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Showing posts by: Amber Keller click to see Amber Keller's profile
Feb 10 2017 1:30pm

Review: A Darkness Absolute by Kelley Armstrong

A Darkness Absolute by Kelley ArmstrongA Darkness Absolute by Kelley Armstrong is the 2nd book in the Casey Duncan series.

Author Kelley Armstrong delivers a gripping tale of mystery and survival in a harsh, unforgiving environment where a killer is on the loose. In this 2nd installment in the Casey Duncan series, we are back in Rockton—the secret, off-the-grid town made for those on the run from their pasts. Casey, once again, must find a killer in the wilds of Yukon, Canada.

Armstrong keeps the pacing at top speed with short chapters and hooks to pull the reader along. Before I knew it, I was well past the halfway point, although it didn’t feel like I had been reading long at all. I am a fan of short chapters and find that they serve their purpose well here. Armstrong also keeps the story flowing by adding depth and complication to the mystery as it deepens. Add in a compelling cast of characters and you’ve got great storytelling.

Casey is a very intriguing character by herself. She’s strong, petite, and can kick some series ass by way of her martial arts training. But she also has her share of faults and a muddied past. All of these things come together to make her a strong female lead.

[Read Amber Keller's review of A Darkness Absolute...]

Jan 26 2017 1:00pm

Review: Calculated in Death by J.D. Robb

To celebrate the upcoming release of J.D. Robb's 44th Eve Dallas mystery, Echoes in Death, we're taking a look back at every single book in the In Death series. Today, Amber Keller reviews #36, Calculated in Death.

The 36th book in this series is a complicated whodunit embroiled in the world of big money and even bigger egos. Add in a little Hollywood by way of a much anticipated movie premiere, and you have the perfect formula for an Eve Dallas saga.

Set in a cold, futuristic November in Manhattan, it begins with the truly upsetting murder of a young accountant and, more importantly, mother and wife. The tragedy is only at the surface of what quickly becomes a very complicated plot, and Lieutenant Eve Dallas is determined to find out the how and why.

We have the usual elements in place, including Eve and Roarke’s amazing relationship. She spends many a night and day at her job, but Roarke—being the world’s most understanding spouse that he is—not only obliges, but even helps her occasionally. Eve’s commitment to her job, sometimes at the expense of her relationship, is something she’s aware of, as pointed out by her own thoughts here:

[Read Amber Keller's review of Calculated in Death...]

Jan 16 2017 1:00pm

Review: Promises in Death by J.D. Robb

To celebrate the upcoming release of J.D. Robb's 44th Eve Dallas mystery, Echoes in Death, we're taking a look back at every single book in the In Death series. Today, Amber Keller reviews #28, Promises in Death.

In a more solemn entry in the series, book number 28, Promises in Death, sees a fellow cop at the New York Police and Security Department murdered.

Now, Lieutenant Eve Dallas is no stranger to death, or even death that hits close to home, but when it’s one of her own, it changes the game. Amaryllis Coltraine—a recent transfer to the department from Atlanta, Georgia—falls victim to homicide. Her death shakes up the force, and seeing that she is the girlfriend of Dallas’s good friend and fellow co-worker, the Chief Medical Examiner Morris, she makes it her mission to find out who killed her.

The investigation does not come easy, and Dallas struggles to fit the pieces together. Along the way, we have the added benefit of classic scenes involving Dallas and Roarke to carry us through this tragedy as she figures out the killer. Their interactions are always a favorite for me, as they bring a necessary element out of Dallas. She seems so hard-assed and hellbent on solving crimes that it can be easy to forget there’s a loving side to her, as well. We learn more about Dallas during her times with Roarke than we do watching her at her job, which she’s brilliant at. Also, their relationship is truly one for the records. The love they have for each other seems to be endless, and Roarke’s support and even participation in Dallas’s job goes above and beyond.

[Read Amber Keller's review of Promises in Death...]

Jan 6 2017 2:30pm

Dear Mulder & Scully: New Year, New You

This week's guest columnist are FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dr. Dana Scully, who—I want to believe—keep each other “balanced.” 

Dear Mulder and Scully,

I've been thinking about making some New Year’s resolutions. Do you guys recommend that I take part in this time honored tradition?


—Auld Lang Syne

[Read Mulder & Scully's advice!]

