Book Review: Cajun Nights by: D.J. Donaldson

Publisher: Astor + Blue Editions

Publication Date: October 31, 2014

Origins:  From Publisher for Review

Synopsis: Imagine investigating a case where each of the several victims had type O blood, drove an obsolete car, and hummed a nursery rhyme before committing murder and then suicide. That’s young criminal psychologist Kit Franklyn’s assignment and the solution just seems plain impossible. Her obese, jovial boss, chief medical examiner Andy Broussard, is just as baffled as she is. Together, they devise strictly scientific possibilities. Not once do they consider black magic to be the culprit until an ancient Cajun sorcerer’s curse surfaces, “Beware the songs you loved in youth.”

Series: Andy Broussard/Kit Franklyn Mystery series

Review: CAJUN NIGHTS is the first in the Andy Broussard/Kit Franklyn mystery series. We’re introduced to the chief medical examiner Andy Broussard and his new suicide investigator/criminal psychologist Kit Franklyn. The cases they are investigating are tied together by their strange circumstances – each victim has type O blood, drove an old car, and hummed/sang a nursery rhyme before committing murder and then killing themselves. Kit is confused because only one of the men showed any signs of suicidal ideation out of all of the perpetrators. Is this rash of murder/suicides caused by an ancient Cajun curse or something even more sinister?

CAJUN NIGHTS is a great mystery. I was engrossed from the very beginning. The characters are well-written, easy to relate to, and complex. The author used Kit to give the reader the flavor and geography of New Orleans without bogging the story down in minutia. CAJUN NIGHTS is suspenseful and you are kept guessing about who or what the cause of these deaths was until close to the end. CAJUN NIGHTS is the 2nd book of this series I have read and I adored it. The setting and characters are charming and, being New Orleans, the story has a touch of the supernatural. CAJUN NIGHTS is a must read for those who enjoy thoughtful and well-written mysteries.

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Book Review: The Witches of Echo Park by: Amber Benson

Publisher: Ace Trade

Publication Date: January 6, 2015

Origins:  From Publisher for Review

Synopsis: Unbeknownst to most of humankind, a powerful network of witches thrives within the shadows of society, using their magic to keep the world in balance. But they are being eliminated—and we will all pay if their power falls…

When Elyse MacAllister’s great-aunt Eleanora, the woman who raised her, becomes deathly ill, Lyse puts her comfortable life in Georgia on hold to rush back to Los Angeles. And once she returns to Echo Park, Lyse discovers her great-aunt has been keeping secrets—extraordinary secrets—from her.

Not only is Lyse heir to Eleanora’s Victorian estate; she is also expected to take her great-aunt’s place in the Echo Park coven of witches. But to accept her destiny means to place herself in deadly peril—for the world of magic is under siege, and the battle the witches now fight may be their last…

Series: The Witches of Echo Park series

Review: THE WITCHES OF ECHO PARK introduces readers to Lyse MacAllister and her great-aunt Eleanora. Now Eleanora is suffering from a deadly disease and Lyse has come from Georgia and her life there to spend time with her great-aunt in the California town where she grew up. When Lyse returns home, she finds out Eleanora has been keeping some important secrets from her. Lyse is Eleanora’s heir, not just to her estate when she passes, but to Eleanora’s place in the Echo Park coven. Lyse never knew Eleanora is a witch and isn’t sure if she can embrace this surprising new destiny. THE WITCHES OF ECHO PARK isn’t your standard light urban fantasy. It is about magic, responsibility, and destiny, but most of all it is about family – blood or chosen. Told through the voices of the coven members and Lyse, the reader gets a well-rounded view of the events which are unfolding around the Echo Park witches (or blood-sisters). I enjoyed the characters themselves, the dynamic between the coven members and, of course, the magic. THE WITCHES OF ECHO PARK is a wonderful introduction to the author’s new world and the trials and tribulations the characters will face in coming books. I am eagerly anticipating book 2!

Book Review: Freak Show by: Patti Larsen

Publisher: Patti Larsen Books/Purely Paranormal Press

Publication Date: June 13, 2014

Origins:  From Publicist for Review

Synopsis: When transsexual starlet Aisling is murdered, Detective Geraldine Meyers is assigned the case. With help from medical examiner Dr. Rachel Hunter, Gerri realizes this is no ordinary killing. While she might not want to call in over-eager anthropologist Dr. Kinsey DanAllart, the detective is forced to trust her friend's expertise in symbology, even though doing so means admitting "weird" things might be happening in Silver City. As the three friends unravel the mystery of the dancer's death, one thing is made absolutely apparent--something isn't right in their new hometown. And someone is doing everything they can to make sure the truth doesn't come out.

In Silver City, sometimes friendship can be murder.

Welcome to the first Nightshade Case, a series of twenty-one episodes in twenty-one weeks. Please note: this episodic series is based on the television show model, with screenwriting notations and shorter formats. There will be a complete mystery each week, with cliffhangers only occurring in the full season story line.

