Tag Archives: suspense

The Archivist by V.S. Nelson Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

The last Archivist who sells his services as a soul harvester to others in order to preserve their dying loved ones finds himself embroiled in a deadly plot after a teenage boy tricks him into murder, and as a suicidal cult dies at his feet, an ancient power begins to hunt him down in author V.S. Nelson’s “The Archivist”.

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The Synopsis

Death is not the end.

There is no God waiting for you in paradise. No afterlife where friendships severed by death are reformed and families reunited. There is only the Aether, a dimension of insatiable hunger that will possess you no matter the life you led.

Yet there is hope for a lucky few. Archivists, existing between the world of the living and the world of the dead, can offer salvation… for a price. Taking your essence in the final moments before death, they become your afterlife, allowing you to speak with those who remain.

When the last archivist is tricked into murder by troubled teenager, Sun-young Kang, he finds himself the centre of a suicidal cult that die at his feet. But there is more to these deaths than the Archivist realises. Someone is coming for him.

The Archivist may be the closest thing to a god that walks the Earth, but is that enough to keep those he cares about safe?

The Archivist is an incredibly rich novel with a truly original concept. It is cinematic in its scope and details the haunting, but also beautiful, gift an archivist could offer a person in their final moments.

The Review

This was such a brilliant and unique read. The author did an incredible job of crafting a mythos and world that felt both alive and new in its identity. The emotional depth of the narrative was greatly felt, as readers felt the character’s struggles with loss and the concept of death and the afterlife as a whole. The heavy atmosphere and tension that came with that reality were both relatable and original in their delivery. 

The character arcs of this narrative and how they played into the evolving mythos surrounding the Aether and the Archivists were incredible to watch. The complexity of the Archivist itself and how it holds so many other essences within itself while maintaining some sort of autonomy was so thought-provoking and unique. Yet it was the emotional toll of the families and those living within the Archivist in death that really drove the heart of this narrative home.

The Verdict

Heartfelt, engaging, and thoughtful, author V.S. Nelson’s “The Archivist” is a must-read novel o 2022. The growing mythology of the Aether and the Archivists was so creative and unique in its development, and the imagery the author used in their writing was both beautiful and chilling, depending on the moment in the book the reader was reading. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today. 

Rating: 10/10 

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About the Author

V S Nelson writes unconventional middle grade and young adult fantasy, science fiction and supernatural stories for readers who enjoy something a little strange.

Their first story was The Keeper of Portals, a middle grade fantasy/sci-fi with plenty of portal jumping and time slipping. Their second story, The Archivist, is a young adult dark fantasy all about death and what happens after.

V S Nelson loves big ideas, fantastical concepts and stories that unsettle the reader and set them thinking about something new.

V S Nelson lives in Winchester with their other half, two children and three cats. When not writing, they’re either working as a theoretical physicist or building Lego.

https://vsnelson.com/

Suspension (Time Binder) by Andrea Faye Christians Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange or a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A young woman finds herself stuck between two worlds as a time travel adventure introduces historical figures, a shocking murder, and a startling discovery about her destiny in author Andrea Faye Christians’s “Suspension”, a Time Binder series novel.

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The Synopsis

An unexpected time travel tale. When Carla Thompson falls asleep and doesn’t wake up, she is shocked to discover what destiny has in store for her. Suspended between two worlds, she meets Isambard Brunel, the legendary eighteenth-century civil engineer, who built the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol, England, and who now serves as guardian of its secrets. Historical events intertwine with Carla’s current reality and along the way she discovers a murder, encounters a host of characters including Jamaican psychic, Matilda, and engages in verbal banter with literary legend, Ernest Hemingway. Her adventures lead her to a startling revelation about why she was chosen for her strange new role. In death Carla realises she has never felt more alive.

The Review

This is such a unique and imaginative read. The author does an incredible job of capturing the curiosity, the surreal, and almost magical concept of how life after death works and how the concept of destiny doesn’t always end or even start in life. The imagery and atmosphere the author creates are so mesmerizing, and the layered mythos that the author creates is so engaging for the reader to delve into.

Yet it was the richness of the characters and their backstories that really drew me into the narrative. The shock of the protagonist’s new reality and the explorative nature of her journey as she learns and discovers herself in this world within our own world was amazing to read. It put an all-new spin on the time-travel elements of the story, as well as the more philosophical and spiritual themes the author explored in this read.

