Review: The Body in the Gravel (Book #3: A Jazzi Zanders Mystery Series) by Judi Lynn

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House-flipper Jazzy Zanders has her work cut out for her. Her latest flip, which she co-purchased with her fiancée Ansel and cousin Jerod, is a three-story fixer-upper that’s more of a droopy-downer. One corner of the house is sinking and needs to be jacked up with a new cement foundation. That costs money. And causes headaches. And creates a work environment that’s not only hostile, it’s downright deadly . . . 

Jazzy knows it’s a tough job. Which is why she hired Darby to lay the cement. But when Darby gets into a fiery argument with the furnace man—and then never shows up to lay gravel for the driveway—Jazzy starts to wonder if the rumors about Darby are true. Did he kill his wife and son and bury them in the yard like some folks claim? When Darby’s dead body comes pouring out of a gravel truck, murder upstages the real estate market as her biggest concern . . .

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Source: NetGalley and Lyrical Underground          Rating: 5/5 stars

Can’t a girl get through one house renovation without a dead body showing up?  Thankfully, for we readers at least, the answer to that is a resounding “NO!”  In fact, not only does yet another dead body get dumped (literally!) into Jazzy’s life, but so does a huge list of potential suspects.

Jazzy, Ansel, and Jerrod have taken on a whale of a project.  An older three-story home with a lot of potential and enough issues to need a shrink!  As always, the trio has a plan in place and that plan involves getting all the exterior work done before moving to the interior.  A part of the exterior involves bolstering the foundation and completely reworking the driveway.  That means cement, and a lot of it.  As always, the flippers call in their go-to guy for cement, Darby, a surly bastard who is not known for his sunny disposition or good attitude.  Thanks to his nasty reputation, it really comes as no surprise to anyone when the gravel base for the driveway is being poured and Darby comes out too. 

As if it’s simply a foregone conclusion, Detective Gaff ropes Jazzy into the investigation and the hunt for a killer begins.  As if looking for a killer weren’t hard enough, Jazzy and Gaff quickly figure out, not only did Darby have no friends, but he did have a great number of enemies. At the top of the list, Jazzy’s sort of brother-in-law, all the men who worked for him, his son and ex-wife who have been missing for two years, and his housekeeper.  Narrowing down the list takes a great deal of patience, finding the right questions to ask, and untangling the last days of a man no one liked and was clearly falling apart. 

At the same time Jazzy is trying to untangle the life of a right bastard, she’s also trying to put the finishing touches on her upcoming wedding to her Viking, Ansel.  The food is planned, the venue is ready to go, the guests have been invited, and the plan is in place.  The only thing missing, a wedding dress!  As the days roll by, Ansel begins to worry about Jazzy’s commitment to their life together.  Though Jazzy assures Ansel she is all in for the long haul, her Viking still worries. What’s more, Ansel also has mixed feelings about the presence of his completely awful family.  It’s meant to be a day of happiness and new beginnings and all Ansel can do is fret which, in turn, causes Jazzy to worry more.

The Bottom Line:  The Body in the Gravel has so much going on that it easily could have become a hot mess.  Instead, the seasoned Lynn juggles multiple plot lines, a multitude of characters, and a fine mystery with an organized and collected plan.  Nothing and no one got lost in the mix, all the loose ends are neatly tied up by the end, and there are even a few fun little surprises.  The Jazzy Zanders Mystery series seems to be gaining strength and speed with each new book and I am thrilled with this development.  I need my characters and their world to evolve and I am certainly getting just that with this series.  As much as the characters and the plots, I also enjoy the discussions and descriptions of the work Jazzy, Ansel, and Jerrod are doing and, of course, all the good food Jazzy serves up.  In all, I can’t find a flaw with this series and look forward to it having a long and lovely life.

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Spotlight and Sweepstakes: Chasing Wildfire (Forever Series) by J. Lum

How do you chase wildfires without getting burned?  I went to Scotland to learn about the world, I never expected to find love.  Except, the one I’m meant to be with is also the person who hates me the most. Isla.  Independent and free, like the rolling hills of her beloved Scottish Highlands.  She grew wild, like the heather she loved so much.  I want to cherish her, not own her, because wildfires aren’t meant to be tamed, but allowed to  blossom. To burn bright and beautiful, without being held captive.  My only goal is to win her heart.  I just hope I don’t lose mine in the process.
 
