Book Review: Night Rides by Carole T. Beers

Night Rides
A Pepper Kane Mystery, Book #4
Carole T. Beers
W & B Publishers, May 2019
ISBN 978-1-63554-161-8
Trade Paperback

For this adventure, former crime reporter Pepper Kane, along with her friend and business partner, Tulip Clemmons, is in Seattle. They’re riding in one of the northwest’s most important horses shows. A lot is at stake as riders compete not only for money, but prestige and reputation. The competition, we discover, is not always friendly.

On the first night, the women, accompanied by Pepper’s lover, Sonny Chief, are returning to Pepper’s on-site living quarters, when, after checking on her horse, she needs the fancy public restroom. While at first apparently deserted, she hears noises, moans, screams, thumping, scratching–all the sounds of a rather violent sexual encounter. She calls out, but there is no answer. Wondering if there was more going on than just sex, she reports what she heard to security, leaving a message when no one answers the emergency number.

Next day, a man, one of the judges in the competition is found dead⏤murdered. Pepper, not only fretting at the seeming inaction of the police, especially when they don’t seem interested in her report, but having a bit of detective type experience, soon takes a hand. When a second person is murdered⏤neither of them the most sympathetic of victims⏤what happens next has you wondering if she’d been better off to back away.

Odd things happen. Something as simple as a mug being stolen from a transgender competitor. An expensive bracelet Pepper’s daughter Chili has for sale in their store is stolen, and to wind things up, Chili is kidnapped and faced with certain death.

Well-written, snappy dialogue draws the reader forward. The action keeps one turning pages to find out what happens next. Pepper takes what seem like a few wrong turns, but always works toward an action-filled and twisty conclusion. The characters are well-fleshed out, but to me, in this particular story, the best part is when we are with the horses, riding in the ring, feeling the excitement and thrill of the show.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, April 2019.
Author of Five Days, Five Dead, Hereafter and Hometown Homicide.

Advertisements

Book Review: Pre-Meditated Murder by Tracy Weber

Pre-Meditated Murder
A Downward Dog Mystery #5
Tracy Weber
Midnight Ink, January 2018
ISBN: 978-0-7387-5068-2
Trade Paperback

Kate Davidson and her trusty canine companion Bella return in Pre-Meditated Murder. As the book opens, Kate and her boyfriend are celebrating Kate’s birthday at the fancy restaurant atop the Seattle Space Needle. SkyCity was the perfect place for what Kate assumed was going to be a moment of her lifetime. After avoiding any thought of “commitment, marriage or children,” Kate is ready.  She is sure tonight is the night that Michael is going to pop the big question and Kate is ready to say yes. In fact, she can hardly wait to say yes. They are at the restaurant, he pulls out her gift, she opens it and-it’s a necklace. Stunned for sure, but her evening is going to get much worse.

Michael professes his love for Kate, but then proceeds to tell her that he can’t marry her, at least not yet because there is this little detail he has failed to mention before. He is already married, wants a divorce but Gabriella won’t budge without a big pay out.

Kate and Michael decide to go to Oregon to try to talk Gabriella into giving Michael the divorce. I was right with the book up until this point but then  things get a little strange even for a “cozy” mystery series. They take Bella with them, BUT, here is where it goes a little wonky for me. Kate’s best friend Rene, her husband, their twins and their dogs also make the trip. Really?

Skipping ahead and overlooking that fact that entirely too many people have made the trip, Kate and Michael meet with Gabriella and the meeting goes poorly. The next day, things take an even worse turn when Kate and Bella are out for a walk and Bella digs up Gabriella’s body. Things get worse still when the police turn up at Michael’s sister’s house and Michael has no alibi for the time of the death.  Obviously Michael is suspect number one on the police’s list. In keeping with the cozy mystery genre, Kate then  jumps in to solve the crime and clear Michael. What Kate uncovers surprises her and changes how she thinks of Michael.

From there the book takes a few interesting twists which might well push it off the “cozy” shelf for subject matter.

The book gives readers a chance to learn more of Michael’s background while certainly wondering what is next for Kate and Michael.

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

Book Review: A Fatal Twist by Tracy Weber—and a Giveaway!

A Fatal Twist
A Downward Dog Mystery #4
Tracy Weber
Midnight Ink, January 2017
ISBN 978-0-7387-4878-9
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Yoga instructor Kate Davidson’s life takes a chaotic turn once she agrees to not only be the doula for her pregnant best friend, but also play foster mother to two puppies. The chaos only gets worse when Kate finds the dead body of a philandering fertility doctor and Rachel, one of her yoga students, fleeing the scene.

