Monday, October 21, 2019

The Last Thing She Said ~ Audio Book Review & Giveaway!

A Chris Matheson
Cold Case Mystery #3
Narrated by Mike Alger
Publication Date: July 22, 2019
Format: Audio Book, 10 hours, 41 minutes
Format: Print, 386 pages
Publisher: Acorn Book Services
Categories: Adult Fiction / Mystery
Content Rating:  PG-13
Lauren Carr's books are murder mysteries, so there are murders involved. 
Occasionally, a murder will happen on stage. There is sexual content, 
but always behind closed doors. 
Some mild swearing, but no F-bombs!

“I’m working on the greatest mystery ever,” was the last thing noted mystery novelist Mercedes Livingston said to seven-year-old Chris Matheson before walking out of Hill House Hotel never to be seen again.

For decades, the writer’s fate remained a puzzling mystery until an autographed novel and a letter put a grown-up Chris Matheson on the trail of a cunning killer. With the help of a team of fellow retired law enforcement officers, each a specialistin their own field of investigation, Chris puts a flame to this cold case to uncover what had really happened that night Mercedes Livingston walked out of Hill House Hotel. Watch out! The clues are getting hot!

"Too many twists and turns to easily share about this book. Nevertheless, Carr has pulled off another "hit" that kept me reading in one setting until the clues were so well together that the villain fell into our laps...or Chris's, LOL Carr has put a lot into the book beyond the mysteries this time...Characters enjoyed chocotinis, visited book stores...and even blundered into getting engaged (the ring had been purchased 4 months ago)... But, for me, a special thank you for the political spoof at a time when politics at the national level is devastating, gave me a laugh and lightened the load of it all!" 
-- Glenda Bixler, Book Reader's Heaven

HALL WAYS REVIEW: Audio Book Review. The Last Thing She Said is the third book in the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mystery series, and it’s my favorite yet! I’ve been in love with the characters since book one, Ice, and especially love Doris the librarian, but the setting of this book is right up my alley with the central plot being around the disappearance of a famous mystery writer.  The initial scenes at the mystery author conference had me fully engaged, and as the story unfolds, there is so much book and book world talk (and even a not-so-veiled statement on the current state of publishing and agents) that I stayed fully engaged.

Of course, because this is a Lauren Carr mystery, that means there are multiple mysteries and murders that may or may not be connected plus relationship and romance angles to keep readers reading. The good ol’ Geezer Squad is at its best as they jump in on the cold case, and in The Last Thing She Said, readers get to seem more of Geezer Francine, who is a hoot.  Since I’ve also read books in Carr’s other series (including Lover’s in Crime and Mac Faraday), I enjoyed how so many characters we’ve met in other series show up in this book; there are tons of crossovers, and it seems that new friendships may be forged as a result. As a side note: this is an icing on the cake thing and knowledge of other books and other characters isn’t necessary. The Last Thing She Said stands alone just fine and is fully rewarding on its own.

One thing readers can always count on in a Lauren Carr mystery is a healthy dose of animal antics and humor. In the Chris Matheson series, Sterling, the former police dog, is a staple but he takes a bit of a back seat to Cutie Pie (aka Chompers), the devilish new Jack Russell Terrier pup who’s been adopted. And happily, Mac Faraday’s Gnarly, another favorite dog, joins the story . (Remember what I said about new friendships being forged?)

With The Last Thing She Said, piece by piece, Lauren Carr hands readers loose threads that quickly heap into a snarled mess of plots and people and perpetrators that seem impossible to sort out.  But fear not! The mess becomes gloriously untangled with lots of a-ha moments, some laughs, a little sizzle, and satisfaction getting to the end.   

ABOUT THE NARRATION: Mike Alger, the go-to narrator for all of Carr’s books that I’ve listened to, is back and is especially awesome with his strong male and weasel-y male characters, and some of his female iterations are perfection: Doris, for example, is the perfect mix of matronly southern sass.  As is typical for me, I bumped the speed to 1.25x and the delivery was just right.

Thank you to iRead Book Tours and the author for providing me an Audible code to listen to the book in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give.

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Meet the Author:  Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Thorny Rose, Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries—over twenty titles across four fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and two spoiled rotten German shepherds on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with the author:   
Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Instagram

 = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 
Win a $50 Amazon Gift Card 
courtesy of Author Lauren Carr
(Ends November 30th, 2019)


(A Chris Matheson Cold Case Mystery #2) by Lauren Carr
Category:  Adult fiction,  332 pages
Genre:  Mystery
Publisher:  Acorn Book Services
Release date:  January 22, 2019

It all started with a chance encounter in the city with Blair, his late wife.

