A Body Washes Ashore (Spectrum Series: Book 3) by Bradley Pay

Publisher: Bradley Pay

Date of publication: October 30th, 2022

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Romance

Series: Spectrum Series

The Killings Begin—Book 1 (review here)

Death in a Dark Alley—Book 2 (review here)

A Body Washes Ashore—Book 3

Purchase Links: Kindle | AbeBooks | Alibris | IndieBound | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

A Body Washes Ashore is the heart-racing sequel to The Killings Begin and Death in a Dark Alley that you’ve been waiting for. Bradley Pay’s signature blend of contemporary romance and psychological suspense will sweep you off your feet and into the thick of mortal danger. Tour Europe with Tracey’s new friend, Remy Martin, as she risks everything for the rush of true love.

Tracey’s new group of friends seems perfect. For as long as he could remember, he felt like an outsider, struggling to make connections, and living as an unknown serial killer certainly didn’t help. Now he and his new wife have discovered a circle of friends that begins to fill his need for close relationships. He’s one step closer to living a “normal” life despite the persistent cold-case investigators who refuse to ignore his murderous past in the US.

Remy Martin, a renowned professor of art history and one of Tracey’s new friends, also bears scars on her damaged heart. She has vowed to only sleep with married men to protect herself from heartbreak. However, the stakes rise when she breaks her biggest rule and takes things too far. But how can she resist? She never meant to fall in love or hurt anyone. Just like Tracey, though, she can’t erase her past. She must deal with the consequences of her affair, whatever the cost.

Don’t miss this landmark installation in the Spectrum Series saga, complete with the complex characters you love and a new romance you’ll never forget.


First Line:

Edgar pushed his new rimless glasses up on his nose.

A Body Washes Ashore by Bradley Pay

I know I have previously mentioned that I don’t read enough mysteries. Well, after I had made that statement, I went on a mystery reading binge. I didn’t plan it like that; it just happened that the following three books on my reading schedule were mysteries. Go figure. A Body Washes Ashore was the second book in that three books stretch. I am glad that I read it. Not only did I get to travel to different countries, but I got to know the main characters better. Plus, the authors introduced a couple of fantastic new characters.

A Body Washes Ashore is the third book in the Spectrum Series. While you could read this as a standalone book, I recommend reading the first two books in the series. That way, you can get a better feel for the main characters and why they do the things they do in this book.

A Body Washes Ashore is a fast-paced book that takes place mainly in Italy, with travels to Hungary, France, Austria, Slovenia, Germany, and the Raleigh area of North Carolina.

The storyline for A Body Washes Ashore is a combination of continuing the main storyline in The Killings Begin and a brand new storyline. In the main storyline, Tracy tries to suppress his serial killer mentality. He is married and starting a life with Charlotte in Italy. But that is easier said than done. He starts to become comfortable with killing and starts to leave clues, such as his DNA. But, the police are still hot on his heels, gathering evidence and figuring out that he is killing in Europe instead of the States.

As I said above, the other storyline involved almost everyone from the previous books but centered on Lee, Fong, and Remy, a new character. Remy is an art professor who meets Lee and Fong on a Spectrum cruise (as well as Gia, Sasha, and Tracy). With an instant connection to the group, Remy has finally found friends who accept her and her unconventional lifestyle. But friendships are tested when Remy breaks the number one rule she has always abided by. What happened to strain the friendship? Can Remy make amends? Will Tracy make more mistakes?

I was expecting some of the characters in A Body Washes Ashore to be stale and start to stagnate. But I was pleasantly surprised. The characters that I thought would grow stale didn’t. They expanded beyond what I thought they would be. It made the book so much better for me to read.

  • Remy—I wasn’t sure what I thought about her at first. I did like that she was honest and upfront about her lifestyle. I also liked that she had rules. But I knew they were going to be broken. The author didn’t exactly hide that. But, as the book went on, I began to like her. She fought hard and went to therapy to distance herself from that person. When everything exploded, I wasn’t surprised by people’s reactions. Frannie’s was the worst, but I expected it with her being so young (in her 20s). I did not expect what happened to her or who the person was that did it. Talk about a surprise.
  • Tracy—I liked the arc the author took with him. I was hoping it was a redemption arc and he would stop killing for good. But it didn’t. I did like that; he psychoanalyzed himself at one point in the book and realized what was triggering him. His friendship with Gia, Remy, Frannie, Lee, Fong, Sal, and Sasha was terrific, and I didn’t blame him for being angry when everything fell apart. But still, it didn’t excuse what happened next. I was so disappointed in him.

A Body Washes Ashore fit perfectly into the mystery genre. While I knew who the killer was, it was fun to watch the police and reporters in Raleigh try to piece everything together. As I said above, Tracy got sloppy in the last half of the book, and I can’t wait to see if the police will piece everything together.

The storyline with Tracy, the killings, the group of friends, and his wife was interesting. I liked seeing Tracy on an even keel for most of the book. I liked even more that he felt comfortable enough to tell Charlotte about the sexual abuse that occurred when he was younger. I believe that alone could let go of some of his anger towards his mother (but not enough for him to stop killing her lookalikes). He was himself with his friends. But when he started killing again, I was horrified by who he killed and how close he was to being caught. If Frannie weren’t deaf, she would have caught him.

The storyline with Remy, Lee, and Fong broke my heart reading it. I was disappointed by how this storyline turned out. Through the first two books, Lee and Fong were a power couple, and I wasn’t expecting things to go sideways with them. But the author did show that their relationship wasn’t as good as it was presented. I wish that Remy hadn’t been caught up in it. I also hated seeing Lee break the way she did. It was painful to read and even more painful when Fong realized how much he had messed up. But you know what, he didn’t even seem that sorry. His conversations with Sasha and his obsession with Remy highlighted that. This is a storyline that I am going to watch because I have a feeling it will be huge in the next book.

There are trigger warnings in A Body Washes Ashore. They would be cheating, alcohol, murder, and a person being told of a partner’s past sexual abuse (it was not graphic). If any of these trigger you, I recommend not reading this book.

The end of A Body Washes Ashore was interesting. The author did not wrap up any of the storylines. Instead, they were left wide open. But I was able to see the police closing in on Tracy. I can’t wait to see what the next (and last) book will bring!!!

I recommend A Body Washes Ashore to anyone over 21. There is language, moderate sexual situations, and violence. Also, see my trigger warnings.

I want to thank Bradley Pay for allowing me to read and review A Body Washes Ashore. All opinions stated in this review are mine.


If you enjoyed reading A Body Washes Ashore, you will enjoy reading these books:

Fatal Intent by Tammy Euliano

Publisher: Oceanview Publishing

Date of Publication: March 22nd, 2022

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Medical, Fiction, Suspense, Mystery Thriller, Audiobook, Crime

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

End-of-life care—or assisted death

When her elderly patients start dying at home days after minor surgery, anesthesiologist Dr. Kate Downey wants to know why. The surgeon, not so much. “Old people die, that’s what they do,” is his response. When Kate presses, surgeon Charles Ricken places the blame squarely on her shoulders. Kate is currently on probation, and the chief of staff sides with the surgeon, leaving Kate to prove her innocence and save her own career. With her husband in a prolonged coma, it’s all she has left.