The Verdict

Engaging, thought-provoking, and highly creative, author Andrea Faye Christians’ “Suspension (Time Binder)” is a must-read novel for Summer 2022! The surreal reality that Carla finds herself in and the amazing cast of characters she meets along the way showcase the connectivity of our world and those within it, and made for such an intriguing story. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Andrea Faye Christians was born and raised in Swansea, South Wales. Following a successful career in British radio including the BBC, she moved to the southern Mediterranean island of Malta to pursue her dream of becoming a freelance writer. A decade later she bought a farm in the Madonie Mountains of Sicily where a menagerie of rescue animals found their way to her. With a son in Malta and a daughter in Sicily, Andrea has a home and her heart in both places, and she now divides her time between the neighbouring islands. Suspension is her debut novel. She is working on the second book in the Time Binder Series as well as a novel entitled Chemo Club.

https://andreafayechristians.com/

Agapē (Heart’s Compass Book One) by Lisa Cordeau Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A woman scarred by her past must place her trust in 3 detectives after witnessing a murder that could bring down a powerful mob boss in author Lisa Cordeau’s “Agapē”, the first book in the Heart’s Compass series. 

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The Synopsis

Fiercely independent, Cassie settled into an unpredictable, sometimes dangerous life under the park bridge with Janice and Pete. Her heart marred by past betrayals, she found trusting others difficult. But, after witnessing a murder, will she sacrifice her freedoms and place her trust in three unselfish men bent on keeping her, Pete, and Janice safe?

Detectives Alex, Raf, and Ryder Consopolat, brothers raised with a strong sense of family unity, strive to bring down the local mob boss, but their witnesses keep dying. Fate intervenes, providing them one final opportunity to end a tyrant’s reign. Can they keep their reluctant allies alive, or will they all be victims of The Boss?

The Review

This was such a brilliant and captivating read. The adrenaline-fueled thriller takes readers on a wild ride, showcasing a brutal landscape of gangsters and corruption that felt very reminiscent of a noir thriller in a more modern-day era. The world-building and atmosphere played heavily into the narrative, adding tension and sending chills down the reader’s spine as the gangsters of this tale crept ever closer to the cast of characters.

Yet it was the characters themselves that brought such heart to this story. The exploration of life on the streets as a homeless person was such an emotional and powerful change in direction for this type of thriller. The hardships and struggles Cassie, Pete, and Janice undergo on a daily basis and in their backstories only add to the dangers the gangsters bring to their feet, and the balance that the author stuck with the story of the brothers/detectives and how they came to interact with these witnesses over time added a depth to the emotional connection readers will have to this story. 

The Verdict

Heartfelt, entertaining, and delightfully written, author Lisa Cordeau’s “Agapē” is a must-read thriller of 2022. A fantastic balance of emotional storytelling and exhilarating action-packed detective work, the story shines as a stand-alone narrative while also leaving room to grow as a series that examines the personal lives of those involved while also adding deep-seated character studies to a thrill-ride of a suspense story. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Her mother’s love of books inspired Lisa to read and write from an early age. She filled her journals with story ideas and made up towns full of interesting characters. One of their favorite used book stores offered an exchange program, so they spent many weekends perusing the shelves of novels there. After returning the novels they read, they walked away with several bags filled with new stories to explore. Although life took her in other directions, writing has always been her first love. Returning to those pages, she became motivated to accomplish her dream of publishing her debut novel, Agapē. Now, her dream is a reality.

On a Quiet Street by Seraphina Nova Glass Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A woman fearing her husband may be cheating, she turns to a friend who lost her son the year before, and together they hope to catch the husband in the act. However, this plan turns down a dark and deadly road as more secrets are unearthed that neither of them could have imagined in author Seraphina Nova Glass’s “On a Quiet Street”.

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The Synopsis

A simple arrangement. A web of deceit with shocking consequences.

Welcome to Brighton Hills: an exclusive, gated community set against the stunning backdrop of the Oregon coast. Home to doctors, lawyers, judges–all the most upstanding members of society. Nothing ever goes wrong here. Right?

Cora’s husband, Finn, is a cheater. She knows it; she just needs to prove it. She’s tired of being the nagging, suspicious wife who analyzes her husband’s every move. She needs to catch him in the act. And what better way to do that than to set him up for a fall?

Paige has nothing to lose. After she lost her only child in a hit-and-run last year, her life fell apart: her marriage has imploded, she finds herself screaming at baristas and mail carriers, and she’s so convinced Caleb’s death wasn’t an accident that she’s secretly spying on all everyone in Brighton Hills so she can find the murderer. So it’s easy for her to entrap Finn and prove what kind of man he really is.

