Book Review: The Secret of Dunhaven Castle by Nellie H. Steele @SDSXXTours

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The Secret of Dunhaven Castle
Cate Kensie Mysteries Book 1
by Nellie H. Steele
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Amazon
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The Secret of Dunhaven Castle
A Cate Kensie Mystery Book 1
Nellie H. Steele
A Novel Idea Publishing, November 2019
ISBN 978-1951582029
Trade Paperback
How in the world could she now own a castle?
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Shy, introverted Dr. Cate Kensie never imagined that she would inherit a beautiful, and oddly quirky, castle nestled in the picturesque Scottish Highlands. Truthfully, she was sure that she didn’t have any family left after her parents died in a car accident several years before, but then she had gotten the phone call, and her entire world had turned upside down.
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That was when she discovered that she had family in Scotland, and her distant family member, Gertrude MacKenzie, had passed away, leaving her Dunhaven Castle and a golden timepiece with the mysterious phone call: ALWAYS KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR TIME.
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Soon after she leaves the only life she’s ever known in the US with her four-legged best friend, the adorable Riley, she quickly finds that owning this castle is not the fairytale she expected. Mysterious events occur that leave Cate wondering if her new home is haunted or if she’s losing her mind.
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Will Cate be able to unravel the mysteries of Dunhaven Castle before it’s too late? Or will the secrets be too much for Cate to handle?
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Find out if Cate can uncover the secrets her new home holds in The Secret of Dunhaven Castle!
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What little girl doesn’t dream of inheriting a castle and becoming nobility…and, for many, that dream never entirely dies even when we recognize the extreme unlikelihood such a thing will ever happen. So, it’s not surprising that Cate finds her inheritance from an unknown countess is hard to believe but, considering her floundering professorial career and her lack of ties in this country, moving to Scotland definitely has a certain appeal.
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Ms. Steele borrows elements from other novels and puts them to good use, things such as the will’s requirement that she must live in the castle in order to inherit and the atmosphere that goes along with an ancient building. Cate is confronted by a number of secrets, not the least of which is why the family name changed at some point and how the branches of the family became estranged. Her background as a history professor is helpful but even that isn’t much use when it comes to figuring out the mysteries of a very unusual watch.
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With attractive characters and an interesting plot, this is a nice beginning to an appealing series and, while it didn’t tax my brain too much, I enjoyed the journey with Cate and the adorable Riley and will look forward to the next books.
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Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2020.
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Murder at Dunhaven Castle
Cate Kensie Mysteries Book 2
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If you could go back in time and clear your family’s name, would you?
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Dr. Cate Kensie, now known as Lady Catherine Kensie, the mistress of Dunhaven Castle, still can’t believe her life. Somehow, moved to Scotland, inherited a castle that’s more than meets the eye, and is the proud–and sometimes reluctant– owner of an amazing family heirloom. But there’s a secret Cate must protect about her new life, a secret that no one but Jack Reid, the estate manager, knows of.
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As Cate learns more about her new home, she discovers that in 1856 there was a murder at Dunhaven and non-other than her own ancestor, Randolph MacKenzie, was accused and convicted of the crime. However, the more she learns about the murder at Dunhaven, the more confusing things become. All of the evidence is there, but the answers still don’t add up.
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Will Cate have the courage to dive into a centuries-old murder to clear her family’s name? Or will she find out the hard way that sometimes it’s best to leave the past in the past where it can’t hurt you?
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Find out in the nail-biting second installment of the Cate Kensie Mysteries series, Murder at Dunhaven Castle!
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Holiday Heist at Dunhaven Castle
Cate Kensie Mysteries Book 3
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Cate knew she had seen those jewels before.
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As her eyes scanned the newspaper article from 1925, she is shocked to read about the theft of two priceless necklaces from her family’s home. When Cate recognizes one of the stolen necklaces from when she traveled back in time to the year 1856 to solve a murder mystery, Cate knows there’s only one thing left for her to do. Despite the hectic holiday season approaching, complete with two grand holiday events, Cate must travel to 1925 and unravel the mystery surrounding the jewelry theft.
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However, things take an unexpected turn when she arrives. As Cate discovers more unanswered questions, she starts to wonder if there’s a piece to the puzzle she has yet to uncover.
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While Cate and estate manager, Jack, try to unravel the puzzle in the past, another mystery brews in the present for Cate. Strange and eerie nightmares centered around a bookcase in Dunhaven Castle’s library disrupt Cate’s sleep, rattling her mind even during her waking hours. She wonders if these are connected to the jewelry theft or if something darker lurks in Dunhaven’s halls.
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Can Cate solve the mysterious theft of her family’s jewelry? Will the bookcase hold the secrets to the past? If it does, will Cate be able to decipher the clues on its shelves? Or is there something more sinister at work in Dunhaven Castle?
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Find out if Cate has what it takes to solve the newest mysteries at Dunhaven Castle in Holiday Heist at Dunhaven Castle, book three of the riveting cozy mystery series Cate Kensie Mysteries.
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About the Author

