Book Review: The View from Rainshadow Bay by Colleen Coble

The View from Rainshadow Bay
A Lavender Tides Novel #1
Colleen Coble
Thomas Nelson, January 2018
ISBN 978-0-7180-8578-0
Hardcover

From the publisher—

After her husband, Jack, dies in a climbing incident, Shauna has only her five-year-old son and her helicopter charter business to live for. Every day is a struggle to make ends meet and she lives in constant fear of losing even more than she already has.

When her business partner is murdered, his final words convince Shauna that she’s in danger too. But where can she turn? Zach Bannister was her husband’s best friend and is the person she blames for his death. She’s barely spoken to him since. But right now he seems her only hope for protecting her son.

Zach is only too happy to assuage his guilt over Jack’s death by helping Shauna any way he can. But there are secrets involved dating back to Shauna’s childhood that more than one person would prefer to stay hidden.

I’m kind of betwixt and between on my feelings about this book. As romantic suspense, it pretty much delivers what you might expect but, with its Christian influence, it’s gentler and that’s fine with me. Where it fails, at least somewhat, is in the mystery. The pace is inconsistent and there are elements of the criminal activity that either don’t make much sense or don’t work at all. Just as a “for instance”, Shauna goes to deliver something to the guy who has kidnapped two people for ransom but, unknown to her, the two people who knew what she was doing have gone off on another mission and are unreachable PLUS they didn’t tell her they were going to leave her on her own AND one of them is the sheriff.

This doesn’t mean that I would never read another book by this author by any means. Ms. Coble has a very good reputation and a ton of books. I saw for myself in this book that she has a way with words when it comes to character and setting descriptions (although I did like her, Shauna comes across as a bit of a “Weak Willy” which I didn’t expect based on her background but I appreciate Ms. Coble‘s willingness to portray her this way). Anyway, I’d be willing to read more by this author…but maybe not a mystery.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2018.

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Book Review: Bad Girl Gone by Temple Mathews

Bad Girl Gone
Temple Mathews
St. Martin’s Griffin, August 2017
ISBN 978-1-250-05881-2
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Sixteen year-old Echo Stone awakens in a cold sweat in a dark room, having no idea where she is or how she got there. But she soon finds out she’s in Middle House, an orphanage filled with mysteriously troubled kids.

There’s just one problem: she’s not an orphan. Her parents are very much alive.

She explains this to everyone, but no one will listen. After befriending a sympathetic (and handsome) boy, Echo is able to escape Middle House and rush home, only to discover it sealed off by crime scene tape and covered in the evidence of a terrible and violent crime. As Echo grapples with this world-shattering information, she spots her parents driving by and rushes to flag them down. Standing in the middle of street, waving her arms to get their attention, her parents’ car drives right through her.

She was right. Her parents are alive―but she’s not.

She’s a ghost, just like all the other denizens of Middle House. Desperate to somehow get her life back and reconnect with her still-alive boyfriend, Echo embarks on a quest to solve her own murder. As the list of suspects grows, the quest evolves into a journey of self-discovery in which she learns she wasn’t quite the girl she thought she was. In a twist of fate, she’s presented with one last chance to reclaim her life and must make a decision which will either haunt her or bless her forever.­­­­

The premise of a dead person having to solve her own murder is not new but, to me, it’s intriguing and I really looked forward to seeing what Mr. Mathews would do with the idea. For the most part, I thought it was entertaining if not quite fabulous.

OK, so Echo is a ghost and is in an orphanage of sorts with a bunch of other dead kids, all murdered, and they need to solve their murders before they can move on. Some have superpowers that help them do this and Echo’s is kind of weird but ultimately useful. Along with investigating her demise, Echo will learn quite a lot about herself and how her opinions about her living self don’t exactly square with others’ views. That’s a good thing because, well, Echo isn’t the most likeable girl I’ve encountered.

