I only post 4 or 5 star reviews here because I definitely don't consider myself an expert on what sells. I think some bestsellers are predictable and formulaic. I hope to showcase the books and authors I think are great:
AMADOR LOCKDOWN by Coral Russell
5 Stars *****
Deeply Chilling. This story takes you on a wild unpredictable ride that makes a convincing case for the thin line between life and death. There is enough intriguing research intertwined with the setting and plot to give this ghost story a realistic feel. As a result, I can tell you right now that I’ll never agree to a ghost tour that includes a lockdown. If you ever think you know what will happen on the next page, you will be wrong. That’s one of the things I love about Indie stories is that they don’t stick to a formula. Plus, this author came up with a clever and memorable twist that would make for a great scary movie. I’m a picky reader and I devoured this book in one sitting, so hats off to Coral Russell. I’ll be reading lots more of her books.
BEFORE I SLEEP by Milton Bagby
5 STARS *****
Rick Burkhart is a former lawyer who feels he has been given a small chance to redeem himself when asked to help the little girl of a client, who’d been murdered with Rick’s stolen gun. Unfortunately, the money that could help the child has been hidden, which gives almost everyone he talks with reason to lie or kill. The more Rick works to uncover the truth, the more treachery he discovers. All the small town secrets and southern characters are believable, even the twisted things that drives these folks to kill. I always love an unpredictable story and this one continually kept me guessing and turning the page to see what happened next. Rick was a realistic main character and about the time I didn’t think he would ever redeem himself, he would do or say something that gave me hope. I definitely want the next Rick Burkhart novel.
THE WELL by Audrey Streetman
5 STARS *****
The Well is a book I will read again. It is a true slice of life story starting with an innocent child, who believes as children often do, that it is her fault her mother has thrown herself into the well. Because the book is written with stunning honesty and courage, you feel like you walk in the child, Audrey’s, shoes as she attempts to care for a fragile mother. You grow with her as she becomes an unquestioning housewife in the 1950’s accustomed to being told what she is allowed to do, and develops into an independent banking executive who survives the boom and bust years of the 80’s. In poetic voice, the author vividly describes a psychotic break that she suffers after losing her mother and any chance of a healthy mother-child relationship, which occurs while she is a young mother, herself. The frank description of the episode from the inside-out will leave you with an in depth understanding of the experience and leave you mulling over, yet admiring, the tough choices she was forced to make. I particularly like that throughout the entire book, the author never bows to glossing over any actions with excuses, yet often I understood the decisions she made. By the story’s end the child has metamorphosed into a woman of amazing strength and courage, who pens an unforgettable memoir. The Well is definitely a great read.
LET US PREY by Jamie Lee Scott
5 STARS *****
Even with a jammed schedule, this book kept me up reading late at night and I even got up out of bed just to read a little more. I'm a picky reader and it's been awhile since that's happened. Mimi, the main character who owns Gotcha Detective Agency, is funny from the start and gets in way over her head when she accepts a job as a bodyguard for an overly ambitious author. And to make matters worse, Mimi is thrown into close contact with a sexy cop, an old boyfriend who'd dumped her without a word. In a test of wits, they follow leads until they wind up in a vampire role-playing game. The characters, observations and situations are realistic and fun and I got totally absorbed in the story. The author, Jamie Lee Scott, has a great voice and I will definitely be watching for her next book. I saw where she's also writing this series as a screenplay and I would love to watch Gotcha as a television series. Fantastic read! Don't miss this one.
LIFE'S A BEACH by Malena Lott
5 STARS *****
This is a fun quick read. Georgia and Avery are both lovely women at different stages in life who have escaped to the beach seeking answers. The middle-aged Georgia feels like her life is about to implode while the young Avery feels like hers has never started. I love the contrasts in the characters, their quick bond, and understood and enjoyed their dilemmas. I immediately saw that they were good for each other and was happy for their deepening friendship. I especially adored the surprise at the end. I always love a book with a twist!
