Book Blitz & Giveaway: Stolen Obsession (Annalisse Series, #1) by Marlene M. Bell

STOLEN OBSESSION

Annalisse series, Book 1

Updated for 2022!

by

Marlene M. Bell

Romantic Mystery

Publisher: Ewephoric Publishing

Date of Publication: March 20, 2018, Revised 2022

Number of Pages: 284

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PEOPLE DIE, BUT LEGENDS LIVE ON.

Manhattan antiquities appraiser Annalisse Drury dreams of a quiet life on the family farm among the sheep she loves, when her best friend is murdered. The police assume robbery is the motive because her friend’s expensive bracelet is missing. But the 500-year-old artifact is rumored to carry an ancient curse, one that unleashes evil upon any who dare wear the jewelry created for the Persian royal family—and Annalisse believes her friend is the latest victim.

Weeks later, Annalisse sees a necklace matching the stolen bracelet at a gallery opening. Convinced the necklace is part of the deadly collection, Annalisse begs the gallery’s owner to destroy the piece, but her pleas are ignored— despite the unnatural death that occurs during the opening. With two victims linked to the jewelry, Annalisse is certain she must act.

Desperate to keep the gallery owner safe, Annalisse reluctantly enlists the owner’s son to help—even though she’s afraid he’ll break her heart. Wealthy and devastatingly handsome, with a string of bereft women in his wake, Greek playboy Alec Zavos dismisses Annalisse’s concerns—until his parents are ripped from the Zavos family yacht during their ocean voyage near Crete.

Annalisse and Alec race across two oceans to save his mother, feared dead or kidnapped. As time lapses, the killer switches mode and closes in on the man who’s meant for Annalisse with the lifestyle she wants most.

But when it’s her turn as the hunted, will she choose to save Alec and his mother, or sacrifice everything to save herself?

Hold on for a heart-thumping adventure through exotic lands in this fast moving, romantic suspense mystery by Marlene M Bell.

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4 stars!

From an art gallery opening to the island of Crete, the search for the answer to ancient curse is on.

Stolen Obsession is the first book in Marlene M. Bell’s Annalisse series featuring antiquities appraiser Annalisse Drury. This is first book I’ve read by this author and it won’t be my last. I plan to continue with this series.

Although still grieving over the horrific murder of her best friend, which is related to a cursed bracelet, Annalisse steps forward when gallery owner, Generosa Zavos, reveals she owns the necklace from the same set of ancient jewelry.

Annalisse is in a fragile state at the gallery opening, and the author descriptions of her thoughts and reactions upon seeing the necklace made me feel how untethered she was after being the one that found her friend’s body. Its presence terrifies her and the feeling was palpable. But she still has the gumption to perform CPR on her boss who collapses in the middle of the opening. Of course, I liked the more focused and capable woman of action. Her old friend and coworker, Chase, is a real “ride or die” pal, and Alec is a sexy and romantic love interest.

The story has a global setting but starts off on a rainy New York City evening. I really thought the author made the city feel real, with the chill in the air, running to get undercover from the rain, and that small cozy restaurant. Once Annalisse and Alec are on Crete, I could almost feel the sun and smell the lavender. The author had me visualizing the surroundings so effortlessly.

With the mysteries of the ancient pieces of cursed jewelry and related deaths to puzzle out and an engaging couple you’ll want to root for, I recommend STOLEN OBSESSION to readers who enjoy romantic mysteries and tales of suspense, armchair traveling to iconic locations, and stories of dangerous cursed jewelry.

Marlene M. Bell is an eclectic mystery writer, artist, photographer, and she raises sheep in beautiful East Texas with her husband, Gregg, three cats and a flock of horned Dorset sheep.

The Annalisse series — mysteries with a touch of romance —  has received numerous honors including the Independent Press Award for Best Mystery (Spent Identity) and FAPA (Florida Author’s President’s Gold Award) for two other installments, Stolen Obsession and Scattered Legacy. She also penned the first of her children’s picture books, Mia and Nattie: One Great Team! based on true events from the Bell’s ranch. The simple text and illustrations are a touching tribute of compassion and love between a little girl and her lamb.

