Contemporary Fiction #bookreview: Takes One to Know One by #SusanIsaacs @GroveAtlantic

Takes One to Know One by Susan Isaacs

My review: 4 of 5 Stars

Lots of sleuthing and snark make Takes One to Know One enjoyable reading. I delighted in the characters and the crisp dialogue. The pace was steady, not a gripping page-turner. The mystery of Pete Delaney and the witty chatter of Corrie Geller kept me reading despite the slower pace. Toward the end the drama increased quite a bit, and the suspense and intrigue grew. The only real action came late in the book but made for a tense few chapters where I learned a bit about self-defense and zip-ties. If you don’t mind the strong language and like cozy mysteries, Takes One to Know One should be appealing. 

In accordance with FTC guidelines, please note I received a free copy from the publisher via BookishFirst in exchange for an honest review. 

Thriller Book Review: Pray for Silence by Linda Castillo

Pray for Silence
By Linda Castillo

My review: 4.5 of 5 stars

Pray for Silence features gruesome, disturbing violence that haunts the reader in much the same way as it haunts the cops in this story. Castillo spares no detail, increasing the horror quotient ten-fold. The characters, the police procedures, and the Amish practices feel authentic, and the author also knows when to throw in a bit of humor to take the edge off. Fast-paced and tense this Kate Burkholder book is (like the others) hard to put down and even harder to forget.


“There is an underground society that runs beneath the Norman Rockwell-facade of most small towns, and Painters Mill is no exception” (p. 25).

“The mind of a killer is a dark, malignant place, viscous with a cancer of black thoughts and secret hungers most people can’t imagine” (p. 91).

“For a reason I can’t readily identify, I’m reluctant to leave. I feel if I walk out, I’ll be closing the door on unfinished business” (p. 216).

If you like gruesome, gritty murder thrillers, you might also try:

Tami Hoag’s Kovac and Liska Books

Book Tour: Love, Murder & Mayhem (an anthology)

~ Book Blitz ~
Love, Murder & Mayhem

About the Book
Love science fiction stories that all include
elements ofLove, Murder & Mayhem?

Then welcome to the latest anthology from Crazy
8 Press! This amazing collection from 15 all-star authors will delight you with
superheros and supervillains. AIs, off-worlders, and space cruisers. We’ve also
got private eyes, sleep surrogates, time travelers, aliens and monsters—and one

With tales ranging from wild and wacky to dark
and gritty to heartbreaking and fun, take the deadly leap with authors Meriah
Crawford, Paige Daniels, Peter David, Mary Fan, Michael Jan Friedman, Robert
Greenberger, Glenn Hauman Paul Kupperberg, Karissa Laurel, Kelly Meding, Aaron
Rosenberg, Hildy Silverman, Lois Spangler, Patrick Thomas, and editor Russ

You’ll never look at Love,
Murder & Mayhem
same way again—and that’s just the way we like it.
About the Editor
Russ Colchamiro is the author of
the rollicking space adventure, Crossline, the hilarious sci-fi backpacking
comedy series, Finders Keepers, Genius de Milo, and Astropalooza, and is editor
of the new anthology, Love, Murder & Mayhem, all with Crazy 8 Press.
Russ lives in New Jersey with his
wife, two children, and crazy dog, Simon, who may in fact be an alien himself.
Russ has also contributed to several other anthologies, including Tales of the
Crimson Keep, Pangaea, and Altered States of the Union, and TV Gods 2. He is
now at work on a top-secret project, and a Finders Keepers spin-off.
As a matter of full disclosure,
readers should not be surprised if Russ spontaneously teleports in a blast of
white light followed by screaming fluorescent color and the feeling of being
sucked through a tornado. It’s just how he gets around — windier than the bus,
for sure, but much quicker.