But Paige and Cora are about to discover far more than a cheating husband. What starts as a little agreement between friends sets into motion a series of events neither of them could have ever predicted, and that exposes the deep fault lines in Brighton Hills. Especially concerning their mysterious new neighbor, Georgia, a beautiful recluse who has deep, dark secrets of her own…

The Review

The author continues to do a phenomenal job of pushing the domestic thriller genre to its limits and beyond in the best way possible! The world-building and character growth early on in the book did a great job of layering the mystery of both the fidelity of Cora’s marriage to her husband and the circumstances of Paige’s son and his untimely demise. The shocking twists and turns that this small community takes on, as well as the secrets that these households harbor, really add both an engaging plotline and yet an eerily realistic touch to the narrative, as the shocking developments are not necessarily out of the realm of possibility in this day and age, making this even more of a haunting read. 

For, as a longtime fan of mystery reads, the suspense aspect of this mystery thriller and the theme that it explores were the biggest draws for me. The exploration of this multi-layered mystery and how each character’s struggles early on in the novel inadvertently stack up against one another’s until all three protagonists and narrators of this novel find themselves coming together. The theme of toxic masculinity and how it impacts marriages and relationships was a major theme throughout the novel. Often seen in our world, men will go to extreme lengths to be dismissive of women, mansplain to women things they already have an understanding of, and manipulate the women in their lives to fulfill their own personal needs. This toxic behavior is explored in several of the characters’ lives, and the shocking twists that toxicity takes add to the depth of character development and the mystery that unravels as a result of those developments.

The Verdict

Haunting, shocking, and entertaining, author Seraphina Nova Glass’s “On A Quiet Street” is a must-read novel of 2022 and one of the top domestic thrillers of the year. The chilling twists this narrative takes and the emotional pull of these characters’ struggles will have readers on the edge of their seats as the climactic second half of this novel takes off! This is one of the best authors to come through in this genre in years and I cannot wait to read more of her work. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Seraphina Nova Glass is a professor and playwright-in-residence at the University of Texas, Arlington, where she teaches film studies and playwriting. She holds an MFA in playwriting from Smith College, and she’s also a screenwriter and award-winning playwright. Seraphina has traveled the world using theatre and film as a teaching tool, living in South Africa, Guam and Kenya as a volunteer teacher, AIDS relief worker, and documentary filmmaker.

Buy Links: 

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Social Links:

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Here is an excerpt from “On a Quiet Street”

ONE

Paige

Paige stands, watering her marigolds in the front yard and marvels at how ugly they are. The sweet-potato-orange flowers remind her of a couch from the 1970s, and she suddenly hates them. She crouches down, ready to rip them from their roots, wondering why she ever planted such an ugly thing next to her pristine Russian sage, and then the memory steals her breath. The church Mother’s Day picnic when Caleb was in the sixth grade. Some moron had let the potato salad sit too long in the sun, and Caleb got food poisoning. All the kids got to pick a flower plant to give to their moms, and even though Caleb was puking mayonnaise, he insisted on going over to pick his flower to give her. He was so proud to hand it to her in its little plastic pot, and she said they’d plant it in the yard and they’d always have his special marigolds to look at. How could she have forgotten?

She feels tears rise in her throat but swallows them down. Her dachshund, Christopher, waddles over and noses her arm: he always senses when she’s going to cry, which is almost all the time since Caleb died. She kisses his head and looks at her now-beautiful marigolds. She’s interrupted by the kid who de-livers the newspaper as he rides his bike into the cul-de-sac and tosses a rolled-up paper, hitting little Christopher on his back.

“Are you a fucking psychopath?” Paige screams, jumping to her feet and hurling the paper back at the kid, which hits him in the head and knocks him off his bike.

“What the hell is wrong with you, lady?” he yells back, scrambling to gather himself and pick up his bike.

“What’s wrong with me? You tried to kill my dog. Why don’t you watch what the fuck you’re doing?”

His face contorts, and he tries to pedal away, but Paige grabs the garden hose and sprays him down until he’s out of reach. “Little monster!” she yells after him.

Thirty minutes later, the police ring her doorbell, but Paige doesn’t answer. She sits in the back garden, drinking coffee out of a lopsided clay mug with the word Mom carved into it by little fingers. She strokes Christopher’s head and examines the ivy climbing up the brick of the garage and wonders if it’s bad for the foundation. When she hears the ring again, she hollers at them.

