Donna’s favorite reads in 2015

The December column is always my favorite because I get to look back at my favorite reads from the year.

Duke City Desperado2015 saw the third book in the Duke City series by Max Austin released in June. DUKE CITY DESPERADO was a fun frolic through the misadventures of Dylan James and his buddy Doc who tried to rob a bank through the drive-up window.

Yeah, most of us would see the folly in this right from theDuke City Hit start but Doc, well, his perspective was skewed. It comes as no surprse that Doc was immediately captured but Dylan manages to stay about a half-step away from the law through a crazy set of circumstances that only Max Austin can deliver.

517UBdb43dL._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_Each book in the series stands alone with one common element: Alburburque, New Mexico. If you like crime from a slightly tweeked angle you’ve got to give the Duke City series a go.



The Jamie Sinclair series by Nichole Christoff is a hit for me. The debut 51U7daFZDcL._AC_UL320_SR242,320_was THE KILL LIST where Jamie and the baggage she calls “ex-husband” try to rescue his three-year-old daughter from kidnappers. In the course of her investigation she meets her love interest Adam Barrett who feeds stray dogs. Ladies, can I get a collective *sigh* on this?

51JHDkkSCwL._AC_UL320_SR240,320_THE KILL SHOT  goes international as Jamie tries to understand what send Adam rogue.

THE KILL BOX dives into Adam’s past when he returns 515VW7PtWhL._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_home unexpectedly and Jamie is hired by his grandmother to investigate his bizarre behavior.

Tightly written, with great insight to military life, Christoff delivers a fast-paced series for the romantic suspense crowd. I definitely recommend you grab all three.

41nV2oVnGZL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Another series that grabbed me was the urban fantasy series HIDDEN by Colleen Vanderlinden. I stumbled onto the books from a free give-away on FB and didn’t stop reading until the last book.

The first book, LOST GIRL, introduces us to Molly Brooks, a telepathic vigilante with a passion for finding lost girls. 519utj1FxaL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Fast paced, funny and heartwrenching this series delivers a host of fascinating supernatural characters in a highly imaginative world.

From the first page to the last this series is gold. I haven’t delved into Ms. Vanderlinden’s other series but they are certainly on my TBR pile.


Up From the GraveUP FROM THE GRAVE was the exit in the Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost. I enjoyed the strong willed vampire killing Kat and her teacher/husband Bones escapades and all the characters from that world, many have found series of their own.

While this wasn’t the best book in the series it is still a must read once you’ve dived into the tale and I do recommend that you enter their world.


Bronze FoxThe paranormal adventure BRONZE FOX by Diana Green was a delight. Tobias is a fox-shifter and Etty a street-wise ball of fire are teamed up in an adventure that is part Stargate, part steampunk and all adventure. Author of the Dragon Clan series, Ms. Green has written a wonderful tale. The only complaint I had was that I would have like the romance to take a little longer, I was enjoying the dance. BTW, Ms. Green also designed the gorgeous cover.

51CRFtWro3L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_This year saw the final installment in the Unknown Assassin series by Allen Zadoff. The first book I AM THE WEAPON introduced us to Boy Nobody. Taken at an early age and transformed into a teenage assassin, Boy Nobody was always the new kid in school, becoming who ever he needed to in order to get the job done. All went well until he started asking questions.

I loved the series and the final book, I AM THE TRAITOR gave a satisfying I am the Traitorending to these fast paced and intriguing books. This award winning series has been translated into over a dozen languages and has been optioned by Sony Pictures. Great for teens and adults.


An Untamed StateRoxane Gay delivers the powerful tale of Mireille Duval Jameson in AN UNTAMED STATE. While visiting family in Haiti Mireille was ripped from her fairy tale life and held for ransom. Knowing her father would never pay, this strong-willed woman fought to survive the horrific abuses inflicted on her by her captors.

The true power of this story comes in the second half of the book, after Mireille has been released by the kidnappers. Her journey back from the trauma was something I could not stop reading.


51HRGdMz39L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I requested a review copy of this book because Barney Teegarden just seemed like the kind of guy whose company I would enjoy. I was right. COMING BACK by John Inman was a wonderful tale of people who look out for each other with tenderness and humor. I look forward to grabbing the first two books in this series.


51sUwrukhPL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_This last book in my list of 2015 favorites is THE SOUND OF GLASS by New York bestselling author Karen White.

