Category Archives: Action/Adventure

Central Station by Joseph Cariffe

Central Station: A Ray DeLuca NovelCentral Station: A Ray DeLuca Novel by Joseph Cariffe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Action-packed and enthralling, I loved Ray DeLuca and cheered for him every step of the way.

The son of an east coast Sicilian mafia boss, young Ray DeLuca, was part of “the life” but entered the Navy instead of following in his father’s footsteps. Sixteen successful years later and a SEAL Chief Petty Officer, he retires to pursue a career in protecting and serving with the San Francisco Police Department. However, on his very first shift at Central Station, he attracts the ire of the Watch Commander, Lt. Flynn, who takes any opportunity to criticize and embarrass him.

Assigned to a two-officer black and white, Ray and his partner, Chinese-American Officer Hank Lau, patrol the Chinatown/Little Italy neighborhoods experiencing an upswing in gang activity. Chinatown, already home to the deadly Ghost Boys, has attracted the notice of a Sicilian mob family, and an influx of wise guys shaking down the business owners for protection money has the area teetering on the brink of an all-out war.

When a domestic violence call goes south, and a Ghost Boy dies, Ray is marked for death with a $50K bounty on his head. Ghost Boys make several failed attempts on his life but still seem one step ahead of Ray at all times. One night while he’s out on a first date with his dream girl, four gang members confront the couple. Ray fights back, injuring two and sending them running. His date, appalled by the violence and frightened out of her mind, never wants to see Ray again. But worse yet, later that night, he is called into Central Station, where Lt. Flynn is gleefully waiting with the news that the thugs he fended off have filed charges and a complaint, intending to sue the city. But when Flynn blames Ray and takes the thugs’ side over his own man, Ray loses his cool standing up for himself and earning himself a suspension.

With his gun, ID, and protection of his badge gone, Ray must now fend off continued attacks from the Ghost Boys on his own while waiting for his opportunity to defend himself, clear his name, and return to the job he loves.

Central Station is a riveting crime thriller featuring the engaging and immensely likable Ray DeLuca. The action is non-stop as the story unfolds and we follow the main character through his trials and tribulations and the will-he-catch-him murder plotline. I was glued to this story from page one until the close, smiling almost the entire time. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and the family ate out while I was reading it. Who has time to cook when you’ve got such a page-turner in your hands?!

Our man Ray is a charming guy with a successful career as a Navy SEAL behind him. He has a couple of relationships with different women during the course of the story, some of which, for a number of reasons, don’t flourish. Like Ray’s mother, though, I have high hopes.

While the action and adventure commands center stage, I loved his interactions with his mother. Whenever he got a care package from home, I was dying to know what she’d sent this time. The discussions of her cooking had me enthralled and ready to head to Sicily (or at least the east coast.) One thing I didn’t go for was how her dialogue was written to convey her accented English, but I don’t know any other way the author could have accomplished this. I eventually got the rhythm of it, and it didn’t slow me down as much as it did initially. I also enjoyed the peek inside THE FAMILY, especially when Ray’s father was incarcerated.

The book is GODFATHER long but literally full of exciting action. The author’s writing is smooth, comfortable, and compelling. It is also the author’s DEBUT novel. Amazing! I can hardly wait to see what comes from his pen next and for Ray DeLuca’s future adventures.

I recommend CENTRAL STATION to readers who enjoy crime fiction with a charming main character, police stories featuring organized crime and criminals, San Francisco settings, and non-stop action/adventures that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from Reedsy Discovery.

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Filed under Action/Adventure, Book Reviews, Contemporary fiction, Fiction, Mystery, Police procedural, Suspense, Thriller

Virtual Book Tour, Review, & Giveaway: The Lost Journals of Bud Wiper by S.M. Morgan

The Lost Journals of Bud Wiper


S.M. Morgan

Middle-grade Fiction

Hardcover / Paperback / eBook formats



“Help!! My head is being lowered into the swirling vortex of a toilet!”

My name is Teddy, and I’m in the 6th grade. It’s my first day at a different school, and so far, the only person I know is Zane, the school bully. I was just your everyday kid trying to stay off everyone’s radar, but when I met my new best friend, Bud Wiper, everything changed.

