Book Review: First Contact by Kat Green

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Title: First Contact
Series: Haunts for Sale #1
Author: Kat Green
Narrator: Kate Tyler
Publication Date: November 9, 2017

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Purchase Links:

Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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First Contact
Haunts for Sale #1
Kat Green
Narrated by Kate Tyler
The Wild Rose Press, November 2017
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the publisher—

Sloane Osborne is a paranormal real estate agent in the business of selling haunted houses, but, in truth, she’s only searching for one ghost. And her time is running out.

It’s the 366th day after her fiancé’s death. Michael used to like putting things off for “a year and a day” – so tonight’s the night. Sloane will do anything to make contact with him before the clock strikes midnight. When she gets a call to check out a home in Waukesha, Wisconsin, it’s the last place she thinks Michael would contact her.

Sloane is dead wrong.

This is one of those books that you just have to throw disbelief and credulity to the wind and enjoy the story for what it is. The good thing is it’s well-told and fun enough to keep me going.

Yes, it’s sadly true that the protagonist, Sloane, is TSTL and also driven by an obsesssion to see her fiance one last time before he leaves this dimension for the next because, you see, he died a year ago. To be more specific, he died 365 days, 21 hours and 36 minutes ago so she only has 2 hours and some minutes before his “year and a day” is up. This was my first hint that I was going to have some trouble with this book as obsession of any kind is a red flag for me. Add to that the location; Michael and Sloane didn’t live and he didn’t die in Wisconsin so why would his ghostly presence be there?

Sloane also is blind to all sorts of hints and clues that maybe, just maybe, she shouldn’t do certain things but, hey, that’s what TSTL is all about, right? Anyway, she stumbles into what could be a very dangerous situation when she discovers a house overflowing with ghosts and, at last, her obsession takes second place to trying to help these ghosts escape this mortal plane, hopefully before she becomes one of them. Oh, and there’s a potential romance in her future if her and Michael’s best friend, Jonah, can find her before it’s too late.

Seriously, I did enjoy this story (although I didn’t care for the graphic and unnecessary sex scene) and I especially liked the narrator, Kate Tyler. Her tone and cadence are really pleasing and she does different voices, male and female, quite well. The next book in the series, Second Sight, isn’t out in audio yet but I’ll be looking for it.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2018.

About the Author

Kat Green is really the alias of authors KAT de Falla and Rachel GREEN.

Rachel Green has always believed in ghosts but saw her first full body apparition while working at an old movie theater in college. When she met Kat de Falla at a writer’s workshop, she knew she’d met a kindred spirit – one who was also sensitive to the hereafter. And after bonding on a few ghost adventures, Kat Green was born.

Kat lived in a haunted house for too long. When things really heated up, she had several paranormal teams investigate, but things only got worse. When her mother suggested they contact a shaman, she agreed to come, saying she had been waiting for Kat’s call. The home was cleansed and sold. When she paired up with Rachel Green, the idea of co-writing a book with a paranormal real estate agent seemed perfect.

With their combined paranormal “experiences”, they decided to combine their creative mojo. That’s when Sloane Osborne, Paranormal Real Estate agent, and the HAUNTS FOR SALE series was born.

Website // Twitter // Facebook

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About the Narrator

Kate Tyler is an audiobook narrator and producer with several published audiobooks available on Audible, iTunes and Amazon.  A background in drama and a successful career in voiceover, Kate lives with her family in San Diego and enjoys swimming, running, cycling and stand up paddleboard.

Website

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Play an excerpt here.

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Book Review: The Color of Fear by Judy Alter

The Color of Fear
A Kelly O’Connell Mystery #7
Judy Alter
Alter Ego Publishing, May 2017
ISBN 978-0-9990371-0-2
Trade Paperback

From the author—

The Color of Fear marks Judy Alter’s return to mystery fiction and the Kelly O’Connell series after an absence of more than a year. This time, the indomitable Keisha narrates the short tale wherein Kelly and her family live under the threat of infant Gracie’s kidnapping. The story serves as a reprise of many of the previous novels in the series, as Keisha, in her search for the kidnapper, recalls Kelly’s earlier adventures.

