Here's the one that started it all. Reviewer Paul S. Brandt on Kremlin Tide. It seems so long ago now!
An interesting page turner harping back to crime TV shows, this book is a great addition to anyone who enjoys suspense/thriller novels.
-As like the first book I read from this author, Kremlin Tide has fascinating characters.
-While the other book, Serial Rites, focuses more on one character, this book gets into the minds of all the characters.
-Great writing and good pacing especially as the book nears the end.
-Intriguing, complex plot
-Too much detail bogs down the story especially early in the book.
-With the nature of this being a complex story, the details can easily be overlooked. The story, therefore, can become quite confusing.
*My opinion: what I didn’t care for or do not prefer. This will not lower a rating unless it overly distracts from the story.
A great read and I highly recommend. 5-Stars
At first, Joe Siccardi's Heaven Shining Through was a startling read for me. It moved so quickly I thought I had a James Patterson Alex Cross thriller. Now, this is Christian Fiction, a literary book with some romantic touches laced within it. Through the eyes Samantha, the reader learns everything about her upbringing and her relationships with her parents and girlfriends to her present day. She experiences love, joy, loss, life, death, forgiveness, vulnerability, fear, and reconciliation with those personal relationships.
It was a strange feeling as the major events of her life whizzed by. Some were shown with actual scenes played out for dramatic effect while others simply told in the narrative. That took some of the power away from those life experiences. The book's a short story or short novella. I get that. But again, some dramatic moments were lost with Siccardi's decision to inform the reader via narrative through the flashbacks in the mind of Samantha. I guess I wanted more depth and Siccardi had enough material for a full-length book. Again, it's a novella that actually read like a memoir. I'm used to reading longer pieces. It wasn't dull that's for sure.
In the end, all roads lead to what happens to Samantha and her mother, who remained distant and critical of her daughter growing up. This relationship drove the story and reading it to the end will answer the question of what happens to them. The use of a few profane words wasn't necessary at all and jarred the reading for a moment.
Overall, I give Heaven Shining Through 3.5 stars but with no half star designations available I'll make it a three.
Tracy Clark's Broken Places, A Chicago Mystery, is aptly named. Former Chi-town Detective Cass Raines survives a shootout with a suspect thanks to some incompetence from a colleague. She decides enough is enough and resigns from the force. She elects to take on private investigation work instead. Her first case involves a beloved priest, Father Ray Heaton and a young man named Cesar Luna murdered in the priest's church. Heaton, as P.I. Raines finds out, has a list of enemies who despise him for one reason or another. Who wants a beloved priest and a young man he tries to help dead and why?
Clark takes her readers on a journey to the truth and multiple encounters with interesting people in the Windy City. While the storyline thankfully didn't progress the way I thought it would, simultaneously, it wasn't complex or thought-provoking either. Not that it wasn't compelling which makes for tough reading and reviewing. The people of Raines' neighborhood, her analyses of them and vice versa, rings true. That made the book for me even though some of Raines' decisions skirt on the not-so-smart. I realize she's a private investigator now and not a detective with all the bells and whistles. Some choices in the heat of conflict were head-scratchers though they put me in the midst of that conflict with her. Good writing.
Be warned, readers. There is R-rated language in Broken Places. Spirits, souls, and bodies break in spades, especially for Cass Raines. This suspenseful mystery paints the portrait of a strong, insightful heroine, friends, and foes alike amidst an ordinary plot. Still, not a bad start, Ms. Clark. Three stars.
Charles Prandy introduces his upcoming Detective August Miller novel, A Cold Day for August, with three mystery/suspense short stories titled, The Elephant Bowl.
The title story, The Elephant Bowl, centers on a piece of evidence that springs the story toward high drama. The Endearment Diary finds Detective Miller on the trail of a cold case murderer with sad tragic results; Between The Trees depicts a cat and mouse game between Miller and her suspect that reminded me a little of Dr. Hannibal Lecter and FBI Trainee Clarice Starling in their verbal jousts in The Silence of the Lambs. This last story hints at the first novel in the coming series. Good collection. Four Stars.