Aided by her eccentric Great Aunt Irm, a precocious medical student, and the lawyer son of a victim, Kate launches her own unorthodox investigation of these unexpected deaths. As she comes closer to exposing the culprit’s identity, she faces professional intimidation, threats to her life, a home invasion, and, tragically, the suspicious death of someone close to her. The stakes escalate to the breaking point when Kate, under violent duress, is forced to choose which of her loved ones to save—and which must be sacrificed.

Perfect for fans of Kathy Reichs and Tess Gerritsen

While the books in the Kate Downey Medical Mystery Series stand on their own and can be read in any order, the publication sequence is:

Fatal Intent
Misfire
 (coming January 2023)


First Line:

I dreaded weekends. That alone set me apart from my colleagues-from humans in general-even without all the rest.

Fatal Intent by Tammy Euliano

Medical thrillers are not a genre that I typically read. It’s not that I don’t like them (I do); it’s just that they don’t show up on my radar very often, even when I am looking for a new book to read. So, I was intrigued when I was invited to review Fatal Intent. After reading the blurb, I knew I wanted to read this book. I am glad that I did because it was a great read.

There are trigger warnings in Fatal Intent. The huge, most obvious one is the angel of mercy killings. There are brief mentions of the death of a spouse and child through a drunk driver and the miscarriage. The author also talks about assisted death quite often during the book. This is a touchy subject and one that I am not going to discuss in this blog.

Fatal Intent is a fast-paced medical thriller that takes place in Florida. Kate is an anesthesiologist working at a university (or teaching) hospital. Kate lives with her great-aunt Irma, an eccentric German transplant, and her black lab, Shadow. Kate has had a rough couple of years. Her husband, Greg, severely injured by a bomb while deployed, has been in a coma for a year. She miscarried their daughter because of that. And the cherry on top, the chief of staff, Dr. Walker, dislikes Kate and makes her life miserable at work. Things start to snowball when Kate discovers several suspicious deaths on and off the hospital grounds. At the same time, Kate is accused of misconduct with a student and malpractice by an unpleasant surgeon, and Greg’s brother, Adam, is going ahead with a lawsuit to take Greg off life support. As Kate fights the lawsuit, the inquiry, and the malpratice accusation, she realizes everything is connected. Determined to get to the bottom of everything, Kate soon finds herself in a situation where she needs to make an impossible choice. What choice does Kate have to make? How is everything connected? Did the hospital have an angel of mercy?

The main characters of Fatal Intent surprised me. I was prepared to be annoyed or even not like them. But, right from the beginning, the author made them relatable. Also, she wasn’t afraid to kill off a couple of who I considered main characters. It made what happened at the end of the book so much more poignant.

  • Kate—I liked and connected with her. She had a great relationship with her great-aunt Irma and 98% of her coworkers. She treated her patients respectfully and wasn’t afraid to speak up when she thought something wasn’t right. Her relationship with the chief of staff did confuse me a little at the beginning, but once the author explained it, a lightbulb went off. The only thing that she had a conflict of interest in was Greg. She didn’t want him to die starving to death. But her brother-in-law, Adam, thought otherwise. As for her investigating the deaths, she didn’t intend to become embroiled in that scheme. She was doing what she thought was right. My heart broke for her at the climax of the book. She had to make an impossible decision. No matter what she decided, it was going to hurt her.

I say this in every review, but the secondary characters made this book. Every single one added extra depth to the plotline. I liked how these secondary characters also tied into the main storyline. They had clues about who the killer was, why Kate was being singled out at work, and why Adam was insistent on taking Greg off life support. Secondary characters rarely do that.

If you look above, you see that I put a lot of genres down that this book fits into. The top three out of that group would be medical fiction, mystery, and thriller. Fatal Intent fits perfectly into those genres.

So, a little bit of a warning, the review will get a little longer here. Several main storylines in Fatal Intent are merged about halfway through the book. I didn’t understand why the author had so many until the end. Everything became crystal clear here.

The storyline with Kate, the medical student, and the accusation of misconduct made me so angry. I knew the medical student was up to no good from the moment the author introduced him. There was a point in the book where I thought that Kate would end up losing her job, but the author pulled out her hidden ace. It was mentioned, and I didn’t even think about it until it was mentioned. Of course, the ending to that storyline was very satisfactory and did tie into the storyline with the malpractice, Dr. Walker, and the angel of mercy.

Speaking of that, I was so angry about the malpractice inquiry that Kate found herself in. The surgeon was full of himself, and I couldn’t believe that the chief of staff would side with him instead of remaining impartial. I found it suspicious. Of course, this storyline ended the way I thought it would but still. I wanted to smack that surgeon upside the head and tell him to take it down a notch.

The storyline with Dr. Walker, Kate, and the deaths left a bad taste in my mouth. As I said above, Dr. Walker was so suspicious. His treatment of Kate was borderline abuse of power, and everyone in that hospital knew it. He didn’t want to listen to her when she brought up credible evidence about a new hire. Also, he was too involved with the medical student’s accusation and the inquiry. I wasn’t surprised by what was revealed during Kate’s investigation. I did like that what she turned up had an effect…haha. I was thrilled with how everything turned out. Dr. Walker reaped what he sowed.

The storyline with Kate, Greg, and Adam was one of the saddest ones I have ever read. I got why Kate didn’t want to take Greg off life support. I agreed with her that starving to death was a painful way to go, even if you were in a coma. And like Kate, my distaste for Adam was there from the beginning.

The end of Fatal Intent was heartstopping. The author was able to meld the above storylines together in a way that took me by surprise. A colossal twist (and a heartbreaking decision made) took me by surprise. It is hard to get one past me with thrillers; the author certainly did!! I didn’t see it coming and felt that I should have.

I would recommend Fatal Intent to anyone over 21. There is violence, non-graphic sexual situations (kissing), and language.

I want to thank Tammy Euliano and Oceanview Publishing for allowing me to read and review Fatal Intent. All opinions stated in this review are mine.


If you enjoyed reading Fatal Intent, then you will enjoy reading these books:

Cathedral of Time (The World of Agartha: Book 1) by Stephen Austin Thorpe

Publisher: Creating History

Date of publication: April 10th, 2018

Genre: Middle Grade, Fiction, Historical, Fantasy, Mythology

Series: The World of Agartha

Cathedral of Light—Book 1

Toquchar’s Prisoner—Book 2

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | Alibris | Powells | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

Ghostly sightings of a legendary murderer. The discovery of a hidden stash from a bank robbery. The disappearance of a well-known TV personality, and the most prominent family in town entangled in all of it. Makayla Brown’s ideal life is about to be blown to smithereens. She’ll need to race across space and time, plunging herself into another world in hopes of saving her own. When Makayla disappears off the face of the Earth, the dedication of her two best friends, Tanner and Andrew, will be tested as they attempt to follow her trail through a dangerous new world and encounter beasts and beings the likes of which they’ve never seen. Will they reach Makayla in time to rescue her from certain death and bring her safely home, or will they be doomed to spend eternity in their new world, sealed by the rule of the fates?