Nellie H. Steele lives in the South Hills of Pittsburgh with her family and her many fur-babies. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys teaching Statistics at a local university or watching her dogs and cats play in the yard.
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Nellie is the author of the Cate Kensie Mystery Series, a cozy mystery series following the adventures of Dr. Catherine Kensie, a history professor turned Scottish Countess, and her beloved dog, Riley, as they navigate their new lives in their quirky Scottish highlands castle, solving mysteries along the way! She is the creator of the Shadow Slayers series, a suspenseful series with a supernatural twist! Follow the Shadow Slayers through time as they fight to banish darkness from the world. Nellie also writes an adventure series, Maggie Edwards Adventures. Follow Maggie Edwards as she travels the world solving mysteries and finding unique treasures!
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Book Review: A Litter of Bones by JD Kirk @JDKirkBooks @ZertexMedia

A Litter of Bones
A DCI Jack Logan Novel #1
JD Kirk
Zertex Crime, April 2019
ISBN 978-1-912767-12-0
Trade Paperback

There are eight books in the series – and to date I have read four of them. I bought them for my Kindle as they were all reasonably priced ( Book 8 is due out in a few weeks) and all are around 300 pages in length.

I’ve read the first four to date….and really enjoyed them all…. They are set in Scotland, in and around Fort William and Inverness.  I’m originally from Scotland and relatively familiar with the area so that struck a chord with me. Jack Logan is a great character. He’s a Detective Chief Inspector, big, brawny and not to be trifled with.  He was married and he has a daughter… but his work has taken precedence at the cost of his marriage.

A Litter of Bones is the first book in the series.

When a young boy goes missing in the Scottish Highlands DCI Logan is sent to take the lead in the case due to the fact that he’d recently had success in apprehending and prosecuting a man who’d kidnapped and killed several children.  But when similarities to the previous missing children’s cases surface, it isn’t long before the local press begin to question whether DCI Logan had arrested and charged the wrong man.

Logan has his own misgivings but pushes his colleagues to their limit determined to find the missing boy alive. When one of his Detectives is attacked while checking out an abandoned house and forensics later find indications that the missing boy was indeed being held there…the tension quickly escalates, as hopes of finding the missing boy alive slowly diminish.

I  enjoyed getting to know DCI Logan and the local detectives and police.  The race to catch the kidnapper kept me eagerly turning pages.   I highly recommend this book and the next three in the series… JD Kirk is the pen name of Barry Hutchison who has written a number of children’s  books and as he puts it ‘is meantime enjoying murdering people’ in this mystery series.

Check them out!  You’ll be glad you did!

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, September 2020.

Book Review: Now I See You by Shannon Work @TheWorkFamily @SDSXXTours

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Title: Now I See You
Series: Mountain Resort Mystery Series, Book 1
Author: Shannon Work
Publication Date: September 15, 2020
Genres: Mystery, Suspense

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Amazon // Indiebound

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Now I See You
Mountain Resort Mystery Series, Book 1
Shannon Work
Shannon Work, September 2020
ISBN 978-1-7354353-0-5
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Two murders. A terrified mountain resort. Can a daring reporter help stop an avalanche of dead bodies?

