What the Dead Leave Behind


I received this ARC from Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.

Rushmore “Mac” McKenzie is a detective, sort of.  After leaving the St. Paul police force in order to accept a reward for catching an embezzler, he finds himself rich and relatively idle.  Deciding to channel that boredom into “favors” for friends and friends of friends as an unlicensed detective, I get the feeling that his life is more exciting as a civilian.

This is a series and I was able to follow along without having read the first 13 books, which is always nice.  Housewright does a good job of supplying supplementary information in such a way that one unfamiliar with the series will still be able to understand.

I consider this to be the perfect sort of book to take along on a long-haul flight across the world, something I am very familiar with (I’ll be downloading the first few for my transatlantic flights this summer).  Mac’s girlfriend’s daughter implores him to find out what happened to her friend’s father.  He was murdered before the book begins and the police have no leads.  The game is afoot!

I believed in momentum.  I believed that if you keep moving, peeking under beds, peeping over fences, turning over rocks, there’s a better chance of accidents happening, some good, some bad; of the fortuitous unearthing of the odd puzzle piece in the most unlikely nook or cranny.

This is a truly interesting detective mystery.  Perhaps my favorite part was all of the Twin Cities love embedded in it.  No, I’m not from the Twin Cities, nor even the midwest.  I simply love when an author shows hometown pride.  I felt like I was there, from the descriptions of local venues to the complaints about traffic bottlenecks.  Mac is a good man, with a set of skills that he puts to good use.  Will the mystery be solved?  Read and find out.

Now the big question—why do you still care?  Good question.  I felt a little like a historian working a Rubik’s Cube, twisting the sides this way and that until it gave me a clear picture of what happened at such and such a time in such and such a place–but to what purpose?

4 stars.

Expected Publication: June 6, 2017

72 Hours

72 Hours_cover image

72 Hours

I received this ARC courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.  Shoutout to Publicist Brittani Hilles for indulging my fondness for Bella Jewel yet again!

Lara is heartbroken, reeling from a recent breakup she didn’t see coming and a loss she may never recover from.  She has gone from a no nonsense, no sugar coating, speak her mind sort of woman to a shell of her former self in the last few months.

Noah is her devastatingly handsome ex, the cause of her despair.

When they are both kidnapped and dumped in the woods together as part of some sort of warped game on the part of a clearly deranged capturer, will they be able to put all their feelings aside to survive?

72 hours.  They have a 72 hour head start before his wicked games begin.  Can the ghost of a woman and the man she despises survive what’s to come?

WOW!  This was an edge of your seat, page turner!  I started it right before bed (immediately after finishing my previous read) thinking I’d read a chapter or two to give me a general idea and get back to it today.  Well, I woke up early and rather than get a few more hours of sleep on my relaxed  late-start workday I decided to get up and keep reading!

I read, a lot.  I’ve read about serial killers, I’ve read good thrillers and romantic suspense, but that’s all it was … fiction.  It’s created to entertain an active mind.  It’s no more than a creative author putting words onto paper.  Those things don’t actually happen.  I know the world is a vile and hideous place at times, but this …no.

I found Lara a bit one dimensional at times but I tried to temper it by remembering all she had gone through prior to the start of the book.  Noah appealed to my fondness for bad boy types.  That said, I found the one chapter written from Noah’s perspective to be more distracting than anything else.  I’m all about shifts but for only a single chapter it was a bit odd.  All things said, it was a fun and quick read.

If you are keen on a bit of suspense with a bit of suspension of disbelief,  without too much head scratching- Ms. Jewel is your girl.  This one did not disappoint!

*Fair warning, there is a bit of smut.  There are also a few issues with language consistency (the author isn’t American and some of the choices in vocabulary will stand out if you have a keen eye).

4 Stars

Publication Date: April 4, 2017 

Click on the link at the top of the review if you want to snag it from Amazon.


Bad Luck (Bad #2)


I received this ARC from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.

Something about this cover caught my eye and after reading the description I just had to read it.  Upon discovering it was the second in a series I quickly snagged the first book and read that in a couple of hours.  I liked this one slightly more!

