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Death By Puffin (Travel Can Be Murder, #9) by Jennifer S. Alderson 

Exceedingly likable amateur sleuths and equally heinous suspects who you’ll love to hate! 

Tour guide, Lana Hansen, is confused and heartbroken after her Wanderlust Tours boss and friend, Dotty, worries that she may be a ‘murder magnet’ after a murder occurs on several of her previous assignments. Already upset and stressed after a blowup with her boyfriend, Lana impulsively takes the first available flight out of the airport and ends up in Reykjavik, Iceland. She holes up in a hotel for a week, licking her emotional wound and agonizing over her future, when her best friend, Willow, shows up unexpectedly at her door. 

Willow, a new mother, has left her baby at home with her wife to get Lana to shut down her pity party and take in some of the sights of the Land of Fire and Ice. And frankly, Willow also needs a break from being a first-time and full-time mom. Both hope the natural beauty and crisp, clean air of Iceland in the summer will clear their heads and refresh their spirits before rejoining their lives back in Seattle. 

Unfortunately, the insufferable and entitled young women of the bachelorette party in the room next door have also reserved spots on the same tour they’re taking. But when the bride-to-be is involved in a couple of suspicious life-threatening incidents, Lana begins to wonder if she may be “an angel of death” after all. 

Death by Puffin is the ninth book in author Jennifer S. Alderman’s Travel Can Be Murder cozy mystery series. It is fast-paced and lively, with an intriguing cast of characters and a tragic murder with numerous possible suspects. 

Poor Lana Hansen! She’s had a string of excursions back-to-back, and during each one has gotten involved in a murder investigation, most featuring the death of someone on her tour! From the start of the book, she wonders if she is somehow attracting these people because what are the odds, right? I was quite amused by her concerns and was reminded of the standing joke murder mystery readers hear about Cabot Cove of Murder, She Wrote fame being the most dangerous place in the U.S. 

The bachelorette party members are the absolute worst, and the bride-to-be is not much better. The backstabbing, cattiness, and privilege, along with the constant fawning over the bride-to-be and her fiancé, Gunnar, was delightfully atrocious. The conversations and commentary had me both cringing and laughing at times. 

The tour of some of Iceland’s wonders is a fantastic element of the book. There is enough description to give readers a feel for the setting, and the stormy weather creates a wonderfully moody atmosphere for the murder. 

The method of murder is simple yet effective, and Lana’s actions at the time are portrayed with care and quick thinking. I enjoyed Lana and Willow puzzling their way through the suspects to figure out the truth about what happened and why. 

With exceedingly likable amateur sleuths and equally heinous suspects who you’ll love to hate, I recommend DEATH BY PUFFIN to cozy mystery readers who enjoy stories where the characters travel to exciting and exotic locations. 

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours.

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Sounds Like Love by Laura Ford 

Fun, inspirational young adult story with a strong heroine and a very smart cat. 

When Wendy went to pick up a box of mementos from her grandmother’s estate, she was shocked and dismayed to discover she was supposed to take the cat home as well. Wendy was not a fan of cats. Her parents had been avid cat fanciers, and she had grown up feeling the cats were more important to them than their daughter. 

The cat surprise was just one of several that Wendy was struggling to deal with at the moment. Besides the loss of her grandmother, she was also steadily losing her hearing, a hereditary trait. Her grandmother had also gone deaf as an adult, much later in life than Wendy. The older woman had been Wendy’s anchor as she’d gone through testing and diagnosis and had been helping her with lip reading and signing. But now she was gone, and the cat was here. 

Wendy was determined to find a home other than her own for the cat. However, the local animal shelter was full and couldn’t take her immediately. So, home the two went, with Wendy hoping for a spot to open at the shelter and the cat with a plan to secure a future in Wendy’s home and heart. 

Sounds Like Love is the heart-warming story of a young woman overcoming several challenging life changes that occur all at the same time. She’s gradually losing her hearing, but her grandmother had been helping her weather the storm of her emotions about this turn of events when she suddenly passes away. Her grandmother, having lost her hearing as an adult, was instrumental in her granddaughter preparing for the inevitable. Now Wendy had to deal with an unwanted cat?! I could imagine how piled-on Wendy felt. 

