Fiction (Action/Adventure, Thriller, etc.)

This section is for books that don’t seem to fit anywhere else. 🙂


FOREVER TEXAS (Forever Texas #1) by William W. Johnstone,  J.A. Johnstone

Fiction, Historical, Western,


Blurb: No one knows better than the American masters of epic Western fiction that forging a new life on the frontier takes hope, drive, and plenty of ammunition. The war is over. But a new battle is on the horizon. Based on true events. It’s 1852. The wounds of the Mexican War are healing. Regis Royle, co-owner of a steamship fleet, has made it out alive, relatively unscarred and with enough profit and foolhardy ambition to envision a new life in south Texas. With the help of his crack-shot kid brother Shepley, his glad-handing riverboat partner Cormac Delany, and his old friend, raw-edged former Texas Ranger Jarvis “Bone” McGraw, Regis is laying claim to the prime jewel in a magnificent rolling prairie: the Santa Calina range teeming with wild mustangs, cattle, and eighteen-thousand acres of lush promise. But all dreams have a price. For Regis, it’s hell to pay—and the fire is coming at him from all directions. On one side of the border, it’s banditos and a vengeful Mexican heiress with a passionate hatred for greenhorn gringos. Especially those who have their eye on land once owned by her family. On the other side, the Apaches, slave traders, and outlaws have Santa Calina in their sights. And none of them are going to walk away from the bloody battle. The brothers Royle and their partners have the most to lose—including their lives. They made a pledge to themselves to build the greatest ranch in America. To see it through to the end, they’ll have to ride hard and learn the bitter necessity of violence and bloodshed.

Thoughts: This book is based on the King Ranch in Texas. I found parts of it interesting, but a lot of it too violent and gory for my tastes. Plus, it’s part of a series and didn’t reall conclude. Still, that was the way of the old west in the 1850s. Violence was (and still is in some places) a way of life.

The book centers around the Royle family – Regis and Shepley — and their friends as they move from a prosperous steamship franchise to an 18000 acre ranch in southern Texas. To survive and prosper, they have to face down slave traders, Apaches, outlaws (banditos), and vengeful Mexicans. It’s full of action (a lot), adventure, violence, and even some compassion as the Royle family struggles to survive in this land.

Recommendation: If you love westerns, you’ll enjoy this one. Not one of my favorites as I haven’t read a western since sharing Zane Grey with my dad years and years ago. But it is a good story with vivid writing.

Disclaimer: Thanks to Kensington Publishing Corp. and the Between the Chapters Bookclub for my copy. #ForeverTexas. I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”


COLD SNAP by Marc Cameron

Fiction, Thriller


Blurb: After an early spring thaw on the Alaskan coast, Anchorage police discover a gruesome new piece of evidence in their search for a serial killer: a dismembered human foot. In Kincaid Park, a man is arrested for attacking a female jogger. Investigators believe they have finally captured the sadistic serial killer. But one deputy is sure they have the wrong man. In the remote northern town of Deadhorse, Alaska, Deputy US Marshal Arliss Cutter escorts three handcuffed prisoners onto a small bush plane on route to Anchorage. The men have been charged with racketeering, drug trafficking, and kidnapping. But Cutter doesn’t expect any trouble from them. It’s a routine mission and a nonstop flight—or so he thinks. When the plane makes an unexpected landing in the middle of nowhere, all hell breaks loose. The prisoners murder a pilot and guard. The plane is torched and blown up. And the last few survivors are forced to flee into the wilderness. But their nightmare’s just beginning. Back in Anchorage, deputy Lola Teariki has traced the dismembered foot to a missing girl—and the serial psychopath who slaughtered her. It’s one of the prisoners on Cutter’s flight. . . .Now it’s a deadly game of survival. With no means of communication, few supplies, and ravenous grizzly bears and wolves lurking in the shadows, Cutter has to battle the unforgiving elements while the cold-blooded killer wants his head on a stick. Here in Alaska, nature can be cruel—but this time, human nature is crueler. . . .Drawing on his experiences as a deputy US marshal in Alaska, Cold Snap rings terrifyingly true.

