#BlogTour: The Mother Next Door by Tara Laskowski

For this blog tour, we’re looking at a solid Halloween themed, Urban Legend backed mystery/ drama. For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Mother Next Door by Tara Laskowski.

Here’s what I had to say about it on Goodreads:

Halloween-Themed Mystery/Drama With An Urban Legend – And A Punisher Scene. In the early 2000s, pre-MCU version of The Punisher – the one with Thomas Jane as Frank Castle/ The Punisher and also featuring John Travolta and Will Patton – I’ve always LOVED the scene in the finale where Castle tells Travolta’s character “I made you kill your wife. I made you kill your best friend. And now I’ve killed you.”. This book actually has elements that played out there within it as well, and this book actually works the drama and even action in those sequences much better than even that movie pulled off. (Though in its defense, in that movie the scene in question is just a plot point in service of the actual story, and here the story ultimately revolves around this scene.) To my mind, all of the above is obscure enough that I haven’t actually gone into spoiler territory here, so let’s move on.

This is a tale where several characters are at play, but we only ever really hear from three of them – the newbie, the Queen Bee of the resident Mean Girls (in this particular case, the mothers who effectively run the school’s PTA board), and a mysterious “other”… who seems intent on killing someone on Halloween night. It mostly takes place in the leadup to that night, where we see that not all is as it seems on Ivy Lane, and that, in the words of Tony Stark (when referencing Nick Fury in The Avengers), her “secrets have secrets”. Which goes for most every “her” here, particularly the three we actually hear from.

Arguably the one knock here is that male characters are almost non-existent and pretty damn one dimensional, but eh, this is fairly common across the genre, particularly when written by females. Finding an author that actually does opposite-sex characters well in this genre is a bit difficult at times, so it is more easily excused – for better or worse- as simply the way things (currently) are when this occurs.

Beyond this quibble though, this is a strong enough book, and spooky/ creepy enough that it absolutely fits right in with the Halloween vibe and its release is thus perfectly timed in mid-October. Definetly not a classic “monster tale”, but if you prefer your monsters of the more human variety… this may be up your alley. (Though to be fair, there is nothing *overly* horrific here. Though there are absolutely some very bad people here.) Very much recommended.

Below the jump, an excerpt (that if I remember correctly is the entire prologue) followed by the “publisher details” – including basic publishing data, book description, author bio, author web/ social media links, and links to buy the book.
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Featured New Release Of The Week: In Another Light by AJ Banner

This week we’re looking at a compelling drama of grief and the psychological effects it can have. This week we’re looking at In Another Light by AJ Banner.

Here’s what I had to say about it on Goodreads:

Compelling Drama of Grief. This is a very compelling drama/ mystery of a woman’s struggles in the years following the death of her husband. The grief is all-encompassing, felt in nearly every letter on every page – which can make this book a bit dreary at times, but the mystery and mental struggles Phoebe faces are compelling enough and fast paced enough (in this short-ish, 252 page book) that the plot never really has the time to become *truly* overbearing in the grief. Revelations begin to stack up late, and much is made clear – to both Phoebe and the reader – even as the book chooses its path to be the less expected, more atypical one. Which I found quite remarkable, as this particular path allows Banner to plumb Phoebe’s fragile psyche that much more and kept the overall tone of the book solidly in place. Truly an excellent work, and very much recommended.

#BookReview: The House That Christmas Made by Elizabeth Bromke

Tonight, On The Conclusion Of The Harbor Hills Saga… This is the final book in this highly interconnected series of much drama and secrets among neighbors on a particular street in small town (fictional) Michigan. As such, you *really* need to start at the beginning of the series and work your way to this point – which you’ll be glad you’ve done by the time you reach this book, as this is absolutely a series that leaves you wanting the next book in your hand the moment the previous book is done. And yet, in this conclusion of the saga… everything *does* get wrapped up. All is revealed. And yet we *also* maintain the fun, intricate, and varied progressions and relationships that have come to define this series. Very much recommended.

This review of The House That Christmas Made by Elizabeth Bromke was originally written on September 26, 2021.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillipi Ryan

This week we’re looking at a book that burns slowly and has a long fuse… but then has quite the bang at the end as well. This week, we’re looking at Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillipi Ryan.

