Book Review: Blood and Wisdom by Verlin Darrow

Blood and Wisdom
Verlin Darrow
The Wild Rose Press, June 2018
ISBN: 978-1-5092-2086-1
Trade Paperback

Failed therapist Karl Gatlin, now a California private investigator with a small practice and lots of contacts, is asked to look into threats and a headless body. The request is by a former fellow student. Client Aria Piper, now the leader of a growing spiritual center, is naturally disturbed by the events, apparently aimed at intimidating her. She believes the perpetrator is the leader of a nearby cult and she wants Gatlin to make the threat go away. If he’s unsuccessful, she could lose her property and her livelihood.

Because the author is a psychotherapist, Gatlin’s interview of his client devolves into an exploration of motivations as much as it covers prior activities and leads. The novel is rich in both, plus an impressive cast of characters, on both sides of the law, from gang-bangers to bad cops to suspicious students, clients and business members. They all have to be sorted out and Gatlin and his team of researchers, bodyguards and local cops all have to be vetted, one way or another.

Set in California with widely spaced sites, Gatlin spends a good many pages driving from place to place while admiring the scenery. There is no question the views are rich and varied and Gatlin is loath to drive anywhere without describing it in some detail. The unwinding course of the plot is deliberate, complicated and at times amusing. This is not a fast-paced, slam-bam shoot-em-up scramble. Oh, there are a few gun duels, lots of cogitation, some off-site hacking and it all comes together in the end with a clever resolution. Readers should just be prepared for a fairly long and winding road to trail’s end.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, December 2018.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

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Book Review: Blood and Wisdom by Verlin Darrow

Blood and Wisdom
Verlin Darrow
The Wild Rose Press, July 2018
ISBN 978-1-5092-2086-1
Trade Paperback

Aria Piper runs a New Age Spiritual Center near Santa Cruz, California. Karl Gatlin is a private investigator but has training as a counselor. The two are connected because they were both interns at the same center, though Karl decided he was much more cut out for a career as a PI than counseling people through their personal troubles. However, when Aria begins receiving threats and a beheaded body turns up at Aria’s center, she turns to Karl to investigate. That is the basic set up for the book, however, if readers are expecting a straight forward PI book, they are in for a surprise or two as this is a book that never quite settles on what sort of a book it wants to be. It has a little bit of something for just about everyone, but I was left wondering if there was enough of any one thing to satisfy anyone.

The number one strength of the book is the character development. What an interesting cast of characters Darrow has given readers! First we have a main character who is a PI with psychotherapy training, a second main character who is running a spiritual center which might or might not be a cult, some sort of flaky “enlightened” folks, some seriously bad dudes and lastly my favorite, Larry the dog who has so many human traits it is sometimes hard to remember he is a dog.

The second strength is the off beat humor in the book. This is really not my favorite type of book (think Carl Hiaasen or Tim Dorsey), but I do appreciate their craft and Darrow has the skills to carry this type of humor off.

I would like the author to firm up what genre he is writing though. Suspense, thriller, PI novel, or something completely different. Also, as fascinating as the odd set of characters were, sometimes their idiosyncrasies became a distraction from the plot.

Blood and Wisdom is the debut book for author Verlin Darrow. While I did have some issues with the book, there is definite potential for him as an author. It will be interesting to see what the next book brings.

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

Book Review: First Contact by Kat Green

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

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Purchase Links:

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

From the publisher—

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

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

Sloane is dead wrong.

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

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

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

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

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2018.

About the Author

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

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

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

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

Website // Twitter // Facebook

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About the Narrator

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

Website

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Play an excerpt here.

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A Passel of Teeny Reviews Part 1

Once again, big surprise, I find myself with
an overload of books read but not yet reviewed
so I think it’s time for a roundup or two.

Don’t Get Mad, Get Even
Colin Goodwin
2QT Limited, July 2015
ISBN 978-1-910077-60-3
Trade Paperback

This book had me chuckling quite a bit with its premise—blackmailing an English village’s cricket club to either win  a trophy or lose its playing ground. Along with this audacious crime, we have village ladies who truly appreciate the hired ringer’s skills and a shady real estate development plan. It’s all great fun even with sabotage and perhaps a little murder.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2017.

