Book Review: The Pronghorn Conspiracy by Boyd Taylor @GreenleafBookGr

The Pronghorn Conspiracy
The Donnie Ray Cuinn Series #5
Boyd Taylor
River Grove Books, January 2021
ISBN 978-1-63299-329-8
Trade Paperback

This is the fifth and last in Boyd Taylor’s series featuring protagonist Donnie Ray Cuinn (pronounced like Quinn).  I did not read the previous four books, but I didn’t feel like that made it difficult to understand the character.  Donnie is a lawyer with a tragic past and a troubled present.  Contemplating what life still holds for him and finding there isn’t much, he is unexpectedly summoned to a meeting with some high-level government officials, FBI agents, and Secret Service agents who inform him of a plot by a terrorist group which has kidnapped the President and is about to steal a weapon from a weapons manufacturing plant.  They also inform Donnie that the terrorists will only negotiate with Donnie who finds this to be an extraordinary demand since he has no knowledge of the terrorist group and doesn’t know its leader.

Nonetheless, Donnie agrees to meet with the leader and see how he can help safeguard the President and prevent the loss of the weapon.  But when he finally does meet with him, he still has no idea who the leader is or why he wanted to meet with Donnie.  When the leader finally does reveal what the purpose of their theft of the weapon is, the plan is chilling and the leader’s connection to Donnie is surprising to say the least.

As you might expect, there is an attempt to escape with the President and stop the group from taking the weapon.  I found that parts of this story stretched credulity so far that it nearly pulled me out of the story.  I also found the President’s behavior in the rescue helicopter beyond absurd but since the similarities between this President and our latest former President cannot be missed, perhaps the behavior is not so unbelievable after all.  The only other thing I found hard to understand is the relationship between Donnie and his wife, Rita.  Maybe earlier novels in this series would make it clearer.

In any case, The Pronghorn Conspiracy is a fast read – just the thing for a lazy weekend.

Reviewed by Melinda Drew, July 2021.

Book Review: What You Wish For by Katherine Center @katherinecenter @StMartinsPress

What You Wish For
Katherine Center
St. Martin’s Press, July 2020
ISBN 978-1-250-21936-7
Hardcover

A cross between a romantic comedy and chick lit, What You Wish For is a girl-meets-boy for the second time story. Samantha Casey is a 28 year old  librarian at a private school, owned by Max and Babette. Samantha enjoys her life on Galveston Island. She adores Max and Babette, who are also her landlords, and enjoys spending time with her best friend, math teacher Alice, who has an extensive wardrobe of tee shirts imprinted with math jokes.

When Max dies suddenly, Samantha assumed that Babette would become the new principal. But son-in-law Kent hires an outsider named Duncan Carpenter. It can’t be, wonders Samantha. She worked with someone with that name at her last school. He was wild and funny, and wore golf pants and goofy ties.

But when Duncan Carpenter showed up at school, he was dressed in a sober three piece suit and talked about new security and safety measures at the school. What happened to the old Duncan? Suddenly, Samantha no longer had a crush on him. He was turning the school into a joyless institution.

The underlying question of school security is shown to affect teachers and students in profound ways. Samantha is a little too giggly and immature for a 28 year old, but her character does grow throughout the story, as others do. Center is the New York Times bestselling author of How to Walk Away and Things You Save in a Fire.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, January 2021.

Book Reviews: Solving Cadence Moore by Gregory Sterner and 19 Souls by J.D. Allen @SternerGregory @aperturepress @JDAllenBooks @midnightinkbook

Solving Cadence Moore
Gregory Sterner
Aperture Press, November 2017
ISBN 978-0-9973020-8-0
Trade Paperback

An intense novel fashioned in a very creative and unusual way, Solving Cadence Moore struggles to match its creative vision. It is rooted in the modern radio podcast phenomenon. Charlie Marx, successful radio podcast creator and star has a fine and lasting career in a fairly volatile professional area. He’s progressed through solid talent and the support of a major broadcasting executive, but he wants more. He thinks he’s found a vehicle, a ten-year old mystery.

Young talented and striking-looking (cliché?) Candace Moore is at the beginning of her career as a star vocalist and song creator. When she disappears and no trace has ever been found of her, the mystery endures and grows. Marx believes he can solve the murder and he exaggerates his proof to his boss in order to gain permission to create a star series of podcasts.

Things begin to fall apart when production time is squeezed down and witnesses become reluctant. Marx endures long and tense confrontations with his boss, with members of his production team and with some witnesses he turned up.

