Review: I Love You More

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: I Love You More
Author: Jennifer Murphy
Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: January 2014
Length: 304 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

One man, three wives, the perfect murder. A scintillating novel of betrayal and conspiracy.

Picasso Lane is twelve years old when her father, Oliver, is murdered at their summer beach house. Her mother, Diana, is the primary suspect—until the police discover his second wife, and then his third. The women say they have never met—but Picasso knows otherwise. Picasso remembers the morning beautiful Jewels showed up at their house, carrying the same purse as her mother, and a family portrait featuring her father with two strange boys. Picasso remembers lifting the phone, listening to late night calls with Bert, a woman heavily pregnant with Oliver’s fourth child. As the police circle and a detective named Kyle Kennedy becomes a regular fixture in their home, Picasso tries to make sense of her father’s death, the depth of his deceit, and the secrets that bind these three women. Cunningly paced and plotted, I Love You More is a riveting novel of misplaced loyalty, jealousy, and revenge.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

My Thoughts 

I Love You More reminds me in some ways of The Three Little Pigs. Each  piggie is one of Oliver Lane’s wives, while he quite clearly manifests as The Wolf. Reality, perception, and lies were integral to each of the characters in this book.

Oliver Lane tells each of his wives lies. The biggst of all? “I love you more than life itself.”

Clearly not, as he proceeds to marry two more women. Three wives. Three different women. Three different homes and even three different offices. Three entirely seperate lives that he has maintained for a dozen years. Oliver Lane’s scintillating secret that has gone undiscovered by anyone for over a decade comes crashing down when one wife connects some strange dots.

Sneaky Oliver winds up murdered during a family beach vacation with his first family. Leading a triple life leads to no lack of suspects.

This novel is told in various perspectives, and begins with Picasso, Oliver’s first child. Picasso knows her mother has been behaving out of sorts and begins her own PI work. Like one of the wives discovered, she finds out about her father’s other two families.

Detective Kyle Kennedy is also in hot pursuit on this unusual case, and there are chapters for all of the wives. Oliver also has his own chapter, which shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was most definitely a sociopath. Like her father and all the adults in her life, Picasso learns how to expertly lie herself.

This book was thrilling and kept me turning pages to find out what bizaare thing would happen next or what the next lie would be. One thing that endeared me in this highly sensational story was that the wives’ circumstances were life-shattering, and yet they developed strong bonds. I highly recommend! The ending was not predictable as is often the case in a mysterious book.

Review + Giveaway: Dead Lies

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Welcome to my tour stop for Dead Lies by Cybele Loening! Dead Lies is a mystery novel and the tour runs October 22-30 with reviews, interviews, guest posts and excerpts. For access to all the fun festivities, check out the tour schedule.

DeadLies_mediumTitle: Dead Lies
Author: Cybele Loening
Publisher: Balboa Press
Release Date: June 2014
Length: 131 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense 

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N

Former NYPD cop Anna Valentine just landed her first homicide case: the grisly double murder of a wealthy young couple. But it couldn’t have come at a worse time. Recovering from personal tragedies, the young police office just moved with her traumatized child to the suburbs where she hoped to pursue a quiet life and heal. To complicate matters, although she’s sworn off men until she and her son are happy and whole again, Anna feels the pull of attraction to the handsome twin brother of one of the murder victims, a man who has yet to be crossed off the suspect list. Teaming up with lead detective Jerry Kreeger, a 57-year-old veteran cop who’s lonely, broke and close to burnout, Anna chases a crafty killer and ultimately exposes a family’s shocking secrets that will rock a town.

***** Guest Post *****

Why You Should Follow Your Dreams (Even If It Sounds Crazy!)

I’m so pleased to be here! This is my first blog tour ever. I never thought I would write a mystery novel. I took a big risk in writing it, and now I’m living the life I always dreamed of having.

For thirteen years I was a magazine editor in New York City, working at places like Glamour, McCall’s, Mode and Prevention. I was even a bridal editor for a few years. It was exciting and even glamorous at times, and I loved what I was doing. I had always wanted to work with words.

From the outside, it looked like I had the perfect life. But inside, I felt off.

I found that at my core, I was unsatisfied. I was really good at editing and my career looked promising. There was even talk that I would be made Editor-in-Chief, which meant that I would be running my own magazine. But at some point I realized my soul was not being nourished. I was sick of watching other people write when that’s what I wanted to be doing. It’s something I’d wanted since I was a little girl. But I had never tried because I didn’t think I was good enough.

I’ve always been a huge fan of mysteries, especially by authors I revere like Harlan Coben, Michael Connelly and Mary Higgins Clark. I run an entire Facebook page devoted to mysteries, real and fictional. It fuels so much of who I am and what I love.

So one day, I just decided to take a risk and make the leap. I quit my “perfect” job in the city, and started a new journey. I also moved out to the country, something I had always wanted to do.

And just like that, everything began to fall into place. My happiness increased about a millionfold. Time seemed to fall away while I wrote. The quiet dirt roads where I walked fueled my creativity and my spirit. And that year I met the love of my life. Most importantly for this tour, I finished my detective novel, Dead Lies, a story about murder and family secrets in a wealthy town. It is a real pot boiler, the kind of book I have always loved to read.

