Out of Her Mind by T.R.Ragan

T.R. Ragan has officially become my new favorite crime fiction author – I just cannot stop reading her books!

Out of Her Mind is the second book in the Sawyer Brooks series. If you haven’t read the first one, Don’t Make a Sound then stop – drop everything – and go read it right now. It’s fantastic. Sawyer Brooks is a crime beat reporter with a amazingly sordid past. Her past, and that of her sisters, is what drives Brooks to investigate a story without stopping until she discovers the truth. I honestly wish we still had crime reporters like this. The world needs them! When a child’s bones are found and another child goes missing, Brooks begins searching for similarities. With the help of her sister, Aria, they soon discover a string of missing children. Could this be the work of seriel kidnapper/murder? Brooks certainly thinks so.

There is a seperate sub-plot that runs along with this primary one revolving around The Black Wig women. I won’t divulge much about this group but I find their story just as fascinating as Sawyer Brooks.

This series, like others that Ragan writes, is a well done piece of crime fiction. The characters – all of them – are well written and fully fleshed out for the reader. You see their weaknesses as well as their strengths and, beginning in this second book, you also begin to see their growth past their pain and their insecurities. I highly recommend Out of Her Mind as well as the remainder of the series.

Thanks to #Netgalley and #ThomasMercer for my copy of Our of Her Mind.

Thankfully in Love: A Thanksgiving Anthology

What a delight to find a book that features my favorite holiday: Thanksgiving! Not just one but FOUR short stories that center around Thanksgiving, families and love. Lest you think this is only for Americans, one of the stories takes place over the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday!

Written by four well known and well loved authors, each of the stories described below accentuate family, love and gratitude which we all need in abundance in this crazy Covid year!

No Place Like Home by Anna J Stewart is very family centric with a whole lot of romance thrown in for good measure

Second Chance by Kayla Perrin is about, yep, second chances at love. This one, with its wonderful repartee, was my favorite of the four

Dog Gone Holiday by Melinda Curtis tells the story of a couple who is struggling during the holiday but find hope in one another.

Love Guides the Way by Cari Lynn Webb is your typical romance about two people brought together but who doubt the sincerity of one another.

While the anthology started out strong, the last story was not a favorite of mine. However, that is likely due to the fact that I’m not a big romance fan. I like them light and sweet and only during the holidays. Never-the-less, as a whole, I absolutely recommend Thankfully in Love to start off your holiday season with a grategul, thankful heart.

Thanks to each of the authors mentioned above, @Netgalley for my copy of this warm and entertaining book.





Don’t Speak by J.L. Brown

I have had this book on my TBR list for years (!) and it always kept getting pushed down the list. Luckily for me, was a Goodreads’ Giveaway winner for the ebook version! Let me just say – I LOVED this book!

There are two overlapping plot lines in Don’t Speak. It is an election year and Whitney Fairchild, an elegant and eloquent Senator from Missouri is running just left of center race against the very conservative incumbant. In addition, Jade Harrington, an FBI agent, is called in to investigage the murder of a shock jock, conservative radio host who also has had his tongue removed. Soon after the investigation begins, Harrington realizes that it is tied to other similar cases, both in the past and occuring in the present.

As a former campaign manager and Sentatorial aid, I can attest to the veracity of the campaign. Obviously a lot of research went into this portion of the book. There were so many people who despised the talk show hosts that suspects grew with each chapter. There was a lot of action, a lot of drama and an extremely well thought out story in Don’t Speak.

Interestingly, the book was first published prior to the 2016 US presidential election so any comparisons come after the fact. There are very obviously some similarities between real and fictional radio hosts but any others are from hindsight. That fact made the book all the more interesting. I’ve read where this is a book that only “liberals” would enjoy but I disagree. Yes, the conservative talk show hosts are the ones who are targeted but because we had to read their on air tirades, you actually get a very two sided view of the two US political parties. I can safely recommend this to anyone who likes political thrillers or crime fiction.

Thanks to #AmazonKindle and #Goodreads for my copy of Don’t Speak.

Banned Book Week, Day 2: The oh-so-very obscene “Ulysses” by James Jones

It’s rare that a book is banned before it’s even published, Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller comes to mind, but that is what happened to Ulysses by James Jones. Banned in both England and the US to protect the “delicate sensibilities of women”, publishers took their case to court and won! Seriously, the delicate sensibilities of women!? Aren’t we, as women, all tired of people deciding for us what might offend our sensibilities!?

So what exactly is Ulysses? An amazingly long book, Ulysses tells the story in great detail of one day in the life of Dubliners in the early 20th century. It is a stream of consciousness centering on the life of Leopold Bloom and his friends. Critics have complained for over a century that Joyce’s lack of punctuation, run on sentences, interior monologues, etc., made this one of the worst, not best, pieces of literature. Thankfully, people all over the world disagree.