This story would have been 50% better without the silly, awkward love triangle. Young adult fiction is rife with love triangles—hormones, I guess—but, as much as I dislike them, at least they’re usually normal, meaning all parties are breathing. Here we have two ghosts and a living boy. Uh-uh, doesn’t work and is not appealing. For the most part, I just sort of skimmed over the romantic parts as much as I could

Bottomline, I think the writing is a bit juvenile even with some rough language (or maybe because of it) and the story had promise that wasn’t quite delivered but I still enjoyed it to a degree. Certainly, Bad Girl Gone was not a waste of my time but I hope Mr. Mathews’ next YA novel will fit a little better in this genre.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2017.

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An Excerpt from Bad Girl Gone

Awakening

When I tried to remember exactly how I came to be lying in the cold black room, my mind couldn’t focus.

I could feel myself slowly climbing upward, clawing my way out of the clutches of a nightmare. This was usually a good feeling, because you knew you were just dreaming, and the nightmare was over. Except this time it wasn’t. My hands felt clammy. I gripped the sheets until I knew my knuckles must be white. Help me, I thought. Somebody please help me.

I had no idea where I was, and for a terrifying second I couldn’t even remember who I was. But then I remembered my name. Echo. Echo Stone. My real name is Eileen. When I was a toddler, I waddled around repeating everything my parents said and they called me “Echo,” and it just stuck.

Remembering my name and how I got it kick-started my brain. I knew who I was. I remembered that I was sixteen years old and lived in Kirkland, Washington, with my mom and dad. It was all coming back to me. Mom was a dentist and Dad taught middle school English. Good, I could remember parts of my life. But I was still in a dark, cold room and had no idea how I got there. I held back a scream, my chest tightening. Don’t lose it, Echo, keep it together, I told myself. Calm down, think good thoughts.

I pictured Andy, my boyfriend. Six feet tall, broad shoul- ders, blue eyes, and long golden-brown hair. He loved to feed me cookie bites and called me his rabbit. I called him Wolfie. Sometimes he got the hiccups for no reason at all and usually laughed them away. Thinking of Andy momentarily made me feel warm inside, even though the room was freezing.

Where was I? I was shivering and yet also bathed in sweat, my skin slick with it. I clutched for my trusty Saint Christopher necklace. But it wasn’t there. Mom gave it to me to protect me when I traveled. Would it protect me now? I would never have lost it. The chain must have broken. And then I had an ugly thought. What if someone had ripped it from my neck? I shuddered. Where are you, Andy? I need you!

I opened my eyes as wide as I could. It was pitch black. My pounding heart told me, This isn’t some nightmare—it’s real. I hugged myself and breathed deeply, trying to calm my nerves. My shoulders were tight. I rubbed the sheets beneath me. The ones at home in my bed were soft. These were stiff and coarse. I was somewhere completely and painfully foreign. In my head I was talking to myself in a rapid voice, my fear voice: What is this?—what is this?—what is this?

Someone nearby was crying. I had a knot in my stomach and my throat hurt, like I’d screamed for hours. My head hurt, too, and I guessed I must have fallen, or maybe something heavy fell on me. I explored my scalp, gently at first, then more bravely, moving my fingers, searching for a lump. I found nothing . . . no lump, no holes. My skull was intact, though my long auburn hair felt tangled and greasy. I inhaled through my nose, searching for familiar scents. Mom’s cinnamon rolls, Dad’s after- shave. But nothing smelled even vaguely familiar, and the odors that did find my nose were horrible. Smoke. Vinegar. Sulfur.

I reached for my bedside lamp—but my fingers touched something damp and stringy. Oh god. The knot in my stomach tightened and I yanked my hand back. I willed my eyes to ad- just to the dark, but as I blinked, strange pulsing figures leapt out at me. It must have been my mind playing tricks. Right?