As expected, Wendy has her moments of despair, self-doubt, and self-pity, but the story never lingers on unproductive emotions. The main character is naturally optimistic and was inspired by her grandmother to live her best life no matter what. I loved the note she finds from her grandmother at just the perfect moment. 

There is a budding romance that is ignited by an instant attraction. I was delighted with the twists and turns this particular storyline takes where the past meets the future. This was a fun “fated” meeting and future relationship. 

SOUNDS LIKE LOVE is a fun, inspirational, clean underdog story recommended for young adult readers. 

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours.

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Cowboys and Chaos (Magical Mystery Book Club, #3) by Elizabeth Pantley 

It's time for another book club meeting at the Snapdragon Inn! 

As the time approaches for the book club's next 'traveling' meeting, members begin moving back to the Snapdragon Inn. Before this week's meeting, they must consider who their newest member will be. Everyone brings a dish for the potluck, but before they really get started, they find a stranger roaming around the yard out back. 

Dr. Atticus Papadopoulus is an astrobiologist looking into extraterrestrial energy, and the Snapdragon Inn is a significant location for his studies. He and Zell hit it off immediately, and Atticus soon become the club's new member. 

Later, when everyone gathers in the enchanted library, the members present their proposal for the meeting's book selection. The group unanimously chooses The Mystery of Mollie's Disappearance, a western mystery set in 1800s Bandana, Arizona, which features a missing saloon girl and hints of a murder. 

The globe whirls and turns golden, the mysterious fog floods the library, and the book club members find themselves in an arid but lovely desert overlooking a typical town straight out of Hollywood's Old West. Dressed to blend in with the population, the group starts their walk into town to find where the Snapdragon Inn has settled, only to run across the one person Paige and Glo never thought they'd see again. 

Cowboys and Chaos is another delightful entry in Elizabeth Pantley's cozy mystery series, the Magical Mystery Book Club, and I hope there will be many more. This book is the club members' third outing, and I think their adventures keep getting better and better. 

Most of the members from previous 'meetings' return, and though there are still some clashes between a few personalities, they've grown as a group, so these are mild and few and far between. They have progressed to more comfortable interactions with each other. The story has some good 'cat snark' from Frank, the Siamese cat member, and I enjoyed the sassy saloon girl ghost. Forrest's apparent delight at being in the Old West and arriving wearing a cowboy hat was endearing. I think it was a brilliant choice by the author to have the book club members appear in their book already dressed to blend. 

I enjoyed the plot immensely; the book kept me up way late, wanting to read just one more chapter. The book club members ask good questions of their suspects and sources, try to put the pieces they collect into some logical form to develop working theories, and then track down the proof they need to solve the case. Zell has no subtlety or filter but gets answers. 

One fun aspect of the series is that that group is always eating or drinking or both. In fact, they are described as taking their meals seriously and often. The new member, Atticus, is a font of interesting historical tidbits, so I learned that the beer in saloons at the time was served at room temperature. Later, Adolphus Busch would create pasteurization and refrigeration methods for his Budweiser brand, which would be the game changer. 

With a great group of recurring characters and a well-paced and intriguing mystery to solve, I recommend COWBOYS AND CHAOS (and the entire MAGICAL MYSTERY BOOK CLUB series) to cozy mystery readers who like a unique and fresh paranormal storyline. 

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours.


Check out my review of the first book in the series, Shifting and Shenanigans, HERE!

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Hero Haters by Ken MacQueen 

Intriguing premise, non-stop action, and clever dialogue, with regular people trapped in a plot for revenge. 

Jake Ockham is the editor of his family’s local newspaper, and freelances investigating nominees for the Sedgewick Medallion, a prestigious award recognizing acts of selfless bravery. He himself had been honored while in college by rescuing a teenage boy from his burning home. During the rescue, Jake had sustained burns to his hands that had ended his Olympic dream of representing the United States in rowing, however, that wasn’t the worst thing to come from his actions. 