Author Stephen Austin Thorpe, the son of a school teacher who made magic with her words by varying intonations and playing with pronunciation to add dramatic flare, grew up loving words. But it wasn’t until he sat down to document the flow of a video game he planned to create that he realized how much he loved to write. And so Cathedral of Time, the first in The World of Agartha series, was born. Stephen’s love for Ancient Rome, and history in general, grew from his service as a 19-year old missionary in modern-day Rome. Stephen lives in Utah with his wife Maria and daughters Jenny and Mary.


First Line:

Makayla “Mick” Brown was about as all-American of a girl as there was at Edmonson County Middle School.

Cathedral of Time by Stephen Austin Thorpe

It had been a minute since I had read a middle-grade book. When I read them, I usually do because I am checking the content for my 9-year-old daughter. So, when the email came from the author asking me to read and review this book, I did hesitate. But, what ultimately made me choose to review Cathedral of Time was that this book used Augmented Reality as part of the plotline. I had only read one other book that used this and was curious to see how it would go with the book. I am glad that I did. The book was a good read, and the augmented reality was fantastic!!

The author provided me with an app that went with the book. The app is Xperience Books. It is free and can be used with iPhones and Android phones. You need to register with the app, which takes about 5 minutes. But once you are registered, you can scan the QR codes supplied at the end of each chapter. I did a few chapters (with the QR codes) and found the content quite good. There was AR (I brought one up with a bear. It stood on my dining room table….lol), voice clips from the different characters, filters (the one I tried was Tanner’s baseball hat), links to the cave mentioned in the book (it is real) and links to book merch. This app was a plus and made my reading experience more fun.

There are some triggers in the Cathedral of Time. They are the death of a sibling, divorce, verbal and maybe emotional abuse of a child, and depression. The author does spend some time on all of these (mainly because they happen to one child), and he writes about them respectfully. If you are triggered by these or feel that your child will be, I suggest not reading this book.

Cathedral of Time is a medium-paced book that takes place in quite a few places. I loved the pacing of this book. It was just fast enough for me to enjoy the action scenes but also slow enough for me to process everything. I loved the locations where this book took place. It took place in Kentucky (past and present). But, as soon as the kids found the portal, the book shifted location to a different world that led them to Mount Olympus, the River Styx, and Ancient Rome.

The three main characters were well-written. They acted like tweens, and I loved it. Any book where the kids act their age instead of years older immediately gets bonus brownie points.

  • Makayla—I loved her. She was resourceful and determined to solve the mystery of her ancestor. But, simultaneously, she was embarrassed by what he did. I did feel bad when her huge secret got out. I didn’t think that Tanner or Andrew ratted on her. Something else must have happened. I did get irritated with her when she set off by herself. She was mad and decided she would be the only one to solve the mystery of her ancestor. And that did come back to bite her in the butt, big time.
  • Tanner—My heart broke for him. This poor child endured more than anyone should at his age. The guilt over his sister dying ate at him, as did how his father treated him. Everything manifested in him trying to be the best at everything just so his father would say something nice. I wanted to cry during his chapters. His self-esteem and self-worth weren’t there. But the author did something in the middle of his and Andrew’s storyline that made me smile. He made Tanner realize his self-worth.
  • Andrew—I didn’t know a lot about him. He was a bit of an enigma. All I knew was that he was uber-rich, intelligent, and a very loyal friend to Makayla and Tanner. Other than that, nada. I hope that more is revealed about him in the next book because I feel there is more to him than what is shown.

There were a ton of notable secondary characters. The author included regular made-up characters (Mick’s mom and dad, the sheriff, and Tanner’s mom). He also included, which I loved, figures from mythology and history. Jupiter, Hades, Persephone, Demeter, and Nero appear in the book. The secondary characters made this book much more fleshed out and three-dimensional.

Cathedral of Time was a mishmash of genres, so I can’t just pin it down to one. It fits into the genres of middle grade, fiction, history, and fantasy. There is also a Christian angle to the book. The author gave an excellent overview of Christianity and how it survived in Ancient Rome without being too preachy.

The storyline with Mick and her journey to prove her ancestor’s innocence was engaging. I felt awful that Mick felt her father was up to something shady. But, in her defense, he was acting shady. Then when she found out about who she was related to, it was almost too much for her. I felt she was reckless when she set off alone in Agartha. But the adventures she had and the advice she was given were priceless. There were a couple of twists in her storyline that I saw coming. But it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of seeing where she went and who she met.

The storyline with Tanner and Andrew was just as good as Mick’s. They were on a rescue mission and determined to get to Mick no matter what. They did go about getting to Mount Olympus differently than Mick did. They traveled down the River Styx, met Persephone, traversed a bottomless pit, and beat Hades to reach Ancient Rome. I disagreed with them messing with history, though. Or what happened when they tried to get Mick out of prison. I will say that Nero was pretty scary (he might be too frightening for younger readers). The twist at the end of their storyline was pretty good.

The end of the Cathedral of Time was interesting. I wasn’t exactly thrilled with what Mick’s mother said about Tanner and Andrew. The author did wrap up a couple of the storylines but left the main ones wide open. I also am interested in what happens in the next book.

I recommend Cathedral of Time to anyone over 10 (with a parent) or 12 (without a parent). There is mild violence, very mild language, and the triggers I mentioned above.

I want to thank the author, Stephen Austin Thorpe, for allowing me to read and review this free book. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

Xperience Books app is available for iOS and Android.

The Catch by Jenna Miles

Publisher: Hibernia Press

Date of publication: November 2nd, 2015

Genre: Romance

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible

Goodreads Synopsis:

Poignant and powerful, The Catch is a contemporary second-chance romance that effortlessly captures the nostalgia of young love and relatably reflects the trials that come with family, motherhood, and responsibility.

Julia Dunphy’s husband just left her for the second time, her thirteen-year-old won’t stop swearing in public, and to top it all off, her four-year-old just asked to buy condoms. Needless to say, this isn’t how she’d expected her life to pan out.

Then, Julia’s new work in an aquarium shop washes up old memories of a whale-watching business she once imagined – and of William Quinn, the man she imagined it with. William walked into her life with striking blue eyes and constant surprises. Before she knew it, she was head-over-heels in love. However, the realities of life eventually pulled them apart. When Julia and William’s paths cross again, despite their baggage, an undeniable spark remains.

When she learns that William has made a success of their ideas, she wonders if it’s too late to finally make a success of their relationship. But Julia has already blown her first two chances at happiness with William, so a third one seems like wishful thinking. Then she uses her prowess as a paralegal to save William’s business, and when he shows up to thank her, she dares to wonder – is another chance with him possible, after all?


First Line:

The fog was as much a native of this neighborhood as Julia was.

The Catch by Jenna Miles

Romance novels have been my favorite go-to genre for years. I love reading the different tropes and seeing people get their happy endings. So, when I got the offer to review The Catch, it was a no-brainer. I immediately accepted. I am glad that I did because this was a great read.

The Catch had a pretty straightforward storyline. Julia has moved back to the San Fransisco neighborhood she grew up in to raise her young son and teenage daughter. She hopes to reopen her late uncle’s aquarium business. As Julia settles in, she starts thinking about her lost love, Will, and their relationship over the years. Reconnecting isn’t easy because she broke Will’s heart five years earlier. But a chance comes when she uses her paralegal skills to help Will’s family with a legal case. But Julia is hiding more secrets from Will. What secrets is she hiding? Will they finally be together? Or will that secret tear them apart for good?

