Book Review: Seldom Traveled by Marilyn Meredith

seldom-traveledSeldom Traveled
Tempe Crabtree Mystery Series #15
Marilyn Meredith
Mundania Press, August 2016
ISBN 978-1-59426-433-7
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

The tranquility of the mountain community of Bear Creek is disrupted by a runaway fugitive, a vicious murderer, and a raging forest fire. Deputy Tempe Crabtree is threatened by all three.

One of the things that makes the Tempe Crabtree series by Marilyn Meredith so appealing is its setting in a mountain community where the issues facing law enforcement that can be common in urban areas are rather unique in a more rural environment. Certainly the fugitive seen near Bear Creek could have just as easily headed for a big city but he didn’t do so, meaning Tempe will have to deal with the situation along with…or, rather, in spite of…the dismissive Marshal Gallegos. Unfortunately, that isn’t all she has on her plate; a woman, Mariah Konstanzer, has gone missing from her family’s remote vacation home and is found murdered.

Detectives Morrison and Richards take control of the murder investigation but it isn’t long before Tempe is pulled in to assist and is soon interviewing a lengthy list of potential suspects. Before she can shorten the list, a third crisis erupts, a wildfire high on the mountain. Tempe races to warn residents to evacuate and it isn’t long before all three issues intersect.

Tempe is a deputy I’ve followed for years and, once again, she’s the diligent, thoughtful investigator I’ve come to expect as well as a caring wife and member of the Bear Creek community. For some reason, Tempe always gives me a sense of confidence that all will be right with the world when it’s all said and done and she pulls it off once again. I hope we won’t have to wait long for the next adventure.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2017.

Book Review: Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen

Wake of VulturesWake of Vultures
The Shadow: Book One
Lila Bowen
Orbit, October 2015
ISBN 978-0-316-26431-0
Hardcover

This was both a joyful and inspiring read.  With a fabulously frantic fast pace, the action-packed adventure to find and conquer the Cannibal Owl sucked me in and carried me along.  The variety of monsters that are encountered all along the way totally tickled my adoration of fantasy, while the main character, Nettie Lonesome, grounded me and filled me with hope and pride.

Nettie’s spunk, whole-hearted courage and unconditional admiration and adoration of all animals are delightfully demonstrated by her actions and blunt dialogue.  Her rough edges are only a thin disguise for her compassion and empathy, making her into the quintessential heroine, in my eyes.

“What if it was a good monster having a bad day?”

Already a huge fan of Delilah Dawson (aka Lila Bowen), I was nevertheless blown away by her clever capability of tackling serious social issues with subtle undertones in this captivating, compelling story.  I think Chuck Wendig summed it up best when he said, “WAKE OF VULTURES doesn’t just fly—it soars.”

“I ain’t white, and that’s all that seems to matter to folks.”

“Suicide was a pleasure she couldn’t afford.”

If you are looking for something completely different yet comfortable and familiar, this is the author for you.  Enjoy.

Reviewed by jv poore, March 2016.

Book Review: ASP of Ascension by BR Myers

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Title: ASP of Ascension
Series: A Nefertari Hughes Mystery #1

Author: BR Myers
Publisher: Fierce Ink Books
Publication Date: July 21, 2015
Genres: Mystery, Young Adult

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ASP of AscensionASP of Ascension
A Nefertari Hughes Mystery #1
BR Myers
Fierce Ink Books, July 2015
ISBN 978-1-927746-62-2
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Nefertari “Terry” Hughes has three rules for surviving high school:
#1 Don’t attract attention.
#2 Don’t get involved.
#3 Don’t make trouble.

A year after the accident that left her crippled and took her mother’s life, sixteen-year-old Terry just wants to keep her head down and survive her new high school. When she catches the eye of cute basketball star Zach — who happens to be the boyfriend of mean girl Allison — all hopes of flying under the radar are gone. 

