Tag Archives: book reviews

Beach Reads for the End of Summer — #BookReviews

by Kassandra Lamb (on behalf of the whole gang)

We meant to do this earlier but somehow the summer got away from us. But here are some great reads to keep your appetite for mystery satisfied as the summer winds down.

First up is Shannon Esposito:

The Dry book cover

The Dry by Jane Harper

THE DRY was the perfect summer read. Set in a scorching, dusty small Australian town, this murder mystery starts with a shocking crime that brings Federal Agent Aaron Falk back home. Not only does he have to face the death of his childhood friend, but also the old accusations of another murder that ran him out of town long ago.

Jane Harper skillfully weaves both the past and present together to paint a vivid picture of what happens when small town secrets and lies are unburied.

It’s hard to believe this was a debut mystery. I give it five fingerprints.

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Next up is Vinnie Hansen:

Vinnie with Allen Eskens

Vinnie with Allen Eskens at Left Coast Crime convention, March, 2017. Vinnie is holding Allen’s book.

The Heavens May Fall, the third book from Allen Eskens, didn’t quite knock it out of the park the way the first two did. But I still liked it a lot. Eskens remains my favorite crime writer.

In the book, Detective Max Rupert and Attorney Boady Sanden, characters from Eskens’ first book, The Life We Bury, return. But this time they are pitted against one another in a murder case.

When the body of a wealthy St. Paul woman is found in a parking lot, Max Rupert becomes the lead investigator. Max’s friend, Attorney Boady Sanden, comes out of retirement to defend the prime suspect, the woman’s husband and his former law partner.

The Heavens May Fall becomes part police procedural as Max builds his case, part courtroom drama as Boady constructs a defense, and part literature as both men struggle with their own demons.  4.5 fingerprints

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Now it’s my turn, Kass Lamb:

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Bone Box by Faye Kellerman

I stumbled on a sale for Bone Box by Faye Kellerman and jumped on it with glee. She is one of my favorite authors.

Unfortunately, I was somewhat disappointed. I’m a fairly visual person and I was dismayed by the lack of descriptions in this book. I had to dredge up images of the main characters from previous books in the series. And I pretty much had no idea where the whole book was set nor where people were in most of the scenes.

But Kellerman is a natural storyteller so I got caught up in the mystery fairly quickly, despite this flaw. Detective Peter Decker’s wife, Rina Lazarus is out hiking when she stumbles on a skeleton. Cops and CSI techs descend and uncover a dump site for a serial killer.

And then I hit the next snag. Way too many suspects and red herrings, and except for one or two of them, I didn’t feel that they were all that well developed. By the end I had no clue who was who but I was glad the mystery had been solved, and I did enjoy visiting with “old friends,” i.e. the characters from this long-standing series.

I was more than a little annoyed at her editor, however, for allowing this book to go out in this state. As a writer, I know better. But I also know that we writers are too close to our work to always see the flaws. That’s why we have editors.

I give Faye Kellerman 3 fingerprints. I give her editor 1½ (there were no typos or grammatical errors detected).

Note: We don’t normally include books that are less than 4 fingerprints in our review posts, but I felt the need to let other Kellerman fans know the series has gone downhill. But I noticed that she has a new thriller coming out soon. I plan to check it out.

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And now Kirsten Weiss brings us a delightful novella to wind things up…

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A Witch Called Wanda by Diana Orgain

A Witch Called Wanda by Diana Orgain

When a vengeful witch turns Chuck into a dog, what’s the egotistical actor to do? Find another witch to turn him back, of course.

Unfortunately, the only witch he can find not only doesn’t know she’s a witch, but she also gets embroiled in a murder mystery. In order to get her focused, Chuck has to help her solve the crime. If he can only get her to listen…

This light and quirky novella is a lot of fun, especially if you enjoy a little paranormal with your mystery. And in its current incarnation, you get a bonus in the ebook — at the back is the full-length version of the first book in Orgain’s Maternal Instincts series. 5 fingerprints!

