Book Review: The Call of Death by R.J. Garcia @rj_dreamer @parliamentbooks @YABoundToursPR

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Title: The Call of Death
Author: R.J. Garcia
Publisher: Parliament House
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Romantic Suspense, Young Adult

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The Call of Death
R.J. Garcia
Parliament House, November 2019
ISBN 978-1703743708
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Fourteen-year-old Hannah Priestly crashes into a terrifying future. She wakes up in her dorm room now knowing the name of an infamous serial killer, Norman Biggs. He will attack her in the future unless she and her three male friends can change fate.

Hannah is a suntanned, obsessive-compulsive California girl dropped off at an English boarding school by her celebrity mother. Hannah has difficulty understanding algebra, let alone her increasingly dark visions. Rory Veer is Hannah’s smart, easy-going and romantically challenged friend and school crush. When Norman Biggs unexpectedly appears in Rory’s reality, terror is set in motion. It is Rory who must acknowledge a past he has denied if the mystery is to be unraveled.

This was a twisty ride for sure; imagine suddenly having “knowledge” of someone or something you shouldn’t and then discovering that this person will do serious harm to her in the future. In Hannah’s case, it’s a good thing she has friends to help her stop what’s going to happen. Those friends have become her family away from home at the boarding school and, of course, one of those friendships becomes something more but not so quickly as to seem inappropriate or rushed. That’s a really good thing, in my opinion, because these are young teens and we get to see them grow over a period of time, making the emotional attachments seem more natural.

Seeing one’s future must be unsettling, especially for a young girl who is just now learning about her psychic abilities. For Hannah and the reader, it means sudden flips of time, keeping us all on tenterhooks until various threads begin to come together and Hannah and her friends reach a surprising yet satisfying conclusion.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2019.

About the Author

R.J. Garcia is a wife and proud mom. She earned her MSW and worked with foster children and as a school social worker. Writing has been her other great love. She has published several non-fiction pieces. She has been writing short-stories for as long as she can remember. To her amazement, those short stories became novels!

Author Links:
Website // Goodreads // Twitter // Facebook

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Book Review: Remember Me by Chelsea Bobulski @ChelseaBobulski @The_FFBC @FeiwelFriends

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Title: Remember Me
Author: Chelsea Bobulski
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Publication Date: August 6, 2019
Genre: Young Adult Horror

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Remember Me
Chelsea Bobulski
Feiwel and Friends, August 2019
ISBN
Hardcover

From the publisher—

In this eerie and suspenseful YA, a teen girl discovers what connects her to the hotel she calls home as horrifying visions lead her to the truth.

Nell Martin is moving again, this time to the Winslow Grand Hotel, built in 1878. As Nell is settling in, strange things begin to happen. Doors lock of their own accord, writing appears on bathroom walls–and most horrifying of all–visions of a dead boy permeate her waking life. Thinking it was her mind playing tricks on her, she soon finds the past and the present colliding as she learns horrific details of a murder that happened at the hotel in 1905 involving a girl named Lea.

Nell and a mysterious bellboy must relive that day in hopes of finally breaking a curse that imprisons them both. And Nell discovers what truly links her to the history of the Winslow Grand Hotel.

Old houses and hotels make for good hauntings and that’s what Nell discovers when she and her dad move to the Winslow Grand Hotel, a huge Victorian posh resort, the largest hotel her dad has ever worked for. Before they even walk through the lobby door, Nell’s uneasiness turns to near-panic and for no good reason as far as she can tell. Her dad’s somewhat precarious health is her main concern but this new feeling is different.

More than a hundred years earlier, another young girl, Lea, was a guest in this same hotel and dealt with a situation far removed from anything Nell has ever, or will ever, encounter. Lea’s father is intent on marrying her off to a man she barely knows, an heir to a fortune that will return Lea’s family to financial prosperity. Much like Nell, Lea experiences a sense of dread upon entering the hotel and coming events will take her down a path of heartache.