Celebrity TV anchor Georgia Glass wants out of Denver and far away from her obsessed fan. Set to host her own investigative crime show in LA, she’s surprised to inherit a Victorian house in Aspen from a mysterious uncle she never knew. But while exploring the gothic property, she discovers the frozen corpse of a missing heiress.

Georgia’s journalist instincts kick in and she is determined to help police track down the killer. But by investigating the murder, has she made herself the killer’s next target?

Can Georgia help solve the case before she becomes the next victim? Or will the stalker that followed her to Aspen get her first?

Now I See You is a fast-paced whodunit set amidst the spectacular scenery of Aspen, Colorado, and the first book in the suspenseful Mountain Resort Mystery series.

Georgia Glass is an interesting woman and I was particularly struck by a random thought she has, that she has “vague memories” of her visits to Aspen after just ten years. That makes her seem rather shallow but I actually think it might be a kind of commentary on so many people today whose lives are so filled with information flooding their brains from all directions. TV journalists especially may find their attention and focus driven from one story to the next, causing memories to be more fleeting than in less frenetic times. Hmm…something I’ll want to think more about.

Besides finding a body in her newly inherited property, Georgia is also recovering from the stress of having a devoted fan who turned into a stalker. That situation seems to be under control but no journalist worthy of the name could resist looking into the presence of a dead body practically at her feet. She’s new in town but makes connections quickly, including with a local police detective and it isn’t long before she comes to the attention of a serial killer who already has committed several murders.

I figured out most of the salient facts faster than I expect to in a true whodunnit, as this has been billed, but the author has crafted a nicely suspenseful story. Detective Jack Martin will be back in the next book, set in Vail, and I’m looking forward to seeing him again.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2020.

About the Author

Shannon Work grew up in Del Rio, a border town in the dusty wilds of West Texas. When she graduated from high school, she moved east to College Station and graduated from Texas A&M University with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a master’s degree in Land Economics and Real Estate.

Most of her working life has been spent developing real estate, earning a national Best in America Living Award for one of her developments. After two failed starts at writing a novel while raising three kids and working, she retired to pursue her dream of writing mystery novels full time.

Shannon and her husband are recent empty nesters and split their time between Houston, Texas and Telluride, Colorado. Always with their laptops and dogs in tow.

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Bookbub * Amazon * Goodreads

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Book Review: Abney Kelly & the Yuletide Shenanigans by SamiJo McQuiston @SJMcQuiston @YABoundToursPR

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Title: Abney Kelly & the Yuletide Shenanigans
Series: Abney Kelly Series, Book 1
Author: SamiJo McQuiston
Publication Date: October 9, 2020
Genres: Dark Fantasy, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon

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Abney Kelly & the Yuletide Shenanigans
Abney Kelly, Book 1
SamiJo McQuiston
SamiJo McQuiston. October 2020
ISBN 978-0578678283
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Abney Kelly seems like your typical thirteen-year-old trying to find her place in the world. She’s shy, awkward, has no friends, and is bullied constantly. However things are not always as they appear, after being pushed into a clover patch, a creature who says he’s her assigned guardian whisks her off to a school in Tìr na nÓg, called Yule.

Turns out she’s a Changeling, and it’s time she learns what that means. Between making new friends, discovering that all the monsters in her nightmares are real, and starting at a new school, Abney didn’t think life could get any harder as she splits her time between the human and Fae realms.

That is until her house matron warns them about Nicholas Kringle. He is stalking his prey throughout realms and collecting the hearts of those on his so-called nice list. At a New Year’s Eve party, Abney and her new gang use an Ouija board and discover that one of their friends is on Kringle’s list.

Determined to stop their friend’s death, Abney and company set off on a chilly adventure, to try to change fate, but only one thing is for certain… This year they’ll end up on the naughty list or die trying.

I’m not usually in the mood for Christmasy books in October but snarky humor always floats my boat and I got that vibe from the description. Also, everything else in this world of ours is kind of topsy-turvy these days so why not read a Christmas story before we even get to Thanksgiving, right?

