Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: The Dark Deception (Daphne and Velma #2) by Morgan Baden


*No Major Spoilers*

Despite their differences, Daphne and Velma were able to solve the mystery of The Vanishing Girl. But there are a lot of secrets buried in the town of Crystal Cove. And the biggest case of all still remains unsolved… why did the town’s original settlers all disappear? What happened to them?

Velma is determined to find out… especially because her family’s ancestors were among the disappeared. And now that she and Daphne have started to get a reputation for solving mysteries, everyone in town is looking to them for answers.

But digging up the past can be dangerous… especially when some people in town have profited from the mystery for so long. Can these two intrepid teen detectives crack the case… and escape with their lives?

~~ Trigger Warnings for mentions of bullying ~~

As you know, I love Scooby-Doo and, the franchise is something near and dear to me. When I found out about this series existence, I read and reviewed The Vanishing Girl in March. I loved the novel overall, and I couldn’t wait to read the sequel Dark Deception. So let’s see how the sequel stands up. 

Since the previous book tackled most of the drama between Velma and Daphne, that’s now resolved. Though there are hints here and there that times haven’t healed things completely, overall things are better. 

This novel takes place shortly after the previous one. I loved how there was a smooth transition back into Crystal Cove and, hijinks abound. Shaggy is in trouble and, it’s up to Velma and Daphne to figure out what has their childhood friend troubled. Don’t worry, no mention of child abuse!

However, Shaggy’s family troubles are the least of their worries when gems start washing up on the shores of Crystal Cove. It seems like Velma and Daphne have more investigating to do!

If teenage drama is not your thing, then I would say to start with this novel. There’s a little high school drama, but it’s nothing like the previous entry in the series. Velma continues to deal with the insecurities that high school gives. Daphne received an internship to work at the local paper and quickly develops a crush on one of her coworkers.

Overall, I liked this sequel. I think this one was a bit of a letdown because the mystery was predictable. Of course, I am a twenty-something reading a book series meant for kids. Even though the case was easily solvable for me, it doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the story.

I enjoyed the characters and the familiar nostalgia that the Scooby-Doo series brings. I am already looking forward to the next entry in this series! I would recommend this novel for lovers of Scooby-Doo, mysteries, YA fiction, and female detectives. 

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Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Honky Tonk Samurai (Hap and Leonard #9) by Joe R. Lansdale

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*No Major Spoilers*

Only Hap and Leonard would catch a cold case with hot cars, hot women, and ugly skinheads.

The story starts simply enough when Hap, a former 60s activist and self-proclaimed white trash rebel, and Leonard, a tough black, gay Vietnam vet and Republican with an addiction to Dr. Pepper, are working a freelance surveillance job in East Texas. The uneventful stakeout is coming to an end when the pair witness a man abusing his dog. Leonard takes matters into his own fists, and now the bruised dog abuser wants to press charges.

One week later, a woman named Lilly Buckner drops by their new PI office with a proposition: find her missing granddaughter, or she’ll turn in a video of Leonard beating the dog abuser. The pair agrees to take on the cold case and soon discover that the used car dealership where her granddaughter worked is actually a front for a prostitution ring. What began as a missing-person case becomes one of blackmail and murder.

I was recommended this series through a user on Reddit. Someone was looking for novels about gay detectives, and this was one of the recommendations. I chose this novel purely on the title, the other novels in this series have unique titles as well so let’s jump into Honky Tonk Samurai!

This novel is one of the more memorable detective novels I’ve read. Honky Tonk Samurai is filled with colorful characters, non-stop action, and redneck/Texas humor. I will say that the language used is very vulgar. So if you’re not into that kind of thing, you might want to pass on this one. In defense of the choice words and jokes, I felt like that was part of the charm.

Hap and Leonard have great chemistry! You can tell they’ve been through a lot together. Leonard made me laugh at his love of vanilla cookies and Dr. Pepper. That kind of reminds me of myself, I love cookies and Dr. Pepper.

The main plot twist left me baffled, but in the end, it all made sense once all of the pieces were put together. So bonus points for me not guessing the mystery! Usually, I’m able to figure out the mystery about halfway through the book. This one kept me guessing and I really liked that about it.

More on Hap and Leonard’s chemistry, with them being like brothers from another mother, it was a nice change of pace from a lot of the other stories I’ve read in recent weeks. Leonard, I’d say, is the rougher of the two characters even though he’s gay. He’s one that does not mess around when it comes to protecting those that need it. Hap, on the other hand, is more of the mediator type, kind of like keeping the rough part of Leonard in control when necessary.

Overall this book was something new and interesting that I’d never heard of or thought to look up, the subject matter was a bit different but extremely interesting! If you like a story about rough and tough southern boys and some redneck action, this is most definitely the book for you! Although, like I said if crude and vulgar language isn’t your thing then this book is kind of a pass.

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Club Reads, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore

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*No Major Spoilers*

New York, 1888. Gas lamps still flicker in the city streets, but the miracle of electric light is in its infancy. The person who controls the means to turn night into day will make history–and a vast fortune. A young untested lawyer named Paul Cravath, fresh out of Columbia Law School, takes a case that seems impossible to win. Paul’s client, George Westinghouse, has been sued by Thomas Edison over a billion-dollar question: Who invented the light bulb and holds the right to power the country?

The case affords Paul entry to the heady world of high society–the glittering parties in Gramercy Park mansions, and the more insidious dealings done behind closed doors. The task facing him is beyond daunting. Edison is a wily, dangerous opponent with vast resources at his disposal–private spies, newspapers in his pocket, and the backing of J. P. Morgan himself. Yet this unknown lawyer shares with his famous adversary a compulsion to win at all costs. How will he do it?

