Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee – REVIEW

5 out of 5 stars

This is an incredibly great middle grade fiction book about a young girl with her first stirrings of a crush on a girl and all the confusion that comes with that and trying to figure things out.

Book Cover: Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee - purple background - two girls, one dressed as Romeo and the other as Juliet, dancing in the foreground

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Synopsis

Mattie, a star student and passionate reader, is delighted when her English teacher announces the eighth grade will be staging Romeo and Juliet. And she is even more excited when, after a series of events, she finds herself playing Romeo, opposite Gemma Braithwaite’s Juliet. Gemma, the new girl at school, is brilliant, pretty, outgoing—and, if all that wasn’t enough: British.

As the cast prepares for opening night, Mattie finds herself growing increasingly attracted to Gemma and confused, since, just days before, she had found herself crushing on a boy named Elijah. Is it possible to have a crush on both boys AND girls? If that wasn’t enough to deal with, things backstage at the production are starting to rival any Shakespearean drama! In this sweet and funny look at the complicated nature of middle school romance, Mattie learns how to be the lead player in her own life.

 

Review

I thought this was an absolutely wonderful book and a delightful read! I read about this book on Facebook when the author posted something about being asked to tone down her presentation in a school in a conservative town. Immediately, I seeked the book out on Amazon and bought the Kindle version.

Our main character, Mattie, is a very complex character. She’s not liked by the “popular” crowd, but she doesn’t seem to mind too much. Instead, she has her friends Tessa and Lucy to hang out with and she’s okay with that. Until she meets Gemma at a costume party the “popular” crowd was having that she wasn’t actually invited to.

The settings in this book had great descriptions without going overboard. The plot line moves along at a steady pace. At no point did I think that it was moving too slowly or too fast.

Part of what I loved about this book is that at first, Mattie doesn’t even realize she has a crush on Gemma. When someone points it out to her, it still takes her awhile to work through her feelings and decide for herself. I like that the author showed us the fact that Mattie was struggling.

This is an incredibly great book for tweens and early teens who may be struggling with their sexuality and what all those feeling are inside. Yet, it’s not at all preachy or condescending. The author does a really great job keeping a balance between examining what Mattie’s feeling without the sole focus being on just her sexuality. There’s a good balance between other things in life too, her schoolwork, her play rehearsals, etc.

I highly, highly recommend this middle grade fiction for all ages really. It was incredibly well written and a wonderful, delightful read.

Jamie Quinn Mysteries #1-3 – REVIEWS

First of all, my sincere apologies to the author, Barbara Venkataraman, for taking so long to read these three books in the Jamie Quinn series and get the reviews written. I’m so sorry it has taken me so long.

Without further ado, let’s get started!

Book Box Set Cover - Jamie Quinn Mystery Collection, Box set Books 1-3: Death by Didgeridoo; The Case of the Killer Divorce; Peril in the Park; all written by Barbara Venkataraman - background is black with the three book covers and orange writing.

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Photo of a didgeridoo - an Australian aboriginal instrument - wooden with a beaded pattern along the center of the instrument

Book #1 – Death by Didgeridoo – 4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis

Reluctant lawyer, Jamie Quinn, still reeling from the death of her mother, is pulled into a game of deception, jealousy, and vengeance when her cousin, Adam, is wrongfully accused of murder. It’s up to Jamie to find the real murderer before it’s too late. It doesn’t help that the victim is a former rock star with more enemies than friends, or that Adam confessed to a murder he didn’t commit.

Review

This book was a good introduction to the series. It’s fairly short, almost more of a novella than a novel, but it moved along at a steady pace and gave us a good introduction to the main characters of the series.

So far, I really enjoy the characters. Jamie’s great and reminds me a lot of myself. Duke is over-the-top but in a totally believable, realistic way and I love him. All of the main characters seem to be well-developed. They’re perhaps not complex yet, but that’s mostly because we’re just now meeting them. I imagine the more books there are in the series, the more we’ll see them develop.

