When Art Imitates Life. This deep in this particular series, you really need to read the first two books in the series – which are both excellent, btw – in order to fully understand all that is going on here… and to avoid major spoilers from each of those two books. Once you’ve read those books, you’re going to want this one on hand anyway, as it picks up shortly after the events of Book 2. Once again, the crime being investigated is one Bratt had heard a similar tale of in her real life, and once again (as is so often in Bratt’s writing), those who have paid attention to her for in some cases not long at all will notice other details of her life making their way onto the page. In a glancing reference here, we get a reference to a child currently living on Maui, as Bratt’s own youngest daughter currently does. But much more interestingly, there is a minor plot point here – that helps build into something that could become much larger – that those familiar with Bratt’s postings on social media from just a few months ago will be all too familiar with. To be clear, while the character here pursues the more criminal method that Bratt was *tempted* to do in real life, in real life Bratt did in fact pursue numerous *legal* methods of achieving the same result. Her socials are worth perusing for that story alone, for those that also come to enjoy her fictional work. 🙂 Overall another solid tale that expands the world while also keeping the “freak of the week” episodic nature of the series intact. Very much recommended.
This review of In My Life by Kay Bratt was originally written on March 13, 2023.
Perfect Series Starter. This is one of those short novellas that is specifically designed to introduce a new series and its backstory so that these setup details all reside in a common point and the author can simply continue each individual story without having to rehash every word here within them – and as such, works absolutely perfectly. Quite a bit happens in these 72 pages, but every bit of it serves to show the world in which this new series will be set and set the basics of what to expect in each of the remaining books – specifically, it is rather obvious that each future book will be about one of the children and the match they are given, likely while continuing other elements found here (specifically involving the murder mystery and other secrets the children may or may not be aware of) as a form of connective tissue throughout.
Ultimately the entire point of an entry novella such as this is to whet the reader’s appetite for the series and induce them to auto-buy the entire damn thing, and the only true weakness to Thompson’s strategy there is that only the next book in the series is currently available for pre-order. 😉 Otherwise, this novella does its job spectacularly. Very much recommended.
This review of The Making Of A Matchmaker by Tess Thompson was originally written on February 23, 2023.
Hot Chicks. Cool Gulf Breeze. Fast Cars. Compelling Mystery. What’s Not To Like? Another reviewer 2*’d this book citing the line herein about men never progressing beyond the maturity of a 14yo – and noting that the book was entirely written for said 14yo and that this was a *bad* thing.
Um, no. This book is written for *adults*, with quite a bit of four letter words (and not “four” or “word”) and sex… well, anywhere Jake and Nicole can find a few minutes alone. Even on a stakeout. There is also a decently high body count, including a few particularly grisly murders and at least a tease of a rape threat (that, to be clear, never *really* develops – a bit of a spoiler, perhaps, but a needed one, for some).
So this is written for adults, but adults who enjoy a more laid back approach. Not every mystery tale has to be Big City Something or some frenetic John Wick / Jeremy Robinson / Matthew Reilly balls to the wall action with guns blazing and other weapons flying all over the place all the time.
This tale is written for those who enjoy the more laid back vibes of the Gulf shores of the US or the general Caribbean region, who want their murders with their margaritas as they sit by the pool on a cruise ship (exactly what I was doing while reading part of this book, fwiw). And as the first book in what I now know to be a decently long running series (I’ve now worked books 5 and 6 – or is it 4 and 5? – as Advance Reader Copies over the last couple of years before now coming back to the books I missed), this one sets up everything I already knew I loved from the series. Indeed, Jake and Nicole’s meeting is both abrupt and quite hilarious, and I love how both prove themselves capable in their own ways in this very first outing.
Truly a great, fun, relaxed book perfect for those pool side drinking days – or any other place you may find yourself reading it. Very much recommended.
This review of Deep Six by D. P. Lyle was originally written on January 31, 2023.
If We Don’t Get A Sequel, We Riot! Or we at least start jokingly pestering McKinnon until she finally caves and gives us the sequel this story demands. And I in particular have a history with more than one author of eventually getting my way in these matters – through nothing more than constant begging. 😀 Read this book, and join my campaign!
Seriously though y’all, this book starts out a touch slow ish – Frankie is in anger management and meets a guy. But as things start to pick up, they *really* start to pick up. Then, it appears that McKinnon has shot her shot a touch early and we get into almost a Return of The King situation (where the ending begins to feel long and drawn out for no obvious reason)… except those last few pages. That is where you’re going to join my campaign to demand a sequel from McKinnon, and we will eventually win this battle and get our sequel.
One of McKinnon’s better books – which is saying quite a bit in and of itself, as McKinnon really is a masterful storyteller across all the books I’ve read from her – and I do believe the first I’ve ever demanded a sequel from. Yes, the story and particular its ending are that compelling. Very much recommended.
This review of The Revenge List by Hannah Mary McKinnon was originally written on January 13, 2023.