Several days after reading this book, I’m still not quite sure what I think about it. It’s a tale that offers interesting characters but the plot is fairly derivative—not totally surprising because haunted hotel/house stories are frequently based on the same concept. Also, I understand why this is labeled as horror but I really think that’s too heavy for Remember Me and it could more accurately be called a gothic mystery. That’s not a bad thing, mind you, just my personal observation. At any rate, while I didn’t find anything particularly exciting or surprising about Remember Me, I do think it’s an enjoyable way to while away a few hours.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2019.

About the Author

Chelsea Bobulski was born in Columbus, Ohio, and raised on Disney movies, classic musicals, and Buckeye pride. She’s always had a penchant for the fantastical, the stories that teach us there is more to this world than meets the eye. She has a soft spot for characters with broken pasts, strange talents, and a dash of destiny in their bones. After graduating from The Ohio State University with a degree in history, she promptly married her high school sweetheart and settled down in Northwest Ohio with her notebooks and daydreams and copious amounts of chocolate. THE WOOD is her debut novel.

Author Links:

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads // Instagram // Pinterest

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by Chelsea Bobulski (US Only)

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Ends: 20 August 2019

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Book Review: Desolation Mountain by William Kent Krueger

Desolation Mountain
Cork O’Connor Mystery #17
William Kent Krueger
Atria Books, August 2018
ISBN 978-1-5011-4746-3
Hardcover

Stephen O‘Connor, Cork O’Connor’s young son, has always had visions presaging tragedies.  This novel is based on one in which he sees an eagle shot from the sky and a menace he can’t identify at his back.  And then a plane carrying a U.S. Senator and her family crashes on Desolation Mountain.  Cork and Stephen subsequently join others attempting to find survivors and clues.

Soon, some of the first responders go missing, and father and son begin to investigate.  Then Cork inadvertently meets Bo Thorson, a character from a long ago novel, then a secret service agent, now a private investigator.  They join forces, but soon Cork begins to doubt Bo’s role.  The area is overrun with representatives of various federal agencies and is cordoned off.

The plot centers on the meaning of the vision and solution of the cause of the crash.  This is the 18th novel in the series, and provides, for the first time, a deeper look into Cork and Stephen’s relationship.  As is a constant in the series, it is well-written, and the descriptions of the North Country graphic and excellent.

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, August 2018.

A Passel of Teeny Reviews, Part 3

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…

 

Deep Cover Jack
The Hunt for Reacher Series #7
Diane Capri
AugustBooks, August 2016
ISBN 978-1-940768-70-0
Trade Paperback

If you’ve never tried any of the Jack Reacher books by Lee Child, you need to read at least one before you tackle this series because this is all about the “other side” of the equation, the law enforcement folks who think they need to apprehend Reacher because he’s such a horrible person, a desperately wanted man. Well…our FBI Special Agents, Kim Otto and Carlos Gaspar have learned a few things by the time we get to this seventh book and they’ve picked up a little help along the way from other interested parties but they haven’t yet caught the man. Will they this time when they head for Houston? Hmm…if you know Jack, you know their chances are on the slim side but will they at least get close?

This is an intriguing, entertaining companion to the Jack Reacher series and, yes, Lee Child himself speaks highly of it. Oh, and before you think these must be the most incompetent agents ever if they’ve been chasing him through seven books, think again. Try it, you’ll like it 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

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Stalking Jack the Ripper
Stalking Jack the Ripper Series #1
Kerri Maniscalco
jimmy patterson, September 2016
ISBN 978-0-316-27349-7
Hardcover

As you might surmise from the name of the publisher, this is “presented” by the megawatt author James Patterson himself and, if I do say so, this is a good ‘un. Audrey Rose Wadsworth loves to spend time in her uncle’s lab learning medical stuff but gets drawn into a serious criminal investigation, that of the gory deaths of some women of ill repute. With the assistance of Thomas Cresswell, apprentice to her uncle, Audrey Rose really wants to get justice for these poor women as well as bring a killer to justice but the stakes get even higher when the long arm of the law reaches out to someone close to her.