The Catch is a medium-paced book that takes place in San Fransisco. I liked the pacing because it did allow me to process everything that happened with Julia (there was a lot). I also loved the location. San Fransisco is a relatively unknown city for me (other than watching Full House and Fuller House), so reading about it was amazing!!

I am going to be very blunt here. I couldn’t stand Julia for most of the book. I will get more in-depth in the bulleted section of this, but she did leave a bad taste in my mouth until the last part of the book.

  • Julia—As I mentioned above, I couldn’t stand her. She came across as selfish and made choices that made me scratch my head and ask, “Why?”. She somewhat redeemed herself in the 2012 timeline when she took on Will’s mother’s insurance issue and resolved it.
  • Will—I felt for him for 90% of the book. His breakdown when Julia broke up with him was a little unwarranted, but we’ve all been in those types of relationships. I also didn’t blame him for how he acted in 2012. What Julia did to him in 2006 was awful, and he wasn’t wrong for acting as he did when he saw Julia again.
  • Paige—I felt for her, but I wish the author had disclosed her mental health diagnosis sooner in the book. It would have changed how I saw her. Because honestly, she came across as a brat in the 2012 parts of the book. The author explained and showed what Paige was like before her diagnosis (in 2006) and how her father’s sudden disappearance and reappearance triggered it. She did become more likable in the second half of the 2012 timeline. Her reaction to Julia’s secret was not what I expected, and I was so mad at her paternal grandmother!!

The secondary characters carried the book and added more depth to it. I hope the author will write a book set in this universe again. There are several characters that I would like to get their own stories.

The Catch fits perfectly into the romance category. I loved reading about Julia and Will’s very rocky and messy relationship. The trope that The Catch fit into was second-chance love (well, in this case, third chance). But I also feel that it fits into the reunion trope.

The storyline with Julia, Will, and their love story was well written. How many people here have had relationships that ended and restarted years later (raises hand)? It was raw and wasn’t pretty, but it was real. I wouldn’t say I liked that Julia did a number on Will (in 1993 and 2006). Also, I wouldn’t say I liked the secret that she had. Talk about a doozy, and in a way, it wasn’t fair to Will. Also, I want to add that this storyline jumps from 1993 to 2006 to 2012. I had no issue following it. The author labeled each chapter with what year it was.

There are trigger warnings in The Catch. Death of a family member, AIDS (mentioned), bigotry (talked about, not shown), underage drinking, parent abandonment, spouse abandonment, cheating, racism (derogatory names used to describe Hispanic people), abortion (talked about), drug use (talked about), drug overdose (talked about and briefly shown the aftermath), and mental illness are shown in the book. If any of these trigger you (and a couple did trigger me), I recommend not reading this book.

The end of The Catch was your typical HEA. The author wrapped up all the storylines in a way that mostly satisfied me. I say mostly because I wasn’t thrilled with how the secret secondary storyline ended. I understand why, but so frustrating. All I have to say is that Will is too forgiving.

I would recommend The Catch to anyone over 21. There is language, nongraphic sexual situations, and mild violence. Also, see my trigger warnings.

I would like to thank the author, Jenna Miles, for allowing me to read and review The Catch. All opinions in this review are 100% mine.

The Sylvan Horn: Book One of The Sylvan Chord by Robert Redinger

Publisher: iUniverse

Date of publication: February 23rd, 2009

Genre: Fantasy

Purchase Links: Kindle | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

Before the days of men, there were elves. In a time they were great and powerful, the first dwellers, the brightest ray of dawn upon the earth. They brought light and music to the world and every breeze that stirs and wave that crashes still echoes with the wonder of the fair folk.
But a foulness is brewing in the east, where men deal in sorcery. They summon dire forces, unleashing a terrible power into the world. And the elves, once immortal, now fade from the earth. But knowing that all sorcery comes from Runes that were carved ages ago, Efkin, a young elf lord, races to find and destroy the hidden Runes before all is lost. He sets out to recover the horn of his ancestors that long ago summoned the forces that shaped the world. Only the horn has the power to break the Runes. He journeys into the east, but comes too close to the heart of sorcery and does not dare blow the horn. If he is tainted by the poison of the Runes the horn will sound a ruinous note that could spell the end of the earth.


First Line:

It was early dawn when a wagon rumbled across the plain along the eastern part of Khazinth in its way toward a village the stood between the mountains and the sea.

The Sylvan Horn by Robert Redinger

When I read the blurb for The Sylvan Horn, I immediately thought of The Lord of the Rings series. Except the Humans were the bad guys, and the Elves were trying to protect the rest of the world from them. So, I immediately accepted the invite and dove right in. While I wasn’t right about it being like The Lord of The Rings (not even close…lol), I did enjoy reading this book.

The Sylvan Horn had an exciting plotline. The boundaries that have protected the Elves’ realm are failing. That is allowing Trolls to infiltrate their forests and kill their people. Attempting to broker peace leads the Elves to discover that there is more going on than just the Trolls attacking them. It is up to Efkin, a young Elf with almost mythic magical powers, to retrieve an artifact that can help him. This artifact, The Sylvan Horn, is held by the humans in a mountain of iron….which is deadly to Elves. As Elfkin makes his journey, he discovers there is so much more at stake. The bindings on The Runes, which can destroy the world, are failing. And there is only one god that can help them. Can Efkin survive the journey? Will he be able to reach the Horn? And what will Efkin learn about himself on the journey?

The Sylvan Horn is book one in The Sylvan Chord series. As it is the first book in the series, I can’t say the usual stuff I put in this section.

The Sylvan Horn was a medium-paced book. It did get off to a slow start, but the author used that to introduce most of the main characters. It picked up when Efkin started his journey but did falter a little in the middle of the book. But I still enjoyed the plotline. Once Efkin reached the human lands, the book picked up its pace and zipped to the end.

There were a lot of characters in The Sylvan Horn, most of which were introduced in the first few chapters. It did get a little confusing. But once Efkin was on his journey, I was better able to keep track of characters better.

I want to add before I go any further and forget that I wish the author had included a glossary. That would have made keeping track of the characters and the cities/countries/continents Efkin and his group visited so much easier.

This book is supposed to be a young adult fantasy. The book fits perfectly in with the fantasy genre. The author hit every single earmark for that genre, and I enjoyed it. I was iffy about the young adult genre, though. Some of the vocabulary was a little adult. Even I had to look some words up.

I loved the main storyline and the lore that went with it. Efkin was a likable character who was determined to get the Horn. I loved reading about his side journies while continuing on his main quest. The ones that stood out the most to me were the water giant (who protected him against the dragons) and the count who was training birds for war (I got a good laugh about that). I liked the twist on who Efkin was. It made sense during the last half of the book (with what he could do).

The Sylvan Horn ended on a cliffhanger. I have questions about the druid that this one didn’t answer. I am looking forward to reading the next book

I would recommend The Sylvan Horn to anyone over 13. There is violence, no language, no sex (or sexual situations), and no other triggers.

Thank you to the author for allowing me to read and review The Sylvan Horn.

