Haunted House Ghost: Death At The Fall Festival (Braxton Campus Mysteries) by James J. Cudney
It’s Halloween and Professor Kellan is renovating his newly purchased rundown mansion in the Haunted House Ghost.
A current mystery and a historic one compete for Kellan and his potential girlfriend, Sheriff April’s attention. Between that, a Fall Festival, a ghost, home renovations, a psychic, and a skeleton, no wonder Kellan and April can’t even find the time to go out on a date!
Good thing there is a guide to Who’s Who in the front of the book. This book has the largest cast of any tale shorter than a 19th-century Russian novel. Luckily, you don’t need to memorize them all. The Haunted House Ghost quickly narrows down to a handful of suspects. Kudos to the author for making me second guess my thought on who was the murderer—multiple times right up to the reveal. Overall, an enjoyable cozy mystery. 4 stars!
Thanks to the author and Great Escapes Blog Tours for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
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It’s Halloween, and excitement is brewing in Braxton to carve jack-o’-lanterns, go on haunted hayrides, and race through the spooky corn maze at the Fall Festival.
Despite the former occupant’s warnings, Kellan renovates and moves into a mysterious old house. When a ruthless ghost promises retribution, our fearless professor turns to the eccentric town historian and an eerie psychic to communicate with the apparition. Meanwhile, construction workers discover a fifty-year-old skeleton after breaking ground on the new Memorial Library wing.
While Kellan and April dance around the chemistry sparking between them, a suspicious accident occurs at the Fall Festival. Soon, Kellan discovers the true history and dastardly connections of the Grey family. But can he capture the elusive killer – and placate the revenge-seeking ghost.
About James J. Cudney
James is my given name; most call me Jay. I grew up on Long Island and currently live in New York City, but I’ve traveled all across the US (and various parts of the world). After college, I spent 15 years working in technology and business operations in the sports, entertainment and media industries. Although I enjoyed my job, I left in 2016 to focus on my passion: telling stories and connecting people through words. My debut novel is ‘Watching Glass Shatter,’ a contemporary fiction family drama with elements of mystery, suspense, humor and romance. To see samples or receive news from my current and upcoming books, please subscribe with your email address at my website: https://jamesjcudney.com
What do I do outside of writing: I’m an avid genealogist (discovered 2K family members going back about 250 years) and cook (I find it so hard to follow a recipe). I love to read; between Goodreads and my blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, I have over 900 book reviews which will give you a full flavor for my voice and style. On my blog, there is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice and bloopers. Lots of bloopers where I poke fun at myself all the time. Even my dogs have segments where they complain about me. All these things make up who I am; none of them are very fancy or magnanimous, but they are real and show how I live every day.
House of Ghosts sounds like an Agatha Christie plot. As World War I battles a world away, a house party is gathering at a mysterious old house on an English island. The goal is to use mediums to raise the spirits of the owners’ two sons—both dead in the war. Throw in mysteries, lies, secret plans, spies, a storm cutting the island off from the mainland and of course murder and you have a plot reminiscent of the finest golden-age British mystery.
Just as with the older stories, House of Ghosts meanders quite a bit before getting to the meat of the story. Also, if you are looking for a ghost story or a spy story, this is not a good choice. But if you don’t mind a leisurely mystery where literally everyone has a motive, this is an excellent choice for a few hours of entertainment by being transported to a difficult time in humankind’s history. 4 stars!
Thanks to Arcade, Skyhorse Publishing and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Virgil Flowers is back! His girlfriend Frankie is very pregnant with twins. He doesn’t appreciate having to bring in the hay on her farm. And, oh, he’s investigating a murder of a venerated Professor who likes to argue. The Professor is a genius who has been hit in the head—a Bloody Genius, get it?
The change of setting allows Virgil to be a fish out of water at the University of Minnesota. The reader shares his surprise about how seriously academics take small issues. Could one of the scuff-ups have led to the Professor’s murder? Or could it be his three former wives, his girlfriends, his estranged daughter, his drug dealing, his blackmailing, or something else? Truly, this guy is a winner!
I love that F*cking Flowers. His story is the best part of Bloody Genius. I also liked the pairing of Virgil with a police officer who actually appreciates his help. The mystery was good too. I totally missed the “hidden-in-plain-sight” clue that unravels the case. I like that in a book so I get to be as surprised as the author intended but can clearly see the hints in hindsight. If you like humorous police procedurals that use as little actual procedure as possible, you too will love that effing Flowers. 5 stars!
Thanks to G.P. Putnam’s Sons and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Another great selection of eleven British golden-age mystery stories is found in the Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories.
From Blind Man’s Hood from the great John Dickson Carr to ‘Twist the Cup and the Lip by Julian Symons, many of the authors will be familiar to those who love golden-age mysteries. Even better, some are complete unknowns to a modern audience though they were famous in their day. The introductions to each story explain each author’s place in the universe as well as their most famous characters.
