Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Breaking Creed by Alex Kava

From the blurb:
Ryder Creed and his dogs have been making national headlines. They’ve intercepted several major drug stashes being smuggled through Atlanta’s airport. But their newfound celebrity has also garnered some unwanted attention.  To make matters worse, Creed helps one of the cartel’s drug mules escape—a fourteen-year-old girl who reminds him of his younger sister who disappeared fifteen years ago.

Meanwhile, FBI agent Maggie O’Dell is investigating a series of murders — the victims tortured, killed, and dumped in the Potomac River. She suspects it’s the work of a cunning and brutal assassin, but her politically motivated boss has been putting up roadblocks.  By the time she uncovers a hit list with Creed’s name on it, it might be too late. The cartel has already sent someone to destroy Creed and everyone close to him.

But Creed and his dogs have a few surprises in store on their compound in Florida. 

What I liked:  Ryder Creed and all his dogs! Creed is an ex-marine, one of those ruggedly handsome guys with a penchant for taking in strays. He has a compound in Florida where he trains cadaver dogs, search-and-rescue dogs, and even drug sniffing dogs. That's what Grace, his Jack Russell terrier, does. She can also air scent, and she loves her pink elephant squeaky toy. Then there's Bolo, his overly protective Lab and several more. Ryder and ALL his dogs are awesome. I also liked FBI agent Maggie O'Dell. She's got an eye for detail and is trained as a profiler. She and Ryder make a great team. (Apparently Kava has written several mysteries with Maggie as the main character, but I haven' read any of those.)

This book is well-written. The mystery is compelling. And it reads fast. But it's the characters who made it a 4-star read for me.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, November 10, 2019

November's Bookish Art...

Carl Wilhelm Holsoe-- Interior with Woman Reading

"Between the pages of a book
is a lovely place to be."

Thursday, November 7, 2019

One Way by S.J. Morden

Xenosystems needs workers to help them build Mars Base One on time and under budget. They need men and women who won't ask too many questions, who will follow orders, who have the necessary skills, and who no one will miss. Most importantly, they need people who are expendable. Who do they find? Frank, Zeus, Marcy, Declan, Abigail, Zero and Dee--seven felons serving life sentences in a Panopticon prison.
"We've been bought and sold. Xenosystems owns Panopticon. Panopticon owns us. But we all said yes when they asked us to go to Mars. It's going to be as good as we want to make it. It's going to be our home from now on ... We do our jobs, we take care of ourselves, respect each other as human beings. You wanted more out of life than that? Maybe we should have all thought just a little bit harder about our life choices."

Of course, things never go as smoothly as one hopes. Frank quickly learns that as he and the others are put through a rigorous training somewhere in the Nevadan desert. They hope things will be better once they get to Mars...but they know they'll never really be free.
"XO are getting edgy over whether you can keep it together up there... Once you're on Mars, there's no Hole. No discipline. No one to keep you in line. You'll fall apart, and with it, the project. You know how much Uncle Sam is ponying up for this? ... Trillions. And you, and your fine fellows, are now the only people standing between Mars Base One and an expensive failure. Which is why I'm going with you."
I've always been drawn to books about exploring and colonizing Mars, and One Way by S.J. Morden does not disappoint. From the first page to the last, I could not put this one down. I immediately liked Frank, just an ordinary guy in prison for murder, who's also good at getting things done. Now he's on Mars trying to get the base built on time even though they don't have all the necessary equipment, all while keeping himself and his fellow prisoners alive despite their overseer's cold indifference. All he really wants to do is make it back home to see his son. But that's looking more and more iffy as everything on Mars starts to go wrong. There's science and mystery in this one, and adventure, too. The suspense really builds as XO's ultimate plan for the seven convicts is revealed. Talk about a compelling read!
"Mars was a thing. A living, breathing thing. ...Tomorrow, they'd all build, and by night fall they might have done enough to mean they'd actually made an impact on Mars. A Mars that had already taken two of them."
I'm glad this book has a sequel!
Happy Reading!


Monday, November 4, 2019

Mystery & Suspense...

Title & Author:  The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

The Setting:  Talgarth High, West Sussex, England

The Main Characters:  
CLARE CASSIDY -- a divorced high school English teacher who's writing a biography about the Gothic writer R.M. Holland (or at least trying to)
GEORGIA -- Clare's 15-year-old daughter who's into creative writing and Wicca (which her mother doesn't know)
HERBERT -- their fluffy white dog that's a cross between a cairn terrier and a poodle
DS HARBINDER KAUR -- the lead detective on the case who still lives with her parents and who also attended Talgarth High when she was a teenager

The Premise:  This well-written mystery begins with the murder of Ella Elphick, an English teacher at Talgarth High and Clare Cassidy's friend. The police think the murderer is someone Clare knows, but she can't imagine anyone wanting to kill Ella. Then she finds a note in her diary written in the same handwriting as the note the police found by Ella's body. How did the killer get hold of her diary? And is she next on the killer's list? Or is he killing for her?

