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from FictionZeal.com re: The Ghosts of Pebble Brook Lodge by Linda Covella

The Ghosts of Pebble Brook Lodge (Ghost Whisperer Series) (Volume 2) - Linda Covella

Kayanne (Pepper) Connelly is thirteen and about as curious as they come.  Her parents have moved into Pebble Brook Lodge in the Santa Cruz area.  It had been abandoned years ago and completely rundown.  Her parents, both fabulous chefs, were taking on renovating it.  Pepper was going to miss her friends over the Christmas holiday, but she didn’t mope around about it.  She began investigating her surroundings.  When she was afraid she’d become lost, she saw a small cabin in the woods.  The woman who answered the door was creepy.  The man that followed her as she ran back to the lodge was creepier.  She had just met Mrs. Hullett and her grown son, Willie.  She found out shortly after that Willie had been accused of drowning his sister in Pebble Brook Lodge back in 1966.  He would have only been ten years old then.  Mrs. Hullett never forgave him, and is forever sewing a dress for Karen’s birthday.


We find out early on that Pepper is a ‘Ghost Whisperer’.  She not only manages to see Karen’s ghost, but three other ghosts who took up residence at Pebble Brook Lodge.  One of the ghosts is much more dangerous; he’s the one she needs to be especially careful of.  Pepper gets to know Willie more as time goes on, and begins to realize what a gentle spirit he is.  He carves the most beautiful animal creatures.  With the help of the ghosts in the house, she sets out to prove he didn’t kill his sister.


I really loved this story.  It’s part of a series, but can be read as a standalone.  The characters are vibrant.  The descriptive time change that Pepper experiences are critical to the story and Ms. Covella does a wonderful job of placing the reader back in 1966 as well as other time periods.  The only thing that felt like more of a stretch to me was the river that ran through the dining area of Pebble Brook Lodge.  A nice image, but how realistic would that be?  This is a preteen mystery and I really believe that age group would thoroughly enjoy this.  There’s a scene of Pepper with her friend, Ally, and a Ouija board which will stick with me.  It seemed the ghost was suggesting for her to find and destroy a certain book.  When she asked for clarification if the book should be destroyed, “The pointer flew to the word ‘No.’  Then to ‘Yes.’  Then it went faster and faster and faster, skidding between the two words yes no yes no yes no …”  Rating: 4 out of 5.

EDIT: The author commented that there is a real Brookdale Lodge in the Santa Cruz Mountains that inspired her story. It truly has a creek running through the middle of the dining room.  Here is a link to pictures on her website : https://lindacovella.com/ghost-whisperer-series/the-ghosts-of-pebble-brook-lodge/.  So, it is not only realistic; it has been done.

from FictionZeal.com re: The Valley by Helen Bryan

The Valley (The Valley Trilogy Book 1) - Helen Bryan

The Betsy Wisdom docked at Yorktown in September 1754.  Sophia Grafton was on board.  She was heading for a plantation in Virginia calledWildwood.  Her father had heavily mortgaged their London home thinking that Wildwood would provide a good crop of tobacco.  It did not.  The lawyers that were settling Lord Grafton’s estate had to let the London house go.  Sophia determined that she would go to Virginia; learn about growing tobacco; and how to transport it to England for profit to pay off the debt her father had left.


In the New World, she faces many hardships, difficult winters, and a far more primitive life than she was used to.  She reconnects with Henri de Marechal, a man who knew Sophia when she was just a child.  He was a spy for the French government.  He has agreed to help Sophia to get to Wildwood.


This is quite a long book (over 600 pp).  In my estimation, it is much longer than it needs to be as it has a lot of mundane information to fill the pages. It took quite a while, for instance, to get to the heart of the story.  We first learned about Sophia Grafton from early childhood and how she grew into a young and very attractive young lady meeting young men that her father would prefer her to marry.  The dialogue was delightful and very fitting when it was utilized.  However, much of the story was told through narration.  This is the first of a trilogy and does have ‘hangers’ intending to lure the reader to continue with books 2 and 3.  The historical aspect was an interesting take on young America, but I’m not sure it includes actual history.  I did a google search for the Betsy Wisdom and came up with nada.  Rating: 3 out of 5.