The novel, frequently written as a radio script, is long, tedious at times and is shot full of disagreeable language, confrontation after confrontation, and little consideration for the reader. Nine chapters divide a 362-page story. Long involved arguments detailing strengths and weaknesses of character’s positions, often with little or no descriptive language tend to give the narrative a slow and steady progression. Readers will assume, perhaps correctly, that the profession of radio broadcasting, especially when focused on the dramatization of true events, is replete with the kind of competition and repetitive tests of wills fostered by strongly opinionated, testosterone supplied males.

In sum an excellent idea burdened by a limited exposition, resulting in relief that the novel is done, rather than disappointment for the final period.

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

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19 Souls
A Sin City Investigation #1
J.D. Allen
Midnight Ink Books, February 2018
ISBN 978-0-7387-5403-1
Trade Paperback

An interesting if troublesome book about the search for a deteriorating psychopathic serial killer. The story has several things going for it, an unusual killer, a raft of police and FBI characters, and at least three sort-of-legal private searchers. The least likeable of the three, a shambling, bumbling private investigator named Jim Bean works alone, except when he needs help, which is frequently. The other two, O, a bounty-hunter, and Bean’s obligatory cyber/research expert add a little to the narrative, although O adds the least.

The setup is excellent and would have been even better if Bean wasn’t portrayed as so constantly second-guessing himself. A woman hires him to find her long-lost brother. She promptly drugs and seduces Bean which interferes with Bean’s thoughts and emotions, often at crucial junctures.

The story takes place in Texas, Nevada, California and Indiana. As the target descends gradually, logically, and cleverly into madness, the tension rises and more bodies litter the ground. Largely well-written and edited there are a few point-of-view shifts that are momentarily confusing but taking it all together, the novel is worth its price.

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

Book Review: The Lost Are the Last to Die by Larry D. Sweazy @larrydsweazy @FiveStarCengage

The Lost Are the Last to Die
A Sonny Burton Novel #2
Larry D. Sweazy
Five Star Publishing, November2019
ISBN: 978-1-4328-5723-3
Hardcover

Multiple award-winning author Larry Sweazy couldn’t write a bad book if he tried. This one lives up to his reputation, with the continuing story of former Texas Ranger Sonny Burton.

Sonny, who lost his right arm in a shoot-out with Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrows is still dealing with his clumsy prosthesis when he receives a message that his help is needed. A convict has escaped from Huntsville prison and, having taken the warden’s wife hostage, is on the run.

It was Sonny who put this particular convict in prison, after run-ins with him from the time Billy Bunson was a boy. Sonny had tried to talk with the boy then, but in the years since, Billy has turned into a cold-blooded killer. It begins to look like the reason for Billy’s escape is not so much just getting out of prison and acquiring a large ransom for Dolly, the warden’s wife, but also to draw Sonny in so he can kill him.

Sonny’s son Jesse, following in his father’s footsteps, is also a Texas Ranger, called in to aid in the hunt and for the first time, they work together. Then Billy goes after the landlady of the boarding house where Sonny is staying, and it’s finally time to bring Billy’s death spiral to an end.

The reader gets to see beyond superficial motivation as to why Billy is a killer, and why Sonny wants to help him, in a story that ranges in time from May, 1911, to October, 1934. The historical details of the book are riveting; the action enthralling. While not exactly a mystery, it is an excellent story of criminals and crime fighters and why they do what they do.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, March 2020.
http://www.ckcrigger.com
Author of The Woman Who Built A Bridge (Spur Award Winner), Yester’s Ride,
Hometown Burning and Five Days, Five Dead: A China Bohannon Novel

Book Review: A Case for the Yarn Maker by Candace Havens @CandaceHavens @TulePublishing

 