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And there you have it, folks. Enjoy! And please feel free to share your recent good reads with us!

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

What We’ve Been Reading Lately ~ #BookReviews

Time for another round of book reviews from some of our misterio press authors. Most writers don’t get to read nearly as much as they’d like to, because so much time is taken up with their writing. So when we discover a really good book, it’s an extra special treat!

book coverKirsten Weiss ~ The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling)

Supermodel Lulu Landry takes a swan dive off her balcony. Is it suicide or murder? Down-on-his-luck PI Cormoran Strike has been hired to find out.

The Cuckoo’s Calling, this first-in-the-series mystery novel by Robert Galbraith, aka JK Rowlings, is one of the best mysteries I’ve read in a long while. The characters are engaging and beautifully drawn – especially Cormoran and his new, temporary secretary, Robin, who has (quite realistic) fantasies of becoming a PI herself.

Cormoran’s lost part of one leg to Afghanistan and has just broken up with his larger-than-life girlfriend of over a decade. Plus, he’s got another albatross around his neck – the PI is the illegitimate son of a famous rock star. In the hands of a lesser writer, these could all have just been intriguing details, but Galbraith/Rowlings weaves them into a compelling picture of a three-dimensional tough guy.

The twists and turns in the mystery itself are worthy of Agatha Christie. Readers will need to draw a flowchart to figure this one out. I didn’t bother though; I was having too much fun enjoying the ride. Fortunately, the next two books in the series – The Silkworm and Career of Evil – are already available to fulfill my need for more of these can’t-put-down characters.

I did find the book depressing on one score. JK Rowlings initially pubished The Cuckoo’s Calling under the pseudonym “Robert Galbraith” to see if she coukd “make it” under another name.

She couldn’t.

It wasn’t until it was leaked that JK Rowlings was Robert Galbraith that sales for The Cuckoo’s Calling took off. And the fact that such a well written, fun, and engaging mystery languished says something about the state of today’s publishing industry.

On the other hand, as a mystery writer, I love, love, love to see such a wonderful book out in the world. So if you love a good, twisty mystery, you might want to check out The Cuckoo’s Calling.

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Shannon Esposito ~ Four Seasons of Reno Hart by Stephen Campbell

book coverIt’s been awhile since I’ve been excited about a new character in the mystery genre, but this book of short stories has done it. Reno Hart is one strong heroine! I love that she doesn’t need to use violence to crack cases, but instead uses her brains and creativity.

I do worry about how she’s dealing with her grief over losing her husband & if she’s shut off her emotions (See! I’m actually worried about this character! lol!)

Anyway, if you’re a fan of the mystery genre, you won’t be disappointed in these well-plotted, well-executed bite-sized stories that capture Florida in all her glory and corruption. Highly recommend & can’t wait for a full length Reno Hart novel! Five fingerprints!

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Kassandra Lamb ~ Wake-Robin Ridge and A Boy Named Rabbit by Marcia Meara

book coverI try to read indie as much as possible these days, to support my fellow authors. Sadly, some of these books aren’t very good, but now and again, I discover a real gem.

Such is the case with Marcia Meara’s Wake-Robin Ridge series. Book 1 is one of the most unusual novels I have read in a long time. It was a little hard to categorize. Is it a redemption story, or a mystery, or a romance? All of the above. There’s a healthy serving of each of these, plus some interesting and believable paranormal seasoning.

It probably fits best into the romantic suspense genre, because there is definitely a budding romance between Sarah Gray, who has relocated to North Carolina to try her hand at writing, and her handsome but haunted neighbor, MacKenzie Cole.

The book tells the stories of two women who both lived in the same cabin on Wake-Robin Ridge, 50 years apart–Ruthie in the 1960’s and Sarah in 2011. There are so many intriguing elements in this book. Just when you think you have it pegged, some new twist comes along.