from FictionZeal.com re: The Courage of Others by James Hitt

The Courage of Others - James Hitt

As a young boy, Davey had been orphaned.  His Uncle Marsh and Aunt Esther raised him.  As the story opens, sixteen-year-old Davey is accompanying Esther to the train station.  Uncle Marsh is returning home after serving in WWI.  When he’d left, he’d been strong and in the best of health.  Davey describes the man now standing before him.  “His eyes were so deeply embedded in his skull that they appeared as black holes, and gray splotches covered his skin like a dog with mange.  He walked with a shuffle …”  Davey understands that the army “…sent him home to die.”  But, Aunt Esther wasn’t going to let Marsh die.  She hired Sister Rose, a black woman who practiced ancient herbal remedies.  Many people thought she was a witch.  And, many people had a problem with a black woman working for Marsh and Esther Langsdon.


While Sister Rose tended to Uncle Marsh, Davey got to know her son, Daniel.  It was awkward at first, but slowly they became friends.  Eventually, Davey joined with Daniel and a black girl, Rachel, to help with the renovation of a house to use as a school.  It was Sister Rose’s dream for the blacks to learn to read and write.  The schoolhouse was located in Boonsville, where most of the blacks lived.  Many of the whites thought that’s where they should keep themselves.  The hatred within the Twin Forks community began to escalate to dangerous levels.


This is all told from Davey’s perspective.  It was the year he ‘grew up’ in many ways.  It’s a ‘coming of age’ story of the aftermath of war, racial hatred within the United States, standing up for what is right, learning about love and learning about hate.  Since Uncle Marsh’s illness was a part of the story, I would have liked to have known what he was actually suffering with.  I took the liberty of doing a ‘google’ search to try to figure it out, and believe it was either radiation poisoning or a reaction to mustard gas.  This is a historical fiction which seems to have been researched particularly well.  Hearing the story from Davy’s viewpoint was the perfect vehicle for this story.  Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

from FictionZeal.com re: The Mentor by Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli

The Mentor - Aaron Maines, Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli

Detective Eric Shaw with Scotland Yard is investigating a string of cases that seem to parallel eerily to a case he worked twenty years before where little Mina was the only survivor when her family was brutally murdered.  He was the cop that discovered her hidden under her parent’s bed.  As the prologue comes to an end, the reader can’t wait to see if there will be justice for little Mina.


Except for excessive violence, the beginning caught my interest entirely.  Writers are said to do best when they write about what they know.  By an overview of ratings, this author seems to excel when it comes to her sci-fi novels.  I’m not sure the mystery & suspense genre is the best avenue for her.  The protagonist, Detective Eric Shaw, is despicable.  He alters evidence in order to make sure the charge sticks to the ‘bad guy’.  Hello!!  How does ‘Mr. Almighty’ determine the individual to be the bad guy if he’s going to mess with the evidence?  He’s a fifty-something man practically panting over a twenty-something girl who works under him.  If this is classified as a romantic suspense novel, the ‘romantic’ part didn’t work for me.  It made him pathetic.  There were also some issues, it seems, with translation.  This was originally written in Italian and some of the English words didn’t seem to fit well.  Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

from FictionZeal.com re: The Victim by Eric Matheny

The Victim - Eric Matheny

When life is looking good, really good … watch out.  Your past may be getting ready to bite you in the butt.  Anton Mackey made a serious error in judgement a decade ago while he was still in Florida International University (FIU).  RV’s had been rented for a fraternity camping trip.  He was drunk, took the RV out on his own.  In the very early Sunday morning hours, he collides with a car.  It’s bad.  By the looks of it, the driver and passenger seem to be already dead.  In the distance, he sees a semi approaching.  Not much time left.  What does he do?  He notices fuel has been spilling out of one or both vehicles.  He places his lighter down to the gasoline.


In present day, Anton is an attorney.  He has a wife and a beautiful baby daughter.  A new client, Danielle Avery, contacts him.  She had called 911 on her husband, Bryan Avery.  They’d separated, but she said he broke into her apartment.  He got rough with her; left a gash on her neck.  She hires Anton to represent him.  The police had taken him in custody and she’s concerned that since Florida is a ‘no drop’ state, the prosecutors could pursue domestic violence charges whether the victim pursues it or not.  But, little by little, we are given some insight into her real motive.  She holds some secrets about Anton’s past.  She can ruin him.