Bud is a 6th grade millionaire from 60 years ago.

Yep, that’s right, Bud Wiper is a treasure hunter from the 1940’s who left behind his journal full of life and adventure, and even though we’ve never met, I think he might be the only thing that gets me through the 6th grade alive.

The Lost Journals of Bud Wiper is a fantastic story of bravery and friendship, perfect for kids, middle school students, and adults.

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Let me explain. The reason I was being shoved into the trash can in the boy’s bathroom at my new school was all my fault. Or at least, that’s what Zane kept telling me after he and his friends cornered me. He said there wasn’t enough time for a swirly, so the trash can would have to do.


4 stars!

A likable and relatable main character and an adventuresome story from the past!

The Journals of Bud Wiper is a bun, adventure-filled story for middle-grade or older elementary age that even reluctant readers will enjoy. Teddy is sweet, likable, and oh-so-misunderstood, and he is a perfectly relatable hero sure to capture the imagination.

The story switches point-of-view from Teddy to Bud as pages of the journal are read. While both boys experience a lot, Bud’s adventures are much more action-hero-oriented: think “Indiana Jones.” In Teddy’s case, think “Revenge of the Nerds.” Both are fun and compelling reading.

The adults in Teddy’s life are exceptionally clueless about what is going on between him and Zane. While I was somewhat disturbed by this, young readers will probably relate to a time when they felt they had been treated unfairly. The story leaves a couple of ideas unexplored that, hopefully, are bridges to future Bud Wiper journal adventures. I certainly would pick up any sequels to this book.

With its likable and highly-relatable main character and the adventuresome story from the past, I recommend THE LOST JOURNALS OF BUD WIPER to elementary students ready for chapter books and middle-grade readers, especially those falling in the reluctant reader category.


S.M. Morgan is the author of The Lost Journals of Bud Wiper — A Middle Grade Adventure. He lives in East Texas with his wife, daughter, and son, and when not writing potty humor for kids, he is trying to get alone to read more mystery adventure stories.

When the real world calls him to be social, he can be found canoeing with his family or trying to convince his wife to watch action movies.


S.M. Morgan will be awarding a Kindle Paperwhite, a signed Hardback cover of the book and a featured character spot in our next Bud Wiper story to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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Filed under Action/Adventure, Book Reviews, Childrens, Historical fiction, Middle-Grades

Deception Pass (Spider Green, #3) by Norm Harris – Audiobook Review

Deception PassDeception Pass by Norm Harris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An exciting military adventure story that left me hungry for more of the series!

JAG Navy lawyer Faydra “Spider” Green is on call when the report of a death on the base comes in. She arrives to discover that the wife of a young marine has been murdered in their home. That call is quickly followed by another for the same thing, another wife has been found murdered, and a third woman is found in similar circumstances before the day is over. All three husbands are devastated and have only recently returned home from a classified mission. Working with the civilian NCIS investigator, Fay counsels the three young men to only speak in the presence of their attorney and offers to stand that role for all of them.

In the meantime, a special prisoner of the Chinese is secretly released from custody and whisked to freedom in Russia. The man, Roman Justine, is an evil from Fay’s past, an evil she’d thought she had already eliminated with extreme prejudice. Justine is out to finish the business between him and Fay, which he failed to complete previously. Fay is equally determined to end things once and for all.

Deception Pass is the third book in Norm Harris’s exciting and action-filled military adventure series featuring Fay ‘Spider’ Green. It is the first in the series to appear in audiobook format, and narrator Maria McCann does a fantastic job giving voice to this strong female protagonist. She completely captures Fay’s personality, and her voice will forever be Fay’s to me. The story includes many other main or supporting characters, and McCann’s presentation skillfully makes each sound natural and unique. I never had trouble discerning which character was talking during an exchange of dialogue.

The story takes Fay and her crew from Washington state to Moscow, in both the present and the past, as both the hunter and the hunted. I found the plot fresh, interesting, and absorbing, and it kept me reading well past the time when I needed to call it a night. It was that good! There were many moments I loved but in particular I enjoyed Fay’s interactions with her Russian counterparts and her performance in the courtroom. I also liked the reappearance of characters from previous books. And don’t be worried about having to read through a recap of all that has gone on before; there is just enough backstory to lend understanding to the current action.