Book Review: The Trespasser (Dublin Murder Squad Book 6) by Tana French


The Trespasser by Tana French

My review: 4 of 5 stars

Tana French knows how to engage the reader and tell a good story. The prose is rhythmic. The voice feels authentic. In The Trespasser, French again demonstrates her skill at getting insider her characters’ heads and understanding their psychology and motivations. In this Dublin Murder Squad book, however, I found the police procedural play-by-play a bit tedious. The office politics kept my interest though, and the interrogations succeeded in being tense and edge-of-your-seat dramatic. The Trespasser contained wit and humor as well. Occasionally I found the characters in this novel annoying due to their paranoia, but the story was still engrossing. I highly recommend the Dublin Murder Squad series for fans of crime novels and police dramas. This series is one of my favorites in the genre.


“If you want to kill someone, have enough respect for my time to make it someone, anyone, other than the most gobsmackingly obvious person in the world” (p. 26).

“Enough mud in the water can take you a long way towards reasonable doubt” (p. 115).

“If someone rescues you, they own you” (p. 256).

Tami Hoag’s Kovac and Liska Books

the bitter season tami hoag

I met Tami Hoag when she visited Atlanta in January of this year. I read a few of her books about 15 years ago, and remembered enjoying them. She was touring to promote The Bitter Season, the 5th book featuring detectives Kovac and Liska. So, before reading The Bitter Season, I decided to return to the beginning and read all of the Kovac and Liska Books in order. I finished The Bitter Season last week, and I really enjoyed my journey which took me back to 1999.

1 – Ashes to Ashes (1999)
2 – Dust to Dust (2000)
3 – Prior Bad Acts (2006)
3.5 – The 1st Victim (novella, 2013)
4 – The 9th Girl (2013)
5 – The Bitter Season (2016)

1) Ashes to Ashes (Kovac and Liska Book 1) by Tami Hoag (borrowed from the local library)
My review: 4 of 5 stars

A serial killer (The Cremator) who burns the bodies of his victims has a witness, a teenager who refuses to talk with the FBI. Kate Conlan, victims’ advocate and Special Agent John Quinn combine forces to solve the case at great personal cost. Set in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Hennepin County. Chilling and adreniline inducing, including a wry sense of humor. Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska (homicide detectives) are first introduced in Ashes to Ashes. Raw and realistic dialogue with a conversational, fast-paced rhythmn. Attention to detail brings the story and the characters to life – including each scene and procedure. Not for the faint of heart as some details are graphic and gruesome. Also contains foul-language. Delves richly into the psychology of both the cops and the killer. Recommended for fans of romantic suspense, crime thrillers, and mystery novels who don’t mind blue language and gory details.


“Rationalization: the key to a clear conscience” (p. 56).

“If there was one thing she had learned in life, it was that you could escape circumstance, but you could never escape who you were” (p. 87).

“Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac” (p. 153).

“Negative emotion was still emotion. Indifference was the thing to dread” (p. 197).

“Everyone was a victim of something” (p. 410).

2) Dust to Dust (Kovac and Liska Book 2) by Tami Hoag (borrowed from the local library)
My review: 4 of 5 stars

Two cops investigate the death of a Minneapolis Internal Affairs cop, Andy Fallon. Officially ruled an accident, Kovac and Liska come to believe the death is a homicide and somehow to to Fallon’s work. However, the political climate and other factors mean they must put their careers and lives on the line to reveal the truth.

The author paid exquisite attention to detail. The climate of the time (2000) was reflected in the attitude toward homosexuality and added to the potential motivations for the crime. Hoag managed to answer questions for the reader before the reader even thought to ask them. Authentic sounding cop dialogue with gallows humor. Both a psychological and philosophical novel, I recommended it for fans of writers like Karin Slaughter and anyone who enjoys crime thrillers.


“Some days life just sucked when you were a decent human being” (p. 36).

“If you never want anything, then you can’t be disappointed when you don’t get it” (p. 98).