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Title: A Case For the Yarn Maker
Series: The Ainsley McGregor Series, Book 2
Author: Candace Havens
Publisher: Tule Publishing
Publication Date: April 15, 2020
Genre: Cozy Mystery
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A Case for the Yarn Maker
The Ainsley McGregor Series #2
Candace Havens
Tule Publishing, April 2020
ISBN 978-1-951786-97-7
Trade Paperback
From the publisher—
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Spin a yarn…at your own risk.
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Everyone at Bless Your Art in Sweet River, Texas, is excited about the Yarn Goddess (yes, that’s her real name) coming to town. Ainsley McGregor has set up a special event at the local community center, but when old Mrs. Whedon doesn’t see eye-to-eye with the Goddess about using quality yarn, a fight breaks out. Who knew the octogenarian had ninja moves like that?
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It’s all fun and games until George Clooney, Ainsley’s Great Dane, finds Ms. Yarn’s dead body in a booth at Bless Your Art. Now the prime suspect is Mrs. Whedon, and while she’s not the easiest woman to get along with, there’s no way she’s the killer. At least, Ainsley doesn’t think so. As this yarn unravels, Ainsley and her quirky friends learn some interesting things about the case and the Goddess’s checkered past. But there’s a killer on the loose, and George may be the only thing protecting Ainsley from certain death.
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It’s common these days, if not required, to have an animal of some sort in a cozy series and said animal (or more) has varying levels of participation in solving whatever crime may have occurred. In other series, the animal is just a pleasant part of the storyline, a member of the family. The third kind is the animal who brings comic relief to the tale and I’m always interested to find out what kind of animal character I’m going to see in a series that’s new to me, like this one. Obviously, the animal isn’t the most important factor but, to me, it’s an appealing part of whatever is going on.
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Here we have George Clooney, a Great Dane whose self-appointed mission is to protect his mom, Ainsley, and he does a fine job of it. Sweet River, Texas, should be a completely peaceful little town, practically crime-free, but that’s not exactly the norm in Sweet River. Ainsley has already been involved in one murder investigation—much to the dismay of her brother, Greg, the local sheriff—and, now, here we go again. There’s no doubt that the elderly Mrs. Whedon had “words” with the victim but did she disagree with the woman deeply enough to kill her?
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Because Ainsley, a part-time professor, runs an artisan market, there are plenty of players in the story, any one of whom could be hiding something and, since she knows them all, Ainsley feels she simply must look into things. Call it snooping if you will but both Ainsley and George are pretty good at sniffing out clues and they’re not alone; many of the market vendors and townspeople pitch in here and there.
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A Case for the Yarn Maker is a fun tale and I enjoyed all the characters and their interactions. Yes, George Clooney steals the show more than once and he’s downright lovable but, then, what Great Dane isn’t? I’m going to have to get a copy of the first book to tide me over while I wait for the next one.
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Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2020.

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A Case For the Winemaker
Ainsley McGregor Book 1
The closer she gets to the truth, the more she finds herself drowning in trouble.
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It’s an exciting time in Sweet River, Texas, and the whole town’s talking. Maybe, a little too much. Former English professor Ainsley McGregor has gambled everything on her new business: Bless Your Art, an artisan market where local artists sell their wares and teach classes.
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The bright, white space is filled to the brim with colorful art, yarn, jewelry, pet treats, antiques and even a few medieval weapons. Oh, and there are wine tastings. Everything’s better with wine. Ainsley is surprised by how well things are going–right up until the moment her Great Dane finds a dead body. With her friend accused of the murder, it’s up to Ainsley to find the real killer.
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As the suspect list grows longer, Ainsley has her work cut out for her. The task is made more difficult by the fact her brother, the sheriff, doesn’t seem to want her help. If she doesn’t wrap up the case soon, she might be the next wine, um, one to die.
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Bestselling author Candace Havens has published more than 25 books. Her novels have received nominations for the RITA’s, Holt Medallion, Write Touch Reader Awards and National Readers Choice Awards. She is a Barbara Wilson Award winner. She is the author of the biography Joss Whedon: The Genius Behind Buffy and a contributor to several anthologies. She is also one of the nation’s leading entertainment journalists and has interviewed countless celebrities from George Clooney to Chris Pratt. Candace also runs a free online writing workshop for more than 2000 writers, and teaches comprehensive writing classes. She does film reviews with Hawkeye in the Morning on 96.3 KSCS, and is a former President of the Television Critics Association.
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Book Review: A Risky Undertaking for Loretta Singletary by Terry Shames @TerryShames @SeventhStBooks

A Risky Undertaking for Loretta Singletary
A Samuel Craddock Mystery #8
Terry Shames
Seventh Street Books, April 2019
ISBN 978-1-63388-490-8
Trade Paperback

This is the eighth book in the series with Chief Samuel Craddock.  Chief Craddock lives in the small town of Jarrett Creek, a rural community where, for the most part, the residents all know each other.  Recently, Samuel has noticed that his friend and neighbour, Loretta Singletary, has changed her hairstyle, has been wearing new clothes, and he’s more than a bit surprised to learn she’s signed onto an online Dating site.

The next day Samuel still hasn’t seen his friend and he’s beginning to worry.  He talks to several of her friends but no one has seen Loretta.  That’s when he decides to call her son. But he hasn’t seen her either. And when someone mentions they’d read of women being duped out of money, or worse,  by men they met on a dating site, Samuel decides it’s time to open an investigation.

When a woman’s body is found on a road leading to a nearby town, a woman who had also recently joined the same Dating site, Samuel is alarmed and the search for Loretta begins in earnest.  But unaccustomed with the internet Samuel quickly grows frustrated with his efforts, but he pushes on, worried that Loretta might suffer a similar fate.

Spending time with Chief Craddock is always a treat.  Check him out.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, November 2019.

Book Review: Paw of the Jungle by Diane Kelly @DianeKellyBooks @StMartinsPress

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