The two women’s stories come crashing together in a mind-boggling way, and Mac and Sarah work together to solve the mysteries of Ruthie’s life and death, and to put to rest more than one ghost from the past.

book coverI purchased this book as part of a boxed set of two books. Book 2, A Boy Named Rabbit, also defies genre boundaries. It is one part mystery and one part family saga.

A young boy, who’s only human contact has been his grandparents, finds himself alone in the North Carolina hills after his grampa goes for supplies and doesn’t return and his sick grandmother dies. His gran’s last instructions to him are to go and find the Good People. Scared and lonely, ten-year-old Rabbit sets out to keep his promise to her, living off the land as his grampa taught him.

Mac and Sarah have settled into a comfortable routine on Wake-Robin Ridge as they await the birth of their child, but their well-ordered world is turned upside down when Rabbit stumbles into their lives. And their quest to find his kin resurrects a decade old mystery and attracts the attention of the one person his grandparents never wanted Rabbit to meet.

Both of these stories are great and well worth the investment of time and money. I’m knocking off a half fingerprint each because the story arc in Book 2 is a little off kilter in places, and the author sometimes is a bit heavy-handed with the descriptions of characters’ emotions–more so in Book 1, which is forgivable since this was the first book she wrote.

I am really looking forward to Book 3, Harbinger, which is already loaded on my Kindle.

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Vinnie Hansen ~ The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens

book coverI often discover new authors via writing and mystery conferences. When I attended Left Coast Crime in Portland last year, I met Allen Eskens, whose book The Life We Bury was nominated as a best first mystery novel. It became my favorite book of 2015, the book I recommended to everyone, the way William Kent Krueger’s Ordinary Grace had been the year before.

These two favorite books share Minnesota settings and young male protagonists with handicapped younger brothers. In both books, the need to shelter the younger brother provides motivation and pivotal tension. The two books are told in first person and center around a crime committed decades ago. However, the narrator of Ordinary Grace places us back in that time when he was young and death unfolded around him.

Most of the action in The Life We Bury unravels in modern times, with the main character unearthing the past. Joe Talbert, a college student, is given an assignment for an English class, and. . . .

I have two nits to pick with The Life We Bury. I don’t like the title, and I saw the last major plot twist coming from a mile away. The latter allowed me to feel like a smarty pants, so I’m still giving it 5 fingerprints. I’d give it a little plus if I could.

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How about you? What good mysteries have you read recently.

Posted by Kassandra Lamb on behalf of the whole gang.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Mysteries We Love #BookReviews

by Kassandra Lamb (on behalf of the whole gang)

It’s been awhile since we’ve done a group post, and since I’m still traveling for the next couple of days, we decided to do a book review post. Here are some stories we’ve parti- cularly enjoyed over the last few months.

Vinnie’s review of Woman With a Blue Pencil:

As I read Woman with a Blue Pencil, I wondered how author Gordon McAlpine pitched it to his publisher. This complicated story involves a Japanese-American crime writer starting a new book. Then Pearl Harbor is bombed.

On the advice of his editor, whose letters are embodied in Woman with a Blue Pencil, the writer adopts the pen name William Thorne. He changes his Japanese-American protagonist to a Korean-American superhero, and the plot of the book he’s writing evolves into jingoistic detective fiction.

However, the author’s excised Japanese-American protagonist continues his life in an alternate story. So, you have the story of the author, the new book he’s writing, the manipulative letters from his editor, and the tragic fallout for his deleted main character. All the stories brilliantly intertwine, exploring the idea of erased identities.

This original book lives at my favorite intersection, where literary fiction meets crime fiction. Five big perfect fingerprints!

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Shannon’s Review of The Vanished Priestess: Book 2 of the Annie Szabo Mystery Series

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Though it dealt with some serious topics–spousal abuse and the necessity of women’s shelters—the story never got bogged down by the heaviness of these issues. In fact, Meredith Blevins writes her characters with such wit and humor, I found myself smiling much of the time.