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Tapestry overnighter bag, sterling necklace (handmade in Greece), autographed copy of updated 2022 Stolen Obsession, $50 Amazon Gift Card 

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Autographed copy of updated 2022 Stolen Obsession

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Blood of The Hunted by Marc R. Micciola

Blood of The HuntedBlood of The Hunted by Marc R. Micciola
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When humans are “the monsters,” it’s not safe for anyone or anything.

Young Weylyn dedicated himself to improving the lot of the Tóráin: lycan, sprite, satyr, and others alike, and when he grew to manhood, he became the leader of the underground group of freedom fighters known as The Resistance. But as conditions steadily worsened, he and his advisors devised a plan to get expert assistance from a surprising source. The Queen of Tudrose, a country several days sail away, was known to be sympathetic to the plight of the Tóráin and, in recent years, had been actively changing the attitude toward and upgrading the circumstances of those races in her land.

Weylyn and his cousin, Brina, made the long journey by ship to plead their cause to Queen Sophia, hoping for any help. Together they proposed that Tudrose would come to liberate the Tóráin in Fleuris and the surrounding countries in similar straits and replace the current tyrannical despots with leaders who would uplift the poor and oppressed of all races. However, Queen Sophia wasn’t about to wage war against her neighbors without some guarantee that her army would be assisting a fully-committed local resistance group and suffer as few losses as possible. Weylyn would have to prove that The Resistance was strong and actively working to undermine each country’s ability to defend itself. To do so, Weylyn, Brina, and their friends, Olwen and Keagan, would have to infiltrate each country, set up a new chapter of The Resistance with strong, local leadership, and quite possibly, take out the current ruler. Easier said than done when the humans in power have been entrenched there since the dawn of time, and all are heavily guarded and protected by magic.

Blood of The Hunted has a riveting beginning, opening with a tortuous execution of a lycan. I was immediately invested in the plight of the Tóráin, and Weylyn and his companions, in particular. With its fast take-off, the pace was set for the rest of the book; the action was always ON.

The story is dark and disturbing at times, not only for the cruelty of the ruling class but its allegorical underpinnings to the history and circumstances of our own societies’ class struggles. The author also presents the less used take on epic fantasy quests by establishing humankind as the villainous monsters while the “monsters,” the satyrs, sprites, lycans, etc., are the heroes.

I really liked the four main characters: Weylyn, Rosalie, Olwen, and Keagan, though the latter two were my clear favorites. Each one is a unique and heroic individual. I enjoyed the changes in point-of-view as one or another took over the narration of the story.

The author’s writing style made for easy and comfortable reading, with well-done dialogue a strength. I also liked the “just right” amount of foreign phrases sprinkled throughout and was delighted to see a Language Key included at the end of the book. However, coming in at almost 700 pages (according the Amazon listing), this book is a commitment, and at times, the author tended to over-describe (just got a little wordy). But don’t be afraid, just be prepared. It is a long but worthy journey. (Think A Game of Thrones!)

A well-known bonus of this genre is fantastic world-building, and I was not disappointed. The world of Kosavros is awash in atmosphere, with different types of homes, bars, towns, waterways, and mountainous terrain all lending hands to create the whole. I’d also like to compliment the designer of the lovely chapter headings. I was reading an advance review copy, which typically do not include illustrations, so I don’t know if there will be a map in the finished edition, but it would be great if there were.

This new dark epic fantasy is bursting at the seams with intrigue and action! I recommend BLOOD OF THE HUNTED to fantasy readers who enjoy robust epic tales of heroes and magic and aren’t afraid to venture into a darker story.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Goddess Fish Promotions Book Tours.

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Don’t Curse the Rain (Rain Mystery Trilogy, #1) by David Homick

Don't Curse the Rain (Rain Mystery Trilogy, #1)Don’t Curse the Rain by David Homick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Afghanistan war veteran returns home to face his past and solve a cold case missing person case.

Dillon Bishop had fled his hometown of Bradley, Texas, as soon as he could, enlisted in the military, and ended up in Afghanistan. But after rescuing a young local boy when his parents had been killed, his vehicle was hit by an RPG, sending Dillon to the hospital and months of rehab at the V.A. Medical Center back in Dallas. His physical wounds eventually healed, but his struggle with PTSD haunted him every waking moment, and nightmares prevented him from truly resting. He always wondered what had happened to the small boy he’d tried to save.