As it turns out, there isn’t much humor here, snarky or otherwise, but I wasn’t really too far off of “proper” timing because this has a distinct feeling of Halloween. Abney is a girl who doesn’t always have an easy time of it—much worse, in fact, than most teens—but she plugs along until life suddenly takes a dramatic turn, thrusting her into a world of magic and wondrous beings, and she learns that she’s actually a Changeling with a whole ‘nother future ahead. First, though, she and her new friends hear the real legend of Santa aka Nicholas Kringle and it’s a very different tale indeed, full of dark mischief and destruction. Unfortunately for them, it’s more than just a fable and they’re going to have to do something about the evil Kringle.

Abney Kelly & the Yuletide Shenanigans is a complex story with much interweaving of mythology and fairy tales mixed with a good deal of horror and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Fair warning, though—this is not the charming Good Saint Nick story you’ll want to share with the little kids in your life 😱 😈

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An Excerpt from
Abney Kelly & the Yuletide Shenanigans

Chapter 6
The Story of Nicholas Kringle

A thick, stew-like fog encircled Oberon House. Th e Pucas were supposed to be taking them to see the enormous Christmas tree in the square, but there was no way to go out safely. If you stuck your hand into the mist, it disappeared before your eyes, and in general, had a strange-uneasy feel to it. Everyone was very content to stay in and help decorate the house Christmas tree in the Ocean Room.

The decorations were colorful and random; Agatha didn’t do themes for her tree like Abney’s family did, but it was still fun, and everyone chipped in. Blythe taught them to string popcorn, and Wilbur and Snozbert were taking colored glass beads and morphing them into
different shapes and figures by request. It was like watching master glassblowers at work, but they never heated the marbles. They were able to manipulate them with their bare hands.

“I love Christmas trees,” Abney said as she looked transfixed at the glowing masterpiece.

“It’s a Yule tree,” Feo said as she came in with a tray of sweet orange tea and began pouring cups.

“Is there a difference?” Abney asked curiously.

“Oh, most definitely. Christmas trees are a pagan tradition you know, taught to Fleetlings by the Fae,” Feo said carefully. “Anyway, the most important difference is that a Yule tree is always a live tree. Fleetlings use fake trees and all sorts of nonsense these days. They’ve forgotten the traditions of old, but a Yule tree must be alive.”

“I think it’s time for a story,” Agatha said from her armchair by the fire. She took a deep drag from her hookah pipe through the black hole in her neck. “Come closer, sugars, closer,” she bid them, and they all sat on the floor near her feet. “You are all aware of the legend of The Santa Claus?”

“Everyone knows that one,” Zoey replied.

“Ya, ya,” Domino agreed. “The dude who knows if you’re naughty or nice. We all know how it goes.” Abney wasn’t sure why but she suddenly
felt edgy, and goosebumps rose on her arms.

“That’s the one, honey,” Agatha agreed. “I suppose you know him as a fat, jolly, man who passes out gifts?”

“Every December the 25th,” Domino smiled.

“That’s the version known to most Fleetlings,” Agatha continued.

“But I’m going to tell you the real story. Heed my words. They are much more paramount now than they have been in many years.” The teenagers and Pucas moved closer to the fire, unconsciously wanting to chase away the dark and its accompanying shadows.

“This story starts out as all good tales do. Once upon a time, in a faraway land, there lived a lonely king. Not just any king though, The Winter King, Jack Frost, himself. Blythe, a little help please?” Agatha breathed out. Blythe whispered a few words and blew them into Agatha’s smoke. A sad man appeared in the escaping vapor, and the story took to life as Agatha started to speak again, “He longed for a child to love and fill his days with joy, but no maid could carry the child of the frozen monarch. Frustrated and grief-stricken, he sought out the great witch, Baba Yaga.

“‘Grandmother,’ he begged. ‘I am alone and childless. Is there anything you can do to help me? Is there a way for me to have a child?’ Baba Yaga thought for a moment, looked deep into his heart, and knew he was sincere. She decided to help The Winter King, but he must bring her three things: Snow, from the coldest peak, coal from the deepest mine, and a feather from the brightest Phoenix.