All in all, it’s a good start to the series!

line of books - some stacked, some standing, some leaning - books are blue, brown, red, green, and yellow
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Book #2 – The Case of the Killer Divorce – 3.5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis

Reluctant lawyer, Jamie Quinn, has returned to her family law practice after a hiatus due to the death of her mother. It’s business as usual until a bitter divorce case turns into a murder investigation, and Jamie’s client becomes the prime suspect. When she can’t untangle truth from lies, Jamie enlists the help of Duke Broussard, her favorite private investigator, to try to clear her client’s name. And she’s hoping that, in his spare time, he can help her find her long-lost father.

Review

I didn’t enjoy this second book as much as I did the first. I felt like the pace was almost too fast. It was hard for me to keep up with what was going on. This is another shorter book, more of a novella than a novel.

It’s not a horrible book. The mystery plot line is interesting and so is the sub-plot of Jamie trying to find her father. However, I’m glad this one was sandwiched in between two much better stories. If this was the only story I had read of the series, I may not have continued with it.

However, the sub-plot of Jamie trying to find her father is important to the overall story arc, so I do recommend that you read this book, even tho’ it’s not as good as the first or third.

Park scene with people walking dogs, sitting on benches, walking with children or as couples.

Book #3 – Peril in the Park – 4.5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis

There’s big trouble in the park system. Someone is making life difficult for Jamie Quinn’s boyfriend, Kip Simons, the new director of Broward County parks. Was it the angry supervisor passed over for promotion? The disgruntled employee Kip recently fired? Or someone with a bigger ax to grind? If Jamie can’t figure it out soon, she may be looking for a new boyfriend because there’s a dead guy in the park and Kip has gone missing! With the help of her favorite P.I., Duke Broussard, Jamie must race the clock to find Kip before it’s too late.

Review

In my opinion, this is the best out of all three books. It feels as though Ms. Venkataraman has finally found the “groove” and the writing is flowing more smoothly. This book was more a full-length novel instead of the shorter novella length of the first two.

In this book, we see lots of the interpersonal relationships between the main characters grow and change. The mystery is fascinating and while I had some idea of the villain before the end of the book, I wasn’t certain until it was revealed.

I really enjoyed this third book and I’m looking forward to the fourth in the series, which I have on my Kindle, but it may be some time before I can get to it. June and July are already pretty full with books to read for review. 🙂

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*** Many thanks to Barbara Venkataraman for providing me with an e-copy of these books. I was not compensated for my review. All opinions and conclusions are my own. ***

Grilled, Chilled, and Killed – REVIEW

4.5 out of 5 stars.

Grilled, Chilled, and Killed is the second book in the Big Lake Murders series. I enjoyed this book quite a bit. While it didn’t have that extra pizzazz that throws it up to a 5-star read for me, it was still delightful.

Book Cover: Lesley A. Diehl - Grilled, Chilled, and Killed - Tropical background with flamingo silhouette and an alligator - grill, fire and spatula in foreground.
Big Lake Murders #2

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Synopsis

It seems as if Emily is destined to discover dead bodies. This time she finds one of the contestants at the local barbecue cook-off dead and covered in barbecue sauce in a beer cooler. She should be used to stumbling onto corpses by now and the question of who killed the guy should pique her curiosity, but Emily decides to let Detective Lewis handle this one, at least until she figures his theory of who did the deed is wrong, wrong, wrong. Lewis’ denigration of Emily’s speculations is condescending enough to stimulate her dormant snooping skills. As the two of them go on their separate paths to find the killer, Lewis’ old partner, Toby the dirty, tobacco-spitting cop interferes in the investigation leaving Lewis with the wrong man in jail. Killers, bootleggers, barbecue and feral pigs—it’s a lethal game of hide and seek in the Florida swamp.

Graphic of silver and red grill utensils - spatulas and skewers

Review

I enjoyed this installment in the Big Lake Murders series. It was a delightful read. This installment finds our characters dealing with Emily finding a murder victim at the local barbecue cook-off.

I really enjoy Emily as a character as well as the others in these books. I think she’s quirky and fun. She does occasionally get herself into trouble, but she usually at least takes one other person with her so she’s not going into dangerous situations without backup.

I did know who the villain was way before the end of the book, but it wasn’t too disappointing as the parts of the book outside the mystery were also very interesting. The plot line moved along better in this one than in the first book. I didn’t have any time where I felt it was going too slow.

