#BookReview: The Moonshine Messiah by Russell W. Johnson

Complex Almost Anti-Hero Leads Layered World Into Promising New Series. This is one of those books that touches on a lot of things – the opioid epidemic, the crash of coal in the push for so-called “green” energy, land speculation, family, the complexities of being on the right side of the “law” when your family isn’t, high school romance and the fallout thereof, traditional Southern living vs the newer get-rich-quick ethos… and even a strong dash of the militia movement and the mistakes on both sides of Ruby Ridge and Waco and the long shadows both of those events cast in certain communities. In the process, it creates a truly layered and compelling world that while just as complex as our own, still allows for a high degree of escapism (for most). And yet, it is also a brutal tale of survival and betrayal, of losing yourself and finding yourself over and over and over again. Of trying to become something you want to be, even as your community and even family are doing their damndest to drag you in other directions. Overall truly a remarkable tale for what it is, and one I am very much looking forward to coming back into this world. Very much recommended.

This review of The Moonshine Messiah by Russell W. Johnson was originally written on May 9, 2023.

#BookReview: Broken Angels by Gwyn Bennett

Modern Sherlock Holmes/ Police Procedural Blend. Here, we get yet another police procedural set in Great Britain, so the terms and some of the procedures are a bit different than American audiences generally expect, yet are in-line with other similar books I’ve read. This particular new series has a different bent than most in that its central (series titular) character is a trained tracker/ behaviorist, and his backstory and actions here are reminiscent of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Original Detective. His tracking abilities are also reminiscent of the more modern day author David Wood’s Bones Bonebrake, and indeed both Lane and Bonebrake have connections to the same region of the US. This book also features a bit more of a disturbed villain than usual, and some scenes may be a bit much for some readers. Nothing overly graphic, and certainly not “on screen”, but the Carrie-type religious abuse is quite heavy handed, while also being necessary to establish the full depravity and insanity of the villain. Overall, a compelling series starter – which is great, since new publisher Storm Publishing is re-releasing almost the entire series under new titles on the same day. Very much recommended.

This review of Broken Angels by Gwyn Bennett was originally written on May 2, 2023.

#BookReview: Seven Girls Gone by Allison Brennan

Small Town Southern Mystery Draws In Feds. While technically this is Book 4 of the Quinn and Costa series, they and their team don’t actually show up for a decent chunk of the beginning of the book – it seemingly took them longer to come into this narrative than Book 3, The Wrong Victim (which does get referenced here, for those that cannot stand any spoilers whatsoever). But once they do show up, things begin escalating quite quickly and as always we see the various team members doing what they each do best and what makes them such an effective team. As is the norm of “freak of the week” police procedurals, we also get a fair amount of team and personal development of much of the team as well, and in the end the reader is left ready for the next adventure. This is a well told and well paced tale that even at 400 pages, doesn’t quite feel it – it reads more like maybe a 320 pager or so. I’m very much looking forward to Book 5 in this series, and this entry is very much recommended.

This review of Seven Girls Gone by Allison Brennan was originally written on April 25, 2023.

#BookReview: In My Life by Kay Bratt

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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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.

#BlogTour: Their Resting Place by B.R. Spangler

For this blog tour we’re looking at another solid entry in a lengthening police procedural series… that happens to have one of the most explosive final few pages of any book in its series to date. For this blog tour we’re looking at Their Resting Place by B.R. Spangler.

Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:

Another Solid Entry In Series. This is one of those police procedural, deep in series, books where you don’t *have* to read earlier books first – enough of the backstory is explained to be able to follow here – but if you’re a “NO SPOILERS EVER!!!!” type… read the series from Book 1. Seriously, there are references and explanations all the way back that far in this one. For the rest of us, this is a great entry into the series, yet again another with a particularly grisly murder mechanism and with equally solid relationship based drama. Spangler does well to keep every book in the series well grounded on both sides of the formula, and it continues to work well for him. This one in particular is another where there is a surprise reveal at the end such that you’re going to want the next book *immediately* – I know I already do. Very much recommended.

After the jump, the “publisher details”, including book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Their Resting Place by B.R. Spangler”

#BookReview: Retribution by Robert McCaw

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. ๐Ÿ˜€ 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.

#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” ( ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) 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: Only Girl Alive by Holly S. Roberts

Creepy Series Starter. This one has a more rare premise than any detective story I’ve ever encountered: Set in Utah, the lead detective here was raised in the polygamous – and heretical, according to current LDS doctrine as I understand it – branch of the Church of Latter Day Saints, aka Mormons. Her squad is sent in to deal with particularly sensitive investigations primarily involving this group, and in this particular case actively involving her former family. Which is interesting enough, but then you get into the truly creepier/ seedier side of humanity generally and this particular sect specifically, and it gets truly… icky, let’s go with. There is a LOT of crazy to unpack here, and a lot of childhood trauma for our lead detective to try to handle in the process. Overall the mystery itself is solid, but this is clearly yet another in the police procedural genre where you’re coming into this for the team/ personal dynamics as much as for any given mystery, and Roberts does a great job of setting that up and setting it in motion. The *one* criticism is that our lead Detective is constantly referred to as “Detective Sergeant”, which is a British position and not an American one, at least per my own knowledge of American policing. (Which in some areas is quite extensive, but admittedly exact ranks within departments and peculiarities among States in those ranks is not one of them. It is *possible* that this rank exists in Utah and I am simply unaware of it, and it is a minor detail anyway, though one that can throw the reader out of the book when encountered.) Overall an interesting tale well told, and I’ll be looking forward to the next book in this series. Very much recommended.

This review of Only Girl Alive by Holly S. Roberts was originally written on November 24, 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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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”