Kate is convinced her student is innocent, and she sets out to find the real killer before her testimony condemns Rachel to a life behind bars. But her hands are full with caring for three dogs, teaching yoga classes, and gaining an unexpected crime-solving partner. If she’s not careful, Kate’s next yoga pose may be a fatal one.

Babies! They’re springing up everywhere, both humans and puppies, and Kate has her hands full learning to be a doula for her best friend, Rene, as she and her husband Sam await twins. In the meantime, Kate’s boyfriend, Michael, has brought home a pair of six-week-old abandoned labradoodles, Mutt and Jeff, and Kate agrees to foster them for a short while as long as Bella, her anxious German Shepherd with special needs, doesn’t get a chance to kill them.

First to get killed, though, is a doctor Kate knows superficially, a man who appears to have been as low as a man can be. His wife is a student of Kate’s and the killing happened in a birthing center where Rene plans to go so Kate has reasons to snoop among a plethora of girlfriends (current and ex), nurses and other doctors, not to mention prospective parents who might have had reasons to hate the fertility doc. She really needs to step in because all clues seem to nail the wife, Rachel, and the police don’t want to look further.

With each murder Kate encounters, she becomes more adept at investigating and at least one of the homicide detectives doesn’t really object so much because Kate frequently has something useful to offer. Humor abounds as does a cracking good sleuthfest, not to mention reminders of the perils of puppiedom and the joys and heartbreaks of animal rescue. Tracy Weber never lets me down.

This time, Rene would have been justified—and I would have approved—if she killed Sam who’s incredibly obnoxious and obsessed with what Rene eats. On the positive side, Bella and the puppies are delightful and I’m more enchanted with her than I was before, especially since she reminds me of my beloved granddog who also suffers from social anxiety around people and other dogs. All the characters I’ve come to enjoy are back, even the somewhat annoying ones, and I felt right at home with old friends.

On a personal note, I’ve been taking warm water Yogilates classes and have become more interested in the ins and outs of yoga. I actually paid more attention this time to Ms. Weber‘s pointers and got more out of it; I won’t say I’m ready for land yoga but I love the water kind and can’t help thinking how my instructors compare to Kate (other than running around looking for killers). I just need to figure out how to listen to these books on my iPod when I’m in the pool 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2017.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To enter the drawing for a gently
used advance
reading copy of
A Fatal Twist
by Tracy Weber,
leave a comment
below. The
winning name will
be drawn
Thursday evening,
April 13th.
This drawing is open
to residents
of the US and Canada.

Book Reviews: Rescued by Eliot Schrefer and The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

rescuedRescued
Eliot Schrefer
Scholastic Press, May 2016
ISBN 978-0-545-65503-3
Hardcover

Every child wants a pet at some time or another.  A dog, kitten, pony or orangutan.  Maybe orangutan isn’t typical, but if you grew up watching BJ and the Bear or Every Which Way But Loose, you may see the simian sway.  Whatever the animal, it is almost always up to parents to make the decision.  Children don’t always know what is best.

When John casually notes the potential appeal of ape ownership while watching an old movie, he was not actually asking for a pet.  His dad could dig the draw when he recognized the leading “man” as an orangutan because sometimes the adorable orange creatures would wander around his company’s plant in Indonesia.

In fact, he returned from a business trip bearing a baby-orangutan-in-a-barrel.  John was beside himself with wonder and joy.  His mother was also struck with wonder; but hers was the “in doubt” version, much different than the “filled with admiration, amazement, or awe; marvel” version that burst from her son. John’s wonder won and Raja became the newest member of the family for four rambunctious years.  Until divorce divided them.

The two year separation of John and Raja was torture; for both boy and beast; but paled in comparison to their last days together leading up to their final farewell.   This relationship is written so well, it is as if I actually witnessed it.  The fondness, understanding, patience, support and tolerance between the “brothers” is palpable.  The range of emotions that rocket through John as he blindly battles the hardest decision of his entire life build the ultimate reader’s rollercoaster and recalling that this is a sixteen-year-old-boy, ties a knot and truly tugs the heart-strings.

I thoroughly enjoyed each and every bit of this tiny tome and would be remiss if I did not highly recommend Rescued to those searching for reads.  While the book may  technically tip into the Middle-Grade category (for the 12-year-old and older readers), I have no doubt that there are many Teen-Aged, Young-Adult and Not-So-Young-Adult readers that will love Raja’s story as intensely as I do, and I’m confident that I’m not the only reader to learn a lot from it.