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Cat in an Alphabet Endgame
The Midnight Louie Mysteries #28
Carole Nelson Douglas
Wishlist Publishing, August 2016
ISBN 978-1-943175-05-5
Trade Paperback

I confess, I put off reading this as long as I possibly could, so long I’m really embarrassed but I just did NOT want to see the end of this series I love so much. I didn’t want to know who Temple would marry, didn’t want all the little loose ends tied up in neat bows. Midnight Louie is the alpha and omega of feline sleuths and I adore his hardboiled, attitudinous self and, even knowing he was going to continue in different adventures sometime in the future, letting go was so very hard. But…I eventually had to give in and, of course, I enjoyed this book as much as all the others. Temple is distracted by thoughts of saying yes to one guy or the other, the mob has reared its ugly head, there are hints of terrorism and Louie and his Cat Pack are on the case(s). When it’s all said and done, Louie leaves us—and multitudes of Las Vegas felines—with a rousing speech and an offer of appetizers. Ah, Louie, Temple and the rest, I’m going to miss you (until you show up again).

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2017.

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Memory
Sharon Ervin
The Wild Rose Press, March 2017
ISBN 978-1-5092-1290-3
Trade Paperback

Mistaken identity takes on a whole new meaning when a woman is killed and everyone thinks it’s Memory Smith. She hasn’t been run over but somebody certainly has thrown a punch at her and Assistant DA Mac McCann wants to know what’s going on with his former classmate. Did someone really mean to kill her? Memory is an odd woman but Mac is drawn to her and the mystery surrounding her supposed death. As you might expect in romantic suspense, an emotional attachment between the two of them soon takes on a life of its own but Memory may not survive long enough to see what might develop with Mac.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2017.

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Crepe Factor
A Scrapbooking Mystery #14
Laura Childs with Terrie Farley Moran
Berkley Prime Crime, October 2016
ISBN 978-0-425-26670-0
Hardcover

Ms. Childs and Ms. Moran continue their collaboration in a charming mystery featuring the death by fork of a food critic (stick a fork in me, I’m done, anyone?) practically right in front of Carmela and Ava, sleuthing duo extraordinaire. Carmela’s previous relationship with the #1 suspect makes sticking her nose in a little dicey and her current boyfriend, police detective Edgar Babcock really wants her to stay out of his investigation but she and Ava can’t resist. A nifty whodunnit and characters that feel like old friends, not to mention a few recipes and scrapbooking tips round out this entertaining entry in the series. I always enjoy these two, especially the slightly loony Ava, and for a few hours while I’m reading one of these books, I can’t help wishing I had the patience and dedication to get into scrapbooking…but the urge passes until the next book 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2017.

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The Locket
On Dark Shores #0
J.A. Clement
Weasel Green Press, December 2016
Ebook

Every child gets excited and exceedingly nosy when Yuletide approaches and the seven-year-old Nereia is no exception. Her father has brought her a special surprise, her Godmother, stopping off for a visit before returning to her diplomatic duties in the midst of war and a beautiful silver locket marks Nereia’s first time taking part in the Yule ceremony. This is a sweet story, very short, and a prequel to Ms. Clement‘s On Dark Shores fantasy series. I think I would have gotten more out of it if I knew anything about the series and I don’t understand the description’s reference to “there is mystery in the air…” but I spent a pleasant few minutes with this small family.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2017.

Book Review: The Coupling by Cathrine Goldstein

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Title: The Coupling
Series: The Letting #2
Author: Cathrine Goldstein
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Publication Date: February 15, 2016
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian, YA/NA

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Purchase Links:

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The CouplingThe Coupling
The Letting #2
Cathrine Goldstein
The Wild Rose Press, February 2016
ISBN 978-1-50920-617-9
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

In Ronnie Billings’ dystopian world, surviving the Letting and breaking free of a corrupt government is less of a surprise than falling in love with Phoenix Day, the leader of the Peaceful Revolution…

When the government sentences Ronnie to a Coupling under the guise of producing a coveted blood type, Ronnie discovers the one she’s slated to Couple with expects even more.

Prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice to save those she loves most, Ronnie devastates Phoenix with her impossible decision. Whisked away from her rebel life to another world ravaged by despair, Ronnie meets her greatest nemesis…her biological father.

