Review: COLD, COLD BONES by Kathy Reichs

Kathy Reichs is one of my go-to authors and so I am always on the lookout for any additions to her series featuring Dr. Temperance Brennan, a forensic anthropologist. Admittedly, a big deviation from my usual light mystery fare. Cold, Cold Bones is the 21st book in the series and I was lucky enough to recieve an advance review copy.

Description*

Winter has come to North Carolina and, with it, a drop in crime. Freed from a heavy work schedule, Tempe Brennan is content to dote on her daughter Katy, finally returned to civilian life from the army. But when mother and daughter meet at Tempe’s place one night, they find a box on the back porch. Inside: a very fresh human eyeball.

GPS coordinates etched into the eyeball lead to a Benedictine monastery where an equally macabre discovery awaits. Soon after, Tempe examines a mummified corpse in a state park, and her anxiety deepens.

There seems to be no pattern to the subsequent killings uncovered, except that each mimics in some way a homicide that a younger Tempe had been called in to analyze. Who or what is targeting her, and why?

Helping Tempe search for answers is detective Erskine “Skinny” Slidell, retired but still volunteering with the CMPD cold case unit—and still displaying his gallows humor. Also pulled into the mystery: Andrew Ryan, Tempe’s Montreal-based beau, now working as a private detective.

Could this elaborately staged skein of mayhem be the prelude to a twist that is even more shocking? Tempe is at a loss to establish the motive for what is going on…and then her daughter disappears.

*Description as appears on Amazon.

My Review

In this fast-paced novel, Temperance is tasked with connecting the dots between a series of new cases and cold cases she worked on in previous years. At first, she doesn’t make the connections. She is just haunted by a nagging feeling that her subconscious is trying to tell her something. It’s not just business. It’s personal, and the suspense and tension build when the killer begins targetting people close to Tempe. The plot creates an intricate puzzle – a puzzle with lots of pieces that don’t seem to fit together. That is, until they do. Kudos to the author for another suspense-filled tale.

Note: If you are offended by the use of profanity or graphic descriptions of violence, this book might not be for you.

FTC disclosure: I received an advance review copy of this book from the publisher. This has not affected the content of my review.

Review: HER UNEXPECTED ROOMMATE by Laura Ann

Seeking a break from my usual reading diet of mystery and suspeense, I decided to check out the romance offerings on Amazon. And so, I downloaded the first book in a sweet romance series by Laura Ann.

Description*

Two halves, One house…
When dreams clash can these two find love in an old fixer-upper?


Genevieve Winters is finally seeing light at the end of a long, dark tunnel, when her sole living relative passes away. The situation leaves her alone in the world, but offers something she’s always dreamed of. The opportunity to open a bed and breakfast, turning her broken down inheritance into a place of light and laughter. Her dreams crash, however, when a handsome stranger shows up claiming he owns half of the seaside mansion and he’s not willing to sell.

Cooper James couldn’t believe his luck when his estranged grandfather left him a half ownership in home in Oregon. It was the perfect opportunity for Cooper to start fresh in a place where no one knew the mistakes of his past. His patience is tested when the other owner, a beautiful but angry woman, demands to open a bed and breakfast, a situation that would be in direct contrast to his hopes for a refuge in which to build a new life.

Can these two set aside their differences long enough to test the attraction simmering between them? Or will their fighting cost them everything?

*Description and cover as appear on Amazon.

My Review

In the mood for a light, fun read for a long plane ride, I spotted this sweet romance on Amazon and decided to give it a try. It provided a pleasant diversion for sure. Although the trope where two strangers inherit half-interest in the same property and ultimately fall in love is not an entirely new one, both Genevieve and Cooper were well-developed characters with interesting backstories. The back and forth between the two was amusing even if some aspects of the story lacked credibility. But that’s the beauty of fiction, anything goes.

And an added bonus – it was free on Amazon the last time I looked 🙂

Review: A VILLA IN SICILY by Liona Grace

If, like me, you enjoy mysteries and have seen the articles and ads for the 1 dollar or 1 euro houses on offer in a variety of remote locations in Italy, then you’ll understand what prompted me to dive into this book. That and my half-Italian heritage. And A Villa in Sicily: Olive Oil and Murder, is the first of six books in a cute cozy series by Liona Grace.