Review: FREAK SHOW is episode one of the Nightshade Cases featuring Detective Geraldine (Gerri) Meyers, Dr. Rachel (Ray) Hunter, and Dr. Kinsey DanAllart. An episode of the Nightshade Cases will come out every week for twenty one weeks and is modeled on the television show format (ex: you’ll see screenwriting notations). In FREAK SHOW, Gerri is now a detective in Silver City and she’s called out to the murder of a transsexual dancer named Aisling. Gerri’s two best friends from college are also now living and working in Silver City, but Gerri doesn’t believe in coincidences or in anything weird. However, this case is nothing but weird, so she calls in Ray and Kinsey. Ray is a medical examiner for Silver City and Kinsey is a professor of anthropology who specializes in the weird and occult. As Gerri’s investigation unfolds, it becomes all too clear to the three friends there is something very strange about Silver City. FREAK SHOW is a novella to help readers get introduced to the main characters and Silver City. I thought it was a good background to lead into the next episode of the series. I liked all the main characters, but Ray is my favorite. FREAK SHOW is a good mystery and I loved the paranormal elements which will play a big part in this series. At this point, my least favorite of the three women is Gerri, but it’s because of her contempt for the unknown rather than a true character flaw. I’m excited to see where the author takes Gerri, Ray, and Kinsey. Welcome to Silver City and enjoy FREAK SHOW!

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Book Review: Murder at the Book Group by: Maggie King

Publisher: Pocket Books

Publication Date: December 30, 2014

Origins:  From Publisher for Review

Synopsis: Hazel Rose never dreamed that the murder mystery book group she and her friend Carlene started would stage a "real "murder. 

Nevertheless, on the night when the normally composed Carlene seems unusually angry and rattled, during group discussion she dies after drinking cyanide-spiked tea. Despite a suicide note, Hazel is skeptical; Carlene never seemed suicidal--why else would she make all those plans for her future? Incidentally, Carlene was married to Hazel's ex-husband, and Hazel has always suspected there might be something more to her past than she let on. 

How much does anyone really know about Carlene Arness? And did she die by her own hand or someone else's? Hazel begins a search for the truth that produces no shortage of motives, as she unearths a past that Carlene took great pains to hide. And most of those motives belong to the members of her very own book group... 

Featuring memorable characters and a wicked sense of humor, "Murder at the Book Group" shows the darker side of a book club where reading isn't about pleasure--it's about payback.

Review: MURDER AT THE BOOK GROUP features Hazel Rose, who along with her friend Carlene Arness started a murder mystery book group. However, Hazel had no way of knowing their latest meeting would end in death. Carlene seemed a bit off during the meeting, but when she dies of an apparent suicide, Hazel’s not convinced she killed herself. Hazel begins an amateur investigation into Carlene’s death and is shocked by the secrets she uncovers. Especially as Carlene is married to, yet currently separated from, Hazel’s ex-husband.

MURDER AT THE BOOK GROUP seemed to get more and more complicated and overpopulated with suspects as I kept reading. I wasn’t excited about learning whodunit by the time I got to that point in the book. It seemed like none of the book group members were any kind of friend to each other as they knew next to nothing about their so-called friends. I never really got a good picture of Hazel and as she is the narrator it was hard to get attached to her or the story. From the beginning, I didn’t care for or about Carlene. Yes, it was a terrible thing her dying from cyanide poisoning, but she wasn’t a sympathetic character in the least. There were so many secrets and lies going on in MURDER AT THE BOOK GROUP, it was hard to keep track of everything. I wanted to like MURDER AT THE BOOK GROUP, but unfortunately it wasn’t my cup of tea.

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Book Review: Trespassers by: Todd & Tim Wynn

Publisher: Pretend Pictures Inc.

Publication Date: October 18, 2014

Origins:  From Authors for Review

Synopsis: When four alien visitors arrive on Earth and disappear into the cornfields of Indiana, it is Stewart Faulkner’s job to find them. Who they are, where they’re headed, and what’s important enough to make them jump from a moving spaceship are all questions that Stewart must uncover. And he will have to do it all while 

1) training a new team member named Mindy—who is developing a crush on him; 
2) flying under the radar of his boss to make sure he’s not removed from the case; and 
3) staying one step ahead of a government agent named Karl Bruner, who is determined to expose the presence of aliens on Earth.

Review: TRESPASSERS is the story of four unauthorized alien visitors who have come to Earth and the organization whose job it is to track them down. Stewart Faulker is the head of the Limestone Deposit Survey Group, which has nothing to do with limestone at all, but instead is a secret government organization dedicated to tracking down trespassing aliens and keeping them from public knowledge. TRESPASSERS is an eloquent science fiction tale, with some romance and mystery mixed in. It’s not ‘science-heavy’ so readers don’t get gummed up in understanding the technical aspects and it has interesting characters who keep the story moving along. TRESPASSERS is both funny and touching, a book I can see easily translating to the big screen. I think fans of Douglas Adams or Piers Anthony will love TRESPASSERS!

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