She is thrust even further in the spotlight when Fraser, the editor of the school newspaper, learns Mr. Hughes is the renowned archaeologist overseeing the new Egyptian display at the museum, which is rumoured to include Cleopatra’s sarcophagus. Fraser’s research leads to the fifty-year-old mystery of a girl who vanished while on a school trip to to the museum along with an artifact that may be Cleopatra’s asp.

When Mr. Hughes falls into a coma and his co-worker claims it’s the curse of Cleopatra, the stakes become too high for Terry to ignore. Terry must work with Fraser and her new candy loving friend Maude to find out what happened fifty years ago in hopes of saving her father before time runs out.

When I was a kid, I spent years dreaming of being an archaeologist. Much later, I had the chance to do some traveling and the time I spent in Greece, and especially Egypt, made me wish I’d followed through on those dreams and, to this date, Egypt is still my favorite place to visit. Because of my fondness for the place, the people and the history, I’m always drawn to books featuring Egypt in one way or another (and, yes, I’ve consumed the Amelia Peabody series more than once).

ASP of Ascension offers all that and, as a bonus, takes the older reader like me back to high school days while it’s also a window on those halls of angst and joy and so many other emotions for the readers who are still there. Terry herself is really appealing, and very believable, as a girl who has suffered much damage, physically and emotionally, and just wants to slide through school as unobtrusively as possible. I felt for this girl. Add to that a perfectly wonderful pink-haired sidekick/BFF named Maude and an energetic school newspaper editor named Fraser and the sleuthing team is complete. Oh, and let’s not forget Zach, the hunky jock who’s atypically a pretty nice guy and is just as appealing as the rest of the crew.

Solving the mystery of what happened 50 years ago and what’s happening with her dad now is a fun and slightly fluffy read with a bit of supernatural stuff going on and I thoroughly enjoyed this first in what I hope will be a long-running series. If not, that’s OK since things are resolved quite nicely and I think readers from middle grade to old age will enjoy Nefertari’s adventure.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2016.

About the Author

BR MyersI write YA, appreciate a design in my cappuccino, love shopping for vintage jewelry and dream in color. Coming from Nimbus Publishing, my contemporary coming of age novels, BUTTERFLIES DON’T LIE (SEPTEMBER 15,2014) and GIRL ON THE RUN (Fall 2015). from Fierce Ink Press, ASP OF ASCENSION (July 2015).

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Book Review: The House on Stone’s Throw Island by Dan Poblocki

The House on Stone's Throw IslandThe House on Stone’s Throw Island
Dan Poblocki
Scholastic Press, September 2015
ISBN 978-0-545-64556-0
Hardcover

Dealing with an older sibling’s wedding, especially when the participants seem to have outgrown you, is no picnic. Add in the fact that it’s a big production on a remote island where you’re expected to be dressed up, play nice and let adults embarrass you, and you know how Eli Barker feels. Things get more uncomfortable when the adults try to jokingly pair him off with Josie Sandoval whose brother Bruno is marrying Eli’s sister Aimee.

Fair weather is predicted for the wedding weekend, but inside Eli’s head, the weather is gloomy and stormy, made worse when he thinks Josie is trying to embarrass him in front of the adults. As a threatening storm front moves in from the open ocean, Eli decides to become scarce and heads for the decrepit brick building on a small peninsula he spotted from his bedroom. The closer he gets, the more uneasy he feels, but he’s unable to stop. Josie, feeling bad about how she treated Eli, sees him sneaking off from her upstairs window and decides to follow.

They hear a disembodied voice asking for help in German and after gathering their courage, the two explore what appears to be a dungeon below the old building where they find and soon lose an old button with a swastika on it.

No one believes them about the voices, but Josie’s become a true believer in the possibility that there are ghosts on the island because she saw a disheveled girl a couple years older than she is, dash into her room and then hide in her closet, but when she looked, the girl was gone. Eli witnesses a repeat performance while in her room. Convinced that there’s something very strange and scary going on as the freak storm intensifies, they become partners as they try to solve the mystery.

Meanwhile communication with the outside world has stopped, the ocean is so rough the ferry that brought them to the island is unable to bring the wedding feast or more guests and the strange happenings become more frequent. Solving the island’s mystery involves ghosts, a secret from World War Two, a diary written by a girl in 1942 and a connection between her and one of the people involved in the wedding.