Kellye Garrett's cozy mystery Hollywood Ending begins after the first book, Hollywood Homicide, ends. Amateur investigator and former one-hit wonder food commercial actress Dayna Anderson soon finds herself sleuthing for the murderer of Tinseltown hotshot publicist Lyla Davis the victim of a botched ATM robbery. The homicide takes place during the time of the biggest party of the year: The 18th annual Silver Sphere Awards for TV and movies. The SSA's surpass the prestigious Golden Globes and nip the heels of the Oscars for the most coveted awards show in Hollywood. This is a big deal to Dayna because her boo, Omari Grant, the star of the new series LAPD 90036, is up for a Silver Sphere Best Actor in Television Award.
The basis of the investigation centers upon was it live or was it Memorex moments that lead to little sex, plenty of lies, and yes, videotapes and DVDs. Oh yeah, and a big money payout that sets Dayna hot on the trail of Davis' killer.
Back as Dayna's unofficial sidekicks are Omari, Emme Abrams, the Internet shorthand speak and computer whiz, Sienna Haynes, the vain sidekick and still shooting-for-the-stars girlfriend, though some of her tolerance of those high-profile entertainers made me want to slap some respect into her, and of course, Day's partner-in-crime-busting, Aubrey S. Adams-Parker.
Concurrent to the investigation, Danya and Aubrey pursue official private investigator documents so when she hands out business cards, it reads who they say they are. This thread takes on a bit of mystery as well when the humorless and straight arrow Aubrey discloses other career plans. With this pursuit, however, drama and comedy follow.
Who killed Lyla Davis and why takes the reader through a labyrinth of interesting characters including the married duo Mack and Janet Christie, Silver Spring Award President Gus 'The Gossip' Ortiz, Omari's high-strung publicist Nina Flynn, Nina's stressed assistant Kitt, mechanic limo driver Dante Brooks, Dow Jones couple Javon Junior Reid and Regina Jones, and lastly the mystery friend or foe Z, who possess an uncommon knack for phantom manifestations alongside one creeped out Dayna Anderson. Girl, pepper spray might not be enough! She expresses her fear with a Hollywood nod when she internally thinks if captured by Z: "...I'd have to hope someone tweeted my pic and it somehow went viral. That would be my only chance of escaping from the hole in Z's basement. I made a promise to myself I would not put the lotion in the basket. No matter how melodic his voice was."
With these characters, author Garrett casts a wide net of blackmail and betrayal that had this reader pointing at every one of them at some point or another. Once more Garrett's depiction of Anderson rules the day. Her exasperation phrases like, 'Fudge' or 'Blurg' or 'At All' and other one-liners with that LA insider's knowledge peppered throughout the book like its predecessor, Hollywood Homicide. Garrett provides additional growth to her characters since the first book too. Dayna's relationship with Omari steps up to another level, the Dayna/Aubrey investigation status, and the novel concludes with a clear open door for the third story in A Detective By Day Mystery series. I know I'm walking through it. Come on and join me! Four and half stars.
Hollywood Homicide, the multiple awards nominated and winning cozy mystery novel by Kellye Garrett, delivers its charm via the voice of the main character, Dayna Anderson. Day, as her friends call her, was a former star of a Chubby Chicken commercial that people she meets seem to recall to her displeasure. But on several occasions, she has fun with it through her dialogue and internal monologue. The first chapter sets up this funny and engaging voice that sings until the end of the book.
Down-on-her-luck, she struggles to pay bills, her parents experience mortgage challenges she wants to help with, and she hits dead ends seeking employment not necessarily in Los Angeles' entertainment industry. It's ugly.
So, when someone runs down a young woman named Haley Joseph as she enjoys (sort of, read the book) a night out with her companions, she discovers that a $15,000 reward accompanies the solving of her murder. Say no more. Amateur sleuth Dayna Anderson to the rescue!
However, she doesn't take on the sleuthing alone. She enlists the help of those companions including best friend and LA fashion queen (nearly everything she wears is red!) Sienna Hayes. The computer expert, gamer, introvert and shorthand Internet speak geek, Emme Abrams. Her on again, off again crush and she's not sure where to place the check mark on that count, the up and coming TV actor, Omari Grant. Not outdone, some bonus help comes in the form of the quirky Johnny-on-the-spot ex-cop turned private investigator, Aubrey S. Adams-Parker or A.S.A.P. (Is that a character insight, Ms. Garrett? Hmm.)
Okay, with the team in place, they learn that several celebrities' homes were robbery targets including female rapper Kandy Wrapper, Oscar Blue, and Emme's famous twin sister, Toni. From here author Garrett bobs and weaves, zigs and zags, and sends her characters to the edge and some over that edge to join Luca Brasi and the fishes.
