Category Archives: 4 Star Books

A Review of Prime Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Prime Time: A Charlotte McNally Novel

by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Prime Time is the first book in the Charlotte McNally series. It was originally published in 2007, and won the Agatha Award for best first novel of 2007. The whole series is being reissued this year.

Charlotte McNally is an investigative reporter with a Boston TV station, as is the author, Hank Phillippi Ryan. Since Ms. Ryan knows the business, everything about Prime Time smacks of reality. A lot of authors follow that old adage, “Write what you know.” That usually works. Most of the time the author is able to tell a story that could really happen, but that doesn’t mean that they can write a story that is worth reading. Ms. Ryan is that exceptional writer that can grab the reader with engaging, realistic characters, and an exciting, authentic plot filled with unexpected twists.

You really believe in Charlie. She is a TV reporter trying to get that next big story that will guarantee that she has a job for another few months. You want her to figure out what is going on, and expose the powerbrokers before they can eliminate her.

I give Prime Time 4 Stars out of 5, and a Big Thumbs Up! I recommend it to anyone who likes their Mysteries blended together with a touch of romance and humor along with a heavy dose of reality.

I received a copy of this book from the author.

Book Description

Prime TimeSeasoned investigative reporter Charlotte McNally knows that in the cutthroat world of television journalism, every story could be your last. There’s always someone younger and prettier to take your place, always a story more sensational to drive ratings through the roof.

When Brad Foreman’s widow demands to know why Charlie never answered his email, Charlie is confused. She never received his message. What did Brad, an accountant at a pharmaceutical company, want to tell her? As she searches through her computer, she finds an innocent-looking email in her junk mail folder that may turn out to be the biggest story of her career.

Is the encoded email–and the ones that follow–linked to Brad’s “accidental” death? Charlie’s investigation leads her to Brad’s friend, professor Josh Gelston, who is charming and exceedingly helpful–perhaps suspiciously so.

Charlie must decide if she can trust Josh…before a multimillion-dollar fraud ring with murder in its arsenal makes her the next lead story.

Book Details

Series: Charlotte McNally (Book 1)
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Forge Books (February 9, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0765384752
ISBN-13: 978-0765384751
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces

About the Author

hank-ryan-crop-pressHank Phillippi Ryan is the bestselling author of eight award winning novels of suspense. National reviews have called her a “master at crafting suspenseful mysteries” and “a superb and gifted storyteller.”

Her newest book, WHAT YOU SEE, is a Library Journal BEST of 2015, an ANTHONY and AGATHA Award nominee, and a Top Pick!, dubbed “exceptional suspense.” It received a starred review from Library Journal which says: “Readers will find themselves racing to the finish!”

Her 2014 book, TRUTH BE TOLD, won the AGATHA Award for best mystery, and is a Library Journal Best of 2014. It received starred reviews from Booklist and Library Journal, which says, “Drop everything and binge read!”

THE WRONG GIRL has the extraordinary honor of winning the Agatha Award and the Daphne Award, and is a seven-week Boston Globe bestseller and Anthony Award nominee.

THE OTHER WOMAN won the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award, and was listed as a Best Book of 2012 by the Kansas City Star, the Sacramento Bee, Suspense Magazine, and The Boston Globe, won the prestigious Mary Higgins Clark Award, and was the only novel nominated for the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, Shamus and Daphne awards for Best Novel of 2012.

Her first four mysteries, beginning with the Agatha Award-winning PRIME TIME, feature Charlotte McNally, a Boston television reporter. FACE TIME was a BookSense Notable Book, and AIR TIME and DRIVE TIME were both Anthony and Agatha Award nominees for best novel of 2009 and 2010. They are now available in all new editions.

Hank is also an award-winning investigative reporter at Boston’s NBC affiliate. Her work has resulted in new laws, people sent to prison, homes removed from foreclosure, and millions of dollars in refunds and restitution for victims and consumers. In addition to 33 EMMYs and 13 Edward R. Murrow awards, Hank’s won dozens of other honors for her ground-breaking journalism. She’s been a radio reporter, a legislative aide in the United States Senate and an editorial assistant at Rolling Stone Magazine.

Hank is a founding teacher at Mystery Writers of America University and served as 2013 president of national Sisters in Crime.

Learn more about Hank at http://www.HankPhillippiRyan.com.

A Review of Curious Minds by Janet Evanovich and Phoef Sutton

Curious Minds: A Knight and Moon Novel

by Janet Evanovich and Phoef Sutton

Janet Evanovich and Phoef Sutton make a good writing team. I have enjoyed reading all of their collaborative series. Curious Minds is the beginning of what promises to be another fun one. I got the same vibe from this book as I had when I read some of the Lizzy and Diesel books. I’m not saying that the characters are much alike, just that I get the same feeling.