I love these British Library Crime Classics Christmas anthologies. The stories are excellent. All have some sort of a twist on the Christmas setting, either a ghost story of murder on Christmas Eve or a mysterious woman on a train with a trio of policemen who are heading to Christmas dinner. Each story has aged well with no blatant racism or sexism in sight. But I am sure that you, as do I, read these tales for the puzzles. The game is afoot, indeed, with some clever misdirection so famous in British golden-age plots.
Whether you want to get into the Christmas mood without all the saccharine carols, or as a perfect gift for the mystery fan in your life, the Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories will meet, and exceed, your expectations. 5 stars!
Thanks to Poisoned Pen Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Batman is my favorite superhero so I had to read Batman: 100 Greatest Moments! What a great review or catch up on the entire Batman story.
From Batman’s origin to tales from the dark multiverse, all the important stories are here. Each has a short summary of the event and at least one comic page or cover. The time period covered is 1940 through 2011.
Some of the stories are familiar to this long-time Batman fan, but many were not. Now, I just have to find a copy of Gotham by Gaslight, where Batman takes on Gotham’s own Jack the Ripper in Victorian times!
My favorite part was the artwork. The styles vary widely—partly because of timing and partly due to different artists’ interpretations. Some style changes may be caused by modern painting and printing techniques making the images sharper and clearer. Regardless, I loved seeing them all in one book to make comparisons easy.
If you are a Batman fan, you must pick up Batman: 100 Greatest Moments! It is an excellent reminder of why you already, or soon will, love the Dark Knight. 5 stars!
Thanks to Chartwell Books, Quarto Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Caleb is created in an unusual way and born into an ultra-religious home in the new novel, Into Captivity They Will Go.
After her father’s death, Caleb’s mother, Evelyn, begins to believe she and Caleb are God’s chosen ones. In fact, they both believe Caleb is the second coming of Jesus. To prepare Caleb, who is in elementary school, Evelyn teaches him the Biblical Book of Revelations backward and forwards. Then they begin to proselytize on street corners…
If you have studied Revelation, there are wide swaths of pages that will be as boring to you as they were to me. The story does eventually pick up the pace and plotting. However, the question is if it is worth waiting for it. For me personally, the answer is no because I didn’t need or like the elaborate setup to the main action. But you may not be as familiar with Biblical prophecies and may need the extended explanation. However, I can only rate Into Captivity They Will Go by my own experience with it. 3 stars.
Thanks to Central Avenue Publishing and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
You are trying to find the elusive Orwellians through a series of puzzles in Escape Book 2.
All of your journalism hasn’t stopped the dreaded Castian, the villain that poisoned you in Escape Book 1. Maybe the anti-governmental terrorist group, the Orwellians, can. After receiving an invitation to join them, you are still unwell from the poison so you send your young assistant, Janina, in your stead. With only Janina’s cellphone connecting your knowledge of puzzles with her, can she escape and convince the Orwellians to bring down Castian?
Most of the puzzles in Escape Book 2 use a map to solve. I have to say that I am “map-challenged” or really “geography-challenged”. However, I still believe that the majority of the puzzles are of an intermediate or advanced difficulty. If you read the first book in the series, these puzzles are definitely harder to solve.
Is this the same as a real escape room experience? No, of course not. First of all, you are going it alone. Second, you don’t really have a time limit. Third, there is no searching since the author provides you the clues. Also, a great benefit is that the author mandates the solving order of the puzzles. However, I think working the puzzles will improve your ability to solve live escape room puzzles faster. And it is definitely cheaper to buy the book than to attend even one escape room game. Overall, Escape Book 2 is a fun way to spend an evening. 4 stars!
Thanks to White Lion Publishing and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
How can a person, place, or thing stand out in the huge deluge of information now? In The Iconist, the author uses the KISS method. KISS stands for keep it simple stupid. He also recommends using large, bright, simple and symmetrical blocks of visual information to engage distracted humans. Finally, he recommends repeating the same message over and over. Familiarity is a good thing in our complicated world. Once people see your block and, more importantly, remember it, it becomes an icon.
The Iconist presents several examples of how blocks have been used in the past by artists and architects. This section seemed a bit unconvincing to me. If you look at anything closely enough, you can see the underlying geometric shapes. I did enjoy the examples of blocks in music. The best part of Bad Guy is the Duh! hook. It does get your attention and makes the song unforgettable. The author continues to provide many more examples of how blocks can work in any industry.
Overall, the idea of repeating a short engaging phrase to represent you or your company sounds good. I am going to try it on my blog in the near future to see if it works. If you are trying to get attention in a crowded world, it can’t hurt. 3.5 stars!
Thanks to BenBella Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
The Shape of Night is an abrupt departure from this author’s usual police procedural. It’s an atmospheric gothic romantic suspense story with some modern twists thrown in.
Ava has a terrible guilt-driven secret. In addition, she is over a year past the publisher’s deadline on her latest cookbook. Hoping to escape her guilt, Ava rents a remote old house on the windswept Maine coast. The house is incredibly cheap because it is still undergoing renovation and the previous tenant left without giving notice.