Shampoo & Condition (A Me Too Mystery) by M.L. Ortega

Publisher:

Date of publication: August 30th, 2022

Genre: Short Story, Mystery

Series: Me Too Mystery

Turn Key Condition—Book 1

Shampoo & Condition—Book 2

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound \

Goodreads Synopsis:

If Janet Evanovich’s signature character were a single mom, she’d answer to the name Maggie Chessman. In Shampoo & Condition, Vivian, Maggie’s soon to be ex sister-in-law, drops dead in a beauty salon and Maggie’s brother becomes suspect number one – creating friction between our main character and her policeman boyfriend.

What can a girl do but pursue other suspects: Vivian’s shifty sisters, a smooth financial operator, and a secretive shampoo girl.

Meanwhile, Maggie’s best friend is matching corpses with missing persons on the Jane Doe website, eventually spotting a dead person in their midst.


First Line:

The pressure exerted on Jane’s head and the fumes inside the metal casing overwhelmed her.

Shampoo and Condition by M.L. Ortega

Cozy mysteries are low on my list of books to read. I don’t know why because I do enjoy reading them. So, when the author emailed me her request, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. I am glad I did because this was a good mystery.

Shampoo & Condition had two main plotlines. The first one centered around Maggie and her investigation into her soon-to-be ex-sister-in-law’s death (at a popular beauty salon). When Maggie starts following leads, she discovers that her sister in law was going to try and bankrupt her husband (Maggie’s brother). But the leads start getting more convoluted when a handsome man, a financial advisor to the school, takes an interest in Maggie.

The other storyline centers around a secretive woman who has just gotten hired at the same beauty salon (where Maggie’s sister-in-law dropped dead). Her backstory: She is on the run from her abusive ex-husband, a police officer. But things aren’t what they seem with this woman. Everything gets thrown up in the air when Jane (Maggie’s best friend) matches this woman with a cold case on a Jane Doe website. Exactly who is the new employee, and what is her connection with Maggie’s sister-in-law? Can Maggie solve her sister-in-law’s death? Or will this case be a wash?

This is book two in the Me Too series. You do not need to read book one to understand what is going on in this book. Also, this book is a quick read at 101 pages.

Shampoo & Condition is a fast-paced mystery that takes place over several days. It is set entirely in Orange County, California.

The main characters, Maggie and Jane, were a hoot to read. They are around my age, and I was able to connect with everything they did or wanted to do.

  • Maggie—I loved how devoted she was to her brother. I also was in awe of her investigation skills. She could decipher clues from things I wouldn’t have thought to look at. Her work solved what happened to Viv (her sister-in-law). And it was also her investigation that exposed what Viv would do to her brother. I questioned when she got involved with the financial advisor working with the school board.
  • Jane—I loved her as much as Maggie. She had a little more skill at investigating than Maggie. Her observation skills were on point, as was her memory. I also liked how she zeroed in on Lilith.
  • Lilith—-I have to admit, I did believe her story. But minor inconsistencies did crop up, and oh boy, when the author revealed everything, I was surprised. Talk about not seeing that coming!!

As with every book that I have read, the secondary characters add extra depth to the book. Shampoo & Condition’s secondary characters were no different. There were a couple I wished had more page time (Viv’s sisters and Dominga are the two that stand out).

Shampoo & Condition fit perfectly with the cozy mystery genre. The author had me guessing who killed Viv and why. She also had me thinking about Maggie’s new friend and who Lilith was. I loved it.

The storyline with Viv, Maggie, Viv’s death, and Maggie’s investigation was well written. As stated above, I was genuinely perplexed about who killed Viv and why. I loved seeing the twists and turns that Maggie’s investigation took.

The storyline with Maggie and the new financial person the school brought in was interesting. But, honestly, I didn’t care for it. I had thought Maggie was with Tuna (her policeman boyfriend) and having a semi-love triangle happening didn’t do it for me.

The storyline with Jane, Lilith, and Lilith’s identity was interesting. I thought that Jane did some fantastic work digging into Lilith’s background. And once it was exposed, I was surprised. I wasn’t expecting the storyline to go in the direction it did.

The end of Shampoo & Condition was interesting and exciting. I loved how the author tied everything together. The author also released a couple of small twists in the plotline at the end of the book. A couple I saw coming, but one (and it concerned Lilith) I didn’t see coming at all.

Three Reasons Why You Should Read Shampoo & Condition:

  1. The book was short—-only 101 pages
  2. Readers can read it as a standalone
  3. The mystery kept me guessing to the end.

Three Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Read Shampoo & Condition

  1. A semi-love triangle is hinted at in the book. I wasn’t a fan of it.
  2. How Lilith took everyone for a ride. I was so mad about that!!
  3. Viv and her sisters’ plot.

I would recommend Shampoo & Condition to anyone over 16. There is mild language, mild violence, and no sex.

Mostly Human 2 by D.I. Jolly

Publisher: Tinpot Publishing

Date of publication: November 21st, 2020

Genre: Shapeshifters, Werewolves, Paranormal

Series: Mostly Human

Mostly Human—Book 1 (review here)

Mostly Human 2—Book 2

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

I, Alex Harris, have run away from home.

I’m running from my problems, from my mistakes, and from myself.

I killed some people and I don’t think anyone is chasing me, but I can’t stop running, and as much as I miss the people I love. I feel like if I go home now, I’ll be going back empty-handed.

I have to find out more about this curse, where it comes from and what it really means to be a werewolf.

Because the truth is…

The truth is that when I stop and really look at myself. I’ve been running my whole life.

Maybe it’s time to stop.


First Line:

Well, I spent two weeks on that ship before it docked again in Bergen on the west coast of Norway – turns out that’s where Syn gets most of its milk.

Mostly Human 2 by D.I. Jolly

I was surprised when I got an email from the author asking me if I would like to read/review Mostly Human 2. It had been some time since I had reviewed Mostly Human (to be precise, May 01, 2017). He had emailed me during the pandemic’s beginning, but I didn’t answer the email. I was busy teaching three upset and confused kids (at the time: 14, 12, and 6). When I decided to start reviewing, I had forgotten about the email (sorry, D.I.!!). I went on my merry way, reviewing books. So, it was a given that I would accept the email. I enjoyed reading Mostly Human and wanted to know where Alex’s journey would take him. I wasn’t disappointed.

Mostly Human 2 starts two weeks after the events of the previous book. Looking for solace, Alex finds himself in Norway and soon makes his way to a wolf sanctuary. For six months, Alex lives in solitude, trying to heal from the events that made him leave Syn Island. But things change when a group of veterinary students arrives, and Alex finds himself falling for Cassandra, the only girl in the group. But secrets have a habit of not staying secrets. Alex soon finds his deepest secrets exposed when his sister shows up, and a group of werewolf hunters hones in on him. Those events send Alex on a journey to find the werewolf who bit him so he can understand why it happened. But Alex isn’t prepared for what he finds. What does Alex find? And more importantly, can Alex come to terms with the new information he learns?

Mostly Human 2 is the 2nd book in the Mostly Human duology. I do recommend reading Mostly Human first and then reading this book. Many of the backstories and characters are explained in Book 1. They will help understand the dynamics and relationships in book 2.

