A Two Horse Town opens with a visceral scene. It’s a moonlit night in Big Sky Country. An acrophobic woman scales a boulder ever aware that one wrong step, one slip of a sweaty palm, could lead to a painful-at-best fall. A straight-outa-the-chute beginning to an excellent mystery.
Kate Caraway hadn’t anticipated how much she would miss Kenya, a place where she immediately felt a sense of home, and a research position that fulfilled her. But her husband had a prime job opportunity, so they moved to Chicago. Disliking her work at the University of Illinois, she eagerly agrees to help her student, Nate Springfield. She takes a leave of absence to go to Montana to save wild mustangs endangered by a purposed dam which would leave them without a water supply. Soon after her arrival, Kate discovers a dead body, that of her student’s grandfather. When Nate becomes the prime suspect, Kate struggles to not only save the horses, but also to clear his name.
In Montana, Kate stays with Nate’s great-grandmother, Ida, a gun-toting nonagenarian. She is against the building of the dam, but her reckless outspokenness may work against their cause. Kate also senses that Ida is not as forthright as she seems.
Time is against Kate, and the enemies aren’t afraid to use deadly force. I won’t spoil the ending, but will say it is full of heart-racing excitement and fascinating revelations.
When I read the vivid descriptions of the settings—so bright, compelling and very much a key part of the story—Nevada Barr’s series is brought to mind. Kate Caraway has much in common with Barr’s main character, Anna Pigeon. Both feel strongly about protecting the environment and both have the willingness to take on an active role.
Like a mustang, the story gallops across the pages and I flew like a rider, gripping the horse’s mane in exhilaration. I encourage you to take that ride too. You won’t regret it.
Marabella Vinegar is late for her therapist appointment—thanks to her mother. Normally, this pain in the tookus would be par for the course. After all, most of Marabella’s sessions are spent addressing her relationship with said relative except, Mama Vinegar died. A week ago.
After tucking her not-so-dead mother in for a nap on the couch, apparently ghost travel is taxing, Marabella rushes to Dr. Ditstein’s office anxious for answers. None are forthcoming because she finds her supportive shrink murdered. Any guess who is the prime suspect?
Marabella’s ambivalent relationship with her mother is captured perfectly by the author. Mom drives her nuts. But she loves her. But she drives her NUTS. The balance is perfect. I “get” both characters and am sympathetic.
I’m a big mystery series fan, but one of my complaints is that, in some cases, the main character doesn’t grow. I can’t say this for Marabella in Dead Shrinks Don’t Talk. Happily, Marabella is adaptive and determine. She is a flawed character that you can’t help but root for because, aren’t we all flawed? And, fyi, she solves the mystery. Let’s hear it for Team Marabella! A wonderful read and I can’t wait for more from this author.
Uthuru is a science fiction novel about Mitchell Surrey, a man accused of a murder he didn’t commit. He travels to space for the proof needed to exonerate him and, not only does he find it, he also discovers answers to the over one-hundred-year-old mystery of the alien attack that came to be known as the Traveler War.
I enjoyed this first person POV tale. The world building was detailed and believable, the main character, resourceful and easy to relate to, and the reason for the aliens’ hostilities, unique. Being a fan of the Alien movies, I loved the horror elements in the story.
Despite the new sci-fi technological terms, I had no trouble following the plot, though the author has thoughtfully included a glossary. Never a dull moment, this was a quick read. In some ways, I am reminded of the movie, The Martian, because Mitchell must be self-reliant and spends a goodly part of the book on his own. I strongly recommend this novel and, since this is book 1, can’t wait to see what else this author has in store for Mitchell.
Who hasn’t had an event in life so bad, that you wanted move on, both literally and figuratively? When Gracyn has an opportunity to do so, she seizes it. Her mother is offered an overseas promotion, which she refused, unwilling to uproot Gracyn her senior year of high school, despite the many alternatives Gracyn suggests. To the main character’s surprise, her long-lost sister comes through, offering to take Gracyn in.
Adjusting from living in a big city to a small town, making new friends, and fitting into the rhythm of life in her new home is expected, however this move isn’t typical and Gracyn is faced with surprising changes and challenges.
Gypsy Magic is a well-paced YA book with engaging characters. The teens are depicted accurately. I was raised in a small town and yes, we gathered around bonfires and drank beer. When there’s not much to do, young adults find ways to occupy their time—often in activities that adults wouldn’t approve of. Royston inserts fully-realized parental figures in a believable manner. In some books, the adults are cardboard figures, not touched much upon, or portrayed as idiots.
I loved that horses were prominent in the book and I totally get Gracyn’s fear of them. (Hey, they’re large, have hooves and chompy teeth.) I’m a big-time animal lover, so I’m always thrilled to see them in books, and yes, I love horses too. When I finished this book, I was eager to find out what would happen next.
