Review: The Dead Inside by Cyndy Etler

Cyndy Etler was just a teenager when her world was turned upside down. She voluntarily entered the foster care system to avoid the difficulties and potential dangers in her own home, only to find herself thrown into a residential drug program called Straight, Incorporated. Unfortunately, what went on behind the doors of Straight, Incorporated reads like something out of a brainwashing manual. Step inside her world and see what she faced in this stunning memoir of her time inside the drug rehabilitation program.

I remember reading about Straight, Incorporated when I was younger. Substance abuse and its treatment is what drew me into the mental health profession initially and so I followed any information on it (as well as other programs and treatments) back then. Straight, Incorporated was highly touted by some very prominent people, including Nancy Reagan. I couldn’t resist reading THE DEAD INSIDE when I saw it was a story about what really went on behind those doors.

Cyndy Etler tells a gut-wrenching story about drug rehabilitation and what happens when “tough love” goes seriously wrong. As a social worker, I’m horrified by the abuses that occurred in this facility as well as the fact that her drug use even warranted residential treatment. THE DEAD INSIDE is not an easy story to read, and I had to put it aside on numerous occasions due to the graphic and horrifying depictions of emotional and physical abuse conducted at Straight, Incorporated. However, it is a very important story that needs to be told. I look forward to seeing Cyndy Etler’s upcoming book about how she reintegrated into society after the events of THE DEAD INSIDE. Highly recommended!

*copy received from Netgalley*

Review: The Darkest Corner by Liliana Hart

Tess Sherman had her life planned, intending to take over ownership of the local funeral home once the prior owner retired. Instead, he sold it to a mysterious stranger and now Tess has five sexy men working in the funeral home with her. She knows there’s something else going on as Last Stop, Texas is too small to need this much help at the funeral home. Unfortunately, she also can’t resist Deacon Tucker especially when he sets his sites on her. Deacon has secrets he can’t share with Tess, including the fact that his own country thinks he’s legally dead. However, a dangerous terrorist plot may pull Tess into Deacon’s world as she’s about to uncover all his secrets….

THE DARKEST CORNER is the first book in The Gravediggers series and I’m hooked already! Who can’t resist a story about men considered dead by their own countries and yet still willing to sacrifice their lives for the greater good? Liliana Hart gives us pieces of the puzzle as we start to see more about these five mysterious and dangerous men.

I really like Tess and hope we see more of her in future books in The Gravediggers series. Tess is down to earth despite a scattered and unscrupulous upbringing by her mother, the infamous Theodora Sherman, and I love how she has risen past her family name to be her own person. My only wish is that we had delved a little more into her family’s history with Russia as we get hints at a bigger storyline.

Liliana Hart does a great job at weaving together a small-town romance with a deadly terrorist plot in THE DARKEST CORNER. The storyline and concept are intriguing and I hope we see more of Tess’ “merry band of death men” (as her friend Miller dubs them) soon. Highly recommended!

Review: Mulch Ado About Murder by Edith Maxwell

Cam Flaherty is embarrassed to see her mother, Deb, protesting outside of Westbury’s newest hydroponics greenhouse. After all, Cam has contracted with Nicole Kingsbury, the owner of the greenhouse, to start some of the seedlings Nicole will use.  Unfortunately, Cam’s irritation soon turns to dismay when she finds Nicole dead. Even worse, the death isn’t accidental and now Deb is hiding secrets. Cam knows her mother isn’t guilty of murder… but can she prove it?

MULCH ADO ABOUT MURDER is the fifth book in A Local Foods Mystery series but can easily be read as a standalone. Edith Maxwell does a great job at providing readers with enough background information to jump right in and thoroughly enjoy the story. However, each and every book in A Local Foods Mystery series is enjoyable so I suspect readers will find themselves wanting to read the rest of the series after getting a taste.

MULCH ADO ABOUT MURDER provides us with some insight into Cam’s childhood as we get to know Cam’s parents, Deb and William. It took me a while to warm up to Cam’s parents, as Deb especially is quite secretive and almost cold at times. It’s easy to see why Cam’s Great-Uncle Albert and the farm are so important to Cam. Edith Maxwell does a wonderful job at bringing the storyline full circle, however, as Deb and William grew on me. In fact, I hope we see more of them in future books.

Edith Maxwell is quickly becoming one of my favorite cozy mystery authors. I love the insight she gives into the ups and downs of an organic farmer’s life almost as much as I enjoy the mysteries themselves. However, it’s the wonderful characters and relationships that make A Local Foods Mystery series such a hit. MULCH ADO ABOUT MURDER is yet another great entry into the series and I look forward to what the next installment has in store for us!

Review: Blade Bound by Chloe Neill

Ethan Sullivan and Merit are preparing for the upcoming wedding when an infiltrator to Cadogan House attacks Merit. Initially, they suspect the attacker has mental health issues but later events show them that dark magic is at work in Chicago. Will the rise of a dark sorcerer destroy Chicago?

