?

This third and final short story in the Whispers trilogy is a winding down and a passing on of sorts. It’s been thirty years since the accident that killed Eloise’s husband and older daughter and, for the most part, she has come to terms with the psychic abilities she gained afterwards. Her daughter, Amanda, never reconciled with it and has chosen to maintain a physical and emotional distance but her own daughter, Finley, has much in common with her grandmother.

Finley is on the cusp of understanding her own psychic abilities and this is the impetus for Eloise to learn more about the Three Sisters, ghosts from the 1600’s who have been hanging about. Looking into town records, Eloise is reminded that the sisters—Abigail, Sarah and Patience Good—were ancestors of hers on her mother’s side but who is the older woman in similar dress that she’s been seeing lately and what does she want?

In the midst of her personal search for answers, Eloise is helping a private investigator named Jones Cooper discover what happened to a modern girl named Michelle Asher, recently found dead and currently “visiting” Eloise. At the same time, she’s trying to help Finley find her way in this strange world. The Three Sisters have meddled in Finley’s life many times before and they may be about to do so again.

Each of the three short stories have been less dramatic in turn but The Three Sisters has been no less engaging because of that. While very different from Lisa Unger‘s usual work, this is still a good example of her authorial talents.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2015.

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Dead Man WalkerDead Man Walker
A Consignment Shop Novella
Duffy Brown
Berkley Prime Crime, February 2015
ISBN 978-0-698-17802-1
Ebook

From the publisher—

It’s springtime in Savannah, the azaleas and magnolias are in bloom, and Reagan Summerside’s consignment shop, the Prissy Fox, is bustling with customers out to enjoy the beautiful weather. On a day like today, what could go wrong?

As a mortician beautician and housekeeper, Mercedes is no stranger to corpses or messy bathrooms. But the last thing she expects to find in a client’s bathtub is a dead body! Now she’s a murder suspect and it seems like her life is going down the drain. She turns to local lawyer Walker Boone to get her out of hot water.

But Walker has his own surprising connections to the dead man in the tub, and now he needs Reagan’s help to clear his own name—and keep him alive…

The Consignment Shop Mysteries feature the shop owner, Reagan Summerside, as the main character and sleuth but Dead Man Walker is a departure, told from the point of view of Reagan’s kinda sorta occasional boyfriend, Walker Boone. When cleaning lady Mercedes is in danger of being accused of murdering a client, Walker steps in and, before long, he’s identified quite a few people who had varying reasons to want Conway Adkins dead. Unfortunately, he’s also made himself a target for a few attempts on his own life and found out a startling piece of news. Next thing he knows, Detective Aldeen Ross is on her way to arrest him for killing Conway.

This novella is a nice introduction to some of the characters in the series and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Readers should be aware that this particular crime is not resolved as this is a lead-in to the next full-length novel, Demise in Denim, coming out in April. I’m looking forward to continuing the sleuthing then.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2015.

Book Review: The Burning Girl by Lisa Unger

The Burning GirlThe Burning Girl
A Whispers Story #2
Lisa Unger
Pocket Star, November 2014
ISBN 978-1-4767-9779-3
Ebook

From the publisher—

Ten years after Eloise Montgomery discovers her psychic abilities, she is a full-fledged working psychic, with a partner and a business. Now, in The Burning Girl, she’s discovering some disturbing things: secrets about her genealogy that are, perhaps, best left in the past; that her granddaughter Finley has powers of her own; and that not all of Eloise’s visitors actually want to be helped. Some of them are just looking for trouble…

When The Burning Girl opens, we find Eloise vacuuming while a young girl glowers on her couch. That child isn’t really there; she’s one of those lost girls Eloise “listens” to when her psychic attunement kicks in. Almost fourteen years after the deaths of her husband and older daughter, Eloise is at something of a crossroads in her life and the strain of her unwanted knowledge of people in terrible peril has clearly worn on her. Her younger daughter, Amanda, lives as far away as she can get because she’s so unnerved by her mother even though she cares about her deeply. Eloise’s partner, Ray, wants more from her than she can give and Eloise sees no relief ahead from the burden of knowing things that can be so very painful. A woman named Agatha may be the only one who can save Eloise from falling victim to her own sensabilities.