The world Carr has created is wildly imaginative and completely believable. Jenn’s mad scientist roomie is experimenting and, unfortunately, Jenn becomes a variable. She is transported via funky rock to another dimension where she’s given a choice: die or be reconstructed (add AI unit and vigorously stir) to help a god. Not much of a choice, to be sure. *takes deep breath* And then things really get crazy. Jenn ends up in a beast world—think Planet of the Apes, but a lot more diversity than gorillas, orangs and chimps. One of my favorite things about The Download is the way the characters evolve. I love that the AI (Artificial Intelligence, I know, I know, you knew) unit doesn’t remain static, CALA changes and is as much a character as the flesh and blood ones. If you love a rollicking tale that makes you think, I strongly recommend this book.
I’m typically not a big reader of romances unless they’re funny and this book delivered big time. Ella Menza’s life has been grounded in politeness and following all the rules. Unfortunately, others take advantage of her good-naturedness. Self-centered Burton, her fiancée is, as Janet, a favorite co-worker aptly describes him, “a cold fish.” Her mother, the Professor, who reminded me a lot of Leonard’s mom on the Big Bang Theory, belittles and embarrasses her. She finds her job as a copywriter unfulfilling. Ella Menza has been a doormat for too long and has had enough.
The book immediately illustrates Ella’s temperament when she needs to leave work for her bridal shower but can’t bring herself to be rude to a co-worker. Ella arrives late and things go downhill from there. The book is atypical because it has several POVs, instead of the traditional heroine only or the POV bouncing back and forth between the hero and heroine. I enjoy multiple POVs, so this was a plus for me. It was refreshing to read about characters who have flaws instead of too perfect ones. Ronnie, Ella’s bestie’s auto-corrected curse words and her wild card behavior made me giggle. A host of quirky characters whirl through the revolving doors of Ella’s life.
One POV was Eddie’s, the brother of Ella’s love interest. I thought it was odd at first, but I would have found him a much more unsympathetic individual without getting a glimpse into his thoughts and at the end of the book, a sequel is alluded to involving Eddie and Ronnie. I love EM Kaplan’s Josie Tucker series and look forward to seeing what the author has in store for the bro and the bff in book 2.
Halloween Hijinks (Zoe Donovan Mystery #1) by Kathi Daley
Halloween is my favorite holiday and I love a good mystery, so of course, I had to get this book. The main character, Zoe Donovan, has many characteristics I admire. She is an animal-lover who fights to find a forever home for every stray and nurtures every hurt or needy wild animal. She has a good heart, and, despite having a busy job as an animal control officer, is one of the first to aid those who need help. Mysteries fascinate her and she is eager to seek out clues.
Since this was the first of a series, much time was taken to introduce the main characters. Zoe has two close friends she has known since they were kids, Ellie and Levi. Levi has his hands full with training the high school football players for a game against one of their biggest rivals. Ellie and her mother run a bakery. Thrown into the mix is Zak, Zoe’s nemesis starting back in seventh grade. I enjoyed the interactions between the characters and Zoe makes a couple of surprising discoveries about her nearest and dearest. When a dead body is found, Zoe is determined to root out the perpetrator.
I read a wide variety of books including some very gritty, explicit crime novels, but sometimes I’m in the mood for something sweet. Halloween Hijinks is a clean, cozy mystery that was exactly what I craved, a sweet whodunnit with little violence and sexual content.
I didn’t read the first book in this series, but this didn’t diminish my enjoyment of Waiting for Aegina. The story about a circle of dear friends dealing with the repercussions of the decisions made in their lives was compelling and emotionally intense. I kept a box of tissues handy shedding tears in equal measure of joy and sadness. Married to a Greek, I was thrilled with the references and loved the inclusion of recipes. I heartily recommend this book.
I love Naquin’s Monster Haven series. I wasn’t sure if I would like a spin-off. Happily, I really enjoyed it. I also was a big I Dream of Jeannie fan as a kid, so I lived vicariously through Kam. (I haven’t dressed up as a genie yet! ☹) The Toast Genie food truck idea was awesome. I wanted her to yell, “Let them eat toast!” ala Marie Antoinette. Someone’s killing food truck owners. Dead bodies pile up as Kam strives to solve the mystery before all those business men are stuck sitting in the Chick-fil-A drive thru lane half their lunch break.
Murder in the One Percent by Saralyn Richard
Wealthy friends gather at a mansion to celebrate the owner’s birthday. He receives many surprises—good ones like expensive cigars and one very bad one, a dead body. Detective Oliver Parrott is on the case and discovers suspects galore. The writing, reminiscent of Agatha Christie, is sharp as the creases on a bespoke suit and the ending is a surprise as delicious as a homemade truffle. Detective Parrott is a wonderful protagonist worthy of his own series. (Hint, hint, SR.)