Chris Matheson and the Geezer Squad, working under the guise of a book club, dig into the events surrounding his late wife’s supposed death halfway around the globe. A state department employee shoots himself in the back three times. A CIA operative goes missing. A woman is targeted by an international assassin three years after being declared dead in a terrorist attack overseas. 

Nothing is as it seems. 

In his most personal cold case, Chris fights to uncover why the state department told him that Blair,
the mother of his children, had been killed when she was alive. What had
she uncovered that has made her a target? Who terrified her so much that she had gone into hiding and why are they now after him?

(A Chris Matheson Cold Case Mystery #1) by Lauren Carr
Category:  Adult fiction,  364 pages
Genre:  Mystery
Publisher:  Acorn Book Services
Release date:  February 26, 2018

When Sandy Lipton and her unborn child disappeared, the court of public opinion found young Chris Matheson guilty. Decades later, the retired FBI agent returns home to discover that the cloud of suspicion cast over him and his family has never lifted. 

With the help of a team of fellow retired law enforcement officers, each a specialist in their own field
of investigation, Chris Matheson starts chipping away at the ice on this cold case to uncover what had happened to Sandy and her baby and the clues are getting hot!
Buy the Book: * Audible

Saturday, October 19, 2019

The Gothic Shift ~ Audio Book Blog Tour Review & Giveaway!

Narrators: Scott Bennett, Brittany Morgan Williams,
Thomas Stone, Gary Furlong
Length: 9 hours 41 minutes
Publisher: Brian David Bruns
Released: Mar. 31, 2017
Categories: Horror; Short Stories

Winner of the International Book Awards for Best Short Story Collection, The Gothic Shift is a beguiling collection of the macabre and supernatural from best-seller Brian David Bruns.

"The Gothic Shift" begins with a man who comes into a restaurant every day to gulp down vast quantities at the shrimp buffet, while his forlorn waitress seems to gain weight on his behalf. Here Bruns achieves a delightful balance of whimsy and the grotesque, with a glimmer of moonstruck romance.

"The Finger People" is a fine study of Civil War squalor and carnage - spotlights the Union attack on the Confederate stronghold Fort Henry. A timid rebel cook discovers something even grislier than the usual horrors of war: ghouls feeding off the dead...and the living.

"The Ghost of Naked Molly" takes us back to old New Orleans on the eve of the Louisiana Purchase, where the ghost of a gorgeous octoroon slave mistress complicates the political schemes of a local grandee by parading around his house in the nude.

"The Penultimate Mr. Nilly" visits the crew of a ship stuck in the Arctic ice in 1859 as they slowly go mad from hunger. The ultimate solution - prompted by a stitched, velveteen toy wolf - gives a completely new twist on survival of the fittest.
Buy Links
Buy on Audible


HALL WAYS REVIEW: Audio Book Review. As summer turns to fall, and cooler temperatures start to creep in, there’s nothing better than having spooky tales to shift the mood from sunny to somber and get in that Halloween frame of mind. For those who only want to dip a toe into the macabre world, short stories are great bang for the buck. The Gothic Shift is a perfect book for getting your creep on and includes four novellas, each with its own narrator, each horrific in its own unique way.  The full audio book clocks in at under ten hours, but since there are four stand-alone stories, you can listen and leave it between stories. But you won’t want to -- I started listening at the beginning of a four-hour drive, tucked it in my pocket while I unloaded, and finished it as I sat at my desk and got to work.

“He wore a brown quilted waist coat
that was deplorably unfashionable.”

For readers who enjoy a good ghost tale, “The Ghost of Naked Molly” will provide sufficient chills (and some unintended laughs if your son’s girlfriend happens to be named Molly). Readers meet Diego, a snobby, judge-y rich guy who lives in a haunted house, and Horace, a sixty-year-old, hot-blooded Yankee opportunist who is interested in carnal relations with Molly because, duh, she’s beautiful and naked. For some reason, Horace fails to see past the nudity to realize Molly’s dead (eyes up, Horace) and becomes obsessed with having his way with her -- if only Diego will present her to him to do the deed. It’s 1799, and some people are objects, not humans, and they are to be traded and sold, not considered. That’s scary enough, but what author Brian David Bruns does to give readers the creepies is slowly build the story around that premise and the suffering of those who are objects -- and how one gets her ghostly revenge. Sadly, the revenge doesn’t feel too sweet – justified, yes, but there is no real resolution when you are this ghost. This story left me melancholy. I am not sure which of the three male narrators performed this story, but he performed several different accents and made it easy to tell who was speaking, and his spin on each voice guided the listener to specific feelings toward each character. On this one, listening at regular speed was a little too slow, but 1.25x was a little too fast.

“Dead isn’t against the rules. Trashy is.”