Keisha remains outspoken and independent as she balances her need to protect Kelly and her family with her love for new husband, José Thornberry. Some but not all of Kelly’s friends and foes from previous stories appear here, along with such new characters as Clyde, the guard dog, and Cowboy, the homeless guy with a soft heart.

For anyone who hasn’t read all the preceding books in this series or for those who haven’t read any of them, this nifty little novella (or short story depending on your definition) can fill some of the gaps. Besides the current adventure, Keisha also shares tidbits about past exploits so we’re pretty much up to date…although, of course, reading the full length novels will offer much more. Here, we get tiny teasers.

Keisha is the standout character in this particular story, seemingly the only one except Mike, Kelly’s police captain husband, who keeps a level head in the current crisis. Threats are being made against a little baby and everyone has different ideas about who could be making these threats and why but it’s Keisha who does the most to avoid panic. Her sixth sense comes into play and her love for all these people—well, not so much for Miss Cynthia—sees her through to the end.

That end isn’t entirely satisfactory because it’s rushed and a bit out of nowhere but that’s often the case with short stories and novellas, just not enough time to flesh it out properly. This is a story that will introduce or re-introduce readers to Kelly and those in her circle and I hope to see more of these folks soon.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2017.

Book Reviews: Mrs Pargeter’s Public Relations by Simon Brett and Desperate for Death by Judy Alter

Mrs Pargeter’s Public Relations
A Mrs Pargeter Mystery #8
Simon Brett
Crème de la Crime/Severn House, April 2017
ISBN 978-1-78029-092-8
Hardcover

From the publisher—

It is her characteristic generosity rather than her love of animals that finds Mrs Pargeter supporting her friend, Jasmine Angold, at a charity reception for PhiliPussies, whose worthy aim is to rehabilitate stray cats from the Greek island of Atmos into caring English homes. But the evening is to have unexpected consequences. At the event, Mrs P is taken aback to meet a woman who claims to be the sister of her late husband, the much-missed Mr Pargeter.

This surprising encounter leads to unwelcome digging into past secrets, the discovery of a body in Epping Forest, an eventful trip to Greece – and unexpected danger for Mrs Pargeter. In the course of her investigations, she learns the true nature of charity and the dubious skills by which Public Relations can make evil look good.

The Mrs Pargeter series is beguiling and delightful and this particular installment is no exception. Once again, the very wealthy and very kind widow finds herself in the midst of a puzzling crime and perhaps more.

Mrs Pargeter is always ready to help worthy causes with her money and her time but the latest, a cat rescue program, doesn’t really speak to her as she’s not particularly fond of cats. She agrees to go to a fundraiser because it’s important to her friend, Jasmine Angold, and Mrs Pargeter is all for supporting friends and those who are good to her, people such as Gary, her driver-on-call, and a security expert, Parvez. She found both in her late husband’s little black book full of experts in all sorts of activities. These experts were all connected in one way or another to her husband’s, er, illegal enterprises and while Mrs Pargeter would just as soon not know anything about said enterprises (to the point of not allowing anyone to mention them), she certainly appreciates the resulting wealth and the contents of the little black book.

When a very expensive necklace disappears from the charity auction, Mrs Pargeter is intrigued but even more so by the out-of-the-blue appearance of Rochelle Brighouse, a sister-in-law she never knew existed. Now, she has two mysteries to look into, the theft and this rather unpleasant woman, and she begins with a few questions to Gary and Parvez but is stymied by their surprising unwillingness to talk.

When Rochelle makes her agenda known and Mrs Pargeter realizes her husband’s reputation is at stake, she’s mobilized to do something about it. Add to that a murder connected to the cat rescue and our intrepid sleuth is soon doing what she does best.

 Mrs Pargeter is a woman wedded to fighting for good and against evil and this crime caper is as entertaining and full of dry humor as one could wish despite a bit of silliness (it’s puzzling why Brits would feel compelled to rescue cats from Greece when there are plenty of needy felines at home). She also is an unusual sleuth with her vast wealth and her ability to call on some of her husband’s very capable associates with their particular talents. All in all, it’s really easy to be charmed.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2017.