When Jake dragged the unconscious and injured boy to safety, he was doing it in full view of the boy’s mother, who was trapped on the second floor of the family home with no way for Jake to reach her. As he watched in horror, the woman’s young daughter came home just in time to witness her mother’s terrible death, screaming at Jake the whole time that he was a coward. Now year’s later, the Medallion recipients were once again in the news. Several of these heroic individuals had suddenly gone missing … along with their medals. Despite the various police departments brushing off the missing persons’ reports from the heroes’ families, Jake was determined to get to the bottom of things and stop whoever was kidnapping the heroes. 

I am so happy I was selected to read and review Hero Haters, a new thriller by author Ken MacQueen. The story is a terrifying mind game and pulse-pounding thriller, and it is filled with regular people who, at some point in their lives, stepped forward to help out a stranger. Early on, the reader knows who is behind the disappearances of the courageous medal winner. Still, it is exciting as Jake and Erik hack away at discovering the truth themselves and stop them. I was completely invested in the story from the very start. 

Despite what Jake thinks of himself, he is a hero. He continually chooses the high road, well, except for a couple of great jabs at a particularly petty sheriff’s deputy who totally deserves it. His best friend, Erik, is fun and independent and a fantastic sidekick but a genius in his own right. He has some of the best dialogue in the book, too. The kidnapped medal winners are a varied group of individuals, with some continuing to be courageous in their direst moments. 

I was immediately attracted to this book by its premise, and as the drama unfolded, I was not disappointed. It is fast-paced throughout, and the author is terrific at revealing backstories without slowing down that pace. And when the climax arrives, things happen even faster. I was really on edge, concerned about whether things were going to work out or not. 

The story is told from more than one point of view; the narrative shifts between Jake’s actions and what is happening with the kidnap victims. The author’s writing style is smooth, witty, and easy to read, so I was quickly immersed in the story. I will be looking for more from this author. 

With a likable, sympathetic main character, an engaging sidekick, an irresistible love interest, and a breakneck plot, I recommend HERO HATERS to mystery and thriller readers who like non-stop action and regular people trying to make a difference. 

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours.

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The Urban Boys #1: Discovery of the Five Senses by K.N. Smith 

The action gets going right away, and the opening is gripping; a good omen for what's to come! 

Twenty years ago, a murder occurred in the nature preserve outside Danville Heights. Ross Dawson had been strangled by his former friend, Joaquin Grayson, and left in the vegetation. But there were witnesses. A young couple, in the deserted location for some innocent privacy, had been shielded from the killer's view by the lush foliage. However, they had heard the struggle, including strange, bright lights and terrifyingly loud clicking sounds that arose around them as they hid. The killer was never identified, but the preserve attained a feared reputation, and everyone avoided ever setting foot there again. 

All these years later, that reputation still held, but occasionally students in town dared each other to enter and explore. Such was the case the night the Danville Heights Chargers won a hard-fought football game against their rivals, the Markley Lions. Five high school friends, fresh from their victory on the football field, followed their exuberance into the unknown dangers of the preserve. They, too, encountered the lights and clicking, and the next thing they knew, they were waking up at one of the boys' homes, exhausted as if they had stayed up all night long. Their memories of what occurred were sketchy at best. But they were also changed. One had increased visual acuity; another enhanced hearing; each of the others had been gifted with a superior sense of smell, taste, or touch. 

To the north of Danville Heights was the larger town, Sandry Lake. However, a month or so previously, a gang of criminals led by the mysterious Druth had moved in and taken over everything. They murdered residents and destroyed much of the infrastructure, so word of the town's trouble was kept quiet. And Sandry Lake was just a stepping stone toward his ultimate goal. 

The five young men don't know it yet, but saving their hometown from destruction by the evil Druth will fall to their close-knit group of friends – and they are the only ones with the powers to meet him head-on and win. 