I took five good, long breaths, sucking in through my nose and exhaling through my pursed lips, just like my grandma Tilly taught me years ago. But five breaths weren’t enough. So I took ten, and finally my heart rate slowed from a galloping panic to a steady, cautious thudding. Soon I was able to distin- guish shapes. Was that a girl in a bed next to mine? Her hair was impossibly thick and long, spilling down her back. Her sweaty hair. That’s what I must have reached out and touched. My heart returned to its punishing rhythm, a fist clenching and unclenching in my chest. The nearby crying stopped. But then it was replaced by something worse, a ripping sound, like bone being cut by a rusty saw. And then a gurgling . . . followed by a low, feral growling noise. Faraway cackling laughter. What the hell was going on?

About the Author

Author Temple Matthews is already well versed in the world of screenwriting, with such children’s films under his belt as Disney’s Return to Neverland, The Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea, and Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas. He wrote Aloha Scooby Doo for Warner Brothers and Picture This for MGM. He is also the author of the The New Kid trilogy. Matthews has now turned to a different kind of story telling with his young adult novel BAD GIRL GONE. With a spunky main character, this novel explores the aftermath of tragedy, and whether what we think about ourselves matches with how the world sees us because, as we all know, right and wrong is sometimes grey when thrown into the madness of high school.

Book Review: A Fatal Twist by Tracy Weber—and a Giveaway!

A Fatal Twist
A Downward Dog Mystery #4
Tracy Weber
Midnight Ink, January 2017
ISBN 978-0-7387-4878-9
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Yoga instructor Kate Davidson’s life takes a chaotic turn once she agrees to not only be the doula for her pregnant best friend, but also play foster mother to two puppies. The chaos only gets worse when Kate finds the dead body of a philandering fertility doctor and Rachel, one of her yoga students, fleeing the scene.

Kate is convinced her student is innocent, and she sets out to find the real killer before her testimony condemns Rachel to a life behind bars. But her hands are full with caring for three dogs, teaching yoga classes, and gaining an unexpected crime-solving partner. If she’s not careful, Kate’s next yoga pose may be a fatal one.

Babies! They’re springing up everywhere, both humans and puppies, and Kate has her hands full learning to be a doula for her best friend, Rene, as she and her husband Sam await twins. In the meantime, Kate’s boyfriend, Michael, has brought home a pair of six-week-old abandoned labradoodles, Mutt and Jeff, and Kate agrees to foster them for a short while as long as Bella, her anxious German Shepherd with special needs, doesn’t get a chance to kill them.

First to get killed, though, is a doctor Kate knows superficially, a man who appears to have been as low as a man can be. His wife is a student of Kate’s and the killing happened in a birthing center where Rene plans to go so Kate has reasons to snoop among a plethora of girlfriends (current and ex), nurses and other doctors, not to mention prospective parents who might have had reasons to hate the fertility doc. She really needs to step in because all clues seem to nail the wife, Rachel, and the police don’t want to look further.

With each murder Kate encounters, she becomes more adept at investigating and at least one of the homicide detectives doesn’t really object so much because Kate frequently has something useful to offer. Humor abounds as does a cracking good sleuthfest, not to mention reminders of the perils of puppiedom and the joys and heartbreaks of animal rescue. Tracy Weber never lets me down.

This time, Rene would have been justified—and I would have approved—if she killed Sam who’s incredibly obnoxious and obsessed with what Rene eats. On the positive side, Bella and the puppies are delightful and I’m more enchanted with her than I was before, especially since she reminds me of my beloved granddog who also suffers from social anxiety around people and other dogs. All the characters I’ve come to enjoy are back, even the somewhat annoying ones, and I felt right at home with old friends.

On a personal note, I’ve been taking warm water Yogilates classes and have become more interested in the ins and outs of yoga. I actually paid more attention this time to Ms. Weber‘s pointers and got more out of it; I won’t say I’m ready for land yoga but I love the water kind and can’t help thinking how my instructors compare to Kate (other than running around looking for killers). I just need to figure out how to listen to these books on my iPod when I’m in the pool 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2017.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To enter the drawing for a gently
used advance
reading copy of
A Fatal Twist
by Tracy Weber,
leave a comment
below. The
winning name will
be drawn
Thursday evening,
April 13th.
This drawing is open
to residents
of the US and Canada.