The generational effects of domestic violence are at the heart of this story. The story opens with a tragic plane crash in 1955 near the home of Edith Heyward in Beauford, South Carolina that deposits a suitcase in Edith’s yard and leaves the reader with a mystery.

Fast forward to 2014, Merritt Heyward loses her firefighter husband but inherits his family home in Beaufort where she meets the brother-in-law she didn’t know she had. Arriving in Beaufort on Merritt’s heel is her too-young stepmother, Loralee, and her half brother, Owen.

White brilliantly guides us through the awkward interactions of four people who seemingly have little in common as they grow to become a family. Rich details, compelling characters and numerous secrets keep you engaged until the last page. I loved this book.

Donna writes the review column The Eclectic Express for the Book Breeze.

Review: RETURN TO DUST by Andrew Lanh

514mHsWVC8L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_RETURN TO DUST by Andrew Lanh

Poisoned Pen Press Mystery

In this crisp, well-written book, Lanh once again takes readers into the closely connected community of the Vietnamese, as he did in his first Rick Van Lam book, Caught Dead. When the intrepid private investigator sends flowers to the funeral of his infrequent housekeeper, he becomes mired in the complicated labyrinth of her life. An unassuming, somewhat nosy woman, Marta Kowalski’s death reopens her Pandora’s Box of evil: writhing jealousies, vicious rivalries, and venomous cruelty. Lanh takes readers into the difficulties and prejudices Rick faces as an Amerasian, not welcomed by the full-blooded Vietnamese. But his sidekick, Hank Nguyen and Hank’s wise Buddhist grandmother receive him in friendship and provide valuable information to unravel the death of Marta. Was it really suicide or something far more sinister.

Mystery Reviews

A HIgh-End FinishA HIGH-END FINISH, by Kate Carlisle (Obsidian, 2014, $7.99) takes us to a small town in northern California, where Shannon Hammer is restoring one of the town’s many Victorian houses. A panic call lead to the discovery of a fresh corpse in her construction site. Worse yet, it’s the man whose aggressive moves she had to stop with a decisive kick to the shins the night before. Shannon’s tools keep popping up as the list of victims gets longer. It’s up the Shannon and her friends to uncover the small-town secrets and pin down a devious killer. Plenty of re-construction tips salted into this light-hearted look at the California life-style.

On the other side of the country, White House chef Olivia “Ollie” Paras is up to her toque in trouble. ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MENUS (Berkley, 2015, $7.99) has her dealing with a delegation of foreign chefs while the government All the President's Menuswrestles with a general sequester. The president is playing host to a major dignitary from an ally with a repressive regime, even though the White House has a skeleton staff and almost all other entertaining has been curtailed until the budgetary difficulties are reconciled. Accidents may happen, and it’s possible that the pastry chef Marcel made a mistake in his medication, but when one of the visiting chefs is poisoned, Ollie knows it’s time to take action herself. It takes some help from a skittish translator and co-operation from the FBI agent assigned to the White House security, but once again, Ollie Paras comes through, foiling a nasty plot involving the president, the visitors, and a small dog. Recipes are included, for those who want to bring a touch of the White House to their own tables.

Farther up the East coast, in Harbor Haven, New Jersey, Alison Kerby runs a haunted Bed-and-breakfast. And take occasional clients as a licensed private detective. In INSPECTOR SPECTER, by E. J, Copperman (Berkley, 2014, $7.99), she’s hired by her chief nemesis, Detective Lieutenant Anita McElone, to find out why a revered mentor was killed. McElone is convinced that her Inspector Specterformer partner never committed suicide, but she’s been blocked from investigating the case, and thinks that Alison’s “special agents”, i.e., ghosts, can help by contacting the departed. Then McElone disappears, and Alison is on her own, more or less, with the help of both living and deceased assistants. Was the spectral inspector on the take, as a mob witness suggests? Or are there wheels within wheels in the Jersey underworld? When another ghost surfaces, things get really sticky! It’s a race to the finish, as Alison deals with not one, but two murders, and McElone is finally convinced that ghosts do exist on the Jersey shore. A fun read, for a cold night.