Thoughts: I received this book from Kensington in exchange for a possible review. So, first things first, this is definitely not my kind of reading. It was far too graphic and violent for me. But, I believe that when someone sends you a book, you should do them the favor of reading it. That being said, even though this isn’t a genre I like to read, the writing is excellent. The characters realistic and the scenery and backgrounds so well-done, I felt like I was there. The story is full of action, suspense, and more. It is an excellently done book. Just not my preferred genre.

In this one, Arliss Cutter—a US Marshall—is in Alaska. There’s a serial killer on the loose. While the local police think they’ve caught their man, Arliss and his partner Lola don’t believe so. But they have other jobs to do, including Arliss transporting three prisoners in a small plane from Deadhorse, AK to Anchorage. Of course things don’t go to plan and Arliss ends up in the wilderness with the killers and other hostages. And then things get bad.

Recommendation: This is a fast-paced, action-packed thriller that will have you sitting on the edge of your seat. It is also part of a series, but can be read as a standalone as there is a very satisfying ending. If you love thrillers, you’ll love “Cold Snap”. Recommended.

Disclaimer: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”


THE WHITE HARE by Jane Johnson (400 pages)

Fiction, Historical, Paranormal


Blurb: For fans of Alice Hoffman and Kate Morton, The White Hare is a spellbinding novel about mothers and daughters finding a new home for themselves, the secrets they try to bury, and the local legends that may change their lives. In the far west of Cornwall lies the White Valley, which cuts deeply through bluebell woods down to the sea at White Cove. The valley has a long and bloody history, laced with folklore, and in it sits a house above the beach that has lain neglected since the war. It comes with a reputation and a strange atmosphere, which is why mother and daughter Magdalena and Mila manage to acquire it so cheaply in the fateful summer of 1954. Magda has grand plans to restore the house to its former glory as a venue for glittering parties, where the rich and celebrated gathered for cocktails and for bracing walks along the coast. Her grown daughter, Mila, just wants to escape the scandal in her past and make a safe and happy home for her little girl, Janey, a solitary, precocious child blessed with a vivid imagination, much of which she pours into stories about her magical plush toy, Rabbit. But Janey’s rabbit isn’t the only magical being around. Legend has it that an enchanted white hare may be seen running through the woods. Is it an ill omen or a blessing? As Mila, her mother, and her young daughter adjust to life in this mysterious place, they will have to reckon with their own pasts and with the secrets that have been haunting the White Valley for decades.

Thoughts: First impression: this is a very British book, not just from the setting in Cornwall, but the grammar and spelling too, so be aware of that. Though I will admit that after a bit, I forgot all about the differences and just got into the story. In 1954, Mila, her mother Magda, and Mila’s 5-year-old daughter Janey move to a run-down house in Cornwall. They are determined to make a fresh start to their lives. But things don’t go well for them there. Not everyone is happy to have them there, plus there are rumors that the place has a history of strange happenings.

In the beginning of the story, Mila is so timid and Magda works her relentlessly. Magda is determined to turn the house into a guest house or B & B, but is is Mila who has to do all the work and deal with the contractors. And then there’s Jack. A mysterious man who shows up when he wants and has a mysterious background.

Slowly, Mila makes friends with some of the neighbors, but she becomes increasingly concerned about Janey’s change in behavior—talking as if her stuffed rabbit is real and guiding her to do things Mila isn’t happy about. Things come to a head over the Christmas holidays with a find discovered by Janey and her rabbit. Then life really gets busy for the trio.

The imagery in the story is beautiful. You can almost “see” the setting and feel the mystery surrounding the house and the land. And the relationship between Mila and Magda, Mila and Jack, and Janey and Jack. And Janey and her rabbit. Magda is not likeable—she’s selfish and self-absorbed, but she does come around in the end. Mila goes from being a doormat to having some backbone. So both characters do grow, but neither is very “heroine-like” in the beginning. The paranormal stuff is light, but definitely a part of the story. Though I thought the story was a bit slow at times for me, there is a decent ending that satisfies.

