Review: DOUBTFUL by Ann Warner

Sometimes we do judge (select) a book by its cover. Its lovely cover was what first drew my attention to Doubtful – a romantic suspense novel  by Ann Warner.

51oi7gmbndlSynopsis (from Amazon)

Doubtful Sound, New Zealand
For Dr. Van Peters, Doubtful is a retreat after a false accusation all but ends her scientific career. For journalist David Christianson, it is a place of respite after a personal tragedy is followed by an unwelcome notoriety. Neither is looking for love or even friendship. Both want only to make it through another day. But when violence comes to Doubtful, Van and David’s only chance of survival will be each other.

My Review

Doubtful is a well written story centering around David and Van, who take an instantaneous dislike to one another.  They are both nursing emotional wounds from the past, and are thrown together by circumstances beyond their control.  The story alternates between their perspectives, highlighting each character and deepening the reader’s understanding of them as individuals as the story progresses.  I was sorry to see that the mystery elements were not as well developed as the romantic ones, especially as regards resolution of the criminal aspects of the story. It was a good read that I expect fans of romantic suspense will enjoy.

BTW, New Zealand was already on my bucket list…   based on the author’s descriptions, I think it just moved up a few spots.

FTC Disclosure:   I received a complimentary ARC of this book from NetGalley. This has not affected the content of my review in any way.

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Review: BLACKBERRY BURIAL by Sharon Farrow

One of my most recent cozy mystery reads was Blackberry Burial, the second installment in the Berry Basket Mystery series by Sharon Farrow,  which was released earlier this month.

Note:  This book can be read as a standalone (I had not read the first book in the series).

Description

Blackberryburial

Between a booming art scene and elaborate Independence Day festivities, July in lakeshore Oriole Point, Michigan, is always a blast. Especially when an explosive murder case crashes the fun . . .

As owner of The Berry Basket, Marlee Jacob has learned a thing or two about surviving the summer tourist season in Oriole Point. So she gladly agrees to help run the annual road rally in honor of the local Blackberry Art School’s centenary celebration. While alumni arrive from around the country, Marlee hopes the expansive Sanderling farm will make an appropriate starting point for the race—despite rumors that the land is cursed . . .

But when Marlee surveys the property, she stumbles upon a long-dead body hidden in the bramble. It’s a horrifying mystery to everyone except her baker, who’s convinced the skeletal remains belong to a former student who had gone missing twenty years earlier. As the Fourth of July activities heat up, Marlee must rush to catch an elusive murderer—before the next ‘blackberry victim’ is ripe for the picking!

My Review

Marlee cares about the people who work for her; she shows a great deal of compassion toward Theo, her baker, who faces challenges in interaction with others in social situations.  His limitations make him susceptible to ridicule and suspicion.  I appreciated the way the author presented Theo’s vulnerabilities and how Marlee stood by him, determined to help the police solve the case.  For the most part, the plot moved along at a good pace, with a few red herrings, and a resolution that pulled things together nicely. 

Marlee loves berries and she clearly knows everything about them. For this non-berry crazy reader, I think some of the descriptions went into a bit more detail than necessary. I was more intrigued by the mystery. I especially enjoyed the antics of Marlee’s remarkable parrot, who was quick to pick up new vocabulary and spout phrases and songs at opportune (and inopportune) moments.

Lovers of cozy mysteries, and culinary cozies in particular, are likely to enjoy this light read.

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

Review: LIES SHE TOLD by Cate Holahan

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As part of a Blog Tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, I recently read Lies She Told, an engaging psychological thriller by Kim Davis.

Description

LiesSheTold_old-692x1024Sometimes the truth is darker than fiction.

Liza Cole has thirty days to write the thriller that could put her back on the bestseller list. In the meantime, she’s struggling to start a family with her husband, who is distracted by the disappearance of his best friend, Nick. With stresses weighing her down in both her professional and her personal lives, Liza escapes into writing her latest heroine, Beth.

Beth is a new mother who suspects her husband is cheating on her while she’s home alone caring for their newborn. Angry and betrayed, she sets out to catch him in the act and make him pay for shattering the illusion of their perfect life. But before she realizes it, she’s tossing the body of her husband’s mistress into the East River.