“I’m not getting up for you people. If you need to talk to me, I’m back here.” She enjoys making them squeeze around the side of the house and hopes they rub up against the poi-son oak on their way.

“Morning, Mrs. Moretti,” one of the officers says. It’s the girl cop, Hernandez. Then the white guy chimes in. She hates him. Miller. Of course they sent Miller with his creepy mustache. He looks more like a child molester than a cop, she thinks. How does anyone take him seriously?

“We received a complaint,” he says.

“Oh, ya did, did ya? You guys actually looking into cases these days? Actually following up on shit?” Paige says, still petting the dog and not looking at them.

“You assaulted a fifteen-year-old? Come on.”

“Oh, I did no such thing,” she snaps.

Hernandez sits across from Paige. “You wanna tell us what d id happen, then?”

“Are you planning on arresting me if I don’t?” she asks, and the two officers give each other a silent look she can’t read.

“His parents don’t want to press charges so…”

Paige doesn’t say anything. They don’t have to tell her it’s because they pity her.

“But, Paige,” Miller says, “we can’t keep coming out here for this sort of thing.”

“Good,” Paige says firmly. “Maybe it will free you up to do your real job and find out who killed my son.” Hernandez stands.

“Again, you know we aren’t the detectives on the—” But before Hernandez can finish, Paige interrupts, not wanting to hear the excuses.

“And maybe go charge the idiot kid for trying to kill my dog. How about that?”

Paige stands and goes inside, not waiting for a response. She hears them mumble something to one another and make their way out. She can’t restrain herself or force herself to be kind. She used to be kind, but now, it’s as though her brain has been rewired. Defensiveness inhabits the place where empathy used to live. The uniforms of the cops trigger her, too; it reminds her of that night, the red, flashing lights a nightmarish strobe from a movie scene. A horror movie, not real life. It can’t be her real life. She still can’t accept that.

The uniforms spoke, saying condescending things, pulling her away, calling her ma’am, and asking stupid questions. Now, when she sees them, it brings up regrets. She doesn’t know why this happens, but the uniforms bring her back to that night, and it makes her long for the chance to do all the things she never did with Caleb and mourn over the times they did have. It forces fragments of memories to materialize, like when he was six, he wanted a My Little Pony named Star Prancer. It was pink with purple flowers in its mane, and she didn’t let him have it because she thought she was protecting him from being made fun of at school. Now, the memory fills her with self-reproach.

She tries not to think about the time she fell asleep on the couch watching Rugrats with him when he was just a toddler and woke up to his screaming because he’d fallen off the couch and hit his head on the coffee table. He was okay, but it could have been worse. He could have put his finger in an outlet, pushed on the window screen and fallen to his death from the second floor, drunk the bleach under the sink! When this memory comes, she has to quickly stand up and busy herself, push out a heavy breath, and shake off the shame it brings. He could have died from her negligence that afternoon. She never told Grant. She told Cora once, who said every parent has a moment like that, it’s life. People fall asleep. But Paige has never forgiven herself. She loved Caleb more than life, and now the doubt and little moments of regret push into her thoughts and render her miserable and anxious all the time.

She didn’t stay home like Cora, she practically lived at the restaurant. She ran it for years. Caleb grew up doing his homework in the kitchen break room and helping wipe down tables and hand out menus. He seemed to love it. He didn’t watch TV all afternoon after school, he talked to new people, learned skills. But did she only tell herself that to alleviate the guilt? Would he have thrived more if he had had a more nor mal day-to-day? When he clung to her leg that first day of preschool, should she have forced him to go? Should he have let him change his college major so many times? Had he been happy? Had she done right by him?

And why was there a gun at the scene? Was he in trouble, and she didn’t know? Did he have friends she didn’t know about? He’d told her everything, she thought. They were close. Weren’t they?

As she approaches the kitchen window to put her mug down, she sees Grant pulling up outside. She can see him shaking his head at the sight of the cops before he even gets out of the car.

He doesn’t mention the police when he comes in. He silently pours himself a cup of coffee and finds Paige back out in the garden, where she has scurried to upon seeing him. He hands her a copy of the Times after removing the crossword puzzle for himself and then peers at it over his glasses.

He doesn’t speak until Christopher comes to greet him, and then he says, “Who wants a pocket cookie?” and takes a small dog biscuit from his shirt pocket and smiles down at little Christopher, who devours it.