I was initially put off by foreshadowing at the beginning of the book, but once the story took off, I was hooked. Be warned that there’s violence in the book, but that’s no deal breaker. Younger teens who crave mystery and supernatural twists will like this one a lot.

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

Book Review: Ghost in the Wind by E.J. Copperman

Ghost in the WindGhost in the Wind
E.J. Copperman
Berkley Prime Crime, December 2015
ISBN: 978-0-425-26927-5
Mass Market Paperback

Alison Kerby returns in the 7th and newest in the Haunted Guesthouse Mystery series by E.J. Copperman.  Alison Kerby, a single mother in her late thirties, runs a guesthouse in her childhood hometown of Harbor Haven, on the Jersey Shore [which she describes as ‘a charming but somewhat rickety Victorian’ into which she has sunk ‘every last dime I had’], inhabited by her and her precocious eleven-year-old daughter, Melissa, as well as Maxie Malone, Alison’s resident Internet expert, who had died at 28, and Paul Harrison, an English/Canadian professor turned detective, both of whom have lived there since before their deaths, and her deceased father.  (At Paul’s urging, Alison is now a licensed private investigator.)  It would seem that Alison, her daughter and her mother are the only ones who can see the ghosts.  She now acknowledges the ghostly residents, and advertises the inn as a Haunted Guesthouse, specializing in Senior Plus Tours which include twice-daily ‘spook shows.’

Alison is taken aback, to understate the case, when she is asked by a new ghost in the house, a man/musician who has been her idol for decades, and who I suspect may be the fictional reincarnation of one of the Beatles, who I also suspect has held that position in the author’s life (he is here called Vance McTiernan, ‘lead singer and songwriter of the Jingles,’) who tasks Alison with finding out who murdered his daughter, who died a few months before from an allergic reaction to food she had ingested.  Although there was a suspicion that it was suicide, he is convinced she was murdered.  Alison and her ghostly cohorts take up the investigation, made more difficult since many if not most of the people who might have killed the girl were presently dead.

There is a second ‘job’ that Alison works on when she has a spare minute, and that is discovering the whereabouts of a ‘short blond guy named Lester from Topeka, Kansas,’ at the behest of a rather strange woman pulling a wagon who turns up from time to time.

The writing is terrific, just what one needs in these days of fictional and real-life horrors, and I read the book over a span of a couple of days, all of it with at least a smile on my face or laughing out loud.  The book is well-plotted and the characters, alive or otherwise, thoroughly engaging (even the ones who try Alison’s, and perhaps the reader’s, patience).

As I’ve said before, my preference in mystery genres generally does not include either “cozies” or books dealing in the supernatural (not that there’s anything wrong with those, and many of my best friends love them, I hasten to add).  But this author’s writing overcomes any such reluctance on my part – – his books are always thoroughly delightful, and highly recommended, and this one is no exception.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, December 2015.

Book Review: Dying for the Past by TJ O’Connor and The Egyptian File by Janis Susan May

Dying for the PastDying for the Past
A Gumshoe Ghost Mystery #2
TJ O’Connor
Midnight Ink, January 2015
ISBN 978-0-7387-4206-9
Trade Paperback

First of all, the detective is dead. He’s the ghost of a cop, shot in the previous book, which I am about to read because I really enjoyed this one.

Oliver “Tuck” Tucker attends the charity ball organized by his widow at Vincent House, during which someone shoots a mysterious guest dead. Chaos ensues, of course, as wealthy guests panic and someone steals the donations. Tuck’s old partner and his troops fight to bring order. No one saw the shooter. No one even knows if the corpse was the target, as his wife received two threatening letters–or said she did. Tuck’s investigating when he’s pulled into a time-warp by Vincent Calabrese, the dead gangster who previously owned the house. “Bring me the book, or else,” Vincent says, and the chase is on.

What is the book? Who has it. Does it have anything to do with the murder? Tuck needs to find out.