About the Book*

Audrey Smart, 34, is a brilliant vet—yet fed up by her demanding clients who think they know more than her and who don’t care about their animals. Burnt-out with the endless hours, she wonders if the time has come for a new direction. And when her 15th year high school reunion (and her hopes for re-sparking on old flame) end in disaster, Audrey knows the time has come to make a change.

When Audrey sees an ad for a $1 home in Sicily, it captivates her. The only catch is that the house requires renovation, something she knows little about. She wonders if it could be real—and if she may really be crazy enough to go for it.

Can Audrey create a life and career—and the home of her dreams—in a beautiful Sicilian village? And perhaps even find love while she’s there?

Or will an unexpected death—one that only she can solve—put an end to all of her plans?

Are some dreams too good to be true?

* Description as appears on Amazon

My Review

Audrey has an amazingly adventurous spirit. After all, not many of us would pack up and move to a new place – without seeing the house or village. Obstacles abound (almost anything that could go wrong does), yet she perseveres. Her story is told in a light conversation manner with a great deal of humor. The mystery aspect of the story – who killed the contractor – takes somewhat of a back seat to her overall adventure. Usually that would bother me, but in this case I didn’t mind. It was an enjoyable read, and the eventual resolution of the whodunnit part worked nicely. And there are cute animals, too.

And an added bonus – it was free on Amazon the last time I looked 🙂

Review: THE MATCH by Harlan Coben

Harlan Coben is one of my favorite authors when I am in search of mystery and suspense. I was lucky enough to receive an advance review copy of The Match from the publisher via NetGalley. Today, I’d like to tell you a bit about the book, which released last week.

About the Book*

After months away, Wilde has returned to the Ramapo Mountains in the wake of a failed bid at domesticity that confirms what he’s known all along: He belongs on his own, free from the comforts and constraints of modern life.

Suddenly, a DNA match on an online ancestry database brings Wilde closer to his past than he’s ever dreamed, and finally gives Wilde the opening he needs to track down his father. But meeting the man brings up more questions than answers. So Wilde reaches out to his last, most desperate lead, a second cousin who disappears as quickly as he resurfaces, having experienced an epic fall from grace that can only be described as a waking nightmare.

Was his cousin’s downfall a long time coming? Or was he the victim of a conspiracy as cunning as it is complex? And how does it all connect to the man once known as The Stranger, a treacherous fugitive with a growing following whose mission and methods have only turned more dangerous with time?

*As per publisher’s description on Amazon

My Review

This book brings the return of Wilde, a unique character introduced earlier in the series – the boy who was found in the woods as a child. Now an adult, he has yet to find out who his parents are or how he ended up in the woods. In keeping with the times, Wilde submits his DNA to an online family search database, which generates two familial matches. One of the matches appears to be a cousin who reaches out to Wilde. He is in trouble and Wilde decides to try to help him. The result is a complicated story that exposes complex relationships and criminal activities, as well as some unique insights into the world of reality TV. Wilde and his mysterious background provided an intriguing basis for storyline, helping readers better understand Wilde’s behavior and lifestyle choices. I really enjoyed the book, although I must say that it was less fast-paced, with a slightly different feel than other books I have read by this author.

FTC disclosure: I received an ARC from the publisher and have voluntarily written this honest review.

Review, Excerpt & Giveaway: SAVING LA FAMILIA by Donna Del Oro

This post introduces a recently released contemporary romantic suspense novel Saving La Familia by Donna Del Oro. An enjoyable read.  

About the Book

A romantic suspense comedy set in Silicon Valley, a young Latina teacher, Dina Salazar, is asked by her Mexican-born grandmother to rescue her cousins from a dangerous Mexican drug cartel. After all, her stern grandmother tells her, she is the “smart one” in the family. To do so, she has to recruit help from her hated ex-fiance. What’s a girl to do when “la familia” calls?

SAVING LA FAMILIA by Donna Del Oro is about a latina teacher who’s recruited by her Mexican-born grandmother to save her cousins from a dangerous Mexican drug cartel. It’s a romantic-suspense comedy with many “buen dichos”!

Excerpt

It took five years—six, counting my teaching credential— to work my way through college and, oh yeah, I lost my fiancé along the way—according to Mama and Abuelita, my only chance at happiness. Their idea of happiness meant you married young, spent the next twenty years changing diapers, cooking and cleaning for a man you seldom saw because he was working two or three jobs to pay for all the mouths you’d brought into the world… 

¡Gracias a Dios!

Horrors, in my opinion.