Speaking of which, although the third in the series, the story can be enjoyed as a standalone, but the pleasure would be enhanced by having read the previous books. However, using Deception Pass as your jumping-off point in the series will be dangerous; you will want to acquire those first two books “quick, fast, and in a hurry.” I was glad to see the next book in Fay’s story is already available as an audiobook, and I couldn’t help but snag it the minute this one concluded.

I recommend DECEPTION PASS for readers who enjoy military-based action-adventure thrillers with a side of sci-fi and time travel.

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Filed under Action/Adventure, Audiobook, Book Reviews, Military action adventure, Mystery, Thriller, Time Travel

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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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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Book Blog Tour: LIBERTY BELL AND THE LAST AMERICAN by James Stoddard

James Stoddard
Alternative History / Science Fiction
Pages: 347 pages
Publication Date: April 4, 2021
Americans love their Constitution. In seventeen-year-old Liberty Bell’s era it has become a myth.
Centuries after the Great Blackout obliterates the world’s digitized information, America’s history is forgotten. Only confused legends remain, written in The Americana, a book depicting a golden age where famous Americans from different eras lived and interacted with one another during the same time.
Raised on the stories and ideals from The Americana, Liberty Bell joins secret agent Antonio Ice on a quest for her country. But in the Old Forest, forgotten technologies are reawakening. Historic figures such as Albert Einstein, Harriet Tubman, and Thomas Jefferson are coming to life.
The source of their return, a mystery hidden since before the apocalypse, lies waiting for Liberty. Her knowledge of The Americana holds the key to unraveling the riddles of the past.
Will the American continent return to the freedom of Liberty’s forefathers? Or will it descend into a dark age of tyranny? The choices she makes will determine its fate. For, as The Americana says, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it—and forfeit all coupons, discounts, and travel miles.”
Filled with quotations from exceptional Americans, here is a humorous and poignant celebration of America and its Constitution.
Click to purchase!

4 stars!

A clever and imaginative tale of a quest through a future America.

Liberty Bell and the Last American is a highly-imaginative, amazingly clever, fast-paced romp through a futuristic American landscape after the country has been laid waste in the Great Blackout. Hundreds of years have passed since the devastation of the planet and its peoples, in which few physical books and nothing that depended on electricity survived. However, during the ensuing centuries, the remnants of the population left on the American continent had cobbled together a version of their history, verbally handed down through the generations and combined with a single found copy of quotations by famous people to create a foundational work called “The Americana.” Unfortunately, the result somewhat resembled what you got at the end of the child’s game known as “Telephone.” Written in “Old American,” not everyone could read the original version, relying solely on modern interpretations. Liberty Bell was one of the few who learned the old language.

Liberty Bell is a lively and lovely young woman. This is her first trip away from her home on her own, so she’s understandably a bit timid at first. However, as her journey is interrupted (and takes a wild left turn), she rarely wavers in her confidence and determination to do the right thing for her country (of which she has a naïve understanding) and for her companions.

The author is supremely clever in reimagining the language of the day, recombining idioms, maxims, proverbs, or aphorisms into new common phrases. Old ideas jumbled together with current cultural references entertained me to the very end and are probably my favorite element in the book.

But while the malapropisms shine, the author ingeniously uses actual quotations from historical figures to develop their dialogue throughout the story. The literal battle of quotes between chess pieces representing Jefferson and Churchill left me in awe. Winnowing through what was surely hundreds of documented utterances by these two and coming out with such a coherent whole is an amazing feat to me.

The landscape through which the characters wander is also the result of taking reality and revising it to account for the alterations of time, climate, and supposedly lost source documents. At times, I was reminded of Dorothy’s journey through Oz on her way to the Emerald City; not only did the scenery have some of the same ‘look and feel,‘ but there was also the quest-like nature of the journey itself.

Stoddard has created a unique, fresh, and very entertaining work. I recommend LIBERTY BELL AND THE LAST AMERICAN for readers who like tales of quests with elements of magic and SciFi, coming-of-age stories, and especially for those who enjoy and are familiar with American history. (A copy of the Constitution and Amendments are included at the end of the book as an extra.)