BLADE BOUND is the 13th and final book in the Chicagoland Vampires series and boy am I sad to see this series end! BLADE BOUND is best appreciated in the context of the series as a whole, particularly since it concludes several ongoing story threads (including the wedding).

One of the things I love about Chloe Neill’s books is the action. Chloe Neill doesn’t waste any time kicking things into gear as the action heats up almost immediately. However, this doesn’t detract from the wedding, which goes about how you would expect a wedding between Ethan and Merit to go. Needless to say, they didn’t need a trash the dress party afterwards!

And what can I say about the characters except that I love them? From the Ombuddies to the Cadogan House vampires to the Red Guards, each faction we’ve met throughout the series has earned a special place in my heart. Yes, Ethan and Merit are the heart and soul of the Chicagoland Vampires but all the supporting characters and factions are just as essential to Chloe Neill’s world. I love that BLADE BOUND truly showcases the diversity of the Chicagoland Vampires population and how working together is the only way to save the town from the sorcerer and her deadly weapon (and just wait till you meet her weapon!).

Finishing BLOOD BOUND is bittersweet as I really am not reading to say goodbye to these characters or the Chicagoland Vampires series as a whole. Thankfully, Chloe Neill’s website indicates a spin-off series is in the works so hopefully we’ll get to see glimpses of Ethan and Merit in those books. Highly recommended!

*copy of book provided through Netgalley

Review: Magic for Nothing by Seanan McGuire

MAGIC FOR NOTHING is the sixth book in the InCryptid series. Readers can jump right into the storyline although spoilers for the previous book, CHAOS CHOREOGRAPHY, are given. MAGIC FOR NOTHING switches narrators as we start to see the life of Antimony “Annie” Price, the younger sister of Verity Price who was featured in CHAOS CHOREOGRAPHY.

Annie is forced to go undercover in the very organization her family has spent generations avoiding- the Covenant of St. George. Fortunately, her stint with a circus gives her an edge and Annie soon finds herself in the midst of a diabolical Covenant plot, with no help immediately available. Can Annie find a way to save herself and the lives of the people she’s grown to love?

I didn’t expect to like Annie. Prior books featuring her older siblings have painted her in a less than appealing manner and Annie initially does nothing in MAGIC FOR NOTHING to dispel that impression. However, Seanan McGuire isn’t a master in the urban fantasy genre for nothing as a different view of Annie starts to emerge. By the concluding chapters, I was cheering for Annie and hoping against hope that Seanan McGuire was not going to leave me hanging.

And oh, does Seanan McGuire leave us hanging! The cliffhanger in MAGIC FOR NOTHING is perhaps one of the most heart breaking ones I’ve ever read. Why, oh why, must I wait for the next installment rather than digging right in and seeing what happens next? Seanan McGuire, please hurry with the next book as I must know what happens!

MAGIC FOR NOTHING introduces us to a whole new aspect of the InCryptid world and I’m eager to see what ensues with Sam, Leo, and the Covenant. Even better, we learn more about the Aeslin mice. Seanan McGuire never fails to deliver a phenomenal tale and MAGIC FOR NOTHING is yet another example of her stunning talent.  Highly recommended!

Review: Mother’s Day, Muffins, and Murder by Sara Rosett

Professional Organizer, mom, and regular school volunteer Ellie Avery has her hands full managing all of the end of the year activities for her two children. The annual Mother’s Day breakfast is always a nice treat, however, even if she has to deal with her only work competition, Gabrielle Matheson.  In an unexpected twist, Gabrielle swears she’s seen a dead body- and yet there isn’t one to find. Later, the body reappears and now everyone is mistrustful as no one knows why the murder occurred. The ending of a school year is always chaotic, but never as much as when a murder is involved. Can Ellie uncover the murderer while juggling both her job and the activities of her children?

How could I resist a book that features the end of the school year and murder? Sara Rosett perfectly captures the mayhem that ensues at the end of the school year. Ellie is a great heroine, balancing her inquisitive nature with a respect for the privacy of others. Ellie is a very likable character and I can’t wait to read the earlier mysteries in the series as I want to spend more time with Ellie!

I wasn’t sure how I would feel about a professional organizer as the heroine but I quickly grew to enjoy the change from my usual culinary cozy mysteries. I love the Organizing Tips for PTA women featured at the end of many of the chapters as they give a glimpse into the incredible tasks that face parents who want to be successfully involved in their children’s schools. I particularly love that the tips recognize that saying no is a perfectly acceptable answer as well.

MOTHER’S DAY, MUFFINS, AND MURDER is the tenth book in the Ellie Avery Mystery series but it’s easy to jump right in and enjoy the story. I hadn’t read Sara Rosett before but I have now downloaded the first book to my Kindle and can’t wait to see what other troubles Ellie has had. Highly recommended!