You really may not like Anton, but you may squirm for him a bit as retribution comes to call.  This is a debut Legal Thriller from author Eric Matheny, who writes with passion and presents the reader with twists like he’s been perfecting them all his life.  The courtroom scenes and the dialogue between the lawyers and judge were authentic.  This pulls the reader in quickly.  As you may have speculated, there are no good guys here, but there are several victims.  Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

from FictionZeal.com re: Shutter Man by Richard Montanari

Shutter Man - Richard Montanari

Philadelphia homicide cop Kevin Byrne, one of our primary characters in this series, revisits his past in this episode. He and his three friends, Jimmy Doyle, Ronan Kittredge, and Dave Carmody, were thirteen years old the summer of 1976 when America was preparing to celebrate its 200th birthday on July 4th of that year. They designated themselves as protectors for eleven-year-old Catriona Daugherty, who was terribly shy and withdrawn. She always carried a flower and wore a colorful ribbon in her hair. The boys caught Des Farren leering at her. They hurt him, threatened him, and left him. They didn’t know what to expect. The whole Farren family was bad news. But the Farren brothers never came for them. On July 4th, little Cartriona was found dead. By July 9th, a man was found dead, identified as Desmond Malcolm Farren.


In present day, Detective Byrne and Jessica Balzano are investigating several bizarre deaths that on the surface, the victims seem to have nothing in common. The deaths seem ritualistic in nature as some of the victim’s faces were removed and an odd five-letter word written in blood on a linen hanky. Several witnesses agree that they’d heard and saw a woman singing a strange melody nearby. The reader is given the identity of the killer early on. He refers to himself as “Billy the Wolf”. Due to a rare neurological disorder, he is unable to recognize faces. He carries a photo of his intended victim to help him identify them. He makes them dress in clothing matching the pictures. At the first victim’s home, a man answered the door. Billy saw, “Yellow robe. Blue pajamas. Stain.”


In case you’re wondering, this is a real disorder – very rare. It’s called Prosopagnosia (or facial blindness). I also loved the name of the place where they lived as boys and now where Byrne and Balzano are called to investigate. Devil’s Pocket, per Wikipedia, is a “… three-square-block neighborhood in the South Philadelphia section of Philadelphia.” This is the first book I’ve read by Richard Montanari, and while the premise, the characters, and the flow of the story are impressive, I just need to let readers know it has excessive violence and is rather graphic in nature. The story is told primarily in the present time, but occasionally relies on past events to allow us a deeper understanding. Rating: 4 out of 5.

from FictionZeal.com re: The Last Woman Standing by Thelma Adams

The Last Woman Standing: A Novel of Mrs. Wyatt Earp - Thelma Adams

“Tombstone kicked my ass and I kicked back.”  Oh, really?  Well, tell us more!  Author Thelma Adams gives voice and new life to Josephine Marcus Earp in this novel.  Undoubtedly, Josie’s character will make you laugh as she tells her tale in her gutsy, high-spirited oratory.  It begins with the Jewish home life of Josephine in San Francisco.  She will miss her father for sure once she decides to leave home, but her relationship with her mother was contentious to say the least.  She’s very young and so very sure she’ll love Johnny Behan, Sheriff of Cochise County, for the rest of her life, but that’s until she arrives in Tombstone, gets to know him, and finds out what he’s really like.  He broke her heart … but she’d spotted the handsome Wyatt Earp when she first arrived and begins to give him more thought.  As it turns out, the feelings were mutual.


This is a nicely detailed look, albeit a naïve one, of the life of Josephine Marcus Earp, Wyatt Earp’s common law wife.  Through the author’s skillful descriptive passages, you may be tempted to place a cloth over your nose and mouth to avoid the dust being kicked up by horses and wagons driven through the rugged streets of Tombstone.  The novel goes from February 1937 to Autumn 1882.  I was looking for an author’s note to get an idea of the research probing into Josie’s life.  In checking a few online sites, I tend to think Josie may have actually been a prostitute, even at the tender age of fourteen.  So, suggesting that she was waiting until her wedding night to lose her virginity seemed a stretch to me.  The real Josie actually avoided delving into her past.  Wikipedia points out, “Her confusing recollection of events show how easily Josephine mixed fact and fiction.”  This novel so very well written, but I’m inclined to believe Josie’s life as presented is more fictional than factual.  Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