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Desperate for Death
A Kelly O’Connell Mystery #6
Judy Alter
Alter Ego Publishing, January 2016
ISBN 978-0-9960131-7-8
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Just when Kelly’s life has calmed, she faces yet another of life’s puzzles. Except the pieces in this one don’t fit. First the apartment behind her house is torched, then a string of bizzare “accidents” occur to set her off-balance. Who is stalking her? Where does the disappearance of a young girl and her disreputable boyfriend fit in? And why are two men using the same name? Is the surprise inheritance another part of the puzzle? At a time when she is most vulnerable, Kelly can’t make the pieces fit. Before Kelly can get the whole picture, she helps the family of a hostage, rescues a kidnap victim and attends a wild and wonderful wedding.

Most of the time in a cozy, I get irritated with the love interest who’s a cop and he demands that his lady, our amateur sleuth, stay out of his business. This time, I’m irritated because Mike, the cop in question, blows off Kelly’s suggestion that the fire in her unoccupied guest house might have been set by someone out for revenge against him, a convict perhaps. Instead, he wants Kelly to think of someone who’s out to cause her trouble while he’s off doing his thing. Sure, she’s gotten involved in murders and other nefarious activities but surely any cop must know he’s a prime target. Weirdly, while dismissing any connection he might have, he also tends to disregard Kelly’s thinking about the case.

On the other hand, Kelly has a few other things on her mind.

My favorite character is definitely Keisha, Kelly’s completely indispensable assistant who’s flamboyant, nosy and very intuitive, not to mention streetsmart. I didn’t care for others quite so much, including Kelly and Mike, but the story was engaging. The action was a bit choppy but that actually kept things moving and the various leads and hunches gave me plenty to think about before all became clear.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2017.

Book Reviews: Still life with plums by Marie Manilla, Danger Comes Home by Judy Alter, and Plan X by Rory Tate

Still life with plumsStill life with plums
Marie Manilla
Vandalia Press, October 2010
ISBN 978-1-933202-60-0
Trade Paperback

Still life with plums is a collection of short stories wherein Ms. Manilla shatters a couple of commonly held, preconceived notions.  I am fairly knowledgeable in the literary world.  I know the lingo.  A short story is like a novel, it has a beginning, middle, and an end, like a novel does; it is just…..shorter.

I treasure short story and essay collections for those times when there is but a small, stingy window of opportunity to read.  Particularly, I love that I can enjoy just a little bit, then move on to That Which Must Be Done without a longing look at a partially finished novel, quietly beckoning me back.

Not so, in this case.

First, Ms. Manilla’s collection of short stories is equivalent to a bag of Lays’ potato chips…..I can’t be the only person that remembers the “Betcha can’t eat just ONE!” commercials.  Despite the fact that the stories are completely stand alone, I could not read “just one” story at a time.  Instead, my vegetable soup boiled over, clothes wrinkled in the dryer, and at one point, I am pretty sure I let the shower “warm up” for about a half an hour, because…. I. Could not. Stop. Reading.

Each tale is totally different from what I’ve come to expect in a “short story”.  These yarns don’t have a nice beginning, identifying a goal with a tidy, closure-type ending.  Rather, the reader is treated to a glimpse into a story well under way.

For example; the very first story, “Hand. Me. Down.”, captures but a moment, in the day of the life, of a family as they pile into the station wagon (with paneling) to retrieve a relative from the train station.  In 18 pages, I was moved beyond belief.  I was in that car, sharing an identical background with this family, I was invested and immediately empathetic.  Sadness and rage battled inside of me as I turned the pages, knowing that no matter how the story ended, I knew how the lives of the car riders would end up.  How does Ms. Manilla do this?  I do not know.

Every single story in this collection is just as engrossing.  The main character, Lucky Baby, from Crystal City, is so remarkably crafted that I simply can’t get her out of my mind.  The woman that came from less than nothing made no move to have such a fabulous life, she “lucked” into it….well, sort of.  Actually, her willful determination to hear only the positive allowed her to create her warm, fuzzy place in her world.  She manages to become so set in her resolve, that everyone around her compulsively feeds this image.  I find this devastating, and I can’t stop the internal battle of wanting to seek this fictional person out for a giant hug, or a well-earned shoulder-shake.  That part doesn’t matter. My point is, more than two weeks and four books later, Still life continues to haunt me.