Book Review: Onions in the Stew by Betty MacDonald

Continue reading

More Teeny Reviews

lost-in-wonderlandLost in Wonderland
The Twisted and the Brave #1
Nicky Peacock
Evernight Teen, May 2016
ISBN 978-1-77233-867-6
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Monsters, serial killers, and imaginary friends—being a Wonderlander can be murder… Once upon a time, Kayla was lost. Then she found Wonderland, but not the one you know. Run by ex-government agents and funded by an eccentric Silicon Valley billionaire, this Wonderland is the name of a collective of highly trained vigilantes who hunt serial killers. Now Kayla, aka Mouse, works tirelessly alongside her fellow Wonderlanders, Rabbit and Cheshire, baiting dangerous murderers. But even her extensive training hasn’t prepared her for the return of her older brother…

Shilo has spent most of his life in an insane asylum, convinced his mother was abducted by a sinister Alaskan monster who lures the lost away to feast upon their flesh. And now he’s certain that his sister is in the same monster’s crosshairs. But if Shilo is going to save what’s left of his family, he’ll have to convince his sister that maybe, just maybe, we’re all a little mad.

The retelling of fairy tales has become almost a cottage industry but, for me, the fun is in discovering how a particular author approaches the task. Now, Wonderland is not, precisely speaking, a fairy tale but, hey, it’s close enough and I quite simply loved all the oddities and eccentricities, the madness, to be found in any Wonderland, even one that involves vigilantes and serial killers. That does mean there’s a certain amount of violence and the tale is quite dark so the squeamish may want to think before reading Lost in Wonderland. Still, I believe many will like Kayla a great deal and appreciate the story as much as I did.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2017.

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house-of-silenceHouse of Silence
Sarah Barthel
Kensington Books, January 2017
ISBN 978-1-4967-0608-9
Trade Paperback
From the publisher—

Oak Park, Illinois, 1875. Isabelle Larkin’s future—like that of every young woman—hinges upon her choice of husband. She delights her mother by becoming engaged to Gregory Gallagher, who is charismatic, politically ambitious, and publicly devoted. But Isabelle’s visions of a happy, profitable match come to a halt when she witnesses her fiancé commit a horrific crime—and no one believes her.

Gregory denies all, and Isabelle’s mother insists she marry as planned rather than drag them into scandal. Fearing for her life, Isabelle can think of only one escape: she feigns a mental breakdown that renders her mute, and is brought to Bellevue sanitarium. There she finds a friend in fellow patient Mary Todd Lincoln, committed after her husband’s assassination.

In this unlikely refuge, the women become allies, even as Isabelle maintains a veneer of madness for her own protection. But sooner or later, she must reclaim her voice. And if she uses it to expose the truth, Isabelle risks far more than she could ever imagine.

Desperation sometimes leads to dire measures and none is more dire than pretending mental illness and landing in an asylum. In the days when treatment of mental patients was something close to horrific, such an escape would have been even riskier but Isabelle certainly couldn’t have expected to find friendship with such a woman. That in itself leads to some interesting conversations and behaviors but the overall tone wasn’t as ominous as it should have been considering the setting and the times. The appeal of the story was further lessened for me by somewhat stilted language that could have been “softened” just a little to make it more amenable to the modern reader and yet there were also occasional anachronisms that simply didn’t work. Overall, while I don’t really consider this to be one of the better historical fiction novels I’ve read, I do see potential for future works from Ms. Barthel.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2017.

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the-purloined-poodleThe Purloined Poodle
Oberon’s Meaty Mysteries
Kevin Hearne
Narrated by Luke Daniels
Audible, September 2016
Downloaded Unabridged Audio Book

From the publisher—

Thanks to his relationship with the ancient Druid Atticus O’Sullivan, Oberon the Irish wolfhound knows trouble when he smells it – and furthermore, he knows he can handle it.