“So The Winter King scoured the Earth until he had everything the witch had asked for. First, Baba Yaga took the snow and patted it into the shape of a girl, then she picked up the coal and wrapped the phoenix feather around it, the coal ignited melting the feather into it. Finally, she
forced the coal into the snow girl where her heart would have been. The winds picked up and whirled violently around them, but The Winter King and Baba Yaga stood fast, and when the snow settled again, a small pale girl stood before them. Her skin was blue, like a frozen glacier, and her hair white as snow, with a hint of the Northern Lights about it. The King loved her instantly, but as he reached for her, Baba Yaga stepped between them.

“‘Nothing is free, Winter King,’ she said. ‘A time will come when I will ask you for a favor, and you must agree to do as I ask.’ The King, being so close to his heart’s desire could do nothing but agree. Baba Yaga released the girl to him with a warning.

“‘She is snow and ice, but her heart is fire. She must never lose control of her emotions. You must teach her to remain calm in even the worst of storms. If she loses control, your daughter will melt and return to the water from whence she came.’

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About the Author

SamiJo is a first-class shenanigator, decorated coddiwompler, narrator, and author of, The Abney Kelly series. She lives in Wyoming with her dog, two cats, and four chickens. She participates in tomfoolery frequently and plans to get into waggishness in the future. Vive La Pete!

Website: https://www.vivelapete.com/

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/SJMcQuiston

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ViveLaPete/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/s.j.mcquiston/?hl=en

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Book Review: Halloween Monsters by Eric Guth and How to Handle a Narcissist by Theresa Jackson @guthbooks

Halloween Monsters
A Guide of Spooky Facts & Faces
Eric Guth
Eric Guth, July 2020
ISBN 979-8667180388
Picture Book

Halloween Monsters: A Guide of Spooky Facts and Faces by Eric Guth is so remarkably good, I’m downright giddy. Immediately intrigued upon hearing about this upcoming Children’s Picture Book with truths and origins of some spooky creatures, I was over-the-top enamored with the actual tome. Engaging, fresh and fascinating fast-facts, such as when witches were depicted with black-pointy-hats, rather than hair of smoke and fire; alongside confirmation of the familiar, result in a groovy bigger-picture.

Speaking of pictorial representations, I absolutely adore the collage-style pictures. The author uses an incredibly cool concept, wherein he maximizes the common accessories associated with each mythical being, but in a minimalist-kind-of-way. A few bats; a couple of garlic bulbs, stakes and mirrors—with a coffin tossed in—magically morphs into the face of a vampire.

Halloween Monsters is one of those rare treasures that I expect to appeal to all types of readers. Self-professed “non-readers” may like facts over ‘a silly story’ and this presentation makes for a very quick and easy read. Voracious readers tend to love trivia, particularly when it is timely. Learning a little monster-history as autumn approaches is fitting. Finally, for those youngsters that may be a bit more than apprehensive about the freaky-frights frequently spotted in October; reading how they came to be may make them a little less scary.

Huge thank-you to the author for the sneak-peek-copy to donate to one of my favorite classroom libraries.

Reviewed by jv poore, July 2020.

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How to Handle a Narcissist
Understanding and Dealing with a Range of Narcissistic Personalities
Theresa Jackson
Theresa Jackson, May 2017
ISBN 978-1521339978
Trade Paperback

I was wrong.

I thought I had a basic understanding of what it means to be a narcissist and—here I am so embarrassed for me—I was neither particularly empathetic nor sympathetic to the why. Which is not only disappointing, but stupidly hypocritical. My feathers will ruffle whenever I hear a misunderstanding about clinical depression stated as a fact.

Without rebuff, Ms. Jackson brings the facts. For example, we are all somewhere on the narcissistic scale. At the top of that scale looms Narcissistic Personality Disorder. A lofty sense of self and need to be admired are typical characteristics of NPD. For everyone else, personality traits are developed to handle narcissistic tendencies.