So much changed when I just became too sick of being unhappy. I wanted change more than I wanted to be comfortable. It had become unbearable. So I let myself escape. It changed everything.

I know how this sounds. I know it seems crazy to just take a huge risk in your life. I know it seems impossible. Everything could go wrong! I could fail!

But that’s the whole point: Everything could change and be exactly how you always imagined it could be. Your dreams could be closer than you ever imagined they were. They’re just waiting for you to reach out and grab them.

Whatever your dream is, take the first step. Today. It doesn’t have to be a huge leap, just a baby step. Hold tight to your dream. Have faith. Go for it. No one else is going to do it for you. You’ll have to do it yourself. And now is the time. Because if not now, when?

I hope you all enjoy my book, and see it as how I do: proof of what can happen when you take the big scary leap. My life is one hundred percent different because of this little mystery book. I hope it inspires you to make your own leap.

***** Review *****

The Skinny

Serena and Bill Vance are upper crust of Avondale society. They area  wealthy couple and their lives show it. However, the two quickly find out money can’t buy the children they so desperately want. Despite being on medication to manage her depression, Serena was also taking fertility drugs. Suddenly the beautiful couple who lived in the beautiful house are left bruised and broken and Anna Valentine lands her first homicide case. Unfortunately, she must work with Jerry Kreeger, the lead detective in the area, and must follow his directives. Serena’s twin brother, Web, plays a pivotal role in helping unfold the events of Serena’s life as Anna and Kreeger dig deeper to uncover why a wealthy, affluent young couple was brutally murdered in their own home. As the case develops and becomes more complicated, Anna discovers she has a distinct connection to Web Vance that is tied to both of their recent losses.

The Players

Anna – a single mother; suffered her own traumatic loss; working on the Vance case; wants to be a Good Cop

Kreeger – a veteran homicide detective divorcé; ends up overseeing the Vance case working with Anna and Web

Leon/De Luca – a homicide detective under Kreeger’s direction; second-most decorated officer after Kreeger; working the Vance case

Web – twin brother to Serena; seeks answers and investigates into his sister’s death; wants justice

Serena – Web’s twin sister; managing depression with medication; also trying to get pregnant

Bill – Serena’s husband

Tim – one of Web’s best friends; known as a bachelor and hates kids

Danny – one of Web’s best friends; married to Tanya with four kids

Tanya – Danny’s wife; known as a gold digger among Danny’s friends

Casey – Danny’s oldest child; works at Anna’s favorite Starbucks

It is hard to say who the main character of this book is, given that it follows both Anna and Web primarily. I enjoyed Anna’s character as a woman working in a harsh field, especially given her first career choice and continuing to work in the field after suffering her own tragic and senseless loss.

The best supporting character award goes to Tim. Whenever Web needed him, Tim was instantly there by his side. Of course, he wanted answers to his questions, too, just like Web and the detectives. Tim’s support helps Web make it through the loss and the grief, and he also helps keep Web on a slightly even keel at times.

After the initial interviews with Web’s family, they fade into the background. I was interested to know their respective thoughts and get insight into their characters to have a myriad of emotions and reactions, but that wasn’t the focus of the book.

First Impressions

Look at that house! It’s like a mini manor! I was thinking this book would be set in England after just glancing at the cover, but after beginning reading and comparing to the cover, I kept thinking Avondale was very…suburban for such a sprawling estate as pictured on the cover.

Second Thoughts

Anna is a former NYPD cop who has moved to the suburbs to lick her wounds and allow them – and her son’s – to heal. However, her first homicide case doesn’t allow her to do that very easily. Not when she discovers the beautiful Serena Vance has a twin brother, Web. It instantly forms her connection, an unspoken bond, with Web.

There is a distinctive separation of characters in this novel: the cop side and the family side. The lines between the two become blurred after Anna reveals her tragedy and connection to Web. In that moment Web saw Anna in an entirely new light, and it allowed these two characters to come together and help one another with their own personal grief and sense of guilt.

“It’s just that I see Serena everywhere in this town, you know?” he told his friends. “She is standing on the steps of the high school and outside the Warner Quad theater. I see her playing Frisbee in the Buckleys’ yard and at every other house we visited growing up.”

Coming from New York, Anna has seen it all, but these kinds of things don’t happen in the quiet and affluent area of Avondale. It is unheard of, but raises the question to both the investigative team and the Marino family of how well you know others, even your own family members. Even your own twin.

Kreeger is a burnt-out divorcé with two grown daughters that he doesn’t spend nearly enough time with. His life is his job and he takes charge of the Vance case. Despite taking over the case from Anna, Kreeger doesn’t pull rank and territory and push her out. Instead, he allows her to join the homicide investigation. He doesn’t object to her commentary and input, and that is viewed by Anna as a positive welcoming. I really enjoyed the beginning of their working relationship. It shows a depth and greater sense of respect from Kreeger for the profession and professionalism in the police field.

The plot quickly develops as Anna and Kreeger focus in on their prime suspect, but as with all great crime novels, there are complexities to the plot that no one saw coming. As the investigation continues full-force, the finger begins to sway and point toward another prominent individual, as other interesting pieces of information pop up convoluting the investigation and casting suspicion on many.

