Wednesday, July 29, 2015

After the Storm

Title: After the Storm
Author: Linda Castillo
Published: July 14th 2015 by Minotaur Books
Format: Hardcover, Pgs 320
Genre: Fiction
Series: Kate Burkholder #7

What started with a cordial luncheon with her brother and sister ends with a F3 tornado hitting the surrounding area and Chief Kate Burkholder springing into action with John Tomasetti at her side. Kate was excommunicate from her Amish family and her remaining siblings have a hard time with her decisions to live with John with no plans of a wedding in sight. They only slightly accept the fact that she is the police chief of Painters Mill, but living in sin is harder to tolerate, that goes against all that they believe in.

Right now that has to take a backseat as Kate rushes to aid the people of her community. A local trailer park has been decimated and in a split second decision, Kate rushes to the aid of a baby only to later question her actions. She loves her job, but days like this she second-guesses herself and wonders if there is something better out there that doesn’t hurt as much.

This tornado has not only destroyed lives it has also unearthed a skeleton. Since the bones had been disposed in a garbage bag and found in what was once a crawl space, Kate is unsure of the cause and/or manner of death. She now has a mystery on her hands. A mystery where she knows that if she cannot name the victim, finding his killer will be next to impossible. The forensic anthropologist has given her a few clues including a surgical implant and a diamond ring that ties in with the book’s prologue. What Kate was not prepared for was the autopsy findings that showed that both the hands and feet are missing and not just carted off by wildlife. The markings show that they had been chewed off. Is she now looking at a homicide or an accident that was covered up anywhere between ten and thirty years ago?

As Kate searches through the missing persons database from Holmes County that fits the vague perimeters that she has been given, two names jump out at her. They are of Amish families that have remained in the area. As she digs, Kate’s life is at risk. What was once covered up now will have a bright light shown on it and Kate is going to be paying a heavy price when all is said and done.

Years have passed, and when a life has been based on deceit, secrets and sins, the powder keg will blow and everyone standing in the way will eventually pay for the decisions that they had made. Each person has their breaking point, that one moment where they will right the past. That they will have to amend for their sins. It is at this point that Kate finally sees the full and clear picture of what a family has done to protect a loved one and to save their sole.

By the end, three cases were closed and none entailed a happy ending for anyone. Linda Castillo wove a tight story that kept the reader on the edge of their seat. From the beginning, the reader might have been able to guess at how one would end, but the depth of all was so intertwined that the full outcome was volatile. If you have a queasy stomach, I might veer away from this one, but if you can handle it, this is one of the best books that the author has written.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Rules for Lying

Title: The Rules for Lying
Author: L.A. Kelley
Published: January 25th 2015 by Wildflowers
Format: Paperback, 336 pages
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal

I admit that I have never heard of this author before, but who could pass up a synopsis like this:

“No good will come from reading this book. The story contains theft, murder, corruption, sass talk, demons, animals committing felonies, gleefully plotted revenge, and a host of bad things happening to good people for no particular reason. It won’t encourage any good habits and probably fine tune several bad ones. The only lesson learned is you have no business being a liar unless you’re a good one. Peter Whistler is living an uneventful life at the Little Angels Home for Orphan Boys. Life in New Jersey is hard during the Great Depression, but Peter discovers an exceptional ability to lie. He hones the talent, convinced it will be the ticket to easy fortune and a life free of responsibilities. He certainly doesn’t foresee the arrival of a murderous conjurer with mysterious designs on a little blind girl named Esther. Drawn into a nefarious plot to unleash a demon, Peter leads Esther on a desperate escape from New Jersey to the Louisiana bayou. Welcome to Peter Whistler’s world where a little luck, magical lying, and a dash of Cajun crazy can steer even an ordinary orphan to an extraordinary life.”

It has taken me forever to get around to writing this review. It is not that I did not like the book, I loved it, but for most of it, the book was completely obvious. A good versus evil, that will play well with preteens and those that like a bit of dry snarky humor with their paranormal fantasy.

From the first pages, I was enthralled with the life of Peter Whistler. In 1918, a boy with no name was taken in by Mrs. Hart and given a good life. When each new child came into the Little Angels Home for Orphan Boys, Mrs. Hart worked to find them homes. Peter was different, she kept him close. He may have had run-ins with the local kids and the local law enforcement, but there was still something special about this boy. There is a loyalty between these two and that is challenged on the night that Dr. Pike arrives. With his burning eyes and mind befuddling trickery this conjurer is about to change everyone's world and it is up to Peter Whistler and his Rules for Lying to help his new family.

Rule #1: A lie on the fly will surely die. Lies must be practiced and when you fully believe what you are saying so will the receiver of this lie. This turns out to be the most important one of all. If Peter did not believe that he had to power to save Esther, a blind girl that Pike is determined to use to get past the fiery demon from hell, then all would be lost and the world would forever be at the whim of evil.