That was the world they knew, anyway, and they didn’t have the imagination to picture me in another, I suppose. I had another vision of the world. And myself. After all, I was Dina Salazar, not Dolores—the rambunctious little girl I used to be, saddled with what I thought to be a horrible name and all it implied. I was certain my family considered me the smirky smartass, the brazen wise-ass. No matter what, I was going to scratch and crawl my way into the American middle class, and if I lost whatever family status I had or whatever love came along, so be it. 

After all, according to them, I had una cabeza dura. Hard-headed. And they were right. 

Get the book: https://www.extasybooks.com/Saving-La-Familia or https://www.amazon.com/Saving-Familia-Donna-Del-Oro-ebook/dp/B09PN7K2S8/FREE for limited time only

My Review

I liked Dina. She is not your typical schoolteacher. She is spunky and determined, though a bit overly reckless at times. And very slow to forgive her ex-fiancé, who despite his past mistakes is a great catch. They make a good couple. Dina’s warm and caring family – with its mix of illegal and legal immigrants – highlights the complexities of what is probably a more common situation than many realize.

The romantic suspense side of things definitely dominated the storyline, with the adventure and action not coming to the forefront until more than half-way through the book when Dina, her family, and friends join forces to save her cousin who is hiding out in Mexico. I would like to have seen more of the suspense related to “saving la familia” building earlier. That said, I enjoyed this book.

FTC disclosure: I received an ARC of this book. This has not affected the content of my review.

Giveaway

Enter to win a $50 Amazon/BN GC a Rafflecopter giveaway.

About the Author

Donna Del Oro lives in Northern California with her husband and three cats. She taught high school and community college English classes for 30+ years and is now happily retired. When not doing research, writing novels, or reading voraciously, she travels and sings with the medal winning Sacramento Valley Chorus.

Donna is a member of Capitol Crimes, the Sacramento chapter of Sisters in Crime in addition to the Valleyrose chapter of the RWA. She has judged RITA entries and does developmental editing on the side. Two of her novels, Operation Familia and Born To Sing, have won national and international awards.

Contact Donna at:

Review & Giveaway: TRUST ME by Kelly Irvin

As part of a tour organized by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours, I am pleased to feature Trust Me, a recent release by Kelly Irvin. The great cover drew my attention immediately.

About the Book

When her best friend is murdered the same way her brother was, who can she possibly trust?

A decade ago, Delaney Broward discovered her brother’s murdered body at the San Antonio art co-op he founded with friends. Her artist boyfriend, Hunter Nash, went to prison for the murder, despite his not-guilty plea.

This morning, Hunter walks out of prison a free man, having served his sentence.

This afternoon, Delaney finds her best friend dead, murdered in the same fashion as her brother.

Stay out of it or you’re next, the killer warns.

Hunter never stopped loving Delaney, though he can’t blame her for not forgiving her. He knows he’ll get his life back one day at a time, one step at a time. But he’s blindsided to realize he’s a murder suspect. Again.

When Hunter shows up on her doorstep asking her to help him find the real killer, Delaney’s head says to run away, yet her heart tells her there’s more to his story than what came out in the trial. An uneasy truce leads to their probe into a dark past that shatters Delaney’s image of her brother. She can’t stop and neither can Hunter—which lands them both in the crosshairs of a murderer growing more desperate by the hour.

In this gripping romantic suspense, Kelly Irvin plumbs the complexity of broken trust in the people we love—and in God—and whether either can be mended.

My Review

Delaney’s world is shaken again when her best friend is murdered 10 years after her brother’s death. And to make things worse, Hunter – who was conficted of killing her brother – was released that same day. He contends that he was framed and she doesn’t know what to believe. Reluctantly, Delaney joins forces with Hunter to find out what happened to her friend and determine whether the two deaths are connected. As they unroot the culprit, their trust is gradually restored. The murder mystery is an interesting one that moves along at a nice pace, with some twists along the way. Overall, enjoyable mystery.

That said, although I have no problem with a touch of religion or spirituality in a good book, I found the discussions of finding god and faith were too numerous and somewhat repetitive. I get that Hunter found religion in prison, but I would have preferred it not feature quite so prominently in their interactions.

FTC disclosure: I received an advance review copy of this book. This has not affected the content of my review.

Giveaway

Click here to enter for your chance to win a copy of Trust Me from the author.