Emerson Knight doesn’t have any of the same mystical powers that Diesel has, but, then again, there might be a little something going on there, and Riley Moon is not anything like Lizzy. She is nearly the exact opposite of Lizzy. Riley is a fiery redhead from Texas and once she lets loose, you better not be in her way.

But Emerson and Riley work well together. They have some of that classic Evanovich heat going on between them too, but we have to wait until the next book to really see where that goes.

Curious Minds had me engaged. I had trouble putting it down. The characters were fun and the action was fast. What more can you ask for?

I give Curious Minds 4 Stars out of 5 and a Big Thumbs Up! I think that Janet Evanovich and Phoef Sutton have another winner.

I received a Digital Review Copy from the Publisher.

Curious MindsJanet Evanovich, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Stephanie Plum series, teams up with Emmy-winning writer Phoef Sutton for a brand-new series of mysteries featuring Emerson Knight and Riley Moon, a dynamic duo with instant and undeniable chemistry.

Emerson Knight is introverted, eccentric, and has little to no sense of social etiquette. Good thing he’s also brilliant, rich, and (some people might say) handsome, or he’d probably be homeless. Riley Moon has just graduated from Harvard Business and Harvard Law. Her aggressive Texas spitfire attitude has helped her land her dream job as a junior analyst with mega-bank Blane-Grunwald. At least Riley Moonthought it was her dream job, until she is given her first assignment: babysitting Emerson Knight.

What starts off as an inquiry about missing bank funds in the Knight account leads to inquiries about a missing man, missing gold, and a life-and-death race across the country. Through the streets of Washington, D.C., and down into the underground vault of the Federal Reserve in New York City, an evil plan is exposed. A plan so sinister that only a megalomaniac could think it up, and only the unlikely duo of the irrepressibly charming Emerson Knight and the tenacious Riley Moon can stop it.

Book Details

Series: Knight and Moon (Book 1)
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Bantam (August 16, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0553392689
ISBN-13: 978-0553392685
Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds

About the Authors

Janet Evanovich 2Janet Evanovich is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Stephanie Plum series, the Fox and O’Hare series with co-author Lee Goldberg, the Knight and Moon series, and the Lizzy and Diesel series as well as twelve romance novels, the Alexandra Barnaby novels, Troublemaker graphic novel, and How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author.

Phoef SuttonPhoef Sutton was born in Washington DC. He cut his eye teeth as a playwright, but first made a living as a writer in TV. He worked on the classic NBC series CHEERS for eight years, and went on to write movies (THE FAN, MRS. WINTERBOURNE) and also serve as consulting producer and writer for BOSTON LEGAL and TERRIERS. He lives in South Pasadena, CA and Vinalhaven ME with his wife and two daughters.

A Review of Inevitable Ascension by V. K. McAllister

Inevitable Ascension

by V. K. McAllister

Inevitable Ascension is all over the place. I mean it never stops moving. Violina and Lux hop across time and run into trouble no matter where or when they are. The whole book has nearly a video game feel to it. You don’t have any idea what is coming up next, because you don’t know whether this time and place is going to exist or not. Much of the plot is based on the idea that time travel to the past may change the present, but maybe not, because maybe the present already reflects the fact that time travel had already happened, or is going to happen. Try to get your brain around that idea. I was intrigued by this premise. It kept me interested.

Is Inevitable Ascension great literature? No, but is a very different book, and fun to read. Will you like it? I don’t know, I did. Sometimes I got a bit confused, but I always found my way back. I enjoyed the concept and the action. The writing was a bit hit and miss, at times, but it worked for me. Overall, a unique and fun book. Kind of a YA, Steampunk, Fantasy, Time Travel, Action Adventure. If that sounds like your kind of book, then I think that you will like it.

I give Inevitable Ascension 4 Stars out of 5, and a Big Thumbs Up!

I received a Digital Review Copy from the author.

Book Description

1Violina, a girl polarized by love and loathing, finds herself thrown into a post-apocalyptic world with mankind on the brink of extinction. Discovering the means to travel back in time, she sets out to save the world by preventing the events leading up to the apocalypse. But as her quest advances, she becomes increasingly disgusted by the evil inherent to humanity and seeks lethal justice against all who wrong her—a list that grows exponentially until it encompasses all of mankind.

What was it that gave people the right to live?  Was it simply being born?  No. Everyone is born to no credit of their own. It’s the choices people make that determine whether they deserve their lives, and by that standard, everyone Violina knew deserved to die — everyone except for Lux.