Helping Dillon work through his continuing trauma was Jenny Lee, a woman he met after his release from the Dallas hospital. They had a comfortable arrangement the Dillon hesitated to call a relationship, though. Jenny Lee had been left a horse ranch outside of Colorado Springs by an uncle, and she hoped Dillon would accompany her to take possession in the upcoming month. He was almost convinced to do so until the letter arrived.

His father’s attorney had mailed the letter weeks earlier to a ten-year-old address, so it had taken some time to catch up with Dillon’s current location. His father had passed away, and the attorney needed Dillon, his only heir, to return to Bradley to settle his father’s final affairs.

Dillon had been raised by his father. His mother left him, his younger brother, Luke, and their father when the boys were still small. Years later, however, Luke disappeared without a trace on the night of a high school dance and was never heard from again. Their father had never quit looking for his youngest son, though he believed he’d been the victim of foul play and found relief too often in the bottom of a whiskey bottle. He’d been investigating every possible angle and lead he came across and had recently claimed he’d obtained a definitive piece of evidence proving Luke had been murdered and would crack the case wide open. But suddenly, while recuperating in a local hospital, he took an unexpected turn for the worse and died. Thinking that his father’s death following so quickly after his announcement regarding the case too coincidental, Dillon decides to finally take matters into his own hands and get to the bottom of his brother’s disappearance and his father’s murder.

Don’t Curse the Rain, the first book in author David Homick’s Rain Mystery Trilogy, grabbed me from the very first page and never let me go! The main character Dillon Bishop has been struggling since his return to the states from his service and injuries sustained in Afghanistan. Not only has he suffered wounds to a leg, but the mental trauma continues to buffet his emotional well-being. I liked how the author placed a soulmate in Dillon’s path even though they are still working on taking their relationship to the next level. The author kept me on edge with this couple as Dillon hesitates to commit to Jenny fully, and she deals with her frustration with him and pursuing her lifelong dream to return to the Colorado horse ranch.

There are a number of surprises awaiting Dillon back in his hometown: old friends, old enemies, and even a regretful ex-girlfriend that want to reconcile. Settling his father’s affairs proves to be anything but easy. The action begins the minute Dillon hits town, and the mystery isn’t entirely resolved until almost the very end. The author’s easy-to-read writing style made the pages and the story fly by. The author has an excellent way with dialogue. Exchanges between characters were much more natural than usually portrayed in other works, and the accompanying gestures and “business” enhanced the quality of their interactions and conversations.

Having lived and worked in the area where the story is set (Cleburne, Alvarado, Keene, and Lake Whitney, to name a few), it was fun to see familiar place names mentioned. The locations were described much as I remember them, so the setting felt genuine.

Besides Dillon working through his PTSD and relationships, the book is ultimately a mystery story about what happened to Luke all those years ago and who killed their father. By teaming up with his old high school buds and friends of his father, Dillon is sharp and determined in his search for the truth. I enjoyed everything about the plot and this book, and I look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.

I recommend DON’T CURSE THE RAIN to mystery readers who enjoy main characters who are military veterans, relationship stories, or a north central Texas setting.

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Pop-Up Blog-Hop: The Aquamarine Surfboard by Kellye Abernathy

THE AQUAMARINE SURFBOARD

by

KELLYE ABERNATHY

Middle Grade / Magical Realism / Fantasy

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

Page Count: 290 pages

Publication Date: November 22, 2021

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“Age never matters; these things are about bravery and heart.”

Thirteen-year-old Condi Bloom’s dream is to learn to surf, but her laid-back beach town isn’t what it used to be. Big resort owners are taking over the cove. Worse, someone’s harassing the Beachlings, the mysterious old women living in the cliffs off Windy Hollow, a lonely tower of rock that people say is haunted. When a new surfer boy named Trustin shows up in town and invites Condi to a forbidden surfing spot, she’s swept into an extraordinary underwater adventure, where a surprising encounter with Koan, the Riddlemaster of the Sea, changes her life. Along with Trustin, his quirky twin and a mystical aquamarine surfboard, Condi learns the untold stories of the Beachlings, uncovering the timeless secrets of Windy Hollow.