Recommendation: For a bit of British paranormal history set not too far in the past, pick this one up.

Disclaimer: Thanks to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster for providing this book. I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”


THE BRINK by James B. McPike

Fiction, Action/Adventure


Blurb: When a young archaeologist discovers the earliest known cave painting hidden deep within the heart of Africa, she suddenly becomes the target of a sinister organization. They will stop at nothing to keep the truth hidden, knowing it could shatter the fabric of religious order worldwide and rewrite history as we know it. In comes Vince Ramsey, Israel’s top investigator and biblical scholar for matters like these. He must not only protect the archaeologist as they embark on a dangerous journey through Europe’s most iconic ruins—but he must help her find a mystical relic with ties to an ancient royal dynasty—one so powerful that it ruled the continent after the fall of the Roman Empire. Can they be the ones to solve a mystery for the ages—or will history repeat itself—once again?

Thoughts: This was a thrilling story that grabs you at the beginning and doesn’t let go. It’s full of espionage, danger, action, adventure and more that all centers around an ancient mystery. I loved Vince and his wife April. And the antagonist is perfectly evil. The world building centering around the mythology is well-done too.

The story starts in a cave in Africa where a young archaeologist discovers an ancient secret in cave paintings and from there, we are off and running and don’t stop until the end. Vince’s friend calls him in to help solve the problem that the discovery will certainly create. But Vince is retired and his wife is six months pregnant. The friend convinces him to at least come and talk about it, but when Vince arrives, he finds his friend dead. Now Vince is definitely involved.

I tried to put a name to this story – it’s part Indiana Jones, part James Bond, part Lara Croft and more. What it is completely is a good story that will grab your attention and not let go until the last page.

Recommendation: Recommended.

Disclaimer: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”



GRAYSON by Tamara White

Fiction, Contemporary,


Blurb: The Harrow family is a family that has spent generations hiding behind the illusion of perfection and lineage. Grayson thought she had escaped the dysfunction of the Harrow Family until the shock of an unplanned pregnancy forced her to return to Lakeland. Grayson must confront her color struck mother, Vivianna, about her childhood at Lakeland and the real reason why her biological father was never apart of her life. Grayson learns how twisted her mother’s version of love is, and how the truth is more complex than she could have ever imagined. Her husband David is there to support her every step of the way, and when Grayson reconnects with her sister, Gigi, she learns the price Gigi paid for being their mother’s favorite.

Thoughts: This was not an easy book to read. It is full of family angst, betrayal, racism, abuse, alcoholism and more. It is a drama that centers on the life of Grayson, a young black woman from Lakeland, a manor in the Deep South, her mother, Vivianna, Grayson’s sister GiGi, and their grandmother Emily. The women are strong, opinionated…and broken. For Vivianna, life is all about color. Grayson is too dark. Too black. Because of that, she’s not accepted by the much-lighter-skinned Vivianna. The family is rich, and lives a life wealth brings them, but that wealth does not bring them any happiness. Grayson is married to a white man—a public schoolteacher who does fit Vivianna’s idea of color, but not of prestige and prestige is everything. And now that Grayson is pregnant, all she wants is to know who her father is, but that is one thing Vivianna and Emily refuse to grant her. The family begins to fall apart no matter what Emily does to hold them together.

This book is highly racist—but from a black family’s point of view. It is also written in multiple point’s of view and there are POV hops all over the place, sometimes within the same paragraph. It became distracting to me after some time. It was challenging enough to read without throwing that in. There were also a lot of typos. All this together led to my rating. It is an interesting story, but in serious need of better editing.

Recommendation: This is an interesting—if challenging—read. It has an ending that works. It’s a strong story about family relationships, not all of them good.