James Stoddard’s short fiction has appeared in science fiction publications such as “Amazing Stories” and “The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.” “The Battle of York” was included in Eos Books’ Years Best SF 10, and “The First Editions” appeared in The Year’s Best Fantasy 9 from Tor Books. His novel, “The High House” won the Compton Crook Award for best fantasy by a new novelist and was nominated for several other awards. He lives with his wife in a winding canyon in West Texas.


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Filed under Action/Adventure, Book Reviews, Dystopian/Post-apocalyptic, Fiction, Texas author, Texas book

Intergalactic Exterminators, Inc by Ash Bishop

Intergalactic Exterminators, IncIntergalactic Exterminators, Inc by Ash Bishop
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An exciting and wildly fun, and imaginative character-driven story without an overload of tech!

Russ Wesley was a restless wanderer, but when the news came that his beloved grandfather had died, he immediately went home to Evanstown, Wyoming, to be with his grandmother, Norma. His grandfather’s business, The Mysterious Universe Bookstore, was a mess: the roof needed replacing, and past rainstorms had ruined quite a bit of stock. Norma had done her best to keep things together, but the bookstore had been Grandpop’s endeavor. Now the bank was preparing to foreclose unless she came up with a lot of money soon. Russ began repairs to get the place back up and running, hoping to bring in some cash. He started going through Grandpop’s large collection of oddities from around the globe that might serve to generate more income from their sale.

But one night, driving down Route 89, Russ hit a deer. When the critically injured creature ran off into the forested countryside, Russ followed with his rifle to put the animal out of its misery. Russ, truly a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none, had an exceptional talent for marksmanship. He was able to put the deer down from a distance, and as he approached the carcass, he was confronted by a huge cat-like creature that tore the deer in half with one swipe of its massive paw. Russ was also sent flying, hitting his head on the trunk of a tree.

When he regained consciousness, he was surrounded by a group of “hunters.” However, their speech was odd, their weapons unusual for hunters, and they were looking for the gigantic cat. But when it returned, it was Russ who saved the day with a single shot. With that show of skill, Russ found himself in an alien ankle monitor and “recruited” to join the Intergalactic Exterminators, Inc., and leave Earth for outer space whether he wanted to or not.

Intergalactic Exterminators, Inc was wildly imaginative and great fun. The dialogue sparkled with wit and snark and had me grinning like an idiot the entire time I was reading the book. I really wasn’t prepared to like Russ, his footloose lifestyle and abnegation of responsibility Isn’t my thing, but I quickly fell for him and his desire to do right by his grandmother and his friend, Nina. I felt he loved his grandmother and grandfather, and his regret of not being there for them during their time of need set him up to change his ways. Nina obviously loved her parents and was willing to do whatever she could to help them. Both have a compelling reason to get the job on board the Flashaway with its much-needed salary. But their mutual attraction and growing affection for each other create a heartfelt conflict for the characters and a dilemma for the reader over whom to root for. The crew members of the Flashaway were all characters to love. Each had an interesting and distinct personality, and some fun surprises were revealed in their relationships as the story developed.

The author puts the crew through their paces in various exciting scenarios and extermination missions. The planet settings were diverse and well described, and the indigenous creatures were fantastic, shocking, and dangerous; some obviously so, and others, seemingly benign at first, reappeared later to cause problems.

With still so much “territory” to explore, I was delighted with the book’s ending because it left things wide open for a sequel. I recommend INTERGALACTIC EXTERMINATORS, INC to scifi readers who like imaginative and exciting character-driven stories without an overload of tech.

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

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Heroes Ever Die (Ken Allen Super Sleuth, #2) by J.A. Crawford

Heroes Ever Die,

Ken Allen Super Sleuth, #2


J.A. Crawford

Mystery / Super Heroes / PI
Published by: CamCat Books
Publication Date: August 16th 2022
Number of Pages: 304 pages
ISBN: 0744305926 (ISBN13: 9780744305920)


Ken Allen has upgraded a bit since his last case, now living in a nicer part of the city and officially hanging out his shingle as a private investigator. After two successful cases, one kept on the ultra-down-low because of the high-profile client, he’s ready to help when his old friend, Ray Ford, is suspected of negligence resulting in the death of two actors on the sets of two different superhero flicks. Ray is being framed, and Elaine, the daughter he’s been keeping under wraps for years, suspects who the real culprit is.