I like the Victorian era, young adult mysteries and the Jack the Ripper case (plus I love the cover) so trying this was a no brainer for me. Mounting clues and hair-raising theories lead to a horrifying discovery but, throughout it all, Audrey Rose maintains her intelligent, thoughtful focus even if she can’t be completely objective. The next case for this young lady and the charming if annoying Thomas, Hunting Prince Dracula, involves another string of killings while Audrey Rose studies forensic medicine in Romania and I can hardly wait to dive in.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

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March of Crime
A Murder-By-Month Mystery #11
Jess Lourey
Midnight Ink, September 2017
ISBN 978-0-7387-5263-1
Trade Paperback

This cozy series has been fun and frothy since the beginning and I continue to like them a lot, especially because they never seem to get stale, if you know what I mean. They have plenty of humor along with tension and Mira Ross might as well be called the Jessica Fletcher of Battle Lake, Minnesota, since people seem to drop like flies in her vicinity. No wonder this mild-mannered librarian has aspirations of being a private eye!

One thing that intrigues me about cozies is the myriad ways authors find to present a dead body without offending sensibilities and I think Ms. Lourey has outdone herself and everyone else this time. Lifesize dolls are kind of creepy anyway (to me at least) but when one turns out to be an actual corpse sitting proudly right next to Mira, well I ask you, how could she NOT want to snoop? Mira and her assorted crew of cronies and nemeses are soon hot on one trail or another and I chortled all the way to the end.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

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The Enemy Within
Scott Burn
Scott Burn, August 2016
ISBN 978-0-9978429-1-3
Trade Paperback

There have been people throughout history who have had visions of the future, some believable, many more not so much, but I had to have a lot of sympathy for the 17-year-old Max who has been seeing hellfire and damnation at the apparent end of the world. In his situation, I’m not sure I wouldn’t at least consider his way of ending these horrific sights that just won’t stop but one thing that would prevent me from  doing such a drastic thing is my own suspicion that I’d bungle it. And he does, landing himself in an institution.

Three other boys have found each other but know that they’re missing one and can’t do what they’re supposed to do without him. Who are they? Suffice it to say, there’s a new unclaimed satellite in orbit and things are about to get very unsettling for us and for our survival on this planet.

This was such a fun story with aliens and other cool science fiction-y stuff. Technically speaking, this is Young Adult but I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good apocalyptic story full of adventure and mayhem, not to mention some pretty appealing characters. I hope we’ll see more of Max before too long.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

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Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore
Matthew Sullivan
Scribner, June 2017
ISBN 978-1501116841
Hardcover
Narrated by Madeleine Maby
Simon & Schuster Audio, June 2017
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

As a former bookstore owner, I naturally had to read this and, while I enjoyed it, I also had some reservations. The Bright Ideas Bookstore is a strange sort of place, attracting some rather odd people called the BookFrogs, some of whom seem to spend all their waking hours just hanging out, rarely buying anything. And, since Lydia Smith was Joey Molina’s favorite bookseller, you have to wonder why he would commit suicide in the bookstore, leaving his supposed favorite to find him.

But so he does and he leaves all his worldly goods to Lydia leading her to puzzle over certain things that pique her curiosity, not only because she thought Joey was a nice young man but also because she seems to have an odd connection to this mystery, a connection that takes her back to a most unpleasant murder-tainted past.

The ebook of Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore grabbed my attention despite my initial reluctance and I decided I wanted to try listening to the tale. Narrator Madeleine Maby has a pleasing tone with identifiable vocalizations and I do think the audio edition helped evoke emotions a bit more easily than the written version. Bottomline, while the rampant dysfunction in these characters’ lives made me somewhat unsettled, the mystery itself was engaging.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

Book Review (Audio): Double Duplicity by Paty Jager

Double Duplicity
Shandra Higheagle Mystery, Book One
Paty Jager
Narrated by Ann M. Thompson
Patricia Jager, February 2017
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

On the eve of the biggest art event at Huckleberry Mountain Resort, potter Shandra Higheagle finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation. She’s ruled out as a suspect, but now it’s up to her to prove the friend she witnessed fleeing the scene is just as innocent. With help from her recently deceased Nez Perce grandmother, Shandra becomes more confused than ever, but just as determined to discover the truth.