Discovery of the Five Senses, the first book in The Urban Boys series by author K.N. Smith, has an intriguing plot that teased me with its carefully measured bits of backstory and minimalistic opening exposition. The author doesn't hand-feed the book's secrets; those are only slowly revealed as the story unfolds. I was in the story with the five main characters for the entire journey, feeling their confusion over what was happening and how to overcome it. This immersive quality reminded me of reading Jeff VanderMeer's book, Annihilation, from his Southern Reach series. 

Many times the author's use of language is downright magical. It was not an easy read at first. I had to sync with the rhythm of the words, and when I did, I was suddenly wrapped up in the prose, looking forward with anticipation to the next stunning phrase or line. 

The five boys are an interesting mix of personalities and circumstances, and young readers will surely relate. I loved the premise of each boy receiving an enhanced sense and that there were others before them who had also been 'gifted' in the same manner. In a fresh and fascinating twist to this "gaining a superpower" trope, the new strengths are very hard on the guys, even causing them physical pain at times. 

The author gets the action going immediately, and the opening is gripping. It was so compelling I wanted to read straight through to the conclusion. I will definitely put this series on my 'watch list' for future installments. I recommend DISCOVERY OF THE FIVE SENSES to young adult readers who enjoy urban fantasy, action/adventure, and paranormal or supernatural elements in their stories. 

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours.

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Excitement and danger are on every page as the City of Lights plays host to this final chapter in the GHOST AGENTS TRILOGY! 

After the pivotal confrontation between Claire, her compatriots, and the Syndicate at the close of Ghost Agents: Revelations, the Bureau was rocked by a bomb planted deep beneath the American headquarters. During the ensuing chaos, an agent working secretly working for the Syndicate freed Dr. Warner Vogel from his underground prison and lab. When Zach, Claire, and other handpicked agents are finally able to investigate, they discover the stored energy from all the dispatched projections has been released. Somehow, the Syndicate siphoned all of the safeguarded energy into tanker trucks and disappeared into the city.

 Despite these events, the leaders at the Bureau's world headquarters still refused to acknowledge the existence of the Syndicate. Understanding the dire threat, Director Fiorella Farrugia decides to take the evidence and testimony straight to the main man in person. She, Claire, Drew, and his brother, Luke, head to Paris, where they are still met with skepticism until the Syndicate goes public with their demands and threatens the heads of state of any nation that gets in their way. 

Ghost Agents: Retribution is the third and final book in the outstanding Ghost Agents Trilogy, and folks at The Society for Historical Preservation certainly conclude business in style! This time, the action moves from Galveston and Boston overseas to The City of Lights, and author Nita DeBorde really brings it with an insider's knowledge of the famous city. With the seamless inclusion of French dialogue (and English translations) and truly iconic sights around every corner, the reader will feel they are on the streets of Paris alongside agents Claire Abelard and Drew Mitchell. The author even slips in some delightful tidbits of history as our heroine and hero traverse the city, talking to well-known former residents. 

Claire is such a good-hearted person, and protecting the projections from harm, especially unethical living human beings, is always foremost in her actions. That continues to be her goal here, along with saving the rest of the world from the bad guys. She's surrounded and supported in her efforts by a loving family, and she and her brother, Zach, now seem to be working on the same page, making them a formidable team. The same could be said of her relationship with her love interest, Drew. Although still very much a romantic couple, the focus this time is more on their working together as a team. Thumbs up for Drew recruiting his brother, Luke, to the cause. I liked the siblings' dynamic in the previous books and enjoyed their being back together in this one. All these characters are likable and engaging people. 

One of my favorite things about this trilogy is the interactions Claire has with the projections (ghosts), and there are appearances by some famous names who are still hanging around town. The projections always seem to have entertaining quirks as they stay tethered to whatever spot they've felt was important to them during their Earthly life. I enjoy how the principals seek out these lingering spirits to get the low-down on what is happening in the city.

 If you've been following the story (and you need to have read BOTH of the previous books in the trilogy to understand what's going on), you know that Claire is still trying to discern the depth and breadth of her sensitivity and acumens. This thread is full of surprises in this book, with twists that made me gasp! Claire is such a good-hearted person, and protecting the projections from harm, especially unethical living human beings, is always foremost in her actions. That continues to be her goal here, along with saving the rest of the world from the bad guys. 