“Which was worse? Being too hard to feel, too remote to be touched, or being open to being hurt by that contact?” (p. 144)

3) Prior Bad Acts (Kovac and Liska Book 3) by Tami Hoag (borrowed from local library)
My review: 4 of 5 stars

Even with several years having passed between Kovac and Liska books, Hoag manages to maintain consistency in their characters – even the ongoing saga between Kovac and his neighbor with the Christmas lights. With several mysteries interwoven, Prior Bad Acts is riveting, chilling, dramatic, suspenseful and terrifying. The characters are well-rounded, and the relationships are complex. The story is heartbreaking with well-written, emotional scenes. Recommended for fans of crime/suspense novels.


“It’s not about right or wrong. It’s about rules and fairness, and making sure no one has the common sense to form an opinion” (p. 16).

“People never had a clue what an illusion their sense of safety was” (p. 41).

“This is what it’s like to lose your mind…” (p. 153).

“Zeal is right up there on the list of suspicious emotional behaviors like joy and despair” (p. 177).

3.5) The 1st Victim (Kovac and Liska short story/novella) by Tami Hoag (e-book purchase)
My review: 4 of 5 stars

To have the full Kovac and Liska experience, I recommend spending the $1.99 for The 1st Victim. Not only does it complete all the Kovac and Liska books up to this point, it serves as an enticing prequel to The 9th Girl.

4) The 9th Girl (Kovac and Liska Book 4) by Tami Hoag
My review: 4 of 5 stars

The 9th unidentified female victim of the year falls from the trunk of a car on New Year’s Eve in Minneapolis. Kovac and Liska must identifiy her remains and find her killer. Their fear is that she may be the victim of a vicious, transient serial killer whom they’ve nicknamed Doc Holiday for his penchant for killing on or around holidays.

After reading four of Hoag’s Kovac and Liska books back to back, I noticed repetitions that might have passed by me otherwise. She has a tendency to describe characters the same way repeatedly. For example, Kovac as the “poor man’s Harrison Ford.” While on one hand, such repetition provides consistency when years pass between novel, it feels redundant when the reader has just read that same description in the previous novel. One consistency that is consistently amusing is the ongoing Christmas decor of Kovac’s neighbor that he is aggravated by each and every year. It provides for a little light humor in what is often a dark novel. Hoag follows through on story threads, keeping the reader up-to-date on the lives of Kovac and Liska even though there have been several books in between. With secretive, surly teenagers and mysteries within mysteries, this Kovac and Liska novel was stressful, sad, disturbing and frustrating. (Note: foul language and graphic violence). The story kept me riveted and on edge, so I was relieved when the nightmare was over and the horrible crimes were solved. I also had to go find something happy to read afterward. Recommended for Karin Slaughter fans and those who enjoy crime fiction of the down and dirty, more graphic variety.


“Happy freaking New Year” (p. 12).

“You make life more complicated than it needs to be” (p. 31).

“Homicide detectives were to medical examiners what four-year-old children were to overworked mothers” (p. 48).

“Absurdity is the humor of the superior mind” (p. 53).

“We live our lives like hamsters running in wheels” (p. 143).

5) The Bitter Season (Kovac and Liska Book 5) by Tami Hoag
My review: 5 of 5 stars

The Bitter Season takes unhappy childhood bitterness to a whole new level. The beginning grabs you and never lets go. As with all the Kovac and Liska books, the humor is dark but also quite funny. The crime is gruesome and terrifying. The characters fascinate and captivate. The language is foul. The violence graphic. Several mysteries intertwine and grow increasingly complex. The reader senses impending danger throughout the novel. Hoag keeps the tension constant. Though always suspenseful and mysterious, the true thriller aspect comes later in the novel. A fascinating read with lots of dark secrets to uncover. Hoag adds psychological suspense to this Kovac and Liska novel that ramps up the drama and creates a riveting story. Highly recommended for fans of crime/suspense/thriller novels.


“If the Grim Reaper comes chasing me, he can just kill me and be done with it. I’m not spending my last waking moments running” (p. 141).

“Nothing was worse to a control freak than losing his grip in front of people” (p. 223).

“The world was a terrible place full of terrible people doing terrible things” (p. 300).