Tuck doesn’t know why he’s a ghost, or why his widow Angel and his big black lab, Hercule, can hear him. So can Bear, his old partner, though he won’t admit it. Tuck does know that if he must, he’s willing to die again to protect his wife and his friends. With threats both normal and paranormal, with old family secrets exploding and old crimes coming to light, this book careens from surprise to surprise. It’s suspenseful, it’s funny, it’s well worth reading.

Reviewed by Marilyn Nulman, October 2015.

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The Egyptian FileThe Egyptian File
Janis Susan May
Sefkhat-Awbi Books, August 2014
ISBN 978-1-941520-08-6
Trade Paperback

An exotic locale, a desperate art expert and a handsome Egyptologist star in this story of romantic suspense from Janis Susan May. Melissa Warrender was estranged from her father for years, so when he offered her a partnership in his Manhattan art gallery, she leapt at the chance to work with him. He was a specialist in antiquities, she in seventeenth and eighteenth century European paintings.

Melissa receives a phone call which sounds like her father, telling her to retrieve a mysterious file in Cairo. But how can this be—she buried her father months ago. Is he alive, or is someone playing a trick on her? She does not realize that she is targeted both by her father’s rival in the antiquities business and an international task force set up to catch smugglers.

David El-Baradi is a professor of Egyptology in London, currently in Cairo to help the task force. He goes undercover as a taxi driver to help Melissa evade the murderous son of her father’s rival. Melissa’s file turns out to be a message written in hieroglyphs, and David convinces her that he is an underemployed scholar who can help her. But on their trail is Gerard Thenardier, son of her father’s rival and her former lover.

It’s an Indiana Jones-type adventure, with a steamy romance thrown in. The author dedicates the book to Barbara Mertz (aka Elizabeth Peters), author of the Amelia Peabody series.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, January 2016.

Book Review: Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker

Beware the WildBeware the Wild
Natalie C. Parker
HarperTeen, October 2014
ISBN 978-0-06-224152-8
Hardcover

Swamps make stellar settings for the spookiest of stories. “The meanest swamp in Louisiana” however, disdainfully dismisses “spooky”. This arrogant, angry bog is far more frightening than the orneriest of angry alligators. A petulant presence, tinged with wicked lurks within.

Following an epic sibling squabble, Sass’s revered brother, Phin, belligerently explodes from the sanctity of their backyard into the eagerly awaiting quagmire. She dreads the worst. Not “the worst” as it relates to the average, hazardous marsh. It isn’t images of the one person she loves unconditionally, who loves her right back: sinking into quicksand, being bitten by a venomous snake, hopelessly lost, slowly succumbing to the elements that plague her.

Whispered legends. Volumes of collected Swamp Stories. Knowing looks exchanged over children’s heads. The unimaginable horror that is never actually addressed, always alluded to. These fears fill her mind and freak her out. As if insulted by her tame, unimaginative worries, the glade grabs Sass by her chin, jerks her head up and shoves the unspeakable, tortuous cruelty into her stunned face.

Ms. Parker explodes into the Young Adult literary world, boldly and courageously with an authority that won’t be denied. I’m a little bit in love with her and I’m pretty sure she had me in mind with the shout out to my beloved Phish and the perfect use of a term that needs to come back: spaz attack.

Amid a tale that unapologetically reaches out and with a quick tug, pulls the reader into the sticky, steamy swamp; enters dark-skinned Abigail, the “girl who prefers girls” in a very small town. This diversity is not gratuitous nor is it the point of the story. Rather, Ms. Parker’s natural inclination to include characters of differing ethnicities and sexual orientation seems simply indicative of her norm; yet feels utterly refreshing.

Superbly depicted southern stereotypes lend a feel of authenticity while the dynamics among the characters enrich this brilliantly written, compelling, creepy and captivating story. Absolutely, all-the-way awesome, Beware the Wild is a book that I look forward to re-reading and sharing with my bookish pals both Young and Not-So-Young Adults.

Reviewed by jv poore, August 2015.