To me, this is the quintessential “How To” story. I appreciated Ms. Jackson’s straightforward explanations and I love that she worked so hard to help us understand that, while it may seem quicker and more effective to go through life with a yes-or-no/black-or-white view, it is actually inaccurate.

The case-studies, assessments and apt advice on understanding and associating with a person high on the narcissistic scale are invaluable. I am amazed by all that I learned in this quick, easy-to-follow guide and, although humbled, I truly feel that I will behave better.

Reviewed by jv poore, April 2019.

Book Reviews: The Budapest Escape by Bill Rapp and West of Famous by Joni M. Fisher @JoniMFisher

The Budapest Escape
A Cold War Thriller #3

Bill Rapp
Coffeetown Press, November 2019
ISBN 978-1-94189-072-1
Trade Paperback

The novel is set in the 1950s in a time of great turbulence in the world. The Soviet Union is showing cracks in its leadership. Tensions between the world powers are still evident and relationships between Allied nations are still settling down. Life and routines in the relatively young Central Intelligence Agency are still often experimental and somewhat uncertain.

The novel’s protagonist is Karl Baier, a CIA agent attempting to maneuver himself into a higher-level position, possibly Chief of Station. Meanwhile, turmoil rises in the Eastern European nations; Baier worries about his assets in Hungary and determines to rescue one of them before the revolution occurs and destroys nearly all social routine.

The potential for this novel to be a truly action and intelligence-filled narrative are all there. Unfortunately, in spite of a high degree of authenticity, and historical accuracy, the novel reads like the kind of reports government bureaucrats too often file. It is mostly devoid of emotion and the tension-filled moments are too often seen as if being observed from behind a screen. The history and circumstances of life during this period are accurate and interesting, but I would have preferred more terror, emotion, and human mistakes.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, May 2020.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

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West of Famous  
Compass Crimes #3
Joni M. Fisher

Joni M. Fisher, February 2019
ISBN: 978-0-9972575-4-0
Trade Paperback

A handsome evocative cover introduces a riveting tale of kidnapping, identity mistakes, the internal power of a young woman and the kind of inevitable encompassing efforts of law enforcement when called on.

Martina Ramos, a bright college graduate student is immersed in the college grind of prepping for exams at Oxford. Her college friends believe her on break, her family thinks she’s studying, nose to grindstone. Certain other friends believe she’s taking a brief break from a chance encounter with a pop star. The pop star needed a favor, a stand-in to take her place for a few weeks on the party circuit in south Florida. Martina fits the role to a T.

When she awakens in the foul hold of a boat anchored somewhere off the Florida coast, the number of people who truly know where she is has been reduced to three or maybe four. And they are not Martina’s friends.

What follows is a carefully designed, increasingly tense and terror filled effort to find the kidnapped college student while keeping her true identity secret, because her family doesn’t have the kind of ransom money being demanded.

As Martina’s family, experienced law enforcement and military types, come together with a small cadre of FBI agents, plans are formed to rescue the girl before her true identity is discovered and before the looming deadline for delivery of the ransom money arrives. The plans and movements which form the bulk of this well-written novel are carefully and logically laid out. Meanwhile, readers are treated to the terror-filled existence of the young girl, contrasted with her tough-minded cautious efforts to extricate herself from the clutches of the kidnappers. The possibility of death for the unfortunate girl is well-explicated in both narratives, that of her searchers and her own interactions with her captors.

The novel is peopled with a range of interesting individuals and their interactions are both logical and well-reasoned so that readers will be eminently satisfied as the resolution looms ever closer. A thoroughly enjoyable crime novel.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, March 2019.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: Simple by Dena Nicotra @DenaNicotra @AnAudiobookworm

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Title: Simple
Series: Simp, Book 1
Author: Dena Nicotra
Narrator: Kendra Murray
Publication Date: July 1, 2020
Genres: Science Fiction

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Simple
Simp, Book 1
Dena Nicotra
Narrated by Kendra Murray
Dena Nicotra, July 2020
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

Nothing simple is real. You will look twice at people…and technology.