And speaking of bad guys, all the old enemies return for this finale, and they haven't gotten any nicer. The author has created evil characters that I looked forward to Claire besting at their own game. The plot is a nail-biter at times, though! 

I recommend GHOST AGENTS: RETRIBUTION to readers who have read and enjoyed the previous books in the trilogy and the entire GHOST AGENTS TRILOGY to cozy mystery readers who like a paranormal foundation to their stories. 

See my reviews to the previous books in the series: Ghost Agents (Ghost Agents Trilogy, #1) and Ghost Agents: Revelations (Ghost Agents Trilogy, #2).

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours.

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Never Play Fair (Sydney Evans, #2) by Leah Cupps 

A truly explosive follow-up to WHAT LIES IN PARADISE! 

After her grandmother's death, social media influencer Sydney Evans returned home to her Chicago condo emotionally exhausted, only to find Special Agent Elena Browne on her doorstep. It seems Sydney's boyfriend, Alex Birch, an agent himself, had gone missing somewhere in Central America while investigating the international criminal Vincente Estavez. The Bureau wanted to know if she had any information about Alex's last whereabouts. However, it had been days since she'd last spoken with Alex, and to her regret, the phone call had ended somewhat abruptly with him telling her he loved her, and she hesitating to reply in kind. 

Unfortunately, Sydney was all too familiar with Estavez and his capabilities. The previous year, and how she met Alex, Estavez had been responsible for the murder of one of her best friends. Jack, her husband at the time, had abandoned her, faking his own death to escape Estavez's wrath when he and his twin brother had meddled in his dirty online gambling business. Now the Bureau wanted her help to find Alex but to do so, she would have to get back in touch with Jack. 

Never Play Fair, the second book in the Sydney Evans series is the explosive follow-up to the exciting series debut, What Lies in Paradise. Though this entry can be read as a standalone, reading the previous book first is recommended. Sydney is emotionally-spent after caring for her grandmother during her final months of life, but truth be told, her PTSD from a wedding fiasco in Jamaica had already worn her down. She and Alex have a romance that has quickly gotten serious; however, Sydney is second-guessing her feelings and ability to commit to a relationship again after what she'd gone through with Jack. 

Jack is back, and so is his brother, Ethan. The story unfolds not only from Sydney's point of view but that of the two brothers as well, and readers are privy to the guys' more honest thoughts and feelings. I loved this triple view of the events occurring in the story. 

The action got going quickly, and the story flew by without slowing down. The prologue is an absolute attention-grabber! There are also some very tantalizing glimpses of Costa Rica's west coast that give the action a sultry, noir feel at times. 

With a fascinating triumvirate of characters providing the narrative and a plot that takes off like a speed boat, I recommend NEVER PLAY FAIR to mystery readers who enjoyed the first book in the series and those who like fast action, good guys that aren't so good, and stories featuring online gambling.

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Gavels, Tinsel, and Murder (A Dotty Sayers Antique Mystery, #4) by Victoria Tait 

An excellent holiday cozy mystery with an authentic Cotswolds setting. 

It’s the middle of November, and Dotty Sayers and her best friend, Police Sergeant Keya Varma, are successfully putting the finishing touches on their plans for the Christmas charity ball. Everything was going so smoothly. Retired rock star Jay Newton had agreed to host the event at his home, Windrush Hall. Kuki, the new caterer in town, was bringing samples of the canapes and main courses to try. The local gentry and businesses had been generous with donations for the auction to be held the night of the ball. Dotty’s work at Akeman’s was going well with daily inquiries about upcoming auctions, and the course on modern art Dotty was about to complete had proved interesting and useful, not to mention the increasing affinity a certain handsome art buyer was showing her. 