Jan 3 2017 1:00pm

Review: Visions in Death by J.D. Robb

To celebrate the upcoming release of J.D. Robb's 44th Eve Dallas mystery, Echoes in Death, we're taking a look back at every single book in the In Death series. Today, Amber Keller reviews #19, Visions in Death.

The 19th book in the In Death series has Lieutenant Eve Dallas searching for one twisted murderer.

It’s just another day in the life of Eve Dallas when the chaotic monotony is broken by a horrific crime. A woman’s body is found brutally beaten, raped, and missing the eyes. Soon after, another death with the same MO is discovered. The nature of these crimes dredge up terrible memories for Dallas, and she must face them while she hunts for the killer before he can strike again.

Dallas is known for her strength and abilities, all wrapped up in a tiny package. But she’s even stronger than most realize, and she’s got some major demons in her past. She’s almost as well known for her ruthless capabilities as she is for being married to high-society Roarke.

[Read Amber Keller's review of Visions in Death...]

Dec 24 2016 3:00pm

A Donna Andrews Christmas!

Donna Andrews’s first novel, Murder with Peacocks, was published in 1999, beginning her critically acclaimed series of Meg Langslow murder mysteries. The book garnered her the coveted Agatha Award, opening the door for her to expand on Meg’s story—one about an amateur detective that is a blacksmith by day set in Caerphilly, Virginia—and Andrews hasn’t stopped producing. Since then, she’s written more than twenty novels, including the on-going Langslow series, which is a favorite of mine.

But it's her Christmas mysteries that keep me coming back. And on Christmas Eve, what better time to stock up on three perfect Christmas cozies? 

[Have a Merry Meg Langslow Christmas!]

Nov 15 2016 11:00am

Review: Desolation Flats by Andrew Hunt

Desolation Flats by Andrew HuntDesolation Flats by Andrew Hunt is book #3 in the Art Oveson Mystery series (Available November 15, 2016).

I went into this story not really knowing what to expect. Set in Salt Lake City, Utah and with a Mormon main character, I knew I hadn’t read anything like it before. The idea was equal parts intriguing and completely unknown territory for me. What I would soon find out was that it was something I would thoroughly enjoy—and even want more of.

The year is 1938, and land speed racing is the event. The main character, Art Oveson, is a police detective with the Salt Lake City Police Department Missing Persons Bureau. A devout Mormon, Oveson is a family man with a wife and three children.

His wife, Clara, has been diagnosed with “melancholia” since she gave birth to their last child; a diagnosis she also experienced with a previous pregnancy. Of course, we know this today as probably being a form of postpartum depression, which the author portrays well. Clara might also be dealing with a more general form of depression, too, since she caved in to pressure from family and church members to quit her teaching job, which had provided her with satisfaction and great pleasure.

[Read Amber Keller's review of Desolation Flats...]

Nov 7 2016 12:00pm

Review: The Champagne Conspiracy by Ellen Crosby

The Champagne Conspiracy by Ellen CrosbyThe Champagne Conspiracy by Ellen Crosby is the 7th book in the Wine Country Mysteries series.

From the first stunning description of a breath-taking, vintage flapper dress, I was hooked. This is the seventh book in the Wine Country Mysteries series. The author, Ellen Crosby, has a fascinating background, having been a reporter for The Washington Post, a Moscow correspondent for ABC News Radio, and an economist at the U.S. Senate. Given her vast experience, it’s no surprise her writing is so polished and elaborate.

This is an impeccable tale, rich with characters, setting, and plot. Even though it is set in modern times, it revolves around modern ties to the Roaring Twenties and the extravagant and exciting lifestyles of many well-to-do individuals—including former president Warren Harding. The story begins with the dress mentioned above and the magic it carries.

[Read Amber Keller's review of The Champagne Conspiracy...]

Nov 4 2016 11:00am

Dear Mulder & Scully: Someone to Cher Your Life With

This week's guest columnist are FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dr. Dana Scully, who—I want to believe—keep each other “balanced.” 

Dear Mulder and Scully,

You are not going to believe what I have to tell you. I’m not sure I believe it myself, but here goes: My close friend, let’s call her Mary, came to me with a wild tale. She had recently moved back to town into her childhood home after her parents died.

Let start with a little backstory on Mary: She’s a loner. She works from her home and doesn’t leave the house, like ever. She’s … eccentric you might say. Also, she’s a virgin. I know, TMI, but it’s relevant to the story. How do I know this? Because I’m her best friend—her only friend. We grew up together. I lived a couple of houses down from her, but I have since moved across town.

