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Currently Browsing: mystery/suspense
Oct
19

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Familiar Motives by Delia James

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Familiar Motives by Delia James Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Reviews: Witch’s Cat Mysteries Familiar Motives Author: Delia James Narrator: Elise Arsenault Audio Listening Speed: 1.5x Series: Witch’s Cat Mystery #3 Genre: Urban Fantasy / Cozy Mystery Source: Tantor Audio I continue to enjoy the Witch’s Cat Mystery series.  The combination of Ms. James’s words and Ms. Arsenault’s voice create a delightful Mystery audiobook a la Hallmark. This latest whodunit was gripping and fun. Though I’m starting to fear that Anna is a long lost relative of Mrs. Fletcher and no one should want to be near her (okay, this horribly dates me but I loved Murder She Wrote as a child), Anna’s genuine kindness more than makes up for the murders that seem to occur around her.  In this book, Anna’s veterinarian is unfortunately murdered while cat-sitting the town’s famous feline: Ruby (aka Attitude Cat), the spokes-cat for the Best Pet Store cat food, treats, toys etc. line.  Unfortunately Anna and her friend (and fellow coven sister) Kenisha find Ramona’s body but are unable to find Ruby.  Between Ruby’s owners bitter custody battle, Attitude Cat’s publicist’s strange behavior, and Ramona’s own witch family’s strangeness, it was a guess who was the murderer and why. I enjoyed how the story twisted and turned.  Though I was able to narrow down the why, the exact who was a surprise for me this time.  I liked how Anna was better at following rules and being safe during this investigation.  It was fascinating to watch and learn how difficult it is for Kenisha to be both a witch and a police officer.  She has to toe the line between the unexplainable truth and proof in the court of law.  I felt Anna was better at keeping her feet on both sides of the line and ensuring that Kenisha wasn’t left on the sidelines by the coven.  The relationships of the women are just as strong an element in this series as the clues.  It all contributes to the coziness of this mystery series.  Not to mention the slow burning romance between Anna and a certain young bartender. I feel that no one but Ms. Arsenault could narrate this series.  Her voices and personality truly bring the characters (both human and furry) and this world in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to life.  I enjoy the audio so much, I prefer to listen to this series, rather than read it. I eagerly look forward to the...
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Sep
20

Review: Death Shall Come by Simon R. Green

Review: Death Shall Come by Simon R. Green Death Shall Come Author: Simon R. Green Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: A What We’re Talking About: Gikany and Una discovered Death Shall Come by accident.  We thought we were picking up a new series by Simon Green (we love his Nightside and Secret Histories series).  It turned out to be the fourth book in the Ishmael Jones series.  It is awesome! Although you need not read the first three books, Gikany did and Una got through the first two.  You can easily jump into the series with Death Shall Come, but why would you?  This series has all of the wit, horror and sublime banter that we love in Green’s other books. The mysteries are gripping and not always what they appear. In this installment, Penny and Ishmael are summoned by Ishmael’s boss, the Colonel, to his father in-law’s estate to ensure the protection of the Colonel’s wife.  What befalls is a fascinating murder with a suspect that was quite the twist.  When you think you have this one figured out, trust us, you don’t. The overarching plot line of Ishmael’s background is intriguing. Although he is not human, Ishmael has no idea where he came from or who he really is.  It is compelling how he chooses to be human.  His interactions and mannerisms could give him away and yet, they just add to his odd character.  We enjoy how Penny both humanizes him is also Dr. Watson to his Sherlock. This is truly a fun series. Gikany and Una thoroughly enjoyed Death Shall Come.  This relatively new series is a wonderful balance of murder mystery and urban fantasy with a sci-fi twist. We loved Ishmael and Penny’s witty banter as they sleuth out the clues and find the culprit – hopefully before the body count gets too high.  If you enjoyed Green’s previous books or if you are looking for a classic mystery with a modern twist, this is the series for you!  We eagerly await the next mystery! Our Rating:  A, Loved It About the Book: Ishmael Jones is faced with a dead body and a missing mummy in this highly entertaining, genre-blending mystery.  Death shall come on swift wings to whoever desecrates this tomb …  Ishmael Jones and his partner Penny have been summoned to remote Cardavan House, home of the world’s largest private collection of Ancient Egyptian artefacts, for the unveiling of George Cardavan’s latest acquisition: a bone fide Egyptian mummy.  When a...
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Jul
27

