Review of Constable Beneath the Trees

Title: Constable Beneath the Trees
Author: Nicholas Rhea
Publisher: Endeavour Press, 341pgs
Genre: Mystery, Cozy Mystery

This was an entertaining and enjoyable read. Set in rural Yorkshire in the 1960s Constable Beneath the Trees follows Constable Nick Rhea as he goes about his daily routine, dealing with the locals and his superiors.

The stories recounted in this volume were witty, humorous and sometimes touching. One couldn’t help but feel sympathy for Rhea as he dealt with his sometimes clueless superiors while still doing his duty and what was best for his beat.

This book has the same feel to it as James Herriot’s novels, but with a police officer instead of a vet. The stories are told in the same quiet, easy going style and the local characters are just as colorful.

Well worth the read and I will be on the lookout for more in the series, although this read well as a standalone.

Rating: 4/5 Carrots resize carrot

Thanks to NetGalley for my copy of this book.

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Review of Michael’s Passion

Title: Michael’s Passion
Author: Joel Crofoot
Publisher: N/A, 182pgs
Genre: Romance, Paranormal Romance

A superb paranormal romance with a captivating story-an absolute must read!

When a series of circumstances bring the Archangel Michael and the demoness Jahi together, how will they react? Will they bring about their downfall or their salvation?

For starters, Michael’s Passion has everything you could want in a paranormal romance. Suitably exotic powerful beings, conflict, steamy love scenes and a satisfying ending. But it goes above and beyond that as well.

The plot is complex, interesting and at times edge of your seat nail-biting. The pace moves along quickly but is consistent and logical, a real page-turner. The backstories of the characters unfold throughout the story, driving the plot onward as well as adding a good deal to the characters themselves.

The main characters Michael and Jahi as well as the secondary angels and demons that populate this book are rich and well developed. They have strengths and good points, flaws and weaknesses, they are very real. The kind of characters you can identify with, have hopes for, worry about and celebrate with. Truly a high point of the book.

Michael’s Passion is a stellar love story and can be enjoyed as that and nothing more. But Crofoot has created something special, something extra. Without being at all preachy, the story can make people think about what is good and bad, right and wrong, about how the choices people make (or are forced to make) can impact their future lives, about compassion, second chances and redemption. And that might be the true beauty of this book.

Note: Contains swearing and mature love scenes. Honestly, I think the story is good enough that you could just skim those bits if it’s not your thing and still enjoy it.

*First in a series, can be read as a standalone. I will certainly be checking out the rest of the series.*

Rating: 5/5 Carrots resize carrot

Review of The Adventures of Technicality Man

Title: The Adventures of Technicality Man
Author: Jessica Meats
Publisher: N/A, 71pgs
Genre: Humor, Satire, Parody

A wonderful and humorous superhero (and story writing) parody. What happens when a super villain gets control of the laws of storytelling so the plot doesn’t behave with the usual conventions?

I think most anyone would get a kick out of this short story, although authors and reviewers will particularly appreciate it. Meats takes on both the traditional idea of a superhero story as well as typical story-telling conventions head on in a hilarious non-stop romp.

The superhero (and villain) characters are quite wonderful, (Squirrel Ninja, Bemused Girl, Alchemisto and his wife, Alchemistress among others) as they play to every superhero and villain stereotype there is, or at least try to.

The true standouts of this story are the Cats though, creatures of habit that they are, they all hold sway over a particular branch of story-telling etiquette. Thus we have Narrative Pace Cougar, Correct Punctuation Lion, Prudish Manx, Sexual Attraction Lynx and others. If only these cats truly patrolled all books, I am convinced the world would be a better place! As it is, when they are taken out of commission all manner of confusion takes place as the literary tropes are thrown out the window and anything can happen.

Just an extremely fun, entertaining read. Hats off to the author for this little tongue in cheek masterpiece!

Rating: 4/5 Carrots resize carrot

Thanks to NetGalley for my copy of this book.