However, all was not rosy as her dear friends and landlords were amid a terrible personal crisis. Uncle Cliff was slowly succumbing to Alzheimer’s, and his wife, Beanie, could no longer properly care for him. Norman Climpson lived with them in their farmhouse to help, but Cliff’s increasing confusion and agitation were leading him into dangerous territory. Norman wants Beanie to move Cliff into a professional care facility, but she refuses to consider this as an option, and the two have come to an impasse, with Norman declaring his intentions to leave. 

The evening of the ball arrives, and everything seems to be coming together for a successful event. But when the curtains in the marquee are drawn back to reveal the silent auction offerings, the guests are shocked to see a dead body propped up among the donations. And before the night is over, the valuable highlight item of the auction goes missing, and everyone involved seems to be hiding a secret worth killing for. 

Gavels, Tinsel, and Murder is another lovely entry in the Dotty Sayers Antique Mystery series by author Victoria Tait. I loved that over the course of the series, Dotty has come out of the shell that had been constructed around her growing up and maintained by her much older military spouse. She’s still mourning his death, but time has passed, and healing has started to occur. She’s gotten to a place emotionally where when handsome art buyer, Gilmore Chapman, shows her some very pointed attention, she responds favorably. 

The plot hinges on the disappearance of a valuable painting and the practice of some of the local landowners of selling their original artworks after retaining well-done copies to remain in their homes. In this case, Dotty, busy with an upcoming auction at Akeman’s, the Christmas charity ball, her modern art course, and the holidays in general, tries to take a backseat to the police investigation into the murder. However, she’s responsible for the disappearing painting, and the two cases seem to be a matched set, and she must get involved anyway.

 The author’s easy-to-read style puts the reader in the story right next to her marvelous characters, and it would be a perfect cozy mystery to usher in the feeling of the holidays. I recommend GAVELS, TINSEL, AND MURDER to mystery readers looking for a story set during the holiday season in an authentically portrayed Cotswold setting featuring antiques and fine art. 

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours.

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A War in Too Many Worlds (Time Traveler Professor, #3) by Elizabeth Crowens 

The exciting and highly entertaining next installment in The Time Traveler Professor series! 

With WWI in full swing, John Patrick Scott, a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Scots, had been assigned to a desk job after an injury took him off the frontline in France. A painful recovery left him with a morphine addiction that he successfully fought off yet still lurks beneath his self-control. He and his friend, Arthur Conan Doyle, remained in contact; however, Doyle had sidelined Sherlock Holmes in favor of his intense interest in spiritualism, so John's assistance with the detective stories was no longer necessary. 

The night of Doyle's recent Halloween party, the time machine John had crafted for him had gone missing. However, he strongly suspected his friend, H.G. Wells, was the thief. Wells, who actually did take the machine, struggled to figure out how to get the thing to work, but a nudge in the right direction sent him back to 1845 and a lush but strange and dangerous jungle-like location. While there, he found an abandoned sketchbook with a locket enclosed among its pages, and when he returned to his own time and place, he was amazed to discover these souvenirs came back with him. The trip whetted his appetite to try again, but when he improperly assembles the machine, he literally gets the shock of his life. He's rescued from electrocution by the timely appearance of the machine's rightful owner, Arthur. Together, the two plan a more extensive trip back in time to thoroughly investigate the odd island and the unnatural creatures it harbors. 

Meanwhile, John's superiors at GHQ realize he's wasted shuffling papers and send him undercover to Germany to trap a traitor: his dear friend Francois Poincaré. After being wounded in France, John developed the supernatural ability to see the ghosts of the soldiers killed on the battlefield around him. This secret skill comes in handy, and he enlists the help of two unlikely specters in his mission in Berlin. 

A War in Too Many Worlds is the third book in Elizabeth Crowens's fantasy series, The Time Traveler Professor, which should be read in order for the greatest enjoyment. This book focuses on John's mission in Germany and Doyle's and Wells's time-traveling attempts back home. The story builds on the actions and relationships developed previously and the plot is intricate and multi-faceted as it follows storylines through the combined books. However, an excellent Author's Note preceding the start of this story relates the essence of what has gone on before that may assist a newcomer in getting their bearings. 