Mostly Human 2 had a medium pace to it. For me, it worked. I could digest some of the information thrown at me before moving on. This book also took place in various areas of Europe, Canada, and Russia. I loved seeing the international flavor of the book.

The characters in Mostly Human 2 were complex. They were well-fleshed-out individuals that kept my attention focused on the book. Of course, there were some that I was not too fond of more than others.

  • Alex—I found him just as intriguing as I did in the first book. I understood why he disappeared. At the end of book one, bad things happen to him, and he feels awful. Plus, Syn Island wasn’t a great place to hide being a werewolf (but honestly, neither was the sanctuary). I understood why he wanted answers and his despair when he found out what he found out. I would have reacted the same way.
  • Cassandra—I couldn’t stand her. I have never reacted so severely to a fictional character as I did with her. She came across as an immature twatwaffle who couldn’t handle anything. Her fits of screaming at Alex were awful. I did understand why, at first, who likes to be lied to? But she just kept going on and on. I was glad when she broke it off with him. I got a headache reading her scenes.
  • Annabel—I loved her. She was a steadfast supporter of Alex (along with his father). She was very supportive of everything Alex did but didn’t hesitate to tell him when he was wrong. Their relationship was unique.

There are way too many secondary characters for me to name in this review. They all added extra depth to the plotline.

Mostly Human 2 fits perfectly into the paranormal genre. The author did a great twist on the werewolf subgenre, and I loved it.

The author amazingly wrote the main storyline with Alex, his family, and the other werewolves. One werewolf was a little suspect to me (the torture scene with Alex and the fact that he founded the hunters). But everything washed out in the end.

There are several (and I stress several) secondary storylines that tie into the main one. Again, as with the characters, these storylines added extra depth to scenes that needed it.

I went back and forth about adding content/trigger warnings to this review. I decided that I would because of what happened to Alex (the torture scene) towards the end of the book. So, yes, there is a trigger warning. If you are triggered by torture, cheating, or drinking alcohol, I recommend not reading this book.

The end of Mostly Human 2 made me wonder if there would be a book 3. I will not go into it, but I can’t accept that Alex would do what he did. That’s all I will say.

Three things I liked about Mostly Human 2:

  1. A different take on a werewolf story
  2. The various locations Alex went to
  3. Alex’s relationship with his family, found family, and friends.

Three things I didn’t like about Mostly Human 2:

  1. Cassandra. Her tantrums were epic, and she constantly screamed, “you lied to me.” She grated on my one last nerve during all of her scenes.
  2. The torture scene. I felt awful for Alex. What a way to learn something significant about yourself.
  3. His best friend’s wife. I remember her from the previous book and didn’t like her. I must say that she got what was coming to her.

I would recommend Mostly Human 2 to anyone over 21. There is language, nongraphic sexual situations, and violence. Also, see my trigger/content warning.


If you enjoyed reading Mostly Human 2, you will enjoy reading these books:

A Maiden of Snakes by Jane McGarry

Publisher: JM Books

Date of publication: August 28th, 2022

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

When Marchioness Lamberico fails to conceive a child, she solicits the help of Imelda, the village witch. Nine months later, she gives birth to a baby girl. Biancabella. Though perfect in every other way, the infant is born with a snake wrapped around her neck. To the relief of the marchioness, the creature vanishes at once and, in the joy of motherhood, is soon forgotten. When Biancabella is a young girl, the snake reappears and explains their uncommon sisterhood. Samaritana helps Biancabella unlock her magical gifts and asserts that so long as they are together, all will be well. Their close, though secret, relationship unites them above all others. Years pass, the sisters contented, until the day King Ferrandino of Naples arrives, seeking Biancabella’s hand in marriage. What follows shatters the sisters’ bond, leading to misfortune and betrayal, which forces them to grapple with not only the loss of their connection, but leaves each fighting for her life. Loosely based on the Italian fairy tale Biancabella and the Snake, the story explores how the love can transform from a domineering and covetous power to authenticity and, ultimately, redemption.


First Line:

The day was perfect, a warm spring sun in a cloudless sky.

A Maiden of Snakes by Jane McGarry

When I got the invite to review A Maiden of Snakes, I hesitated to accept the invite for the review. The blurb didn’t stand out to me. After taking a couple of days to think about it, I accepted the invitation. My reason was this: My blog started off reviewing indie authors, and I have made it a point to accept any/all invites that come across my inbox. Well, I am glad I accepted because this book was excellent!!!

A Maiden of Snakes had an exciting storyline. Biancabella is the much-loved child of lesser Italian nobility. A miracle child, she was born with a snake wrapped around her neck. When she was ten, she met with her snake sister (Samaritana) and completed a bonding ritual. But that ritual comes with a price. Biancabella must always stay with her Samaritana. If she does, life will be great. But if they are separated, then bad things will happen to Biancabella. Biancabella doesn’t heed Samaritana’s warning and is married to the King of Naples. Intrigue follows her to court, where her stepmother-in-law looks at her as someone to get rid of. When a deadly sickness overtakes the city, her stepmother-in-law jumps, she has Biancabella kidnapped and leaves instructions for her to be killed. Samaritana interrupts Biancabella’s killer, but it is almost too late. The assassin had cut off her hands. What will happen to Biancabella? Will she and Samaritana make up? Or will Biancabella live with the kindly woodcutter and his family forever? And, more importantly, will the evil stepmother get away with everything she has done?

A Maiden of Snakes is a fast-paced book set in medieval Italy. This book takes place in Monferrato and Naples. I enjoyed seeing glimpses of what these cities were like back in medieval times.

The characters of A Maiden were Snakes were interesting. But I did find them a little underdeveloped.

Biancabella: I liked her but found her almost too innocent and trusting. I also didn’t like that she could easily brush off Samaritana’s concerns because “she was in love.” Towards the end of the book, I found her character much more engaging than the innocent little miss portrayed until the assassin took her from the castle.

Samaritana: I liked her also and thought she was very wise in some ways. But her jealousy when Biancabella met and married Ferrandino got on my nerves. I had wished that elder snakes had stayed to advise her. I also felt that her jealousy caused a lot of Biancabella’s issues when she was in Naples. But Samaritana did come through when Biancabella needed her.

Ferrandino: He annoyed the ever living out of me. How could he not see what his stepmother was doing? How could he not see what she did to his father? And when faced with Biancabella’s stepsister (who was forced to take her place), why didn’t he SAY SOMETHING!!! I was so annoyed with him; it wasn’t even funny. Of course, he did make up for it in the end.

The Stepmother: She was one of the evilest, vile villains to grace the pages of a book. Everything she did in A Maiden of Snakes was for her. She showed no mercy to Biancabella when the plague hit the castle. She knew Biancabella was pregnant and STILL told the mercenary to kill her. She got what she deserved and then some at the end of the book.

The Woodcutter and His Family: Besides Biancabella, he was one of the book’s only good people. He found a critically injured and maimed young woman and brought her back to his house to nurse her back to health. They were prepared to take care of her for the rest of her life (even if Biancabella did have other plans). And when the author revealed Biancabella’s identity (along with Samaritana), they helped to get Biancabella back into Ferrandino’s life (and get rid of the stepmother). They were the MVPs of this book.