Review of Dog Days of Voodoo

Title: Dog Days of Voodoo
Author: G.A. Chase
Publisher: Bayou Moon Press, 250pgs
Genre: Mystery, Paranormal Mystery

A mystery set in New Orleans with Mardi Gras as the backdrop, where two investigators must deal with an old voodoo curse and their growing feelings for each other, all while untangling a century old web of lies and trying to solve a murder.

I picked this up based on the cover, thinking it would be a lighthearted cozy mystery. Although it had some elements of a cozy, it was a little too dark and racy in my opinion to truly be considered one. With that said, it was still a pretty good story.

Both main characters (Kendell and Myles) are interesting, different and quirky and their personalities develop more throughout the story. I found the supporting characters to be not quite as well developed but that may have been because there were quite a lot of them. I think I would have preferred having a few less with more involvement.

The plot was good overall, but had many threads to it, some of which were rather complex. It delved into family histories, cursed objects and the potential energy they have, a murder, a dognapping, a lot of research… In the end, it all came together reasonably well and had a decent resolution of sorts. But there were times in the narrative where I would have liked more explanation and clarity and a bit of a crisper delivery of information.

The setting was one of the best parts of the book. Too often a book has a generic setting. Dog Days of Voodoo isn’t one of them. It’s set in New Orleans and that plays heavily into the plot and the characters’ actions. You feel like you’re in New Orleans throughout the book and I appreciated that aspect of it.

While this can be read on its own to a satisfyingly complete conclusion there were some aspects at the end that leads me to believe the next book in the series will have a continuation of part of the plot from this one. This was a sufficiently good read and has me well enough invested that I do plan to read that next book.

Rating: 3/5 Carrots resize carrot

Thanks to NetGalley for my copy of this book.

Review of True Colors

Title: True Colors (True Love, Book Two)
Author: Anyta Sunday
Publisher: N/A, 226pgs
Genre: Romance, M/M Romance

Can former best friends Marco and Oskar move past the pain and misunderstanding that ended their friendship and perhaps find something deeper as well?

The word I keep coming back to after finishing this book and thinking about my review is inconsistent. There were parts of this that were very good and I thoroughly enjoyed. There were other parts that weren’t very good at all.

I liked the overriding concept of the book. Moving past tragedy and adversity, learning to accept yourself for who you are and see yourself as beautiful and worthy and I thought the author did very well exploring these concepts. Some of the dialogue was quite inspired and the intimate exchanges between the two gave off a real feel of love and passion.

For the most part I very much liked the cast of secondary characters. I felt they were well developed, added to the story and helped drive the plot forward. As for the two main characters, overall I liked them but at times they (particularly Marco) seemed very immature, much younger than the 20 years old they were supposed to be. On the flip side, I think Marco’s insecurities about his scars was very well explored.

While the setting is Berlin, there was nothing much that indicated that, seemingly it could have been set anywhere. It did make me think that perhaps the author was German, which would have explained a lot of the strange phrasing and odd word choices in the book. They were frequent enough to be a little distracting.

At times the plot seemed a little forced. With that said, the last few chapters were simply lovely. They seemed genuine, heartfelt, emotional and went a long way towards saving this book for me and making me think it was worth the read. Based on the strength of that, I would likely read something else by this author.

Rating: 3/5 Carrots resize carrot

*Mature Content (18+), Sexual Situations, M/M Romance*
Thanks to NetGalley for my copy of this book.

Review of Attack of the Lesbian Farmers

Title: Attack of the Lesbian Farmers
Author: J.B. Trepagnier
Publisher: N/A, 14pgs
Genre: Satire, Political Satire

Until reading this brilliantly crafted little story I was blissfully unaware that Rush Limbaugh believes that lesbian farmers are infiltrating rural America as part of some diabolical plot.