Lie #2: Lies prevail with few detail. Once again, keep it simple.

Throughout the book, the reader learns about eight rules that keep Peter and his band of misfit, from the children of society to the families that live in the bayou, from the evil clutches of Feu De L’enfer (The Fire of Hell).

There is a burgeoning story of young love that is awkward and adorable at the same time. This part will make the parents smile and touch a sensitive giggly nerve for younger readers.

As I said earlier, this book is not for everyone. You have to suspend belief - this is a young adult paranormal book and there are a few undertones that could possibly not sit well with your personal religious beliefs and you may have to explain a few things to your younger children.

Most importantly, there is humor and strength and bonding and a sense of family that carries throughout the book. You might not want to read it to younger children that might decide to come up with their own rules, but for older kids that know the difference, you could use this as a family read-a-loud to get everyone laughing and exclaiming at the same time.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Killer Run

Title: Killer Run
Author: Lynn Cahoon
Published: August 18, 2015 by Lyrical
Format: ebook, Paperback pgs 198
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Kensington for an opportunity to read an advance copy of this book.
Series: Tourist Trap Mystery #5

Jill Gardner, the owner of Coffee, Books and More is the liaison between the South Cove City Council and the business community. Since a suspected part of a mission wall has been found on her property she has been trying to get it declared a historical landmark. With too many hoops to jump through to have the ruins investigated, she has decided to ingratiate herself with the powers that be and has agreed to host the Mission Walk for the California Mission Society, a group with the sole purpose of preserving the historic missions throughout the state.

Of course, you cannot have a cozy mystery without a body showing up but it took a while for this one. Unfortunately, as soon as the body appeared the reader knew who did it. It was too obvious from the start and that is what made this book a humdrum read. You might have had to think for 10 seconds as to the why, but that too was obvious once all the characters were introduced.

There are a couple of narratives going on in this book. The reader will be bouncing back and forth between vandalism, cancelled vacation plans, remodeling a guest room, hurt feelings, a mystery visitor to a tourist town, a man being blackmailed which is never fully explained and just basic ridiculousness.

I enjoyed how this series began, but by this book, I am starting to questions myself. This book felt somewhat incomplete. Lynn Cahoon needs to slow down, put in a little more effort, and not try to put out so many books in such a short timeframe. Five books in less than eighteen months are just too quick and the lack of quality is starting to show.

Note: Next book - Murder on Wheels is due early 2016

Monday, July 20, 2015

Sense of Deception

Title: Sense of Deception
Author: Victoria Laurie
Published: July 7th 2015 by NAL
Format: ebook; Hardcover, 368 pages
Genre: Paranormal Mystery
Series: Psychic Eye Mystery #13

You have to give it to Victoria Laurie for starting this book smack dab in the middle of things and having her main character regretting the decision to go commando that morning. Abby Cooper is being hauled out of the courtroom, when she outted the judge in the middle of a trial. She knew that the prosecutor was going to lose the case and decided that using her charm and quick wit when she should have used diplomacy would end thing quicker. What she did not count on was being thrown into a cell with a woman coming up on her final appeal in the murder of her own child.

Skylar Millar has declared her innocence since the night ten years ago, that she was found with her son’s blood all over her. Having a past of drug and alcohol abuse has led authorities to look no further than her as the only suspect in this horrendous murder but Abby is sensing something different.

With Skylar’s final appeal in less than two weeks and the knowledge that Texas executes death row inmates within in hours of their final failed appeal, Abby with the help of Oscar Rodriguez, an FBI investigator currently on vacation leave and Abby’s best friend Candice Fusco, the trio are racing to clear Skylar before it is too late.

Knowing that you are someone’s last hope spawns you into directions that you did not intend and tends to kick up a lot of dust. Dust that someone else has wanted to keep down and when you tick off the wrong people, especially when you are dealing with corrupt officials and people closer to home. Things tend to get messy very quickly.

There are secondary storylines involving the investigator in Skylar Miller’s case that is asking for help with a murdered college student named Tuyan Pham and recently released Don Corzo, a serial killer that has murdered at least three women in two states. The author ties these up quickly leaving a few questions but with the main plot taking center stage, the reader did not want to keep bouncing back to the unimportant. There were points that I began to wonder if Victoria Laurie had second thoughts as to where the lesser parts were going, but she seemed committed so I had to follow.

Abby is too attached; the odds are too long and with seconds to go and a Hail Mary pass thrown trying to save Skylar that had just gone wildly out-of-bounds this team is in trouble. They need to find that one play that will save her and they are running out of options.

I am not too sure that I liked how Ms. Laurie was tying up her loose ends. I understand that she was trying to make the reader feel the same frustration, but throwing in people and parts that were never previously mention is frustrating. Keeping the reader in suspense is fine, but pulling in things out of nowhere is annoying.