A Study in Short Fiction

“A short story is a love affair, a novel is a marriage. A short story is a photograph; a novel is a film.”
― Lorrie Moore

A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories (Barnes and Noble Modern Classics edition) by Flannery O’Connor (Georgia Author and winner of the National Book Award for The Complete Stories in 1972)
My review: 5 of 5 stars

With authentic southern dialect, O’Connor manages to shock the reader in a way so matter of fact that the effect is stunning. Good and evil, religious themes, and the dark side of humanity are explored and exposed, but not without a healthy dose of dry humor. Readers will appreciate her excellent use of imagery, metaphor, and personification, all of which magically convey character, tone, and theme in a few short pages. I believe O’Connor is the foremost example of a short fiction writer, particularly of southern writers. She’s a master of the form. Highly recommended!


“In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady” (p. 2, A Good Man….).

“They looked like the skeleton of an old boat with two pointed ends, sailing slowly on the edge of the highway” (p. 22, The River).

“True genius can get an idea across even to an inferior mind” (p. 134, Good Country People).

Study Guide

The Isle of Youth by Laura Van Den Berg
My review: 4.5 of 5 stars

The Isle of Youth is a collection of short stories featuring a variety of women mired in secrecy and deception. Most live quiet lives of desperation. The female characters are well-imagined with much depth. Each story contains conflict and tension. Many of the women make bad choices and must live with the consequences. This collection is imaginative and sensual with an immediate sense of conflict and tension in each. The characters are unique. These are not stories of the average woman in normal situations. Such is the draw and fascination with this collection. Definitely recommended.


“Other people’s lives were no less impossible to understand than my own” (p. 15, I Looked for You, I Called Your Name).

“We knew what it was like to want something so badly, it burned a whole inside you” (p. 33, “OPA-LOCKA).

“It was a terrible flaw, our ability to see where our lives were leading us” (p. 62, OPA-LOCKA).

“It felt very strange to not know where I was in time” (p. 121, Antarctica).

More Reviews

Voice of America by E.C. Osondu (Nigerian author and Winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing)
My review: 4 of 5 stars

In this collection of stories, Osondu portrays Nigerians (both in his homeland, and here in America) in an honest, unflinching light. He uses fascinating details to underscore the violence and desolation like how displaced children in refugee camps, the result of civil wars, name each other by the T-shirts they receive from foreign aid workers offering help. He offers intimate portraits of desperation and judgement, as well as insight into cultural differences and beliefs. He highlights the differences between Americans and Nigerians that result in cultural misunderstandings, and he doesn’t sugarcoat the problems in Nigeria. An illuminating read. Strongly recommended.

“Any white man that eats peppers must return to Lagos” (p. 31, Our First American).

“…the sky was wide enough for many birds to roam without their wings touching each other” (p. 36, Jimmy Carter’s Eyes).

Article in The Guardian

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (3 starred reviews and winner of the Pulitzer Prize)
My review: 4 of 5 stars

Olive Kitteridge is unique among short story collections because the stories are connected by a single character; Olive links everyone together. Except for the fact that each story has its own beginning, middle and end, Olive Kitteridge could just have easily been read as a novel. While the writing is excellent, and the characters well crafted, the pace of the book is rather slow. I think the short story format slowed it down. Rather than one chapter pulling the reader greedily into the next, stories played out individually and made the book easy to set down. On the other hand, each story captivated the reader. So, I enjoyed the read; it just took me awhile to complete it. Though I will say that the clever use of foreshadowing created some suspense and helped to move the book along.

Olive Kitteridge is a book for people who enjoy short fiction and character driven stories. The stories are about the people in a small town in Maine and how their lives intersect with Olive. Depending on the point of view, Olive can be seen as judgmental, rude, and bitter while at other times she is sympathetic, honest, observant, almost wise. She is a complex woman, and as such, opinions vary widely about her. Crosby, Maine is also a character shaping the lives of those who live there. The author captures the sounds, the smells, and the essence of this small coastal town.

Favorite words:

loquacious: talkative
quiescence: dormancy, inactivity
corporeality: existing in bodily form


“He wanted to put his arms around her, but she had a darkness that seemed to stand beside her like an acquaintance that would not go away” (p. 6, Pharmacy).