Eloise is a woman nearly consumed by the emotions of others and it’s apparent that the visions and the whispers are in control. I’ve never had any such experiences but her pain is palpable and I had no doubt, as I was reading, that she was nearing the edge of sanity. It was like seeing an old acquaintance years after you first met and wondering what terrible travails life had brought her in the intervening years. Her struggle to survive seeps through the pages and I frequently wanted to put an arm around her for just a moment.

The first novella in this trilogy had more edge to it but, by the time The Burning Girl ends, I really did feel that Eloise might at last be finding a kind of peace. I’m looking forward to Ms. Unger’s The Three Sisters to see how this nice woman will fare.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2014.

Book Reviews: Dog Gone, Back Soon by Nick Trout, The Ashes That Remain by A.M. Griffin and The Whispers by Lisa Unger

Dog Gone, Back SoonDog Gone, Back Soon
Nick Trout
Hyperion, April 2014
ISBN 978-1-401-31089-9
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

When Dr. Cyrus Mills returned home after inheriting his estranged father’s veterinary practice, The Bedside Manor for Sick Animals, the last thing he wanted was to stay in Eden Falls, Vermont, a moment longer than absolutely necessary. However, the previously reclusive veterinarian pathologist quickly found that he actually enjoyed treating animals and getting to know the eccentric residents of the tiny provincial town-especially an alluring waitress named Amy.

So Cyrus is now determined to make Bedside Manor thrive. Not an easy goal, given that Healthy Paws, the national veterinary chain across town, will stop at nothing to crush its mom-and-pop competitor. And the rival vet practice isn’t Cyrus’s only competition; a handsome stranger shows up out of nowhere who clearly has a mysterious past with Amy. To top it off, Cyrus finds himself both the guardian of a very unique orphaned dog and smack in the middle of serious small town drama.

 

I’m a pushover for veterinarian stories, fiction or nonfiction, no matter where they take place, and Dog Gone, Back Soon filled the bill quite nicely indeed. It’s funny; I know I’m going to get essentially the same tale every time but that never feels same old same old like it does in other books. I include country (human) doctor and small town minister stories in the same bag—they’re all what I call comfort fiction and nonfiction and, basically, they can do very little wrong in my eyes. When it comes to veterinarian authors, James Herriot is the gold standard for me, and Nick Trout has followed in his footsteps in a lovely way.

The cynical Cyrus is a guy I could relate to, feeling guilt over the way he and his father spent recent years but intent on bringing his dad’s practice back from the brink of failure without destroying its appeal to local animal lovers. I found myself rooting him on in his efforts, especially as he begins to realize how much it means to him and that he really does love this small town and its four-legged and two-legged citizens.

A bit of romance is not out of order and there’s a gentle humor about the troubled path of love between him and Amy. Still, it’s Cyrus’s battles against the “evil” conglomerate and his growing attachment to a Labradoodle service dog named Stash that truly drew me in.

I hold out my hand in front of Stash’s mouth. “Stash, lick.” Nothing. “Stash, lick.” Not a flicker in his eyes. Either this is not in hisrepertoire or, more likely, I’m using the wrong language.

“Stash, pucker up.”

No dice.

“Stash, kiss.”

The world goes black as sixty pounds of dog leaps onto my chest and begins coating every exposed surface of my skin with a shellac of saliva from a serpentine tongue.

“Stash, sit, Stash, sit.”

It’s as if the feeding frenzy never happened, Stash calm and distant, me dripping drool and panting.

Stash probably should be on the cover but the English Mastiff, Tallulah, is his first patient so that’s OK. My other favorite stars of the show were an obese cat named Marmalade Succabone , a cow named Ermintrude and a taxidermied dog named Crispin. I was also more than a bit fond of a pair of teens named Charlie Brown and Gabe Stiles and office manager Doris.