Then the lines between fiction and reality begin to blur. Nick’s body is dragged from the same river and Liza’s husband is arrested for his murder. Before her deadline is up, Liza will have to face up to the truths about the people around her, including herself. If she doesn’t, the end of her heroine’s story could be the end of her own.

My Review

This was a unique and intriguing read that starts out by following two distinct storylines with the point of view switching between Liza (the writer) and Beth (her made-up character).  The book starts out slowly as you become acquainted with the players, but the pace picks up quickly as both Liza and Beth find themselves in complicated situations.  Both characters were well developed. It was easy to identify with Liza’s yearning to be a mother and with Beth’s distress at the state of her marriage. The partial mirroring of the two plots – Liza’s story and the story she was writing – led to a blurring of the line between reality and fiction. The path to the story’s resolution was peppered with suspense and twists that kept me turning the pages.  It was an enjoyable read, however the ending didn’t feel “right” to me – not so much in terms of the killer’s identity but more in that the factors that led to the killer’s actions seemed a bit far-fetched to me.

FTC Disclosure:   I received a complimentary ARC of this book. This has not affected the content of my review in any way.

Giveaway

Click to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win a print copy of Lies She Told.

About the Author

Holahan-Author-Photo-Credit-Martin-Bentsen-240x300-Copy-240x300Cate Holahan, author of the acclaimed psychological suspense novel The Widower’s Wife, is an award-winning journalist and a former television producer. She currently lives in New Jersey with her husband and two children.

Author Links:

Purchase Links:    Amazon B&N

Review & Giveaway: THE DAY JOB IS MURDER by Carolyn Arnold

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As part of a Blog Tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours,  today’s post spotlights Carolyn Arnold’s McKinley Mysteries series and includes a review of the first book in the series, The Day Job Is Murder.

Description

51pr7xjlnel-_sy346_The bad guys aren’t the only ones on his radar…

For Albany PD homicide detective Sean McKinley, catching killers is the easy part of his job. Working next to his beautiful partner, Sara Cain, is what’s difficult. It might have something to do with the fact that he’s fallen in love with her, though. Fortunately, she feels the same way about him. But she’s convinced they should just be friends.

If only there was some way to change her mind…

(Check out the excerpt at the end of this post.)

My Review

An enjoyable read that sets the stage for the rest of the series, by acquainting the reader with the two main characters, Sean and Sara, and the relationship between them.  Because the narrative focused to a large extent on their repressed feelings for each other, it was more “romantic suspense” than mystery.  Although I also read romance novels, I’d liked to have seen more “mystery” in this one.  That said, I plan to check out additional books in the series – with their relationship established, I expect the pair to focus more on solving mysteries in the future.  If you are looking for a short light read, this book fits the bill.

FTC Disclosure:   I received a complimentary copy of this book. This has not affected the content of my review in any way.

The book is available on:  AmazonBarnes & NobleKoboApple, Google Play

Giveaway

Click to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win an Amazon gift card from the publisher.

About the Series 

Romance. Humor. Murder. Are you looking for a murder mystery without all the graphic violence and foul language? Something that you can enjoy in an afternoon and walk away feeling good about afterward? How about a dash of humor and romance? If so, meet former detectives Sean and Sara McKinley. When a billionaire leaves them all his money, they no longer have to work, but they find themselves sticking to what they’re good at—solving murders. Undercover, off the books, and around the world, they’ll get to the bottom of things…and romance it up along the way.

This is the perfect book series for fans of Hart to Hart, Castle, Colombo, Monk, Rockford Files, Psych, and Magnum PI.
Read in any order or follow the series from the beginning.

Books in the Series

  1. The Day Job is Murder (2014)
  2. Vacation is Murder (2014)
  3. Money is Murder (2014)
  4. Politics is Murder (2014)
  5. Family is Murder (2014)
  6. Shopping is Murder (2014)
  7. Christmas is Murder (2014)
  8. Valentine’s Day is Murder (2015)
  9. Coffee is Murder (2015)
  10. Skiing is Murder (2016)
  11. Halloween is Murder (2017)

About the Author

carolyn-arnold-author-photoCarolyn Arnold is an international bestselling and award-winning author, as well as a speaker, teacher, and inspirational mentor. She has four continuing fiction series—Detective Madison Knight, Brandon Fisher FBI, McKinley Mysteries, and Matthew Connor Adventures—and has written nearly thirty books. Her genre diversity offers her readers everything from cozy to hard-boiled mysteries, and thrillers to action adventures.

