A Few More Teeny Reviews

a-goose-creek-christmasA Goose Creek Christmas
Tales from the Goose Creek B&B #5
Virginia Smith
Harvest House Publishers, October 2016
ISBN 978-0-7369-6878-2
Ebook
Also available in trade paperback

From the publisher—

Al’s Goose Is Cooked!

Forced into early retirement, Al Richardson knows what his wife will say when she hears the terrible news. Millie will insist that they open their B&B early. Where will that leave him? Carrying luggage and waiting tables? No way! He needs time to come up with another plan. With the help of an unlikely accomplice, Al spends his days scanning want ads and frequenting out-of-town coffee shops in an effort to hide his secret from all of Goose Creek—including his wife.

Millie is too busy to notice Al’s odd behavior. Between planning a huge Christmas party and holding tight to the reins of newcomer Lulu Thacker—whose tacky decorating schemes are sure to infuriate Main Street business owners—she has no time for anything else.

One thing is certain: In Goose Creek, no secret stays hidden for long. The most holy of holidays is swiftly approaching. Is Al in for a Merry Christmas or a Marriage Crisis?

Having first met the lovely town of Goose Creek last summer, I’m still completely in love with these characters and their very common issues, told with compassion and humor. I think Goose Creek is a wonderful representation of small town life and there isn’t a single character that doesn’t have at least one small redeeming factor. This time, Al is afraid to tell Millie that he’s been laid off (well, forced into retirement) just before Christmas—I was laid off just before Christmas years ago so I can attest to the nightmare—but, fortunately for him, she’s caught up in the turmoil over some outlandish Christmas decorations. I chortled my way through this tale while Millie and Al and all their neighbors and family dealt with the vagaries of real life and I can’t wait for the next episode.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2017.

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rogue-waveRogue Wave
Boyd Morrison
Pocket Books, December 2010
ISBN 978-1-4391-8958-0
Mass Market Paperback

From the publisher—

A minor seismic disturbance in a remote section of the Pacific causes barely a ripple of concern for Kai Tanaka, acting director of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Honolulu. But when an airliner en route from L.A. to Sydney vanishes in the same location, Kai is the first to realize that a mysterious explosion has unleashed a series of massive waves destined to obliterate Hawaii. In just one hour, Kai will lose all he has ever known–including his wife and daughter– unless he can save them from nature’s most destructive force.

I have a fondness for disaster stories and Boyd Morrison hit every one of my hot buttons with Rogue Wave (which has also been published as The Palmyra Impact and The Tsunami Countdown). When I picked this up, I was already familiar with the author’s talents in the action adventure and thriller fields and I was not disappointed in the least. The tension doesn’t just ratchet up as you go along with the story—it’s high octane from the very first sentence, letting up only for occasional scenes to let us know where certain characters are. We’ve seen what happens in real life with giant tsunamis and Rogue Wave is a top-notch depiction of such an event with characters you can’t help caring about and the overwhelming feeling of doom is compelling. I highly recommend this for anyone who loves disaster and Mother Nature thriller tales.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2017.

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Getting Old Is the Best RevengeGetting Old Is the Best Revenge
Gladdy Gold #2
Rita Lakin
Dell, 2006
ISBN 978-0-440-24259-8
Mass Market Paperback

From the publisher—

“NEVER TRUST ANYONE UNDER SEVENTY-FIVE!”

That’s the motto of the Gladdy Gold Detective Agency. Don’t laugh: having solved a case of serial murder, Gladdy and her eccentric neighbors are building their reputation between canasta games and pool exercises–hunting down everything from lost pocketbooks to missing octogenarians. And when a jealous woman sets them after her wayward husband, and a flasher strikes their retirement complex, two seemingly unrelated cases collide with a third: a series of dastardly murders targeting Florida’s wealthiest wives.

But when the girls win tickets for a luxury bingo cruise, they hit the jackpot. Because this ship is carrying not only Florida’s fiercest bingo competitors but also a killer–and it’s up to Gladdy and her friends to stop him before one of them becomes his next victim….