from FictionZeal.com re: Killer Ambition by Marcia Clark

Killer Ambition (Rachel Knight Book 3) - Marcia Clark

Not all of Hollywood’s celebrity status yields glitter and glam. Haley, sixteen-year-old daughter of famous director Russell Antonovich, has disappeared and it’s very curious that her good friend, Mackenzie Struthers, seems to know much more than she’s willing to say. Russell had received a couple of text messages. The first said, “I’ve got your daughter. She’ll be safe if you do as I tell you. If you call the police she’ll be killed.” Then the second was a ransom demand for him to bring “One million dollars in cash in a duffel bag” to Fryman Canyon. But when Russell pays the $1 million and his daughter is not returned as promised, he calls police. Detective Bailey Keller along with Special Trials prosecutor Rachel Knight begin to investigate the whereabouts of Haley.


One of the first people they talk to is Mackenzie. She does provide them with a picture of Haley’s latest boyfriend, nineteen-year-old Brian Shandling, but who is he? His ID seems to be fake, having belonged to a child who died in infancy many years before. It began to look like Brian and Hayley had cooked up the kidnapping scheme. If that was true, Rachel didn’t think he’d hurt her. Unfortunately, both Hayley and Brian were found murdered, presumably by the same person. The prime suspect turns out to be Russell’s best friend, Ian Powers, a former child star and also Russell’s talent manager. He’s arrested and this very high-profile case goes to trial.


The book is basically broken into two parts – the first part was mostly about missing teen, Hayley and the search for her killer. She was not a Hollywood show-off. In fact, she had a very tender heart for those less fortunate, like her friend Mackenzie. But, what Haley really wanted was her dad’s love and attention, and less in being given enough money to buy God. The second portion of the novel was all about a celebrity on trial for murder. This is where Marcia Clark excelled in her writing. After all, she lived the experience as part of the prosecution team in the O.J. Simpson famed murder trial. I did find it more odd than not for our protagonist, a DA, to be part of the initial investigation. The novel is lengthy, somewhere over 450 pages. I think additional editing could have clipped much of the excess out. Each book in the series can be read as a standalone as Clark does very well with recapping past events about our protagonist and supporting characters. But, if you love Legal Thrillers, you may want to go back and read the two before this one. Rating: 4 out of 5.

from FictionZeal.com re: Deep Waters by Patricia Hall

Deep Waters: A British mystery set in London of the swinging 1960s (A Kate O'Donnell Mystery) - Patricia Hall

Ray Robertson, owner of the Delilah Club in Soho in London’s West End, had been missing for nearly a week.  Detective Sergeant Harry Barnard is looking for him.  He headed to the gym, another enterprise owned by Ray.  He still didn’t find Ray.  But, what he did find was the body of Rod Miller lying in a pool of blood in the bathroom near Ray’s office.  Rod had been a trainer at the gym.  Harry had known Ray since they were children.  Even though they went their separate ways and ended up on opposite sides of the law, Harry didn’t think of Ray as a murderer.  In fact, Ray’s own life had recently been in jeopardy by his brother, Georgie.


Photographer Kate O’Donnell recently moved in with Harry.  He discusses bits of the case with her and she shares pictures and information with Harry about the reconstruction project for Canvey Island.  Much of the Canvey Island homes near Essex, England, had been demolished during the East Coast floods of 1953.  Harry saw that Kate had captured an image of Loretta, Ray’s ex-wife, in one of her Canvey Island pictures.  He knew that Loretta was also looking for Ray.  Perhaps she found him … in Canvey Island.  By this time, Harry had been dismissed from the case.  The bosses thought he was too close.  But, he can’t stand by and watch Ray get pulled in for a murder he knew he didn’t commit.