I first read Ulysses in HIGH SCHOOL – apparently one of my literature teachers was well ahead of her time since I also read Vonnegut, Camus, Sartre and more in her class which is unheard of in today’s high school programs. At the time, Ulysses was enigma to me. I wasn’t mature enough or well read enough to fully comprehend it but I still am appreciative of that early introduction. I re-read it at University and again as a homeschool mother teaching my own kids. Yes, there is profound cursing. Yes, there is masturbation. Oh, hello? Because “delicate sensibilities” don’t curse or hear it daily? Teenagers don’t masturbate – as do adults? Please. If you’re going to do it then you should read it as well! Ulysses was and is a marvelous piece of literature and, hopefully, you have read it. If not, why not? It will take you FOREVER to read but it is worth it!!

So that you know, Ulysses also has been burned in the United States, England, Canada and Ireland. Whew, so glad we are nothing like those Nazis, aren’t you?

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth

I absolutely loved (!) Sally Hepworth’s first novel, The Mother in Law, so I suspected that I would enjoy reading her second novel, The Good Sister. Holy cow – not only did I enjoy it, I thought it was better than the first! Well done Ms. Hepworth!

We are first introduced to Fern and Rose and it becomes apparent that Fern is somewhere “on the spectrum.” I add quotations because it’s never stated but implied. She leads a very simple life, works very quietly in the library, avoids bright lights, crowds and loud noises and this is before COVID so, you know, she’s a little different. Hmmm, she also sounds a LOT like me. Her sister Rose, on the other hand, is presented as the very responsible twin. We’re not to trust Fern, of course, because of her issues and Rose has to do so much to care for Fern. Their life has been difficult, their mother was, well, also difficult so the two of them are very co-dependent. Rose is unable to have children and Fern gets the bright idea to have a child for Rose if she only can find a sperm donor who will agree. Little did the two sisters realize that Ferns decision to have a baby would turn their lives upside down!

Oh gosh, so many innuendoes, so many twists and subtle hints and still I wasn’t sure until the end how this one was going to turn out! I truly loved this one think you will as well. It’s domestic noir at its finest!! Set to be published in 2021, this is one you will want put on your TBR now.

Banned Book Week 2020: Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

The last week in September is the week set aside by readers in the US to emphasize and even celebrate those books that have been “banned” or challenged in the US. While the First Amendment of our US Constitution, soon to be a useless piece of paper that is no longer relevant thanks to the new SCOTUS, does not allow for the outright banning of books, there are challenges each year to withhold books from school and community libraries throughout the US – and the world. Although, let’s face it, the First Amendment certainly isn’t what it used to be in the US and schools are effectively banning books when they willingly no longer have their students read them and when Boards of Education vote to delete important information from their textbooks ala Thomas Jefferson and The Enlightenment as was done in Texas. Banning by omission is alive and well in the good ole USA. In my home town the local librarian selects books solely based on the local “readership,” meaning that subversive, challenging, thought provoking books never will see the light of day in her library. But hey, if you want a good Amish romance you will be in luck!

So, let’s look at some of the most “banned” or challenged books for 2020, shall we? Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” is always in the Top Ten as is “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck. I read all of Steinbeck’s books and short stories in junior high, age 13-15. He still is my favorite writer, most likely always will be, and, Of Mice and Men is my most recommended book to those who rarely read. It’s quick, easy and profound. To ban a work like this is disgraceful. No, it’s ignorance. It should be no surprise that 1984, Brave New World and Animal Farm made the list this year. After all, we wouldn’t want to see any resemblances to the current administration, now would we? And it goes without saying that the majority of school boards no longer allow books like Albert Camus’ The Stranger, anything by Kurt Vonnegut or ever A People’s History of Us by Howard Zinn to see the light of day in our precious public or parochial schools. Hell, is it any wonder that I homeschooled all of children? I couldn’t bear the thought of them being culturally or politically illiterate which is exactly what we are facing in today’s version of “America.”

With that said, I had the pleasure of re-reading several banned books and adding a few new ones to my collection. I’ll share my thoughts about them this week beginning with Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut.

Because I absolutely adore Kurt Vonnegut and always have, I’ve been teased that I moved to Indianapolis simply because that is where Vonnegut was from. His family played an integral part in the development of the Indianapolis area and their contributions were intelligent and long-lasting. However, from the moment I first read Breakfast of Champions – for literature class in HIGH SCHOOL – I’ve been hooked on his pacifism, brilliance and humor.

Slaughterhouse Five is an anti-war novel that withstands the test of time. The narrator is Billy Pilgrim, a WWII veteran who survived the bombing of Dresden (ask how many high school graduates in the US know what the bombing of Dresden was – you’ll be amazed at their ignorance.) Billy becomes “unstuck in time” and travels to another planet where he finds peace. While the earth wants Billy to talk about Dresden, all he wants to do is talk about Tralfamadore. Brutalism meets Sci-Fi in this cult classic which allows readers of nearly all ages to read and comprehend the horrors that Billy witnessed and understand that it is those horrors that must be avoided at all cost. It is a MUST READ for everyone.

This book has been challenged in many communities and in most schools but it was actually BURNED in Drake, ND. And you thought only the Nazis burned books…well, yes, they still do.

Oh, and for the record, I am writing this review because I want to. No publisher has given me a book and no media consultant is telling me I cannot speak about religion or politics or drugs or war or anything else which might offend. If you ARE offended by this, well, I won’t apologize. There is too much at stake in today’s world to continue to remain silent!