The main character, Annie Szabo, is a flawed but likeable character who gets caught up in trying to solve her neighbor’s murder while protecting her daughter from an abusive son-in-law. Margo, the murder victim, ran a circus which also doubled as a shelter for abused women. There are a lot of eccentric characters here, including Annie’s Gypsy fortune teller mother-in-law, who has moved in on Annie and brought her own version of a three-ring circus.

Overall this was a satisfying mystery. I’m giving it four fingerprints. I had to take one away for distracting errors and typos. (Apparently the errors come from the book being scanned from a hardback; the author has said they will be fixed.)

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Kirsten’s review of Some Buried Caesar:

I remember reading Rex Stout when I was young. But all I remembered about his hero, Nero Wolfe, were his orchids and obesity. What a delightful surprise when I found a Kindle version of Some Buried Caesar.

The writing is pithy, funny, and told from the point of view of Wolfe’s put-upon detective, Archie Goodwin. Wolfe can’t be bothered to actually walk around and look for clues, so Archie’s his man.

The novel starts with the aftermath of a car crash in-media-res style. Out in the countryside for an orchid show, the stranded Archie and Nero soon find themselves face to horns with a prize bull. And not just any price bull. Hickory Caesar Grindon is probably the most expensive bull in history.

To the horror of the local Guernsey association, his new, nouveau riche owner plans to barbeque Hickory as a promotional stunt for his string of fast-food restaurants. Enemies abound in this classic whodunit. The only foregone conclusion is who will win the orchid contest (Nero Wolfe, natch).

Originally published in 1938, you can forget about political correctness. The dames are conniving and hard talking, and Archie isn’t having any of it. But there’s something about the narrator’s whimsical attitude toward his adventures in crime-solving that make the outdated attitudes tolerable. For me at least. Five fingerprints!

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Kass’s review of Abandon by Blake Crouch

This book was selected as the February read in a book club I belong to. I was skeptical at first, not real sure what genre it was. Horror? Paranormal mystery? Historical fiction?

Well it’s definitely a mystery, and it has its gruesome and sometimes horrifying moments, but it’s not paranormal nor horror. It is a “hold onto your hat, don’t forget your heart medicine” roller coaster ride from hell.

It flips back and forth between the late 1800’s — when the town of Abandon is slowly sliding toward ghost town status — and the present time — when a group of explorers goes to the site to try to figure out why the entire town’s remaining population disappeared suddenly one snowy night in 1893, with absolutely no trace nor hint of what happened to them.

As the events of the few days leading up to the town’s disappearance unfold in the 1893 story, the reader is also discovering that some of the modern-day exploration party have hidden agendas. And the twists and turns just keep on coming.

I vacillated between 4 and 5 fingerprints for this book. On the one hand it was one of the best mysteries I’ve ever read. On the other, it was a bit more gory and gruesome than was really necessary, and that level of gruesome didn’t quite mesh, for me at least, with the historical fiction quality of the story. In other words, I found it distracting. And I do wish the book description made it clearer that the book is a mystery.

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So four and a half fingerprints!

 

 

 

Have you read any great mysteries lately?

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

8 Tongue-in-Cheek Tips for Scoring Good Reviews ~ Guest Post by Barb Taub

I have a special treat for you all today–a guest post from one of the funniest people I know. I stumbled on Barb Taub’s blog a couple of years ago, and I haven’t stopped laughing at her antics since.

Barb Taub head shot

Her books are considered urban fantasy (a genre I never read, unless it’s her books), but her stories have more than enough adventure and mystery to keep me turning pages, and laughing my head off. (And her latest one–see below–has a hot romance, and a cute dog!)

So with her tongue planted firmly in her cheek, here is Barb’s advice on how to get good reviews…

My Top 8 Writer Tips for Scoring Positive Book Reviews
(and Making a Bunch of Money! 😀 )

by Barb Taub

Last week I did our monthly budget, an act which blurs the boundaries between blind faith and creative fiction. (Warning: I’m a professional writer so I make up sh*t for a living. Do NOT try this at home, boys and girls.)

At first, I wasn’t too upset because I thought that writers were supposed to live lives of abject poverty—garrets, obscurity, perhaps the odd chemical dependency.