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: By Familiar Means by Delia James

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: By Familiar Means by Delia James Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Reviews: Witch’s Cat Mysteries By Familiar Means Author: Delia James Narrator: Elise Arsenault Audio Listening Speed: 1x Series: Witch’s Cat Mystery #2 Genre: Urban Fantasy / Cozy Mystery Source: Tantor Audio By Familiar Means is another delightful read in the Witch’s Mystery Cat series.  I enjoyed the continuing journey of Anna as she learns more about her heritage, her abilities and the community of Portsmouth. The novel begins a few weeks after the conclusion of the previous novel, A Familiar Tail.  Anna is settling into the house she is renting along with the coven of Portsmouth.  She is excited that her Grandma BB is coming to visit her.  What makes this so momentous is that her Grandma hasn’t been back to her home town since she left during a town-wide feud.  As Anna is looking forward to this visit, she is also looking forward to a new job painting murals at a new coffee shop in town. However, as things did in the previous book, things do not quite go as Anna anticipates. I love how much Grandma BB brought to the humor and character development of Anna.  It was fascinating to watch old wounds begin to heal and people come together.  Anna has a truly unique group of friends around her in Portsmouth.  I especially enjoyed seeing that Alastair has friends of his own as well.  The little bit of romantic thread that is developing is also a delightful side element to the overall story.  I’m really enjoying following Anna. She is a caring and vibrant character and I look forward to watching her grow in Portsmouth. Though like the previous novel, the “who” of the “who-dun-it” was simple to figure out, there were other twists that added to the revealing of motive and such.  I really enjoyed how Anna investigated this one; not quite as reckless as before, but just as impulsive.  It was interesting that the magic can and does seem to affect Anna, possibly increasing her impulsiveness.  There are several different threads being woven nicely together; the mystery, the family/friends drama, the romance, and Anna’s own growth in her heritage.  I find this series absolutely enchanting and enjoyable.  I now understand the term cozy mystery.  Again, it’s something I can enjoy without worrying about my kids listening with me in the car. I enjoyed Ms. Arsenault’s performance a little more this time around.  It could be...
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Jul
13

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: A Familiar Tail by Delia James

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: A Familiar Tail by Delia James Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Reviews: Witch’s Cat Mysteries A Familiar Tail Author: Delia James Narrator: Elise Arsenault Audio Listening Speed: Series: Witch’s Cat Mystery #1 Genre: Urban Fantasy / Cozy Mystery Source: Tantor Audio I am delighted that I picked up this audiobook, A Familiar Tail.  On a whim, I thought I would enjoy a story that blends mystery with magic.  Overall I really enjoyed both the story and the narration and can’t wait to listen to the next Witch’s Cat Mystery. Though the story was a tad sluggish in starting because Anna was slow in getting into the magical pool, I enjoyed learning along with Anna about Portsmouth and especially the local witches’ coven.  What first began with Anna going to visit a friend for a little bit, turns into a huge life changing event.  Anna was a mostly carefree spirit, able live her gypsy-esque life as an artist while hiding her vibe ability.  Until this fateful visit, when she discovers her family’s roots, a persistent cat, and a murder mystery only it seems she can solve.  It seems Anna is descended from a magical family, and this vibe (her ability to perceive events that occurred or will occur in a particular space) is a gift of heritage. I really enjoyed the detective bumbling of Anna as she tried to figure out who killed the local witch.  Though it was somewhat easy to figure out the “who,” the motive was elusive until the end.  I did really enjoy how Anna thoughtfully progressed through her investigation.  The plot was gripping, and I found it difficult to stop listening.  I also enjoyed that this was an audiobook I could listen to while in the car taking kids to school.  It’s akin to watching my beloved Hallmark Murder and Mysteries, nothing graphic or too mature for little ones to see or hear.  In fact, my son enjoyed asking questions about Alastair the cat. The coven members and Anna’s friend, Martine, are all wonderful supporting characters.  Each seems unique and added their own energy and support to Anna’s investigation and new found roots.  But Alastair, the cat, was my favorite supporting character.  Though he cannot talk, I really enjoyed how he communicated with everyone, especially Anna.  Ms. Arsenault did a fabulous job in portraying Alastair’s personality and communicative skills. Speaking of the narration, I did like Ms. Arsenault’s performance. Though some voices blended a bit, making it...
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Jun
20