The idea of making life simple appealed to the mainstream. After the economic collapse of the 21st century, the government latched on to technology like an economic lifeline. Bio-synthetic humanoids integrated into society with relative ease. Taking on the menial jobs, humans grew dependent on their android counterparts, but the corporate sector took things too far. Wrapped in their one-click comfort zones, people trudged along with their lattes and fashion trend blinders.

The dark side of genetic engineering is a harsh reality. Humans are being hunted. They don’t stand a chance.

No one seemed to notice that they weren’t acting as hospitable as they once had. They should have. They didn’t have weaknesses like we did, and, they were capable of clever, unimaginable cruelty.

Those that have survived call the rogue bio-synthetic humanoids “simps” because the company that started the mess had a cheesy marketing campaign that said they made life “Simple”. They couldn’t have been more wrong. When the war broke out, simps were used to spare human losses. It was viewed as a brilliant solution until a developer working for the enemy infected the simps with a virus that caused them to turn on the humans they served. They couldn’t shut them down fast enough.

Hailey Pachello doesn’t do people. She relies on herself because it’s easier. It’s safer, and it’s less dramatic. That is until she meets Leonard ‘Gizzard’ O’Malley. Giz has connections and a plan, and it might just be a good one.

Join Hailey as she embarks on her wondrous adventure, in a timeless, powerful, and memorable cyberpunk thriller. 

Fans of Isaac Asimov will appreciate this fast past thriller, although the three laws of robotics never applied to simps! This cyberpunk tale is set in the year 2038.

Ever since our first stay-at-home started, along about mid-March, I’ve had trouble getting much satisfaction out of reading and I know I’m not alone. I hear about it online and in Zoom book club meetings and it’s really frustrating; as best as I can explain it in my own case, it seems to be an inability to focus, to really get involved with what I’m reading. With only a handful of exceptions, most books have struck me as lackluster and, while I know the problem is me, not the books (for the most part), the end result is the same.

Then along came Simple and, oh my, Dena Nicotra, aided by Kendra Murray’s fine narration, has taken me to a place I’ve missed—booklove. Can I point to anything in particular? No, I just got completely caught up with a terrific plot and characters who grabbed my attention, brought to vivid life by Ms. Murray’s distinct voices and spot-on sense of pacing. Ms. Nicotra’s worldbuilding is pretty darned good, too—I’d like to know more about how people first became so dependent on androids but the author gave enough background that I didn’t really feel a lack.

Lee (Hailey) is a young woman I would love to know in real life, complex with a backbone of steel and a desire to not have to care about anybody. She fails at that but she also has the intelligence and street smarts to survive in this war against droids gone bad and, when she falls in with Mic and Giz, the action starts to ramp up seriously. Then there’s my next favorite character, Two, and a passel of bad guys who also just happen to be full of personality. Oh, and by the way, Ms. Murray’s interpretation of Sonya is, well, perfect.

Technically, this book could be a standalone but I want more so I’m very happy to know there’s a sequel, Real. Now I just need to hope there will be an audio edition…soon.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2020.

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes

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About the Author

Dena Nicotra was born in Southern California and grew up between the busy city and a small town in Arkansas. She is a copywriter, freelance journalist, and holds a degree in Communications. She currently lives in a small desert town in California with her husband and one very spoiled little dog.

She’s mom to two grown sons that she calls her sun and moon. ​When she’s not writing, she can be found in the kitchen cooking up something special for family and friends.

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Instagram

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About the Narrator

Kendra performed in numerous plays in high school and college, and directed a play for her senior project, which earned her the school Drama Cup. She apprenticed at, and managed the Box Office of the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge, Mass. She performed, produced and directed radio plays with Petaluma Radio Players. Kendra narrates audiobooks across many genres, as solo narrator and as duet narrators with her husband, Ralph Scott, all available on audible.com.  She frequently “speaks” in character voices for her dog, Gandalf, and her cats, Merlin and Saffira. She has two young adult children and a stepdaughter. Kendra is an avid knitter and spinner, and is very crafty.

Website

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Play an excerpt here.

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Follow the tour here.

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