“You get use to things, he thinks, without getting used to things” (p. 16, Pharmacy).

“–oh, insane, ludicrous, unknowable world! Look how she wanted to live, look how she wanted to hold on” (p. 47, Incoming Tide).

“People mostly did not know enough when they were living life that they were living it” (p. 162, Tulips).

Other Links:

Reader’s Guide
Author’s website
HBO’s ‘Olive Kitteridge’ May Be The Best Depiction Of Marriage On TV

Claws for Alarm Book Blast and $50 Giveaway

ClawsNBA High ResClaws for Alarm by T.C. LoTempio

Since inheriting her mother’s sandwich shop, Nora Charles is more about hot grilled paninis than cold-blooded murder—until her sister Lacey is arrested. The victim, an esteemed art collector and Lacey’s bullying professor, was stabbed in the heart. Apparently, all over a lousy grade.

Off campus, things were just as dicey. The prof had an ex with secrets, a trophy wife set to inherit a fortune in masterworks, and a scorned student mistress. Going undercover, Nora realizes that investigating this crime is the biggest test of her sleuthing career. Because if she fails, even Nick’s animal instinct won’t be enough to rescue Lacey from a perfectly executed framing.

Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Praise for the Nick and Nora

“Nick and Nora are a winning team.”—Rebecca Hale, New York Times bestselling author of How to Paint a Cat

“Nick and Nora are the purrfect sleuthy duo!”—*Victoria Laurie, New York Times bestselling author of the Psychic Eye Mystery series

add to goodreads

Author T.C. LoTempio

Born in New York City, T. C. LoTempio is the national bestselling author of Meow If It’s Murder, the first in the Nick and Nora Mystery series. She has been a staff reporter at the young adult magazine Susabella Passengers and Friends for more than a decade. When she isn’t reporting or writing novels, she and her cat Rocco fundraise for Nathan Fillion’s charity, Kids Need to Read.

Website * Blog * Twitter * Facebook





$50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash

Ends 11/30/15

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

[simpleazon-image align=”left” asin=”B00BXU3HIS” locale=”us” height=”500″ src=”” width=”333″] [simpleazon-link asin=”0316126101″ locale=”us”]The Diviners[/simpleazon-link] by Libba Bray

My review: 4.5 of 5 stars

Ain’t we got fun?! The Diviners immediately captures the vibrancy and optimism of the 1920’s by opening on a party in full swing. At that same party, something dark and disturbing is unknowingly unleashed and so the conflict between good and evil, spirit and flesh begins. Adding authenticity to the tale are numerous references to 1920’s figures and fads, including the slang. The slang terms dominated the dialogue and sometimes were a bit annoying, but there is no denying the fun in the lingo. My new favorite phrase has become “everything’s jake!” The heroine, Evie O’Neill, is undeniably spunky and spoiled with a snappy wit. Part of the intelligence of creating her this way is that her spunk later becomes bravery, and her spoiled upbringing gives her room to grow in this four book series. By the end of the first book, she’s already grown considerably. All of the young characters are charming, possess secret, emerging powers and have endured pain and loss. Such characteristics make them especially suited to fighting the evil that has been unleashed in the city.

The violent and creepy imagery and the horrifying serial killer stand in perfect contrast to the life and hum of 1920’s New York City. The story is complex, engaging, enriching, disturbing and above all, entertaining. The second book in the Diviners series, [simpleazon-link asin=”0316126047″ locale=”us”]Lair of Dreams: A Diviners Novel (The Diviners)[/simpleazon-link], was just released. I picked up my copy at the Decatur Book Festival where I met Libba Bray who is also engaging and entertaining. I highly recommend this book for fans of historical fiction and paranormal. Written as a young adult novel, readers of all ages should enjoy it.

Note: Contains material (i.e. violent images, domestic violence) that may be inappropriate or offensive to some readers.


“Idealism is just an escape from reality. There is no utopia” (p. 219).

