Bookish Giveaway & Review: Twelve to Murder by Lauren Carr

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Narrator: James C. Lewis

Publisher: Acorn Book Services (2017)

Length: 6 hours 39 minutes

Series: Book 7 Mac Faraday

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 7 in the series, it works just fine as a stand alone.

With the gruesome murder of the Stillmans, the police of Spencer, Maryland are out in force. Unfortunately, they fail to corral Derrick Stillman before he talks to the press, throwing blame for the murders on former child movie star Lenny Frost. From there, we end up with a group of drunk baseball enthusiasts held hostage while Mac Faraday and his half-brother police chief David O’Callaghan dig into the sordid pasts of all these people, the victims and suspects alike.

This was a delicious murder mystery that brings together failed movie careers, hostage situations, double and triple crossing, and guilt trips. Also, we delve into Mac’s love life a bit as his girlfriend Archie pushes to know why he doesn’t want to take the next step. Meanwhile, Gnarly dog is having girlfriend trouble of his own as he was pimped out, only to return to his regular girlfriend, Molly dog.

My favorite scenes were the old timers at the bar who are nearly oblivious to being held hostage (if only everyone would quiet down so they could enjoy the ball game!) and then when David takes on the female stunt woman Sela Wallace and walks away with some injuries. I also liked the jokes at Gnarly’s expense (lovingly doled out). He did over eat a bit, and it was weird bar food, so of course he would have digestive issues later on.

As a minor quibble, Wanda at the police station is described the exact same way in each book. I think I only noticed this because I have been listening to these books back to back. The sentences are the same, explaining that she’s almost always at the office because her grown kids and their offspring moved back home and she’s avoiding that chaos. With that said, we actually get to know more about her in this book as she has several lines while folks gather at the police station to figure out this tangled mystery.

I liked how we had two alcoholics/addicts in this tale. One has obviously worked hard to clean up his act while the other only enjoys the drama of the cycle (treatment, recovery, falling off the wagon, binges, treatment, etc.). It pulled at the heart strings a bit to see how one was trusted over the other with the resultant consequences.

Over all, it was a good solid mystery with plenty of moving parts and more than one guilty person with more than one motive. I love the way Mac puts challenges in front of his hotel manager, a really good guy who takes his job seriously.

I received a free copy of this book via iRead Book Tours.

The Narration: James C. Lewis was OK with this book. His female voices were good but his range wasn’t that big. Often, I had to listen closely to keep track of who was talking unless it was a character with a distinct accent. The narrators keep changing for this series and I think that’s part of it. I had gotten used to Mike Algers and previously Dan Lawson did an incredible job on one of the books. Book 1 was narrated by a woman, Janean Jorgenson. As a stand alone, I would say this is a decent narration.

What I Liked: A layered mystery; former child stars; an alcoholic who is succeeding with his recovery versus one who doesn’t take recovery seriously; the drunk baseball enthusiasts at the bar; Gnarly’s woman troubles; Sela the stunt woman; multiple guilty parties.

What I Disliked: There’s a minor character, Wanda, who gets the same descriptive paragraph for the last 3 books. This is a minor criticism and didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book. 

Check out the TOUR PAGE for more reviews and stuff.

GIVEAWAY!!!

One winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift card (Open internationally). Ends July 21st, 2017.

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Bookish Giveaway & Review: Blast from the Past by Lauren Carr

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Narrator: Dan Lawson

Publisher: Acorn Book Services (2014)

Length: 7 hours 13 minutes

Series: Book 4 Mac Faraday

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 4 in the series, it works just fine as a stand alone.

Set in Spencer, Maryland in the Deep Creek Lake gated community, retired DC cop Mac Faraday is about to be hip deep in organized crime and federal protection agents. Tommy Cruze is out of prison after several years and his search has finally turned up the witness that put him behind bars. He’s come to Spencer to hunt her down.