Ebbing and flowing between reality and magic, times past and present, The Aquamarine Surfboard by Kellye Abernathy is a riveting beach tale about opening up to mystery, building community when and where you can — and discovering the ocean is filled with magic—the really BIG kind—the kind that changes the world
.

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Kellye Abernathy’s passions are writing and serving trauma survivors as a yoga teacher and practical life skills advocate. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary English Education from the University of Kansas. Her home is in land-locked Plano, Texas—where she’s dreaming of her next trip to the sea!

 

 

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Chaos at Carnegie Hall (A Fiona Figg and Kitty Lane Mystery, #1) by Kelly Oliver

Chaos at Carnegie Hall (A Fiona Figg & Kitty Lane Mystery #1)Chaos at Carnegie Hall by Kelly Oliver
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Exciting cozy mystery set in historic WWI-era New York featuring espionage and murder.

Fiona Figg, a low-level agent in the British Intelligence Service during WWI, is assigned to shadow a former South African big game hunter suspected of being a German spy. As he is currently a journalist for an American newspaper, Fiona and her partner, Captain Clifford Hall, prepare to take a ship headed for New York City. However, before they leave headquarters, their commanding officer, Captain Hall, tasks Fiona additionally with escorting his niece, Miss Eliza Baker, to school there, neatly separating the girl from the company of an undesirable beau.

Once on the RMS Adriatic, Eliza reveals that the young man her family is trying to keep her away from is taking the same cruise. Between keeping an eye on the girl and getting the goods on another passenger, an American chemist collaborating with the Germans, Fiona discovers the man she loves is also on board. Fiona is pulled in all different directions, and they haven’t even gotten to New York yet!

Chaos in Carnegie Hall is a complex, action-filled historical cozy mystery set during the late 1910s and World War I. The U.S. is an ally of Britain but has yet to join the fighting in France. The luxurious shipboard setting and the descriptions of early 20th New York City are enchanting, and the author peppers the work with entertaining though admittedly highly fictionalized versions of historical figures.

Fiona is a likable and earnest young woman trying to do her part in the war effort. She is fully committed to doing what is right, and I felt her anguish over accomplishing her mission and following her ideals of what was right and ethical. I look forward to Fiona sorting out her feelings and relationships with Frederick and Archie. Clifford made me smile almost every moment he was on the page. I so enjoyed his sociability and his guilelessness. Eliza and her little dog, Poppy, were adorable. The appearances of the actual persons from the time added extra interest to the action, and I got a better feeling for the period.

The plot is not simply about keeping eyes on Eliza and Frederick, though. There are mysterious and puzzling deaths to investigate along the way. Fiona pulls out all the stops (and a few of her famous disguises) to get the information she needs, and Eliza surprises her (and me) by being able to efficiently lend a hand. Together they mount an effective investigation and get to the bottom of everything: murders and espionage.

This is the fourth book to feature Fiona and Clifford but the first to feature them with a new team member. It was my first book to read in the series, and although I enjoyed the story overall, for the best reading experience, I should have read the previous books first.

I recommend CHAOS AT CARNEGIE HALL to cozy historical mystery readers who enjoyed the previous Fiona Figg mysteries, WWI-era tales, shipboard stories, or New York City settings.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours.

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Death By Puffin (Travel Can Be Murder, #9) by Jennifer S. Alderson

Death by Puffin: A Bachelorette Party Murder in Reykjavik (Travel Can Be Murder, #9)Death by Puffin: A Bachelorette Party Murder in Reykjavik by Jennifer S. Alderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Exceedingly likable amateur sleuths and equally heinous suspects who you’ll love to hate!

Tour guide, Lana Hansen, is confused and heartbroken after her Wanderlust Tours boss and friend, Dotty, worries that she may be a ‘murder magnet’ after a murder occurs on several of her previous assignments. Already upset and stressed after a blowup with her boyfriend, Lana impulsively takes the first available flight out of the airport and ends up in Reykjavik, Iceland. She holes up in a hotel for a week, licking her emotional wound and agonizing over her future, when her best friend, Willow, shows up unexpectedly at her door.

Willow, a new mother, has left her baby at home with her wife to get Lana to shut down her pity party and take in some of the sights of the Land of Fire and Ice. And frankly, Willow also needs a break from being a first-time and full-time mom. Both hope the natural beauty and crisp, clean air of Iceland in the summer will clear their heads and refresh their spirits before rejoining their lives back in Seattle.