Anna and Kreeger grow together as professionals working on the Vance case. Given the hours their positions demand, they spend plenty of time together around the clock. This allows the two of them to also open up and share insights into their respective lives. It is during one of these moments that Anna explains Good Cops and Bad Cops to Kreeger, and the importance of always knowing which one your partner is.

Kreeger later struggles with an ethical dilemma – a coworker and also a friend – and he must determine the right course of action. The legal standpoint is clear to Kreeger, but the ramifications of such legalities would swirl his longtime friendship down the toilet.

She watched him walk to the door and noticed that his movements weren’t as quick and effortless as the usual, but slow and labored, as if some unseen hand was pushing down on his head. He was clearly conflicted about the situation. He paused at teh door and turned around, looking like he wanted to say something. He put his hand on the door frame and thought for a moment before saying, “You know that theory your have about Good Cops and Bad Cops?”

She nodded.

“Which one does this make me?”

Anna fought the urge to cry. He wore his guilt like a heavy coat. “Jerry, you’re the best cop I know.”

Loening clearly and cleanly makes the point that we never know the true depths of even our most loved ones, as Web and the rest discover as the investigation into Serena and Bill’s lives deepen. There are other side issues such as ethics, grief, friendship and professionalism that crop up within the case related to the Vance murders, but of these the biggest is friendship.

Dead Lies is written so well that everything is tied up at the end neatly and cleanly. Given the position that Anna finds herself in at the end of the novel, I was very impressed with how she handled everything and the choices she makes. As the end neared, I became increasingly concerned that I would be disappointed, but Loening did not disappoint. I highly recommend this book. It makes for a perfect fall read.

***** About the Author *****

Becoming a novelist was a dream come true for Cybele Loening, and one that was many years in the making. Like many aspiring writers and creative types, when she completed her education, she didn’t think she could make a living doing what she loved. So, she took a job that was related to writing but not actually writing: She became an editor. She loved editing but never gave up her dream of writing a novel someday.

It wasn’t until she was in her late thirties that she finally realized “someday” was right now. After many years of working in Corporate America, she was burned out of her job and exhausted by city living. She realized she was giving her best energy to a career and life that no longer fit. So, she took a huge leap of faith and quit her job to write full-time. The book she began writing eventually became Dead Lies.

Quitting her job was a scary step, but it changed her life. Tapping away at her keyboard, she realized she was happier than she had been in a while. She felt creative and energized again and was thrilled to have discovered her passion, her life’s work.

That one brave step into the unknown led to other wonderful changes in her life. For years she had dreamed of living in the country, so she began renting a cottage in Litchfield County, Connecticut, to see how it felt. She never looked back. And it was in this idyllic place that she met her soul mate and now husband, the life and business coach, Brooke Loening. They married a few years later, and together they renovated a home in which they now both live and work.

Spending her days writing and living in a place she loves, she has found bliss she never thought possible.

A spiritual seeker and lover of all of life’s mysteries, Cybele is hard at work on the next book in the Anna Valentine Detective Series and a memoir. She is also a blogger with a global mission: to help women achieve their dreams and live their very best lives.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

***** Giveaway *****

5 audiobook copies (through audible.com) of DEAD LIES by Cybele Loening (INT)

Ends Nov. 4

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This event was organized by CBB Book Promotions.

Audiobook Review: Murder at the Vicarage

Title: The Murder at the Vicarage
Author: Agatha Christie
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Release Date: January 1930 / March 2009
Length: 307 pages
Series?: Miss Marple #1
Genre: Mystery

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

The murder of Colonel Protheroe — shot through the head — is a shock to everyone in St Mary Mead, though hardly an unpleasant one. Now even the vicar, who had declared that killing the detested Protheroe would be ‘doing the world at large a favour,’ is a suspect — the Colonel has been dispatched in the clergyman’s study, no less. But the picturesque English village of St Mary Mead is overpopulated with suspects. There is of course the faithless Mrs Protheroe; and there is of course her young lover — an artist, to boot.

Perhaps more surprising than the revelation of the murderer is the detective who will crack the case: ‘a white-haired old lady with a gentle, appealing manner.’ Miss Jane Marple has arrived on the scene, and crime literature’s private men’s club of great detectives will never be the same.

 

***** Review *****

The Skinny

There is no one more despised than Colonel Protheroe. The vicar himself said Protheroe’s death would be an advantage for the villagers. When he is indeed found murdered in the vicar’s study, with two different people confessing to the crime, the elderly Miss Marple exhibits her detective skills. There are seven suspects, including the vicar. After events pass and investigating the actual crime and the suspects, Miss Marple deduces the true facts of the murder.

The Players

There are many characters in this first installment of the Miss Marple series, so I have broken down the most important ones into a few categories as best I could.

The Old Biddies 

What’s humorous about this group of women is they are commonly referred to by everyone else as “old cats” and gather at the vicarage itself to take part in their gossip, which the vicar cannot convince them is sinful.

