Saturday, July 25, 2015

Rounding Out the Reviews with NEXT EXIT, PAY TOLL

There are just some authors who keep bringing you back for more - and that's what we have here today.  After having read the series somewhat out of order (see review of third HERE and first HERE), I'm pleased to bring to you CW Browning's second novel in her Exit series - NEXT EXIT, PAY TOLL.  This one was well worth the wait.

Book Blurb:
All sins are punished one day.

For the ruthless traitor protected deep within Washington, DC, that day has come. Alina Maschik has only one goal: find, expose, and eliminate the person who brought a terrorist onto United States soil. For an assassin trained to hunt for a living, this was a straight-forward, text-book mission. But nothing is ever simple with Alina. Unjustly labeled a rogue agent, she's made it to the top of America's Most Wanted list, her own government wants her dead, and everyone close to her is becoming a target. Now, in order to protect those she loves, Alina must work quickly to uncover the traitor...before they uncover her.

Viper returns in the riveting sequel to Next Exit, 3 Miles, determined to ensure that a national traitor pays for their sins, once and for all.

My Review:
I have to confess - I love this series!  This second novel in the series of three thus far is two thumbs up in my book.  The characters are rich, deep, and three-dimensional.  There are so many luscious layers to peel away to get to the heart of our main characters, and it's a delicious journey getting there.

That's what keeps drawing me back - the characters.  Alina - code name Viper - is a tough chick, with an ingrained sense of justice and right versus wrong.  When she's on the hunt, she's like a bloodhound on the scent.

And that fox ain't gonna get away!

Throw in a little Hawk - real name Damon - and things get fun, not to mention complicated, real quick.

After the culmination of THREE MILES, we begin PAY TOLL a few months later, with Alina hiding in plain sight, flirting with danger, and ready to kick some major butt.  The fearless Feds come after her - but they've got it all wrong.  A high-ranking insider in the D.C. scene paid a well-known but rarely seen international assassin to create chaos on U.S. soil.

However, Alina foiled those plans - and now the crazed perpetrator wants her to pay by placing a target on not only her back but on everyone who helped the Viper.

But as he always has, the Hawk has the Viper's back.

To tell you anymore would be a disservice to those who like a twisted mystery tied up with a thrill ride.  Needless to say, there are explosions of ALL sorts waiting in PAY TOLL.  Even though each main story arc is tied up by the end of each book, there is a real benefit from starting at the beginning and moving forward, as the little things presented in the background of book one explode to the forefront of book two.

Even though I like this series, there are still technical issues that cause gnashing of teeth.  There is a continual overuse of several 'ly' words - in this episode 'slightly' stands at the forefront - as well as a lot of eye narrowing.  Easy fixes.  Yes, most of you by now also know I am a purist when it comes to a single point-of-view per scene/chapter.  PAY TOLL jumps POV around from head-to-head throughout a scene or chapter, which can at times be jarring.

However, the plotting and pacing are excellent - moving along in this one at a greater pace than either of the others at this stage.  As mentioned, the characters are rich and varied.  Scenes are explosive with lots of showing instead of telling (yay!) and we get a good sense of motivation on behalf of our fearsome duo.

If it weren't for the POV issues, this one would easily get a fiver from me.  As it stands - oh heck - I'm feeling generous tonight and will overlook my usual fussiness.  NEXT EXIT, PAY TOLL earns a five star.

Content Warning:  Minimal use of coarse language.  Slight steam in the kettle in one scene, but it tames quickly.  Explosions, death, and assassinations constitute some violence that would be a bit much for younger teens.

Purchase a copy at Amazon.  And don't forget to pick up the first one HERE and the third one HERE.

Author Bio:
CW Browning was writing before she could spell. Making up stories in the backyard with her childhood best friend, imagination ran wild from the very beginning. When she moved to New Jersey from Kansas at the age of seven, those tales became written words as she adjusted to life on the East Coast. Her first full-length novel was printed out on a dot-matrix printer at the age of eight. Through the years, the writing continued as an enjoyable past-time while she pursued other avenues of interest, attending Rutgers University and studying History. In time, though, it became apparent where her heart truly lie. CW still makes up stories in her backyard, but now she crafts them for her readers to enjoy. She makes her home in Southern New Jersey, where she loves to grill organic steak and sip red wine on the patio.

Visit her at:
Find her on Facebook at:
Follow her on Twitter @cw_browning

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Returning to Reviews with STAY OF EXECUTION

It's been awhile, dear readers, but today I'm returning to the reviewer's saddle and mounting up for a good ride through mystery, intrigue, and murder.  What better way to do that than visit a new release from an author previously highlighted here.