John Patrick Scott has become somewhat embittered, what with his wound leaving him with a permanent ache and limp, being relegated to a desk job, not to mention the canceled musical career he'd worked so hard to attain. He's overcome his addiction to morphine, but it's a weakness that remains just under the surface of his willpower. I was sad for his gradual and complacent slide back into the use of opium even as he acknowledged the folly and the pain he had gone through in kicking his habit. I was intrigued by his relationship with the ghostly child, Chaimie, and Private Freund, and the storyline in Germany was my favorite by far of the two. The dark and decadent state of dissolution of wartime Berlin created a moody, atmospheric setting for John's operation and set the stage for his internal struggle over betraying his old friend in more ways than the one ordered by General Headquarters. 

Arthur Conan Doyle provided some of the best dialogue in the story and H.G. Wells, "Bertie," was most entertaining as he experiences time traveling with fresh eyes. The author deftly mixed historical figures with fictional characters during historical events and imaginative fictional adventures. 

I recommend A WAR IN TOO MANY WORLDS to fantasy readers who enjoy alternate history, time travel tales, or stories set during WWI or old Berlin. 

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours.

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The Fifth Daughter of Thorn Ranch by Julia Brewer Daily 

Adventure and romance in a magnificent west Texas setting. 

After graduation from Texas A&M University, Emma Rosales returned to her home, the sprawling Thorn Ranch, the largest ranch in Texas. She was still undecided about her future, but had loved animals all her life and was considering continuing her education to become a veterinarian and open a practice in a small town near her home. However, she was the only child of the ranch owners, and like her mother before her and her mother before her and so on, she was expected to come home to prepare for eventually taking over the land that had been in her matriarchal line for many generations. 

Each year, Emma’s parents would take a trip to escape the height of the south Texas summer heat, and this year was no different. As always, Emma declined to accompany them, preferring to stay on the ranch and explore its more remote reaches, riding fence, camping out under the vast Texas night sky, and, this year, thinking about the rest of her life. But while she is out camping without a cell phone or radio, more than a three-day ride from the ranch house, Emma and her horse are surprised by a sudden rainstorm, and when Honey-Boy breaks a leg getting them to shelter, she is forced to put him out of his misery and continue afoot. 

She successfully makes her way into a small cave opening in the canyon walls but rising waters from the dry creek bed below force her further and further into its dark and rocky depths. Seeing an opening far into the gloom, Emma walks out to discover a large number of people in a valley hidden from outside view by the towering rock cliffs surrounding it. Turning to slip unnoticed back the way she came, she finds she’s already been observed, and The People aren’t going to let her leave. Ever. 

The Fifth Daughter of Thorn Ranch is a full and satisfying story of discovery, wonder, love, and loss. The tale unfolds from two angles: Emma’s experiences and those of the people left behind on the ranch. Both sides of the story are riveting. I was so engrossed in this book I almost completed it in one sitting, only putting it down because it had gotten ridiculously late. 

Daily has populated her book with engaging, sympathetic characters and a couple of unique personalities who present some interesting conflicts (Chesma and Jeff Bower’s mother) to the leads. Emma is a good person and uncertain about her pre-ordained future. She’s a bold, free spirit in her actions but cautious when it comes to her heart. She’s rightfully suspicious of the sincerity of Jeff’s interest in her and considerate about committing to Kai when she knows she’s going to try and escape any chance she gets. I was totally on board with her mother, Josie’s, feelings and actions, though. I would not have held up nearly as well as she did under the circumstances. 

The ranch setting is magnificent with its far-flung expanses, remote and hiding canyons, desert, and vacant spaces. It was easy to imagine the locations, getting lost in their vastness, and feeling the dust and heat that made the search and rescue and the possibility of escape so daunting. 

I enjoyed the story immensely and wasn’t ready to leave The Thorn Ranch at the end of the book. The author leaves some things up in the air, so I’m hoping for a sequel. How about a Sixth Daughter? I recommend THE FIFTH DAUGHTER OF THORN RANCH to readers who enjoy family sagas or western fiction with some magical elements and clean romance. 

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Lone Star Book Blog Tours.