About the Author

Kelly Irvin is a bestselling, award-winning author of over twenty novels and stories. A retired public relations professional, Kelly lives with her husband, Tim, in San Antonio. They have two children, three grandchildren, and two ornery cats.

Visit her online at:

For more great reads, check out Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours.

Review: MURDER IS A FAMILY BUSINESS by Heather Haven

Every now and then I take a chance and download a book by an author who is new to me. I recently did just that and soon became a fan of The Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries by Heather Haven, which starts with a fun read – Murder is a Family Business.

Description*

It’s a dismal day for the PI firm to the stars of Silicon Valley when their own star is huddled in a phone booth instead of tracking down stolen software. Sadly, ace detective Lee Alvarez is currently taking shelter from a deluge while surveilling some rat of a husband. This is way beneath her dignity!

Worse, she may be trapped with another rat. Something in there just moved.

But Lee’s luck just changed—that’s no drowned rat. It’s her thoroughly drenched, pathetically skinny, and terminally cute new BFF— an orange and white kitten tiny enough to fit in a pocket. Well, forget the surveillance.

When you catch on that this is the kind of mystery that starts with rescuing a kitten, you know you’re in good hands!

But Lee can’t forget the surveillance—she’s been assigned to the case by her formidable boss, the elegant Lila Alvarez (aka her mom), who’s doing a favor for an old friend. When she investigates why the rat hasn’t left his lair, she discovers the worst,— he has a few fresh holes in his chest.

She soon uncovers a criminal web of international proportions amid dark and harrowing dangers she never signed up for. But is she up to a near-death experience? Well! Is a kitten adorable?

*As appears on Amazon.

My Review

A fun cozy mystery. As a private investigator for her company’s family business, Lianna Alvarez is typically tasked with rooting out the culprits behind corporate espionage in Silicon Valley. Except her current case brings her face-to-face with a dead body. The story is told from Lianna’s point of view – the conversational style is candid and humorous. Lianna’s outlook is refreshing and the family interactions add punch. And, of course, the kitten is an adorable addition to the Alvarez clan. Although in some places the writing could have been more polished and with less fashion-oriented details, the plot was interesting with the requisite twists to be found in any mystery. All in all, I enjoyed it.

Review: CITY OF THE DEAD by Jonathan Kellerman

A long time fan of Jonathan Kellerman’s work, and the character of Alex Delaware in particular, it took no encouragement to get me to read an advance copy of the next book in the series. City of the Dead is scheduled for release in February 2022.

Description*

Los Angeles is a city of sunlight, celebrity, and possibility. The L.A. often experienced by Homicide Lt. Detective Milo Sturgis and psychologist Alex Delaware, is a city of the dead.

Early one morning, the two of them find themselves in a neighborhood of pretty houses, pretty cars, and pretty people. The scene they encounter is anything but.  A naked young man lies dead in the street, the apparent victim of a collision with a moving van hurtling through suburbia in the darkness. But any thoughts of accidental death vanish when a blood trail leads to a nearby home.

Inside, a young woman lies butchered. The identity of the male victim and his role in the horror remain elusive, but that of the woman creates additional questions. And adding to the shock, Alex has met her while working a convoluted child custody case. Cordelia Gannett was a self-styled internet influencer who’d gotten into legal troubles by palming herself off as a psychologist. Even after promising to desist, she’s found a loophole and has continued her online career, aiming to amass clicks and ads by cyber-coaching and cyber-counseling people plagued with relationship issues.

But upon closer examination, Alex and Milo discover that her own relationships are troublesome, including a tortured family history and a dubious personal past. Has that come back to haunt her in the worst way? Is the mystery man out in the street collateral damage or will he turn out to be the key to solving a grisly double homicide? As the psychologist and the detective explore L.A.’s meanest streets, they peel back layer after layer of secrets and encounter a savage, psychologically twisted, almost unthinkable motive for violence and bloodshed.

*As appears on Amazon.

My Review

In this well written tale, Det. Sturgis calls Alex Delaware in to help with a puzzling case involving two dead bodies. The connection between the victims is not immediately clear, however Alex is surprised to discover he knows one of them. The female victim is an interesting character with a complicated past. As to be expected, there is an intricate web of clues and potential suspects to be considered by Alex and Milo. The pace builds as the story progresses, with tension and twists holding my attention to the very end. A very good read that is sure to please fans of Alex Delaware novels.

FTC disclosure: I received an advance review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This has not affected the content of my review.