This was a great addition to the series. We finally have something more to Archie Monday than her efficient nature and love of pink. She witnessed a serious crime many years back and had to testify and then go into federal protective custody. That meant saying goodbye to her entire past and becoming the personal assistant to Robin Spencer, a renowned mystery writer and Mac’s true birth mother (who gave him up for adoption). Now all that has to come out and Mac’s both a little hurt that Archie hadn’t told him before and also feeling very protective of her, as two of Cruze’s men have already made an attempt on her life. Lucky for Archie, she took the time to become a proficient shot.

Things get even more convoluted when a poisoning occurs at a dockside cafe where a woman and her daughter, who also happen to be in federal protective custody, work. Leah and her young daughter Sari move into the big Spencer Manor for protection while all this gets sorted out.

Randi Finnegan was a fun addition to the story. Mac’s half-brother David O’Callaghan has caught the eye of the federal agent but Randi isn’t sure he’s interested at all. She’s prickly and not a beauty and she knows it. So she focuses on the job and she’s good at it. I liked the potential of something blooming between these two.

There’s potentially another murder at a B&B. Initially, it looks like a very sick woman stumbled and fell down the stairs, but Mac and David look deeper. Yet another death occurs outside of a restaurant in town and the police have to consider if this one is linked to Tommy Cruze and his second in command. Indeed, it seems Spencer is full of killers this season!

Mac, Archie, and David have their hands full untangling this one! I really enjoyed watching them dig down to the roots of these cases and figure out which were related and which weren’t. Meanwhile, Gnarly was keeping the little girl Sari company. This was so sweet and so cute that it was almost too much. Like a sweet lemonade, sometimes the sugar can just be too much. Luckily, those scenes were sprinkled throughout the story so it wasn’t a turn off.

I received a free copy of this book via iRead Book Tours.

The Narration: Dan Lawson rocked this book. There have been a few narrators for this series and Lawson is my favorite so far. He has a really good range of voices, his female voices are believable, he does the little kid Sari really well, and he even has believable accents (both foreign and regional). I was impressed with his performance on this book.

What I Liked: Archie’s past; Archie’s gun skills; Randi’s dedication to her job; Sari & Gnarly; the tangle of murders; great narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I really liked this one!

Check out the TOUR PAGE for more reviews and stuff.

GIVEAWAY!!!

One winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift card (Open internationally). Ends July 9th, 2017.

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Giveaway & Review: Shades of Murder by Lauren Carr

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Narrator: Mike Alger

Publisher: Acorn Book Services (2016)

Length: 5 hours 25 minutes

Series: Book 3 Mac Faraday

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 3 in the series, it works just fine as a stand alone.

Mac Faraday, a retired cop and the unexpected inheritor of a famed mystery writer’s fortune, decides to delve into a cold case file when a long-lost painting comes into his possession. With the help of his girlfriend Archie, his dog Gnarly, and his half-brother cop David, they may be able to untangle this cold case. Meanwhile in Pennsylvania, lawyer Joshua Thornton has agreed to look into yet a different cold case, one that nearly everyone assumes was committed by a serial killer who has been behind bars for years. Detective Cameron believes him and offer her aid along with a bit of mutual affection.

I really enjoyed this addition to the Faraday/Thornton murder mystery series. It was great seeing how Joshua’s and Cameron’s relationship got started. Cameron’s cat Irving was also a lot of fun and Joshua’s initial response to this ‘detective’ cat was amusing. Honestly, I love how forward Cameron is about everything. She makes no excuses or apologies for her cat and she gets her job done even if it means pissing off management. It’s great that she was the first to show real interest in starting a relationship.

I’ve read several Lauren Carr mysteries by now and I was guessing that the two cold cases were probably related somehow but the link between the two was not immediately obvious and for a good chunk of the tale, I thought that perhaps this book would be the odd ball. No worries! It’s not and I enjoyed how the author tied the two together.