With her sophomore release of the Detective Cancini Mystery series, I'm pleased to have the opportunity to bring author Kellie Larsen Murphy to you once again.  My review of A GUILTY MIND, her debut novel in this series, can be found HERE.  Ms. Murphy is no stranger to gut-wrenching situations and hard-boiled police procedure and brings that to us once again in STAY OF EXECUTION.

Book Blurb:
Little Springs was just a small college town, the kind of town where everyone knew everyone and violent crime was nonexistent—until a series of rapes and murders at the college. After an outbreak of fear and hysteria, only the arrest and conviction of Leo Spradlin, the "Co-Ed Killer," could end the terror.

Years later, Spradlin is suddenly cleared based on unshakable DNA evidence, and no one is more surprised than Detective Mike Cancini. As new questions surround the identity of the true "Co-Ed Killer," Cancini struggles to accept his role in the conviction of an innocent man. Suspicions mount when Spradlin’s release coincides with a fresh wave of rapes and murders at the college, eerily reminiscent of the original crimes. Cancini is drawn back to Little Springs, caught in a race against time to uncover the identity of the latest "Co-Ed Killer" before the next girl dies…

A tension-filled psychological mystery, STAY OF EXECUTION is also a novel about loyalty, deceit, and the darker side of truth.

My Review:
The novel opens in a world of chaos as an imprisoned killer is released when the DNA evidence in the case initially used to convict him is retested and unmistakably exonerates him.  The media feeding frenzy begins.  The political points are pursued.

And a small town is once again shaken to its core.

Not to mention the detective who almost single-handedly placed this supposed killer behind bars, launching him into the nation's eye.  Now Mike Cancini calls into question every case, every lead, and returns to the small town to retrace his steps and pick up the cold trail of a murderer - even though his boss has forbidden him to do so.

So what does Mike do?  Takes vacation and returns to the hamlet of Little Springs, Virginia, revisiting old haunts, old acquaintances, and the ghosts of a gruesome past he'd thought long buried.

Until the murders start all over again.

Once again, we have a novel well plotted and paced, with characters you at times want to love AND strangle.  Detective Cancini is still a bit of an enigma with challenges, self-doubt, and personal family issues that help connect this reader to him.  However, I had trouble connecting with Julia Manning, the intrepid reporter inserting herself into this story.  She didn't feel fully fleshed out and did some things that just made me roll my eyes.  She seemed inconsistent, though will perhaps return as a love interest for Cancini in the following novel.  There also was an overabundance of pronoun usage and quite a few more editing errors that jumped out and bit me - mainly a lot of missing small words and punctuation.

But the tension at times was thick.  You could feel Cancini's absolute frustration.  The fear of the townspeople was palpable.  The sneers and snide sense of "justice" on the part of certain media personalities and politicians was almost visible and made me want to slap someone - emotion is always good in a novel.  The details in the police procedure (like the minutiae in the DNA testing) was very interesting.

After being so pleasantly surprised by the twist at the end of A GUILTY MIND, I'd hoped to get something similar in STAY OF EXECUTION.  However, before I even hit the 20% reading mark on my Kindle, I had every detail figured out, which left me a little deflated by the end.  I'd hoped I was wrong.  I'd prayed I was wrong.  But everything was exactly as expected when I turned the final electronic page.

Then again, I'm just a little weird that way.

Will most readers have it all figured out by the end?  Maybe not.  Is this a well-crafted story?  Yes.  Can you get a good sense of the fear permeating the atmosphere?  Absolutely!  And for that I'll give STAY OF EXECUTION four stars.

Content Warning:  There is occasional use of strong language in STAY OF EXECUTION.  Some subject matter may be offensive or disturbing to some readers, including the rape and murder of a couple of victims (though these are not drawn out to the extreme).

Pick up a copy at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Author Bio:
Kellie Larsen Murphy is the author of A GUILTY MIND and STAY OF EXECUTION, the first two books
in the Detective Cancini Mystery series. She has written for several mid-Atlantic magazines and resides in Richmond, Virginia, with her husband, four children, and two very large, very hairy dogs. She would be happy to hear from readers through her website,

You can also visit her on Twitter @aguiltymind.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Release Day is Here

The official release day has arrived!

Starting today, you can pick up AND read the third and final novel in the Deepest Darkness series, RISING FROM THE DARKNESS.  You've been so patient over the last few years, dear readers, as I've tripped and traipsed my way through learning the ropes of marketing instead of writing.  Your wait is finally over.

Samantha's journey is at an end.

There are explosions.

There are deaths.

But there is also redemption - for some.

Pick up and read RISING today at an eBook outlet near you.  It's available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, and everywhere else eBooks are sold.

And don't forget to connect with me on Facebook, email, or comment on the blog to let me know what you think.  Happy reading!