Book Review: Reservations by Gwen Florio

RATING: 5 out of 5 Stars

I love the descriptive writing, plotting and characters of the Lola Wicks mystery series, but this fourth book emotionally wrecked me and yet I had to keep turning the pages and reading late into the night to the end. RESERVATIONS (Lola Wick, #4) by Gwen Florio deserves 5 BIG stars!

Lola hasn’t been the same since her last adventure. Charlie decides it is time to take a honeymoon and visit his brother, wife and niece on the Navaho reservation in Arizona. Charlie has a strained relationship with Edgar, but when they arrive there is an underlying tension in the entire family.

There is an eco-terrorist setting off bombs to try to get rid of the main employer, the coal mine on the reservation. The water and air on the mesa has become so polluted, people can no longer live there. Edgar is an executive for the mining company and his wife Naomi is an attorney for the Navaho and hates the mine, but wanted Edgar to work there so that they have inside information on the company. Naomi and Edgar are both Ivy League educated, but returned to help the People and they use this as a way to demean Charlie and Lola.

Lola begins to return to her hard-driving reporter mode as there is another bombing and death. The tension builds and as Charlie seems to side more with his brother and family than Lola, she does everything she can to figure out what is really happening on the reservation, even as the danger escalates for herself and family.

I was so wrapped up in this plot. It is intricate, fast paced and I did not figure out the whole picture on my own. The descriptions in the writing of the Arizona land, with its natural and deadly beauty take you there and make you feel every bit of the heat.

Lola is taken through extreme physical conditions in this story as well as emotional. If you are like me and have a personal stake in your favorite characters, get the tissues ready! This book is a great read on a mystery/thriller level and an emotional roller-coaster for one of my favorite characters. Excellent!

Thank you very much to Midnight Ink and Net Galley for allowing me to read a free eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. It was my pleasure!

Feature Blog: Lola Wicks Mysteries, #1-#3 by Gwen Florio

  

RATINGS: 4 out of 5 Stars for All Books

I am featuring this series because I am currently reading Reservations, Book #4 in this series from Net Galley. This is a very solid series that has a strong female protagonist, Lola Wicks, who was a foreign correspondent and now writes for her small town paper. The plots are all interesting, entertaining and well written. The secondary characters are developed and realistic. Ms. Florio’s very special talent is in her description of the scenery in Montana and Dakota and the type of people that populate it. Below are my reviews for these three books and I will be adding the fourth soon. This is a series that is worth getting hooked on!

BOOK #1 – MONTANA

Lola Wicks has been pulled from her foreign correspondent post in Afghanistan because her paper has downsized. She is told to use her vacation time and decide if she wants to continue stateside with the paper on a suburban beat. Extremely upset, she decides to visit her best friend, Mary Ellen, who quit her job as a fellow reporter to relocate to Montana.

Lola discovers her friend shot dead on the hill by her cabin. When Lola is told to stay in town, upsetting her plans to return to Kabul, she decides the inexperienced sheriff is not moving fast enough and sets her reporter skills to the case. What she finds is that the techniques she has been using overseas do not translate to small town Montana or the Blackfeet reservation. She has to ingratiate herself to the locals, Blackfeet and sheriff for information to follow the trail to who killed Mary Alice and why. Racial discrimination between the towns people and the Blackfeet, drug smuggling and politics are all twisted into this mystery.

Lola is a developed, three dimensional character. She is tenacious, intelligent and everything a reporter should be and she also steals a trinket from everyone she deals with. She did come back from overseas with what appears to be PTSD and this makes her interactions with people more difficult and abrupt. I really like this protagonist. As she solves this case, she becomes more attached to the people and animals around her. My only problem was the ending of the case seemed to come very abruptly and Lola’s personal life also shifted quickly, But I will definitely be back for more.

BOOK #2- DAKOTA

This book starts three months after the death of her friend in Book #1 and it can be read as a standalone.

Lola is living in Magpie, Montana with Sheriff Charlie Larendeau on his small ranch. She is a reporter for the small town’s paper and living with the sheriff leaves her with two problems: 1. she is supposed to report on the Blackfeet, but Charlie is half Blackfeet and 2. it keeps her off the crime beat since he is the sheriff, but you know that won’t stop her.