In this particular book, Mac reveals that he’d like a little more out of his relationship with Archie and he doesn’t understand why she doesn’t sleep over, or why he’s not invited to sleep over at her place. After all, they have a fully affectionate relationship otherwise. The answer at the end of the book was amusing and I’m glad these two worked it out.

The murder mysteries themselves were very interesting. Initially, I was more interested in Joshua’s since it involved a serial killer, who is in prison, making a heartfelt plea to the lawyer to look into this particular Jane Doe, swearing he had nothing to do with her. That definitely piqued my interest. Faraday’s mystery took me a little longer to get interested in simply because it looked like so much was known about it all those years ago. However, it turns out that it’s not that simple. There’s plenty there for Mac and Archie to piece together.

I received a free copy of this book via iRead Book Tours.

The Narration: Mike Alger was a good fit for this tale. I liked his voice for Cameron quite a bit as he managed to sound like a mature yet playful woman who knows her mind. I also liked his voice for Mac, sounding decisive. He was great with the humor as well. I did feel his accent for Greta could have used some polishing.

What I Liked: Cold case murders; how Joshua & Cameron got together; Irving’s need for company all the time; Gnarly’s love of beach towels; famous artwork; a serial killer’s plea.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I really liked this one!

Check out the TOUR PAGE for more reviews and stuff.

GIVEAWAY!!!

One winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift card (Open internationally). Ends July 9th, 2017.

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Giveaway & Review: Dead on Ice by Lauren Carr

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Narrator: Mike Alger

Publisher: Acorn Book Services (2016)

Length: 6 hours 9 minutes

Series: Book 1 Lovers in Crime Mysteries

Author’s Page

The body of adult entertainment star Cherry Pickens turns up in the basement of Joshua Thornton’s cousin. It’s on Cameron Gates’s beat, throwing the two into a joint investigation. West Virginia-Pennsylvania state lines blur as they dig into this mystery.

While I have already ‘met’ Cameron and Jonathan in a later mystery (Kill and Run, Book 1 of Thorny Rose Mysteries), it was great to go back to this tale and meet them afresh. The tale starts off with a body in an old non-functioning freezer in a basement along with a bomb that throws some chaos into the mix. Turns out Cherry Pickens once lived in the area and disappeared years ago after the murder of teen Angie Sullivan. Discovery of Cherry’s body brings up old mysteries, feuds, and questions. I loved the layered mysteries in this book, as is such the case with other Carr mysteries I have enjoyed.

I have to say something about Cameron’s cat Irving. He is both a delight and a distraction. While I love that Irving is such a big part of Cameron’s life, I don’t get her taking him on investigations. She’s a police detective and good at it but having a ride along cat seems a bit silly. Other than that, I love how Irving isn’t too sure about Jonathan being around so much. The skunk scenes were great.

Jonathan’s teen son, Donny, had a great role in this story. He got to play undercover info gatherer at one point and there’s an older woman who’s willing to teach him some interesting things. However, both Cameron and Jonathan don’t approve of this woman.

Speaking of older women, there are two senior citizen ladies who have a bit of a brawl. In this scene they are actually rolling around on the floor yelling, punching, pulling hair, etc. I did find this to be a bit overkill and what might have been comedic turned into silly nonsense. This one scene sticks with me so well because it is simply ridiculous and doesn’t really fit the tone of the rest of the book. With that said, it does illustrate to great effect the distaste these two ladies have for each other. Their long-time feud becomes the center of the story.

On the side, the romance between Cameron and Jonathan is on. It feels like it has been going on for some time, so I wonder if this book is interconnected to yet an earlier series. Either way, it’s nice to have a touch of romance in the tale that doesn’t eclipse the murder mystery.

I received a free copy of this book via iRead Book Tours.

The Narration: Mike Alger did a pretty good job with this story. His voices for Jonathan and Cameron were good and he does a really good old lady voice as well. I liked his teen voice for Donny too. I did feel that some of his female voices could use a touch more femininity but I can also hear that he is giving it his best.