*A copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review*

Review: Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs

It all started with cookies and chocolate….

Mercy Thompson Hauptman has been abducted from a convenience store after running out to buy more eggs for the cookies she is baking. Unfortunately, the kidnapping isn’t part of a local plot but instead involves the head of the Milan seethe and ultimately the leader of all the European vampires. Iacopa Bonarata, also known as the Lord of Night, intends to use Mercy against her mate and Alpha werewolf, Adam Hauptman. Cut off from the pack bonds that allow Mercy and Adam to sense one another, Mercy will have to survive in a different world where the rules and relationships are very different from the ones she is used to.

SILENCE FALLEN is the tenth book in the Mercy Thompson series and wow, this is a series that never gets stale! SILENCE FALLEN is best appreciated in the context of the series as a whole, particularly since the relationships have already been established and the strength of those bonds is part of what makes SILENCE FALLEN so gut-wrenching. Readers familiar to the series should note that the narration in SILENCE FALLEN is slightly different as the story alternates between the points of view of Adam and Mercy, with the time line not staying strictly linear.

SILENCE FALLEN takes the Mercy Thompson series in a whole new direction as we see the world continuing to broaden. We are beginning to see the worldwide impact of Adam’s deal with the Fae that made the Tri-Counties a safe zone. The politics are starting to get sticky and it’s going to be interesting to see where these new developments take us in future books.

I love that we get to see Mercy’s independence and determination shine through. She is on her own for most of SILENCE FALLEN and we are reminded of how she survived without a pack prior to her relationship with Adam. Mercy is a fighter but she also knows her own strengths and weaknesses.  Mercy is perhaps my favorite urban fantasy heroine as Patricia Briggs shows us what a strong, resilient woman can do, both with her mate and on her own.

SILENCE FALLEN is yet another stunning installment in the Mercy Thompson series. Patricia Briggs is without a doubt one of the masters of the urban fantasy genre. Highly recommended!

*copy of ebook provided courtesy of Netgalley*

Review: Wanted by Betsy Schow

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Rexi Hood has a problem. As the perpetual sidekick in the fairy tales, she’s destined to be Forgotten. Her name will be wiped away and no one in Story will remember her. Rexi is determined to be more than a sidekick, however. She’s the daughter of Robin Hood and an outlaw. All it will take is a devious plan- and a whole lot of luck- but maybe Rexi can avoid being Forgotten.

WANTED is the second book in the Spelled series and I highly recommend reading SPELLED first. The events in WANTED strongly depend on the reader understanding the ongoing story threads as well as the character development already established. In fact, I wish Betsy Schow would have given us a short recap of the past events as it took me a while to reorient myself to the intriguing world she has crafted.

I really wanted to like Rexi as her underdog role appeals to me. I cheered her desire to become the hero of her own story, rather than disappearing from all memory as a forgotten sidekick. Unfortunately, WANTED seemed overly convoluted at times as the story twisted and turned, and then twisted and turned yet again. To further confuse things, Rexi’s own identity becomes dangerously entwined with Dorothea’s and it became difficult to distinguish what in the world was going on.

I finished WANTED with mixed feelings. The ending, although somewhat abrupt and unexpected, leaves me hopeful about the third book in the Spelled series. There are elements of WANTED that reminded me of the magic in SPELLED that first enchanted me and I’m hopeful Betsy Schow can rekindle those aspects in the third book.

Review: Scheduled to Death by Mary Feliz

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Maggie McDonald is a Certified Professional Organizer and she hopes the upcoming holiday event scheduled to occur at Professor Lincoln Sinclair’s home will jumpstart her business. Unfortunately, Maggie finds more than just disorganization in the professor’s home- she finds the dead body of Linc’s fiancée.  Evidence points to murder rather than an accident and now Maggie is determined to find the murderer. Will Maggie become a target in the process?

SCHEDULED TO DEATH is the second book in the Maggie McDonald Mystery series but can easily be read as a standalone. Mary Feliz does a marvelous job at introducing new readers to her characters and her world. I haven’t read the first book, ADDRESS TO DIE FOR, but have already added it to my ever-growing TBR list.

And oh the characters! I can’t help but love the vitriol directed at the aptly nicknamed “Detective Awful”.  I’m almost sorry we won’t get to see more of this over-the-top ridiculous menace, as he provides quite a bit of humor. Maggie is a great heroine, full of spunk and determination. I love her willingness to do the right thing, even when it involves helping others in the middle of the night. She’s fearless and organized, which is a deadly combination.

SCHEDULED TO DEATH is a fast paced, entertaining cozy mystery. Each chapter starts with a piece of organizing wisdom from Maggie before we set off on the next segment of our adventure. I can’t wait to see what Mary Feliz has in store next for Maggie and her friends. Easily recommended!