The story is historical suspense set in London in 1964.  While most of the story is vastly fictional, it abounds with very real aspects.  The Canvey Island flood of 1953 devastated the East Coast causing the deaths of fifty-nine people.  Thousands were evacuated from their homes due to high floodwater.  Many of the effects were still being felt from WWII.  References were made against women entering the workforce.  Kate had attended art college with John Lennon.  All of this helped to seal the time and place in the readers’ mind.  Yet, the plot was a bit complicated and there were many characters.  Although the two separate plots eventually intersected, I felt more of the story was about Harry Barnard than our protagonist, Kate O’Donnell.  Rating: 3 out of 5.

from FictionZeal.com re: Beat Slay Love by Thalia Filbert

Beat Slay Love: One Chef's Hunger for Delicious Revenge - Thalia Filbert, Lise McClendon, Taffy Cannon, Kate Flora, Katy Munger, Gary Phillips

Do you ever watch those TV cooking shows – the ‘reality’ ones?  This book is like one of those reality TV shows on steroids.  Hannah Wendt was an aspiring chef at one time.  But many of the now-famous chefs had wronged her in various ways.  Some had used her managing to up their game while diminishing hers; others had simply not considered her worthy at all.  It’s been years since she’s been out of the picture, but she’ll never forget the chefs … and they’ll remember her while they’re taking their last breath.


When the third chef, Byron Peppers, died in a pizza oven, food blogger, Jason Bainbridge, began seeing a connection — someone seemed to be targeting established and rather well-known chefs.  He brings this information to the attention of Kimberly (Kim) Douglas, FBI.  To that time, the FBI had not made the connection.  Kim had no intention of working with Jason as he was suggesting, but after a while, it became clear to her that he had specific knowledge of the various chefs that she needed.  Besides, she was getting to like him.


I do need to let you know that providing the killer’s name in the first paragraph is not a spoiler.  Hannah was known to the reader early on.  She’s a psychotic living in some dream world.  Metaphorically speaking, her boat had left the dock a long time ago.  Now for Hannah, it is all about the revenge.  She had been targeting one chef, Ricky Zelinsky, but he recognized her even with her disguise.  So, instead of killing him, they went back to having the same type of kinky sex they used to have while in culinary school.  Other than the book’s title, I’m not sure I actually get the idea of the parody to Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.  The novel had humor, but in a dark way.  I actually felt sorry for Hannah so I never had that ‘rooting for the bad guy’ feeling for her.  Several authors collaborated on this novel using the pen name, Thalia Filbert.  They are Kate Flora; Gary Phillips; Katy Munger; Lisa McClendon; and Taffy Cannon.  Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

from FictionZeal.com re: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend - Katarina Bivald

They began corresponding as pen pals.  Their writing turned rather quickly to discussing books and sharing books through the mail.  Sara Lindqvist, working in a bookstore in Sweden, lost her job.  Amy Harris invited her to come to Broken Wheel, Iowa.  They’d pick her up from the airport.  When the time came, and Sara made the long trip, there was no one to pick her up.  She made her own way to Broken Wheel to discover Amy had died.  Instead of meeting Amy, she met her close friends and her nephew, Tom, shortly after the funeral.


But, Sara didn’t pine away for the friendship that could have been.  She set out on a venture to open a bookstore in Broken Wheel with Amy’s books.  Amy had so many.  From Sara’s perspective, we read, “Amy’s room was like her dream library.  A large bed in the middle where Amy must have spent her days … Along each of the walls: bookcases.  The bedside table itself was a pile of books.”  Opening a bookstore was Sara’s way of giving back to the community of Broken Wheel.  Everyone had taken the greatest care of Amy’s friend, not letting her pay for anything and making sure she had someone to drive her wherever she needed to go.


As a reader who also likes to talk about books, I felt kind of sad at the outset of the novel, thinking about how it could have been for Sara and Amy.  They would have thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company — talking about characters in books as if they were real, talking about the plots, and maybe even agreeing on a couple of book boyfriends.  Even though the beginning is sad, the story is more about moving on and trying to make a difference.  The characters of Broken Wheel were a unique and enjoyable mix and I had no problem envisioning them.  The letters that Amy had written to Sara were interspersed throughout the novel, which helps to fill in the story quite nicely.  The plot is good, but the pace is more like a slow stroll and the story loses momentum.  After reading, I found out Katarina Bivald is a Swedish author and the book was originally written in Swedish.  It read so well, I would not have thought it to be translated.  Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