Disclaimer: Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”



DANGEROUS LEADS by Andrew Rowberry

Fiction, PI thriller


Blurb: Following a corruption and murder-for-hire investigation of corrupt city officials which ended in scandal, lies, and violence, Steve Deveroux resigned as a detective for the Metropolitan Police Department. He now hires out his services as a private investigator; mostly finding lost property or uncovering the infidelities of a lying spouse. However, when he’s hired by a beautiful woman to investigate the suicide of her friend, Deveroux discovers the suicide was a cover to a much more sinister plan which began years earlier.

Thoughts: This is a first-person private eye novel about Steve Deveroux. He’s a former cop turned PI and still has at least a couple friends in the department (not many though as he left under a cloud of suspicion). He gets set on a case by a beautiful woman (of course) looking to find out who killed her roommate. Which he does, but that discovery leads to a lot more—a new drug, conspiracies, betrayal, and more.

Deveroux gets beaten up (more than once), nearly killed (more than once), threatened (more than once), and so on before he solves everything that’s going on. Unfortunately, the body count increases a lot when he’s around.

Recommendation: If you like crime novels, PI/cop action/adventure novels, pick this one up and enjoy.

Disclaimer: Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”



THE ART OF REVENGE by Joe Giordano

Fiction, Thriller,  


Blurb: The Art of Revenge is a riveting, action-packed, suspenseful and at times terrifying chase around the world that will have gritty thriller lovers salivating for more – a must read for those who like hanging on the edge of the cliff by only their fingers. The Art of Revenge features two unlikely heroes. Anthony Provati is a jazz pianist, art gallery owner, and sailor, who has a mob boss uncle. Valentina Esposito was orphaned at birth but is rewriting her destiny by becoming a brilliant computer programmer. They undertake a global pursuit of murderous Russian and North Korean operatives to foil a terrorist plot funded by forgeries and the ransom of stolen paintings.

Thoughts: Wow. If you want a book about organized crime anywhere in the world, this one has it. We start with a Greek drug lord, then the Italian and Russian mobs, Chinese tongs, Japanese mob, North Korean agents… and so on. It’s all in here. And all connected through Provati and his dealings. There is action, intrigue, murder, theft, forgery. There is a lot going on in this story.

First of all, the part of the story that is Anthony’s is in first person. All the other parts of the story are third person. That was a little disconcerting. I’d have preferred third all the way through, but I do understand why the author did so. Also, there are multiple POVs and it’s not exactly linear – there is a lot of back-and-forthing.

Still, all that doesn’t mean it’s a bad story. It’s not. It’s just…different. And different can be good. This is a story that doesn’t exactly have a hero – though it is both Anthony’s and Valentina’s story and it works out in the end for them—in different ways. But it does take close reading to follow what’s going on sometimes.

Recommendation: If you love stories with a lot of intrigue and action, this one has it. If you like a good ending, it’s there. Enjoy.

Disclaimer: Disclaimer: Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”



Spirit of the Amaroq by James Arlington

Fiction,  Action/Adventure/ Story of Salvation, light Romance


Blurb: Pastor Jack Douglas resigns his ministry after a traumatic event and hikes across America. In North Dakota, he finds work on an oil rig until a violent turn of events forces him to seek seclusion in the Alaskan wilderness where he’s stalked by the mythical Amaroq wolf. In Nome, Jack takes a job on a king crab fishing boat where he continues to struggle with his past tragedies while fighting feelings for the proprietor of a rustic inn, a beautiful Inuit woman, Qaniit. A man from the past perpetrates a catastrophic event that will once again challenge Jack’s faith. Will Jack survive or will God forsake him once more?

Thoughts:  This story caught my emotions from the first chapter and didn’t let go until the last page. After a horrific trauma, Jack Douglas leaves his ministry and hikes across the country, finding jobs along the way. After a second tragedy, he heads for Alaska, a la Jack London adventure. While camping, he is visited by a female wolf who stays with him, saving him from bear attacks, hunting for him, and taking care of him until he reaches an Alaskan village where he stays at a rustic inn and meets Qaniit. The people of the village believe Jack has become infused with the Anaroq, the spirit of the she-wolf. Before he can find happiness, there are other trials Pastor Jack has to go through. And I will admit, I hated some of those issues! I’m surprised the author didn’t name the character Job. Notes: there are a lot of triggers in this book. If you have issues with death, attempted rape, abuse – warning.