A Maiden of Snakes has many secondary characters that flesh out the storylines. They made the scenes more enjoyable (and sometimes sad) to read. There were some that I wished stayed in the story (the elder snakes, for one).

I wasn’t entirely sure what genre to put A Maiden of Snakes. I decided upon Young Adult (Biancabella was around 18), Fantasy (Samaritana did have magic, as did Biancabella), and Romance (Biancabella’s love for Ferrandino and his for her). Romance, I am still undecided. I want to say yes because of the love they had for each other, but at the same time, I want to say no. I do feel that this book fits very well into the young adult and fantasy genres.

Oh yes, before I forget, this entire book was based on the Italian fairytale (Biancabella and the Snake) by Giovanni Francesco Straperola for his book The Facetious Nights.

I liked the storyline with Biancabella and Samaritana. I wish more time had been spent with them, not apart, but I understood the author was following the fairytale.

The storyline with Ferrandino, Biancabella, and his stepmother was sad. There was a point in that storyline where I thought Ferrandino wouldn’t get his HEA with Biancabella. I felt the stepmother got everything coming to her and then some. So, yes, I was thrilled when everything came to a head at the end of the book.

Some trigger warnings do need to be discussed in A Maiden of Snakes. They would be infertility, abandonment (Samaritana’s elder snakes), child abuse (stepmother beating her daughters), a graphic scene where Biancabella’s hands are cut off, and she is beaten, and what happened to the stepmother. If any of these triggers you, I recommend not reading this book.

The end of A Maiden of Snakes was your typical fairytale ending. Everyone got their HEA. I am hoping that Samaritana gets hers in another book.

Three things I liked about A Maiden of Snakes:

  1. It takes place in medieval Italy
  2. Biancabella and Samaritana’s relationship
  3. Based on a fairytale

Three things I didn’t like about A Maiden of Snakes

  1. Samaritana’s jealousy
  2. The stepmother
  3. The blurb/cover

I would recommend A Maiden of Snakes to anyone over 21. There is no sex or language but graphic violence. Also, see my trigger warnings.


If you enjoyed reading A Maiden of Snakes, you will enjoy reading these books:

Wicked Bleu: Simone Doucet Series Book 2 by E. Denise Billups

Publisher: Next Chapter Publishing

Date of publication: October 10th, 2022

Series: Simone Doucet

Tainted Harvest—Book 1

Wicked Bleu—Book 2

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Paranormal

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | IndieBound | Kobo

Goodreads Synopsis:

A 103-year-old murder mystery.

An amateur ghost sleuth.

Can a wrong be rectified in death?

Eight months ago, Simone experienced her first spectral encounter. It awakened a dormant second sight and opened a chasm to the afterlife. Now, another spirit from 1917 New Orleans has wandered through that passage, haunting her with an intoxicating jasmine fragrance and wicked antics.

To escape this mysterious ghost, Simone jumps at a seven-day complimentary Mardi Gras hotel package, unaware there might be an ancestral power behind her decision, an identity she grapples with.

Is the ghost’s name Bleu?

She’s a lady of the night who lived a dangerous life in the infamous Storyville. A place lined with mansion-like brothels on the edge of the French Quarter run by unscrupulous madams and frequented by dangerous criminals. WWI is on the horizon, jazz music is burgeoning, and Bleu’s life unravels.

Visions of her past and horrific death beset Simone as she explores present-day New Orleans with her three roommates.

But why are the images fragmented? Has Bleu forgotten what happened the stormy night she died? Can Simone uncover Bleu’s murderer and reunite her with her loved ones before it’s too late?


First Line:

Knock-Knock, Knock-Knock! “I’m here. Can’t you hear me?”

Wicked Bleu by E. Denise Billups

I like reading paranormal suspense/mystery/thriller. This reflects in the books that I review. If I get a request to review a book in any of those genres, I will accept it. That was the case with Wicked Bleu. I read the synopsis, and I knew that I was going to love it. And guess what, I did!!

Wicked Bleu had an exciting plotline. Eight months previously, Simone had dormant powers awakened, and she could connect with the dead. A new ghost from 1917 is taunting her with its presence. Unnerved, Simone takes a trip to New Orleans with her roommates but finds that the encounters intensify, and they turn in an unexpected direction. On the cusp of the Covid 19 pandemic that shut down the country, Simone must unravel a century-old murder. Who was Bleu? Who killed her? And more importantly, what is Simone’s connection to her?

Wicked Bleu is the second book in the Simone Doucet series. I never say this, but readers can read this as a stand-alone. I would recommend reading book one, but it isn’t needed.

I am going to put up a trigger warning for this book. I went back and forth on it for a little bit while writing my notes. I decided to include it because of the subject matter and some scenes in the brothel. There is a scene of attempted rape, mentions of rape and bearing a child of rape, the beating and murder of the main character, comments of a serial killer in Storyville, drug use (opium), and descriptions of the beginning of the Covid 19 pandemic. If any of these trigger you, I recommend not reading Wicked Bleu.

Wicked Bleu is a fast-paced book. I read it in one night, mainly because I didn’t want to put it down. I did pay for it the next day, but it was worth it. Also worth it was the locations where the book took place. The beginning of the book takes place in an apartment in Brooklyn and the rest in New Orleans. I loved it. Having never been to Mardi Gras, I was living through the characters when they were at the parades. I also loved the descriptions of 1917 New Orleans and the colorful Storyville.

The main characters complimented the book and added extra depth to the plotline.

Simone: I enjoyed her character. She wasn’t perfect, but I wouldn’t have liked her if she was. She didn’t want her gift (I wouldn’t have either, she blacks out), but at the same time, she learned to embrace it in this book.

Bleu: She wasn’t someone I particularly liked at first. She came across as selfish and manipulative. Add in that she possessed Simone’s friend Stacey (a huge no-no). But, after the possession, I started to see a different side to her. All she wanted was to find out who murdered her, reconnect with the love of her life, and get her daughter’s forgiveness. It was at that point that I started to like her.

The secondary characters complicated the main characters. The only ones I didn’t like were Jude (he was very distant for most of the book), Bleu (for reasons stated above), and the person who killed Bleu (spoiler if I gave the name away).

Wicked Bleu is a paranormal mystery with a bit of suspense added to it. The author kept me guessing who the killer was (I figured it out shortly before Simone did) and that person’s motives. As for the paranormal angle, I enjoyed seeing a different take on ghosts and Bleu possessing Stacey. It fits very well within those genres.

The main storyline with Simone, Bleu, and Bleu’s murder was well written. Like I said above, I kept guessing who the murderer was (at one point, I did think a client killed her). I also loved the descriptions of 2020 and 1917 New Orleans. It has reignited a desire to visit there and visit.

The storyline with Simone, Bleu, Bleu’s daughter, Bleu’s fiance, and Bleu’s former best friend broke my heart. I did have a hard time following it (and not because of how it was written but because I kept getting interrupted). But once I got all of my distractions settled (cough9yearoldwhowouldnotgotobedcough), I could better focus on it. And that storyline broke my heart. I was alternately sad, angry, and triumphant (you know why if you have read the book).

I couldn’t believe the ending. The author wrapped everything up in a way that I loved. And then she did something unexpected. It was a cliffhanger, and I couldn’t believe what I had read. I cannot wait to see what Simone will do!! It has made me all fired up for the next book.