  • Miss Jane Marple – an elderly spinster; a gossiper; discovers everyone’s secrets
  • Miss Wetherby – a gossiper; lives next to Miss Hartnell
  • Miss Price Ridley – lives next to the Vicarage
  • Miss Hartnell
The Vicarage
  • Leonard Clement – the vicar
  • Griselda Clement – the vicar’s wife
  • Dennis Clement – the vicar’s nephew
  • Mary Adams – the Vicar’s housemaid
  • Mr. Hawes – the relatively new curate
  • Mrs. Lestrange – a mysterious woman who rents a house at the back of the vicarage; well-educated
  • Lawrence Redding – a painter; uses a shed at the vicarage for his studio; banned from the Protheroe house for paiting Lettice in her bathing suit; also painting Griselda
The Protheroe Household
  • Colonel Lucius Protheroe – the churchwarden and the local magistrate, who lives in Old Hall
  • Anne Protheroe – Colonel Protheroe’s second wife; very beautiful; tries to be a good mother to Lettice
  • Lettice Protheroe – Colonel Protheroe’s daughter from his first marriage; hates both the Colonel and Anne; very forgetful
  • Dr. Stone – a well-known archaeologist who digs at Colonel Protheroe’s land; stays at the Blue Boar
  • Gladys Cram – the young, unmarried secretary to Dr. Stone; also stays at the Blue Boar; under suspicion about her employer and relationship
The Officials
  • Dr. Haydock – the village’s doctor; visits Mrs. Lestrange; has modern notions that criminality is due to “glandular dysfunction”
  • Constable Hurst – a local police officer
  • Inspector Slack – the investigator of the murder; a rude man; generalizes women
  • Colonel Melchett –  the Chief Constable; also generalizes women

There are of course a slew of other characters who have minor roles in the plot but some who contribute interesting information about the suspects. Most are servants in various households or other villagers. For the most part, the characters are underdeveloped due to the sheer number of them.

First Impressions

I have read Agatha Christie before (Ten Little Indians/And Then There Were None and Murder on the Orient Express). I enjoy her writing and her mysteries, so I was looking forward to reading a new-to-me book by her since it has been so long. I didn’t realize until after starting the book that this was part of a series, the first in the Miss Marple series.

Second Thoughts

This is more than a mystery. It is quite comedic thanks in part to the vicar’s POV and the characters themselves. As a whole, the men are very dandy and the woman can easily be described as biddies. The term “gossipmongers” comes to mind quickly. The fact that no one in St. Mary Mead has a clock that is the correct time only adds to the mire of the murder mystery. It must be a St. Mary Mead tradition. There are characters that fill out the entire realm of social hierarchy, so it is not just the middle-class echelon represented.

The story as a whole was sarcastic in that old-fashioned, high brow, tongue-in-cheek style told through the viewpoint of the elderly vicar of St. Mary Mead. He is a very honest character about what he sees, painting a true picture of the villagers, the investigation and himself. Due to his position, he is one whom just about everyone trusts. He shares his opinions about the women who fill his life and they are quite funny.

Miss Marple, the sleuthing detective, is only a minor character in the book. She is slightly different than the other nosy, gossiping old women in the village in that she is actually right in her thoughts about the nature of her neighbors. This is important because the book relies heavily on the villagers and their relationships just as much as the murder because they are intricately linked.

The language is, of course, Christie. It is very proper, written even in high style that is focused on politeness, societal conventions, and the language itself. Christie’s style leaves readers in the dark, only allowing glimmers of different aspects of the village, villagers and murder.

The crime is set in the small English village with an overflow of gossip, affairs, and various emotions. Even the police force depend on meddling old women, much like Angela Lansbury’s character is depended upon in Murder, She Wrote.

The murder victim is Colonel Protheroe, a very unpleasant fellow who is highly disliked around the village. Needless to say, plenty of potential suspects abound. The murder is pretty typical, but it is the setting in the small village filled with gossipers that hypes up the murder and investigation.

In terms of the audiobook narration, I agree with a few others who have pointed out the cringe-worthy performance of the female characters. And every time Lettice’s name was said it was pronounced “lettuce.” I giggled each time.

This is one of Christie’s lesser acclaimed works, but is the first in which Miss Marple and the Clements appear in who show up later in other books.

 

***** About the Author *****

Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born in Torquay, Devon, England, U.K., as the youngest of three. During the First World War, she worked at a hospital as a nurse; later working at a hospital pharmacy, a job that influenced her work, as many of the murders in her books are carried out with poison.

On Christmas Eve 1914 Agatha married Archibald Christie, an aviator in the Royal Flying Corps. The couple had one daughter, Rosalind Hicks. They divorced in 1928, two years after Christie discovered her husband was having an affair. Her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, came out in 1920. During this marriage, Agatha published six novels, a collection of short stories, and a number of short stories in magazines.

In 1930, Christie married archaeologist Max Mallowan (Sir Max from 1968) after joining him in an archaeological dig. Their marriage was especially happy in the early years and remained so until Christie’s death in 1976.

Christie frequently used familiar settings for her stories. Christie’s travels with Mallowan contributed background to several of her novels set in the Middle East. Other novels (such as And Then There Were None) were set in and around Torquay, where she was born.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review: Acts of Violence

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Title: Acts of Violence
Author: Ross Harrison
Release Date: January 2014
Length: 190 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Crime, Mystery, Thriller

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N

My name’s Jack Mason. I made a mistake. Took home the wrong girl. Now she’s dead. Cut up. And they’re telling me I did it.

It’s the same cop that tried to take me down ten years ago. Now he’s coming at me hard. And he’s not the only one. Cole Webster, the city’s crime lord, thinks I stole from him. Broke me out of custody just to ask me about it. Then I killed his son. Now he really wants me.

