‘The Last Sister’ by Kendra Elliot is a nail-biting mystery that pushes all the right buttons

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Kendra Elliot has sold over seven million books, and after reading “The Last Sister,” this first book in a new series, “Columbia River,” her success is understandable. And this is a perfect opportunity to jump into a Kendra Elliot series at the beginning. Main character FBI special agent Zander Wells was introduced in a previous series, but readers “meeting” him for the first time will be charmed and touched by his story.

In this mystery, a man and his wife are brutally murdered in a small Oregon logging town. Emily, who is the first to find the murders, is horrified, especially when she sees that the husband was hanged just like her father when he was killed decades earlier. She also notices a racist symbol carved into the hanging man’s forehead, so when the sheriff declares it a murder-suicide, Emily calls the local FBI office and won’t get off the phone until they agree to send an agent to the scene to investigate it as a hate crime.

Zander and his partner Ava arrive and realize that they may have more than just one crime to figure out. Is there a connection between the current stabbing/hanging and what happened to Emily’s father all those years before? When there is another murder, it seems that everything has to be examined, including where Emily’s older sister went immediately after her father’s murder.

Elliot’s omniscient narrator works superbly in terms of letting us know what the characters are thinking and feeling. We are able to see the night of their father’s murder from both Emily’s point of view and that of her younger sister, Madison. So we know more than they do about what each sister is hiding from the other.

Slowly, clue after clue is uncovered and revealed, allowing us to try to connect the different threads at the same time as the characters in the novel try to put the puzzle pieces in place. We are thinking about the clues, and we are also feeling a genuine camaraderie with Emily as she struggles to keep their decrepit old mansion home in one piece while someone is slashing her tires and harassing Emily and her three sweet great-aunts. Their only source of income is their diner, because the logging operation that financed the opulence that Emily’s ancestor’s enjoyed was long closed.

Readers will find they enjoy meeting the three aunts, who all dress alike, and each of whom is a character worthy of admiration in her own right. When a mystery is certainly thrilling but also a character study of the people inhabiting the pages, readers know that the author got it right. And when the mystery is finally solved, and very satisfactorily, readers will be happy to remember that this is just the start of a series in which Zander, Ava, and maybe Emily will return to entertain us and amaze us.

This review was originally posted on Bookreporter.com.

‘Aurora Rising’ by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff is a thrilling and entertaining YA scifi adventure

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In “Aurora Rising,” authors Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff take readers into the future, the year 2380, and into an adventure that spans centuries. From the first chapter, readers know that Tyler, one of the main characters, is a worthy leader. He rescues Aurora from a ship that has lain rotting for two centuries and takes her to safety. Unfortunately, by doing so, he has jeopardized his number one standing as a cadet and forfeited his first draft choice for his team. Instead, he gets the leftovers whom nobody wanted in addition to his twin sister Scarlett and their best friend, Cat.

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‘A Heart so Fierce and Broken’ by Brigid Kemmerer is everything YA fantasy should be

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“A Heart So Fierce and Broken” is Brigid Kemmerer’s second book, following “A Curse So Dark and Lonely,” a tale of Beauty and the Beast reimagined with lots of violence and a heartstopping ending. It was the story of Rhen, the prince cursed to turn into a beast, and Harper, the tough young girl who is determined to save Rhen and his kingdom, Emberfall. Grey is the loyal Guardsman who risks his life repeatedly to save them.

In this second story, Grey becomes the pivotal character with a new character, Lia Mara, the daughter of the cruel queen of Syhl Shallow, Karis Luran. Lia Mara is not destined to be queen; her sister is. Her sister can be cruel and harsh while Lia Mara prefers to use intellect and persuasion instead of brute strength and fear to create alliances.

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‘Call It What You Want’ by Brigid Kemmerer is a compelling story of teenagers grappling with the fallout from mistakes that may or may not be their doing

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“Call It What You Want” is another example of fine writing by Brigid Kemmerer, author of “A Curse So Dark and Lonely.” One of her talents is writing about people by using such effective dialogue and narrative style and technique that her characters become extremely realistic and worthy of compassion. Her two main characters in this novel are both flawed teenagers, but in spite of — or perhaps because of — those shortcomings, they grow insightful and compassionate, and they help right wrongs. The story is told in alternating first person narratives, a strategy which works well to make readers feel that they understand each character’s feelings and motivations.

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‘Winterwood’ by Shea Ernshaw is a bewitching young adult fantasy

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“Winterwood” by Shea Ernshaw is about witches. Specifically it’s about Nora — daughter, granddaughter, great-granddaughter, and more — descended from a long line of witches who live and practice their magic along the shore of Jackjaw Lake and in the shadow of the forest outside the town of Fir Haven.

The Walker women came out of the forest back in the days when Fir Haven was a small gold mining town, and ever since, they have lived in a log cabin between the summer cabins and the dark forest. Nora lives there with her mother, now that her grandmother has died, leaving Nora with her moonstone ring. But Nora’s mother has left to sell her honey (charming bees is her particular magic), and Nora is alone in the cabin with only her wolf, Fin, to protect her when a blizzard envelopes the town and cuts off electricity and the roads.

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‘All the Flowers in Paris’ by Sarah Jio is a beautiful but heartbreaking combination of historical and current fiction taking readers to Paris now and during WWII

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Paris, ostensibly the most beautiful city in the world, has a checkered past. During the German occupation in WWII, many Parisians collaborated with the Nazis. “All the Flowers in Paris” by Sarah Jio is about a French family with Jewish ancestry that is “outed” by a neighbor, and about a woman in modern Paris who loses her memory and must find out who she is and why she was basically a recluse before the accident that caused her memory loss. What she finds hidden in her lovely apartment gives her a mystery to solve, and by solving that mystery, Caroline not only finds closure for the long-ago Parisian family, but also for herself.

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‘The Last Widow’ by Karin Slaughter is the book you don’t want to miss reading in 2019

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“The Last Widow” is the newest book in the Will Trent series by Karin Slaughter. If you haven’t read the previous books in the series, don’t let that fact stop you from reading this one because it reads like a stand-alone novel. Be forewarned that after you finish it, you will probably want to start the series at the beginning and read all about Will Trent and Sara Linton.

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‘Must Love Dogs: Hearts and Barks’ by Claire Cook is a funny but tender story of relationships and dogs…and cats

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In “Must Love Dogs: Hearts and Barks” by Claire Cook, Sarah Hurlihy and John Anderson might be living together in her family’s home, but that doesn’t mean that Valentine’s Day is going to be a simple affair. Between Sarah’s indecisiveness and John’s romantic streak, Sarah’s crazy family and crazier father, and all the dogs and cats ruling their house, life is hectic, to say the least.

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‘Things You Save in a Fire’ by Katherine Center begins with a spark and ends in an inferno

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“Things You Save in a Fire” by Katherine Center isn’t literally about things you would save in a fire. The main character, firefighter Cassie Hanwell, was born to be a firefighter. She’s a fascinating and complex character. When there’s an emergency, she gets calm and knows exactly what to do. She’s the one you want to be with when danger threatens. But in her own life, she’s helpless to get things on track.

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‘Betrayal in Time’ by Julie McElwain is a wonderful mystery/scifi/historical fiction novel

betrayal in time

“Betrayal in Time” by Julie McElwain is the fourth novel in which Kendra Donovan, a 21st century FBI agent, is unwittingly sent to the past while trying to avenge the deaths of  most of her team. Her goal is to kill the culprit in England. When someone beats her to the kill, she escapes up a staircase and ends up in 1815, in England.

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