Several Blackfeet girls have gone missing over the past year, but they were just written off as runaways until one of the girls is found dead in a snowbank. Lola is hearing rumors that the girls are all known drug users and were working as prostitutes in the oil boom shanty town outside of Burnt Creek. Lola sets off with her dog, Bub, to the North Dakota oil patch. Fracking, big oil money, prostitution and drugs all come together in this boom town with its influx of male population and law enforcement that looks the other way. Lola just wants to uncover the truth, but she ends up in a fight for her own life.

A gritty mystery with people who just want to take advantage of a money boom, but the consequences are harsh, if not deadly. Lola’s story just keeps getting more intriguing. Ms. Florio brings the oil patch and the people it attracts to life. She also once again realistically depicts the Blackfeet and their problems. I can’t wait to get the next Lola book!

BOOK #3 – DISGRACED

Lola is forced to take a furlough from the paper and so she leaves for a vacation with her young daughter, Maggie and dog, Bub on their way to Yellowstone.

Her friend asks her to stop and check on her cousin, Pal, who is a returned vet from Afghanistan who lives on the way in Wyoming. What Lola finds when she arrives at Pal’s are small town friends who served together, but when they returned, one was dead and disgraced, one gets a hero’s welcome, one commits suicide, two nearly beat a man to death and Pal, the only female of the group is traumatized. Lola smells a story and the vacation is postponed while she gets to know the vets. Secrets, truths and lies all need to be sorted and the truth can get Pal, Lola and her daughter all killed.

I liked this Lola book the best so far. It can be read as a standalone in regards to the main plot, but Lola’s personal life does carry over. It focuses on the returned troops and the many problems they face at home. There are violent scenes in this book. The author depicts prejudice, rape and a conspiracy of lies.

This is a series that makes you think was well as entertains and this is another great addition.

Check out this series and author!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Smugglers & Scones by Morgan C. Talbot

RATING: 5 out of 5 Stars

SMUGGLERS & SCONES (Moorehaven Mysteries, #1) by Morgan C. Talbot is a wonderful new cozy mystery that introduces us to a special B&B in Seacrest on the Oregon coast and a cast of intelligent and quirky characters.

World famous mystery writer, A. Raymond Moore left his huge home, Moorehaven, on the Oregon coast in trust to his friend Hilt, the town’s former chief of police with the stipulation that it become a B&B for mystery writers only. Now that Hilt is older, he has hired his niece, Pippa Winterbourne to run the B&B. Pippa has modernized the advertising and recipes in her six years at Moorehaven and now has a large group of famous, new and want-to-be mystery authors rotating through Moorhaven’s doors.

When a small tourist fishing boat crashes in the middle of the night, Pippa rushes to help and saves the handsome Lakyn “Lake” Ivens. They both find out the next day that there was also a dead man on the boat. Lake has no memories of the accident or what happened to the dead owner of the boat. Pippa, with the help of Lake, the visiting authors and a cast of fun characters from Seacrest become tangled in a deadly plot that incorporates the town’s Prohibition history with the present.

Pippa is a strong and intelligent lead character. She loves Moorehaven, her job, the writers who stay at the B&B and all the characters that populate Seacrest. Her Uncle Hilt keeps the old mansion in working order, while also taking care of his old friend’s journals, papers and books for future writers and scholars to study. At a few places in the book, it does slow down a bit, but I feel this is because there is so much to set up and characters to introduce for the series. Overall though, the world-building was entertaining and interesting.

Characters make a cozy for me and this book is full of many that I can’t wait to revisit. Pippa is a great choice as a lead. The “Glaze and Gossip” group she is invited to join had me laughing out loud. Tyleen with her binoculars and Wallis the gloomy florist all add to the town’s cast of unique characters. This is a wonderful story and I love that there will always be mystery writers and their books involved in each story.

I am anxiously waiting for the next book in this series!

Book Review: Adrift by Micki Browning

adrift

RATING: 5 out of 5 Stars

Well, another new author has me hooked by her debut mystery for her series.