Add to this equation a government agent, and I’m a real popular guy right now. Pretty much everyone I meet wants me dead, lawfully or otherwise. There’s nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. I’ve got till morning to uncover Webster’s trafficking operation and take the heat off me. And all I’ve got to go on is a pissed off homeless girl with a thirst for revenge.

Guess it could be worse. Can’t quite figure how.

***** Review *****

Oh, it could be so much worse.

Acts of Violence pits the elite against the peasants. Or rather, everyone’s under the thumb of the crime lord, Cole Webster, and his son Little Dick.

Premier club. It was ridiculous. The club was in the heart of the west side. The east side was the rich side. The side with all the gambling houses and other clubs. But he set up The Web here. And it worked. The social elite – or at least their spoilt brats – packed the place just about every night. 

Jack Mason has tried and failed to become a cop in Harem. Ten years ago he was kicked out of the academy. Ten years ago his girlfriend Lucy died, and the cop with the first name for the last name tried to pin him to the wall for the murder.

Jack got off, but Lawrence still thinks he has his man.

Now the stakes have risen, and crime king Cole Webster is involved. Another girl has died in Jack’s apartment. Except this time, it’s more gruesome and Lawrence is hell bent on pinning Jack to the chair. He’s knocked down each piece of Jack’s alibi like a wrecking ball taken to Lincoln Logs.

Unfortunately in a town like Harem, those charged with upholding justice can be bought. Little Dick steps in to play Little Rich Boy and show Jack exactly who is boss.

Fortune is on Jack’s side and some interesting evidence turns up incriminating someone else in the girl’s murder. Things get more heated when government officials show up and there is a glimmer of hope for Jack. If he can only find out why the girl was killed…and stay out of Cole Webster’s grips while doing it.

As his nose cracked under my knuckles, I reflected on how much I hated violence. Not violence stemming from my own unresolved anger issues. That I was fine with. It was violence against women that I hated. I don’t know why, but the prettier the girl the more I hated it. Maybe I was shallow.

The new agent, DeMartino, has it together. He keeps the investigation under wraps. Turns out the mining business Cole Webster has used for a front all the years was indeed a front, but now the tables have turned on him. Jack has more than enough bullets to dodge.

I felt like a celebrity. A celebrity that everyone wants to see hanged with his own bootlaces in a dirty cell.

Along with a homeless girl, Sixteen, Jack is determined to discover what Cole Webster is up to and how the girl he took up from Webster’s club ended up dead in his bed.

I liked the goose chase that Jack was sent on in his discovery of what’s going on, and the stream of consciousness that Harrison has used with Jack. However, I did not like that there is minimal hints here and there about the setting and world that Jack lives in. Apparently it is futuristic, with shard guns and flyers, and more than one world, but the worlds keep to themselves. Officially, at least. I wish we had all this in the exposition instead of halfway through the book.

Jack also seemed to have a few redeeming moments with Van, the club manager, and his gorilla body guard. There were also a couple of moments when Jack saw Sixteen for more than just the scrawny homeless girl. In ways, she reminds him of Lucy.

I was thrown at the end for several loops, and Jack shows some true character growth and reflection on the past.

“I’m sorry,” I said. He ignored me. It was true enough. I was sorry for everything that had happened. I wasn’t who I was meant to be. The man I’d tried to be. The man I’d spent the last ten years pretending to myself that I was. 

***** About the Author *****

Ross Harrison has been writing since childhood without thought of publication. When the idea was planted by his grandmother to do so, it grew rapidly, and after a bumpy ten years or so, here sits the fruit.

Ross lives on the UK/Eire border in Ireland, hoping the rain will help his hair grow back.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review: Bluegrass State of Mind

Bluegrass UndercoverTitle: Bluegrass State of Mind
Author: Kathleen Brooks
Publisher: Laurens Publishing
Release Date: January 2012
Length: 236 pages
Series?: Bluegrass Series #1
Genre: Romance, Crime

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

McKenna Mason, a New York City attorney with a love of all things Prada, is on the run from a group of powerful, dangerous men. McKenna turns to a teenage crush, Will Ashton, for help in starting a new life in beautiful horse country. She finds that Will is now a handsome, successful race horse farm owner. As the old flame is ignited, complications are aplenty in the form of a nasty ex-wife, an ex-boyfriend intent on killing her, and a feisty race horse who refuses to race without a kiss. Can Will and McKenna cross the finish line together, and more importantly, alive?

*****Review*****

This is the first of both the Bluegrass Series and the second series set in the same town, Bluegrass Brothers. Since I previously read Bluegrass Undercover, the first book in the Bluegrass Brothers series, I already knew some things that happened before they happened in Bluegrass State of Mind.

McKenna Mason, better known as Kenna, flees New York terrified and in earnest pursuit of two things: familiar and obscure. This leads her to small town Kentucky, which houses the family of her deceased grandmother’s best friend…and first crush Will Ashton.

The Ashtons are a prominent family in Keeneston, and Will Ashton has returned to run the family’s horse racing business. McKenna rolls into town in hopes of fulfilling a district prosecutor position, and she needs all the help she can get. In sweet little Keeneston, that’s not too hard when the entire town is heralding her as if she’s lived there her whole life. Family connections and strong ties can do that for a person!