When he discovers that a prizewinning poodle has been abducted in Eugene, Oregon, he learns that it’s part of a rash of hound abductions all over the Pacific Northwest. Since the police aren’t too worried about dogs they assume have run away, Oberon knows it’s up to him to track down those hounds and reunite them with their humans. For justice! And gravy!

Engaging the services of his faithful Druid, Oberon must travel throughout Oregon and Washington to question a man with a huge salami, thwart the plans of diabolical squirrels, and avoid, at all costs, a fight with a great big bear.

But if he’s going to solve the case of the Purloined Poodle, Oberon will have to recruit the help of a Boston terrier named Starbuck, survive the vegetables in a hipster pot pie, and firmly refuse to be distracted by fire hydrants and rabbits hiding in the rose bushes.

At the end of the day, will it be a sad bowl of dry kibble for the world’s finest hound detective, or will everything be coming up sirloins?

There are a handful of series that I always read by listening because I’m so entranced with the narrator and the Iron Druid Chronicles is one of those. Further, I also always get the ebooks because there are foreign and/or mythological names and terms that I can’t always pick up by listening so I play the audio books and then use the ebook to verify those words.

Besides the delights of Luke Daniels‘ narration, Oberon, a goofy Irish wolfhound, is one of my all-time favorite characters. Oberon talks to his druid pal, Atticus, and is totally charming while being very dog-like, focused largely on his next meal, and he has an eye for the ladies, particularly of the French poodle variety. When he finds out that a nefarious ring of dognappers is operating in the Northwest, he naturally feels it’s his duty to sniff out these bad guys so off he goes, with a little help from his friends. What ensues is an entertaining story with a satisfying resolution and I smiled all the way to the end. As always, Oberon’s voice alone had me going and I highly recommend readers who haven’t tried the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne listen to this tale for a taste of the joy you’ll get from these audio books.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2017.

Book Review: Four Furlongs by Carol Wright Crigger—and a Giveaway!

four-furlongsFour Furlongs
A China Bohannon Novel #4
Carol Wright Crigger
Five Star, May 2016
ISBN 978-1-4328-3215-5
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Smart and sassy bookkeeper China Bohannon is a modern 1890s career woman who’d rather sleuth than type. China is in charge of the Doyle & Howe Detective Agency office on the day a fourteen-year-old girl shows up seeking the detectives’ help in a case of what she’s calling murder. Neva Sue O’Dell’s jockey brother has been killed during a race, the horse he was riding — the dead-on Derby favorite — lamed. Neva claims her mother and grandfather are involved, having been paid a lot of money to rig the race. Who paid them? Neva doesn’t know, but she wants China to find out and somehow bring those who harmed her brother to justice.

The Wild, Wild West was still a little in evidence in 1890’s Washington State and young women such as China Bohannon were supposed to be prim, proper and running a man’s household. That is most decidedly not the life she chose for herself once she decided to leave an untenable situation and working in her uncle Montgomery Howe’s private investigation firm is almost perfect. That “almost” would disappear if she could just convince her bosses that she really is capable of much more than bookkeeping. Fortunately, both her bosses are occasionally willing to let her try her hand at things so China and her beloved terrier, Nimble, are with Gratton Doyle one day at the racetrack looking for a con man (much more fun than sitting at her newfangled typewriting machine).

When they come upon a loud, angry confrontation involving their quarry, China lands literally in the middle of the fray and foils the miscreant’s escape. Unfortunately for our heroine, the times and society are not forgiving of women showing up in certain situations such as a police station in the company of a petty criminal but China refuses to bow to convention, as we might expect she would, and soon proves her worth to the firm that should have her name on the door.