This is how it’s been for the many months since Grant and Paige suffered insurmountable loss. It might be possible to get through it to the other side, but maybe not together, Paige said to Grant one night after one of many arguments about how they should cope. Grant wanted to sit in his old, leather recliner in the downstairs family room and stare into the wood-burning fireplace, Christopher at his feet, drinking a scotch and absorbing the quiet and stillness.

Paige, on the other hand, wanted to scream at everyone she met. She wanted to abuse the police for not finding who was responsible for the hit-and-run. She wanted to spend her days posting flyers offering a reward to anyone with information, even though she knew only eight percent of hit-and-runs are ever solved. When the world didn’t respond the way she needed, she stopped helping run the small restaurant they owned so she could just hole up at home and shout at Jeopardy! and paper boys. She needed to take up space and be loud. They each couldn’t stand how the other was mourning, so finally, Grant moved into the small apartment above their little Italian place, Moretti’s, and gave Paige the space she needed to take up.

Now—almost a year since the tragic day—Grant still comes over every Sunday to make sure the take-out boxes are picked up and the trash is taken out, that she’s taking care of herself and the house isn’t falling apart. And to kiss her on the cheek before he leaves and tell her he loves her. He doesn’t make observations or suggestions, just benign comments about the recent news headlines or the new baked mostaccioli special at the restaurant.

She sees him spot the pair of binoculars on the small table next to her Adirondack chair. She doesn’t need to lie and say she’s bird-watching or some nonsense. He knows she thinks one of the neighbors killed her son. She’s sure of it. It’s a gated community, and very few people come in and out who don’t live here. Especially that late at night. The entrance camera was conveniently disabled that night, so that makes her think it wasn’t an accident but planned. There was a gun next to Caleb’s body, but it wasn’t fired, and there was no gunshot wound. Something was very wrong with this scenario, and if the po-lice won’t prove homicide, she’s going to uncover which of her bastard neighbors had a motive.

She has repeated all of this to Grant a thousand times, and he used to implore her to try to focus on work or take a vacation—anything but obsess—and to warn her that she was destroying her health and their relationship, but he stopped responding to this sort of conspiracy-theory talk months ago.

“What’s the latest?” is all he asks, looking away from the binoculars and back to his crossword. She gives a dismissive wave of her hand, a sort of I know you don’t really want to hear about it gesture. Then, after a few moments, she says, “Danny Howell at 6758. He hasn’t driven his Mercedes in months.” She gives Grant a triumphant look, but he doesn’t appear to be following.

“Okay,” he says, filling in the word ostrich.

“So I broke into his garage to see what the deal was, and there’s a dent in his bumper.”

“You broke in?” he asks, concerned. She knows the How-ells have five vehicles, and the dent could be from a myriad of causes over the last year, but she won’t let it go.

“Yes, and it’s a good thing I did. I’m gonna go back and take photos. See if the police can tell if it looks like he might have hit a person.” She knows there is a sad desperation in her voice as she works herself up. “You think they can tell that? Like if the dent were a pole from a drive-through, they could see paint or the scratches or something, right? I bet they can tell.”

“It’s worth a shot,” he says, and she knows what he wants to say, also knows he won’t waste words telling her not to break into the garage a second time for photos. He changes the subject.

“I’m looking for someone to help out at the restaurant a few days a week—mostly just a piano player for the dinner crowd—but I could use a little bookkeeping and scheduling, too,” he says, and Paige knows it’s a soft attempt to distract her, but she doesn’t bite.

“Oh, well, good luck. I hope you find someone,” she says, and they stare off into the backyard trees.

“The ivy is looking robust,” he comments after a few minutes of silence.

“You think it’s hurting the foundation?” she asks.

“Nah,” he says, and he reaches over and places his hand over hers on the arm of her chair for a few moments before getting up to go. On his way out, he kisses her on the cheek, tells her he loves her. Then he loads the dishwasher and takes out the trash before heading to his car. She watches him reluctantly leaving, knowing that he wishes he could stay, that things were different.

When Paige hears the sound of Grant’s motor fade as he turns out of the front gate, she imagines herself calling him on his cell and telling him to come back and pick her up, that she’ll come to Moretti’s with him and do all the scheduling and books, that she’ll learn to play the piano just so she can make him happy. And, after all the patrons leave for the night, they’ll share bottles of Chianti on checkered tablecloths in a dimly lit back booth. They’ll eat linguini and clams and have a Lady and the Tramp moment, and they will be happy again.