If like me, you just said “Surely not! Not even Rush would say that!”, Googled it and are currently sitting open mouthed because -oh yes, he did- you must read this story!
If you are sitting in your fortified prepper compound prepared to stave off the lesbian revolution you totally must read this story. It will help you avoid some important pitfalls.

There was a time when authors used the written word to push forward new ideas and ideals, when authors like Austen, Dickens, Swift and Orwell held sway with social and political commentary and helped influence the opinions of generations while still managing to entertain.

Trepagnier’s work is a little Animal Farm-esque in the sense that you can read it on the most basic of levels, enjoy the dry wit and humor contained within and still absorb the underlying message. But you can also choose to read it on a deeper level and lose yourself in the nuanced layers of subtle satire and double meanings. A perfect example (without giving anything away) would be the final page of the story, Farmer Jeb is doing something for one of his cows. If you recognize it, I’m sure you’ll appreciate it. If you are unfamiliar with it, take a moment to look it up, you won’t be disappointed.

A pleasure to read. This was my first taste of Trepagnier’s work but if it’s any indication of her talent I definitely plan to check out some of her longer works.

Rating: 5/5 Carrots resize carrot

Review Of Convict Heart

Title: Convict Heart (Convict Wives, Book 3)
Author: Lena Dowling
Publisher: Escape Publishing, 208pgs
Genre: Romance, Historical Romance, Clean Romance

A charmingly written, clean historical romance set in Australia when it was a penal colony where free men came to forge their own destinies and make their own fortunes.

While I can’t speak to the authenticity of the setting, I will say that Dowling did an excellent job in making it seem real. The descriptions of the environment and the living conditions were enough to give readers a taste of what life must have been like without getting too wordy or overly long.

The characters were far and away the best part of this book though. The relationship between the two main characters (Nellie and Harry), the way they interacted with each other and responded to each other was all very well crafted and realistic. They were both engaging and likeable and their backstories were interwoven throughout the book which helped to make it an interesting read.

The romance itself was a slow, steady build and through their stories and their personalities, the author was able to provide good, solid reasons for why it was like that. I admit at times it made me want to shake one or the other for being so stubborn, but they had their reasons and it all turned out right in the end.

The ending was satisfying but is still my only minor criticism of the book. Dowling wove a complex tale with setbacks and triumphs that should have led to a grand finale. While the outcome was good, it was a little abrupt. No loose ends, everything tied up nicely, but I’d have preferred if it had stretched another chapter or two with more detail.

Still a very good book and well worth reading especially if you like historical romance.

Rating: 4/5 Carrots resize carrot

Thanks to NetGalley for my copy of this book.

Review of Murder in White Lace

Title: Murder in White Lace (Bridal Shop Mystery, Book 1)
Author: Karen Sue Walker
Publisher: N/A, 192pgs
Genre: Mystery, Cozy Mystery

When Max’s best friend is accused of the murder of a client who collapsed in the bridal shop where she works she sets out to find the true killer.

The book was well written and had a lot of the elements of a good cozy; a laundry list of suspects, red herrings, a quirky cast of supporting characters and an engaging amateur sleuth. I did enjoy reading it and trying to solve the murder alongside Max.

This is the first in the series as well as the author’s debut novel and at times it seems a bit overly ambitious. There’s a lot of world building describing the locale, Max’s past and current situation, the shop where she works. Then there’s a huge cast of supporting characters (both suspects and non-suspects) and their backstories, current situations, relationships to Max… taken individually they are all great and well written. Taken all together the mystery and main character sometimes seem a little overshadowed by everything else going on.

Don’t get me wrong though. Walker has created a complete world for the characters to exist in as well as one of the more entertaining and well developed set of supporting characters I’ve seen in a cozy in a while. I just wished at times that the focus had been a little more on the murder at hand. I suspect that in future books of the series it will be and I would certainly read another if Max forays into the world of sleuthing again.

Overall it was an enjoyable read with a lot of potential for the series.