Both her female detective and FBI profiler series have been praised by those in law enforcement as being accurate and entertaining, leading her to adopt the trademark: POLICE PROCEDURALS RESPECTED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT™.

Carolyn was born in a small town and enjoys spending time outdoors, but she also loves the lights of a big city. Grounded by her roots and lifted by her dreams, her overactive imagination insists that she tell her stories. Her intention is to touch the hearts of millions with her books, to entertain, inspire, and empower.

She currently lives just west of Toronto with her husband and beagle and is a member of Crime Writers of Canada.

Connect with Carolyn Arnold online:

And don’t forget to sign up for her newsletter for up-to-date information on release and special offers at http://carolynarnold.net/newsletters.

Read an excerpt:

Excerpt from chapter 1 of The Day Job is Murder (McKinley Mysteries):

SARA WAS BENT OVER, inside the back of the department-issued sedan. “I can’t believe we’re still cleaning puke.”

“Some days are better than others.”

She smiled. “Leave it to you to always look at the bright side.”

“We’ve just exchanged drunks for nervous murder suspects.”

She laughed. He loved the way her eyes creased, and the way her nose wrinkled with the expression.

“Well, I consider that progress.”

“Easy to say when you’re not the one doing the cleaning.” She tossed the used towels in the garbage, returned the cleaner to the shelf, then picked up her coffee cup, taking a draw.

“You insisted. We could have gotten a uniformed officer to take care of it.”

“I know, but I don’t like to do that.”

“Yes, I know. Our car, our responsibility. You’re too good to be real, you know that?”

“There you go again.”

He shrugged and kept pace with her on the way to the interview room. Outside, she placed a hand on his forearm.

“Oh, I meant to tell you something.” She glanced in at Burton, and then back to Sean. “It’s probably poor timing now, but you still have time.”

She peered into his eyes and seemed to be studying them, assessing something. What, he wasn’t sure. So, while she probed his eyes, he appreciated the color of hers—brown with flecks of green and gold.

“I was reading the obits this morning and I came across the name Douglas Quinn. You knew him, didn’t you? I remember you mentioning him.”

His breathing paused. Old Man Quinn. It had been a long time since he’d heard that name, but he’d never forget him.

“His funeral is this afternoon at three o’clock. You have time to make it.”

“Nah, I have, we have—what happened?”

“The piece read ‘he died peacefully at home, at the age of eighty-three.’” She touched Sean’s arm. “It’s okay. Go. I can take care of this.”

Guilt weighed him down. It had been years—over a decade—since he’d last seen him. Sean was twenty-two when they first met and he’d be thirty-three this coming September. The sad part was he wouldn’t even have known about Quinn’s death if it wasn’t for Sara’s strange habit of reading the obituaries.

“Go on. I can tell you want to.” Concern laced her eyes. “Do you want me to go with you? You know, as a friend, for support?”

There was that word, again. Friend. It must have entered conversation twenty times a shift.

Sean leaned against the window and looked into the interview room. Burton was biting his fingernails. The bad habit made Sean shiver in disgust.

He looked back to Sara. “I should go.”

“Well then, go.”

He nodded slowly, saddened by Quinn’s death. They had been close for a time, but life got busy and their visits weaned off to non-existence—Sean’s fault, not Quinn’s. But he still remembered their first meeting like it was yesterday. It was around Christmas, and he was only a beat cop at the time.

Guest Post, Spotlight & Giveaway: DANCING IN THE RAIN by Lucy Appadoo

Italy Book Tours Logo in colour

As part of a tour organized by Italy Book Tours,  I am happy to have Lucy Appadoo as my guest as she celebrates the release of Dancing in the Rain, the third novel in the Italian Family series.


Exploring the Café and Piazza Life in Italy by Lucy Appadoo

At twenty-three years of age, I travelled to Piaggine, Italy and spent three months visiting the cities and villages. I not only visited the villages of Laurino, Batibaglia, and Positano,  I also spent time in Rome, Florence, Salerno (the Amalfi Coast), and Venice. I would’ve loved to have travelled to more of the amazing cities but I didn’t get the opportunity.