What I Liked: Layered murder mystery; the state lines issue; there’s a bomb in the basement!; an old feud finally put to rest.

What I Disliked: Why take your cat on investigation?; that rolling around on the floor brawl scene – too silly!

Check out the TOUR PAGE for more reviews and stuff.

GIVEAWAY!!!

One winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift card (Open internationally). Ends July 9th, 2017.

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Giveaway & Review: A Fine Year for Murder by Lauren Carr

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Narrator: C. J. McAllister

Publisher: Acorn Book Services (2017)

Length: 10 hours 17 minutes

Series: Book 2 Thorny Rose Mysteries

Author’s Page

Note: While this is Book 2 in the series, it works just fine as a stand alone.

Jessica Faraday is still having nightmares and unfortunately she’s acting out in her sleep and striking her new husband, Murphy Thornton. She needs answers as to why she does this. When their journalist friend Dallas Walker calls with some interesting news about the Pine Bridge Massacre, which occurred over a decade ago, Jessica starts to wonder if maybe she’s suppressed a memory from that night when her family was visiting the area. Now Murphy and Jessica return to Jessica’s family winery to hunt for clues. What they find stirs up Jessica’s memories.

I liked this book more than I did Book 1, Kill and Run. There were fewer family members to get mixed up and not much jurisdictional squabbling to keep straight. I was able to focus on getting to know Murphy and Jessica. In Book 1, Murphy had a definite role while Jessica was a minor character. Here, we get to meet her family and learn some history of the area as well. While I did feel that Jessica spent an inordinate amount of time frozen, crying, or freaking out, she eventually is able to struggle free of that and actually do something. She ends on a strong, healthy note by the end of this book.

The mystery is layered, which I loved. There are layers of motive from back then when a family was murdered. Then a few more layers have been added on over the years as blackmail and cover-ups come into play. I also liked this little side mystery involving some minor characters in the story.

Now about Murphy. He’s a Phantom, which is some sort of military special ops super secret silliness. This was brought up in Book 1 but didn’t really factor in, so I could ignore it. Now it gets more play here and I’m on the fence about it. He’s a trained, killing weapon, so you better not startle him… or drop hot tea on his pants. That seemed a little overdone to me. On the other hand, he’s a really great guy to have around in a pinch. I did like the straw trick.

Jessica’s recovered memories are sprinkled throughout the tale and sometimes they act as a deus ex machina to move the plot along. Not all the time, since the duo (and eventually Dallas as well) continue to find other clues. Jessica’s recovered memories were sometimes used well and sometimes I felt they were a little too convenient for the plot. Still, I was kept entertained by the uncovering of not only the previous crime but also of subsequent crimes.

What I really liked about this book is that it brought up some things about spousal abuse, like assumptions other people make. Jessica is having these horrible nightmares and she unknowingly acts out in her sleep, injuring Murphy more than once. In turn, he occasionally acts back without wanting to hurt her but just to stop her from seriously damaging him.  In short, they both have marks but people only react to Jessica’s injuries (which I think is very realistic) without asking for details or checking Murphy for injuries. I liked how the story incorporated this nuance of culture.

I received a free copy of this book via iRead Book Tours.

The Narration: C. J. McAllister did a better job with this book. I was luke warm on his performance for Book 1 but I feel he really improved for this book. He definitely sounded engaged and his female voices were better. Though his voice for Jessica often sounded like he was talking with tight pursed lips, especially during the romantic scenes – and that put an odd image in my head. That could just be me. I liked his big Texan accent for Dallas.

What I Liked: A layered mystery; we definitely get more of Jessica in this one making her a real character; Murphy is a good fighter to have on your side; crimes then and crimes since then – they all need solving; Jessica gets to reconnect with her family, for good or bad; Jessica’s violent dreams and all that they lead to.