This book was my first introduction to the Gladdy Gold series and I’ve read all but two now, not in any particular order. There have been other senior sleuth series that I’ve enjoyed but this one really finds the sweet spot for me. These retirees are funny and nosy and clever (most of them) and I love the way they’ve decided they’re too young to just rock their lives away. I also appreciate the way the author isn’t the least bit afraid to make use—and fun—of senior citizen sterotypes. I mean, you know, a bingo cruise?? If you’re looking for pure fluffy fun, this would be a good book to start with.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2017.

Book Reviews: Take the Fall by Emily Hainsworth and The Lifeboat Clique by Kathy Parks

Take the FallTake the Fall
Emily Hainsworth
Balzer + Bray, February 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-209422-3
Hardcover

From the publisher—

WHO KILLED GRETCHEN MEYER?

Fear grips the residents of Hidden Falls the night Sonia Feldman and her best friend, Gretchen Meyer, are attacked in the woods. Sonia was lucky to escape with her life, but Gretchen’s body is discovered at the bottom of a waterfall. Beautiful, popular, and seemingly untouchable, Gretchen can’t be gone. Even as Sonia struggles with guilt and confusion over having survived, the whole town is looking to her for information. . . . Could she have seen something that will lead the police to the killer?

At the top of the list of suspects is Gretchen’s ex-boyfriend—and Sonia’s longtime enemy—Marcus Perez. So when Marcus comes to Sonia for help clearing his name, she agrees, hoping to find evidence the police need to prove he’s the killer. But as Gretchen’s many secrets emerge and the suspects add up, Sonia feels less sure of Marcus’s involvement and more afraid for herself. Could Marcus—the artist, the screw-up, the boy she might be falling for—have attacked her? Killed her best friend? And if it wasn’t him in the woods that night . . . who could it have been?

From the moment Sonia stumbles out of Hidden Falls Park, battered and frightened nearly to death, her family and the local police are full of questions about what could have happened and then word spreads that her best friend, Gretchen, is missing. Not long after, Gretchen’s body is found at the bottom of the falls and suspicion soon points to Gretchen’s former boyfriend, Marcus. His arrest doesn’t lead to comfort, though, because he has an alibi and is released.

Tension rides high in this story as Sonia becomes more and more desperate to remember enough details of her attack to help find the killer. Out of desperation to get back to as normal a life as possible, she returns to school and to the circle of friends who were actually better friends in past years. As time goes by, Sonia begins to acknowledge that, perhaps, Gretchen was not such a great friend but she also begins to have serious doubts about some of the people around her. Could one of them be the killer?

Sonia is a very likeable girl if far too impulsive and she matures in front of the reader’s eyes as she copes with the tragedy and the fear of who might still be out there wanting to do her harm. She’s surrounded by loving family but, as might be expected, that’s not enough and it may be that friends like Haley and Aisha, the boys in the group like Tyrone and Kip, even a belligerent former friend like Reva, will be the ones to help her recover. They could also be harboring the killer.

There are motives aplenty but, in the end, the identity of the killer/attacker is unexpected and I have to admit I didn’t see it coming until about 3/4 of the way in. This doesn’t mean the author didn’t play fair; far from it as it all makes total sense. I’m not sure if I was just being dense or if Ms. Hainsworth really did craft a surprising reveal but, either way, she got me and I’m impressed. This is the second book I’ve read by Emily Hainsworth and it most certainly won’t be the last if she keeps writing this well.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2016.

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The Lifeboat CliqueThe Lifeboat Clique
Kathy Parks
Katherine Tegen Books, March 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-239396-8
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Some people might say that Denver has a death wish. Why else would she dare to sneak into a Malibu beach party where she’d be surrounded by enemies?

Oh yeah. Croix. Denver never thought in a million years he’d ask her out, but who is she to question this miracle of fate?

Well, that isn’t the only surprise fate has in store.

During the party a tsunami hits the coast of California, and Denver and a handful of others escape death and are swept out to sea. Of course, one of her fellow castaways is none other than her ex-BFF, Abigail, who can barely stand the sight of her.

Trapped on a small boat with the most popular kids in school and waiting to be rescued, Denver wonders what might kill her first—dehydration, sunstroke, or the girl she used to think of as a sister?