The mystery is solid though I thought a few times Dayna needed her head examined for some brazen decisions in her pursuit of Haley's killer. I was spot-on with some plot points and surprised on some others. The book stands out due to the character personalities led by Dayna. Garrett infuses her voice with insider knowledge of how the Hollywood game is played, the commercial and residential Los Angeles landscape, the fashion of the rich-and-incubating famous, and her nods toward some of my favorite police procedural TV shows like Law & Order and The First 48.
Dayna's witty, smart, persistent, brave, calculating (hey, need that 15 grand after all), and patient referring to the Chubby Chicken commercials and, 'The Voice.' Read the book for the humor of the latter.
I'm not a cozy mystery reader by any stretch, but I will more thoroughly delve into the various offerings especially by African-American authors after reading this solid debut. Garrett honed her skills and insight after eight years in Hollywood that included writing for the CBS Drama, Cold Case (one of my favorite crime dramas at the time), which I happen to be watching or more so listening to actually, as I write this review!
The cover states that Hollywood Homicide is the 'First In A New Series.' The sequel, Hollywood Ending, hit the marketplace on August 8th of this year. I'll get to that one and to the rest of them I'm sure that will publish in the future. Highly recommended with a Four and a half Stars for Kellye and Dayna!
Review by Julie Banton | Angels Book Review
This is the first book that I have read of Cortez Law and from the first page to the very last it grabbed me and made me want to keep reading without stopping for any breaks.
The Characters were well thought out and the story flowed. What I liked the most was the way you switch from the view of the killer to the police. You will find lots of twist and turns. I have now a new Favourite author that I am going to make sure I read the rest of his books.
I am very happy to give it the five stars that I have given this great book.
The YA Christian Fantasy novel, Nasty Leftovers, by Guy L. Pace, presents a group of Believers on the mission field in Washington, D.C. after the incident of 'The Troubles.' I didn't realize this was Book #2 in the Spirit Missions series. 'The Troubles,' I gather, represents the Post-Tribulation or Rapture of the Christians/Church setting the stage for Armageddon.
The story follows teenagers Paul Shannon and Amy Grossman, with a mild romantic attraction depiction in the book, their families, other friends, pastors, and Church Elder/Mission Leader Ray Franklin. The three hold the story together, and Paul and Amy work well as a tandem. I'm guessing more information about them can be found in Book #1, Sudden Mission. But they're likable, heroic, and faithful. So what's the mission? To gather and save as many survivors as possible. The survivors appear and act like zombies without having to venture too far out. It's strange. To convert these lost souls, Paul, Amy, and the others must confront some nasty, evil, manifestations from hell.
I knew something was awry when Paul finished setting a personal best in a mile run and made mention of a memory that harkens back to a confrontation with the Adversary. Now, those who know their Bible, realize that name references Satan. Okay. Then the local community barters for food just to survive. Electrical grids have gone, and the people rely on an intermittent nuclear power source. Not just Paul's neighborhood, but the nation experiences devastation and have to make due the best they can with communications cut off. Okay, so we're talking Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy. Then shortly after that, I read that Paul and others battle zombies, aliens, killer monks, samurai, and the Adversary. So now I think what have I stumbled upon here? It was actually funny because Paul and Amy made references to monsters and "...Angel stuff..." so matter-of-fact I knew I was behind aka this is Book #2 in the Spirit Missions series. With all of that, I anticipated a wild ride, and I got some of that.
Nasty Leftovers moves with good pace, it's not a very long book, but it seems all proceeds too smoothly for our heroes. Once essential information comes to light, the teams use that information and then execute their plans pretty flawlessly. Comparing Nasty Leftovers with Kingdom Come by Justin Coogle, another Christian Fantasy that deals with spiritual warfare, the significant catastrophes dwindle the ranks of heroism in Coogle's book and raise the high stakes even higher. This doesn't mean Nasty Leftovers isn't compelling, it just needs more nastiness or complication for the good guys. Again perhaps, this was what happened in Book #1, Sudden Mission. I can only go by what's present in Nasty Leftovers.
Now, having said that, I need to allude to several plot points without giving them away to those like me who hadn't read, Sudden Mission. With that statement, I'm assuming these plot points occur in Sudden Mission. Aside from the faith of the Christians on the D.C. missions trip, certain let me just keep it simple, weapons, in use by some community members, don't exactly lend themselves to failure. Despite God's utilizing of fallible men and women, these weapons can't fail, so that skews those plans toward flawless execution. I believe readers who read the novel will understand the references. By the way, nice touch, Mr. Pace. Those left behind for real may very well encounter this kind of manifested good during that time. Sure surprised this reader. A minor point that I have to point out exists in a couple of handful of typos.
