#BookReview: Hart’s Ridge by Kay Bratt

Genre-Bending Series Starter. This is a police procedural, ala so many others such as BR Spangler, Noelle Holten, and Allison Brennan, among so many others. Which is perfect for TV fans of shows like Blue Bloods or NYPD Blue or Chicago Blue or the various Law and Order shows. Bratt’s explicit inspiration here is the true crime genre she personally loves, and in fact the case here is based on a real-world case nearly four decades old.

But it is *also* a women’s fiction tale of a woman, her family, her small town, and the various secrets involved all around, all over town. It is here where the true “hart” ( 😉 ) of the story is, and as with the various police procedurals named above (and others), it is on the strength of these stories that really makes this book as strong as it is and sets up the new series as well as it does. Which is quite commendable here.

The one thing that *must* be mentioned by me in particular, as a former Cop Block activist that largely (though not *completely*) gave up that activism to become a book blogger -with Bratt’s own Dancing With The Sun one of my earliest books in that switch over – is that Bratt *does* get quite cozy with the pro-police “copaganda” bullcrap. Understandable, given Bratt’s own small-town, rural life, the market she has created for herself, and even the tale set up here. As a native of the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains / exurbs of Atlanta, I can say without question that the sentiments Bratt expresses here are genuine to the region. But that region is also home to cops who murdered a pastor for taking a parishioner to a convenience store, who threw a grenade on a baby sleeping in its crib, and who murdered a 17yo JROTC cadet for the “crime” of opening his door with a Wii controller in his hands. For those who despise copaganda in all its forms, I *can* say this: Read this book despite this. It really is that strong as a story outside of those elements, and there are at least hints that maybe they won’t be as pervasive going forward in the series.

Another thing that Bratt does particularly well, however, is showing North Georgia fairly well, warts and all, including even a seeming reference to the now-defunct yet legendary Poole’s BBQ of Ellijay, which closed its doors less than a couple of months prior to the publication of this book. Others who have followed Bratt for a while will notice other true-to-life elements, including a lot of the various dynamics at play within the book ringing similar to things Bratt has spoken of within her own family and the Yorkie rescue Bratt works with quite heavily. (RIP, Grandpa.)

Overall this is truly yet another great book and a solid opening to a series with great potential from Bratt, despite the copaganda, and it truly is very much recommended.

This review of Hart’s Ridge by Kay Bratt was originally written on December 16, 2022.

#BookReview: Tremors In The Blood by Amit Katwala

Evocative Evisceration Of Everyday “Evidence”. In this text, Katwala shows the origins and history of the polygraph “lie detector” device that has been banned from many courtrooms due to its unreliability yet which lives on in the American zeitgeist. Katwala tells the tale via narrative nonfiction that places the reader in the center of the action and cases in question, then follows the principle players throughout their lifetimes as they try to justify their life’s work. In the process, Katwala does a tremendous job of showing how truly unreliable these devices are, and even includes a brief discussion of more modern successor technologies such as brain wave scanners. Anyone interested in the American justice system absolutely needs to read this history of this long-debunked zombie junk science. Indeed, the only negative here is that the bibliography is scant at just 12% or so of the narrative, compared to a more common 20-30% in my experience, and thus the single star deduction. Very much recommended.

This review of Tremors In The Blood by Amit Katwala was originally written on December 6, 2022.

#BookReview: Charlie by James Beltz

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.

#BlogTour: Taken Before Dawn by B.R. Spangler

For this blog tour we’re looking at the most intense Casey White series book yet. For this blog tour we’re looking at Taken Before Dawn by B.R. Spangler.

You Probably Won’t Want To Read This Right Before Bed. In this next chilling installment of this series, we get what is quite possibly Spangler’s most chilling villains to date – and the most direct threat to Detective Casey White since I picked up this series around book 4 or so. One sequence in particular, taking up somewhere around a quarter of the book or so, is so truly chilling that the title of this review was warranted – you’re not going to want to try to go to sleep while reading/ soon after reading this particular section. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll be a bit oblique and note that there is a popular horror franchise that is actually *less* chilling, though around the same type of idea, as what is going on here. Before and after this section, the book is actually more of a “standard” Casey White series police procedural. We get to see the team doing its thing both professionally and personally, including how later developments in the series (again, being vague to avoid giving anything away) continue to play out. Certainly one of the better books in this series, which is saying quite a bit itself, and arguably the best to date – which is saying *quite* a bit. I know this thing releases almost a full month after I’m writing this review, but BR… Imma need number 8 like, *now*. Very much recommended.

After the jump, the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Taken Before Dawn by B.R. Spangler”

Featured New Release Of The Week: Twisted by James Beltz

This week we’re looking at a book that manages to combine the crime thriller and paranormal genres in ways I’ve never seen done before, giving us a killer in many ways more terrifying than even Kilgrave from the MCU’s Jessica Jones. This week we’re looking at Twisted by James Beltz.

Chilling Combination of Crime Thriller and Paranormal. For a book on the shorter end of the spectrum = roughly 220 pages or so – Beltz manages to pack quite a bit of action into this one, and along the way gives us some truly memorable sequences of various psychic abilities. The murderer is chilling and brutal, the mystery is taut, and the final battle is ultimately a refreshing blend of near slapstick humor (needed, as heavy as other elements immediately around it can get), psychic badassery normally seen only in comic books, and shocking action that not even Stephen King has managed to pull together in Carrie or Firestarter. In the end, you’ll be glad that Beltz wrote this trilogy at one time before releasing each book just a month apart – because you’re going to be wanting the next book in your hand immediately. Very much recommended.