 
 
J. Lum resides in the Northern Virginia area. While she calls Virginia home, she is constantly on the go. She’s got a constant case of #Wanderlust; most of the time, you can find her traveling around the world to see her book besties or checking off her bucket list places. Her second home away from home is Hawaii, where her family is from. The love for the ocean runs through her veins, but if she could help things, she’d probably permanently live in Scotland. She also has a love of ALL pugs, unicorns, and anything chocolate. She and coffee have been having a love affair for many years. 

 

Excerpt: Second Chances by Anna Edwards

At the tender age of thirteen Elena Lopez saw her prima ballerina dreams ruined by injury. Now she passes her love down to the future generation as a dance teacher. A chance meeting at the premier BDSM club in London with the hypnotizing and charming, Ryan North leaves her examining her future. When tragedy strikes and the memories of her youth resurface, she’s left fighting for her life. 
MI5 operative Ryan North is struggling to adjust to the knowledge he was misled to by the one person he thought he could trust. His parents wanted him despite what his grandfather told him. The past few years have all been about revenge, can he find something or someone else, to occupy his time and distract him from his failing career. 
Second chances is a standalone novel from International Bestselling Author, Anna Edwards. It explores the collusion of naivete and lies leading to dramatic conclusion that threatens to blow apart a couple’s fledgling love.
Excerpt

“Fuck!” I exclaim out loud without realizing it. Everyone turns to look at me. Master Stone included. He raises an eyebrow toward us. Ryan gestures with his hand to tell the other Dom to continue.

“I’m guessing you like the thought of whips. Let’s see how you feel after you’ve watched it.” Ryan’s voice is like smooth, velvet chocolate in my ear, and as he pushes his hips into me, I feel the hardness of his groin.

Shit, shit, shit I chant in my head. What am I getting myself into?

I don’t reply to him, because Master Stone lands the first blow of his whip on his sub’s breast. She lets out a cry, and a glowing red line from the tendrils of the leather appears.

My breath quickens when Emily states, “My Master loves this breast.”

“Good Girl.” Master Stone lowers his mouth to the breast he’s just struck and tugs the nipple into his mouth. He sucks on it, pulling it hard before standing back and striking the other one. Emily repeats her phrase. Two more strikes follow to each breast. Tears are pooling in Emily’s eyes, but she’s not using her safeword.

Next, Master Stone delivers two carefully placed strikes to her stomach, and she responds,

“My master loves my stomach. It cradled his child. The product of our love.”

I can’t take my eyes off either of them.

Ryan leans forward and whispers into my ear.

“If you want me to stop, say red.”

I turn around and look at him, blinking briefly in confusion, but the crack of the whip turns me back to the show on stage. Master Stone brings the leather down between Emily’s parted legs. She cries out even louder this time, and I feel wetness between my thighs. I’m getting so aroused watching this.

Ryan lowers his hand from my waist and pushes under the waistband of my skirt.

 

 

 

“Second Chances: a spin off Series that’s just WOW, a book that captivates and draws you into the story. A true emotional tale. There where so many emotions reading this book but the main emotion that flows through this book is love. This is a truly fantastic series that I will be keeping up with to see what comes next. Anna Edwards truly delivered with this story.” – Goodreads reviewer

 

 
All I am a British author, from the depths of the rural countryside near London. In a previous life, I was an accountant from the age of twenty-one. I still do that on occasions, but most of my life is now spent intermingling writing while looking after my husband, two children and two cats (probably in the inverse order to the one listed!). When I have some spare time, I can also be found writing poetry, baking cakes (and eating them), or behind a camera snapping like a mad paparazzi.

I’m an avid reader who turned to writing to combat my depression and anxiety. I have a love of travelling and like to bring this to my stories to give them the air of reality.

I like my heroes hot and hunky with a dirty mouth, my heroines demure but with spunk, and my books full of dramatic suspense.


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Excerpt and Sweepstakes: Special Delivery by Abby Tyler

She brought him pizza. He delivered a family.
Police Officer Jack Stone hasn’t been able to leave the house in seven days. His wreck of a sister gave birth in prison, and baby Ella has been discharged into his care.
He has no idea what to do with her.
Louisa is ready to move on with her life and arrives at Jack’s house with her very last pizza delivery before she quits. When he opens the door, Ella is crying, his place is a disaster, and Applebottom’s senior police officer is completely lost.
He could solve her problem, and she could solve his.
Too bad they’ve hated each other since high school.
It will take the entire town to end the twenty-year feud between Jack and Louisa and remind them that people do grow up, and in a crisis, you often grow together.

Excerpt

“I haven’t told anybody about her.”