My Thoughts:  Griffiths writes such engaging and compelling characters! The narrative rotates between three POVs: Clare's, Harbinder's, and Georgia's. And I liked them all. None of them are perfect, but I got caught up in each of their stories. Griffiths also weaves the fictional R.M. Holland's Gothic tale, The Stranger, throughout the narrative, adding another layer to this intriguing mystery. While I didn't guess the killer, I had fun trying to figure it out. I had even more fun reading this book with Melody. This is our fifth buddy read this year. Be sure to check out her review, and her questions for me that follow.

Happy Reading!

1. The author has written a suspenseful mystery with a Gothic tone in this story (and a story within as well.) What do you think of this "book within a book" concept? Generally, do you think it's a good addition or is it a diversion to the overall story?
I usually like it when an author uses this 'story within a story' device. It's always interesting to get an added layer and a secondary story to go along with the main one. But it doesn't always add to the mystery. In this book, for example, I think the overall story would have been the same with or without including those parts from Holland's short story, The Stranger, along the way. But even though the short story didn't tie in too tightly with the main mystery, I still thought it was fun to read. I just wish I could have read Holland's other short story, The Ravening Beast, too.  

2. To put this in a fun and hypothetical way, what do you think Harbinder and Gary had seen back when they were both students back at Talgarth High? Do you think it's the ghost of Alice Avery or is it their imagination, given the atmosphere of the old building?
Hmm... Harbinder doesn't strike me as the kind of person to be influenced by atmosphere or rumors of ghosts (even though she loved to read horror stories as a teen). So I'm going to say that they really did see the ghost of Alive Avery. The fact that neither she nor Gary ever told anyone about what they saw afterward also makes me think that they really did see something creepy and supernatural that night at the school that they both wanted to forget. I loved that practical, no-nonsense Harbinder had this unexplainable and eerie moment as a teen; it made me like her even more. 

Thanks, Melody, for another fun buddy read!

Friday, November 1, 2019

Haiku Reviews...

Day By Day Armageddon by J.L. Bourne

Written like a journal:
one man's fight to survive the
growing zombie hoard.

Apocalyptic fiction .... 200 pages .... 3/5 stars.
(There are a few flaws, and the ending felt way too abrupt, but overall a fun zombie read.)

Deadly Dreams by Kylie Brant

Ritual fires. Three cops dead.
Could Risa's psychic dreams help
Det. McGuire solve this case?

Mystery/Suspense .... 325 pages .... 4/5 stars.
(I really like Brant's Mindhunter Series!)

Murder at Half Moon Gate by Andrea Penrose

An inventor's murder
 draws Wrexford and Charlotte into
a maze of death and lies.

Historical mystery .... 358 pages .... 5/5 stars.
(I liked this one even better than Murder on Black Swan Lane.)

Cut and Run by Mary Burton

Missing girls, murder,
twin sisters separated at birth...
and one Texas Ranger.

Mystery/Suspense .... 323 pages .... 4/5 stars.
(Thanks for the recommendation, Rachel! I really liked this one.)

Happy Reading!

Thursday, October 31, 2019


How would you like to visit one of these haunted castles?
Don't they look cool?

Burg Frankenstein, Darmstadt, Germany

Bran Castle (Dracula's Castle), Romania

Chateau Miranda, Belgium

Leap Castle, Ireland

Happy Halloween!

(And be sure to check out My Favorite Halloween Movies!)

Monday, October 28, 2019

Fantastic Fiction...

In The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter, Theodora Goss weaves together a captivating mystery involving Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson and the daughters of several classic mad scientists: Mary Jekyll, Diana Hyde, Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherine Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein. Their fathers were all involved in the Societe des Alchimistes, a society devoted to helping humans and animals evolve through transmutation whose strange and terrible experiments involved their very own daughters! And while these men are all dead now, someone from their society has been killing women in London ... and stealing their body parts. Mary Jekyll is determined to figure out her father's part in the society, who this new murderer is, and what his ultimate goal may be.

There are lots of monsters and adventure in this one, and I enjoyed every page. I think it helps to be a little familiar with the original classics that Goss draws from, but she does a good job of having each character narrate enough of her own story to catch you up of you're not familiar with them or their infamous fathers. Mary Jekyll and Beatrice Rappaccini were by far my favorite of the bunch, but all of these headstrong heroines are well-drawn and memorable. And the mystery is a good one, too. But then any mystery with Sherlock Holmes in it is one I know I'll like. For me, this was just a fun read. It's also my fourth and last book for this year's R.I.P.

Happy Reading!