I spent time in the piazza in Piaggine with my cousins who would visit with their friends every night. I’d walk in the square with my one or both of my male cousin/s and each night a friend of theirs would buy us an alcoholic shot that was mixed in a glass test-tube like glass. Each night, I’d try a mix of cocktails in a test tube.

On that square, you had a bar and café, a bakery, and a restaurant. I loved staying at my aunt’s house as she lived upstairs in the bakery while her friend worked and lived in the bakery downstairs. Each day, I’d enter her home and the aroma of freshly-baked bread would permeate my senses. It was heavenly, and I would bite into the soft, doughy texture of fresh Italian bread. We’d eat the bread with a glass of wine or with food.   Amazing!

My cousin would also drive me around to the nearby villages, but what I found strange was that he’d never stop for us to explore the sights. Instead, he’d simply drive around for fifteen minutes or so, then return to the main village. I was thinking, “wow, not my idea of exploration, but maybe it was his.”

Piaggine is a beautiful village, mountainous, hilly, and with rough terrain around the farms. The stone houses felt cold inside but the wood fire ovens were great for home cooked meals. I would eat home-made bread, home-made sausages, home- made tomato sauce, fresh pasta, and home-made wine. Many things were made by hand, and the joy the Italians had from making something from scratch was captivating.

Exploring Italy in my 20s was amazing but I would have liked to explore more of the country. The history of the country left me feeling nostalgic when I returned back home to Melbourne. How can you compare the city of Melbourne with the cities in Italy and all its fabulous history. Impossible!!


Dancing in the RainAbout Dancing in the Rain

Fifteen-year old Valeria Allegro works diligently on the family farm in Italy, where she is torn between her duty to her family and her desire to find freedom from her strict, domineering father. She finds solace in Dario, a young student who provides a blissful escape—until a neighbour’s son, Gregorio, decides he wants her for himself.

This raises an alarm for her father, which leads to family conflict and aggression. When Dario is threatened and her family is plagued by a series of suspicious accidents, Valeria is desperate to keep her loved ones safe. Can she end the turmoil and escape the firmly built trap to find the freedom she craves?

Buy the Book

Amazon    B&N

Giveaway

Click here to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card.

About the Author

Lucy Appadoo is a registered counsellor and wellness coach with a part-time private practice. She also works as a rehabilitation counsellor for the Australian government. In her spare time, she self-publishes or writes nonfiction and fiction texts. She previously worked as a rehabilitation consultant, caseworker, English as a second language teacher, and proofreader.

Lucy has postgraduate diplomas in psychology, education, and English as a Second Language teaching, as well as specialised qualifications in grief counselling and hypnosis. She has also completed wellness coaching courses (levels 1-3) at Wellness Coaching Australia.

Lucy enjoys reading romantic suspense, romance, thrillers, crime novels, family/historical drama, and sagas. She writes in the genres of romantic suspense, historical fiction, and romance. She has enjoyed travelling to exotic places such as Madrid, Mauritius, and Italy, and draws on these experiences in her creative writing.

Lucy’s favourite authors include Kendra Elliot, Christiane Heggan, Theresa Ragan, Tara Moss, Nicholas Sparks, Adriana Trigiani, Erica Spindler, and James Patterson (to name a few).

Lucy’s interests include meditation, playing tennis, journal writing, reading fiction and nonfiction texts about writing, coaching, and counselling, ongoing professional development, spending time with her husband and two daughters, and socialising with friends and family.

Connect with the Author:  Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

Interview & Giveaway: WAVES OF MURDER by C.S. McDonald

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Today’s post showcases “Waves of Murder,” the latest addition to the Fiona Quinn mystery series by C.S. McDonald.  I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but it sounds like a great beach read.  And it is my pleasure to have C.S. McDonald on my blog today to answer a few questions about her recent release.

An interview with C.S. McDonald

C.S. McDonaldThe Fiona Quinn Mysteries are set in Pittsburgh. Have you ever been there?