“Poor people all think they deserve to be rich,” he continued. “Rich people live every day with the uneasy knowledge that we do not.”
Graham Moore, The Last Days of Night

This historical fiction novel was interesting to me because I’ve always had a fascination with the early inventors. The remarkable scientific leaps are amazing even for the times. Without these such inventors, we wouldn’t have things like the Internet, our smartphones and computers.

The mythos that surrounds Nichola Tesla is fascinating. How he was so far advanced for his time, and whether the government was conspiring to hide his inventions or ideas. Tesla is featured prominently in this novel, and I enjoyed how not only foreign in a fact that he is from another country, but foreign in how his intelligence far outpaces everyone else.

Paul’s adventure into this strange new world full of scientific wonders was awe-inspiring. How Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb and so many other inventions from the scientific community. I can understand Paul’s struggle to comprehend new technologies.

I would highly recommend this novel for lovers of historical fiction, early inventors, Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, and early lawyering.

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Boneyard (Deadlands #3) by Seanan McGuire

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*Spoilers at the very end of the review*

Step right up to see the oddities and marvels of The Blackstone Family Circus and Travelling Wonder Show! Gasp at pit wasps the size of a man’s forearm. Beware the pumpkin-headed corn stalker, lest it plants its roots in you!

Annie Pearl is the keeper of oddities, the mistress of monsters. Her unique collection of creatures is one of the circus’s star attractions, drawing wide-eyed crowds at every small frontier town they visit. But Annie is also a woman running from her past . . . and the mother of a mute young daughter, Adeline, whom she will do anything to protect.

Hoping to fill its coffers before winter sets in, the circus steers its wagons to The Clearing, a remote community deep in the Oregon wilderness, surrounded by an ominous dark wood. Word is that a traveling show can turn a tidy profit at The Clearing, but there are whispers, too, of unexplained disappearances that afflict one out of every four shows that pass through the town.

The Clearing has its secrets, and so does Annie. And it may take everything she has to save her daughter―and the circus―from both.

I’ve been interested in reading this novel for a while now, it’s been on my ‘to be read’ list for a few years. I felt like it was finally time to jump into this Weird Wild West novel.

Annie’s trailer of oddities made me realize just how far we’ve advanced in science and biology. Her “nibblers” are piranhas, she owns a pet lynx named Serenity, and other monstrosities of nature.

Overall I enjoyed this weird wild west tale. It had plenty of spookiness, horror, action, and adventure. It was worth the wait to be able to add this to the “weird wild west” subgenre.

Here’s a short story collection of Weird Wild West

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

In this story, wendigos are the main antagonists, other than the town itself they are a threat to the circus. The wendigos weren’t something to be taken lightly, the town had made a deal with them to keep them from eating the townsfolk during the harsh winters and to keep outsiders away. The wendigos would attack any outsider that came to the town by either killing them on the spot, kidnapping them and taking them back to their lair to save for later. Which I felt like a convenient circumstance so we can have somewhat of a happy ending to the story.

I first heard of wendigos when I was watching a playthrough of the video game “Until Dawn”. With that said, when I found out the wendigos were a supernatural based entity I did plenty of research on them because they captured my interest. I found them unique and fascinating compared to other supernatural beings and entities talked about in average lore.

This is a book I’d recommend to anyone interested in wendigos, the supernatural, circus stories, and mysteries. It is definitely worth a read, whether you get it from your local library or you buy it, it’s definitely an excellent story.

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Gone to Dust (Nils Shapiro #1) by Matt Goldman​

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*No Major Spoilers*

Private detective Nils Shapiro is focused on forgetting his ex-wife and keeping warm during another Minneapolis winter when a former colleague, neighboring Edina Police Detective Anders Ellegaard, calls with the impossible.

Suburban divorcee Maggie Somerville was found murdered in her bedroom, her body covered with the dust from hundreds of emptied vacuum cleaner bags, all potential DNA evidence obscured by the calculating killer.

Digging into Maggie’s cell phone records, Nils finds that the most frequently called number belongs to a mysterious young woman whose true identity could shatter the Somerville family–but could she be guilty of murder?

*Just my thoughts real quick about book summaries before my review*

Why do the authors put too much about their novel in the summary? I’ve read some novel summaries and thought yeah I already know how this is going to end. I prefer a summary that focuses on the main ideas. What is the mystery? What makes this case unique? That’s all I need to know.

I usually copy and paste the summaries from Goodreads. I have to edit them sometimes due to spoilers, and too much of the story.

Ok, now on to my review. I honestly can’t remember whether I found this on a book list or if I found this on my own. No matter, I’m glad I got the chance to read this one!

Nils Shapiro was a relatable character, he was going to be a police officer, and when he graduated from the police academy he decided to become a private detective. Since private detectives and the local police force are not quite the best of friends, the fact that the local police are asking Nils for help is surprising.

Most private investigators tend to work more in the gray areas of crime, cheating spouse, being hired to find dirt on someone important. So the police don’t usually ask them for assistance on a case unless the family of the victim(s) hires them.

This investigation was surprising and kept me guessing on how committed this heinous crime. I felt the use of the vacuum cleaner bags to cover up evidence made this mystery all the more intriguing.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery. This is one of the more memorable ones I’ve read in the past months. The conclusion was thrilling and exciting. I can’t wait to hear more from Nils Shapiro in the future.