PLAYING WITH FIRE by Chryse Wymer
4 STARS ****
This anthology reminded me how much I enjoy reading scary short stories and I was grateful to be introduced to all these talented authors. Every reader will have their favorites, but the first story that grabbed me was Widows of the Night by Robyn Gabel. I rooted for the abused little girl and was happy when she found the perfect key to escaping her abuse. I was pulled into and enjoyed the story Devil of a Ghost Tour penned by Coral Russell, but this author’s tale Key to a Haunting totally captivated me. I was particularly intrigued by an antique bracelet that appeared as a meaningful thread beautifully woven throughout the story. The author had clearly done her research and the haunting was based on an actual fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory which occurred back when teen girls were locked inside buildings by business owners to sew their lives away. The accurate description and details came through and gave the haunting a nice realistic feel. The anthology ended strong with a story and novel excerpt by author Chryse Wymer. Wymer has an unforgettable vivid voice that makes for fun reading and there were some wonderful creepy moments in This Dark Magic that I’ll never be able to shake. Her excerpt of Living with Murder was full of strong characters and unpredictable twists that made me wish the anthology wouldn’t end. I will happily grab Living with Murder and any novel written by Chryse Wymer. This anthology is a fun read and I highly recommend it.
DEATH NOTICE by Alicia Dean
5 STARS *****
As soon as I saw that Alicia Dean had a new book out, I grabbed it, which was a wise move on my part! This is a well-crafted fast paced thriller with memorable characters. I immediately liked Monroe and enjoyed living her story to the point that I felt like I met her. Several times during the story, I thought I'd figured out who the killer was. I hate to admit that I was wrong, even though the clues were all in there. But, unpredictability is one of the things I love most in a novel. A complicated romance always piques my interest, and there's a great one in here with plenty of sizzle. The concept and plot were also intriguing with the killer turning in obituaries for the victims before they die. I'm a picky reader and Alicia Dean always amazes me. I'm on the lookout for her next book!
BLOOD WAGER by Connie Suttle
5 STARS *****
Lissa, the main character, is a reluctant vampire, and I bonded with her immediately, always wanting to see what happened next to her. She has an unusual and wry sense of humor that somehow gets her through all the intriguing things life constantly throws at her. I'm not the usual vampire fan, but the author has such a great skill of world-building with a unique take, that I would come out blinking, thinking vampires did exist. There's a great deal of unpredictable action and a slow building romance that doesn't make for any slow spots in this book. I feel extremely lucky to be one of the early discoverers of this prolific author on the rise!
THIS DARK MAGIC by Chryse Wymer
5 STARS *****
This novella reads like an unforgettable Poe tale with a Noir feel. There are a number of ultra-creepy moments in This Dark Magic that I won't ever be able to shake. This is one of those books that you don't want to put down. Charlie Landers, the main character, is three-dimensional, likeable, and adds humor in all the right places. The tale builds and never makes a predictable turn. Chryse Wymer, an author on the rise, wields her pen with intelligence, style, and a vivid voice, that never talks down to the reader. A thoroughly enjoyable read that I highly recommend.
A PERFECT CANVAS by Kevin Adkisson
5 STARS *****
Nicholas Steele, a sadistic tattoo artist, is obsessed with skin, craving a flawless canvas for his scarification masterpieces. This book is fast paced and realistically terrifying. The descriptions involving the tattoos and scarification are so well done and so deeply researched that they are compelling, frightening, yet morbidly and artistically intriguing. The villain is all too creepy real. I understood his motivations and his fascination with his art enough to worry that someone like him was out there in the world. The main character, Paige, is also real, not painted as some fantasy female ninja, but someone who must try to survive by her guts, rage, and her wits. The heart of the story centers on the love between Paige and Eddie and what they are willing to do for each other despite the most horrifying circumstances. Eddie's selflessness also draws you in and keeps you turning the pages. I was impressed with the author's word choices and insights that often evoked vivid images and emotions, and found myself rereading phrases for pleasure. This is one of those memorable books you think back on and feel like you learned something. I always enjoy intelligent writing and this is one of the best books I've read in a long time. I'm hooked and will be back for more from author Kevin Adkisson.
LIQUID FEAR by Scott Nicholson
5 STARS *****
Scott Nicholson always comes up with intelligent high concept books, so I turn to him when I need a great read and I am addicted, especially to Scott's books. This one, based on a hapless group who participates in drug trials, is almost too realistic. I could foresee pundits discussing this book if the media discovers these brain-altering drugs are actually being administered to people who think they have signed on for something beneficial. I also worried when I looked up the government bioethics site Scott mentioned and saw that many pharmaceutical companies have moved their drug trials to developing countries to avoid the FDA "red tape" here. Liquid Fear is the kind of thriller I will read more than once. I finished this several months ago and am still thinking about it.