Three things I liked about Wicked Bleu:

  1. The characters. They were all well-written and had distinct personalities.
  2. The location. New Orleans has been on my must-visit list for years.
  3. The end. Talk about not expecting what happened!!

Three things I disliked about Wicked Bleu:

  1. Bleu’s possession of Stacey. It proved to be dangerous.
  2. Bleu’s daughter’s backstory. I felt bad for that child and everything she had been through.
  3. Who killed Bleu. That person deserved everything that they got!!

I would recommend Wicked Bleu to anyone over 21. There are no graphic sex scenes (most were implied or nongraphic). There was language and violence. See also my trigger warning.


If you enjoyed reading Wicked Bleu, you will enjoy reading these books:

Death in a Dark Alley (Spectrum Series: Book 2) by Bradley Pay

Publisher:

Date of publication: April 30th, 2021

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Suspense

Series: Spectrum Series

The Killings Begin—Book 1 (review here)

Death in a Dark Alley—Book 2

A Body Washes Ashore—Book 3

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

Bradley Pay is back with a jaw-dropping sequel to The Killings Begin! Travel across the world and dive into the complex hearts and minds of Tracey Lauch and a cast of unsuspecting new characters in Death in a Dark Alley. Boasting the Spectrum Series’ iconic fusion of contemporary romance and psychological suspense, Bradley Pay has created another tangled web of love, loss, and an insatiable desire to kill.

Tracey Lauch may be a murderer, but he is still a man. Although his childhood abandonment trauma began decades ago, now his compulsion to strangle women who resemble his mother has begun to evolve. Outrunning his past, embracing love in the present, and creating a future free of investigation proves increasingly complicated.

Isabelle’s life in Brazil is burdened with mistakes and abandonment, too – but not in the same way. She falls in love with all the wrong men at all the wrong times, and her best friend Frank shows his true colors when, over and over again, he is not there for her when she needs him most. Aside from the stark difference that Isabelle is not a murderer, she and Tracey both desire love, a life partner, and the warmth of a family. 

But what does Isabelle’s story have to do with Tracey? How can an innocent trip to Strasbourg, France, become a heart-stopping event that changes their lives forever?

Peek behind the curtains of this cold-case investigation and catch an intimate glimpse inside the characters’ lives.


First Line:

“Alone time with you is always nice,” he replied as he look down at her leg and ran his fingers suggestively along her silky thigh and under the edge of her skirt.

Death in a Dark Alley by Bradley Pay

When I got the paperback for Death in a Dark Alley, I expected this book to pick up after the murder of Mari. Instead, the authors did something interesting. They backtracked the story to the late 1980s (when Tracey killed his mother) and introduced two new characters, Isabelle and Frank, while giving more detail about Tracey’s previous murders in Raleigh. At first, I was a little confused and wondered why these two characters were so special. But, the authors did tie Isabelle and Frank to Gia (and her friends) and Tracey. Once I figured that out, it made reading the rest of the book much more enjoyable.

Death in a Dark Alley is the story of Frank and Isabelle. Isabelle is a woman who dreams of being the captain of a steamboat or cruise ship. Frank is her best friend who has the reputation of a playboy. While close growing up and throughout college, they drift apart after Frank discovers Isabelle’s relationship with his uncle, Victor. Frank is also going down the wrong path, and Isabelle and Victor want nothing to do with it.

Intertwined in this story is Tracey’s. Once he kills his mother, he is careful with who he kills. Wanting to stop, Tracey starts taking cruises with Spectrum Cruise lines…where Isabelle is a captain. How do Isabelle and Tracey’s paths meet? What will happen when they do? How does Frank figure into this?

Death in a Dark Alley is the second book in the Spectrum Series. While this could technically be read as a standalone book, I highly suggest reading The Killings Begin first. It gives more background into some of the relationships mentioned in the book and Tracey’s reasons for killing his mother.

This book takes place all over the world. Besides taking place in the United States (mainly NYC but some scenes in Texas, Washington DC, and North Carolina), it takes place all over Europe and in Brazil. I loved seeing the different locals! Some people might find it busy, but I didn’t. I loved that each chapter (or a couple of chapters) was in various settings.

The main characters (Isabelle, Frank, Tracey) were well-written and well-fleshed out. The secondary characters (Victor and Lydia) added depth to the story. I particularly liked Lydia’s character because she dealt with everything life had thrown at her.

  • Isabelle—She was my favorite character in the book. While she had terrible taste in men, she did have a good head on her shoulders. She worked hard to get to where she was. I loved reading her chapters because while they could be sad, they were also joyful (like when she found out she was pregnant with Frankie).
  • Frank—While I felt terrible for him at first (very domineering father, permissive mother), I started not to like him when he brought Isabelle to New York City when they were 18. The more I read about him, the more I disliked him. He was selfish and thought of no one but himself. Instead of being happy for Isabelle and Victor, he flipped out. And he took advantage (at first) of Lydia. I wasn’t surprised when things started to go south for him, but I wasn’t expecting what happened to happen.
  • Tracey—I liked a brief look into Tracey’s earlier life (after he was adopted). For a serial killer, he was a pretty nice guy. I also liked the look into the cold cases that went along with his storyline. Honestly, I was rooting for him not to kill the entire book and was disappointed when he started back up in Russia.

Death in a Dark Alley fits perfectly in the mystery/thriller/suspense genres. While it wasn’t a mystery about Tracey being a killer, I did wonder what Tracey and Isabelle had to do with each other. That led to the suspense angle. I was kept on the edge of my seat, wondering when it would be revealed and why. Also suspenseful for me was watching Tracey fight his demons. The thriller angle came into play at the end. Because of spoilers, I won’t say what it was, but it was a good one!!

I love Isabelle’s storyline. I liked seeing her growing up. Her storyline was so rich and detailed that I felt like I was there and wasn’t expecting the ending. There were parts of that storyline that didn’t make sense (her abortion and its aftermath) at the time but made perfect sense once she and Victor got together.

While I didn’t like Frank (see above), I did like his storyline. I saw how he grew (or didn’t grow) as a character. I didn’t understand why the authors wrote him the way they did at first (spoiled man baby), but it made sense as the book continued. I wish the author talked about more of his criminal exploits (I was very interested), but I get why they weren’t.

Tracey’s storyline was the most interesting to me. As I mentioned above, I was rooting for him not to kill (while understanding that he had to). I also was on pins and needles, trying to figure out the connection between Isabelle, Tracey, and Frank.

The end of Death in a Dark Alley was explosive. I was not expecting what happened to happen. I had to take a break and process it for a minute before continuing with the book. It was that good. The authors did not wrap up any storylines (instead added to them). I cannot wait to read book three because I want to see where everything is going.

Three things I liked about Death in a Dark Alley

  • The characters (they were well fleshed out)
  • The storylines (were amazingly detailed)
  • The ending (took me by surprise)

Three things I disliked about Death in a Dark Alley

  • Frank. I thought he was a waste of space for most of the book (well, until the end)
  • Tracey gave into killing when in Russia. I was so upset about that.
  • What happened at the ending.

I would recommend Death in a Dark Alley to anyone over 21. There are sexual situations (not graphic), language, and some mild violence.


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