Review: At His Mercy by Shelly Bell

Review: At His Mercy by Shelly Bell At His Mercy Author: Shelly Bell Reviewer: VampBard Rating: C What I’m Talking About: While At His Mercy held promise for me, I struggle with many issues while reading it. I honestly try to leave my ‘editor eye’ out of it when I review a book. It’s…difficult, at best. I overlook typos, usage, and misplaced punctuation all the time. I mean, ARC copies can quite possibly be sent out prior to final proofreading. I know how the publishing industry works. But I struggled with this ARC. Next, a romance title can’t be all about sex scenes. While they’re a nice ‘frosting on the cake’, it can’t be the drift-from-one-sex-scene-to-the-next type of story or that makes it flat-out erotica. While we’re told that there was a veiled romance element in this title, I didn’t actually witness it myself. /soapbox. Okay. A solid Dominant/submissive relationship takes time to establish. If it’s a one-night stand, that’s one thing. However, jumping into a relationship without knowing the other person is just bad form and completely unsafe. I mean, Isabella didn’t let anyone know where she was going!!! For all she knew, Tristan was some psycho wack-job—she’d picked one before, who’s to say she didn’t pick one again? Isabella ranks up there in my Too Stupid to Learn heroines, and I didn’t feel a bit badly at the end for her. /off soapbox Tristan, for being an experienced Dom, is incredibly stupid. There’s lots of reasons, but listing them all would be spoilery. Lastly, there were plot inconsistencies. I can overlook a few here and there, but there were entirely too many going on—so much so, that I actually had to flip back in the book to make sure I wasn’t crazy several times. After all, there couldn’t be THAT many of them in the book, right?!?! Wrong. While I’m really intrigued by the premise for this title and the subsequent title(s), I think I’ll pass. My Rating: C, Finished It – Liked some, didn’t like some About the Book: Angel in his arms . . . Devil at her heels  One last, no-strings night of indulgence. That’s all Tristan wants before he begins a much-needed new chapter in his life. Instead he finds an innocent angel in pink who brings him to his knees. Isabella is done hiding from the world . . . and her haunting memories. Discovering courage in the arms of a perfect stranger, she finally lets go and sheds...
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Mar
13

Review: Insight by Santino Hassell

Review: Insight by Santino Hassell Insight Author: Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: If being raised in the intolerant, judgmental suburbs of Houston, Texas hadn’t been difficult enough, Nathaniel Black also had to bear the stigma of his family’s name. Though most of them are “gifted” with varying psychic abilities, they are better known for the resulting mental instability, addiction, and suicide that seem to accompany those talents. Nate would rather just avoid them all as much as possible. But, when the death of his identical twin brother, Theo, is labeled a suicide, Nate will do anything to discover the truth, even if it means embracing the very thing he hates most. Having read many of this author’s other titles, I’ve been very excited about Insight for quite some time. Not surprisingly, to say that I enjoyed reading it would be an understatement. While I’ve liked many books in the romance and paranormal genres, I simply can’t resist a good suspense or mystery story, and Insight kept me on edge from beginning to end. In fact, there was so much going on in this story, that this review has to be fairly limited in an effort not to ruin it. One of my favorite things about Insight is that, although there are many layers in the plot, I didn’t feel overwhelmed by a profusion of obvious distractions, which can sometimes be problematic with stories that combine elements of multiple genres. Despite the very “busy” nature of this story, however, every scene appeared to be deliberate, if not economical, in its implementation, while consistently providing enough rich detail and imagery that immersing myself in the narrative was effortless. While Insight should certainly be categorized as “Suspense” or possibly a “Thriller,” there’s no denying the significance of its romantic elements, as well. I found both Nate and Trent to be equally likable, and thought the complimentary nature of their developing relationship fit the story very nicely. Nate’s journey is one of self-acceptance as much as it is about discovering the truth, and watching him learn that he truly can be loved was a highlight of the novel for me. Overall, I think Insight is a finely-crafted exploration of a world where truths and monsters dwell beneath the skin. Nate is an intriguing protagonist, and he and Trent each won me over with little effort from the very first chapter. The many twists and turns proved to be consistently riveting, the tension building...
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Jan
5