There is a lot going on in this story. I honestly didn’t like all of it – there’s a lot of bad happening. But… just because I didn’t like what was happening doesn’t mean it’s a bad book. It is brilliantly written and grabs your emotions from the beginning and doesn’t let go. It’s well-written, but not easy to read. But there is a good ending that leaves you satisfied.

Recommendation: Yes. Recommended.

Disclaimer: Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”



ARBORVIEW by Karen Guzman

Fiction, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction


Blurb: Ellen Cahill’s financial future rides on the success of her new pastry shop. A bruising divorce has drained her bank account, along with her spirit. A man enters her life promising love, but Ellen, haunted by the past, questions whether she can pull off this new beginning. College student Rosa Escamilla has her own culinary dreams—and a difficult mother who’s dead set against them. Rosa won’t be deterred. She scrapes up the money to enroll at a prestigious culinary school, setting out to prove everyone wrong. When hidden betrayals by the people they love most surface for both Ellen and Rosa, can they overcome the blows they never saw coming on the road to where they want to go?

Thoughts: Wow. I don’t read a lot of “women’s fiction” types of books, but if they are like this, I may have to look more. Or definitely for this author. I have become a definite fan. The story focuses on two women – Ellen, who’s older (late 40’s) and Rosa, who’s younger (late teens/early 20s) and their lives.

Ellen Cahill has gone through a rough divorce and is trying to figure out what’s next. How to start over after twenty years of marriage. Her two kids are off in college and she’s left alone to ramble around her big house. But she’s not ready to give up the place she’s spent her entire adult life. But with a mortgage hanging over her head, she need to figure out how to get the money to keep it. Her best friend, Alice, aims her toward a local junior college where she gets a job teaching a class on baking and pastry. She also meets William there and falls for him. Meanwhile, Rosa is working multiple jobs to earn money to go to culinary college even though her mother doesn’t approve. But she is determined to find her way and Ellen encourages her.

I loved that Ellen had a special place—Arborview—which was her kids treehouse. She spends a lot of time there figuring out what to do with her life. And it becomes the focus of her anger when things go horribly wrong.

This is a story about perseverance and believing in yourself. The author pulls all the emotions out—joy, sadness, fear, anger, and satisfaction. It’s a great story to curl up with. To read how Ellen and Rosa face what’s going on in their lives, and how they pull through. The only question I had – and it’s a very small one – but Ellen could barely figure out where to get the money to pay her mortgage, so where did she get the money for the bakery? But again, a very minor “huh?”

Recommendation: Pick this book up! I don’t care if you’ve never read “women’s fiction” before, get it. It’s an amazing story and you will not be sorry.


Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”