Comparing this to the last previous books, I think readers will enjoy it. Other than a little bit of silliness, the book was a very quick read. Not sure that you have to read all of the previous books to understand where she is going with this one since there is a bit of backstory in each book, the reader would catch up quickly.

I have a curiosity when it comes to some of the subtext within this book. Parts came across to me as if the author was trying to work out a couple of personal issues. For instance, you have Abby describing how to be the perfect wife. There is also specific background history as to whom in Abby’s life has alcohol or drug abuse issues. Even a couple of paragraphs in regards to having to protect herself from clients and how they needed to acknowledge the recording of their sessions. Is the author venting some of her issues through Abby? I found it all to be very curious.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Ghost Fields

Title: The Ghost Fields
Author: Elly Griffiths
Published: May 19th 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Format: Hardcover, Pgs 384
Genre: Police Procedural
Series: Ruth Galloway #7

Elly Griffiths has taken a part of World War II history and has woven a twisty mystery involving the Blackstock family of Norfolk and how cursed land can leave its indelible mark.

Ruth Galloway, forensic archaeologist, has been called out when a body has been discovered in a World War II plane that has recently been dug up during the construction of a housing project on the Blackstock Estate in Norfolk. Ruth’s antennae are at full alert since what she knows and what she sees are not adding up. This body looks too preserved as if it was in a marshy area and not the chalky soil that it was found in. When the DNA returns and it shows that the body in the plane is related to the local Blackstock family, on whose land the plane was found, Ruth realizes that she is in deep on this one.

The Blackstock family is a bit strange. There are secrets here and since their “land is cursed because it should be at the bottom of the sea”, getting straight answers from any of them is more of a challenge then Ruth and DCI Harry Nelson are prepared for. Three brothers, one was supposed to have died during the war when his plane went down at sea, one came home from the war damaged and just wandered away, the third who loved the land more than anyone else and could not see it leave the family. Now the next generation of Blackstock’s are torn between family loyalties and their own dreams. What are they to do now that a strange man has shown up at the funeral? Who was he and why can they not find him again?

To me, this is a turning point book that delves deeper into the lives of those around Ruth There is just as much going on with the recurring characters as there is with the Blackstock family. Frank Barker, who was in the previous Outcast Dead, is back in this book romancing Ruth, Nelson’s wife Michelle has a secret of her own and now Ruth has become aware of it. Ruth’s eyes have been opened a bit in regards to Cathbad - how could he not have foreseen his daughter’s birth or the evilness of his friend? How could Tim, a man that claims to respect Nelson, do what he is doing? Clough is featured more prominently. Kate is growing up quickly and is starts school. Though Ruth will forever be in love with Nelson, she likes her life the way it is.

I am still not sure if I liked this book, what is gnawing on me is when was the body placed in the plane? If that part was stated in the book, I completely missed it. How can a plane crash on your property and remain unnoticed for 70 years while the land reclaims it?

Parts were fascinating but at the same time, conclusions were jumped to without any logic. All the while, other parts felt like a repeat of the last book. The whole thing with the TV crew and History Program, but then again, how else would Elly Griffiths bring Frank Barker back? To top it off, how the book ended, seemed like a rush job.

This is still one of my favorite series and I think that I set my sights too high. I really enjoyed the first couple of books that were more forensics based but now that she is putting more emphasis on the recurring characters, I think something is lost.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Truffled to Death

Title: Truffled to Death
Author: Kathy Aarons
Published: June 2nd 2015 by Berkley
Format: Paperback, 304 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: A Chocolate Covered Mystery #2

This book was flat all the way through. There were no surprises or twists, just a long drawn out book that I kept putting down, while picking up others, before I could drag myself back to it.

Michelle and Erica, owners of Chocolates and Chapters agree to host a reception to display Mayan pottery before the collection can be transported to the museum. Unfortunately, the antiquities are stolen before they can make it to their final destination. At this point, the story becomes so convoluted that the reader might have a hard time keeping everyone straight.

You have a professor that has a history of assaulting his female students, an older woman with dementia that mistakes one man for another and discloses where the antiques have been hidden. You have a reporter on the trail of “the white cat”; you have a police officer that is mad at his girlfriend because she is smarter than he is. You have an art thief that has his sights on a vase that is more valuable than first thought. Then there is a spoiled man that thinks he should be entitled without having to put in any effort at life. There are a few other characters but frankly, I have forgotten since Ms. Aarons is throwing them at you constantly.

All this is taking place as Michelle is trying to run a chocolate shop and trying to tempt new customers but yet, never seems to be there and just happens to have an already made supply of confections in her home cooler.

This is just a bothersome book and I will be hard pressed to move anymore in this series to the top of my list.