“There is no greater power on this earth than story” (p. 407).

“When the world moves forward too fast for some people, they try to pull us all back with their fear” (p. 483).

“There are truths in this world people don’t really want to know” (p. 564).

“Tomorrow, the crank would be turned anew, and the gears of the world would lurch into motion” (p. 578).

Nature of Grace Book Blast and $100 Giveaway

nature of grace
Nature of Grace Boxed Set by S.R. Johannes

The NATURE OF GRACE books have hit many of the top young adult/teen and thriller best seller lists including: Best Debut, Movers and Shakers, Top 100 in Thrillers, and the Top 100 in Teen Action Adventure books.

This new “Nature of Grace” Exclusive Box set is for readers who love wilderness thrillers. 16 year old Grace grew up in the woods determined to make a difference in the North Carolina wilderness. When she comes across conservation threats, she uses her survival and wilderness skills to stop them, no matter what the cost. In addition to being a thriller/mystery – other book themes include conservation, nature, animals, survival, wilderness, endangered animals.

The box set includes all 3 boxes in the Nature of Grace (Untraceable, Uncontrollable, and Unstoppable). It also includes an exclusive short story, Unspeakable from Mo’s perspective) as well as the original Untraceable before it was changed.

The box set also includes a large section of Special Extras that include interviews with the author, characters, and additional information on the nature and animal conservation the books support.

Untraceable (Book 1) – When Grace’s forest ranger dad disappears on patrol, she fights town authorities, tribal officials, & nature to prove he’s alive. Torn between a hot boy and cute ex, she heads into the wilderness to find her dad. Soon, she is caught in a web of conspiracy, deception, and murder.

Uncontrollable (Book 2) – When Grace enters the Red Wolf Reintroduction Program. When wolves start showing up dead, Grace must work through her fears and hunt down clues to find out who is sabotaging the wolf program and why. Little does she know, she is being hunting too.

Unstoppable (Book 3) – When Grace moves to the Everglades to live with her grandmother, Birdie, she makes new friends with Dylan and his girlfriend, fellow animal activist, Sadie. After finding an injured Florida Panther, she stumbles upon a large roadside zoo illegally filled with a variety of endangered and exotic animals. There, she and her friends are kidnapped by the ruthless owner and dragged deep into the Everglades for a hunting challenge. Only this time, Grace is the prey.

Unspeakable (Short Story from Mo’s perspective) – When Mo sees a strange girl in the woods, he follows her. He soon realizes they are both in a dangerous position and may not get out alive.
Untraceable’s Original Ending – Never released before!

Exclusive Extras – including author interviews, character interviews, insider scoop on the series, and additional animal and nature conservation information on the issues covered in the series.

Sale!! From now until August 16 the complete box set is only $0.99.


Praise for the books:

“A Modern Day Katniss” -Reel Life with Jane

“A suspense-filled mystery with surprises that keep you guessing all the way to the end.”- IndieReader

Kirkus Reviews called this teen series “a dramatic entanglement of mystery, deception and teen romance”!

add to goodreads
SR JohannesAuthor S. R. Johannes

S.R. Johannes is the award-winning author of the Amazon bestselling Nature of Grace thriller series (Untraceable, Uncontrollable, and Unstoppable). She is a winner of the IndieReader Discovery Award in YA, an IPPY a Silver Medalist for YA Fiction, a Finalist in The Kindle Book Review’s Best Young Adult Fiction, and a Finalist in US Book News Best YA Book.
Since leaving Corporate America, she has followed her passion for writing and conservation by working with The Dolphin Project, the Atlanta Zoo, other animal rescue organizations, and by weaving conservation themes into her books.

Currently, she lives in Atlanta, GA with her two Doodles, English-accented husband, and the huge imaginations of their prince and princess, which she hopes- someday- will change the world.

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Pinterest * Newsletter


$100 Book Blast Giveaway

$100 Amazon eGift Card or Paypal Cash

Ends 8/31/15

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an eGift Card or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

a Rafflecopter giveaway