In the meantime, Ken’s own son, Dean, the recently revealed surprise result of a short-term liaison almost 20 years earlier, wants to get to know his dad, and he couldn’t have picked a worse time. With Ken becoming a target of the killer himself and needing to investigate and stop the murder spree, he’s had to put Dean off during this very delicate time in their relationship.

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This second in series sparkles!

A fun and entertaining installment in the Ken Allen Super Sleuth series!

As a fan of the debut Ken Allen Super Sleuth mystery, Jove Brand is Near Death (see my review here), I was looking forward with much anticipation to Heroes Ever Die, and I was not disappointed. Ken Allen is a one-of-a-kind private investigator who, although talking about getting old, is still current, relevant, and completely on top of what’s hot and trending. The story is a seamless amalgam of pop culture as we follow him through his days that include an adherence to a keto diet, selfies, smoothies, and the main character literally fangirling over comic book royalty. The author also mixes in movie and television references that are fun surprises. Parallels and parodies of the James Bond franchise and the comic book cinematic universes are the baselines for the series and this book, in particular, and are vastly entertaining. The dialogue absolutely shone in the debut novel and is a high point in the second as well. It’s smart and witty and kept me laughing.

I liked that Ken has officially hung out his shingle (as a private investigator), although this case is still on behalf of a friend. I also liked that Ken’s son, Dean, is still in the picture, and he and his father are working on getting to know each other. Ken is such a likable guy. I enjoyed how he was able to charm the ladies who lunch to report back to him on what was going on in their neighborhood.

Ray Ford, a recurring character from the first book, continues to amaze with his special gadgets, and we discover he has a grown daughter. Elaine is an intelligent and charming addition to the “team.” She lives and works with her father, and her backstory, when revealed, pulled at my heartstrings for both of them. Investigator Stern is a mellower version of herself this go-round, and I like there’s more of a partnership developing between her and Ken.

With all the masks and costumes involved, no one in this story is really who they seem to be. However, we soon realize that this is even more the case with characters who aren’t even in disguise. The story is full of surprises, and I didn’t see the resolution coming. I enjoyed this book so much that I read it in one day.

I recommend HEROES EVER DIE to readers that enjoy up-to-the-minute mysteries, especially those involving the film industry, comic book franchises, and private investigators with martial arts skills.

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

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Jove Brand is Near Death (Ken Allen Super Sleuth, #1) by J.A. Crawford

Jove Brand Is Near DeathJove Brand Is Near Death by A. Crawford
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Pure entertainment from start to finish!

Ken Allen is a former competitive martial artist with one IMDB credit to his name. Eighteen years earlier, he had portrayed the fictional super spy, Jove Brand, of the wildly successful film franchise of the same name in one awful movie that was only released overseas. When the movie was eventually leaked to the US market, Near Death and its star attained a cult following. Now, Ken ekes out a living as “Sensei to the Stars,” providing personal training to an exclusive list of BIG NAMES in town, working the fandom convention circuit, and doing the occasional cameo as Jove Brand on television.

His most recent TV appearance on Good Morning, Burbank, was going better than usual. The popular actor, Sir Collin Prestor, the current Jove Brand and star of the last six blockbusters in the series, was retiring. He was hosting the popular morning show to “officially” turn over the reins to Jove Brand to the new young actor chosen to continue the role. However, the understated Prestor wasn’t wowing the audience. Enter Ken Allen with his display of martial arts kicks and jumps and his comedic portrayal of the character, and the audience responds enthusiastically, saving the bit. But only a short while later, one of the evening’s co-stars is found dead, murdered in the same over-the-top manner that Ken’s nemesis in Near Death met his end; Ken becomes the police’s number one suspect.

Jove Brand is Near Death is fun and quirky, and immensely entertaining. I was hooked from the start. Parodying such successful movie franchises as James Bond, Marvel, and DC Comics, I laughed out loud in delight at the fun parallels (and remembering my own experiences going to the cons; the descriptions are spot on!) The throwbacks to the past are fabulous, but there are also up-to-the-minute cultural references, making the whole story fresh and funny. Ken’s devotion to his diet and the frequent inclusion of trendy food choices had me smiling. The writing is easy to read, and the dialogue sparkles as Ken investigates the murder.