Slow Burn With A Bang. This is one of those slow burn mysteries that doesn’t seem like the stakes are *overly* high… until you find yourself in a situation with guns drawn in broad daylight in the streets of Boston. (Yes, a touch of a spoiler, but a very minor one given the lack of other details. :D) Overall you’ve got three primary perspectives, two in third person and one in first, and everyone is hiding things from everyone for varying reasons and no one really knows who to trust at all, including some of the non-perspective characters. So on that point, this tale works well – if, again, a bit slow and seemingly low-stake. But it is compelling enough to have you want to follow along and see what exactly happens, particularly once we begin to get the third perspective (which doesn’t happen until around the 25-33% of the book, IIRC). Overall an inventive tale that plays with some well worn tropes and spins them a bit in a new-ish way, and for this it is very much recommended.

#BookReview: The OC by DP Lyle

Never Bring A Rock To A Gun Fight… Unless You’re A Former MLB Starting Pitcher Turned Private Eye. Full confession here: These books have seemed interesting enough over the years, and they’ve been at the right price points often enough ($2.99 or less, and likely free) that I’d actually picked up the entire series before this book… and never read any of them. So even while I already had the previous four books in this series in my library, this was the first book in it – or from this author at all – that I had actually read. And it totally works as a standalone, as long as you don’t mind commentary that references the previous stories in ways that absolutely spoils many of them.

So far as this book itself is concerned, it was a fun tale full of quite a bit of banter between Jake Longley and his friends and colleagues, with a bit of “oh, crap, our friend is in trouble in a way that we might be able to help with” thrown in. So even while many of the characters are PIs, this isn’t a case they are getting paid for. And it is a stalker case, with only the last few chapters having any real, direct action. Which is actually where the title of this review comes in. Early in the book – possibly when Jake is first introduced, that early – it is mentioned that Jake often travels with baseballs both in case he runs across fans *and* to use as a weapon if the need arises. Well, in our finale… he doesn’t have his baseballs with him. So he gets creative, in ways that even by that point in this book – even if it is your first book in this series – you’ve come to expect. Very much recommended.

This review of The OC by DP Lyle was originally written on August 29, 2021.

#BookReview: Fan Fiction by Brent Spiner

Fun Romp Through Star Trek: TNG In Its Heyday. This is a fictionalized loose autobiography featuring Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation – and more specifically, Brent Spiner, the human actor who portrayed him. As one of those Autistics that Spiner mentions during the course of this story as eventually being told so many of us looked up to that character, I can absolutely attest to that being true… and one of the reasons he became so legendary to me. But the story itself is pure light-noir Hollywood, with quite a bit of comedy tossed into a plot that is nominally about obsessive fans and the more serious aspects of how that can go a bit off the rails. Most of the rest of the cast of TNG comes through in various bits, with Jonathan Frakes and LeVar Burton getting the most “screen time” here but even Michael Dorf, Gates McFadden, and yes, Sir Patrick Stewart himself all getting at least one scene of direct interaction with Brent within these pages. Still, as a “fictionalized autobiography” / noir, these scenes aren’t meant as literal “this happened” so much as “this is true to who these people were in my experience, even as these exact interactions are fictionalized”. As such, it offers a great view “behind the scenes”… without *actually* going “behind the scenes”. Great use of the medium, and a quick ish read to boot- I read it in a single afternoon. Very much recommended.

This review of Fan Fiction by Brent Spiner was originally written on August 27, 2021.

#BlogTour: The Girl In The Picture by Melissa Wiesner

For this blog tour we’re looking at a solid road trip romance that really does work for fans of Kerry Lonsdale and Diane Chamberlain, as the publisher notes – both of whom are authors I’ve read and reviewed on this very site. For this blog tour we’re looking at The Girl In The Picture by Melissa Wiesner.

Strong Road Trip Romance. This is a really solid road trip romance full of misunderstandings, some hijinx, tragic backstories for our main characters, and an element or two of danger – all while traveling the backroads of America as two strangers who happen to get thrown together due to, well, a major misunderstanding. ๐Ÿ˜€ You’ll laugh some, you’ll cry some, you’ll imagine yourself getting a bit wet – from rain, get your mind out of the damn gutter -, and yeah, you’ll probably fall in love with these two yourself. Very much recommended.