I sure have! I was born and raised in Pittsburgh—and yes, I bleed black and gold. In fact, Fiona Quinn (our heroine) is a kindergarten teacher at the elementary school that I attended and she lives at 529 Oxford Street—in the very same house I grew up in. When I describe the house, it is exactly as I remember it. Now, let me be clear—my grandmother never lived in the attic, but isn’t having a ghostly grandma fun? Many Pittsburgh venues are mentioned in the books as well. Example: in book #1 Murder on Pointe the story revolves around the Benedum Center—one of Pittsburgh’s premiere theaters.

In Waves of Murder, you move the stories from Pittsburgh to Presque Isle in Erie, Pennsylvania. Why did you take Fiona there?

As a child that is where my family vacationed. It was the only place my parents could afford to take us. I loved the beaches of Presque Isle, and I still visit the area every summer. I knew that Fiona had to visit this terrific beach, but her experiences are less relaxing than mine usually are. Poor Fiona encounters a murder—I’m happy to say this has never happened to me!

If you had to choose an actress to portray Fiona, who would you pick?

Kaley Cuoco hands down! Every time I watch Big Bang Theory I think—Wow! She would make the perfect Fiona!

Do you have another profession besides writing?

No. For twenty-six years I was a professional dancer/choreographer. I retired in 2011 and have not looked back. Whether I am working on my romantic suspense series or the Fiona Quinn books, I love writing! As a child, I used to write stories all the time, and as a child, I danced. Interesting how things come full circle—I was a professional dancer, and now I’m a writer.

Who is your biggest fan?

My husband, Bill, has been such a great supporter of my work for years—both in the dance studio and at the laptop. Unfortunately, I feel the person who would’ve been most proud of my success as a writer would have been my dad. He loved to read, and as proud as he was of my dance career, the man would have burst at the seams with pride when I published my first book in 2011. He would’ve been showing my books to anyone who would look, no doubt. My father passed away very unexpectedly in 2005 so he never got to see my writing career, but I know he is watching from above with a big toothy grin on his face!

About Waves of Murder

Waves of MurderSchool’s out for the summer!
Kindergarten teacher, Fiona Quinn is looking forward to spending some quality time in her yard and with her boyfriend, Detective Nathan Landry. However, Fiona’s plans get squelched when her mother volunteers her to edit a manuscript for famous romance author, Wyla Parkes.

What’s so bad about that? The author insists Fiona must work on the manuscript at her beach cottage on Presque Isle–three hours away from her yard and Nathan. Spending six weeks in an adorable cottage on a private beach doesn’t really seem all that bad until people start turning up dead—beginning with the author! Fiona’s summer of sun and sand is instantly transformed into a murder investigation. Can Fiona and Nathan crack the case or will the murderer get away on a wave of deceit?

Join Fiona and the gang for a hot whodunit on the sandy beaches of Presque Isle, Pennsylvania!

Giveaway

Enter a Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win a signed copy of Waves of Murder: A Fiona Quinn Mystery by C.S. McDonald (open to USA only – 2 winners).

About the Author

For twenty-six years C.S. McDonald’s life whirled around a song and a dance. She was a professional dancer and choreographer. During that time she choreographed many musicals and an opera for the Pittsburgh Savoyards. In 2011 she retired from her dance career to write. Under her real name, Cindy McDonald, she writes murder-suspense and romantic suspense novels. In 2014 she added the pen name, C.S. McDonald, to write children’s books for her grandchildren. Now she adds the Fiona Quinn Mysteries to that expansion. She decided to write the cozy mystery series for her young granddaughters, and has found that so many adults love them too.

Ms. McDonald resides on her Thoroughbred farm known as Fly by Night Stables near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with her husband, Bill, and her poorly behaved Cocker Spaniel, Allister.

Connect with the author:  Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook 

Release Spotlight & Giveaway: TREASURE IN PARADISE by Kathi Daley

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As part of a Blog Tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, today’s spotlight is turned on Treasure in Paradise, a new cozy mystery by Kathi Daley.

TreasureInParadise FRONT 2[15190]Description

Tj Jensen and her family head to Turtle Cove Resort for summer vacation, but their plans for rest and relaxation are thwarted when they find a dead treasure hunter in the attic of the resort’s main house. Initially vowing not to get involved, Tj quickly changes her tune when the Gull Island deputy on the case closes it after a bare bones investigation. All evidence points to foul play, and Tj’s determined to uncover what the deputy wants to keep hidden. With the help of her best friend and a chatty parrot, Tj digs up a centuries old legend, a hidden map, and secrets buried deeper than pirate’s treasure.