When Mary moved back here, she started complaining of these strange dreams she was having—there would be times where she would sleep for days. In these dreams, she would see a misshapen person in her house. These dreams were, well, decidedly more steamy than I care to share with you, but you get the picture. Another strange thing about these dreams is that she said Cher was always playing in the background. Mary doesn’t listen to Cher and never has. 

Besides the excessive sleeping, she started getting sick. I didn’t know what to make of it, so I encouraged her to see a doctor. When she finally did, they discovered she was pregnant. Pregnant! She’s never been with a man. I don’t know a lot about immaculate conception, and barring one of those trashy talk shows like Jerry Springer, I didn’t know who else to go to with this.


Friend of the Virgin Mary

[Read Mulder & Scully's advice!]

Nov 3 2016 11:00am

Review: Inherit the Bones by Emily Littlejohn

Inherit the Bones by Emily LittlejohnInherit the Bones by Emily Littlejohn is a debut novel and the 1st book in the Detective Gemma Monroe series.

In her debut novel Inherit the Bones, author Emily Littlejohn brings us a tale of quaint hometown life interspersed with a decades-old murder revisited by way of a new dead body. Detective Gemma Monroe is tasked with solving this fresh homicide, and she quickly figures out that it is tied to an old unsolved case somehow. It’s her job to decipher the clues, all the while keeping herself and her unborn daughter safe at the same time.

The setting is the gorgeous mountains of Colorado during the summer. It really is a beautiful landscape, and Littlejohn does it justice by allowing us a glimpse into this world. When Gemma stumbles upon a skull during a ski trip a few years ago with her boyfriend, it unearths an old unsolved murder that the town had tried to bury. She begins to have prophetic dreams of the two child victims she has found. In these dreams, she also sees a mysterious, ominous figure—the Woodsman, who was believed to have been the murderer. With no clear leads when the two boys went missing almost forty years ago, the case disappeared into old memories. With Gemma’s discovery, it’s all forced back into everyone’s minds once again.

[Read Amber Keller's review of Inherit the Bones...]

Oct 31 2016 12:00pm

Review: Six Scary Stories, Selected & Introduced by Stephen King

Number 1 bestselling writer Stephen King introduces and presents six gripping and chilling stories in this captivating anthology!

I am a sucker for a new Stephen King book, and when I received an email to preorder an upcoming anthology that was filled with six stories picked out by the horror master himself, I didn’t hesitate. Let me first say that I love anthologies—whether they are in book form or horror movie form. This anthology is on the shorter side and didn’t take long at all to finish, making it a perfect read for a rainy day or a cozy evening in.

Six Scary Stories was born out of a short story competition that was to promote Stephen King’s publication, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams. The prompt for the stories featured the following lines that King had written in the introduction to The Bazaar:

[Read Amber Keller's review of Six Scary Stories...]

Oct 28 2016 11:00am

Dear Mulder & Scully: There’s Something in the Woods ... Some—Thing!

This week's guest columnist are FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dr. Dana Scully, who—I want to believe—keep each other “balanced.” 

Dear Mulder and Scully,

I recently had to downgrade my apartment because my roommate left. This led me to a not-so-nice area of town, right outside the city. I was able to rent an entire house for next to nothing, which, at the time, I didn’t think much of it because I was too excited for a bargain and in real need of a new place.

Soon after I moved in, I started noticing strange sounds at night. The best I can say is that it sounded like animals but was almost like a man’s voice making them. I chalked it up to the fact that I had previously lived in the city and had just not heard these animals until now. 

But one night, I decided to check out the sounds, and what I saw terrified me. I found a very old house out near the more wooded area at the end of my lane. I thought there was no way someone lived in this thing—it was filthy and falling apart. But I saw something moving around in the yard, and it was making those crazy sounds I had been hearing! 

It was a cloudy night, but just as the moon poked through and lit everything up, I could see that this thing was some kind of a man! It was grotesque—all lumps and bumps and wearing filthy, torn clothing—but there was no denying it was human. The craziest thing is it lifted its nose in the air and I swear it smelled me! 

Right when I thought this thing was going to find me, a raspy voice called out from inside the house. It was calling for the thing, which promptly left me and ran inside. Needless to say, I ran all the way home and didn’t sleep a wink. I didn’t call the cops because nothing had really happened to me, and I didn’t know what else I would say without sounding like a lunatic, so I left it alone.