The second story is “The Gothic Shift,” and it is my favorite of the four.  Brian David Bruns skillfully describes the characters so that readers/listeners have an excellent visual of each. Paired with the narration by Brittany Morgan Williams, each of the characters becomes even more realistic and defined. In hindsight, the story was reminiscent of Stephen King’s Thinner (though “The Gothic Shift” would be Fatter) with the feeling of a curse being fulfilled time and time again. There are stories within stories in this one, and Bruns gives readers snapshots of the characters that are enough for us to fill in a bigger picture.  The mysterious Mr. Armand, whose size waxes and wanes, is at the center of the story and is quietly driving it to the satisfying resolution (though I needed a little more information because I couldn’t quite put two and two together).  This story is sprinkled with humor and sarcasm and subtleties that make it delicious – even as we are repulsed by the gluttonous habits of Mr. Armand.  While “The Gothic Shift” doesn’t provide horror through ghosts or blood and guts, the unease of knowing of the existence of powerful and misunderstood forces in the world is what keeps you listening.  The narrator was well-cast for this story, and other than a few odd pronunciations, she nailed the performance. Her pacing was perfect, and I listened at regular speed. (Side note: every time she said an exasperated “Waaaayne,” for me it conjured up Stacy from Wayne’s World. Ha!) Another favorite quote: “Misery enjoined them both in a group hug.”

“Who knew what secrets lay beneath those choppy waters? Untold horrors were right below him, unseen, waiting.”

The third story is “The Finger People,” and though initially I thought it would be my favorite, it ended up being my least favorite because of the holes, awkward transition to the climax, and then a flat resolution.  But don’t skip it. Even with the flaws, there is a lot there, and the memory of the story sits in a fog around you because the author’s gift for descriptive writing brings the scenes to vivid life.  There are two different kinds of horror happening in this story: the very real horror of the Civil War and the horror of nightmares with creatures who feed on the dead.  These two stories operate independently for the most part but with some overlapping because war kills, and death brings the creatures. Both stories were equally fascinating and repulsive, as seen through the eyes of our main character Francois…or Frank…or Francis, who isn’t clearly defined. Is he very young or just very innocent? Mentally impaired or uneducated? All or none of the above? He definitely marches to the beat of a different drummer, and we get glimpses into his past that show he always has, but I needed a little more there, and the ending was a bit of a let-down.  The narrator for this one is very good, but he has an interesting version of a southern drawl, and his pronunciation of many words (anything with an “ou” sound like in “out” or “about;” huge was “yuge”) leads me to believe he’s not a southerner. Whether you hear the difference or not, he’s perfect in giving distinct personalities to each of the characters, and his pacing is perfect, so I listened at regular speed.

“The Arctic could not be explained, just experienced.”

The final story in the audio book is “The Penultimate Mr. Nilly,” and it would probably be  my favorite if it had been placed earlier in the collection. But I do really like this story, not just because “penultimate” is a favorite word of mine, but because it was psychological and realistic/situational horror.  The story is one of love/hate for me because it was so dark and dismal -- my emotions paralleled those of the crew of the ship and we all – crew, ship, and I -- were sinking from the get-go. The story is full of doom and gloom and when a small, speckled ray of hope manages to appear, the horror of man’s descent into madness shatters all things good in life.  In this story, author Brian David Bruns again gives the readers descriptions that put them in the middle of the setting, but his characterization is top notch. As the main character descends into madness (à la The Shining), the dread drapes itself over the readers. Paired with the narrator, who masterfully performs a variety of accents of the international crew members, readers leave the story – and the book – feeling weighed-down in tragedy and loss.

Having seen the order of the stories in the print version, which would leave the readers feeling up instead of down, and given the audio-only issues created with the choice for the first story (see below), I am stumped at why the stories were arranged differently for audio. In any case, I do recommend listening to The Gothic Shift to get immersed in a variety of eerie stories that will stick with you and creep back into your brain well after you’re done listening.

ABOUT THE AUDIO BOOK: My only real complaint is that this audio book and I got off to a rough start.  Since I read Gothic Shift with my ears, and didn’t have the benefit of a table of contents to show me the names of the stories or structure of the book, my son and I (road trippin’) had a bit of confusion when we first began listening.  In the audio version (which I now know is ordered differently from the digital print version), the first story is "The Ghost of Naked Molly."  Readers first hear the name of the story, then, “One,” then “Two,” then “Mississippi Fog,” then “Dead Man’s Diary,” then “One,” etc.  The sub-chapter numbers were unnecessary and took us out of the story - and we even thought a time or two that we were starting a new story. Old school audio listeners would have pulled out the CD case to see what was going on. With digital, I was so lost that I looked up the book on Kindle, peeked at the “Look Inside” feature, and reviewed the table of contents (helpful!). Some verbal cues from the narrator to signal chapter and sub-chapter shifts would have helped a ton. (For example, saying “Chapter one, part two” and then, “Chapter two: Mississippi Fog.”) What’s puzzling is that in the print book, "The Ghost of Naked Molly" isn’t the first story. If the audio had just stuck to the same order as the print, the confusion would have been eliminated because TGONM is the only one of the stories that has the funky sub-chapter numbering system. (It’s perfectly fine and not funky if you’re reading with your eyes and not your ears.)