Giveaway:

For a chance to win an e-copy of Treasure in Paradise from the author, leave a comment about what your idea of paradise might be. (Winner to be selected at random.)

About the Author

Author of the Zoe Donovan cozy Mystery Series, Tj Jensen Paradise Lake Mystery series, Whales and Tails Cozy Mystery Series, Sand and Sea Hawaiian Mysteries, and Seacliff High Teen Cozy Mystery Series.

KathiDaleyCome for the murder, stay for the romance.

Kathi lives in the beautiful alpine community of Lake Tahoe with her husband Ken and dog Echo. When she’s not writing she enjoys hanging out on the beach with her children and grandchildren. During the summer she enjoys hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, wakeboarding, and sunset cruises on the lake. During the winter she enjoys cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and curling up by a fire with a good book.

Kathi uses her mountain home as inspiration for her books, all which include appearances by the wildlife she shares her life with.

Visit Kathi Daley:

Books in the Tj Jensen Mystery Series:

PUMPKINS IN PARADISE (#1)
SNOWMEN IN PARADISE (#2)
BIKINIS IN PARADISE (#3)
CHRISTMAS IN PARADISE(#4)
PUPPIES IN PARADISE (#5)
HALLOWEEN IN PARADISE (#6)
TREASURE IN PARADISE (#7)

Opening Scene from Treasure in Paradise

There is magic in beginnings. Some beginnings come as a rite of passage, such as a graduation from college, the birth of a child, or a wedding day. Other beginnings start off more subtly, as nothing more than an ordinary moment that evolves into a crucial event that, in the end, helps define who you are and who you will become. And then there are the beginnings that arrive on the heels of change. At times we welcome this change with joyful anticipation, while at others we fight to maintain that which we feel we’ve lost. Change can come in gentle waves that shepherd us into a new reality, or it can come in a tornado of destruction that tears apart everything we hold dear to our hearts.

My own new beginning occurred when I packed up two sisters, a grandpa, two very dear friends, four cats, and three dogs, and traveled across the country to help an old friend of my father’s renovate the oceanfront resort he’d been forced to sell. The resort, which consisted of a resident’s home and twenty cabins nestled artfully on a long stretch of beach on the southeastern corner of Gull Island, had been in Garrett Hanford’s family for four generations. Garrett was an only child who’d never married or had children of his own, so when his health began to fail he’d decided he had no choice other than to sell the property he was no longer capable of managing.

The problem was that the resort had fallen into disrepair, and the only buyers interested in the large slice of oceanfront land were developers who didn’t care about the cabins because they planned to tear them down and build a new infrastructure from the ground up. Garrett didn’t want to sell to those large corporations, so in spite of the fact that he was not likely to recover his investment, he’d decided to put some money into the resort and renovate the buildings prior to looking for a buyer who would maintain the integrity of the property he loved. When I learned Garrett had suffered a stroke and would need someone to oversee the renovations, I jumped at the chance to take a step away from a life that had undergone so many changes in the past few months that I no longer recognized it. What I didn’t expect was that by agreeing to spend the summer on Gull Island, I would be trading one set of problems for another.

“Someone from the sheriff’s office should be here in a few minutes,” my best friend, Kyle Donovan, informed me as he joined me in the attic of the three-story house where the two of us, along with my two half sisters Ashley and Gracie, my Grandpa Ben, and a dear friend, Stan Griffin, planned to live that summer.

I glanced in Kyle’s direction with what I was sure was a look of resignation on my face. “What do you think happened to him?”

Kyle’s sandy blond hair had grown long over the past few months and touched his collar as he shrugged. “I’m sure the deputy who shows up will be able to tell us. It looks like he’s been dead for a while.”

“Two weeks at least,” Stan, more commonly known as Doc, agreed. Doc was not only my grandfather, Ben Jensen’s best friend, but was also a retired coroner, so I imagined he knew what he was talking about. “I can’t say for certain without a closer examination of the remains, but based on the fractures on the man’s left temple, I’m going to say the cause of death was blunt force trauma delivered by a right handed individual facing him.”