Dog Gone, Back Soon is the sequel to The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs. Since I now have to claim Dr. Trout as one of my favorite authors, I’m heading over to get Patron Saint just as soon as I can.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2014.

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The Ashes That RemainThe Ashes That Remain
Cimmerian Moon #2
A.M. Griffin
Three Twenty-One, August 2014
Ebook
From the author—

We’re at war against the aliens that have invaded Earth, fighting the only way we can—by surviving. I have more than most people do, but although I know it’s stupid to hold on, I can’t let go of what might have been—can’t help dreaming of something more. No matter how I tell myself it would be easier to do what everyone else wants me to, there’s a part of me that can’t give in.
Making the best of the situation is one thing. Settling, even to make other people happy, is something else.

Then we hear the alien mother ships have disappeared. Of course we have to go and investigate. What we find lands us in a huge mess that we somehow have to clean up and, as our little enclave is rocked to the core with even more changes, I’m learning a hard lesson.

The more things change—for the better or the worse—there’s no fighting human nature, and building on the ashes that remain will take everything we have. And maybe more.

 

I mentioned in my earlier review of Against the Darkness that worldbuilding was somewhat lacking but that didn’t impede my enjoyment of the novel. The same lack continues in this second book but it mostly revolves around not knowing what the aliens are really here for; we know much more this time about how our small band of humans is surviving, actually thriving in some ways.

Time hasn’t passed much since we left Sinta and her companions at the end of Against the Darkness but there has been a distinct change in the teens, a maturing that only dire circumstances can bring about. Sinta and Mia are still thick as thieves and Ian, Wade, Jason and MJ are as likeable as I remembered them but their travails have turned them into thoughtful and self-reliant young adults who have melded into a community with little trouble. in fact, were it not for the aliens, Iife would be fairly decent. However, the lizards are still around and, when disaster strikes, some of the crew sets out on a rescue mission fraught with peril from rats and the cold as well as the lizards. Most puzzling is the recent news that the alien population may be thinning out.

Romance plays a much larger role in this second book but an amusing passage about the Sinta-Wade-Jason love triangle with 10-year-old Brook and teens Lexi, Sinta and Mia in the cafeteria helps make said triangle a little more palatable. Mia makes fun of the drama, as I have done in my own thoughts, and Brook gazes off with her dreamy musings about an “older man” named MJ.

As with the first book, it’s unfortunate that this book is riddled with construction errors, primarily typos and incorrect word choices, but I’m still completely engaged and am looking forward to reading the next book in the series, In Danger’s Embrace, coming this winter.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2014.

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The WhispersThe Whispers
A Whispers Story #1
Lisa Unger
Pocket Star, October 2014
ISBN 978-1-4767-9778-6
Ebook

From the publisher—

It’s a day like any other for Eloise Montgomery—until tragedy strikes. While she is recovering from a horrible accident that takes the lives of her husband and oldest daughter, and as she works to help her younger daughter move forward, Eloise experiences her first psychic vision. Though she struggles to understand her newfound gifts, Eloise finds a way use them to save lost women and girls—for whom her help may be the only way out…

 

Lisa Unger is one of my go-to authors when I’m in the mood for a thriller, something intense and nail-biting, a book that will keep me up at night. She does it so very, very well  😉 but The Whispers really doesn’t fit  the mold. The first of three short stories that comprise a novella, this is more of the psychological suspense sort and I was not the least bit disappointed.

After the tragic deaths of her husband and elder daughter, Eloise is nearly crushed emotionally and, yet, she’s strong enough to stay focused on her younger daughter, Amanda, who may not be suffering physically but is just as wracked with survivor’s guilt. When Eloise begins to have psychic visions, she’s naturally confused and disturbed but she’s driven to pass the information about these missing girls and women on to the authorities. Why is she hearing whispers and “seeing” these people in extreme distress? We don’t really know—perhaps more answers will be forthcoming in the next two short stories—but the true essence here is how the four lived a life of love and normalcy and then what’s left after the accident. It’s a compelling tale and I’m looking forward to the second story, The Burning Girl, due out in late November.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2014.