“Here’s to girls, their rifles, and law degrees.” 

As things heat up between Will and Kenna, several other things are also in the mix.

  • Kenna strikes up a friendship with the sheik, whom everyone in town suspects of sabotaging the Ashton farm with an increasingly dangerous and alarming number of incidents and accidents. The sheik is a very loyal and loving man, and has a bodyguard who has lethal interrogation skills. Thankfully, this comes to Kenna’s advantage a few times, and proves the sheik’s loyalty and intentions to the town.
  • Kenna keeps in contact with her friend from New York, who was with her that terrible night. Unlike Kenna, her friend elected to remain in New York and is backtracking upon the powerful and dangerous men. She has determined that one of the men is a state senator, which the Men In Black (Suits) keep referring to as The Senator. Kenna is getting a little intel, but is also very worried for her friend.
  • Kenna endears herself to the town of Keeneston, at the heart of which are the Rose sisters and John Wolfe. When strangers come to town, they uncharacteristically keep quiet.
  • Will’s wife, Whitney, comes to town. Except, Kenna doesn’t know she’s his EX wife until much, much later. Whitney has the upper hand for almost the duration of the novel, even though everyone in town hates her. It is made quite clear that the girl ain’t nothing but a gold digger.
  • Kenna becomes the good-luck charm for the Ashton’s prized racehorse.
  • Kenna discovers the exact identity of The Senator.
  • Kenna endears herself to the town, who take her into the fold.

This novel has a bit of everything: big city, small town, crime, drama, suspense, thriller, action, romance, humor. I loved reading about Keeneston and meeting all the locals in Bluegrass Undercover, and I loved seeing even more of them in the beginning!

This novel focused more on the foil characters to those in Bluegrass Undercover, where the Davies family and the Rose sisters who run Blossom Cafe were the focus. In Bluegrass State of Mind the sheik, the Ashtons, Paige, and the third Rose sister are the town focus.

Kathleen Brooks did an excellent job keeping readers interested in just what it was that made Kenna flee New York in fear for her life. When it was revealed, it was clear Kenna was up against some of the most powerful men in the country, and it was a battle she would most definitely lose.

“I know this is a serious situation, but come on! Blowing up a car? That’s true friendship.”

What I loved most about Bluegrass State of Mind, besides the love and devotion of the town, was how the main set of characters worked together to get their shit straight, solve the Ashton farms incidents and most of all to protect Kenna.

*****Atbout the Author*****

5101707Kathleen Brooks is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author. Kathleen’s stories are romantic suspense featuring strong female heroines, humor, and happily-ever-afters. Her Bluegrass Series and follow-up Bluegrass Brothers Series feature small town charm with quirky characters that have captured the hearts of readers around the world.

Kathleen is an animal lover who supports rescue organizations and other non-profit organizations, such as Friends and Vets Helping Pets, whose goals are to protect and save our four-legged family members.

Kathleen will begin a new series in 2014 called Women of Power. This series will follow the lives of successful businesswomen as they fight off dangers to their lives and careers while searching for true love.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review: Bluegrass Undercover

Bluegrass UndercoverTitle: Bluegrass Undercover
Author: Kathleen Brooks
Publisher: Createspace
Release Date: April 2012
Length: 224 pages
Series?: Bluegrass Brothers #1
Genre: Romance, Crime

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

*****Synopsis*****

In her first follow-up to the Best Selling Bluegrass Series, Kathleen Brooks brings Keeneston back to life through the Davies Brothers. Cade Davies had too much on his plate to pay attention to newest resident of Keeneston. He was too busy avoiding the Davies Brothers marriage trap set by half the town. But when a curvy redhead lands in Keeneston, the retired Army Ranger finds himself drawn to her. These feelings are only fueled by her apparent indifference and lack of faith in his ability to defend himself.

DEA Agent Annie Blake was undercover to bust a drug ring hiding in the adorable Southern town that preyed on high school athletes. She had thought to keep her head down and listen to the local gossip to find the maker of this deadly drug. What Annie didn’t count on was becoming the local gossip. With marriage bets being placed, and an entire town aiming to win the pot, Annie looks to Cade for help in bringing down the drug ring before another kid is killed. But can she deal with the feelings that follow?

*****Review*****

Annie reminds me of Sandra Bullock’s character at the beginning of Miss Congeniality – rough, tough, no man wants to work with because she’s a woman – in combination with a plot line very similar to 21 Jump Street.

Annie Blake is a DEA agent who has been working on a drug ring that’s producing a new drug, S2, targeting high school athletes. The big problem? Lots of these high school football stars are dropping dead, having heart attacks and other heart issues, not to mention some crazy aggression and other unhealthy things.

Unlike the Kenney Chesney song, she did not find the tractor sexy.

After a quick clean-up in Miami, she’s sent off to Kentucky, where they believe the drug is originating. She infiltrates the school under the guise of the guidance counselor, and is easily getting inside intel on the football team by simply doing her counselor job…if curtailed specifically, just a bit.

But there’s a problem. Every time she runs into biology teacher/football coach Cade Davies, she’s breaking up a fight, and keeping a kid hyped up on S2 from beating his face in. After a while, Cade gets the distinct impression that Annie is not quite who she says she is, and thanks to some of his fed brothers, discovers her DEA identity.