Paige does not do this. She goes into the living room and closes the drapes Grant opened, blocking out the sunlight, then she crawls under a bunched-up duvet on the couch that smells like sour milk, and she begs for sleep.

Excerpted from On A Quiet Street by Seraphina Nova Glass, Copyright © 2022 by Seraphina Nova Glass. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

The Conned Lady (Wild Blue Mysteries Book 5) by Diane Bator Review 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A mystery surrounding an eccentric writer’s late husband and his untimely demise sends Katie and her detective boyfriend Danny on a dark and dangerous path, where everyone is a suspect and everyone is equally in danger, in author Diane Bator’s “The Conned Lady”, the fifth book in the Wild blue Mysteries series.

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The Synopsis

Eccentric romance novelist Mimsy Lexington has a secret.

When she approaches Katie Mullins to help find details around her late husband’s death, Katie and her boyfriend Danny Walker are drawn into a web of lies and deceit. The deeper they dig, the more they realize the biggest dangers may lurk close to home and need to suspect everyone—including Mimsy.

The Review

A truly brilliant and inviting cozy mystery meets an adrenaline-fueled crime thriller! The novel does an excellent job of balancing out nods and characters from previous entries in the series with the new narrative that both new and returning readers will be able to dive head-first into. The atmosphere smoothly dips into humorous character dialogue between friends to tense and heart-pounding terror as threats begin to emerge all around the cast of characters. The focus on the cold-case narrative was so fun and relevant to read, as so many cold cases tend to go unnoticed or fade into obscurity, but hold as much mystery as more high-profile cases. 

The character development in this narrative was superb. Getting to see the intimate moments of Katie and Danny’s relationship and the impact of their pasts coming back to haunt them in the midst of this investigation, as well as the mystery surrounding Mimsy and her late husband’s shady dealings, drew me in as a reader and kept me invested throughout this novel. The small-town setting and quick pace of the narrative kept the plot moving at an even pace, and made the characters feel real and relatable all at once. 

The Verdict

An entertaining, mysterious, and intriguing read, author Diane Bator’s “The Conned Lady” is the perfect next entry into the Wild Blue Mysteries series. The harmony found between the character growth and the suspense of this case the protagonists find themselves in made this story shine so brightly, and the twists and turns the narrative takes will keep readers on the edge of their seats as the climax finally plays out. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Diane Bator is a prolific writer published by BWL Publishing. She is a member of WCYR, Sisters in Crime, and a board member for the Crime Writers of Canada. She is the author of several mystery series and a budding playwright.

https://dianebator.ca/

Lure: Jesse & Hawk by W.L. Hawkin Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A wounded doctor and a vegan nature photographer find their paths crossing as the dangers of a missing persons’ case suddenly become a murder investigation years later, and must learn not only to survive together against two nefarious figures but learn if they can hold onto the growing feelings they have for one another in author W.L. Hawkin’s “Lure: Jesse & Hawk”.

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The Synopsis

Hawk is a wounded doctor bent on losing himself on the Chippewa reservation.

Jesse’s a vegan nature photographer trying to find herself on that same wild land.

When Hawk shoots the deer Jesse’s photographing, passions flare. Then Jesse hears that Hawk’s friend is dying and sets off alone on horseback to warn him. He deserves the chance to say goodbye she never had.

BUT DANGER LURKS EVERYWHERE NEAR THE SMALL MIDWESTERN TOWN OF LURE RIVER.

Jesse’s just discovered the twenty-year-old bones of a missing Indigenous girl in her shed and drawn the unwanted attention of two local men.

CAN JESSE FIND HAWK BEFORE THEY FIND HER?

Ruby Little Bear’s tragic tale weaves through the narrative, reminding us that ONE MOMENT CAN CHANGE EVERYTHING.

The Review

This was the absolute best combination of romance and suspense. The wildness of the two protagonists’ tense and heated romance mirrored the equally wild landscape they found themselves in. The complex backstories that have brought each of them to the emotional place they meet each other in will captivate readers and bring the wellspring of tears that these emotional romances often have. 

The rich mystery and suspense surrounding the thriller aspect of this narrative were so engaging to read. The striking backstory of this small town and the tragedy that has been kept in the shadows for two decades highlights the small-town atmosphere that keeps these mysteries lasting as long as they often do, both in fiction and reality itself. The back and forth look into who is responsible for the missing young woman and the complex relationship between the town and the indigenous people who have been so badly affected by this senseless death will have readers glued to the pages as each chapter unravels the intricacies of this mystery.