BERNIE & BERTIE by Michael Owens

Fiction, Dark humor


Blurb: They looked alike, dressed alike, shared the same food preferences, finished one another’s sentences. What were the chances that in a world where opposites attract and likes repel, two people so similar in every way, including their successful careers as serial killers would meet, fall in love and form one of the deadliest duos ever? Bernie and Bertie did just that, and this is their story. There was a lot of smoke in that old VW bus, the one with all the psychedelic swirls painted on the sides, the one where Bernie Mitchell’s hippie parents would perish. Part of the smoke came from the newly-rolled highly-potent reefer his parents were sharing, but most of it came from the fire that Bernie set using gasoline-soaked rags. Not his fault, though, he had to do it. A guy could only take so much. Many years and many killings later, when he discovered his doppelganger, Bertie, a successful serial killer in her own right, it was like meeting the female version of himself. Their methods and motivations were slightly different, but they were so alike they instantly knew more about each other than most couples do after years together. There was no need to share their personal histories of murders and mayhem; it was all understood from the start. Well, misunderstood, rather, because they were blameless. “We’re like a little Justice League,” Bertie said after they’d dropped another body into the ravine. “We do what has to be done.” But bliss is a fleeting thing, isn’t it? After a couple of cozy years and several more killings, the ties that bound them frayed a bit, and their paths began to diverge. Bernie launched into a new venture of organic farming which led to an alliance with a church group which led to feelings that maybe he wasn’t such a freak after all, just a regular guy doing regular things.
Of course, Bertie had something to say about that. “We’re not regular people, Bernie, never have been, never will be.” Meanwhile she’d begun writing a novel based on their lives including detailed descriptions of their homicidal misdeeds. “I always wanted to be famous,” she said. “You know, go out with a bang, like Bonnie and Clyde.” Bernie objected. He had no desire to go out at all, banging or otherwise. The characters on the cover of Bertie’s book had blonde hair instead of the greasy black mops that topped off both Bernie and Bertie, but the disguise seemed flimsy, and it wouldn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to eventually follow the bloody path to their door. Bernie saw only one possible outcome; his partner had to go. Unfortunately, Bertie had reached the same conclusion.

Thoughts: The summary (blurb) for the book pretty much says it all – and I mean everything, including the ending. It would have been better had this been cut in half, to tease the reader in, not give them a synopsis. This is a dark, mildly humorous book that is about two serial killers who find each other and fall in love. It’s interesting how the author gives us peeks into their psyches and comes up with almost plausible excuses for what they do. And the bodies keep piling up. Then Bernie finds religion and Bertie writes a tell-all book. And things change. What I didn’t like: I didn’t particularly care for the “depression” angle of everything. Not all serial killers have depression, and not all people suffering from depression are serial killers. Pushing that reason forward does a disservice to those with mental health issues. But overall, it was a unique story, something I’ve never read before and for that reason alone, it was…interesting. Okay, being honest here, I didn’t like the story that much. No, that’s not right. It is a well-crafted story with interesting characters and a (sort of) satisfying ending. It’s just not *my* kind of story.

Recommendations: Do I recommend this book? If you are a fan of dark humor, nasty characters, but mostly decent writing, yes, I do recommend it. Would I read it again? No. But I have friends who would like this book. And it is for that kind of reader that I recommend it.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in hopes of an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Vicky 1/29/21


These Nameless Things by Shawn Smucker



Publisher’s Blurb: Dan escapes captivity from the mountain long ago, but believes his brother is still there and waits each day in a nearby town for his escape. What Dan doesn’t realize is that the rest of the townspeople are also waiting — but for reasons he never imagined.

Review: I went into this book having read Shawn’s previous YA novels and expecting a bit of fantasy. This was very different, definitely geared for a more mature audience, grappling with difficult concepts of grace and redemption. It started a bit slower but picked up momentum quickly with the introduction of memories long forgotten by our characters, and drawing inspiration from mythology and classic literature.

What worked for me: Shawn’s reimagining of settings and characters icons from classic literature and mythology.

What didn’t work for me: I feel like the first two or three chapters were a little slow and repetitive, but hang in there, the rest of the book works!

Recommendation: I highly recommend this book. Be prepared to do some of your own souls searching as you read. You may come face to face with a few of your own “nameless things” as the characters discover their own. But like the characters, the journey in this book can take you on a path of self-reflection and forgiveness if you allow it to.





Fiction, women’s fiction

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Blurb: CarolSue and her sister, Louisa, are best friends, but haven’t had much in common since CarolSue married Charlie, moved to Atlanta, and swapped shoes covered with Indiana farm dust for pedicures and afternoon bridge. Louisa, meanwhile, loves her farm and animals as deeply as she’d loved Harold, her late husband of forty years. Charlie’s sudden death leaves CarolSue so adrift that she surrenders to Louisa’s plan for her to move back home. But canning vegetables and feeding chickens are alien to CarolSue, and she resolves to return to Atlanta–until Louisa’s son, Reverend Gary, arrives with an abandoned infant and a dubious story. He begs the women to look after the baby while he locates the mother–a young immigrant who fears deportation. Keeping his own secrets, Gary enlists the aid of the sheriff, Gus, in the search. But CarolSue’s bond with the baby is undeniable, and she forms an unconventional secret plan of her own. How many mistakes can be redeemed?