I’m definitely looking forward to the third book in this series!

BBQ Graphic - Letters are brown with little flames around them

Blog Tour – The Connecticut Corpse Caper – REVIEW & INTERVIEW

Large Banner: Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours Presents "The Connecticut Corpse Caper" by Tyler Colins - May 15-May 28, 2017 - includes a picture of the author and the book cover

4 out of 5 stars

Hello! Today I’m honored to bring you a stop along the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for the book The Connecticut Corpse Caper by Tyler Colins. Not only will I be featuring a review of the book, but I will also be presenting an interview with the author, Tyler Colins!

Book Cover: A Triple Threat Mystery - Book 1 - The Connecticut Corpse Caper by Tyler Colins - Three computer-generated women standing in front of a mansion or several story building
Triple Threat #1

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Synopsis

The antics of seven inheritance recipients during a week-long stay at a haunted Connecticut estate are detailed by Jill Jocasta Fonne. The will of a deceased relative, wacky Aunt Mat, stipulates that if anyone leaves early, his or her share will be divided among those remaining. As it happens, one does leave permanently when he dies hours after arrival. Disappearing corpses, hidden passageways, and ghoulish pranks have Jill and best friends, Rey and Linda, seeking clues as to the person responsible for the mysterious goings-on. Others soon join in the sleuthing, and the bumbling and stumbling-and mayhem-begin.

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Review

The Connecticut Corpse Caper is the first book in the new Triple Threat Mystery series by Tyler Colins. It’s a good, solid start to the series.

I like the three main characters in this series, though in this first book, they were just three of several viable murder suspects and potential victims. I think Rey, Jill, and Linda will make an excellent private investigative team and I look forward to reading more about them. I did know who the villain was fairly early on – or at least one of them. It was nice to get to see that I was right in the end, though.

This book really needed the more in-depth style of setting descriptions and Ms. Colins delivered beautifully. There was only one time I was a little confused about which secret passageway led to which room, but for the most part, Ms. Colins’ descriptions made it easy to follow.

I felt the plot line dragged a bit here and there, but it wasn’t horrible. It was, however, part of the reason I only gave the book 4 stars instead of 5. All in all it was a decent start to the series and I do look forward to reading more from this author.

*** Thank you to Tyler Colins for an ARC of this title. I was not compensated for my review. All opinions and conclusions are my own. ***

Long tree branch with cluster of two pinecones and evergreen stems at the right end of the line
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Interview with Tyler Colins

First, let me say a huge “Thank You!” to Ms. Colins for being willing to answer my questions. Enjoy!

  • Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day?  Do you enjoy your day job?
    • I work in HR, handling contractors.  To be perfectly frank, I don’t enjoy it, but I don’t not enjoy it.  It’s not very challenging, but it has its moments; I do learn new things, which is great.  And I’m very grateful that it pays the bills.

  • Do you set aside time to write every day or do you write more sporadically? When you write, do you aim to complete a set # of pages or words? How does music/other noise affect your concentration when you’re writing?

    • I try to write a little every morning before the work day begins and either aim for a scene or a revision/edit of a previously written scene.  Little bothers me when I’m writing (I can usually tune things/people out).

  • When you’re writing, do your characters seem to “hijack” the story or do you feel like you have the “reigns” of the story? Similarly, do you outline your book first or just sit down and write, seeing where it takes you?

    • I never have an outline because I know it will never be adhered to, but I always have an all-encompassing idea/image in mind.  My characters have definitely (!) hijacked many scenes—in fact, some have even rewritten them.  <LOL>

  • How did you break into the publishing world? How many rejections did you go through before finding a publisher? Did you ever think about quitting? If so, what did you do to keep yourself hopeful?

    • I broke in by e-publishing.  The traditional route seemed limited.  Rejections from publishers and agents were growing wearisome (and they don’t do much for the ego, I must say).  I’m no James Joyce, but my writing isn’t bad, either.  I believe I have [good/fun] stories to tell.  . . . No!  I’ve never thought about quitting—ever.  I’ve been writing since I was twelve and it’s who I am.  To stay hopeful and focused, I keep the faith and tell myself that if it’s meant to be, it will happen.  Everything has its time.  Patience and perseverance—and belief—are musts.