I grimaced. I don’t know exactly what I expected to find on my first day in over twenty years at Turtle Cove Resort, but in spite of my reputation as an amateur sleuth, I certainly didn’t think I’d be thrust into a murder investigation before I’d even had a chance to unpack.

“Are you okay?” Kyle asked as Doc slipped on the latex glove he carried in his wallet and took a closer look at the body.

“I’m fine.” I looked around the dusty room. “It’s been such a long time since I was here but everything looks exactly like I remember.”

“You spent a lot of time in the attic as a child?”

“Actually, I did.”

Spotlight: FAMOUS BY DEFAULT by M.K. Harkins

MK Harkins recently released what has been heralded as a gripping YA Contemporary Romance.  I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but Famous by Default looks like a promising read – a sweet romance that touches on social issues.

Description

Jax
FamousbyDefaultcoverBuried, By my family’s fame. Dying to escape the limelight, And finally, I do. Being raised as a Jayne, I’m under constant scrutiny. The rock band my brothers formed makes it impossible to stay under the radar. Paparazzi, tabloids, rabid fans–you name it and I’ve got it. It all makes me sick. But getting shipped off to crazy Aunt Betty’s house in my senior year of high school isn’t any better. After all, there isn’t a stray kid or pet in the world that my aunt wouldn’t take in. Then I meet her. She’s cautious, suspicious, and not interested in me at all. But that’s fine by me. Sivan Holt may be beautiful and intelligent, but she’s nothing I’m looking for.
Sivan
Drowning, In my past. Struggling to feel settled. And finally, I do. Growing up in the foster care system, I longed for a sense of belonging. All I wanted was a place to call home. At the age of seventeen, I’m finally starting to feel it here. Home. When he comes along, it unsettles me. I don’t want him to ruin everything we’ve built–everything that matters. Jax Jayne is arrogant, privileged, and I want nothing to do with him. But those green eyes of his keep drawing me in. If I let down my walls, will it be my final undoing?
 

About the Author

MKHarkinsMK Harkins has always been a voracious reader. After hitting a dry spell of reading material, she decided to write the kind of book she’d like to read. This resulted in the creation of her debut novel, Intentional. (Award for Best Sweet Romance – eFestival of Words- August 2014) Unintentional, Breaking Braydon, Taking Tiffany and The Reader soon followed. MK’s newest, Famous by Default, released March 2017. The follow-up to The Reader, The Jack, is due out 2017.

When she’s not writing novels, she likes to spend her free time traveling the world, splashing in mud puddles (She lives in Seattle, what can she say?), watching movies and reading (!) She LOVES to hear from her readers!

Connect with MK:

Sign up for MK’s Newsletter and receive a free book: http://eepurl.com/clLfBf

Release Spotlight: DATING THE IT GUY by Krysten Lindsay Hager

Krysten Hager has been at it again. Her new YA contemporary romance – Dating the It Guy – was released earlier this month.  Check it out.

Description

DatingtheItGuy453x680.jpgEmme is a sophomore in high school who starts dating, Brendon Agretti, the popular senior who happens to be a senator’s son and well-known for his good looks. Emme feels out of her comfort zone in Brendon’s world and it doesn’t help that his picture perfect ex, Lauren seems determined to get back into his life along with every other girl who wants to be the future Mrs. Agretti. Emme is already conflicted due to the fact her last boyfriend cheated on her and her whole world is off kilter with her family issues. Life suddenly seems easier keeping Brendon away and relying on her crystals and horoscopes to guide her. Emme soon starts to realize she needs to focus less on the stars and more on her senses. Can Emme get over her insecurities and make her relationship work? Life sure is complicated when you’re dating the it guy.

Click here to view the trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_HdfnUqZPKU

A short excerpt appears at the end of this post.

You can find the book on these retailers:

About the Author

author photoBesides mining her teen years and humiliating moments for her novels, Krysten is a also a book addict who has never met a bookstore she didn’t like. She’s worked as a journalist and writes young adult, middle grade, new adult, and adult fiction as well as humor essays. She is originally from Michigan and has lived in Portugal, South Dakota, and currently resides in southwestern Ohio where you can find her reading and writing when she’s not catching up on her favorite shows (she’s addicted to American Dad to the point where she quotes episodes on a daily basis and also loves Girl Meets World). She’s also a third generation Detroit Lions fan.