Book Details

File Size: 706 KB
Print Length: 236 pages
Publisher: KZA, LLC (September 12, 2015)
Publication Date: September 12, 2015
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
Language: English
ASIN: B015AS2FTA
Text-to-Speech: Enabled
X-Ray: Not Enabled
Word Wise: Enabled
Lending: Enabled
Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

Who is V. K. McAllister?

We’re a husband/wife duo with a unique approach to writing. We work simultaneously and in secret before combining what we come up with, resulting in dramatic and unexpected twists! Crazy? Yes, yes it is, but it’s surprisingly fun and effective. 🙂

A Review of Cascadia by H.W. “Buzz” Bernard

Cascadia

by H.W. “Buzz” Bernard

Do you like blockbuster disaster movies? Do you ever read a typical “beach book”? If you say yes to either one of these questions, then Cascadia by Buzz Bernard is the perfect summer read for you.

As I was reading Cascadia, I kept saying to myself, “This could make a perfect movie script without any changes at all.” I could picture all my favorite stars in the main roles, and even as some of the minor comic relief characters. This would be a lot of fun. I hope it actually does happen, because this disaster could happen at any time, and the general population should know about the potential danger.

Mr. Bernard has done his research. There is a real danger to the people in the Pacific Northwest, and Cascadia is a warning. He shows what could possibly happen in our lifetime. Maybe it won’t happen this year or next, but sometime within the forseeable future, a major earthquake will happen just offshore and result in a tsunami. This will cause massive damage and kill many people. Is there any way to predict when that will happen? Science can’t, at this time, but maybe there is something else that can send that warning. That is what happens in Cascadia.

I really enjoyed reading Cascadia. It felt a bit formulaic, but so what, most disaster movies are too, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying them. Like any good action book, it starts off slowly, and then it ramps up exponentially as you approach the climax. The characters are likable, if somewhat predictable. But I liked them, and didn’t want any of them to die in the tsunami. Overall, a perfect summer beach book.

I give Cascadia 4 Stars out of 5, and a Big Thumbs Up.

I received an Advance Review Copy from the publisher.

Book Description

Cascadia-home-cvrAccording to ancient legend, when Thunderbird is sated, he is harmless.  But he always grows hungry again…

Rob Elwood knows what the thin layer of sand buried in tidal marsh mud is telling him: it’s been a little over 300 years since the Northwest coast was mangled by a megaquake and the tsunami that followed. As a geologist, Rob knows that all the evidence suggests that it will happen again, though he doesn’t know when. And his academic training can’t help him decide what to do with an irrational premonition that a modern megaquake will hit on the 4th of July.

Neahkhanie Johnny doesn’t need science to tell him what he knows in his bones. For more than a decade, he has regularly returned to the same section of the coastal mountains, driven by an unshakeable faith that their legendary buried treasure is more than legend. He is indifferent to the bears, unstable scree, and the people who take his conviction for lunacy. Nothing can shake him from the hunt, except the very ground beneath his feet.

Through the entwined stories of a visionary scientist and his son, a quixotic veteran, a lovely but mysterious anthropologist, and a retired fighter pilot with amends to make to a former lover, Cascadia tells a story about faith and conviction in the face of an unimaginable reality.

Book Details

Release: July 11, 2016
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
ISBN: 978-1-61194-679-6
Price: $15.95
Kindle Price:  $7.55
Pages: 234
Distribution: Amazon/Ingram
eBook Distribution: Kindle, Nook
Publicity Contact: MindBuck Media

About the Author

BERNARDH.W. “Buzz” Bernard has written four previous suspense stories, which have risen to number one in the Kindle store and won multiple Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition awards. Before becoming a novelist, Buzz worked at The Weather Channel as a senior meteorologist for 13 years.  Prior to that, he served as a weather officer in the U.S. Air Force, rising to the rank of colonel. He is a proud recipient of the US Legion of Merit.

A Review of Oliver Twisted by Cindy Brown

Oliver Twisted (An Ivy Meadows Mystery)

by Cindy Brown

Ivy Meadows is such a fun character. I love the person that she is. She is an actress and hopes to make it big some day, but she really likes helping out her Uncle Bob solve mysteries. In this book she and her Uncle are hired to find the thieves that are working the cruise line. They go undercover. Since Ivy is an actress, she uses her acting ability to sell the undercover role, of an actress. Her Uncle doesn’t do quite as well. He has difficulty staying in character, and out of trouble. They aren’t the only people on board that aren’t really who they say they are. And the bodies start to pile up.