Review: Nico by Sarah Castille

Review: Nico by Sarah Castille Nico Author: Sarah Castille Reviewer: VampBard Rating: B What I’m Talking About: I was going to start off 2017 with a DNF. It’s super rare that I do that. I’m sure the NetGalley version I received for review needed some polish before hitting the shelves. Normally, I can turn off my editor brain—and maybe it’s really not any more than normal, it’s just that I’m super sensitive to awkward wording, extra words in sentences that should’ve been deleted, and missing words. I found myself rephrasing sentences in my head several times, which interrupted my reading flow. Or, maybe I’m just irrationally irritated by stuff right now. I liked the story so much I took a peek at the sample on Amazon. **blinks** The dozen or so errors I’d marked by the time I’d reached 13% weren’t there, for the most part. So, I bought a copy. I liked the characters and the plot enough to care. Still found some stuff I couldn’t let go of as I read, but the story was good enough the couple dozen or so things I did find didn’t bother me quite as much. Part of the reason I paid for a copy when I wasn’t sure I’d 100% be able to make it through the book was because I **really** liked Mia. Her strength and bull-headedness reminded me of the me I wanted to be. That Dee in my brain. The one who was the little devil on my shoulder egging me on to do something outrageous or to buy an outfit that would make me stand out instead of blending into the crowd. Although, I don’t know whether I would’ve stood out in a good way or not. I can identify with Mia regarding her family situation, too. I am definitely on the fringes—I use a pen name when I write because it would be embarrassing to my family, and I don’t want my parents to have to explain away their smut-writing daughter. I felt a kinship with Mia that made me root for her—and her relationship with Nico. Seriously? A Mafia boss? I haven’t really read a lot of Mafia fiction. I did my fair share of researching, watching biopics, and basically stalking Al Capone during a period in my life, though. I have an affinity for Sinatra, Sammy, and Dean (and thank god for Michael Buble for the revival!). I’m all about the couture of the 50s and rockabilly, too—my...
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Aug
3

Review: The Right Kind of Trouble by Shiloh Walker

Review: The Right Kind of Trouble by Shiloh Walker The Right Kind of Trouble Author: Shiloh Walker Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Reading the McKays series has been a delight. In The Right Kind of Trouble, readers of the first two titles will be pleased to know we get to hear a whole lot more about Moira and Gideon, as well as revisiting couples we’ve come to know and love. Brannon and Hannah, as well as Neve and Ian, play integral roles through this title, which wraps up the plot arc for these characters. Moira McKay has had a rough life. Her parents’ death caused her to grow up entirely too soon, putting her own life—and love—on hold. But that’s not all. Mystery is wrapped around the matriarch of the McKay clan. What IS the ‘treasure’ of which legend was built? Moira knows, and someone is out to dredge the information out of her. Moira is an interesting character. She’s powerful, yet sensitive and—dare I say it—needy…in all the right ways. She’s afraid to show her vulnerability to those around her. As she’s grown the McKay empire, she’s learned a thing or two about trust and where to place it. The thing is, there’s always a wrench thrown into what we think we know. Moira’s strength and tenacity is what draws me to her as a character. She’s not one to give up, nor is she one to take things lightly when they’re super serious. Compounded with hits to her business holdings, Moira is…irritated, and maybe a bit terrified. She has serious cause to reflect on her life, and makes some startling revelations. This is where Gideon comes in. Not only is he the chief of police in McKay’s Treasure, he’s Moira’s the one that got away. Fireworks splash across the sky any time these two are in close proximity. We’ve seen it in the first two titles in the series, and The Right Kind of Trouble gives us a spectacular finale display. One of the things about Gideon, however, is the fact that he’s been put off so much by Moira that he’s reluctant to let his heart be entrapped by the redheaded vixen. It’s super difficult to open up and let love in when you’ve been burned by the most brilliant thing you’ve ever seen more times than you can bear. Like many of Ms. Walker’s titles, it’s difficult to review without spoilers. Suffice it to say: I DIDN’T SEE THIS ONE COMING....
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Jun
8