Two nights have passed and I still hear those crazy sounds. When I sleep, I have nightmares of that things face and of whatever might be in that house. I’m afraid to tell anybody because they’ll probably think I’m making it up or I’m crazy.

What should I do?


—Sleepless in the Woods

[Read Mulder & Scully's advice!]

Sep 6 2016 2:00pm

Review: The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young

The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young is a Southern Gothic mystery debut that combines literary suspense and romance with a mystical twist.

I don’t usually pass up a southern gothic novel. With The Gates of Evangeline being just that—along with suspense, a deep and entrenching mystery, and a paranormal twist—I was easily sold. It surprised me that this was a debut novel, as author Hester Young brings beautiful writing and wonderful storytelling to the table with the ease of a seasoned and practiced hand.

The setting is highly effective in carrying the story and paralleling, while subsequently enhancing, the characters’ emotions. The brooding Louisiana swamps along with the spooky and frightening visions that Charlie Cates, our protagonist, begins to have, lead us on an otherworldly pursuit of rescue and closure.

[Read Amber Keller's review of The Gates of Evangeline...]

Sep 2 2016 12:30pm

Dear Mulder & Scully: Advice for the Abducted

This week's guest columnist are FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dr. Dana Scully, who—I want to believe—keep each other “balanced.” 

Dear Mulder and Scully,

On a night two weeks ago, I had just come off a shift at the local PD where I work. It was late, close to midnight, and I was traveling on a rural road. It was very dark and no moon was out, which made it very obvious when a bright light suddenly appeared in the sky. It grew in size as it approached, finally splitting into 3 smaller lights. They flew so erratically that I almost crashed my car trying to keep them in view. I pulled over and got out of my car with my phone to take pictures. I was only able to get a couple, and the next thing I knew, I was lying on my back in a field, at least 100 feet from my car.

As I drove home, I noticed the clock in my car was showing 2 a.m. My watch and phone also said this. There was a strange burn, like a sunburn, on my face. Later, I found a mark in the shape of a triangle on my side that hadn’t been there before.

Given my position, I haven’t told anyone else—instead making up stories about a random sunburn, but it’s been very uncomfortable to shave, so I’ve taken time off under the guise of sickness. I’ve enclosed the photos. Please tell me I’m not crazy.

—One Crazy Night


[Read Mulder and Scully's advice!]

Sep 1 2016 11:00am

Review: Hell Fire by Karin Fossum

Hell Fire by Karin Fossum is the 12th Inspector Sejer Mystery, following the murder of a mother and her son and the masterfully intertwined parallel story of a separate mother/son relationship.

This was my first time reading an Inspector Sejer Mystery. I’m normally not one to jump into a series midway, but I held my breath and tested the waters. And, I’m glad I did.

Hell Fire is 12th installment of the aforementioned Inspector Sejer series. Author Karin Fossum carries the title of “Norwegian Queen of Crime,” and it’s not hard to see why. This story refused to be put down until it was finished. I started it before bed on a Friday night and found myself on the last page a little after midnight. I had to know how it was going to turn out. Fossum has a genius way of baiting the hook and steadily reeling the reader in, and she does this with amazing ease.

I was a little hesitant when I saw that this book was about the murder of a woman and her child. I’m a mother of three and don’t normally read stories with a premise such as this, but the more I read about the series and Fossum herself, the easier the decision was to take a step out of my comfort zone and give it a try. I really didn’t know what to expect—if I would be able to finish it or not. I was truly surprised by how much I was pulled into the story and how fast I had it read.

[Read Amber Keller's review of Hell Fire...]

Aug 8 2016 3:30pm

Review: Welcome to Deadland by Zachary Tyler Linville

Welcome to Deadland by Zachary Tyler Linville is a debut novel and zombie apocalypse thriller (Available August 9, 2016).

I was intrigued by the title, and once I read the blurb, I knew I had to read this one. I admit, I was expecting something along the lines of the popular 2009 movie, Zombieland. I think it was a mixture of the title font, the blurb, and the title itself. My brain forged a connection somehow. But this book was different. It was something more than your run-of-the-mill, garden-variety zombie tale—and I liked it.

First, let me give you an interesting factoid about how the book came to be. Nerdist, the uber popular machine that serves as both an empire and a nucleus for anything pop culture, put out a call on their website—a contest that would see one lucky person having their sci-fi/fantasy novel published in connection with both Inkshares and Nerdist. Zachary Tyler Linville was the winner, and Welcome to Deadland is that novel.