Bad Luck is a fun, breezy read.  Clay is back, still at Earth Ranch with his motley crew of new friends (and his nemesis, Flint) just a couple of weeks after Bad Magic left off.

Disguised as an outdoor survival camp for juvenile delinquents, Earth Ranch was, secretly, a magic camp for young adepts-a camp that depended on its remote location and ever-present vog for protection.

As he learns more about magic and the secret world that operates in it, strange things continue to abound.  When a boy around his age-Brett-washes up on the shores of Price Island, things just get stranger and stranger.  Since this is a book for young readers and a few might stumble upon my humble blog, I won’t betray more of the plot.  Just know that the spunky youngsters embark on a fun adventure!

I would like to tell you about the brave exploits that followed.  How our heroic friends from Earth Ranch vanquished all their enemies…

I absolutely love the narrator of the series!  The completely hilarious way he/she occasionally makes it known that they are a character in the story without betraying an identity is great.

The only question we need to answer now is the perennial one.  The question every writer faces.  What happens next?

Good question.  What will happen next?  The resolution of this book is a frustrating cliffhanger of sorts and I look forward to the next installment.  Will the Earth Ranch kids and S.O.S. vanquish the more unsavory magicians?  Will Clay figure out why Max-Earnest disappeared?

The bad guys had not won.  But neither, it must be said, had the good guys.  Not yet.

Three stars.

Expected Publication: February 9, 2016

Sanctuary Bay


I received this ARC from Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.

Sarah Merson is a foster kid, left a ward of the state after witnessing the brutal murder of her parents at the age of three.  A mixed-race foster kid from Ohio, so the whole charmed life story hasn’t ever applied to her.  That all changes when she gets accepted into Sanctuary Bay Academy, a school she never applied to and has never even heard of.

Sarah had tried to find information about the school online, a picture or something.  But she hadn’t found anything.  Maybe since Sanctuary Bay had such an amazing reputation they didn’t need a web site.  No need to advertise.  If they wanted you, they’d let you know.

Sarah is thrilled to attend this prestigious school that has been a breeding ground for some of the greatest politicians, rock stars, business moguls and scientists for several generations.  It’s a dream going to classes and making friends at SBA.  She falls in with a crowd a kid like her-moved from foster home to foster home-had never dreamed of.

Sanctuary Bay is who you are now.

Sarah is quickly caught up in the thrill of making friends, taking classes in state of the art labs and having luxuries she’d never imagined thrust upon her.  The only problem is, some things don’t add up.  Sarah has an Eidetic memory and she later discovers, Hyperthymesia.  She not only remembers everything she sees in extraordinary detail, but she can relive these memories as well.  Peer pressure doesn’t work, things that go bump in the night don’t jostle her much and she can’t push aside the things she notices.  Something is amiss on the island of Sanctuary Bay.

The world would never be normal again.

She needs to figure out what is going on beneath the perfect surface of the academy.  With the help of disillusioned rich kid Ethan and a kind teacher, she sets out to do just that.

They thought they could hide the truth but the truth doesn’t hide, the truth shines.

This was a good read, I went in with no knowledge aside from what was contained in the little blurb the publisher listed and it served me well.  I’m pretty sure this is the first in a series and I look forward to keeping up with it.

Four stars.

Publication Date: January 19, 2016

Hard To Forget (Alpha’s Heart #3)


I received this Arc from St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.

This is the third and (I think) final installment in Bella Jewel’s Alpha’s Heart trilogy.  I’ve had the privilege of being asked to read and review each one so this review is bittersweet.

Delaney is a bodyguard.  That’s right, a female bodyguard.  She’s been taking crap for her career choice day in and day out but she’s finally crawled her way out of the muck and is assigned her first big client.  Jaxson is a millionaire hotel chain owner.  He’s a babe, he’s ripped and he’s in danger.  Delaney takes on this case-bullets and all- with everything she has but that might mean taking him on too and not just until the threat is over.

You’re mine, Delaney.  For as long as I can fucking have you, you’re mine.

This was my favorite book of the series.  Hard to Forget had the best character building and the strongest plot.  I found Delaney likable and was rooting for her from the beginning, to put it bluntly she was a more ‘human’ character than the heroines in Jewel’s previous two books.  Jaxson has the typical macho male flaws but he too is intriguing and raw in a way that makes him seem real.  I powered through this one in one night, a work night if that’s any indicator of what a fun read it was.