Don’t Look for Me by Wendy Walker

A woman has gone missing and her daughter is desperate to find her. The police have called the disappearance a “walk away,” citing that her mother left a note telling her family not to look for her. Her daughter, however, will not “walk away” from what she knows and believes to be true – someone took her mother.

Today is publication day for Wendy Walker’s newest book, Don’t Look for Me, a story that crime fiction lovers definitely will not want to miss! The writing for this suspenseful tale is taught, full of twists and perhaps some gaslighting as well. Told from two different perspectives – the mother and daughter – we see the grit and determination that both of these women bring forward in order to save the mother’s life. It is impossible to write about the plot without giving too much away, but suffice it to say that Don’t Look for Me will captivate you from the first page to the last. It is a gripping, well written, character driven story had me enthralled throughout. I highly recommend it.

The Watcher by Jennifer Pashley

The Watcher by Jennifer Pashley is the first in a new crime fiction series featuring Kateri Fisher. Fisher has just moved to a new police force in a small, rural town in upstate New York. She has a past that she wishes to forget but is reminded of daily through the physical scars that she wears. Assigned to desk duty for months, her first “real” case involves the murder of the town’s outcast, Pearl Jenkins. The prime suspect is Pearl’s son, Shannon, who has become entangled with two men, both of whom are mysterious in their own right. From the beginning to the end, Pashley weaves a tale that is never quite what we expect as Fisher attempts to thread together the scattered pieces of the Jenkins’ family’s life.

Pashley is a gifted writer who captivates and enthralls her readers with her effluent prose. While The Watcher is one heck of a good crime story, the core of the book is about the characters who brilliantly are brought to life. I have not read a crime fiction tale this good in such a long time that The Watcher soars to the top of my favorites this year.

Little Threats by Emily Schultz

In the summer of 1993, twin sisters Kennedy and Carter Wynn are embracing the grunge era and testing every limit in their privileged Richmond suburb. But Kennedy’s teenage rebellion goes too far when, after a night of partying in the woods, her best friend, Haley, is murdered, and Kennedy is sent away for her murder…

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I read the opening pages of Little Threats during the “lock down” of the virus in April thinking that I would pick it up again later in the summer. Nooooooo, from the very first lines of this book I was hooked! The story is so intriguing – twins, a third girl added to the duo who wants to be one of them so badly, bad boys, sex and drugs and seriously messed up parental units! There was no way I could put down this book!

Carter and Kennedy, twins, were teenagers rebelling against their parents’ wealth and control. In the summer of ’93, they were testing the limits by running free and wild, shoplifting items they clearly didn’t need and hanging with a crowd that introduced them to drugs and an element of society that was far different from their own. On July 4th, after a bad acid trip, Hayley – the friend – is found dead in the woods between the wealthy/poor neighborhoods. Kennedy has no memory of the night but circumstantial evidence points to her – along with a desire to “stick it to the rich kid.” Now, fifteen years later, she is out of prison and along with old memories comes someone seeking revenge and and another who wants the truth.

The story is told from multiple points of view, including writing assignments that were given to Kennedy while in prison. The overlapping, often contradictory perspectives allow the reader to understand how confusing the summer really was for all involved and how incredibly out of control the situation became. As these same stories begin to converge with one another, the red herrings disappear and the shocking truth is revealed. Although I suspected who the murderer might have been, there were so many “what about them” or “could it have been…” thoughts along the way that I still was utterly shocked by the very satisfying conclusion to this riveting and well told story. While I missed Emily Schultz’ debut book, you can bet it is on my shelf now and I highly recommend Little Threats to you for your reading list this autumn!

Fire and Vengeance by Robert McCaw

I am fascinated by volcanoes and have even traveled around the US to view them. When I was offered Fire and Vengeance to read and review, knowing it revolved around a volcano, I jumped at the chance. I was so glad that I did. Not only did I read a great book, I discovered a new author and series to love as well.

Hurricane Ida has pounded the islands of Hawaii and has flooded the Hualapai Mountain’s volcanic crater, causing a build up of steam not unlike a pressure cooker. As the steam vents into the atmosphere, one of the vents opens under an elementary school, coating the students and staff in sulfuric chemicals and white-hot temperatures. Hilo Chief Detective Koa Kane is helicoptered to the scene where he finds mass casualties including multiple children. He vows to find the cause and the persons responsible for this tragedy.

There are several sub-plots intertwined with the primary story line of the school’s tragedy including Kane’s criminal brother who is dying in a jail cell. As Kane attempts to get his brother released for medical care, Kane finds himself caught between administering justice and helping his brother.

McCaw is an excellent writer, interspersing Hawaiian dialect throughout the book which lends to its atmospheric authenticity. He also walks that fine line between writing a taut thriller while adding enough personal details to make the book more interesting. I found Fire and Vengeance to be a great addition to the Crime Fiction genre and, if you enjoy series, this is a good one to follow. You can read Fire and Vengeance as a stand alone – I did – but I’ve since gone backward and picked up others in the series. All three have been terrific. Fire and Vengeance is available now.