But then I remembered reading an article a few years ago about Simon & Schuster’s offer of $920,000 for rights to a first novel, Just Killing Time by Derek V. Goodwin, that was submitted with endorsements from novelists John LeCarre and Joseph Wambaugh. The only problem: Wambaugh and LeCarre denied ever reading the book, so Simon & Schuster canceled the contract.

The real Howard Hughes

The real Howard Hughes. After seven top journalists interviewed Irving’s cohort who was claiming to be Hughes, they all agreed that he was a fake. 

Then there was the autobiography of the famously reclusive Howard Hughes, written with Clifford Irving. Publisher McGraw-Hill was so excited about their literary coup in signing the book that they offered Irving (and Hughes, they thought) a $765,000 advance. The only problem was that some other pesky guy who said his name was Howard Hughes kept claiming that he’d never even met Irving, much less co-authored his autobiography. Nonsense, proclaimed McGraw-Hill. They investigated and eventually had to sheepishly acknowledge that the fakes were Irving and his team. Irving ended up going to prison for seventeen months, and more importantly, he had to return the $765,000 advance.

Do you know what these stories mean to me as a writer?

Of course you do! It means that McGraw-Hill wasn’t out that $765K. And Simon & Schuster never coughed up the $920K.

So those dollars are probably lying around waiting for me to scoop them up, if I can just round up some good reviews, or—as we professional writers say—“blurbs”. (From the Latin word blurbus, the sound made by the Latin critic when the Latin writer holds him under the Latin water until he agrees to say something good about the Latin opus.)

Of course, I’ve learned a lesson from Irving’s and Goodwin’s little missteps. Here are the top eight things I’ll look for in my blurb-writers.

1. I’ll seek blurbs by writers who are unlikely to change their high opinion after actually reading my opus. John Welles understood this when he wrote: “Here are jeweled insights, lovingly crafted by a veritable Faberge amongst wordsmiths, hand-polished erections in the global village of contemporary sensibility, perceptions snatched from the Outer limits of human experience…” John Welles’ review of “Masterpieces”—a book written by John Welles.

Shakespeare monument

It’s just a nasty rumor that my friend Bill is deceased.

2. I’ll find blurbs from writers who couldn’t possibly deny authoring a blurb. Not being (technically) alive helps here. For example, I will use a blurb from my dear friend and fellow writer, Bill Shakespeare. He just sent one which sayeth: “Not marble, nor the gilded monuments of princes, shall outlive Barb’s powerful rhyme. But she shall shine more bright in these contents than unswept stone, besmeared with sluttish time.”

(Hmm, I think Bill’s last line there refers to my housekeeping, so I’ll try to get the publisher to leave it off the book jacket.)

3. Then there are the blurbs which are both literary and literally incomprehensible. Hemingway’s blurb will read: “The afternoon sun shines on the woman who runs with a lot of bull.” And James Joyce will add: “Yes because I give it mindseye form in her novel children are her life running through the mystery world…”

4. And there will be blurbs from people who are so famous they don’t need actual opinions. My blurb from Kim Kardashian will be, “Kim! Kim, Kim, Kim!”

5. I’ll blurb myself a bio so incredible that the publishers fighting to be the first to sign me will look like the crowd at a sorority convention that just spotted the last Diet Coke. I’m thinking something along these lines:

mannequin by store doorway

The author worked odd jobs as an armless, shoeless mannequin to make ends meet.

After spending my childhood as an abused Bosnian orphan, I discovered that I was actually the secret love child of Elvis, Marilyn, and at least two Kennedys (those love quadrangles can be brutal). With only my dreams of a better life to sustain me, I managed to make it to Harvard on a full scholarship, only to recklessly squander that on a PhD in English Literature from Cambridge. With a six-latte/day caffeine monkey on my back, I was forced to prostitute myself as a technical editor just to support my twelve fatherless puppies and my barista. But I never gave up my dream of finding the truth about my parents, all of whose deaths had been faked in order for them to enter the witness protection program where, I eventually discovered, all four are running a waffle house in upstate Maine. Every reader who sheds a tear for my characters, laughs at my jokes, or takes the time to put in a better-than-three-star review on Amazon brings me one step closer to realizing my dream of reuniting with them. Oh, and I’m a flying vampire.