  • In general, how many revisions do you go through before a book is published? Do you have beta readers or is it just your editing team and their suggestions? Do you set your books aside for a period of time and then pick them up and edit them?

    • Many!  It’s the editor in me; a scene, a book, has to feel right and everything has to tie logically together.  Yes, I have set aside books . . . and I’m glad I have.  They now serve as fodder for new ones.  And one I put in a drawer nearly two decades ago (my, time does fly), I am now revising and placing on Wattpad in weekly installments.

  • A good villain is hard to write. How did you get in touch with your inner villain(s) to write this book. Was there a real-life inspiration for him/her/it?

    • For The Connecticut Corpse Caper, the villain came easily.  The book had been written as an ode to all those wonderful, fun/funny B&W mystery movies I’d grown up with.  I applied some typical villain traits, but the characters really “created” themselves.

  • Do any family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. end up showing up in your work or are your characters all truly fictional? 

    • All my characters are truly fictional.  I don’t know why, but I’ve never been inclined or inspired to develop one based on someone I know.

  • If you could write about anyone fiction/nonfiction, contemporary/historical who would you write about? Why?

    • A great question!  Wow.  I suppose I’d like to write about a pirate, a real or fictitious one.  They’ve always intrigued me, rogues that they can be.

  • What are some great books you’ve read recently?

    • Given my full-time job, and taking care of Mom, and trying to get my own books written, I find it very difficult to read any these days (and I was always an avid reader).  The last one I read, though, was by Janet Evanovich. I thoroughly enjoy her Stephanie Plum series; the characters and situations are crazy-funny.

  • What books have influenced your life the most?

    • In terms of my writing, I’d have to (again) say that Nancy Drew put the mystery-solving bug in me at a very young age.  I always wanted to be a detective like her, and now, I guess I am.  J

  • If you could spend one day with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during that day?

    • Another great question!  I’d probably want to spend the day with Rey; she’s brash and melodramatic, and isn’t scared to say what’s on her mind.  She’s also willing to do whatever is necessary to get a job done, even if it means some B&E.  I think I’d like to do something totally “girly”, something I don’t normally do, and that would be spending an afternoon at the mall with her (that gal is one heckuva shopper).

  • Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Have you ever learned anything from a bad review and incorporated it into your future work?

    • I’ve only had one so far, but I’ve not really put myself out there yet.  I’m trying to get a blog going (that’s a story in itself) and make a Facebook page related to my Triple Threat Investigation Agency private eyes less static.  I have so much to learn, though, and time is so limited.  But it will come.  And, hopefully, so will the reviews—be they good or bad.

 

Once again, I’m very thankful that Ms. Colins was willing to answer my questions! I hope you all enjoyed today’s stop on the tour. To get a list of tour participants, click on the banner below.

 

Medium banner - Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours Presents - The Connecticut Corpse Caper by Tyler Colins - May 15-May 28, 2017 - includes book cover

Mini Reviews – Bibliophile Series by Kate Carlisle – Part 1

I decided to write a few mini reviews. This particular set is on the Bibliophile series by Kate Carlisle. I’ve read them all several times and enjoy them immensely.  This will be the first in a series of posts of mini reviews on the Bibliophile Mystery series. There are currently 10 books, plus a novella, with an 11th coming out in June (hence the reason for breaking it up into sections)! I will not be including synopses with these mini reviews but I will still provide the Goodreads link and purchase links. The above link will take you to the page on Kate Carlisle’s website where you can read about all her books, both the Bibliophile series and the Fixer-Upper series.

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Book Cover: Homicide in Hardcover - A Bibliophile Mystery by Kate Carlisle - "Murder is always a bestseller!" - Library setting, bookshelves lining walls with a window inset on the back wall, kitty on the library ladder, a table in the foreground with a stack of books, a vase of flowers and an open book with a knife stuck in the right hand page.