Steeling her nerves against the dangers of escape, she embarks on the perilous journey back. She is convinced she belongs with Phoenix and his revolution, but will her friends, and especially Phoenix, be ready to accept her when she returns? Because this time, evil is in her blood…

I found the first book in this series, The Letting, to be really intriguing and exciting in a number of ways, most especially the core theme of taking blood from children to keep society going. Ronnie spent her young life shepherding her young charges to their destiny without knowing what that destiny really was but, in that first book, she learned a number of truths that changed her world. I looked forward with anticipation to the next book to see what would happen and, hopefully, gain a little more insight into this dystopian existence.

For some reason, I didn’t connect quite as well with The Coupling and I think the problem is on my end, not the book’s. In the early chapters, I felt an annoyance with the main characters, I mean the good ones that I was supposed to like. I did like Ronnie and Phoenix but I also thought some of their behavior was odd, especially when Phoenix blamed Ronnie for something she really couldn’t avoid if she was going to save the lives of three little girls, three little girls who are inordinately important. I also thought Ronnie was way too incredulous at Phoenix’s reaction as though she had no clue he would be so upset.

Not making the all-important connection with the major players is a red flag for me but I continued reading because, despite that issue, I really wanted to follow the story and I’m glad I did. The plot moves along quickly with lots of twists and turns that kept me interested and now I’m looking forward to the next installment.

Note: I recommend that readers new to the series start with the first book, The Letting; this is one of those times when reading in order is best.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2016.

Cathrine Goldstein The Coupling Promo Banner

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About the Author

Cathrine GoldsteinGiven my love for cities and all that is gritty, my new obsession with trees really has me stumped. (Sorry.) Maybe it’s because trees are the inspiration behind my YA/NA novel, The Letting, followed by The Coupling.

Whatever the reason for my new infatuation, some things remain constant — like my love for: coffee (although sadly, it’s now decaf); yoga; Luna bars (I am petitioning for them to bring back Chocolate Raspberry!); running in my neighborhood; Hemingway; Bukowski… and, above all, my husband and my girls.

I am the author of the bestselling novel, Sleeping With Mortals: The Story of a New York Mistress, and I’m also a playwright. I have my B.A. in English and my M.A. in Theatre.

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Book Review: Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters by Lida Sideris—and a Giveaway!

Murder and Other Unnatural DisastersMurder and Other Unnatural Disasters
Lida Sideris
The Wild Rose Press, September 2015
ISBN 978-1-5092-0240-9
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Watch out Southern California! There’s a new entertainment attorney in town and she’s got game. Only problem is, it’s not the one she should be playing. Corrie Locke belongs behind a desk, not behind a Glock. She should be taking VIP calls, not nosing around a questionable suicide. Instead, she’s hot on the trail of a murderer.

Luckily, she’s the daughter of a late, great private eye and she’s inherited his love of sleuthing…and illegal weaponry. It doesn’t help matters that her gene for caution is a recessive one. Corrie finds herself in the center of a murder case, unearthing suspects in shocking places. With a cold-blooded killer on the loose, Corrie will have to up her game, or die trying.

If ever there was a fictional character I’d love to hang out with it would be Corrie Lake. What a hoot this woman is even if she is more than a little obsessed with criminal activity. I mean, who thinks of an everyday backpack as a possible repository of pressure cooker bombs? Corrie is a wannabe private investigator locked in a lawyer’s body and the interesting thing is she’s good at lawyering while she has some chops at sleuthing, learned from her father. It’s her past with her dad that leads to Corrie poking around into a purported suicide as well as working out what happened to a certain missing Georgie.

Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters is a rollicking adventure with a whole passel of eccentric and goofy characters that become part and parcel of Corrie’s life and her unplanned investigations add to the fun. The mystery of the possible suicide, despite all the humor of the surrounding story, is compelling and a plethora of suspects and red herrings make for a denouement that’s full of surprises.

Besides Corrie, Gwenaveera Bankhead aka Veera, security guard and aspiring lawyer, is my favorite character. She’s big and brash and pushy and all kinds of personality and, by golly, she’s going to be Corrie’s sidekick whether Corrie wants her or not 😉 I’m really looking forward to seeing these two again, along with a bunch of other cohorts, in the next book which can’t come soon enough.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2015.