The Verdict

Haunting, thoughtful, and passionate, author W.L. Hawkin’s “Lure: Jesse & Hawk” is a must-read romantic thriller of 2022! A truly entertaining and captivating story of love lost, love found, and the lengths we are willing to go to in order to keep the past hidden, the author did an incredible job of finding a harmonious chord between the narrative and dynamic character development that cannot be matched. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

W. L. Hawkin writes myth, magic, and mayhem designed to inspire and entertain. Described as “intoxicating, lush, magically-edgy, page-turners,” her Hollystone Mysteries series features a coven of witches who solve murders using their wits and ritual magic with a little help from the gods. Wendy is also a published blogger, book reviewer, Indie publisher, and poet, with a background in Indigenous Studies and English literature. She loves myth and magic, so when she’s not writing, she’s studying Druidry, shamanism, and mediumship. Although she is an introvert, in each book, her characters go on a journey where she has traveled herself.

She defies genre by writing character-driven fast-paced mysteries and thrillers that involve fantastical characters. See her four book series: To Charm a Killer, To Sleep with Stones, To Render a Raven, and To Kill a King.

@authoranthonyavina

Check out my #bookreview of author W.L. Hawkins’s #Lure a brand new adult #mysteryromance novel! #booktok #bookworm

♬ Mysterious – Andreas Scherren

Root That Mountain Down By Evan Balkan Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A man on a mission to bring his murdered father’s body back home to the United States comes face to face with the cruelty and violence, (as well as the hope and beauty hidden within), of the blood diamond business in author Evan Balkan’s “Root That Mountain Down”. 

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The Synopsis

Felix Laszlo is on a somber mission: Retrieving the body of his murdered father, a doctor who had volunteered to treat the civilian casualties in war-torn Sierra Leone, and bringing him home to be buried in the United States.

Along the way Felix will discover how little he knew about his father, Africa and himself. Once in Africa, Felix will see first-hand the greed and corruption that is commonplace in the “blood diamond” trade. But he will also find beauty, heartbreak, joy as well as the path to his future.

The Review

This was both an emotional and culturally significant read. The narrative did such an amazing job of really delving into the horrors and struggles of the wars and ruthless blood diamond trade in Africa. The novel captures so many themes that readers are going to be able to relate to, from the concept of families and how they work to the culture of violence that exists within war-torn countries and the misconceptions and prejudices that exist against the people of Africa as a whole. The striking clash of the violent attacks on both the people of Africa and those doctors and volunteers who come to help with the prejudice that people have against all African citizens as a result of the violence highlights the never-ending cycle of hatred and pain that continues to this day.

The character growth in this narrative was the perfect vehicle for the themes of this story. The complexity of the protagonist’s mission as Felix grapples with his father’s brutal loss while also seeking firsthand the violence and struggles the people of Africa are facing themselves makes this such a brilliant story, and the balance of mystery and action with the pops of romance and emotional family drama made this such an enrapturing story to behold. 

The Verdict

Haunting, engaging, and thought-provoking, author Evan Balkan’s “Root That Mountain Down” is a must-read novel. The clashes of grief and anger mixed with both the horrors of war and the hope that survives in the face of that war made this both a complex yet a much-needed story that I just couldn’t put down. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Evan L. Balkan is the author of three novels, including the PEN/Faulkner nominated Independence, and seven books of nonfiction, including The Wrath of God: Lope de Aguirre, Revolutionary of the Americas, as well as many essays and short stories in an array of publications. His screenplays, including Spitfire, adapted from his novel of the same name, have won multiple fellowships and awards. He is a co-writer for the television series, Wayward Girls. He coordinates the English Department at the Community College of Baltimore County, where he runs the creative writing program, and is an adjunct faculty member in the Johns Hopkins University’s graduate Teaching Writing program. He holds degrees in the humanities from Towson, George Mason, and Johns Hopkins universities and has served as a guest lecturer at Yale, Johns Hopkins, Bryn Mawr, and many other institutions. 

https://evanlbalkan.wixsite.com/evanbalkan

Payback by Ramon del Villar Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

The world of narco-trafficking takes center stage as a man is framed for a crime he didn’t commit, and the pursuit of justice takes a drastic turn in author Ramon del Villar’s “Payback”.