Detective Ryan Greer prides himself on solving crimes and refuses to ignore a single clue, including Shandra Higheagle’s visions. While Shandra is hesitant to trust her dreams, Ryan believes in them and believes in her.

Can the pair uncover enough clues for Ryan to make an arrest before one of them becomes the next victim?

Shandra Higheagle literally comes across a dead body accidentally and things begin to happen with meteoric speed for this small town. Actually, the name Huckleberry Mountain Resort is a bit misleading because while “Huckleberry” implies very rural and homespun, this is a ski resort with tourists and money to spare, not to mention multiple art galleries, and the upcoming art show is a premier happening. It’s in Detective Ryan Greer’s best interest to solve this murder quickly and he’s not averse to a little assistance.

Shandra and Ryan are both intelligent, attractive people and the almost instantaneous spark between them is perhaps not surprising. It’s more apparent at first to Ryan than to Shandra but, once she gets it, she’s not entirely above using her “influence” to get away with a bit of investigating on the side. Unfortunately for her, she doesn’t always make the brightest decisions and can be accused of a tiny bit of TSTL behavior. Never mind, I still like her and I also like Ryan, especially because he gives credence to the visions Shandra has apparently inherited from her Nez Perce grandmother.

A fair amount of comic relief comes from the very young and very untried police officer, Blane. As so often happens with someone new to any position of authority, poor Blane is overeager and way out of his element with Shandra who can pretty much put him in his place, especially when he’s determined to treat her as a suspect. Blane is a likeable overgrown kid and his enthusiasm helps make up for a lot. The other secondary character who got my attention (in a good way) is Shandra’s hired ranch hand, Lil, who you might say is the female version of the crusty oldtimer.

Ann M. Thompson is a good narrator, giving warm, earthy tones to Shandra and handling other voices with noticeable differences from one character to the next. In particular, I immediately picked up on Blane’s immaturity and brashness just from Ms. Thompson‘s interpretation.

Double Duplicity is the first of eight books in the series but, so far, only this one and the second are in audiobook format. That will not stop me from continuing on with this entertaining series but I do hope more audio editions will become available before too long. Not only do I like Ms. Jager‘s stories but I also enjoy Ms. Thompson‘s narration and that’s a pleasant combination.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2017.

Book Reviews: Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics and Kittens Can Kill by Clea Simon

Daughters Unto DevilsDaughters Unto Devils
Amy Lukavics
Harlequin Teen, September 2015
ISBN: 978-0-373-21158-6
Hardcover

Isolation in a small cabin on a mountain during a very harsh winter would make anyone a bit strange, but in the late 1800s it’s worse. When sixteen year old Amanda Verner has to endure the additional stress of watching her pregnant mother thrash and moan for months after getting sick, the birth of her deaf and blind baby sister, Hannah, has her on the edge, alternating between guilt and anger…Anger at how unfair life is and guilt because of her wish that Hannah was dead. When she looks out the window and sees a demon coming toward the cabin, it tilts her over the edge.

As spring comes, Amanda isn’t feeling much better, but has decided to lie, particularly to her younger sister Emily, so she won’t be constantly confronted about her strangeness which hasn’t abated since she saw the demon. When she meets Henry, a boy who makes a living delivering things, it doesn’t take long for her to start having sex with him in the forest. It makes her feel wanted and drives tormenting thoughts away, but when she becomes pregnant herself, things go back to awful as she tries to hide her condition and keep the lies going.

After her father returns from the nearest town and tells his family that another harsh winter is predicted, he also tells them that he heard of empty and larger cabins on the prairie and has decided to move his family there. Amanda, grateful for a temporary reprieve, is hopeful that the move will somehow allow her to find a way to tell the family about her condition.

The cabin they find looks good from the outside, but the interior has a torn up floor and reeks of rotting blood. Even so, the family camps on cut grass outside while working to clean things up. There’s a working water pump behind the house and they soon learn that it’s being used by Zeke, a boy about Amanda’s age and his physician father who live a couple miles away. Zeke tells Amanda, Emily and their two younger siblings, Joanna and Charles, ghost stories that have some eerie similarities with ones Henry told Amanda before the family came to the new home.