Reviewed by jv poore, July 2016.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Game of Love and DeathThe Game of Love and Death
Martha Brockenbrough
Arthur A. Levine Books, May 2015
ISBN 978-0-545-66834-7
Hardcover

The Game of Love and Death is positively packed with particulars to ponder.  Love is a man, Death a woman. Each chooses a competitor, a term I use loosely; the chosen do not actually compete.  Most people are unaware of the Game, even while participating.  Virtually no rules, a victor is declared; but the win seems superfluous.

Flora, an amazing aviation mechanic, is also a phenomenal pilot, possibly rivaling Amelia Earhart.  It is 1937 and she “has the brown skin, and here in America, (you) pay so very much heed to that.” Besides, she can trick herself into believing that she was meant for something else.  The death of her parents created a void she valiantly tried to fill with the jazz nightclub she inherited.  Flora chose work over a high school diploma, believing “…the club was her future and most white folk were hell-bent on keeping colored folk in their place, even if they were polite about it.”

Henry hasn’t had it easy, but he is a white male.  His dream is simple: eke out a living with his beloved bass.  Instead, he works for the newspaper of his almost-adopted family, often accompanying Ethan on interviews.  When Henry sees Flora working on a plane, it is as if he had been sleep-walking through life and is just now completely awake.

The harrowing story of Flora and Henry in the The Game of Love and Death is enriched by the secondary characters.  Ethan isn’t the golden boy he seems, and his secret struggles would tarnish his image if revealed; although there is nothing to be ashamed of.  Simple spoken statements throughout, “there hasn’t been a white newspaper that’s written about the likes of us unless some sort of arrest was involved,” reiterate bigoted opinions; making the book more than just entertaining to thought-provoking, too.

Reviewed by jv poore, December 2016.

Book Review: I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest

I Am Princess XI Am Princess X
Cherie Priest
Illustrated by Kali Ciesemier
Arthur A. Levine Books, June 2015
ISBN 978-0-545-62085-7
Hardcover

Themes of friendship, caring, and courage are common to both the mystery and the graphic novel sections of this enthralling young adult novel. Pre-teens, May and Libby, ignore their differences and begin a lasting friendship when they create the world of Princess X. May thinks up the stories, Libby draws the pictures, and Princess X, with her katana sword, fights all manner of monsters, ghosts, and creepy characters from her haunted house on the hill. The girls’ world revolves around their stories until they are teens.

Then, Libby is gone, and May is left to be lonely. She misses both her best friend and Princess X. Until—three years later, May starts finding stickers, memorabilia, and finally a new popular website devoted to the story of Princess X. May is determined to find out how her old stories and perhaps Libby have somehow reappeared.

With the help of some new unconventional friends and a whole lot of courage, May looks for the clues she needs to solve her mystery. It takes some Jason Bourne-like dangerous snooping and some genius Mission Impossible computer hacking, all for the cause, a cause which turns out to be of life and death importance.

Readers fourteen and up will enjoy the action in the story and the clever way clues are left in the fantasy graphic art. Readers should be old enough to discern that the dangerous and illegal activities in the story are there for tension and suspense and require a suspension of disbelief.

Cherie Priest’s first foray into young adult literature is a success with this thriller/graphic novel/friendship story.

Reviewed by Joyce Ann Brown, January 2016.
http://www.joyceannbrown.com
Author of cozy mysteries: Catastrophic Connections and Furtive Investigation, the first two Psycho Cat and the Landlady Mysteries.

Book Review: The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

The Game of Love and DeathThe Game of Love and Death
Martha Brockenbrough
Arthur A. Levine Books, April 2015
ISBN: 978-0-545-66834-7
Hardcover

Aren’t we all sometimes pawns in the game of life? Love and Death have been playing the same game over and over since the time of Cleopatra. Each chooses an infant, one male, one female who will meet when they’re older and fall in love…maybe. If love persists, Love wins, if love falters, Death wins and claims her chosen as a victim.

It’s 1920 and the latest round is about to begin, this time in Seattle with two babies who couldn’t be further apart given the times. Love chooses first by appearing in the nursery where Henry Bishop, a Caucasian, lies in his crib. Love pricks his finger and lets baby Henry suckle on his blood, thus setting his part of the game in motion.

One night later in a much poorer neighborhood, Death picks up a baby girl of African-American heritage named Flora Saudade. After carrying the child to the window where they watch snow falling, Death sheds one black tear which she captures on her fingertip, using it to write the word someday on the infant’s forehead. Thus is the game sealed.