Louisa’s eyes dropped to the baby. “You’re going to have to eventually. You need help.”

Jack could feel the anger rising in him. This is exactly what he didn’t want—everyone showing up, telling him what to do. “It’s just a baby. I can handle her.”

“Looks like you’re really handling it, Jack. I’m going to let Betty know. She’ll get a whole team of ladies in here.”

Jack jumped to his feet. “You will not tell a soul!”

The baby startled, her arms flailing out as though she’d been attacked. Her eyes opened, and her mouth let out a terrible little wail.

“Give Ella to me,” Jack said, his voice practically a growl. “We’re done here.”

“Stop scaring her,” she said. “The last thing this child needs is to have the first conversation she’s heard in a week be two people arguing.”

Jack balled his hands into fists and willed himself to calm down. Louisa always got under his skin. The woman was maddening.

“It’s not like you know a lot about babies,” he said, although he knew it was a low blow to bring up her lack of family. “Now give her to me.”

It worked. Louisa passed the baby back into his arms.

“Jack Stone, you would cut off your own nose to spite your face. You need help, and there’s no way I’m going to keep this a secret.” She pointed a finger at the baby. “For her sake, not yours. You can starve for all I care.”

She didn’t even look back as she opened the door, stepped out, and slammed it behind her. The loud thud set the baby to crying with renewed strength.

“Good riddance,” Jack said to the door.

He lifted Ella to his shoulder. “We didn’t need her anyway.”

In response, Ella spit up all over his last clean shirt.

Abby Tyler loves puppy dogs, pie, and small towns (she grew up in one!) Her Applebottom Matchmaker Society books combine the sweet and wholesome style of romance she loves with the funny, sometimes a-little-too-truthful characters she remembers from growing up in a place where everyone knew everybody’s business.

 

Review: Archangel’s War (Book #12: Guild Hunter Series) by Nalini Singh

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The world is in chaos as the power surge of the Cascade rises to a devastating crescendo. In furiously resisting its attempts to turn Elena into a vessel for Raphael’s power, Elena and her archangel are irrevocably changed. . .far beyond the prophecy of a cursed Ancient. 

At the same time, violent and eerie events around the world threaten to wipe out entire populations. And in the Archangel Lijuan’s former territory, an unnatural fog weaves through the land, leaving only a bone-chilling silence in its wake. Soon it becomes clear that even the archangels are not immune to this deadly evil. This time, even the combined power of the Cadre may not be enough. . . 

This war could end them all.

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Source: Purchase          Rating: 5/5 stars

BLOODY HELL!!! 

I always worry about a series the longer it goes on.  Like the archangel’s themselves, there is a chance ennui will set it and the plots and characters will become stale.  Nalini Singh, I apologize to you here and now for ever even considering such blasphemy.  Archangel’s War is not only a wild and highly imaginative ride, it is also quite likely one of the best books in the entire series with no signs of ennui in sight.

From start to finish, Archangel’s War is laced with a high level of tension that keeps you right on the edge of coming out of your skin.  Elena and Raphael are something wholly new, something not even the Ancients have seen, the Cascade is awakening those so old they have largely passed from memory, and Lijuan is on the move and wielding unprecedented power and madness.  With only one goal, to utterly destroy the world, Lijuan makes her way to New York with the complete destruction of Raphael in the forefront of her mind.  As the only one among the Cadre who has shown any ability to hurt Lijuan, Raphael is desperately hoping he can finally bring her to an end.

In other news: In the face of Lijuan’s immense power, the Cascade giveth just as it taketh away.  Cassandra, cryptic as ever is still talking to Elena and Raphael, and three other Ancients are stirring from their sleep.  Though the Cascade is looking for chaos, even the Ancients, once they have fully awoken, understand that their individual power and territory are not an issue as much as the survival of the entire world is an issue.  For what is likely one of only a handful of times in the history of EVER, all of the Archangels, Ancients included come together, set aside their differences, and fight for a world that will be dramatically and categorically changed at the end of the war.  

As if the situation weren’t already bad enough, everyone, and I do mean everyone is dealing with their own individual issues.  Elena and Raphael are new beings with powers they don’t yet understand, the Legion is behaving oddly and more mysteriously than ever before, the Seven are all called home with most being worried over Illium in addition to their military duties, and each archangel has unprepared for difficulties in their own territories and personal lives.  Between the Cascade and Lijuan, all the powers of the world are scattered and distracted and if they can’t reign in their own issues, the world is going to come to a violent and ugly end. 