My goodness, this book is kind of a mess and, yet, I couldn’t look away. There are far too many coincidences, such as a tree that just happens to be in the right place at the wrong moment, and the whole idea of the tsunami borders on being silly BUT…somehow, it works. In particular, the tsunami provides the setting needed for this character study and the lack of plot really doesn’t matter too much. The thing I really liked is that there are only five teens on this boat floating out to sea so we really get to know each one.

Generally, the issue is that Denver has been ostracized by these other kids, led by her former BFF, Abigail, and Denver claims to not know why. In the following weeks, running out of food and water and losing hope while they drift, they have nothing to do but talk and truths begin to come to light. Perhaps most important, they all learn a great deal about each other and, in some cases, begin to care.

These five—Denver, Abigail, mean girl Sienna, blabbermouth Hayley and drummer/stoner Trevor—are interesting and they all have their own insecurities as well as unexpected strengths. I found myself wishing that they would be found before it was too late but also hoping, if they survived, that they’d remember what they learned about themselves and their boatmates.

It’s unfortunate that the story drags in places and that there is little tension even in their direst moments but I did still enjoy it. Billed as “darkly humorous” and “savagely funny”, the labeling isn’t quite right as it has its funny moments but there’s not much to laugh at once the tsunami hits. It’s a quick read and not very deep—even the worst times didn’t cause me to feel any real emotion—but I think the author’s aim, to have these teens open up to each other and show their true colors, was a good one.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2016.

Book Review: The Kizuna Coast by Sujata Massey

The Kizuna CoastThe Kizuna Coast
A Rei Shimura Mystery #11
Sujata Massey
The Ikat Press, December 2014
Ebook
Also available in hardcover and trade paperback

From the author—

When an earthquake triggers a tsunami that floods Japan’s northeast coast, amateur sleuth Rei Shimura is pushed into her most rugged adventure yet.

It starts with an SOS from Rei’s beloved elderly friend, the antiques dealer Mr. Ishida, who’s trapped among thousands on the ravaged Tohoku coast. Rei rushes from Hawaii to blacked-out Tokyo, where she discovers Ishida Antiques may have been burglarized and its cuddly watchdog, Hachiko, needs a caregiver.

Rei and Hachiko board a bus full of disaster volunteers headed to the damaged town of Sugihama. Once there, they learn about the disappearance during the tsunami of Mr. Ishida’s antiques apprentice, Mayumi, a troubled young woman from a famous lacquer-making family.

Making use of her volunteer friends, as well as her knowledge of Japanese manners and antiques, Rei investigates Mayumi’s suspicious disappearance. Complicating the situation is a police force overwhelmed by counting the dead, and a stalker who’s set his or her own sights on Rei.

On March 11, 2011, an earthquake and resulting tsunami struck Japan and the world watched in horror as the ruinous effects unfolded, including the frightening damage to a nuclear plant and the deaths of more than 15,000 people. Four years later, more than 300,000 survivors still live in temporary housing and many who were exposed to radiation from the nuclear plant are coping with health problems.

Rei Shimura’s first thoughts are to find Yasushi Ishida, her mentor who is not answering his phone, but she soon discovers that while he is alive, Mayumi, a young apprentice, is missing. Rei, as any of her fans would expect, heads to Japan right away, directly into the devastation. She has solved mysteries before but this one will test her limits as she encounters destruction and untold suffering everywhere she goes.

Rei has always been one of my favorite characters in the mystery world, especially among those who take me to exotic places, and I have missed her and her inability to succumb to defeatism in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Her quirkiness and humor are infectious and I’m thrilled to have her back in my life.

Note: I sound like a crazy fan, don’t I? One might even say I’m a bit of a stalker but I really do know that Rei is a fictional sleuth 😉

Sujata Massey writes a cracking good mystery (with a fabulously helpful cast of characters!) but it’s easy to see that the earthquake and tsunami struck a chord in her. Much of The Kizuna Coast revolves around the aftermath and Ms. Massey‘s emotions clearly shine through Rei’s own. I’ve always enjoyed this series but, somehow, The Kizuna Coast has a depth to it I haven’t seen before and I appreciated the way the author brought heart to a terrible event. I can’t recommend this book highly enough whether others have read the series from the beginning or not.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2015.

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The proceeds from all ebook copies of
The Kizuna Coast sold in March 2015 will be
donated by the author to support a
program for tsunami survivors in Japan.