While the rules of the game often seem arbitrary and stacked in Death’s favor, Love harbors little ill will toward his opponent (Love is male, Death, female). Both can assume whatever shape they choose, even appearing for extended periods as people familiar to their chosen players. In fact it is this very ability that factors into how both Flora and Henry interact when they meet seventeen years later.

By then, Flora’s parents have been dead a very long time, having perished when hit by a drunken police officer the night Death chose her. Henry is likewise an orphan. His mother and sister perished in an influenza outbreak and his father, terribly distraught by their loss, jumped to his death, leaving Henry to be taken in by his father’s best friend, the owner of the Seattle newspaper.

Flora has fallen in love with flying and has been taken under the wing of a French war hero who owns a fancy biplane that she maintains and flies whenever she’s allowed. Her other source of income comes from singing jazz in the club she and her uncle own, the only legacy left after her parents’ death. She’s an amazing singer, something Henry discovers when he convinces his best friend and son of his benefactor, Ethan, that they should check out the club. This isn’t the first time Henry has seen Flora. Ethan took him along when he went to do a feature on the plane and Flora was running a preflight check on it. Henry is also someone who has music in his blood as he plays the bass and loves to improvise.

While Death has never lost, there’s something about this match that worries her, so she pulls out all the stops, as if the fact that blacks and whites simply don’t mix in 1937 wasn’t sufficient to doom any sort of spark between Flora and Henry. The roadblocks thrown up in front of each lover, the direness of the times and all the gyrations both the players and their manipulators must go through by the end of the story will keep most readers enthralled. While the pace might be a bit slow for some, I loved this book, the characters and the sense of elegance it creates. Astute readers will also appreciate the relationship and insight Love and Death have with and about each other. Teens and adults who like an offbeat love story with some decidedly paranormal aspects will enjoy this book.

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, September 2015.

Book Review: Karma’s a Killer by Tracy Weber—and a Giveaway!

Karma's a KillerKarma’s a Killer
A Downward Dog Mystery #3
Tracy Weber
Midnight Ink,
ISBN 978-0-7387-4210-6
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

When Seattle yoga teacher Kate Davidson agrees to teach doga (yoga for dogs) at a fundraiser for a local animal shelter, she believes the only damage will be to her reputation. But a few downward-facing dogs are the least of Kate’s problems when an animal rights protest at the event leads to a suspicious fire and a drowning.

The police arrest Dharma, a woman claiming to be Kate’s estranged mother, and charge her with murder. To prove Dharma’s innocence, Kate, her boyfriend Michael, and her German shepherd sidekick Bella dive deeply into the worlds of animal activism and organizational politics. As they investigate the dangerous obsessions that drive these groups, Kate and her sleuthing team discover that when it comes to murder, there’s no place like hOMe.

It’s always nice to return to a series you’ve enjoyed before, isn’t it? That’s how I feel about Tracy Weber‘s books and visiting with Kate, Bella and Mike has once again given me a few hours of real pleasure.

The idea of holding a yoga class for dogs in a festival-like environment could be a good one but, of course, that would make life too easy for Kate. As it turns out, her misgivings are completely justified when a bunny shows up and chaos ensues but it’s the discovery of a body that really puts a damper on things. Kate can’t help being in the middle of it all since she witnessed an earlier argument but she’s truly unprepared for the personal surprise that’s coming her way, tying her even more closely to the crime. This time, she really does have a vested interest in solving the murder and the consequences will be devastating if she doesn’t clear the obvious suspect.

Ms. Weber crafts a fine cozy mystery but she goes a step further by including a topic that can be very controversial. Members of an animal rights organization much like PETA carry out a protest during the fundraiser and their behavior is both obnoxious and, to a certain extent, sympathetic. None of us want bad things to happen to animals but, in Karma’s a Killer, the reader has the opportunity to think about both sides of the issue. Even Bella becomes involved, being seen as a victim of abuse and neglect because of a misunderstanding.

Kate’s past and her reluctance to talk about it with her boyfriend, Mike, or her best friend, Rene, come to the fore in this series entry and she learns a lot about herself and her childhood. What she does with this will be crucial to her own wellbeing and possibly to her future with Mike. On the other hand, Kate might have a bigger problem with a pigeon named Mister Feathers 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2016.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To enter the drawing for an advance
reading copy of Karma’s a Killer
by Tracy Weber, leave a comment
below. The winning name will
be drawn Monday evening,
January 18th. This drawing is open
to residents of the US and Canada.