Ken is a genuinely nice guy, and he’s got a solid circle of friends who have his back. I particularly enjoyed Yuen Hung, his former Near Death co-star and convention partner. I hope he returns in future books. The effects master, Ray Ford, provides awesome working props that he engineers to Ken’s needs. I loved his whole persona and vibe.

The plot is a solid mystery with constant action as Ken follows his instincts and chases down possible leads. The story is more complex than I expected and kept me guessing.

Tim Campbell narrates the audiobook edition, and I thought he was perfect as Ken Allen. He has a wonderful voice and delivery and uses it to get perfect results. He is my Ken Allen now. I will also be looking for more audiobooks that he’s voiced.

I recommend JOVE BRAND IS NEAR DEATH to mystery readers, especially those with a fun interest in spy movie thrillers and comic book-themed film series. However, no knowledge of either would keep a reader from enjoying this delightful book.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

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Blog Tour: The Daredevils by Rob Buyea




Middle Grade Contemporary / Growing Up

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Pages: 240 pages

Publication Date: August 9, 2022

Hardcover 978-0593376140 / ebook B09LH4WL9Q / Audio B09LRLM49C

Readers on the cusp of adolescence will find much to love in this middle grade novel from the author of the beloved MR. TERUPT series that follows three kids who come to realize that letting go of childhood means boldly taking risks to face the future while learning from the past.

Loretta and her twin brother, Waylon, are headed to middle school. Loretta has always been quick with her fists and her wits. Since Waylon is on the small side, Loretta doesn’t let anyone mess with him. But now she worries he won’t survive without her by his side. Her secret plan: bulk him up with muscle over the summer. Little does she know that Waylon has a plan of his own. He’ll show his sister he can take care of himself.

As each puts their strategy in motion, Loretta and Waylon spend the summer going into the woods behind their house, even sneaking there in the dead of night. That’s where they first encounter Louie, who is about their age but noticeably bigger. Louie is homeschooled, he explains when Loretta gives him the third degree. Loretta, Waylon, and Louie soon fall into a comfortable friendship and continue their nightly forest adventures. When they unearth a mysterious box, the past collides with the present, propelling the trio on a quest that will forever change their lives.

Rob Buyea’s spirited dual narrative drives this funny, touching brother-sister story, where even the best-laid plans sometimes backfire and feelings may get bruised, but family and friends always count. Letting go of childhood means boldly taking risks to face the future while learning from the past.

5 stars!

Even though THE DAREDEVILS is not a fantasy, it is still a magical story of summer and growing up.

Although not a fantasy, The Daredevils is a story filled with magic. Told from the dual points of view of Loretta and Waylon, readers are privy to the thoughts and feelings of these two precocious and adorable pre-teens. Loretta is a bright, savvy, strong, capable “older” sister who loves her brother and wants to do the best for him. Her chapters are witty while revealing she’s still young and vulnerable herself. Waylon is beyond smart and very creative, and he loves his sister. He’s quirky but not as helpless as his sister seems to want to think.

Their summer of adventure is one of achieving their personal goals and accomplishing their quest while avoiding people that make their lives difficult. The story is an entertaining and engaging one that both boys and girls will enjoy. Many smile-inducing moments and a couple of heart-wrenching turns of events will keep readers turning the pages to see what happens next.

With its likable and relatable characters and inventive storyline, THE DAREDEVILS is tremendous fun and a worthwhile chapter book for upper elementary and middle-grade readers. It would work well as a read-aloud book as well.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author or publisher through TBR and Beyond.

For more information or to purchase:

| Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indigo | IndieBound |

Rob Buyea is a former teacher and the author of the Mr. Terupt series, The Perfect Score series, and What Comes Next. As a young boy, he spent countless hours exploring the woods. He is a true country-music fan, as are his wife and children, though they won’t admit it.

| Website | Twitter |

| Instagram | Goodreads |

| Facebook |




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1 Comment

Filed under Action/Adventure, Book Reviews, Middle-Grades