I’ll hang on, Mr. Shields, because I think you just may be way too hard to forget.

Four stars.

Publication date: December 15, 2015

Burial Rites


Wow. All of the feels. I was late to this beauty but it found me at just the right moment.

 I feel drunk with summer and sunlight. I want to seize fistfuls of sky and eat them.

This book was a beautifully written account of the last months of an Icelandic woman awaiting her death sentence. The story alone was wonderful but it was the poetry that bled through each sentence that gutted me.

…but there was some comfort in talking about death aloud, as though in naming things, you could prevent them from happening.

Four stars.

Black Rose (Shadows Book 1)


I received this ARC from Samhain Publishing and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Louisiana bayou was her home.  Nothing of New Orleans lived there.  The city was a viper, a red-lipped lady of the night.

Mia LeMay is a born and bred bayou girl who had traded in the swamps for a tea room and club in the city.  Her exciting but predictable life ends when she witnesses a brutal murder from her balcony.  The killer wants her dead and the intriguing Ryder is tasked with protecting her.  Between the things that literally go bump in the night, talk of voodoo and her questionable protector, Mia is in for it.

This was a quick, fun read.  A bit of mystery, a dash of romance and of course a slightly spooky back-drop.  I was able to sit down long enough to finish the last 60% on a work night which is saying something since I wrangle first graders all day.

Three Stars

Publication Date: October 13,2015

*This is a re-release with a new publisher*

Thirteen Ways Of Looking


I received this ARC from Random House Publishing Group and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I have read very few collections of short fiction in my life.  There isn’t any particular reason why, I just seemed to have jumped from board books as a child straight to novels.  It was the cover art and description of this book that drew me in, I had to read it.  This collection features one novella and three short stories, I enjoyed them all.  The title comes from a poem “Thirteen Ways Of Looking At A Blackbird”, a nod to how much of life is about perception.

The first story “Thirteen Ways Of Looking” is about an elderly man standing in the twilight of his life.  It flips back and forth between the immediate past and the present (after his death) told from his view and that of a commentator type narrator.  I didn’t want to like Mr. Mendelssohn at first, he seemed a combination of stereotypes but he grew on me.

I was born in the middle of my very first argument.

In brief snippets of his past and his musings on the present we get a clear portrait of man who has lived a good life, a life he is reflecting on.

And how is it that the deep past is littered with the characters, while the present is so housebroken and flat?

The second story “What Time Is It Now, Where You Are?” was my least favorite but still offered a few moments of clarity.  A journalist is writing a story on a deadline and he struggles to connect the pieces.

Out beyond the outpost, nothing but the dark and the white frost on the land.  The stars themselves like bulletholes above her.

The third “Sh’kol” really resonated with me, if only because of the title.

She had come upon the word sh’khol.  She cast around for a word to translate it but there was no proper match.  There were words, of course, for widow, widower, and orphan, but no noun, no adjective, for a parent who had lost a child.

A woman on the Irish coast is raising an adopted special needs child alone.  She wakes up one morning and he is missing.  Will he be found?  Will she glean anything about her life in the process?

Sh’khol…She knew the word now.  Shadowed.

The final story “Treaty” was truly touching.  An elderly Maryknoll nun sent for respite in Long Island.  A traumatic event in her life haunts her and the potential emergence of a villain spurs her to action.

She preferred to think and talk of other things, life in the village before she was captured, the volume of blue sky, the children in the schoolhouse, the fall of rain on the in roof…

I truly enjoyed reading these stories.  I found myself stopping to highlight and ponder often, bits and pieces of my own life coming to mind.  McCann is a gifted wordsmith, his framing of the concept of perspective a thing of beauty.  I have several people in mind already that I will personally recommend this collection to.

Sometimes it seems to me that we are writing our lives in advance, but at other times we can only ever look back.  In the end, though, every word we write is autobiographical, perhaps most especially when we attempt to avoid the autobiographical.  -Colum McCann

4 stars.

Publication Date: October 13, 2015