Still in New Jersey, E.J. Copperman gets some help from his Alter Ego, Jeff Cohen, In THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD (Midnight Ink, 2014, $14.99). Samuel Hoenig has set up a business unique to his talents and limitations as The Questions of the mIssing Heada man with Asperger’s Syndrome. He answers questions, based in an ex-pizza parlor in New Brunswick NJ. His latest question send him and his newly-hired assistant on a wild chase to find out who stole a preserved head from a facility that is supposed to preserve remains until science finds a way to bring them back to life. A murder on the scene of the Garden State Cryonics Institute leads to a night of wild action, kidnap threats, an other murder attempt, and a ransom demand. Money and passion are something that Samuel doesn’t quite understand, but he can deduce from facts, and he nails the killer. E.J. Copperman provides the humor, Jeff Cohen is the expert on Asperger’s, and together they forge a compelling tale of greed and its consequences. We may hear more from Samuel and Ms. Washburn, as they answer questions in the Garden State.

A small college town should be far from the mayhem of the major urban areas, but Leigh Perry’s adjunct college instructor and reluctant sleuth Georgia Thackeray manages to find plenty of action, with the help of her unusual assistant, Sid the Skeleton. In The Skeleton Takes a BowTHE SKELETON TAKES A BOW (Berkley, 2014, $7.99), Sid insists he’s witnessed a murder, after he’s been left in a high school locker overnight by mistake. However, there’s no body, and no one seems to be missing. Of course, there was woman found dead of an accidental drug overdose, but that wasn’t at the high school, and had nothing to do with what Sid overheard… or did it? Georgia has enough on her plate, taking on SAT tutoring for the high school as well as her college classes, but she’s drawn into the mystery when the marks on the papers don’t seem to match the abilities of her students. Is there some kind of scam going on in this town? Or is this just the tip of a much bigger, nastier, and more profitable iceberg? Sid’s unique abilities help uncover the scandal and nail a murderer, in this supernatural cozy.

Reviews provided by Roberta Rogow for her column Roberta’s Ramblings in the May 2015 issue of The Book Breeze.

Review – Doing it at the Dixie Dew

Ruth Moose
Minotaur Books
Cozy Mystery


People are dropping like flies in the small Southern town of Littleboro. Beth McKenzie’s inaugural guest at her new bread and breakfast, Dixie Dew, is the first body. Ruth Moose clearly knows her craft and gives an intriguing look into the life of a new entrepreneur and the challenges that are heavy enough without a death in the lovely old house she inherited from Mama Alice. Distraught and confused, the protagonist, Beth, journeys from elation to questioning her decisions and back again, struggling with a possible love interest, the police, and exploration to find out who is killing people in Littleboro. A cryptic note tucked into her dresser confounds and frightens her into action.


Ida Plum Duckett, Beth’s right arm in all things Dixie Dew, keeps things at the B&B in line as Beth stumbles, trying to find her place in the small town and withstand the stigma of Miss Lavinia Lovingood, who shocked the town by returning and then dying her first night back. Carefully tied off sub-plots and the mystery of Miss Lovingood, involve wonderfully named characters—a little Dickensian karma—in the setting of a charismatic house. The tortured tales of those murdered makes for a good read and hopefully introduces a new series at the Dixie Dew.


Reviewed by Mahala Church for her column Barefoot Reviews in The Book Breeze.

YA Review – I AM THE MISSION (Book #2 in Boy Nobody series)


Allen Zadoff

Publisher:  Little Brown Books for Young Readers

June 17, 2014

Genre:  YA Thriller/Mystery

He was the perfect assassin. No name. No past. No remorse. Perfect, that is, until he began to ask questions and challenge his orders. Now The Program is worried that their valuable soldier has become a liability.

And so Boy Nobody is given a new mission. A test of sorts. A chance to prove his loyalty.

His objective: Take out Eugene Moore, the owner of an extremist military training camp for teenagers. It sounds like a simple task, but a previous operative couldn’t do it. He lost the mission and is presumed dead. Now Boy Nobody is confident he can finish the job. Quickly.

But when things go awry, Boy Nobody finds himself lost in a mission where nothing is as it seems: not The Program, his allegiances, nor the truth.

Zadoff has delivered another great addition to the Boy Nobody series.  The main character can be compared to a teenage Jason Bourne – focused, determined, and unstoppable.  Yet despite all his training he still has this glimmer of humanity that forces him to question why.

I could not stop reading this book.  The complexity of the plot and characters was amazing.  I was delighted to see the return of Howard from the first book and the renewal of the query about what happened to his father but this is something that will hopefully be addressed in the next book.

Well-written, this non-stop action/thriller is a must read.

BTW – The first book, I AM THE WEAPON, has been optioned for a major motion picture from Sony Pictures and Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment.  (Quoted from Allen Zadoff’s website)