From that point on, there’s no break and no peace for Amanda and her family. Horrible things follow one another involving demons and natural disasters, leaving it up to Amanda and Emily to assume responsibility at a level well beyond their years. This is a grand debut novel that’s horror at its best. Teens who love creepy and unexpected will devour this one. The blurb on the cover is completely accurate when author Cat Winters says: “Imaging Stephen King writing Little House on the Prairie.”

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, October 2015.

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Kittens Can KillKittens Can Kill
A Pru Marlowe Pet Noir #5
Clea Simon
Poisoned Pen Press, March 2015
ISBN 978-1-4642-0358-9
Hardcover

This is the fifth book in the Pru Marlowe Pet Noir Series. So far, Simon has written about dogs, cats, parrots, panthers and now for #5, we have kittens. If it’s hard for you to turn down a kitten who may be a witness or the cause of death, I think you will enjoy this book.

The animals in this book communicate with Pru, an animal behaviorist who hides her ability, from the kitten to Pru’s own cat, Wallis, and the animals in the animal hospital. Unfortunately for Pru, the animals (not to mention, some of the humans) are very cryptic with what they are willing to share. And Pru gets to put it all together after she finds a kitten next to the wealthy dead lawyer, David Canaday.

A pet peeve of mine (no pun intended, well, maybe) is when several of the character names in a book begin with the same first letter. It only increases the difficulty of keeping them straight in the reader’s mind and I don’t know why an author would want to do that. Yes, I think it’s a little cute if a parent wants to name their children in that fashion – as in Kittens Can Kill, the sisters are: Jackie, Judith and Jill but it probably is misguided and should have been resisted. Don’t parents want to encourage their kids’ individuality? Don’t authors want the same for their characters?

Anyway, since that’s all I found to complain about, I would definitely recommend this book. It was my first in the series and I didn’t feel I was beginning in the middle. It’s an easy, quick, and pleasurable read.

Reviewed by Constance Reader, November 2015.

Book Review: The Burning Girl by Lisa Unger

The Burning GirlThe Burning Girl
A Whispers Story #2
Lisa Unger
Pocket Star, November 2014
ISBN 978-1-4767-9779-3
Ebook

From the publisher—

Ten years after Eloise Montgomery discovers her psychic abilities, she is a full-fledged working psychic, with a partner and a business. Now, in The Burning Girl, she’s discovering some disturbing things: secrets about her genealogy that are, perhaps, best left in the past; that her granddaughter Finley has powers of her own; and that not all of Eloise’s visitors actually want to be helped. Some of them are just looking for trouble…

When The Burning Girl opens, we find Eloise vacuuming while a young girl glowers on her couch. That child isn’t really there; she’s one of those lost girls Eloise “listens” to when her psychic attunement kicks in. Almost fourteen years after the deaths of her husband and older daughter, Eloise is at something of a crossroads in her life and the strain of her unwanted knowledge of people in terrible peril has clearly worn on her. Her younger daughter, Amanda, lives as far away as she can get because she’s so unnerved by her mother even though she cares about her deeply. Eloise’s partner, Ray, wants more from her than she can give and Eloise sees no relief ahead from the burden of knowing things that can be so very painful. A woman named Agatha may be the only one who can save Eloise from falling victim to her own sensabilities.

Eloise is a woman nearly consumed by the emotions of others and it’s apparent that the visions and the whispers are in control. I’ve never had any such experiences but her pain is palpable and I had no doubt, as I was reading, that she was nearing the edge of sanity. It was like seeing an old acquaintance years after you first met and wondering what terrible travails life had brought her in the intervening years. Her struggle to survive seeps through the pages and I frequently wanted to put an arm around her for just a moment.

The first novella in this trilogy had more edge to it but, by the time The Burning Girl ends, I really did feel that Eloise might at last be finding a kind of peace. I’m looking forward to Ms. Unger’s The Three Sisters to see how this nice woman will fare.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2014.