Review: All the Broken Places by Anise Eden

Review: All the Broken Places by Anise Eden All the Broken Places Author: Anise Eden Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: All the Broken Places was a rather interesting read, and unlike my normal fare. I liked it. Reader advisory: our main character, Cate, is dealing with the suicide death of her mom, and has suicidal ideation tendencies. If this is a trigger for you, I don’t recommend reading this title. Even though All the Broken Places deals with some tough content, I felt it was handled honestly and with incredible sensitivity. Cate, practically agoraphobic since her mom’s death ten weeks prior, is struggling to regain ‘normal’. She has a slim support system in a work colleague and her friend-with-benefits. Cate, however, is a social worker. In addition to the strong empathy a ‘normal’ social worker has, Cate is able to sense her clients with some different empathic ability. This ability is causing her additional issues as she recovers from her mom’s death, and continues to check on her clients through their bond. Her boss recommends she see someone to help her process her mother’s death, and she is sent to Dr. MacGregor. In the good doctor’s office, she is eventually able to open up about the ‘weird’ things about her. Fortunately, the doctor and her hottie son are experts in weird. They want Cate to agree to attend an intensive program for three weeks. Cate is cautious, but says she is willing to listen. As the nature of this pretty cool program is revealed to Cate, she becomes skeptical, and wants to leave the program. There’s a couple reasons she doesn’t, in my opinion. One of which is Ben MacGregor, who she is attracted to, but struggles to reconcile the emotions swirling around about him. Ben is also a bit broken, and I think all the participants in the MacGregor Group are, to some extent. I like Ben, and I am really interested to learn more about him in the next title. We got some great formative information about him in this title–just enough to whet my appetite. I was particularly interested in the world building done by the author. Ancient civilizations, alternative belief systems, and some quirky personalities make for some fascinating interactions and created all the questions for the next title. My Rating: A, Loved It About the Book: All of Cate’s problems are in her head. That may be her greatest strength.  Cate Duncan is a promising young therapist, dedicated to...
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Nov
12

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Dresden Files Part 1

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Dresden Files Part 1 Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Dresden Files Series Author: Jim Butcher Narrator: James Marsters Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Dresden Files #1-2 Genre: Urban Fantasy / Mystery Source: purchased Storm Front (#1) Wow! Just… wow! I was pleasantly surprised and extremely impressed with the audiobook of Storm Front, the first story from the Dresden Files series by James Butcher. I really didn’t know much about the series, never watched the show, and had no idea what to expect, other than I’d heard the books are good. Harry Dresden is a wizard for hire – think private investigator with a bit of a twist. No one really believes him, but there are the few who either heard rumors or are desperate enough to seek his help. Most people don’t believe in magic or the supernatural, and those that do, don’t know the full extent of its reaches. Harry works in and around both kinds of people, helping where he can. He even helps out the police special investigations unit from time to time, and their current case is one that leaves even Harry a bit disturbed. Storm Front is, at its core, a paranormal whodunit, and a complex and engrossing one at that. Told from Harry’s perspective, the listener is privy to supernatural details the average person wouldn’t pick up on. I loved how Harry’s brain works as he puts the pieces together. What I enjoyed even more were the compromises Harry must make with himself in order to do what is right in the grand scheme of things. Harry has a dark past and is subject to close scrutiny by the White Council, a sort of policing agency for wizards. Harry struggles with the best way to save those who need help, without endangering his own well-being. Unfortunately, the decisions he makes, while probably best in the long run, sometimes alienate those closest to him and even put him in the line of suspicion. What makes this book even better is the sublime narration by James Marsters. Best known for his role as Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, long gone is his cockney accent. Instead, listeners enjoy a deep, rich, soothing voice that embodies all that is Dresden: his worries, triumphs, fears, and celebrations. His cadence is extremely fitting, full of sighs, lip smacks, and pauses, creating the illusion that I’m actually inside Dresden’s mind as he works his way through the case and life. While he...
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