ADRIFT (A Mer Cavalllo Mystery #1) by Micki Browning features Dr. Meredith “Mer” Cavallo, a marine biologist, currently working as a safety dive master in the Florida Keys as she waits for a funded research position. On a normal afternoon tourist group dive, Mer rescues a man five miles from the boat he came out on, who swears he doesn’t know how he got there and he saw a ghost on the wreck of the USS Spiegel Grove.

Mer needs money and is financially bribed into a night dive with a paranormal group filming a documentary trying to prove the existence of the ghost on the USS Spiegel Grove. The dive goes terribly wrong and Mer stands to lose all of her scientific credibility because she believes she saw a ghost as she tries to save one diver while she loses another. The police are suspicious of Mer because she was involved in both incidents surrounding the wreck and she knows she has to clear her name if she is to have a chance to return to academia and she refuses to believe in ghosts.

This story has mystery, suspense, surprising plot twists and a great lead character.  Ms. Browning leads you down one path, only to twist and turn you onto another, always with facts and logic. I have never been to The Keys or been diving and yet I was never bored or lost as the logistics and technical elements were woven into the story. Mer is a character that at first was a little too cold for me, but as I got to know her through a past love interest (who is going to be an interesting story himself), her brothers and mother, you realize that she isn’t really cold, just intellectually brilliant and socially inept, similar to Dr. Brennan from the Bones series. I am now hooked and need to know what path Mer will follow in the future. Hopefully the next book will be out soon!

Thanks so much to Random House Publishing Group-Alibi and Net Galley for allowing me to read this eARC in exchange for an honest review. Looking forward to more in this series.

Book Review: Murder By The Book by Devorah Fox

murder by the book

RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars

I really enjoyed MURDER BY THE BOOK by Devorah Fox which is a mini-cozy mystery that is packed into 27 pages. I KNOW!!! I was very surprised that such a short story had almost everything I look for in a much longer book.

Candy Wadsen comes into work at the Sugarloaf Inn and Resort to find her loathsome boss murdered at his desk. Candy is a mystery book buff and knows what to do, but reality is very different from books. She is quickly cleared with her alibi by the hunky Sergeant Dan Petrowski, but the rest of the staff had to stay for an after work meeting and all become suspects.

This is a wonderfully clever who-done-it that had me guessing until the end. All of the characters were your usual cast of quirky cozy mystery types and they were well written for the short length of the story. When you want a very quick and smart mini-cozy mystery, grab this one and you will not be disappointed!

Book Review: Roots of Murder by R. Jean Reid

roots of murder

RATING: 5 out of 5 Stars

ROOTS OF MURDER by R. Jean Reid is a mystery that is both thought provoking and powerful.

I had a hard time putting this story down and it lingered in my mind when I was not reading. It starts out a little slow, but there is a lot of history to incorporate and it picks up speed very quickly with a suspenseful climax. Although fictional, this story covers very real topics regarding race relations, social injustice, poverty and voting rights in the South during the 1960’s and today.

Nell McGraw is trying to deal with her grief and that of her two children as they go on after the loss of Thom, Nell’s husband. She takes over running Thom’s weekly local paper, the Pelican Bay Crier in Mississippi by herself now instead of as a couple. Nell gets a call that human bones have been found in the park and they appear to be about 50 years old. This discovery leads Nell and her coworkers at the paper to go on a search to identify the bones and to find out why they were buried there.

While Nell and her coworkers try to discover the mystery surrounding the bones, Nell is dealing with the backlash from a local family trying to get her to quit prosecuting the drunk who caused the accident that killed her husband. The paper is covering the race for mayor and also trying to unravel a past scheme to steal the valuable property of poor black residents through property tax fraud. The author weaves this web of several storylines, past and present, into an amazing story.

I really want this book to be the start of a series and I checked online and it seems there will be a second book featuring Nell in June of 2017. Nell is such a strong female lead with her own problems to conquer and a wonderful cast of secondary characters. I felt this book was especially poignant considering the current state of affairs in our country. I did not want this book to end!