Thoughts: I thought the book was slow and hard to get into for me, but it’s not a bad book—it’s just the author’s style. It’s kind of like someone you know who’s telling you a story and rambles on about a lot of things in general. Actually, now that I think about it, it’s a lot like reading a play. There are four characters: CarolSue is the main character. Then there’s her sister Louise, Louise’s son Gary, and Louise’s boyfriend, Sheriff Gus. The story is told from all four points of view with CarolSue being in first person and the rest in third person. It’s a story about death and life, loss, and grief, and family. It’s also about religion and immigration. It’s a story about living and what we do when we’re faced with challenges. When CarolSue’s husband dies unexpectedly of a heart attack, her sister Louse swoops in and takes charge, moving CarolSue from her posh home in Atlanta to a farm in Indiana. CarolSue wants nothing to do with farming, but it’s all she has until Gary comes home with a baby—and CarolSue takes over her care. Even though the story is about CarolSue, it takes the entire book for Louise to come to terms with the death of her own husband Harold.

What I liked: It’s an interesting book full of poignant moments and the challenges of families. There are arguments and non-arguments, sarcasm, and moments of humor throughout. I loved the “special” tea the sisters rely on to get them through some things. “Wild Turkey” certainly makes tea special. I also liked the references to Louise and Gus “napping” throughout.

What I didn’t like: I had trouble getting into the multiple POVs at first – though I am thankful that the author delineated each POV with who it was at that particular time. I also thought the book a little slow – for me.

Recommendation: If you’re a fan of women’s fiction about families, I’d pick this one up as well as the first one (about Louise and Harold). You don’t have to have read the first one to know exactly what’s goin on in this one – I didn’t and had no trouble picking the story line up.Thanks to the publisher for gifting this book to me. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone.



TWENTY  by Debra Landwehr Engle



Publisher blurb: At age fifty-five, Meg’s life is too filled with loss for her to remember what magic feels like. All she has left is a yard brimming with plants that are wilting in the scorching Iowa summer—and a bone-deep feeling that she’s through with living. Meg has something else too: a bottle of mysterious pills, given to her years ago by an empathetic doctor. He promised that they would offer her dying mother a quick, painless end in exactly twenty days. Though her mother never needed them, Meg does. But a strange thing happens after Meg swallows the little green pearls . . .  Now that she’s decided to leave this world, Meg is rediscovering the joy in it. She sheds everything she no longer needs—possessions, regrets, guilt—and reconnects with those she cares for. Finally confronting the depth of her grief, she’s learning that love runs deeper still. But is it too late to choose to stay?

Review: This was a very well-written book. The chapters are short, as is the book. All that being said, that doesn’t mean it’s an easy book to read, because it’s not. And maybe that’s because of my personal situation. As I was reading, I’d get through a chapter and have to put it down because it is such a difficult book to read—and no, I’m not talking vocabulary. The subject is death—and life. There is a lot of poignancy to the story as well as imagery that goes with the subject. It is a strong book. A good book. But not an easy book.

What I liked: the character of Meg. I know her. All too well. Also, I found it interesting that there is a discussion section at the back for book clubs and others to question and discuss this book.

What I didn’t like: I’m not sure I liked the ending. The not knowing. And yet… if I’m truthful, I will admit that the ending is perfect for the book. The author did the story justice in ending it the way she did.

Recommendation: As I said, this is a very strong book and well-written, but it is a book with a very sensitive subject—suicide. Euthanasia. Life. But mostly, death. Be forewarned about that. I do recommend it, but you need to be aware of that.Thanks to the publisher for providing this book.