Homicide in Hardcover – Book #1 – 4.5 out of 5 stars

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Homicide in Hardcover is an excellent start to this series! When I first picked this book up, off the shelf at the library I work in, all I knew was what was written on the back of the book. I could not put it down! I quickly read through all six books that were available at the time. Since then, I’ve re-read them many times.

The characters are awesome. They’re complex and well-developed. Brooklyn does tend to take chances, but usually she at least attempts to contact Derek and/or the police first. The plot line moves along quickly in this book and when I read it for the first time, I didn’t have a clue on the villain until it announced. Setting descriptions are provided with a perfect balance (for me).

This is a great series and highly recommended!

line of books - some stacked, some standing, some leaning - books are blue, brown, red, green, and yellow
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Book Cover: If Books Could Kill - A Bibliophile Mystery by Kate Carlisle - In the background there is an open window beyond which tents with tables set up can be seen. In the foreground is a desk with an open book and lamp sitting on it - on top of the book are an exacto knife and an awl. On the windowsill sits a cat and a bloody hammer

If Books Could Kill – Book #2 – 4.5 out of 5 stars

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If Books Could Kill is the 2nd book in the Bibliophile Mystery series and it’s just as excellent as the first one! This time, Brooklyn & Derek have travelled to Edinburgh for a big book festival. Having a different setting was fun and shook things up a little.

I did know who the villain was, almost from the start, but I didn’t see the twist that came with it, so that still kept it fresh and exciting! The setting descriptions were wonderful. Scotland’s at the top of the list of places I want to visit, so I was soaking in all the descriptions with glee. We learn a little more about our main characters and Brooklyn’s family in this book which is great as well.

All in all, an excellent 2nd installment in the series.

line of books - some stacked, some standing, some leaning - books are blue, brown, red, green, and yellow
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Book Cover: The Lies that Bind - A Bibliophile Mystery by Kate Carlisle - "Catching a killer takes a lot of spine." - Background includes a window overlooking the Golden Gate bridge and a floor to ceiling bookshelf. The foreground contains a display case full of books with a book displayed on top and a gun sitting on top of the book on top of the display case. There's an orange tabby cat sitting on the floor next to the case.

The Lies that Bind – Book #3 – 4 out of 5 stars

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I’m not sure why, but this book is one of my least favorite in the series. It’s still very well-written and the characters and plot are still great, but there’s just something about it in general that makes it one of my lesser favorites.

That being said, I still love the scene between Brooklyn and Derek at the very end of the book. I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I won’t say more than the fact that it’s a great scene!

line of books - some stacked, some standing, some leaning - books are blue, brown, red, green, and yellow
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Book Cover: Murder Under Cover - "What dangers lurk between the sheets...?" - A Bibliophile Mystery by Kate Carlisle - In the background there's a grey tabby cat looking out a window in between a comfy chair and an end table with flowers on it - there's a floor to ceiling bookshelf next to the end table. In the foreground is a bed with a gun lying on top and a scarf lying next to the gun

Murder Under Covers – Book #4 – 4.5 out of 5 stars

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This book has it all. The Kama Sutra, a micro flash drive with state secrets on it, spies, murder, and a street fair. What more could you want?! How about the fact that most of the action lies around Robin and her mother, Shiva? It’s a wild and twisted ride!

This is one of my favorite books in the series. Derek has moved in with Brooklyn, supposedly temporarily while he finds his own housing. We’ve got the Kama Sutra that Brooklyn’s restoring which leads to the illusion of some very passionate interludes between Brooklyn and Derek. Then we’ve got this murder involving Robin that’s becoming stranger by the day.

When it all finally wraps up in the end, it makes sense, but it still somewhat feels like coming to the end of a whirling dervish. I love it!

line of books - some stacked, some standing, some leaning - books are blue, brown, red, green, and yellow
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Jumping Jude – REVIEW

5 out of 5 stars.

Jumping Jude is the third book in the Made Marian series by Lucy Lennox. These books are just so awesome! I’m probably overdoing it in my praise, but I absolutely love them!