Treat yourself and/or a friend, with this captivating, fascinating collection of stories. I promise that you will be glad you did.  Me, well, I’m counting down the days until June 17, 2014 when Ms. Manilla’s Patron Saint of Ugly is released.

Reviewed by jv poore, October 2013

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Danger Comes HomeDanger Comes Home
A Kelly O’Connell Mystery
Judy Alter
Turquoise Morning Press, July 2013
ISBN No.9781622372478
Trade Paperback

Kelly O’Connor is a mother, a wife, and a real estate salesperson, with a nose for trouble.  Kelly is lucky in that she has some very good friends who help out in a pinch and Mike Shandy, her husband, is a police officer who lends a hand when necessary.

Kelly’s current project is attempting to convince reclusive diva Lorna McDavid to allow her to list Lorna’s residence or at least remodel.   So far the only thing she has convinced Lorna of is that Kelly is more than capable of doing her grocery shopping and any other chores Lorna thinks up for Kelly to handle.

When Kelly begins to discover that food items in her own home are missing she goes on alert and finds that her daughter Maggie has a young girl with wrinkled clothes and stringy hair stashed in the family’s guest house.  When Kelly talks to the two girls, she discovers that Jenny Wilson is terrified of her father and has run away from home and Maggie has taken her in.  It seems that Jenny’s father, Todd Wilson, is supposedly in some kind of banking business and strange men come to the house at night to conduct their business.  Todd also has been violent with Jenny’s mother Mona.

Keisha is Kelly’s assistant and friend and is willing to step up and help Kelly not only with Jenny’s problems, but to try to find out what is going on with Joe Mendez, another of Kelly’s protegees.  Joe is running around with his former gang friends and his wife is terrified.  Keisha also steps in to help out Kelly with Lorna McDavid.

Mike helps in any way he can without putting his job as a police officer in jeopardy.  Judy Alter has given this reader a fun read and I know any friend of Kelly’s would never have a dull moment.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, March 2014.

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Plan XPlan X
Rory Tate (Lise McClendon)
Thalia Press, June 2013
ISBN: 978-1490384009
Trade Paperback

Let me start by stating plainly this is a terrific novel. It is riveting, moving and deals sensitively with the regeneration of the soul of a young infantry Second Lieutenant from Montana. Cody Byrne is our main character, back from a tough tour in Afghanistan where she had a close encounter with an IED. Rescued, she returned undamaged in body but torn in soul, to a town where she is becoming a respected police officer.

It develops that her father whom she doesn’t know, works for a mysterious British agency and her brilliant mother a scholar, long separated from Cody’s real father, appear to have questionable roles in a convoluted, international plot.

A bomb destroys a lab at Montana State University in Bozeman. Cody Byrne is assigned to track down the family of one of the victims, a British national member of the faculty in literature. His name is Agustin Phillips. Augustin Phillips is a name known to Shakespearean scholars.

Cody soon discovers that little concrete knowledge about Augustin Phillips is to be had in Bozeman, Montana. His personal records are spare, suspiciously so. All of that makes Cody Byrne, a conscientious cop, all the more focused on finding and notifying his deceased relatives.

The trail ultimately leads Cody first to Quantico, then to The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., and London and the hallowed stone halls of some of the world’s great institutions of higher education. In addition we are treated to some interesting insight into the murky workings of several dark security agencies. And all the while questions of Shakespearean authenticity looms over the entire plot.

Now, I admit to being a Shakespeare groupie. I tend to skate over problems in anything directly related to the Bard. And there are problems. At times, the author’s interest in the psychological dimensions of Cody’s family situation interfere with the forward progress of the story, or maybe it’s the other way around. Characters seem to show up at times when they are vital to assist Cody. She is rescued by outsiders perhaps too many times. But she is strong and  perseveres and, importantly, she begins to see how her relationship with her parents affected some of her life decisions and now, how the reaffirmation of family ties is hastening her healing.

There are a lot of ends in this novel, some of which are loose and some of which are tied up very satisfactorily. The cover is not indicative of the circumstances of the novel and was a poor choice. Nevertheless, the tension persists in fine form, character exposition is excellent and I was very satisfied with this unusual crime novel.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, October 2013.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.