In defense of Nasty Leftovers as well, this is Book #2. Mr. Pace probably needs to save pace, for Book #3, Carolina Dawn. So, let me close with this. I love the use of the authority of the saints in the book. I wanted to go around and rebuke everything in sight after reading about Paul, Amy, and their missions teams!
John Kramer's Christian Fantasy BLYTHE explores many spiritual and philosophical depths of character and theme but left me a bit puzzled on just how to classify the book. I believe it was an allegory. I don't tend to read a book's cover copy before reviewing it. I want to discover what it's about as I go.
The story opens with a mysterious figure who trudges along in an unnamed town. With that image, Kramer paints a bleak portrait of struggle and the opening chapter ends with this: "...The harbinger had come home." Harbinger means a sign, indication, or signal. Darker terms for the word includes portent, omen, or forewarning. Okay, this isn't good.
We follow the title character, Blythe, and her family: Father Duffy and mother, Iris. Blythe's an excellent painter (Picasso, not Sherman Williams). Duffy's a decent man who loves to say, "absolutely, absolutely" when in agreement. The running gag is he can't or won't fix his leaky roof. He chides his wife Iris by saying, "It’ll be the death of you; it’s on your side." Iris works in a successful bakery. But something's amiss within this unit and a couple of them harbor dark secrets that I won't reveal.
Aaron, Blythe's knight-in-shining-armor, works for his father's bookshop but gets short shrift in respect compared to his lazy brother, Maddox, who also works at the shop. Their father, Lucre, owns the shop and doesn't hesitate to snap at Aaron for everything. This family also hides a couple of buried secrets that I won't reveal either.
The other cast of characters includes Parissa who despises Blythe and wants Aaron for herself. Sergio and Augustus, Aaron's friends. Ladies Sylvia and Kagetsu, both of which at one time or another attracts the eyes of Sergio. Also, in the cast of characters are Father Philip, the local spiritual leader, Blythe's friends, Maria, Mab, and Haskel, another man of wisdom. But the character that most grates the nerves of these people and mine as well, is Notte. Must read it to concur.
So, all these folks find themselves amidst a hidden mystery that involves the kingdom of Henry IV. Those who enter rarely leave and those who gain entrance must qualify in a very special way. As the story progresses, several of the people of the unnamed town or valley (at least I don't recall a name) wind up residents within the kingdom of Henry IV. If I seem vague about the story, I am for two reasons. One, I don't want to expose too much of it and two, during and after the read, I wondered what I just read. It didn't feel like fantasy, more like a drama, but clearly fantastical elements play a part in the book.
I especially like the courage of Blythe and Aaron. I appreciate the expounding of Father Philip and Haskel, like the ‘Yoda’ of Star Wars. However, I think the story slows too much in giving these life lessons no matter how uplifting and deep-seated the knowledge they advocate. I do have to say some of the characters don't use sound judgment when they clearly know, so I thought, that others don't have their best interests in mind. (See Blythe and Iris). I wanted to scratch more than my head on some of their decisions. Wow! Maybe a little annoying too was a few things that seem like big events occur off-screen.
When the final conflict plays out the story takes on a more thriller aspect for the ending, yes, but I wished for more of that. BLYTHE feels more like a character piece or study than this exhilarating speculative fiction piece. That makes this more of a literary piece and what it did for me was to stretch my reading genre capacities. It was different for me. I recommend patience, not to pray for it Christian readers lol. The story is what it is and maybe that's due to author Kramer's background as a communications director in the legal field. He brings such intellect to his characters that I think it slows the narrative too much.
At the end of the day, the people who populate BLYTHE keep the reader's interest despite some misgivings about the narrative pace and meaning. Again, it's a literary piece that takes its time. There is light profanity within and implied sexual intercourse as well. I give it Four out of Five stars.
P.S.: I read the cover copy and understand better Kramer's goal for BLYTHE. I stand by my review, but I comprehend his mission.
I write stories of suspense, mystery, thrills and chills that I hope keep readers' eyes bloodshot and raccoon like the next morning.
My Creative Kudos to
Serial Rites Cover by Fantasia Frog Designs
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