Unfortunately, the insufferable and entitled young women of the bachelorette party in the room next door have also reserved spots on the same tour they’re taking. But when the bride-to-be is involved in a couple of suspicious life-threatening incidents, Lana begins to wonder if she may be “an angel of death” after all.

Death by Puffin is the ninth book in author Jennifer S. Alderman’s Travel Can Be Murder cozy mystery series. It is fast-paced and lively, with an intriguing cast of characters and a tragic murder with numerous possible suspects.

Poor Lana Hansen! She’s had a string of excursions back to back, and during each one has gotten involved in a murder investigation, most featuring the death of someone on her tour! From the start of the book, she wonders if she is somehow attracting these people because what are the odds, right? I was quite amused by her concerns and was reminded of the standing joke murder mystery readers hear about Cabot Cove of Murder, She Wrote fame being the most dangerous place in the U.S.

The bachelorette party members are the absolute worst, and the bride-to-be is not much better. The backstabbing, cattiness, and privilege, along with the constant fawning over the bride-to-be and her fiancé, Gunnar, was delightfully atrocious. The conversations and commentary had me both cringing and laughing at times.

The tour of some of Iceland’s wonders is a fantastic element of the book. There is enough description to give readers a feel for the setting, and the stormy weather creates a wonderfully moody atmosphere for the murder.The method of murder is simple yet effective, and Lana’s actions at the time are portrayed with care and quick thinking. I enjoyed Lana and Willow puzzling their way through the suspects to figure out the truth about what happened and why.

With exceedingly likable amateur sleuths and equally heinous suspects who you’ll love to hate, I recommend DEATH BY PUFFIN to cozy mystery readers who enjoy stories where the characters travel to exciting and exotic locations.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours.

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Cowboys and Chaos (Magical Mystery Book Club, #3) by Elizabeth Pantley

Cowboys and Chaos (Magical Mystery Book Club, #3)Cowboys and Chaos by Elizabeth Pantley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s time for another book club meeting at the Snapdragon Inn!

As the time approaches for the book club’s next ‘traveling’ meeting, members begin moving back to the Snapdragon Inn. Before this week’s meeting, they must consider who their newest member will be. Everyone brings a dish for the potluck, but before they really get started, they find a stranger roaming around the yard out back.

Dr. Atticus Papadopoulus is an astrobiologist looking into extraterrestrial energy, and the Snapdragon Inn is a significant location for his studies. He and Zell hit it off immediately, and Atticus soon become the club’s new member.

Later, when everyone gathers in the enchanted library, the members present their proposal for the meeting’s book selection. The group unanimously chooses The Mystery of Mollie’s Disappearance, a western mystery set in 1800s Bandana, Arizona, which features a missing saloon girl and hints of a murder.

The globe whirls and turns golden, the mysterious fog floods the library, and the book club members find themselves in an arid but lovely desert overlooking a typical town straight out of Hollywood’s Old West. Dressed to blend in with the population, the group starts their walk into town to find where the Snapdragon Inn has settled, only to run across the one person Paige and Glo never thought they’d see again.

Cowboys and Chaos is another delightful entry in Elizabeth Pantley’s cozy mystery series, the Magical Mystery Book Club, and I hope there will be many more. This book is the club members’ third outing, and I think their adventures keep getting better and better.

Most of the members from previous ‘meetings’ return, and though there are still some clashes between a few personalities, they’ve grown as a group, so these are mild and few and far between. They have progressed to more comfortable interactions with each other.
The story has some good ‘cat snark’ from Frank, the Siamese cat member, and I enjoyed the sassy saloon girl ghost. Forrest’s apparent delight at being in the Old West and arriving wearing a cowboy hat was endearing. I think it was a brilliant choice by the author to have the book club members appear in their book already dressed to blend.

I enjoyed the plot immensely; the book kept me up way late, wanting to read just one more chapter. The book club members ask good questions of their suspects and sources, try to put the pieces they collect into some logical form to develop working theories, and then track down the proof they need to solve the case. Zell has no subtlety or filter but gets answers.