Ava soon sees the ghost of the former owner of the house, 1800s Sea Captain Brodie. When he appears in her bedroom, they start a unique relationship involving Ava’s guilt and the Captain’s unusual method of helping her get over it. Will he really never hurt her in his house as he promised? Or is there something darker afoot?
The entire plot of the Shape of Night is unexpected. It is a slow-burning gothic suspense novel mixed with a modern amateur sleuth story. There are actually three mysteries involved. What is Ava’s secret? Who or what is Captain Brodie—a benevolent ghost or a vindictive demon? What caused the previous tenant of the house to run away one night never to return?
I thought that the atmospheric gothic feel of the novel was pitch-perfect. I had some issues with the mysteries. One was too easy to figure out. Another was wrapped up too quickly at the end of the book—though in an exciting way. The other was never clearly answered.
Surprisingly, since I am a mystery reader, I enjoyed the paranormal aspects of this novel the most. That part of the plot was engrossing making this book a compelling page-turner. However, the mysteries left me underwhelmed for the reasons I stated above. Because of that schism, it is hard to rate this book. However, since I love genre mash-ups, I’ll round up to 4 stars!
Thanks to Ballantine, Random House and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
With over 50 recipes, every food event in Louisa Mae Alcott’s Little Women is replicated using modern ingredients and cooking methods in the Little Women Cookbook.
From simple lemonade and hot chocolate to fruit trifles and Jo’s corned beef, the book has recipes for all skill levels. Many of the recipes are vegetarian like the garden pot pie. There are breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack recipes but the emphasis is on desserts. Or that just may be me. Many are little remembered now like apple slump and jellyroll cake.
I enjoyed the Little Women Cookbook. It was fun to see recipes that I had read about but had no idea how they were made. This a fun gift for the reader in your life. The only downside is there no nutritional information provided. 4 stars!
Thanks to Harvard Common Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Andy, the perpetually retiring defense lawyer, gets sucked into two cases involving dogs in the fun cozy mystery, Dachshund Through the Snow.
Andy is asked by an old cop frenemy to find a way to get the city to allow the cop’s K-9 partner, Simon, to retire with him in a few weeks. Simon has arthritis and could be hurt if he continues to work. So Andy sues the city alleging that Simon is a city employee who should be able to disability retire. It really is a case of species discrimination!
Laurie, Andy’s wife and an ex-police lieutenant, starts celebrating Christmas in November. So it is no surprise when she selects a wish off a tree in her local pet store. The child requestor, Danny, wants three gifts: a winter coat for his mother, another coat for his dachshund, and his dad to come home.
The coats are no problem. Unfortunately, Danny’s dad is accused killer, Noah. Fourteen years earlier, he met Kristen at a bar. After a few dates on the down-low, they meet in a remote spot. Kristen asks Noah to take her with him when he leaves for college in a few days. When Noah refuses, Kristen becomes distraught and accidentally scratches his face. He leaves. He finds out that she is killed later that night. Fourteen years later, Noah’s brother spits into a genealogy website’s test tube and Noah is caught by his DNA—found under Kristen’s fingernails so long ago.
A Christmas setting has everything I love about cozy mysteries. Family interactions and murder. Okay, I’m not trying to wish up a murder at my next family Christmas party, but it would stop everyone from gossiping—at least for a minute or two. The Andy Carpenter series is always entertaining and this installment is no different. I love the interaction between the characters, who all seem realistic and relatable. However, the trials are also a smart addition to all the books in this series and that is rare in cozy mysteries. You might even say that Dachshund Through the Snow is a legal thriller set in a cozy mystery world. Plus Andy’s sarcastic asides are hilarious! Overall, I continue to love this series and wait each year for the next to appear. 5 stars!
Thanks to Minotaur Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
The Empire of Lies is an incredibly detailed alternative history. What if a time traveler helped the Ottoman Empire win the 1682 Battle of Vienna? How would it impact present-day life?
The answer is it would be a completely different scenario. A Sultan rules over the entire world except in Christian America. Islam is the official faith. Woman are segregated in public. Honor killing of them, for eloping or unmarried pregnancy, are on the rise under the new and more rigid Sultan.
The time traveler returns to our modern-day Paris to receive medical treatment. He kills a man for his clothes and goes to a charity hospital. His doctor is suspicious of the tattoos on his chest that explain how to time travel in an ancient language. The time traveler is pursued by Nisreen, an outspoken female activist; Ramazan, her anesthesiologist husband; and Kamal, the doctor’s brother who has an unrequited love for Nisreen as well as a job finding terrorists for the state. The three decide to use time travel to get civilization back on its original path.
For history buffs, this is clearly a five-star book. For others, like me, it a fun and different take on a science fiction thriller. I especially liked the ending. An intriguing story of what if, Empire of Lies is a compelling read. 4 stars!
Thanks to Forge Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.