Krysten writes about friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, frenemies, crushes, fame, first loves, and values. She is the author of True Colors, Best Friends…Forever?, Next Door to a Star,  Landry in Like, and Competing with the Star (The Star Series: Book 2). Her debut novel, True Colors, won the Readers Favorite award for best preteen book. Krysten’s work has been featured in USA Today, The Flint Journal, the Grand Haven Tribune, the Beavercreek Current, the Bellbrook Times and on Living Dayton.

Follow Krysten:

Excerpt – Dating the It Guy

“By the way, did you hear Lauren got into Senator Agretti’s old school?”

“Seriously? I wonder if she applied there because Brendon did,” I said.

Margaux snorted. “Duh, of course. Seriously, she might as well just pee on him to mark her territory.”

“Margaux, shut up,” Kylie said.

“Whatever. Anyway, the important thing is if Brendon knew she was applying there,” Margaux said. “Em, do you think he knew?”

I hoped Lauren was just trying to follow Brendon, but what if they had planned this whole thing while they were dating? What if he convinced her to apply there so they could go to college together, wear matching American flag sweaters with big scarves while drinking hot chocolate, and jump into leaf piles just like a preppy clothing catalog. At least now I didn’t have to worry about them reciting poetry to one another in South Bend, but still, what if they had made plans to go to school together?

“Don’t worry about it,” Kylie said. “She was probably trying to follow him—like she always does. She’s so pathetic.”

Kylie was trying to make me feel better, but Lauren was far from pathetic. After all, she was pretty much the “Most Likely to Succeed” poster girl. While she was out overachieving and saving the world without messing up her perfect, bouncy hair, I was trying to get through each day. I tried to push away the image of Lauren and Brendon holding hands and drinking hot chocolate under a stadium blanket.

Review: WHO WE ARE INSTEAD by Kyla Stone

As some people may have noticed I’ve been expanding my reading horizons lately.  Today’s book is neither mystery or romance. Who We are Instead is a coming of age novel about two sisters, difficult family relationships, and emotional scars.

Note (December 2017): The author has rereleased this book under the title Before You Break with a new cover (not the cover shown here). 

Description (from Amazon)

whoinsteadTwenty-one-year-old Lena McKenna thought she escaped her past when she earned a photography scholarship to a top university. It’s been two years since she’s been home. Two years since she’s seen her troubled younger sister Lux or set foot in the house haunted by the memories of her dead mother.

Everything changes the day her father suffers a massive heart attack. Lena rushes home, only to discover that Lux has disappeared. Lena has no choice but to put her dreams on hold to find her sister and care for her dying father. Immersed in the memories of her childhood, she begins to uncover the long-buried secrets that broke her family. 

Eighteen-year-old Lux doesn’t want to remember. Nothing keeps the dark at bay, not her new drug-dealing boyfriend or her descent into reckless self-destruction. She’ll do anything to forget. Anything.

As their father’s condition worsens, Lux leaves a trail of devastation in her wake. Lena must choose: escape her past and leave her sister behind, or turn and face the demons threatening to destroy them both.

Who We Are Instead explores the volatile relationship between sisters and the way we blur the lines between loyalty and obligation, truth and deception, honor and betrayal.

My Review

This is a well-written, moving tale that provides a candid look at troubled family relationships.  The first-person narrative alternates between Lina and Lux’s point of view, providing insight into the differences in how they see things. Both Lena and Lux are struggling in their own ways as they face their father’s imminent death. They each remember different things from their childhood and have secrets they share with no0ne – not even each other. Lux uses substance abuse and ‘hook-ups’ to escape, she swears a lot, and lashes out at friends. Her stream of conscious style narrative highlights her mood swings and growing dependence on drugs. Lena wants to help her, but has no idea how to heal their relationship. As the story progresses, both characters learn about themselves and strive to heal their emotional scars.

The author takes on tough issues in this book – dysfunctional families, betrayal, drug abuse, and suicide. For this reason, although this book might be suitable for some mature YA readers, I am not sure I would recommend it for most teens.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the author. This has not affected the content of my review in any way.

News FlashWho We Are Instead is on sale for $0.99 for limited time only!