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The Synopsis

Ramon del Villar is well known and highly respected English-Spanish translator in Texas’s Southern District U.S. Courts. He is now residing in Houston after he migrated (legally) from his h homeland, Mexico. In this his first published novel, he skillfully brings up to us his expertise, both in the judiciary proceedings and his knowledge of people involved in narco-traffic with very witty remarks about behavior and reactions by Hispanics and Anglos: “You have the right to remain silent. If you speak, anything you say may and will be used against you in court. You have the right to have an attorney…” so starts this thriller in which Mr. del Villar guides us through the inner and awesome steps of a criminal trial, so readers become familiar with terms such as arrest, detention, hearing, cross-examination, rebuttal, and verdict, so well narrated that it is very difficult to stop reading this novel once you started…

The Review

This was an eventful and captivating thriller. The author found just the right balance between legal suspense and adrenaline-fueled action-thriller storytelling. The exploration of the law in such detail and how it impacts everyone, from those pursuing the law to those caught in its wake to the family affected by the trial and more, was both impressive and engaging to read about.

I truly appreciated the rich character development of this novel, especially the focus on the cultural aspect of the narrative. As someone who comes from a Hispanic background himself, I was grateful to see such attention to detail shown in the story, even from minor yet important details like how Mexican people will utilize both the father and the mother’s last names in their culture. The study of how narcos and the narcotic trade as a whole have impacted everyone, on both sides of the border, was critical to this novel’s success, as was the study of how those with money and power influence the events that determine other people’s fate, whether they be deserving or not.

The Verdict

Hauntingly suspenseful, entertaining, and culturally impactful, author Ramon del Villar’s “Payback” is a must-read thriller. From the shootouts to the dramatic legal twists and the important character developments, this was a meaningful and thoughtful approach to the genre and deserves to be checked out. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Ramón del Villar is a lawyer, a black belt in karate, a teacher, a private pilot and an author. He recently retired from his day job as Senior Interpreter in Houston for the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. His nonfiction text, An Interpreters Anatomy of a Civil Lawsuit, is available as a bilingual resource and he is working on the next adventure of Roberto Duran, intrepid attorney. 

Mine (A Deadly Sins Novel Book 3) by Rachael Tamayo Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A drunken night of debauchery in Vegas leads one man into a marriage he never wanted, and into a deadly world where no one is who they claim to be in author Rachael Tamayo’s “Mine”, the third book in the Deadly Sins series.

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The Synopsis

What happens in Vegas just might kill you.

When divorcee Justin Gray wakes up next to a beautiful stranger in Vegas on his birthday weekend, he assumes it’s just a drunken mistake. When he discovers that he’s married to said stranger in her early twenties, he insists on an annulment and assumes his life will return to normal once he gets back home.

He assumes wrong.

As the shapely blonde refuses to give him an annulment and insists the marriage continue, what was a wild weekend turns into a deadly mistake.

Murder is only the beginning.

Get ready for a tale of greed so twisted you won’t know what’s on the next page or who anyone really is until the…

very…

last…

page.

The Review

I was absolutely enthralled by this mystery. The narrative took so many twists and turns throughout the novel that everything readers suspected throughout the narrative would prove true for a while before another curveball completely changed the game forever. The way the author layered mystery upon mystery on top of one another kept the intrigue and suspense prevalent throughout the entirety of the novel, and the theme of truth versus lies really played a pivotal role in the story for all of these characters.

I loved seeing the character growth here, as many of the twists came from the revelation of these characters themselves. There were so many characters that kept so much mystery and underlying motives about them that the only characters who felt authentic throughout the novel were Justin and his daughter Abby, who became pawns in someone’s twisted game. The multiple POVs really enhanced the narrative and kept the mystery alive and well up until the final chapter of this novel.

The Verdict

Engaging, shocking, and absolutely gripping, author Rachael Tamayo’s “Mine” is a must-read suspense thriller of 2022. The twisted motivations and shocking revelations these characters share as the plot moves forward will keep readers on the edge of their seats, as will the shocking alliances and partnerships that arise from these revelations. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy on February 26th, 2022!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Rachael Tamayo is the Best-Selling Author of the Deadly Sins books, among several other titles. Including multiple award-winning and award-nominated titles. Former 911 operator, a twelve-year veteran with slight PTSD now pens psychological fiction. Her 911 service gave her a unique insight into mental illness, human behavior, and the choices humans make when faced with bad, bad things that she weaves into her characters and plots. 

The Houston, Texas native lives with her husband and their two children. 

https://rachaeltamayowrites.com/