The Bottom Line:  First and foremost, this really is one of the best books in the Guild Hunter series and I am already looking forward to reading it again.  Second and just as importantly is what this book really represents, a very real future for this vibrant and entertaining series that I wasn’t quite sure would be possible following the great war.  Once again, Nalini Singh puts me squarely in my place and proves why she’s the reigning queen of this genre.  Not only did she produce a stunningly energetic, powerful, and unpredictable read, but she also greatly expanded the universe with new (OK, ancient!) characters who will surely be incredible forces in the coming years of the series. Archangel’s War changes everything and I need it to be September 2020  . . . . NOW!! 

P.S. I was sitting in the hair salon reading when I came across a particularly sad passage.  It took everything I had to keep from ugly crying in the middle of the salon.  Thanks for that, Nalini Singh 😊

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Mini-Review: A Thread of Darkness (Book #2: Queen Bees Quilt Shop Mystery Series) by Sally Goldenbaum

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As owners of the popular bistro The French Quarter, former New York City restauranteurs Picasso and Laurel St. Pierre are the toast of the town of Crestwood, Kansas. Chef Picasso’s culinary creations delight the women of the quilting club, who have embraced him as a friend. But Laurel’s anti-social behavior confuses Kate Simpson—until she spots Mrs. St. Pierre with another man in what appears to be a lover’s spat.   

Gossip travels fast in a small town like Crestwood, and rumor has it this isn’t Laurel’s first indiscretion. She also filed a police report accusing Picasso of domestic abuse. And when Laurel’s murdered body is found Picasso is the prime suspect. To prove their friend’s innocence, Kate and the Crestwood Quilters must uncover the secrets of Laurel’s past—a patchwork history wrapped up in Kate’s own teenage years . . .

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Source: NetGalley and Lyrical Underground          Rating: 3/5 stars

The Bottom Line:  I had hoped the second book in the Queen Bees Quilt Shop Mystery series would have ironed out some of the issues I had with book one.  Unfortunately, the ironing out is only marginal and it has left me wondering about my future with the series.  Once again, the cast of characters is extraordinarily large with only a few playing a vital role, the scenes of quilts and quilting (which I greatly enjoy) are few and far between, and the plot is somewhat contrived.  To be fair, the plot is less contrived than in the first book and I enjoyed it more, but it still felt just a bit too forced for my overall liking.  What’s more, I would have thought more of the women in the quilting group would have played a more visible and active role in this book, but alas, Po is still the most prominent and that limits my ability to connect with and like other characters.  At the end of it all, I realized I had to somewhat “force” myself to finish this book and that is never a good thing.  For the time being, I think I am done with this series.

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Mini-Review: A Patchwork of Clues (Book #1: Queen Bees Quilt Shop Mystery Series) by Sally Goldenbaum

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On her morning jog, Portia Paltrow comes upon the dead body of antiques store owner and college professor Owen Hill, sprawled across the back doorstep of Selma Parker’s fabric and quilt shop on Elderberry Road. The site of their Saturday morning quilting bee just became a crime scene. Violent crime is rare in the charming village of Crestwood, Kansas, and rumors are soon circulating of a burglary gone wrong. But who would rob a quilt shop? No, Owen Hill has been murdered.  

Selma and her assistant manager Susan are understandably at loose ends over the crime. So while the tightly knit covey of quilters—who range from a new mother to a wise octogenarian—work together on a Crystal Pattern quilt for Selma’s store’s anniversary, they also get busy stitching together a patchwork of clues. But they’d better work fast—before a crafty killer bolts . . .

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Source: Purchase          Rating: 2/5 stars

The Bottom Line:  Cozy mysteries are among my favorite books because they tend to be lighter, quirkier, set in a small town, and full of fun characters who become very real to me by the end of the read.  While some of this holds true for A Patchwork of Clues, not all came through as successfully as I would have liked.  The small-town setting is lovely, and I especially enjoyed the scenes that involved quilts and quilting, but everything else felt a bit too much. For example, the quilting group consists of several women but not all play a huge role in this book so keeping track of all of them (and their partners!) became bothersome.  Because of this, I found it difficult to become attached to or really enjoy the characters.  In addition to the character issue, there is also the issue of the plot.  The plot isn’t hard to follow, but it did feel contrived and overly convoluted; by the time the big bad was revealed, I found I really didn’t care that much anymore.  While all of this sounds largely negative (and it is) I have chalked it up to the normal first in a series issues and have high hopes the second book in the series will have ironed out the issues.

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