from FictionZeal.com re: Don't Talk to Strangers by Amanda Kyle Williams

Don't Talk to Strangers (Keye Street #3) - Amanda Kyle Williams

In this episode of the Keye Street series, she’s been hired by Sheriff Ken Meltzer from Whisper, Georgia to investigate two thirteen-year-old girls who’d been abused, killed, and dumped like trash in a highly wooded area near Lake Oconee.  The Sheriff had reason to believe it is the same killer even though Melinda Cochran had been missing for eight months, and Tracy Davidson had been killed ten years prior.  The two seasoned cops in the department offer little cooperation and plainly didn’t want Keye coming in and taking over their case.  While Keye is putting together a profile of the killer, another girl goes missing.  They know that time is not on their side when Keye receives a note that reads, “Dear Keye, I’ve started hurting her.”


Keye Street describes herself best.  “I am a detective, private, a bail recovery agent, a process server, and a former criminal investigative analyst for the FBI.  And when I say former, I mean fired.  Capital F.  The Bureau likes their profilers sober.”  So, we know she’s not perfect … but hey, who is?  Although she’s imperfect, she’s pretty darn good with profiling the bad guys.  Somehow she seems to ‘get it’ when it comes to following their way of thinking and planning.  This is one of those series that I’ve managed to get caught up on.  I’ve rated The Stranger You Seek with 4 stars; Stranger in the Room with 4.5 stars; and now I’m giving Don’t Talk to Strangers 5 stars!  Yes, the author keeps making Keye Street more captivating and the plot more gripping.  Even the secondary characters are a lovable and eccentric mix.  The mystery is complete in this novel, but number three ends with a little teaser for Keye’s future, so now I’m strumming my fingers on the table waiting for number four to be released.

from FictionZeal.com re: Until the Sun Rises by Channing Whitaker

Until the Sun Rises - Channing Whitaker

The Drake family mansion in Shadows Bend, Iowa is haunted … or so it is reported.  Seventy-five years ago, the family completely disappeared.  The two police officers investigating their disappearance at the time “suffered unusual, yet separate, accidents and perished in the mansion within hours of one another.”  After other bizarre deaths, it was decided to call off the search and seal the manor for 100 years.  But, now after 75 years, it has caught the attention of a reality TV show; they will provide a live feed of its reopening.  They’ve located five brave people who have agreed to spend one night in the house: Madam Galva La Claire, career psychic; Baxter ‘Ax’ Cruz, professional paranormal investigator; Audrey Donahue, model and star of several popular cult horror films; Harlan Holt, Anthropology Ph.D. student; and Genevieve Freeman, a local woman and a Pre-Med graduate.  One Million dollars will be the prize split between the participants who remain within the house for the entire night.


As some background, Vinton Drake had attended a magic show of one Malvern Kamrar, “Master of Shadows.”  Drake had become entirely consumed with Malvern’s bizarre magic.  He’d begun a journal recounting details of Malvern, as well as what he subsequently discovered about the man.  Malvern’s shows were often called “Death Shows.”


I loved the format with which the author unveiled the details of the people past tense as well as present day – the TV host and the people who agreed to stay in the house.  I almost felt like I could snoop through this old creaky mansion with the guests.  I think I was at least as surprised as they were by their discoveries.  The primary protagonists were Harlan and Genevieve (Vieve).  The past was told by Vinton’s journals and the word of mouth stories supplied by Vieve.  Not overly scary; just a good old-fashioned haunted house story.  Rating: 4 out of 5.

from FictionZeal.com re: Docket No. 76 by Arita Bohannan

Docket No. 76 - Arita M.L. Bohannan

Lee Lawson is their first suspect.  Why?  He had been watching little five-year-old Dori Dauzat at his home while his close friends, her parents, were away.  Sometime late in the night, he awoke and checked on her; she wasn’t there.  He found her at the bottom of the stairs outside the house.  She was bloodied, but alive.  He called 911, but then seemed to resist handing her over.  She was also clinging to him.  Detective Curtis is taking the lead on this case.  After speaking with Lawson and the girl’s parents, he begins to rule him out as a suspect.  After some analysis, they found DNA of one Bruce Gurganus on the duct tape used to tie Dori’s wrists together.