Rating: 3.5/5 Carrots Carrot

Thanks to NetGalley for my copy of this book.

Review Of Schooled for Murder

Title: Schooled for Murder
Author: Cindy Muir
Publisher: Black Rose Writing, 200pgs
Genre: Mystery, Cozy Mystery

This was just an okay read for me. The mystery aspect was all right if somewhat predictable (I was able to guess the culprit fairly early on due to writer telegraphing), some of the descriptions were good and I did like some of the cast of supporting characters.

I was not overly fussy for the amateur sleuth Laurel. Which when one is reading a mystery that centers around said sleuth, can be a problem. Without giving away plot points, she seemed to make mountains out of molehills over mundane things and then react in an underwhelming fashion to larger issues.

The biggest problem for me however was the writing style. The issues I had somewhat improved in the second half of the book, though they were still present. Specifically, there’s a lot of unnecessary, mundane information that feels like filler, slows down the story and makes it a boring read at times.

There’s also way too much repetition and rewording of the same idea. Examples: In a seven sentence paragraph there are these lines: “Sherry was always ready to hear and spread any kind of news.”, “And whatever she heard, she was quick to spread the news.” and “Everyone who knew Sherry was aware that she could always be counted on to share whatever she’d heard in a matter of minutes.” Plus two of the other sentences in that paragraph also relate back to that same general concept. The dog is nearly always referred to as “Chuy the chihuahua”, the cat as “Sheba the glamour cat”. I will never be able to forget that Laurel drives a red Suburban and speaking of Laurel, although she’s alone quite often, her proper name is used 500 times… in 200 pages. I admit the overuse of proper names in place of pronouns is a pet peeve of mine, but I still feel that’s too many no matter what.

It’s too bad because there were some good ideas, a good setting, a decent start at developing characters and some promising bits. But overall this book could have benefited a good deal from more editing and polishing.

Rating: 2/5 Carrots Carrot

Thanks to Netgalley for my copy of this book.

Quick Reviews

Title: It’s in His Kiss (Brew Ha-Ha, 0.5)
Author: Caitie Quinn
Publisher: QPub Books, 42pgs
Genre: Romance, Contemporary Romance

This short story is getting a two carrot “okay” rating from me because I did enjoy the author’s humor (witty, sarcastic) and writing style which was breezy, light and easy to get into. Stylistically, this was my type of book.

Unfortunately I did not particularly like any of the characters or the plot. Shy awkward girl (Jenna) with mean yet amazingly gorgeous friend (Lisbeth) meets snarky, rude, yet awesomely good looking guy (Ben). Speaking of which, there were far too many mentions of how wonderful looking they were for a 42pg story. I wanted Jenna to stand up for herself more, I wanted Ben to stop being such a total jerk earlier on, I wanted Lisbeth to get her comeuppance. The story was too short for any of this to really happen.

The result of not liking the characters meant that I didn’t especially care what happened at the end and I was left feeling vaguely dissatisfied. More so because there were good elements to this story with the writing and humor, it just failed to grab me.

Rating: 2/5 Carrots

Title: Unbound Desires in Seattle (Unbound Desires-Adventures Book 1)
Author:
Felicia Tatum
Publisher: ?, 34pgs
Genre: Romance, Contemporary Romance, Erotic Romance

I won’t give this short story a rating as I don’t think it would be fair. I will say that I wish that anywhere on either the Goodreads or Amazon page it mentioned that it follows characters (and presumably plot points) from the author’s White Aura series (a fact I only know now from reading reviews here).

Without having read that series, I felt confused as though I was thrust into the middle of a story with characters and traits that I should have known but didn’t. I’m guessing the world building occurred in the White Aura series which would have made everything in this story make more sense.

As it was, I didn’t enjoy this at all. That said, the writing style and plot seemed okay. I might check out the White Aura series. And I suspect that readers familiar with that series would probably have liked this a lot more than I did.