Thank you to Audiobook Promotions for providing me an Audible code in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give. 

I received this audio book as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Brian David Bruns. The gifting of this audio book did not affect my opinion of it.

Brian David Bruns has adventured in over sixty countries to gather material for his bestselling books and won dozens of literary awards, including the USA REBA Grand Prize. He has been featured on ABC's 20/20 and was anointed Sir Brian by Prince Michael, Regent of the Principality of Sealand (yes, really).

Sir Brian writes of his global experiences with a self-mocking wit and an astute insight into human behavior. His historical fiction seamlessly blends his love of travel and adventure with the fantastical--a sort of Indiana Jones meets Bram Stoker.

He is devoted to veterans organizations, such as Operation Homefront and Wounded Warriors Project, to which he's donated thousands of his books.

After several years residing in Dracula's actual hometown (yes, really), he and his Romanian wife now live in Las Vegas with their two old rescue cats, Julius and Caesar.


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Valerie Ullmer | Romance Author
Dab of Darkness Book Reviews

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Locks, Hooks and Books

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Jazzy Book Reviews
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Thursday, October 17, 2019

Beyond the Horizon ~ Lone Star Book Blog Tours Notable Quotable & Giveaway!

Historical Fiction / Friendship
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Date of Publication: October 15, 2019
Number of Pages: 326

Scroll down for the giveaway!

From the author of The House by the Lake comes a powerful novel of friendship during World War II, fighting for the truth, and making peace with the past.
At the height of World War II, Eva Scott’s dream comes true. Accepted into the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), she leaves balmy California and the man she loves for grueling training in Texas, ultimately landing at formidable Camp Davis in North Carolina.
Vastly outnumbered by men and amid contempt, discrimination, and sabotage, Eva and her closest friends, the unconventional Nina and straight-laced Helena, remain loyal to their mission and to each other. They stay focused on the horizon, determined to prove themselves capable women pilots. Until a fatal mission sends Eva’s dream crashing to earth . . .
Now, decades later, is it possible to discover the truth about the night that changed her life? Is there any hope she’ll recover all that she’s lost? When Eva finds herself embroiled in the fight to get military recognition for the WASP, she’s forced to confront the past, and to make a decision that could forever change her future.
Thrilling and inspiring, Beyond the Horizon is a portrait of love, friendship, and valor in a time of war—and a tribute to the brave women who risked their lives for their country.


“With snappy dialogue, impressive historical details, a sense of adventure and courage on every page, and even a love story, Ella Carey has hit all the markers that make fine historical fiction.” 
—Ann Howard Creel, bestselling author of The Whiskey Sea

“Fans of inspirational World War II fiction will cheer on Eva and her fellow pilots as they chase their dreams, endure heartbreak, and discover their true strength. Carey’s evocative descriptions bring home the exhilaration of flight—and the everyday indignities endured by young women who challenged the expectations of their time. The story’s final twist makes for a surprising and moving conclusion.” —Elizabeth Blackwell, author of On a Cold Dark Sea and In the Shadow of Lakecrest

“A moving, beautifully written novel about the amazing WASP during WWII. True to life and packed full of emotion. I thoroughly enjoyed feeling like I was one of these extraordinary women pilots as I read the story.” —Soraya M. Lane, Amazon Charts bestselling author of The Girls of Pearl Harbor

Ella Carey is the international bestselling author of The Things We Don’t Say, Secret Shores, From a Paris Balcony, The House by the Lake, and Paris Time Capsule. Her books have been published in over fourteen countries, in twelve languages. Her sixth novel is Beyond The Horizon, set around the Women Air Force Service Pilots during World War Two.

Ella is incredibly excited to share this book with her readers, as her mother was a W.A.A.A.F during World War Two, and her father was in the R.A.F, flying airplanes over occupied France. Ella traveled to Sweetwater, Texas, to research the novel, and is grateful to Ann Hobing, the then Executive Director of the WASP museum for sharing her wonderful knowledge of the WASP. Ella also worked with two pilots to craft the flight scenes.

Ella loves to connect with her readers
For more information on the background to her novels and updates about her next release, and to contact her about appearances at your local book club, please visit her website.
OCTOBER 17-27, 2019
(U.S. Only)


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