Review: TO KILL A LABRADOR by Kassandra Lamb

Today’s post features a book I picked up on a whim – To Kill a Labrador, the first book in the The Marcia Banks and Buddy Mysteries by Kassandra Lamb. I liked it and decided to share it with you. Don’t worry despite the title, no dogs were killed.

Description*

Marcia Banks likes to think of herself as a normal person, even though she has an unusual name (pronounced Mar-see-a, not Marsha) and a rather abnormal vocation. She trains service dogs for combat veterans with PTSD. Then the former Marine owner of her first trainee is accused of murdering his wife, and Marcia gets sucked into an even more abnormal avocation–amateur sleuth.

Called in to dog-sit the Labrador service dog, Buddy, she’s outraged that his veteran owner is being presumed guilty until proven innocent. With Buddy’s help, she tries to uncover the real killer. Even after the hunky local sheriff politely tells her to butt out, Marcia keeps poking around. Until the killer finally pokes back…
(Note: no dogs die in this series; all the titles are take-offs from classic book, movie or song titles.)

*As appears on Amazon.

My Review

In Marcia’s own words – she is not a normal person. She devotes most of her time and resources to the training of service dogs for veterans. Then, when an army vet is arrested for killing his wife, his dog – Buddy – is returned to her for safekeeping. Marcia finds it hard to believe the man is guilty and launches her own investigation despite warnings from the (handsome) Sheriff to leave the investigating to him. Of course, she doesn’t.

Marcia has a great relationship with the dogs in the story and the descriptions of the training of service dogs were fascinating and highlighted. This was an enjoyable read that provided insight into a topic too often overlooked – the needs of vets suffering from PTSD . In addition, the mystery plot was well paced, with a sprinkling of humor and romance. I look forward to reading additional books in the series.

(BTW, the last time I checked this first in series was free. Enjoy).

Review: THE ART OF THE DECOY by Trish Esden

I recently had the pleasure of reading an advance review copy of The Art of the Decoy (A Scandal Mountain Antiques Mystery), the first book in a new series by Trish Esden. I was immediately drawn to the beautiful cover when I was browsing on NetGalley, and the book itself didn’t disappoint. Although the book has not yet released, you will want to add it to your TBR list.

Description

After her mother is sent to prison for art forgery, Edie Brown returns to Northern Vermont to rebuild her family’s fine art and antiques business. She’s certain she can do it now that her mother is gone. After all, butting heads with her mom over bad business practices was what drove Edie away three years ago, including a screwup that landed Edie on probation for selling stolen property.

When Edie scores a job appraising a waterfowl decoy collection at a hoarder’s farmhouse, she’s determined to take advantage of the situation to rebuild the business’s tarnished reputation and dwindling coffers. In lieu of payment, Edie intends to cherry-pick an exceptional decoy carved by the client’s renowned Quebecoise folk artist ancestors. Only the tables turn when the collection vanishes.

Accused of the theft, Edie’s terrified that the fallout will destroy the business and land her in prison next to her mom. Desperate, she digs into the underbelly of the local antiques and art world. When Edie uncovers a possible link between the decoy theft and a deadly robbery at a Quebec museum, she longs to ask her ex-probation officer, and ex-lover, for help. But she suspects his recent interest in rekindling their romance may hide a darker motive.

With the help of her eccentric uncle Tuck and Kala, their enigmatic new employee, Edie must risk all she holds dear to expose the thieves and recover the decoys before the FBI’s Art Crime Team or the ruthless thieves themselves catch up with her.

*Description as appears on Amazon.

My Review

The first book in a new cozy series, this was an engaging read, well written and sprinkled with humor. Edie is a great character – unique, a far cry from so many “goodie two-shoes” cozy mystery protagonists. She isn’t perfect, a fact made immediately clear from her arrest record and her family’s checkered past. The family operates an antique business in Vermont, and Edie has a strong background in art history and American folk art. She is smart, and cautious yet bold at the same time.

Things get interesting when Edie secures a particularly lucrative appraisal job of what might be a long-lost collection of bird decoys, that is, if they are authentic. The stakes are high and she’s not the only one with an interest in the collection. She soon becomes a prime suspect in the theft of these decoys and others and is determined to prove her innocence and discover more about the history of the decoys, and the perpetrators of an array of crimes related to their disappearance.

I look forward to reading additional books in this series in the future.

FTC disclosure: I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley. This has not affected the content of my review.