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About the Author

Lida SiderisLike her heroine, Corrie Locke, Lida Sideris hails from Southern California and worked as an entertainment attorney for a film studio. She has written numerous magazine and newspaper articles, a poem or two and a teleplay. She shares her home with her family and an assortment of dogs and chickens.

She was the recipient of the 2014 Helen McCloy/Mystery Writers of America scholarship for mystery writing. Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters is her first novel.

Find out more about Lida at her website

Connect with her on Facebook.

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Leave a comment below to enter
the drawing
for a print or ebook
copy, winner’s choice, of

  Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters
by Lida Sideris. The winning name
will be
drawn on Saturday evening,
October 31st. Print is
open to residents
of the US, ebook is open internationally.

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Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters is a delightful twisting
maze complete with Hollywood film production, murder and
mayhem, sexy and quirky characters and a smart lawyer who is
trying to make sense of it all. —Kimberley Troutte, 
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author

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Book Review: The Letting by Cathrine Goldstein

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Title: The Letting
Author: Cathrine Goldstein
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Publication Date: December 15, 2014
Genres: YA/NA, Dystopian

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Trailer:

http://youtu.be/rF08yLsLSPE

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The LettingThe Letting
Cathrine Goldstein
The Wild Rose Press, December 2014
ISBN 978-1-62830-662-0
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

What if the Devil doesn’t know he’s the Devil?

This is the question Veronica “Ronnie” Billings poses to Phoenix, her sworn enemy, the leader of the Peaceful Revolution, and the one she loves.

Kidnapped by Phoenix’s rebels, Ronnie learns how wrong she has been. She had no idea that her patriotism was wasted on a corrupt government. Ronnie was proud to be a Leader; taking hundreds of harvested girls to the Letting facility. After all, she was saving them from future Couplings and bringing them to the safety of the New World. Or so she thought…

Confused, Ronnie realizes the only way to discover the truth is to trust her heart. Together, Phoenix and Ronnie devise a plan to stop their corrupt government and preempt the dangerous rebel coup which is approaching. But when their plan goes awry, will Ronnie be strong enough to save Phoenix, her country, and herself?

When we first meet Ronnie, she’s a sort of camp counselor but this camp is unlike any we’ve ever seen. For starters, the kids (all young girls) are housed together by blood type, the first hint we have that this may not be a wonderful place. Blood type O, by the way, is almost extinct and that matters because O is the universal donor.

We can’t be sure in the beginning precisely what’s going on because the author has created a maze of facts and suppositions but, once I started to catch on, I was enthralled by the premise and by Ronnie herself. This girl, kept in the camp for years, ostensibly because there’s something wrong with her blood, has made a name for herself as uniquely adept with the children who need to be prepared for the Letting. The Letting is an ordeal but the rewards are great—so they say—and Ronnie has never questioned her part.

Until one night when all will go topsy-turvy and Ronnie will learn what she’s really been doing.

I felt a real attachment to Ronnie and to a number of other characters. Phoenix, in particular, is an appealing young man and I thought his relationship with Ronnie grew naturally, only moderately taking on the dreaded aspect of insta-love. Ronnie became a force to be reckoned with right before my eyes while holding on to her essential kindness and other players, while not nearly so “nice”, shall we say, were vividly drawn and, in more than one case, made chills run up and down my spine.

Worldbuilding is not entirely clear but that’s okay because we haven’t heard all the story yet. I don’t especially want to know all the details at this point; I’m hoping a second book is in the works and the author will share more 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2014.

About the Author

Cathrine GoldsteinGiven my love for cities and all that is gritty, my new obsession with trees really has me stumped. (Sorry.) Maybe it’s because trees are the inspiration behind my new YA/NA novel, The Letting.

Whatever the reason for my new infatuation, some things remain constant — like my love for: coffee (although sadly, it’s now decaf); yoga; Luna bars (I am petitioning for them to bring back Chocolate Raspberry!); running in my neighborhood; Hemingway; Bukowski… and, above all, my husband and my girls.

I am the author of the bestselling novel, Sleeping With Mortals: The Story of a New York Mistress, and I’m also a playwright. I have my B.A. in English and my M.A. in Theatre.

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