It wasn’t very often she met someone she instantly liked, but Father James was one of them. He was kind of portly, balding on the top of his head and had a smile that made you want to sit down and tell him your whole life story. He could be trouble.

Keeneston is a small town – the kind of idealistic town where nothing of major consequence ever happens, where you can send your kid off down the street and know it’s safe, and where the whole town gathers at the local eatery. In Keeneston, the Rose sisters and John Wolfe run the town…and the gossip mill grapevine. After a few casual dinners together, Annie and Cade are at the center of attention throughout the town.

Within a minute, a picturesque town with its old buildings painted in whites, yellows and tans came into view. Barrels of pink, purple, yellow and white flowers lined Main Street. Some people stood talking on the corner and waved at Margaret as she drove by. There were little shops that sold antiques, a stately courthouse and more people waving at her. 

What I loved was how no one in the town was immune. Each person was in on the gossip, filling in everyone else, and if anything, Keeneston residents have mastered the phone tree better than some schools. People were finding out things that were going down before even Cade knew, and were calling to tell him to get somewhere and do something. News in Keeneston travels at the speed of light.

And with that “news” also comes the bets for Cade and Annie. Everyone around town keeps asking, or letting on, about a particular month being the best month because they’ve placed their bets. It’s a little much, but it’s characteristic small town where everyone knows everyone…and their business.

“He brought your dog into it? Wow. That’s low.”

This book also had a personal backstory for Annie, who grew up in foster care. She has lived alone her entire life since entering foster care, and is dealing with coming to terms with staying alone or becoming part of a family, which after being in Keeneston it’s not hard for her to make up her mind. There’s just one problem…she does have a nearby relative, who wants to be a part of her life. Annie has to deal with a lot of past anger and pain from years of being unwanted.

Cade is also got a handful going on with his football team. Several of his players have become engrossed in the new S2 drug, a steroid on steroids that goes undetected in the normal drug testing. He ends up spending the majority of the season fighting one particular player using S2, who is throwing his talents and his team down the toilet.

Annie also thinks Cade has no clue…and is kind of, well, incapable. Just like Cade checks out Annie’s story, Annie checks out his.

Annie couldn’t believe it. Shock had her frozen as she stared at the computer monitor in front of her. “Son of a …,” shoe groaned. She buried her face in her hands and muttered, “I told him to learn self-defense, and he’s a freaking national hero with a higher clearance level than I could ever dream of…”

I love the way the novel ends and wraps up – in more ways than one, none of which I can share without spoiling anything. I’ll just say that one lucky football player ends up being able to go to his first choice college.

“That’s it, Miles Jackson Davies. No dessert!” Marcy reached over and grabbed the slice of pumpkin pie sitting in front of him. Annie watched in disbelief that this big, serious, tough guy hung his head and pouted when his mother took his desert away.

*****Atbout the Author*****

5101707Kathleen Brooks is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author. Kathleen’s stories are romantic suspense featuring strong female heroines, humor, and happily-ever-afters. Her Bluegrass Series and follow-up Bluegrass Brothers Series feature small town charm with quirky characters that have captured the hearts of readers around the world.

Kathleen is an animal lover who supports rescue organizations and other non-profit organizations, such as Friends and Vets Helping Pets, whose goals are to protect and save our four-legged family members.

Kathleen will begin a new series in 2014 called Women of Power. This series will follow the lives of successful businesswomen as they fight off dangers to their lives and careers while searching for true love.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Book Review: Enough Rope

Enough RopeTitle: Enough Rope
Author: P.L. Doss
Publisher: Mayfair Press
Release Date: October 2013
Length: 322 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Thriller, Suspense
Format: e-book
Source: The Editorial Department

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis

During an early morning jog, Atlanta attorney Tom Halloran discovers the body of his friend and colleague, Elliot Carter, hanging from a tree in Piedmont Park. Even worse, the private and dignified Carter is grotesquely dressed in women’s clothes. Halloran is convinced that Elliot’s death is murder, not a tragic accident of autoerotic asphyxia-gone-wrong. 

But the medical examiner’s investigator, Hollis Joplin, is skeptical. He knows how difficult it would be to fake that kind of death, and he’s seen too much in his years on the Atlanta streets to be surprised by what people are capable of doing—to themselves or others. Then two more people die, and the clues lead back to a twenty-year-old kidnapping. 

The under-staffed Atlanta PD can’t give the case attention unless Carter’s death is ruled a homicide, so Joplin, with an eidetic memory that allows him to recall in three dimensions everything he’s seen, sets out to investigate it himself. Piece by piece, he and the relentless Halloran unravel a tale of greed, revenge, and family secrets—and put themselves right in the crosshairs of a calculating and ruthless killer.

Review

I did it. I judged this book by its cover – P.L., get a snazzy cover! – and was I ever in for a surprise! From page one I got up in this mystery with Hollis Joplin and Tom Halloran. It seemed that with every page I turned the mystery of the murders became more complex and the plot thickened. I could not put this book down at all. Any spare moment I got, I was reading this book – even at stoplights to and from work. Sometimes I’d even avoid taking the highway and instead take the service road filled with lights just to get in a few more minutes of reading (thankfully it’s only a few exits to my house!).