Ms. Brown does a good job of portraying life on a cruise ship from the perspective of a member of the crew. She gives you a glimpse of the crew living quarters and their dining. Ivy is a working actress, so she has to be in character and mingling with the passengers. She gets to eat in the themed restaurants. She eats a lot of Dickens inspired food, including black pudding and other English delights. Since this is a Dickens cruise, the passengers also dress in costumes for some of the fancy balls. Ms. Brown makes sure that you will see many of your beloved characters. She also sprinkles in many fun little Dickens references.

I received a Digital Review Copy from the publisher.

oliver twistedWhen Ivy Meadows lands a gig with the book-themed cruise line Get Lit!, she thinks she’s died and gone to Broadway. Not only has she snagged a starring role in a musical production of Oliver Twist, she’s making bank helping her PI uncle investigate a string of onboard thefts, all while sailing to Hawaii on the S.S. David Copperfield. But Ivy is cruising for disaster. Her acting contract somehow skipped the part about aerial dancing forty feet above the stage, her uncle Bob is seriously sidetracked by a suspicious blonde, and—oh yeah—there’s a corpse in her closet. Forget catching crooks. Ivy’s going to have a Dickens of a time just surviving.

Book Details

Series: An Ivy Meadows Mystery
Paperback: 280 pages
Publisher: Henery Press (June 21, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1635110416
ISBN-13: 978-1635110418
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
Shipping Weight: 15.4 ounces

About the Author

Cindy-BrownCindy Brown has been a theater geek (musician, actor, director, producer, and playwright) since her first professional gig at age 14. Now a full-time writer, she’s lucky enough to have garnered several awards (including 3rd place in the 2013 international Words With Jam First Page Competition, judged by Sue Grafton!) and is an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Writers Workshop.

Though Cindy and her husband now live in Portland, Oregon, she made her home in Phoenix, Arizona, for more than 25 years and knows all the good places to hide dead bodies in both cities.

oliver-twisted-large-banner640

Click this link to enter to Win a physical copy of Oliver Twisted!

A Review of Blood Flag by Steve Martini

Blood Flag (Paul Madriani #14)

by Steve Martini

Steve Martini departed a bit from his normal type of story when he wrote Blood Flag. Most of his stories concentrate on the court and law. He finds ways to prove that his client is innocent. In Blood Flag much of the plot centers around an international group of people who are intent on owning Hitler’s Blood Flag.

“The Blutfahne (pronounced [bluːtˈfaːnə]), or Blood Flag, is the Nazi German Swastika flag that was used in the failed Beer Hall Putsch in Munich, Germany on 9 November 1923, during which it became soaked in the blood of one of the SA members who died. It subsequently became one of the most revered objects of the Nazi Party. It was used in ceremonies in which new flags for party organisations were consecrated by the Blood Flag when touched by it.” (From Wikipedia)

This flag was then prominently displayed throughout Hitler’s reign. It was thought to have been destroyed, but maybe not.

This is the fourteenth book in the series, but can be read as a standalone book. The characterization will come across as rather two-dimensional, but you won’t get lost. Even though Paul Madriani does have a client that is under suspicion of murder, much of the action is centered around the hunt for the killer of Paul’s assistant, Sofia, and search for the Blood Flag. There are some plot twists and unexpected events along with a few suspenseful sequences to keep you on your toes. I was completely surprised by the ending. Mr. Martini wrote one chapter so masterfully that I was totally fooled. I thought that one thing had happened, but it really was just the opposite. After rereading that chapter, I can see how I was deceived.

On the whole, this was an enjoyable book. I was engaged and interested in what was happening and I wanted to continue reading, even when I should have stopped. This book broke me out of my stupor. I hadn’t been able to get interested in most books recently. So I give a big thanks to Mr. Martini for that.

I give Blood Flag 4 Stars out of 5 and a Thumbs Up! I recommend it to anyone who likes their legal thrillers with a historic and international flavor.

I received a Digital Review Copy from the publisher.

Book Description

Blood Flag by Steve MartiniDefending a client accused of killing her father, attorney Paul Madriani is drawn into a treacherous conspiracy dating to World War II in this enthralling installment in the New York Times bestselling series.

Paul Madriani and Harry Hinds have a new client: Emma Brauer, a woman accused in the “mercy killing” of her aged father, Robert Brauer. Insisting she’s innocent, Emma tells Paul about a package sent to her father shortly before he entered the hospital. Bequeathed to him by a member of his unit from World War II, the box contains a key and a slip of paper. Emma fears that this package is connected to her father’s death.