I am mostly a consumer of the zombie culture. I watch movies, tv shows, and have participated in a zombie run. I’ve even published a short or two in the genre. Despite all of this, I seem to be picky about the zombie stories I read. There’s no real reason—I just am. But, there was something about this book that made me sit up and take notice.

[Read Amber Keller's review of Welcome to Deadland...]

Jun 21 2016 12:00pm

Review: Burn What Will Burn by C.B. McKenzie

Burn What Will Burn by C.B. McKenzie is a gritty, gripping mystery and an enthralling character study of its poet-protagonist (Available today!).

Set in rural Arkansas in the mid-eighties, C.B. McKenzie brings us noir in the base, true-to-form sense, with a setting filled with oppressive southern heat that rises from the pages like the sheen off scalding asphalt, leaving letters dripping and bringing sweat to your brow. It has the sharp, cutting edge and the southern drawl of a fly lazily buzzing on the front porch in the hot afternoon sun, slicing through the humid air with the background drone of its wings.

Bob Reynolds is a flawed character, all the way, and seeing through his eyes is like looking through a veil at a kaleidoscopic Polaroid memory. He’s a widow, a poet with a drinking problem, a loner, and, most importantly, an outsider in the small town of Poe County—but there is more just under the surface. His eccentricities stand out to the Locals, who don’t really need a reason to target him other than he’s a stranger. The local postman won’t even deliver mail to his house because he’s not a relative of the family who owned the house before he bought it.

[Read Amber Keller's review of Burn What Will Burn...]

Jun 20 2016 2:30pm

Review: Pressure by Brian Keene

Pressure by Brian Keene is this summer's hot new thriller from the bestselling author and World Horror Grandmaster Award winner (Available June 21, 2016).

Fast and full of breathless moments, this one is a definite for any summer reading list. To say I really loved this story doesn’t do it justice. I was left wanting more—more about the characters I had come to love, more about the fascinating and terrifying monsters, more and Mauritius. It also had the surprising effect of making me want to go to the beach RIGHT NOW and snorkel and dive and see all of the wondrous things under the water, which is really a surprise for me since I’m pretty much afraid of what lurks under the surface, be it a lake or the ocean.

Brian Keene’s gorgeous descriptions felt so real that I could easily imagine I was right there at Mauritius, in the water. After looking up the real phenomenon, I have to say I am intrigued—an underwater waterfall I had never heard of before.

[Read Amber Keller's review of Pressure...]

Jul 11 2015 11:00am

Fresh Meat: Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich

Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich is a multigenerational tale of one family's history of crime and vengeance in rural Georgia (available July 14, 2015), 

For a debut novel, Brian Panowich really knocks it out of the ballpark. The text is tight, and the prose is just right. The raw and emotional writing has spikes of action that keeps pulling you along from page to page. I was attracted to this book because it is set a little close to home for me. Panowich brings a genuine southern flair to the book with descriptions, slang, and, oh boy, the occasional food description. He nails the setting and the feel of the south, along with some of the more eccentric characters you sometimes meet in this part of the world. In other words, I can see his fictional Burroughs clan being a real thing – down to their idiosyncrasies and their generational drug trade. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, let me tell you a little about the family.

[Let's meet 'em...]

Mar 19 2014 4:00am

Fresh Meat: Without Warning by David Rosenfelt

Without Warning by David Rosenfelt is a Maine thriller about a small town's murderous mysteries, uncovered after a hurricane unearths a time capsule (available March 25, 2014).

Author David Rosenfelt is no stranger to novel writing, having authored multiple books, including the Andy Carpenter series. This was the first time I had read Mr. Rosenfelt, so I came to the page with curious and fresh eyes. What I found was a fun, sometimes nail-biting, true who-done-it experience.

In the vein of the television shows Magnum P.I. and Kolchak (minus the paranormal aspects), it was like reading a beloved crime show. The first person narrative served well to get into each character’s head. Early in the reading it was a little confusing until I figured out who was talking, but as the story advanced, this ceased to be a problem.

Jake Robbins is the police chief of Wilton, Maine with a colored past. His armed services’ duties left him a war hero, and his marriage was abruptly ended by his wife’s murder after her confessed affair with his friend.

[Have I got your attention? Just keep on reading for more. ]