6. If all of the above fail, I can always get 5-Star reviews the old-fashioned way: buy them. (On fiverr.com, a search for “book reviews” came up with 569 hits offering “fantastic” book reviews, some even guaranteeing placement into Amazon’s “Top Sellers” lists.)

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I wonder how many reviews I can buy for my new work, Fifty Shades of Earl Grey. (In their 5-star review, Upper West Middlesex Doglover’s Monthly calls it “Steaming hot!”)

7. If I’m really desperate, I can always go for a spot of trashing the opposition. With estimates of over 600,000 books to be published this year, clearly some writers are taking the “If you can’t beat them, troll them” approach. I noticed one day that two of my books got one-star ratings from a reviewer on Goodreads. Looking under the writer’s name, I saw that she lone-star ‘reviewed’ over fifty other books that day. Not only does she read at something approaching the speed of light, but she’s a glutton for punishment since she didn’t like a single one of those books.

8. Of course, if all else fails, I can do what Eva Hansen did for the erotic Swedish thriller, Red is the Color of Pain.

Described by reviewers as Fifty Shades of Grey meets The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Swedish News (Svensk Nyheter) called it “The most impressive Swedish detective novel since Stieg Larsson!” Oppna TV Stockholm went on to say, “This Stockholm is a city of sin, feeling, and furious passions that Swedish literature has never before known.”

One reason that Stockholm hasn’t known it is that none of them—Eva Hansen, Swedish News, nor Oppna TV Stockholm—actually exist and the book has a Russian copyright.

So it looks like I should stick with writing my own books. Luckily, that’s pretty exciting right now. My new book, Round Trip Fare, is an urban fantasy with romance, suspense, humor, a sentient train, and a great dog.

Round-Trip Fare book cover

ROUND-TRIP FARE (Null City #4)

Now that the century-long secret Nonwars between Gifts and Haven are over and the Accords Treaty is signed, an uneasy peace is policed by Wardens under the command of the Accords Agency. Warden Carey Parker’s to-do list is already long enough: find her brother and sister, rescue her roommate, save Null City, and castrate her ex-boyfriend. Preferably with a dull-edged garden tool. A rusty one. It just would have been nice if someone told her the angels were all on the other side.

Available for Pre-Order Now on Amazon US and Amazon UK

Although the story is a standalone, the award-winning release is part of the Null City series, which reviewers (actual living humans, I swear!) have called “An amazing story of fantasy, time and dimension travel, and strong heroines with superpowers”—Between The Lines Book Reviews

Hmm, I wonder if my letters from Simon & Schuster and/or McGraw-Hill were misdelivered? After all, I’m still waiting for that letter from Hogwarts.

Posted by Barb Taub, author of the Null City series. In halcyon days BC (before children), Barb wrote a humour column for several Midwest newspapers. With the arrival of Child #4, she veered toward the dark side and an HR career. Following a daring daytime escape to England, she’s lived in a medieval castle and a hobbit house with her prince-of-a-guy and the World’s Most Spoiled Aussie Dog. Now all her days are Saturdays, and she spends them travelling around the world, plus consulting with her daughter on Marvel heroes, Null City, and translating from British to American.

Kass Lamb’s Review of Round-Trip Fare

Barb’s wonderful sense of humor shines through in her characters, and most especially in Carey Parker, young Accords Warden and all around hell-raiser. I absolutely love this character. And her friends, including her four-legged companion, are almost as delightful.

The plot is convoluted at times but fascinating throughout, with plenty of adventure and suspense to keep this mystery lover satisfied. And then there’s the sexy mystery man… Yum!

Five enthusiastic stars!

~~~

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )