Saturday, November 10, 2018

Giveaway: House of Ashes by Loretta Marion


House of Ashes: A Haunted Bluffs Mystery by Loretta Marion



Supernatural Mystery 1st in Series 
Crooked Lane Books (November 13, 2018)  
Hardcover, 336 pages 
ISBN-10: 1683318439  
ISBN-13: 978-1683318439  
Digital Details Coming Soon
 

A family patriarch’s dying proclamation, an enigmatic disappearance, and a century-old curse converge in the shadows of a majestic home on Cape Cod’s craggy coast.
Thirty-seven-year-old painter Cassandra Mitchell is fourth-generation to live in the majestic Battersea Bluffs, a brooding Queen Anne home originally built by her great-grandparents, Percy and Celeste Mitchell, and still standing despite tragedies that have swept the generations. Local lore has it that there was a curse placed on the family and the house is haunted, though opinions are divided on whether it's by malicious or benevolent spirits. Cassie believes the latter―but now she stands to lose her beloved home to mounting debt and the machinations of her dream-weaving ex-husband.

Salvation seems to arrive when a nomadic young couple wanders onto the property with the promise of companionship and much-needed help―until they vanish without a trace, leaving behind no clue to their identities. Cassie is devastated, but determined to discover what's happened to the young couple...even as digging into their disappearance starts to uncover family secrets of her own. Despite warnings from her childhood friend, now the local Chief of Police―as well as an FBI agent who pushes the boundaries of professionalism―Cassie can't help following the trail of clues (and eerie signals from the old house itself) to unravel the mystery. But can she do so before her family's dark curse destroys everything in its path?

About the Author

An author of fiction, Loretta Marion’s writing bridges the genres of mystery and suspense and women’s fiction, always with hints of romance and humor, sometimes delving into the psychological and paranormal. She creates strong but flawed and struggling characters as appealing as the rich atmospheric settings in which the stories take place.

Loretta is a true bibliophile and has loved reading and creating with words since she was a young girl. And that affection for the written word followed her like a shadow throughout her life as she put pen to paper crafting marketing and advertising copy, educational brochures, and newsletters. But her passion for writing fiction evolved from the unlikely world of hospice. As a volunteer, she set out to establish a Legacy Story program to honor and preserve the rich heritage of the fascinating people who were soon to leave this world. The meaningful experience inspired her to create her own interesting characters and stories. Her debut novel, The Fool's Truth, was a twisty and suspenseful mystery with whispers of romance. Her newest novel, HOUSE OF ASHES – A Haunted Bluffs Mystery, is the first in a series published by Crooked Lane Books.

Though born and raised in the Midwest, Loretta fell in love with New England and has made it the setting for much of her writing. When not whipping out words on her laptop, she is traveling, enjoying outdoor pursuits, or is curled up with a delicious new book. Loretta lives in Rhode Island with her husband, Geoffrey, and their beloved Mr. Peabody, a sweet, devoted and amusing “Corgador” (Corgi-Labrador cross). (www.LorettaMarion.com)


EXCERPT 1:
Eighty years ago ~ Whale Rock, Massachusetts ~ Cape Cod Bay Friday, December 13th

     Percival Mitchell balled up the tele gram and threw it into the blazing tavern fire. It had arrived that morning, but he’d yet to share the devastating news with his wife. He needed some Dutch courage before he found the words to tell Celeste that now the last of their three boys had been killed. “A shot of Old Crow, Lloyd,” he said to the barkeep, then downed it, glad for the punishing burn in his throat. He’d loved all his sons, but the youngest, Ambrose, had been most like him, with a love of the sea and a desire to see the world.  They’d struck a deal: Ambrose would enlist in the Navy, but after three years’ time he would return to Whale Rock and assume his rightful place at the helm of the family business. Yet only weeks later, while Ambrose was stationed in China on the USS Panay, there’d been a surprise attack by the Japanese on his ship. The attack was allegedly a mistake, and the USS Panay just an unfortunate target— but what consolation would that be to Celeste, who had already lost her other two sons? 

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Review: The Birthday by Carol Wyer

The Birthday (Detective Natalie Ward, Book #1)
by Carol Wyer
Release Date: September 27th 2018
2018 Bookouture
Kindle Edition; 304 Pages
ISBN: 978-1786815378
ASIN: B07F4BB3RV
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Summary
When five-year-old Ava Sawyer goes missing from a birthday party at a local garden centre, the police are bewildered by the lack of leads. That is until two years later, when Ava's body is found and another little girl, Audrey Briggs, goes missing. Audrey also attended that party ...

Leading the investigation is Detective Natalie Ward. A mother of two teenagers, this case chills her to the bone, and is a disturbing reminder of the last job she worked on. One that ended very badly.

Natalie soon discovers that Ava's mother has some worrying gaps in her alibi and as she digs deeper, she's sure Ava's father is not telling the full story. And what did the owner of the garden centre Elsa see that day? Something that she's not telling Natalie ...

Just as Natalie is facing up to the grim possibility that Ava and Audrey were killed by someone close to home, another little girl from the party doesn't come home from her ballet lesson. Can Natalie find a way to stop this killer before more innocent lives are taken?


My Thoughts
The Birthday is the first book in the Natalie Ward series and I enjoyed it tremendously.  With an amazing amount of twists and turns, I had to work really hard trying to figure out who the culprit was, and I enjoyed the events and journey along the way.  I am a huge fan of this author and was happy to see a new series featuring a woman detective, one with two teenage children, working hard at keeping her marriage together yet dealing with a demanding job that keeps her away from her not quite so understanding family.  

I usually stay away from murder cases involving children, but having read books by this author before, I knew she would treat the material with sensitivity, and she definitely did.  Unfortunately, Natalie joins the force just as little Ava's body was discovered, after having been missing for two years, when a local construction company digs up her remains during an expansion.  Natalie was still recovering from her previous case which didn't go very well, so finding the remains of a little girl threw all of her guards she had built around her up in the air.  I really loved her character; she was approachable, but still tough as the lead detective, trying to balance a family life and work, with a husband who was suffering with a complex after being laid off from his own job.  Working with a team that actually gets along (quite refreshing), she put a lot of pressure on herself to find the killer before he struck again.  Her fear of failure kept her going day after day as she didn't want a repeat of the previous case, one of which we only get a glimpse.  

I have always liked this author's writing, and this book is no exception, gripping the reader right from the beginning.  Trying to figure out the killer was not my primary objective as I was too interested in Natalie's story, how she worked and how she interacted with her colleagues.  I was quite impressed with Natalie and I have to give the author kudos for creating a complete package character, one who is strong and intelligent, but is still flawed.  The book moved quickly from scene to scene, quite cohesively, and I definitely liked all of the members of the team.  

Verdict
The Birthday is a good start to this new series and I am looking forward to seeing what Detective Natalie is confronted with next.  As with any first book in a series, we have just been introduced to a variety of characters so I am looking forward to some character development and seeing where the author takes them as I enjoyed the people on Natalie's team and would love to see more of them. The story is fast-paced and well-structured with an interesting little story line about the killer.  Highly recommended. 

 
Sunday, November 4, 2018

Review & Giveaway: Drop Dead Ornaments by Lois Winston



Drop Dead Ornaments (An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Book 7)
by Lois Winston
Release Date: October 22nd 2018
2018 Self published
Kindle Edition; 209 Pages
ISBN: 978-1940795447
ASIN: B07GMZ2H4B
Genre: Fiction / Cozy Mystery
Source: Review copy from Great Escapes Book Tours

3.5 / 5 Stars

Summary
Anastasia Pollack’s son Alex is dating Sophie Lambert, the new kid in town. For their community service project, the high school seniors have chosen to raise money for the county food bank. Anastasia taps her craft industry contacts to donate materials for the students to make Christmas ornaments they’ll sell at the town’s annual Holiday Crafts Fair.

At the fair Anastasia meets Sophie’s father, Shane Lambert, who strikes her as a man with secrets. She also notices a woman eavesdropping on their conversation. Later that evening when the woman turns up dead, Sophie’s father is arrested for her murder.

Alex and Sophie beg Anastasia to find the real killer, but Anastasia has had her fill of dead bodies. She’s also not convinced of Shane’s innocence. Besides, she’s promised younger son Nick she’ll stop risking her life. But how can she say no to Alex? 


My Thoughts
Drop Dead Ornaments is the seventh book in the Anastasia Pollack Mystery Series and while it was a fun read, and I enjoyed it, I don't actually think it was the strongest book in the series.  This one pretty much picks up after the last book as Anastasia heads home from the hospital after her encounter with Virginia Owens and finds a bunch of teenagers in her house decorating tree ornaments.  Anastasia's son is dating Sophie, one of the teens creating ornaments for charity, which is how Anastasia and company meet the central figures involved in this book and the events that occur. Sophie's dad is the one who is arrested for murder and Anastasia wanted to help her son and his new girlfriend so she quietly started investigating despite wanting to stay uninvolved.  While I wasn't crazy about the mystery itself, I do have to agree with Anastasia's reasons for getting involved as I would have felt the same way if it was my son and his girlfriend.

The book is a light-hearted cozy mystery with lots of energy and definitely lots of action and interaction between characters.  Because I have read all the previous books, I was familiar with the backstories, but I am not sure if a reader should actually start with this one as you might be missing quite a bit of the back stories.  The author does a great job of filling you in on Anastasia's current situation and highlighting some of what is going on in her life, but there is important stuff missing.  Anastasia was still struggling with commitment issues, and her sons were finally dealing with their anger issues towards their dad, but if you haven't read the previous books, the full reasons for all of that might not be fully clear.  It also makes it difficult to fully appreciate how far Anastasia has come since the first book and her relationship with Zack is one of the things I enjoy reading about in this series.  I love her inner demons about whether Zack is really a spy or not, and now I am starting to wonder myself.  There is a secret part of me that hopes he is and his story line will make an appearance in future books.  And I am still not crazy about her mother-in-law and would love to see her gone from the books, but in a spectacular way.  I don't even find her character interesting, to say the least.  Ira though, is interesting, and I wonder what the author has in store for him.

In this book we sort of have two mysteries, both of which are rather weak in my opinion, but there you have it.  There is the murder that involved Shane, Sophie's father, and while I understood Sophie's anger, I was not impressed with her behaviour as she sounded like a brat, even after the murder was sort of, kind of, solved.  To be honest, there really wasn't a whole lot of investigating around the murder, and I was somewhat disappointed at how everything turned out, and the result was not really satisfying.  I like my mystery stories to have a bit more meat to them and this one just...didn't.  The other mystery involved Lucille, the mother-in-law, and her disappearance.  Not really interesting in my book.  And I'm not sure how it fit into the story.  Luckily, the engaging characters and the witty dialogue saved the book.  I enjoyed their antics, even if I wasn't crazy about the mystery story line and was looking for more, and I have always enjoyed their interactions. The pacing of the book was quick and I do have to admit the author went out of her way to try to have some twists and turns to engage the reader.  

Verdict
Drop Dead Ornaments had its usual cast of engaging characters and lively dialogue as well as some interesting moments, but for me, the mystery portion of the book was lacking.  I like it when there is a more active investigation and while I liked the repartee between Anastasia and the cops, there really wasn't much of a mystery with which to work, and it was kind of pushing the edge of believability when Shane didn't even recognize the person who died because they had changed that much.  I am willing to push the boundaries, but only so much.  However, that being said, I loved the other books a lot so I do highly recommend you give this series a try, and even if this book wasn't the strongest book in it, it was still a fun read.  


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