What I Disliked: Jessica does spend a chunk of book being nearly useless; Murphy’s ‘I’m a deadly Phantom weapon’ part seemed a bit silly.

Check out more reviews, interviews, spotlights, and more on the blog tour.

Synopsis of A Fine Year for Murder:

After 10 months of marital bliss, Jessica Faraday and Murphy Thornton are still discovering and adjusting to their life together. Settled in their new home, everything appears to be perfect…except in the middle of the night when, in the darkest shadows of her subconscious, a deep secret from Jessica’s past creeps to the surface to make her strike out at Murphy.

When investigative journalist Dallas Walker tells the couple about her latest case, known as the Pine Bridge Massacre, they realize Jessica may have witnessed the murder of a family while visiting family at the winery near-by, and suppressed the memory.

Determined to uncover the truth and find justice for the murder victims, Jessica and Murphy return to the scene of the crime with Dallas Walker, a spunky bull-headed Texan. Can this family reunion bring closure for a community touched by tragedy or will this prickly get-together bring an end to the Thorny Rose couple?

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About the Author Lauren Carr:

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr’s seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, romance, and humor.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, son, and four dogs (including the real Gnarly) on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

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GIVEAWAY!!!

One winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift card (Open internationally)

Ends April 22

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The Murders at Astaire Castle by Lauren Carr

CarrTheMurdersAtAstaireCastleNarrator: Dan Lawson

Publisher: Acorn Book Services (2014)

Length: 8 hours 9 minutes

Series: Book 5 Mac Faraday

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 5 in the series, it works just fine as a stand alone novel.

Set on Spencer Hill, in Deep Creek, Maryland, Mac Faraday won’t balk at exploring his property in full, and that includes the Astaire Castle which has been closed up since his biological mother passed away. It’s haunted and even his own half-brother David O’Callaghan (local police chief) thinks it’s a very bad idea to go exploring the castle. The Astaire Castle is the site of suicides, disappearances, and murders. As Mac Faraday, retired homicide detective, delves into the castle’s history yet more bodies turn up, and he and David are soon forced to reopen the case of the missing horror writer Damian Wagner.

This was an entertaining story, especially for the Halloween season. This tale has the haunted castle, a missing horror writer, and a wolf man! And that’s just the opening few chapters to this book. Mac and David argue like brothers and there’s a real  friendship there even if they disagree on things. Hector, the blunt Australian, was a favorite character as well. I liked his (sometimes snarky) humor. Gnarly, the big friendly, food-oriented German shepherd, often stole the show.

While the men get to do most of the action and decisions for the book, there are a few ladies that stand out. Archie, Mac’s lover, has  some role attached to the police department, though the details of which remained a bit fuzzy to me. While the guys often left her behind as they went off to adventure, she did have her moments with her gentle teasing, easing info out of this character or that. Chelsea with her medical condition and her service dog, Molly, also added to the story, specifically as an interesting love interest for one of the characters.

The wolfman was an interesting touch and one I didn’t expect. It definitely added a dimension to the book. The reveal of who did it came as a surprise as well. The wrap up left me wondering if there was a supernatural element to the story after all. All told, my only quibble is that I would have liked the ladies to be a bit more involved. Other than that, it was a pretty fun read.

I received a copy of this audiobook from the author (via iRead Book Tours – thanks!) at no cost.

Narration: Dan Lawson makes a great Mac Faraday. He sounds decisive and also  captures the characters fondness (and sometimes exasperation) for Gnarly. His female voices were believable.  His voice for David was similar to Mac’s  (which makes sense since they are related) and he kept it distinct from Mac’s most of the time.

What I Liked: Haunted castle; multiple bodies from different methods; the wolfman; Gnarly and his willingness to put anything in his mouth; Chelsea and her service dog; Hector the blunt Australian; good ending. 

What I Disliked: The ladies often get pushed to the backseat. 

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