Vicky 2/24/20 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~THE PIT AND THE PASSION: MURDER AT THE GHOST HOTEL by M.S. Spencer

Fiction, Mystery with Romantic overtones

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I’m not sure whether to call this a mystery or a romance because it’s both. There’s a decent cozy mystery going on throughout the book—actually several mysteries that the author deftly ties together by the end. And a rather hot romance—so beware. If you don’t like it graphic, there are a few areas where it’s a little intense.And that’s my only real issue with this story. I was looking for a nice cozy mystery, not a hot romance. I wasn’t prepared for the bedroom scenes. Though the author did tone things down a bit in several areas, there was still a bit more in the sex department than I was prepared for. Please, don’t get me wrong. I like a good hot romance as much as the next person. Heck, I used to be an editor for an erotic publisher so I’ve seen it all. And I don’t mind romance in a cozy mystery—it happens often that the sleuth eventually has a partner. What I didn’t like was being in the bedroom with them. Cozies don’t usually get this warm in the romance department.

The relationships between the sleuth and the “love interest” evolve slowly—sometimes very slowly—over several books.Still… the mystery was a good one with lots of red herrings and possible suspects. The sleuth—Charity—is a reporter for a local newspaper on a Florida Key. Her partner—Rancor—is a famous thriller writer. He comes across as a user—always begging money, using other people. He doesn’t seem to have any redeeming qualities and I’m not sure why Charity ended up with him other than he was a good lover. But he is central to the story as his family is deeply ingrained in part of the mystery.Charity and Rancor travel all over—from Florida to Paris to London and back to Florida in their pursuit of truth. The mystery itself is almost a hundred years old and deals with two skeletons found in an abandoned hole of an unfinished hotel.

The author did her research and it shows—though she did diverge a little on a lot of the details in order to fit the mystery in. It was a little disconcerting as she’s working with famous names but not with all the truth. Okay, it’s a fiction book, but if you’re going to use famous names, you can’t change their known history (which the author did). It is still a good read, though.

So… recommendations? If you don’t mind hot romance with your cozy mysteries, go ahead and pick this up. Or maybe a satisfying cozy mystery with your hot romance? Either way, it was a quirky, fun read so pick your poison.

Vicky 6/17/19



3 ½ Sparklers

This is a charming book that’s a relatively quick read if you don’t mind first person/present tense interwoven with third person/past tense (varies by chapter and character). In this book, the author weaves a story of Black families in a 1950s-60s neighborhood called Brooklyn—part of Charlotte, N.C. In the story, the good white people of Charlotte are determined to “improve” parts of their town through Urban Renewal. To do so, they displace families and businesses with no care for the inhabitants—where they’re going to go and how they’re going to live.

The story is told through the perspective of three main characters. Loraylee Hawkins is a single mother who is the sole supporter of herself, her son, her uncle, and her grandmother—all of whom live together. She’s in love with the father of her son, but he’s a white man and there’s no way they can be together.Ebenezer (Eben) Polk is the minister of the local church. He’s a widower who becomes the “father” to his sixteen year old nephew Noah when Noah’s father (Eben’s brother) is killed. Eben’s church and the accompanying cemetery will be destroyed when the Renewal comes through. He needs to deal with that, with the death of his wife and brother, with all the changes hitting him late in his life.

Persy (Persephone) is the wife of the greedy white man who’s pushing to get the Renewal through. Her point of view is a direct contrast to the people who live in Brooklyn, and yet she’s a sympathetic character.

The setting is believable and the characters well drawn, but it seems a little superficial. I’d have liked a little more depth to them. Also, I had trouble getting into the story—the language is true to the society and time, but that can make it a little hard to get past sometimes, which makes it slow to start. But once you get into the story, you forget about the language and just “listen” to their stories.Would I read this again? Probably not. That’s not saying it’s not a good book. It is. It’s just not *my* kind of story. Would I recommend it? To people who like this kind of historical fiction, yes. They would probably enjoy it much more than I did.Vicky B