Book Cover: A Made Marian Novel - Jumping Jude by Lucy Lennox - Gold background - top has two shirtless men with beards - one has shoulder length hair, the other is cropped short - the bottom has a stage with cheering fans
Made Marian #3

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Synopsis

Jude: Reaching the top of the country music charts brings out the crazy, and there’s no one crazier than my ex. Unfortunately, his threats to out me are escalating. Enter the bodyguard of my dreams. I’d probably chafe under his constant presence if his attention to my body wasn’t so… ah… thorough. Now I have to worry about outing myself to millions of fans if I can’t keep my hands off him in public.

Derek: Now I’m an ex-Marine turned babysitter. If I have to hear Jude sing his mega-hit Bluebells one more time, I might murder him myself, and after 6 years in special ops, I know my way around a weapon. Unfortunately, so does he. Except his arsenal includes washboard abs and a killer set of pipes. I’ve faced guns, knives, explosives and yet it’s Jude Marian who may end up bringing me to my knees.

 

Review

Jumping Jude is the third book in the Made Marian series by Lucy Lennox and it’s just as great as the first two, Borrowing Blue and Taming Teddy. I absolutely adore this series and the Marian men! This book comes in a very close 2nd as far as my favorite in the series.

This book belongs to Jude and Derek, two men who have yet to come out to their families or the world. Jude belongs to a hit country band and country music and its fans aren’t always the most accepting in the world (this is the view of the book, not necessarily my own view!). Derek on the other hand comes from a military background and a very conservative Southern Baptist family, neither is conducive to coming out. So here we have two guys who are attracted to each other and they don’t realize the other is gay as well.

The characters in this book are incredibly complex and well-developed. The plot is also complex but still easy to follow along with. I loved the ending and I’m thrilled that Jude and Derek were able to remain together.

 

 

 

Day of Secrets – REVIEW

5 out of 5 stars.

Day of Secrets is the second thriller-type mystery from Daryl Wood Gerber and it is spectacular! It was incredibly suspenseful so I found myself having to read it in stages since anything too suspenseful can be difficult for me to get through (it depends on what else is going on in life), but at the same time, I didn’t want to put it down!

Book Cover: Day of Secrets by Daryl Wood Gerber - Background is grey - man is standing in dark colored clothing facing away from the audience. There's a gold locket in his hand.

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Graphic of a globe with two closed books on the right side of it, an open book in front of it, and an apple on the left side of the globe
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Synopsis

A mother he thought he’d lost. A father he never knew. An enemy that wants them dead.

At the age of five, Chase Day became an orphan. For thirty-one years, after a rebellious youth, he did his best to turn his life around and build a normal life—first as a Naval officer and then as a history professor at a boutique Bay Area college. Now, all that changes when he finds his mother, whom he thought had perished in a fire, dying from a gunshot wound. In her last breath, she urges him to find and protect the father he never knew. Where has his father been? Why has he never made contact? Can Chase discover why his family is a target before an unknown enemy destroys him?

Stack of books - chemistry, physics, and biology
©Graphic Garden

Review

Wow. That was the first word that came out of my mouth when I finished this book yesterday evening on my evening break. The second phrase was “Holy Toledo that was intense!” Both of which are dead-on accurate.

This was a pretty great read! I fell in love with the characters almost immediately. Chase is a great guy. He’s well-rounded and complex. He’s had a lot of crap happen in his life, but he seems fairly well-adjusted. Especially for suddenly having to deal with the fact that his mother wasn’t really dead, but now she is; his father’s alive and apparently in trouble; and his grandmother doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to tell him anything about these things.

This story moved along at a pace between steady and fast. It was fast-paced, but not so fast that you couldn’t follow the story line and/or got lost in the details. I think I described it to my mom as “a cliff-hanger on every other page”. That was a slight exaggeration, but not by much! The action in this book really keeps the story hopping!

I thought the ending was terrific. Things worked out the way they were supposed to and you got the feeling that all the major players were going to be alright after their run-in with the villains.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good suspenseful thriller that doesn’t have a lot of gruesome, violent scenes! Buy it. Read it. Enjoy it!

*** Thank you to Daryl Wood Gerber for providing me with an ARC of this book. I was not compensated for my review. All opinions and conclusions are my own. ***

 

Graphic of a globe with two closed books on the right side of it, an open book in front of it, and an apple on the left side of the globe
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