One fun aspect of the series is that that group is always eating or drinking or both. In fact, they are described as taking their meals seriously and often. The new member, Atticus, is a font of interesting historical tidbits, so I learned that the beer in saloons at the time was served at room temperature. Later, Adolphus Busch would create pasteurization and refrigeration methods for his Budweiser brand, which would be the game changer.

With a great group of recurring characters and a well-paced and intriguing mystery to solve, I recommend COWBOYS AND CHAOS (and the entire MAGICAL MYSTERY BOOK CLUB series) to cozy mystery readers who like a unique and fresh paranormal storyline.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours.

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Hero Haters by Ken MacQueen

Hero HatersHero Haters by Ken MacQueen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Intriguing premise, non-stop action, and clever dialogue, with regular people trapped in a plot for revenge.

Jake Ockham is the editor of his family’s local newspaper, and freelances investigating nominees for the Sedgewick Medallion, a prestigious award recognizing acts of selfless bravery. He himself had been honored while in college by rescuing a teenage boy from his burning home. During the rescue, Jake had sustained burns to his hands that had ended his Olympic dream of representing the United States in rowing, however, that wasn’t the worst thing to come from his actions.

When Jake dragged the unconscious and injured boy to safety, he was doing it in full view of the boy’s mother, who was trapped on the second floor of the family home with no way for Jake to reach her. As he watched in horror, the woman’s young daughter came home just in time to witness her mother’s terrible death, screaming at Jake the whole time that he was a coward. Now year’s later, the Medallion recipients were once again in the news. Several of these heroic individuals had suddenly gone missing … along with their medals. Despite the various police departments brushing off the missing persons’ reports from the heroes’ families, Jake was determined to get to the bottom of things and stop whoever was kidnapping the heroes.

I am so happy I was selected to read and review Hero Haters, a new thriller by author Ken MacQueen. The story is a terrifying mind game and pulse-pounding thriller, and it is filled with regular people who, at some point in their lives, stepped forward to help out a stranger. Early on, the reader knows who is behind the disappearances of the courageous medal winner. Still, it is exciting as Jake and Erik hack away at discovering the truth themselves and stop them. I was completely invested in the story from the very start.

Despite what Jake thinks of himself, he is a hero. He continually chooses the high road, well, except for a couple of great jabs at a particularly petty sheriff’s deputy who totally deserves it. His best friend, Erik, is fun and independent and a fantastic sidekick but a genius in his own right. He has some of the best dialogue in the book, too. The kidnapped medal winners are a varied group of individuals, with some continuing to be courageous in their direst moments.

I was immediately attracted to this book by its premise, and as the drama unfolded, I was not disappointed. It is fast-paced throughout, and the author is terrific at revealing backstories without slowing down that pace. And when the climax arrives, things happen even faster. I was really on edge, concerned about whether things were going to work out or not.

The story is told from more than one point of view; the narrative shifts between Jake’s actions and what is happening with the kidnap victims. The author’s writing style is smooth, witty, and easy to read, so I was quickly immersed in the story. I will be looking for more from this author.

With a likable, sympathetic main character, an engaging sidekick, an irresistible love interest, and a breakneck plot, I recommend HERO HATERS to mystery and thriller readers who like non-stop action and regular people trying to make a difference.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours.

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Sounds Like Love by Laura Ford

Sounds Like LoveSounds Like Love by Laura Ford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fun, inspirational young adult story with a strong heroine and a very smart cat.

When Wendy went to pick up a box of mementos from her grandmother’s estate, she was shocked and dismayed to discover she was supposed to take the cat home as well. Wendy was not a fan of cats. Her parents had been avid cat fanciers, and she had grown up feeling the cats were more important to them than their daughter.

The cat surprise was just one of several that Wendy was struggling to deal with at the moment. Besides the loss of her grandmother, she was also steadily losing her hearing, a hereditary trait. Her grandmother had also gone deaf as an adult, much later in life than Wendy. The older woman had been Wendy’s anchor as she’d gone through testing and diagnosis and had been helping her with lip reading and signing. But now she was gone, and the cat was here.

Wendy was determined to find a home other than her own for the cat. However, the local animal shelter was full and couldn’t take her immediately. So, home the two went, with Wendy hoping for a spot to open at the shelter and the cat with a plan to secure a future in Wendy’s home and heart.