Alas, China is stuck back at her desk the next day but she can hardly be blamed for taking on her own case when 14-year-old Neva O’Dell comes in looking for someone to find out why her jockey brother was killed. Neva has some harsh suspicions and it’s not long before she and China are embroiled in a lot more danger than they might have anticipated. Shockingly, when all seems to be resolved, the good ol’ boy network threatens to get in the way of justice until China is confronted by a wicked twist that just might end very badly for her.

The bibliographic information available on various retail sites as well as modifications in how the author’s name is shown make it a little difficult to read this series chronologically but there’s a very handy hint—all the titles involve a number:

One Foot on the Edge by C.K. Crigger
Two Feet Below by C. K. Crigger
Three Seconds to Thunder by C.K. Crigger
Four Furlongs by Carol Wright Crigger

The fifth book is tentatively titled Five Days, Five Dead and, while I don’t know when it will be released, I’m looking forward to it eagerly. China Bohannon is one of my very favorite historical sleuths and Ms. Crigger writes with a clear love of the western frontier leavened with a lot of quiet humor and a real knowledge of the period. I’ve read one of the earlier books but I’m driven now to get the others before the next one arrives.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2016.

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I’d love to send somebody my
very gently used advance reading
copy of Four Furlongs. Leave a
comment below and I’ll draw the
winning name on Tuesday evening,
September 20th. This drawing is open
to residents of the US & Canada.

Book Reviews: Secret Sisters by Jayne Ann Krentz and Focused on Murder by Linda Townsdin

Secret SistersSecret Sisters
Jayne Ann Krentz
Berkley, December 2015
ISBN 978-0-399-17448-3
Hardcover

I’m a JAK/AQ/JC fan so I pre-ordered this book at my local independent bookstore and, yay, got it early. Read it, read it again. As in all her books, the mystery is well plotted, the characters are fun to be with and the settings–this one an island off the coast of Washington state, are beautifully described. Yes, I am a fan. But only because she is so good.

Almost two decades after a terrible crime, hotel owner Madeline returns to its scene, the derelict hotel in which she grew up. There she finds Tim, the old friend who summoned her, dying on the lobby floor, his head bashed in. Madeline barely escapes the killer. Frightened and angry, determined to find answers, she calls Jack, her hotel chain’s head of security, and Daphne, her secret sister who saved her life long ago, to help.

The old crime, which seemed over and done, turns out to be connected to the new crime and to several influential people in the island community. Madeline and Daphne know only part of their own story. The two who knew the whole, Madeline’s grandmother and Tim, are dead. A mysterious briefcase is missing. Are the answers buried so deeply that no one can find them? If so, why is someone trying to kill Madeline and her friends?

I know I’ll read this book again, happy to keep company with the characters and explore the island and its complex secrets.

Reviewed by Marilyn Nulman, December 2015.

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Focused on MurderFocused on Murder
A Spirit Lake Mystery #1
Linda Townsdin
CreateSpace, February 2014
ISBN 978-1495403088
Trade Paperback

Britt Johanssen has moved home to Spirit Lake after a disastrous sojourn on the west coast where she fell in love, was abused cheated on, and divorced her husband and became an alcoholic. Now she’s home again in tiny Spirit Lake, a little resentful and still a sharp reporter photographer. Skiing in Northern Minnesota, she stumbles across the body of a local woman named Isabel Maelstrom, daughter of a local big-wig resort owner.

Britt, now employed at the small local news bureau, seizes on the murder as a way to get wider attention for the bureau and her skill. But the more she delves into the murky relationships of the aptly named Maelstrom family and resort, the more dark undercurrents and questions appear. Meanwhile the sheriff, Dave Wilcox,seems to be moving the case at a glacial rate. Temperatures fall and the snow piles up as Britt pursues leads that inevitably trap her in ever broadening danger.

The story broadens and broadens into a very nasty world-encompassing plot that gradually touches nearly everybody in Britt’s Spirit Lake family. Well-written in a straight-forward style, this novel will satisfy suspense thriller readers of a wide range of interests.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, February 2016.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.