When Paul’s young assistant Sofia is murdered, Madriani is blindsided by the realization that Emma’s fears are well-grounded.

Digging into Robert’s military history, Madriani discovers that other members of the Army unit Robert served with have recently died—under similarly suspicious circumstances. When he finds that the box sent to Brauer relates to a mysterious talisman that went missing at the end of the war—a feared Nazi relic known as the “Blood Flag”—Madriani and Hinds realize they are in for the fight of their lives.

With Emma’s life on the line and their own safety in jeopardy, Madriani must uncover the truth before the evil of the Blood Flag is allowed to spin a new web.

Book Details

Series: Paul Madriani (Book 14)
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (May 17, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0062328964
ISBN-13: 978-0062328960
Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces

About the Author

Photo by Brian Smale
Photo by Brian Smale

Steve Martini is the author of numerous New York Times bestsellers, including The Enemy Inside, Trader of Secrets, The Rule of Nine, Guardian of Lies, Shadow of Power, Double Tap, and others featuring defense attorney Paul Madriani. Martini has practiced law in California in both state and federal courts and has served as an administrative law judge and supervising hearing officer. He lives in the Pacific Northwest.

A Review of No Cure for Love by Peter Robinson

No Cure for Love: A Novel

by Peter Robinson

This book was first published in 1995, and is set during that time, so in many was this is sort of a period police procedural. The tech is 25 years old, but that’s OK. The detectives can’t check the traffic cams or try to find someone using their cellphone’s GPS chip, they have to use old-fashioned police work. California has changed a lot in 25 years too, but nothing feels too dated.

Most of us know Peter Robinson as the author of the Inspector Banks series, which are set in northern England, near Yorkshire. The southern California location of No Cure for Love is quite a change for Mr. Robinson, but he pulls it off quite well. It never feels artificial. He gets it right, but he does keep some of his Britishness in his writing. He tones down the gore, and keeps the characters more civilized. His main character, Sarah Broughton, is a British actress  and the lead detective, Arvo Hughes,  isn’t a California native. He grew up in the Detroit area and only had been in LA three years. The minor characters have an LA feel to them, but they really aren’t very developed.

Since this is a stalker type story, it has many things that you have seen before. There are a series of letters written by the stalker. Some of the chapters are the first person thoughts of the stalker. The stalker wants to impress Sarah, so he sets up a scene near her house. That sort of stuff. There are a few twists, but this isn’t a Jeffery Deaver book, by any means.

This was an easy book to read. I enjoyed it. I liked Sarah and Arvo. It could have been a decent start to a series, but was probably more of an experiment for Mr. Robinson. He was sticking his toe into the American book market. It probably didn’t sell well enough to warrant continuing. After all he had DCI Banks. He had published his seventh Banks book in 1994 and No Cure for Love was just a diversion.

I give No Cure for Love 4 Stars out of 5, and a Thumbs Up. If you feel like a mild psychological thriller set in sunny LA, give it a try. This won’t give you nightmares.

I received a Digital Review Copy from the publisher.

Book Description

No Cure for LoveOriginally published in 1995, No Cure for Love is being reissued this year, with an introduction by Michael Connelly. This relentlessly suspenseful thriller from the New York Timesbestselling and Edgar award-winning author of the Inspector Banks novels marks the first time that Peter Robinson has set a novel in America.

Sarah Broughton has come a long way. She’s the star of a hit cop show on TV. She lives in a beautiful California beach house. And—most importantly—she’s put her dark past behind her… as well as her old name, Sally Bolton. No need for anyone to know about that.

When Sarah begins receiving letters mysteriously signed with the letter “M,” she thinks they’re from a harmless admirer… until her real name appears in the third letter. And then she finds that name inscribed in the sand near her home – next to a body.

The message is clear: Someone is watching Sarah’s every move. Someone so obsessed with her that he won’t stop at just one murder in order to prove his love.

Panicked, Sarah turns to Detective Arvo Hughes of the LAPD, a man who specializes in hunting down the most dangerous stalkers. But nothing in Hughes’ experience has prepared him for the mastermind he’s up against. For the killer, there’s no cure for love. And for Sarah and Hughes, there’s no way out.

Book Details

Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (February 16, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0062405101
ISBN-13: 978-0062405104
Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces

About the Author

Photo © Pal Hansen
Photo © Pal Hansen

Peter Robinson is the bestselling author of the Inspector Banks series, two short-story collections, and three standalone novels, which combined have sold more than ten million copies worldwide. Among his many honors and prizes are the Edgar Award, the CWA (UK) Dagger in the Library Award, and Sweden’s Martin Beck Award.