Sounds Like Love is the heart-warming story of a young woman overcoming several challenging life changes that occur all at the same time. She’s gradually losing her hearing, but her grandmother had been helping her weather the storm of her emotions about this turn of events when she suddenly passes away. Her grandmother, having lost her hearing as an adult, was instrumental in her granddaughter preparing for the inevitable. Now Wendy had to deal with an unwanted cat?! I could imagine how piled-on Wendy felt.

As expected, Wendy has her moments of despair, self-doubt, and self-pity, but the story never lingers on unproductive emotions. The main character is naturally optimistic and was inspired by her grandmother to live her best life no matter what. I loved the note she finds from her grandmother at just the perfect moment.

There is a budding romance that is ignited by an instant attraction. I was delighted with the twists and turns this particular storyline takes where the past meets the future. This was a fun “fated” meeting and future relationship.

SOUNDS LIKE LOVE is a fun, inspirational, clean underdog story recommended for young adult readers.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours.

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The Urban Boys #1: Discovery of the Five Senses by K.N. Smith

The Urban Boys: Discovery of the Five SensesThe Urban Boys: Discovery of the Five Senses by K.N. Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The action gets going right away, and the opening is gripping; a good omen for what’s to come!

Twenty years ago, a murder occurred in the nature preserve outside Danville Heights. Ross Dawson had been strangled by his former friend, Joaquin Grayson, and left in the vegetation. But there were witnesses. A young couple, in the deserted location for some innocent privacy, had been shielded from the killer’s view by the lush foliage. However, they had heard the struggle, including strange, bright lights and terrifyingly loud clicking sounds that arose around them as they hid. The killer was never identified, but the preserve attained a feared reputation, and everyone avoided ever setting foot there again.

All these years later, that reputation still held, but occasionally students in town dared each other to enter and explore. Such was the case the night the Danville Heights Chargers won a hard-fought football game against their rivals, the Markley Lions. Five high school friends, fresh from their victory on the football field, followed their exuberance into the unknown dangers of the preserve. They, too, encountered the lights and clicking, and the next thing they knew, they were waking up at one of the boys’ homes, exhausted as if they had stayed up all night long. Their memories of what occurred were sketchy at best. But they were also changed. One had increased visual acuity; another enhanced hearing; each of the others had been gifted with a superior sense of smell, taste, or touch.

To the north of Danville Heights was the larger town, Sandry Lake. However, a month or so previously, a gang of criminals led by the mysterious Druth had moved in and taken over everything. They murdered residents and destroyed much of the infrastructure, so word of the town’s trouble was kept quiet. And Sandry Lake was just a stepping stone toward his ultimate goal.

The five young men don’t know it yet, but saving their hometown from destruction by the evil Druth will fall to their close-knit group of friends – and they are the only ones with the powers to meet him head-on and win.

Discovery of the Five Senses, the first book in The Urban Boys series by author K.N. Smith, has an intriguing plot that teased me with its carefully measured bits of backstory and minimalistic opening exposition. The author doesn’t hand-feed the book’s secrets; those are only slowly revealed as the story unfolds. I was in the story with the five main characters for the entire journey, feeling their confusion over what was happening and how to overcome it. This immersive quality reminded me of reading Jeff VanderMeer’s book, Annihilation, from his Southern Reach series.

Many times the author’s use of language is downright magical. It was not an easy read at first. I had to sync with the rhythm of the words, and when I did, I was suddenly wrapped up in the prose, looking forward with anticipation to the next stunning phrase or line.

The five boys are an interesting mix of personalities and circumstances, and young readers will surely relate. I loved the premise of each boy receiving an enhanced sense and that there were others before them who had also been ‘gifted’ in the same manner. In a fresh and fascinating twist to this “gaining a superpower” trope, the new strengths are very hard on the guys, even causing them physical pain at times.

The author gets the action going immediately, and the opening is gripping. It was so compelling I wanted to read straight through to the conclusion. I will definitely put this series on my ‘watch list’ for future installments. I recommend DISCOVERY OF THE FIVE SENSES to young adult readers who enjoy urban fantasy, action/adventure, and paranormal or supernatural elements in their stories.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours.

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Filed under Action/Adventure, Book Reviews, Fantasy, Mystery, Paranormal, Thriller, Young adult