#TwelveDaysOfRomance #BlogTour: Little Girl Gone by Amanda Stevens

For this next entry in the Twelve Days Of Romance blog tour series, we’re looking at a *very* slow burn romance that serves as a solid series starter. For this entry, we’re looking at Little Girl Gone by Amanda Stevens.

Solid Series Starter. Ok, so I use that same title a fair amount. But it applies so often! Here, Stevens focuses primarily on the investigation, as police procedurals tend to do, while establishing at least her primary leads fairly well, and giving readers reasons to want to continue to invest in them. Arguably one weakness is that this is a *very* slow burn, second chance kind of romance that may or may not meet the strictest “rules and regulations” of the genre in that regard. So for the absolute genre purists… read and decide for yourselves here. For the rest of us, this was a solid story all around, one that resolves its primary mystery while allowing enough to remain open that we’ll want to come back to this world again – which is exactly what a Book 1 is supposed to do, so kudos there! Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
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#TwelveDaysOfRomance #BlogTour: His To Defend by Sharon C Cooper

For this next entry in the Twelve Days of Romance blog tour, we’re looking at a book that features both a second chance romance *and* a love angle (there are no love triangles among same-sexuality people)… with a dead man. For this blog tour, we’re looking at His To Defend by Sharon C Cooper.

A Love Triangle With A Dead Man. This is a second chance romance *and* a love triangle – except the third point, the best friend / ex-husband, is murdered in his very first scene in the book. From there, the suspense involves finding out who murdered him and why, even as our remaining two parts of the triangle work through their long-standing feelings for each other and how their relationships with the third complicated this. Overall a solid story on both the suspense and romance sides, and a touch on the shortish side at under 300 pages (which happens to be a touch on the high side of average for the genre, in my experience). Also a Solid Series Starter, for those following my reviews. 😉 I look forward to coming back to this world. Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#TwelveDaysOfRomance #BlogTour: His To Defend by Sharon C Cooper”

#BlogTour: The Memory Bones by B.R. Spangler

For this blog tour, we’re looking at a book that I actually reviewed a month ago, in a weird situation I’ll detail at the end of this post. For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Memory Bones by B.R. Spangler.

Here’s a recap of the Goodreads review:

A Finale. Without going *too* deep into spoiler territory, by the end of this book the long-running mythos surrounding Detective White achieves a resolution – and not only that, but several other character arcs seem to be wrapped up as well. So much so that this book ends feeling like a series finale – until you hit the author note at the back, confirming that the author *is* working on the next book in this series. Which means that this book isn’t so much *series* finale as “season” finale, and I for one can’t wait to see what else the author cooks up from here.

As to this particular tale, yet again Spangler manages to craft a fairly inventive way to murder, and yet again the mystery here is quite wide ranging and explosive – and based on at least one real world situation that I am aware of, that went on at least as long before it was detected. (Though to be clear, I am not aware of any murders happening in the real world variant to preserve the secret… though it is at least theoretically possible.)

But the real stars of this series are White and her team, and here they yet again step up and provide much of what makes this series so great. Yes, Spangler is solid on the mysteries and murders, but it is in this part, in developing the entire cast of characters and their relationships, that Spangler truly excels and indeed (possibly arguably) overcomes the limitations and perceptions of this genre. Very much recommended.

After the jump, the various “publisher details”, including the book description, author bio, and social media and buy links. And the explanation. 😀
Continue reading “#BlogTour: The Memory Bones by B.R. Spangler”

#BookReview: The Memory Bones by B.R. Spangler

A Finale. Without going *too* deep into spoiler territory, by the end of this book the long-running mythos surrounding Detective White achieves a resolution – and not only that, but several other character arcs seem to be wrapped up as well. So much so that this book ends feeling like a series finale – until you hit the author note at the back, confirming that the author *is* working on the next book in this series. Which means that this book isn’t so much *series* finale as “season” finale, and I for one can’t wait to see what else the author cooks up from here.

As to this particular tale, yet again Spangler manages to craft a fairly inventive way to murder, and yet again the mystery here is quite wide ranging and explosive – and based on at least one real world situation that I am aware of, that went on at least as long before it was detected. (Though to be clear, I am not aware of any murders happening in the real world variant to preserve the secret… though it is at least theoretically possible.)

But the real stars of this series are White and her team, and here they yet again step up and provide much of what makes this series so great. Yes, Spangler is solid on the mysteries and murders, but it is in this part, in developing the entire cast of characters and their relationships, that Spangler truly excels and indeed (possibly arguably) overcomes the limitations and perceptions of this genre. Very much recommended.

This review of The Memory Bones by B.R. Spangler was originally written on November 7, 2021.

#BlogTour: The Crying House by BR Spangler

For this blog tour, we’re looking at one hell of a creepy murder mystery that is semi-deep in a series and contains near immediate spoilers for the previous book. For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Crying House by BR Spangler.

Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:

You’ll Never Look At Ye Olden Ways The Same Again. This was my first book from Spangler, and is the 4th book in this particular series. It picks up seemingly some period of time after the events of Book 3, and immediately spoils some of the ending there. So if you have particular cares about such… start at Book 1 here and work your way here. As a police procedural / murder mystery of the book type series, this one actually works quite well and features a technique (used in a variety of ways) that will both creep you out and cause you to think twice about certain olden ways of doing certain things. What were y’all *really* up to, humanity of old???? Several different deaths drive the action here, and there is indeed quite a bit of action along with the mystery, including a pulse pounding race to… well, not quite the finale, but the effective end (+ some exposition) of that particular thread. And then another bit of action to resolve the other main thread before ending on a series explosion big enough that you’re going to want the next book in your hands immediately. Very much recommended.

Below the jump, the various publisher details of the book, including a description, author bio, and links to social media and to buy the book. 🙂
Continue reading “#BlogTour: The Crying House by BR Spangler”