Small Town Shenanigans. This is a great example of one of those small town tales where everyone has secrets, and, to quote Tony Stark in The Avengers: their “secrets have secrets”. So when a murder happens as our hero here is trying to rebuild her life and save her career… of *course* she has to investigate it herself. Because, you know, secrets. But along the way we really do see the inner workings of very small towns quite well, and Banks also manages to keep enough of the romance there to balance out just how dark and creepy this town can feel at times. A definite break from this author’s norm (she is working under a new pseudonym here), but a solid effort in this particular type of space and one that manages to up the creepy factor while adding in quite a bit of tension and apprehension not generally found in her other works. Very much recommended.
This review of Small Town Girl by Sarah Banks was originally written on January 4, 2023.
Some Heroes Have Half-Lives. Honestly, I didn’t even realize while reading this book that it was Book 1 of a new series – though with the way things end, I could certainly allow for that possibility. Here, Borgos manages to capture a lingering effect of the Cold War not often seen by those of us living on the East Coast – well away from all Cold War era nuclear test sites, including the Nevada deserts pictured here and the New Mexico deserts featured in Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, which will be releasing around the same time as this book. We also get a dual timeline yet linked spy thriller (in the past)/ murder mystery (in the present), and in neither case is all as it seems. Borgos manages the pacing of each quite well, and the ultimate integration of the two quite seamlessly. Ultimately this is absolutely a world and storytelling style I’d love to come back to, so I’m glad there will be at least one more book forthcoming here. Very much recommended.
This review of The Bitter Past by Bruce Borgos was originally written on January 1, 2023.
Propulsive And Explosive. This is one of those books where every challenge only leads to a more difficult challenge – and the challenges don’t start easy for our hardened and capable yet flawed hero. As the stakes rise ever higher, attacking everyone Koa Kane loves, can he save… anyone? Even himself? Well, this is an action book seemingly in the middle of an already successful series. So he’s going to save people, that’s what heroes do in these types of books. But McCaw grounds these books in a fair amount of realism as well, and therefore… well, some may die. Or may not. You’ll have to read the tale to see what happens. 😀 But that ending, setting up an explosive confrontation with a foe Kane thought conclusively dealt with… yeeah… I’m absolutely looking forward to seeing where McCaw takes this series next. Very much recommended.
This review of Retribution by Robert McCaw was originally written on January 1, 2023.
Welcome To The Next Verse, Same As The First. Looking back over my review of The Sorority Murders, book 1 of this series, and having read literally 247 books in the 354 days since reading it… much of what I said about the first book could well be said here as well. Specifically, this is also a “solid mystery that could have used better pacing” and it is also “an interesting and compelling mystery that will keep you guessing until it wants to reveal it secrets – and then transitions into a bit more of an action/ suspense tale to finish up the case”. The body count is seemingly a touch lower here, and the innovative use of podcasting is gone, but the overall solid mystery and, yes, perhaps bloat as well, absolutely remain. For a more average reader who perhaps will read only a *few* books between entries in the series, it is likely going to be an overall better experience, but there is absolutely enough here that even if you don’t remember the details of the first book, you’re not going to be lost following the actions here. As it seems to conclude the threads left dangling in the first book and doesn’t really leave many, if any, of its own, this could well serve as either a series finale or as a mechanism to allow the series to proceed without too many entanglements to prior books – and thus it will be interesting to see if and/ or how Brennan chooses to move forward here. Very much recommended.
This review of Don’t Open The Door by Allison Brennan was originally written on December 18, 2022.
Interesting Tale Told In Unconventional Manner. I mean, come on, how often do you get a dual timeline tale with two women – both alive in the past, but one now dead and yet still telling her tale – where both women feature in both timelines? I’ve read a LOT of books over the past few years alone, and I can probably count on one hand – *maybe* both of them – the number of times I’ve come across a remotely similar dynamic. So read the book for that alone, as Hepworth makes it work quite well.
The rest of the tale, about both of these women’s love for their husbands and the lengths they will go through to save and protect both their husbands and their marriages, is interesting enough to be readable, but for some reason it just didn’t hit me as hard as Hepworth’s prior works. There was never a real sense of “I *must* know what happens next!”, though the ending was quite beautiful in and of itself, and yes, even if you’re struggling with the book, you need to read it to get the full beauty of what happens there. Overall, as noted, an interesting tale unconventionally told. Recommended.
This review of The Soulmate by Sally Hepworth was originally written on November 2, 2022.
Interesting Twist On The Series. With the first two books in this series – which is held together primarily by being the adventures of a buddy cop pair – the mysteries were of a more paranormal nature. With this one, Beltz creates an interesting challenge as a storyteller while taking the series in a more science fiction direction. This ultimately still has the same general tone and structure from the first two tales in this series, and thus series fans will most likely still enjoy it. And hey, for those that like tales with interesting characters, this is absolutely one of those as well. Keeping this review completely spoiler-free is challenging even on this end… *because* of the challenge Beltz gave himself as an author. So it will be interesting to read future reviews of this tale as they come out to see how they handle that. 🙂 Overall this was a solid yet also very different book in its series, and the series feels like Beltz could take it almost as long as he wants to – even though he is very open about having written these first three books back to back to back all at once before releasing them a month apart several weeks later. Very much recommended.
This review of Charlie by James Beltz was originally written on October 1, 2022.