When Hollis arrives at the scene of Elliot’s death he tells Halloran that no matter how well you think you know a person, you don’t know them all that well, which is the big idea that leads Halloran through most of the book.

The novel follows a few of the characters, primarily giving insight into the murders and furthering the development and formulation of solving the murders. The novel follows both Joplin and Halloran, and even for a brief moment the new pathologist intern Carrie, who works alongside Joplin’s best friend Jack, conducting autopsies. Halloran is out “playing detective” as Joplin calls it, and eventually shares all of his information with Joplin, but at one point he overplays his hand – and that’s when things start spiraling. Despite that, he and Joplin are in it together to solve the string of murders – and predicting who will be next.

Pictures from long ago resurface – pictures that Joplin’s Chief has seen before when working on a kidnapping twenty years ago, and pictures that Elliot Carter’s wife took to a private investigator. The pictures are an odd twist, but ultimately what helps both Joplin and Halloran put the pieces together.

Joplin and Halloran both set their sights on one particular suspect who is very close to Elliot’s wife. Then Halloran discovers a curve ball, and he and Joplin are left with two prime suspects, but they’ve got a hard judge who won’t grant a search warrant based on what they’ve got, so they riddle it out some more. This is when the two align exactly in concluding who the murderer is and determining the motive. Joplin figures it out first and decides to catch the murderer alone before he/she can strike again…except, he didn’t quite bargain for what he got. 

There is a definite focus on prestige, money, appearance and reputation in this book. There is a lot said about Elliot’s wife, Anne, and the circumstances of their marriage, birth of their only child, and recent separation. 

I thought I was figuring things out on my own, and knew who the killer was, but I was wrong. I never would have even suspected the killer, not in a million years.

This was a thrilling and wonderfully written murder mystery read, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys mysteries.

About the Author

P.L. DossWhile completing a Master of Science degree in Criminal Justice at Georgia State University, P.L. Doss served a graduate internship at the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s office. Assigned to the investigative division, she discovered how important the duties of the investigators were in helping the forensic pathologists determine the cause and manner of death. She was also able to observe the autopsies—an experience that proved to be invaluable in toughening her up for her career in law enforcement, first as a volunteer analyst in the Missing Children’s Information Center at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and then as a probation officer and supervisor of officers at the Georgia Department of Corrections. She currently lives in Atlanta.

Find the author: Goodreads

Book Review: Valley of Vice

18815232Title: Valley of Vice
Author: Steve Garcia
Publisher: Diversion Books
Release Date: August 2013
Length: 287 pages (paperback)
Series?: no?
Genre: Crime
Format: e-book
Source: agent

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis

In Hollywood, it’s not just dreams that are easily snuffed out.

When a burned body is found on a studio lot, Detective Salvador Reyes and his partner Detective Philippa Wallace are on the scene. The mystery deepens when they identify the body as a felon named Bartholomew Pearl who should have been in jail for shooting a fellow detective. Then a city official, Theodor Simons, is found dead of an apparent suicide. 

Convinced the deaths are connected, and not everything is what it appears, Reyes and Wallace investigate. Their inquiries take a dangerous turn, pointing to someone in the police department itself. Soon it’s hard to know who is an enemy, and who is a friend.

Review

WOW. I don’t know if I can write a review that does this book justice. Steve Garcia has written an amazing novel that will keep you on your toes. True, there’s not much in terms of character development because it is a crime novel, but the unraveling of the cases that Wallace and Reyes (and the rest of their comrades in blue) will leave you turning page after page after page to discover who is behind all of the murders.

Wallace’s husband works for the FID, and he has become extremely stressed from his work. Finally, one night he tells his wife that they are working on an investigation in two specific PD’s where they think there is a dirty cop. Wallace keeps this thought close, but as things start unraveling it becomes harder and harder to recognize who is truly the good guy, and who is out for himself. I thought several times I knew who the dirty cop was, but I was proven wrong. Very wrong. And this dirty cop? He’s also a raging psycho, but somehow keeps it under wraps while on duty.

Wallace and Reyes are thorough in their investigations into several murders. In fact, they are the first to determine that the first murder and suicide are linked – and that they were both indeed homicide cases. Since FID has stepped in and taken over, there’s little for Wallace and Reyes to actually investigate without overstepping their bounds, so they find ways around it…and as the murders start piling up, it complicates the investigations and adds more and more questions to the mix. All they need is to find a man named Duke, who’s name was left in the councilman’s schedule book. Looking for Duke seems to be a wild goose chase with no leads.

Meanwhile, another pair of partners are sent to work with vice on a male prostitution sting. It’s not the best of assignments, but it’s their job. While working and monitoring the streets, another murder happens just down the street at an infamous hotel known to benefit from the local prostitution.

The officer who went undercover as a male prostitute is the cop who actually ends up identifying the psycho, dirty cop after the FID has essentially given up their investigation and turned over their findings to Wallace and Reyes…but they may just be too late to stop the final hit on his list.

I don’t know what it’s like to be a cop, or work in that environment, but I do believe that Gracia has strongly captured this in his novel. The relationships between partners, and others in their workforce, seems to be spot-on and adds to each character and gives authenticity to the novel as a whole.

I would definitely recommend this read! It is a very well-spun and slightly chilling read. I will admit: I read the entire novel in two settings, it was that good.