New Orleans Assistant DA Sandra Morgan has been assigned to try Docket No. 76 – State of Louisiana vs. Bruce Garganus.  It takes her a while to recognize him, but then she remembers it well.  How can she forget?  This is the same man – she’s sure of it – who had hurt her when she was only eight-years-old.  If she can help it, he’ll never sexually assault another child.


This was an incredibly short read (175 pp), but that’s not to say anything is lacking.  In fact, it’s well-packed with sufficient detail and substance.  I did feel Sandra lost a bit of focus during the trial, but perhaps that was intentional on the author’s part since Sandra had also been abused by this same man.  I just wished she’d been able to put her own feelings on hold so she could do her utmost best for little Dori.  This appears to be the author’s debut novel, and as someone who loves Legal Thrillers, I couldn’t have asked for a better psychologically twisted ending.  Rating: 4 out of 5.

from FictionZeal.com re: Late Harvest by Fiona Buckley

Late Harvest: A nineteenth-century historical saga - Fiona Buckley

The prologue hints that the story will be a flashback.  Peggy is nearly eighty years old in 1860.  She reflects back to 1800 and how she met and fell in love with Ralph Duggan.  Of her memories, she narrates, “There are two nights that I recall especially.  On both of them, the moonlight was so bright that the Bristol Channel could have been made of molten silver.  On one of those nights, a child was conceived.  On the other, a man died.”


Her flashback begins when Peggy Shawe, her mother, and their neighbors were walking behind the cart carrying her father’s coffin.  Josiah Duggan and his two sons, Ralph and Philip, were among the mourners, as her father had business dealings with them.  When Peggy met Ralph, they seemed to have instant rapport.  But, he wasn’t the man everyone assumed she would marry.  James Bright, a close neighbor and farmer, was her presumed husband to be.  When James actually asked her to marry him, she put him off.  Instead she accepted a marriage proposal from Ralph.  Ralph’s family were ‘free traders’ (smugglers) and Peggy’s mother was against her daughter marrying him.  However, Peggy would soon be eighteen.  Her mother reluctantly agreed, Ralph bought the ring, and life seemed cheery.  But, Ralph had to leave suddenly, taking his brother away after Philip is accused of murder.  Their futures are no longer certain and cherished plans have a way of refusing to cooperate.


Many of these characters made bad decisions, and that’s realistic and part of life.  No matter how many times we as readers stand on the sidelines and try to shake some sense into them, they’re still going to break each other’s heart, and quite possibly break our hearts for them along the way.  The story started out so strongly, I thought it was going to be one of those ‘I don’t want it to end’ books.  However, several chapters prior to the end, it fell into a summary type of writing, presenting many additional characters that had not been given sufficient character depth to make me care about them.  Overall, it was a fascinating look at life in that time period, their way of life, and their hardships.  Rating: 3 out of 5.

from FictionZeal.com re: Promises by Ardyce Durham

Promises - Ardyce Durham

The first paragraph of the ‘Author’s Note’ summarizes the story best.  “This book was inspired by the life of my paternal great-grandfather.  He was born in Tennessee but grew up in Mississippi where he lived out his life.  He fought in and survived some of the most horrific battles of the Civil War.”


Owen Cartwright and the neighbor boy, Weston Walker (Wes), had a very tight friendship.  Where you found one, you were bound to find the other.  They drove their parents crazy getting into all kinds of trouble together.  As they grew, they continued to be close.  When their fathers lost their jobs with the sawmill, they had to move from Tennessee to Mississippi.  In March 1862, they went to war as soldiers for the Confederate army.  Owen lived through the war; Wes did not.  He lost his life in Gettysburg.


The prologue was a critique of ‘Friendship’.  Truly, this fictional work is all about the earnest friendship between two boys that lasted them throughout their lives.  The epilogue provided various News Releases.  The first was dated November 2, 1941, and I suppose it wouldn’t be a spoiler to let you know it is a bit of a tribute to Owen Patterson Cartwright.  I loved that the release helped to fill in the background of this very lively, very real, Civil War era character.  It is listed as Historical Fiction, but it read more like a journal or a memoir.  It was like listening to your older relatives reveal their past exploits, both good and bad.  Interesting?  Yes.  Constructed as a story with a plot?  No.  However, I can certainly appreciate the concentrated research done by Ms. Durham in order to bring us this, her debut novel.  Rating: 3 out of 5.