Below the jump, the “publisher details” including the book description, author bio, and social media/ buy links.
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Featured New Release Of The Week: The Liar Next Door by Nicola Marsh

This week we’re doing another blog tour for a the Featured spot, and this time I’m actually making a fairly novel recommendation that you simply take my word that you *need* to read this book. For reasons I’ll get into below. This week we’re looking at The Liar Next Door by Nicola Marsh.

Excellent “Who Is It?”. This is one of those books I’m going to recommend you approach the same way I did – I knew title and author, that was it. Didn’t even look at the description at all until I was over halfway into the book. I’ve read several books from this author over the past year in particular, and no matter if she is writing romantic comedy (July 2021’s The Man Ban) or suspense/ drama (this book), she never fails to give a great story within the bounds of the genre of the particular book.

And y’all, if you approach this book in this particular manner… you’re not going to have any dang clue who the titular “Liar” is. If you read the description before the book, you’ll know immediately as the description is specifically from the perspective of one of 3 main perspectives (among 7 primary players), though one of the perspectives does get a now/ then timeline split emphasizing that particular storyline more. (This is the perspective from the description.) But *all seven* main characters, and in particular all three main perspectives, are lying about something to someone, and unravelling all the various lies and how they stack up is one wild ride. Even when certain things begin to be resolved, Marsh manages to have the book end on yet another final bang within the last few sentences. (So a word of caution to those who generally read the last page of a book before reading the rest of the book: DO NOT DO THAT HERE.)

Yet again, with such a dichotomy of books releasing just a month apart, Marsh shows just how talented a storyteller she really is. Very much recommended.

Below the jump, the “publisher details”, including the book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “Featured New Release Of The Week: The Liar Next Door by Nicola Marsh”

#BookReview: Good As Dead by Susan Walter

Solid Mystery, Could Have Used Better Time Notations. This is one that is intriguing, yet also a bit slow up front – and sometimes hard to keep track of who/ when we are in any given section. There are four main perspectives – the survivor of a horrific car crash, her daughter, a lawyer, and a new neighbor of the survivor and her daughter – with several others also thrown in at different times – the lawyer’s client and the neighbor’s wife being the main two of these. All interweave at various points all the way through the ending, and indeed the epilogue is almost Fallout style in giving updates on what happens from each character’s perspective. The only real issue I had with the book was specifically the editing, and specifically that it could have used a “Present” header the same way it often used a “3 months ago” header when shifting perspectives. Usually the chapter after the “3 months ago” chapter is from the same character perspective, but now we’re back in the present… except this is only really noted via context clues. Still, truly an excellent book that is much more that it appears at first, with a bit of a thriller at the back of the book in an epic conclusion. Very much recommended.

This review of Good As Dead by Susan Walter was originally written on August 23, 2021.

Featured New Release Of The Week: An Unreliable Truth by Victor Methos

This week we’re looking at a compelling court room drama set in a fascinating world. This week we’re looking at An Unreliable Truth by Victor Methos.

But A Reliable Author. This was my first time reading this author, which makes me a bit different from most of the other ARC reviewers on Goodreads just under three weeks before publication. And I can tell you without hesitation that this is a perfectly fine first-for-you book, so long as you don’t mind coming into a world where at least some of the characters have already had other adventures with each other. (Though the way this one reads, one presumes even the first book was written such that the reader is coming in to already-established relationships.) The crime at the heart of this one is particularly grisly, and worthy of a capital trial (for those that believe murdering a murderer is something anyone, let alone a government, should be allowed to do). The personal dramas among the lawyers are compelling. The courtroom drama as the lawyers fight with and against each other is at least as compelling as any other factor. And the outcomes are satisfying within the realms of the world and particular story – though that in no way gives you any hint as to what they actually are. ๐Ÿ˜€ Basically, if you like courtroom dramas, you’re likely going to like this one. If you like compelling mysteries, you’re likely to like this one. If you like just good stories period, you’re likely to like this one. So if you’re open to any of the above at all, you should read this book. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Very much recommended.