Book Review: “Louisiana Longshot” by Jana DeLeon

A plot reminiscent of “Miss Congeniality” mixes with the small town zaniness of a Stephanie Plum novel in this story about an undercover CIA assassin. Fortune Redding expects nothing but boredom when she’s forced to hide out in Sinful, Louisiana. This changes when, on her first day of acting as the great-niece of an elderly woman who recently passed, the estate’s dog digs up a human bone. “Sandy-Sue Morrow” (the real identity of an ex-beauty queen vacationing in Europe) gets pulled into the mystery against her will by a secret society of old ladies who claim to run the town. So much for lying low – all Fortune can do is hope the deputy doesn’t run a background check on her fake name and blow her cover.

While Fortune’s antics can be a little over-the-top, I enjoyed her unlikely friendship with locals Gertie and Ida Belle. The character of Fortune herself is rough around the edges (as expected given her career) but grew on me throughout the story. Fortune’s sarcastic narrative provides a funny commentary on the situations and characters around her, particularly her new friends. The mystery wraps up after surprising revelations about Marge, the deceased great-aunt who left the house to Sandy-Sue.

You can download the first book of the “Miss Forune” series for free here.

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Book Review: “A Gift of Ghosts” by Sarah Wynde

Akira Malone is a physicist. Her ability to communicate with ghosts is a “quirk,” a nuisance she does her best to avoid. She doesn’t even believe that ghosts are souls. They’re probably leftover energy, she reasons, and she can’t help them anyway. Not one has ever mentioned a “bright light.” Most she’s encountered just disappear without explanation, possibly converted into another form of energy.

Her instinct is to run when Zane Latimer hires her because of her quirk. In the end though, she can’t resist the top-of-the-line lab and intriguing research. She accepts the offer and moves to Tassamara, Florida, a town where hiding her quirk might not be an issue anymore. Apparently they’ve seen stranger things.

The book shines when focused on the author’s version of the spirit world. Ghosts Dillon and Rose are two of the most entertaining characters. It’s interesting that ghosts are not all good or all bad, but depend on individual’s energy. Akira’s scientific viewpoint creates a mystery that carries the story – what are ghosts, and where do they go when they disappear forever?

You can download the first Tassamara novel for free here.

Book Review: “Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper” by JL Bryan

Ellie Jordan is an expert at removing ghosts from haunted houses, and she prefers to work alone. She’s not happy when her long-time mentor/parental figure, former detective Calvin Eckhart, forces her to pair up with trust-funder college graduate Stacey Ray Tolbert. Newbie Stacey doesn’t understand yet that ghost trapping is serious business, so she gets an education real quick when their next case is a very haunted mansion owned by the Treadwell family.

The reluctant friendship between Ellie and Stacey is a highlight of the book. It’s not the fast BFF-ship a reader might expect but they’re not enemies either. Lighthearted jokester Stacey is a contrast to Ellie’s strict professionalism, and slowly wins Ellie over by not running away from the scary ghosts. They both need this courage as they run into all kinds of harmful spirits, particularly those related to the mansion’s long, scandalous history. The creepy horror-movie factor increases the more Ellie and Stacey investigate.

This story does feel like it’s divided in two because of the multiple hauntings, but I didn’t mind as much since the dark, spooky ending satisfied. All the characters’ interactions, particularly those of the resourceful protagonist, make the book an enjoyable read. You can download the first installment of the series for free here.

Book Review: “Talk of the Town” by Lisa Wingate

After browsing the selection of FREE ebooks in Amazon’s Kindle section, I realized I wanted “Dear Journal” to be part-book review blog. I love to spread the word about great finds.

My first pick is “Talk of the Town” by Lisa Wingate, book one in her “Welcome to Daily, Texas” series. I’ve always lived in the New York boroughs so I romanticize the idea of small-town life (Staten Island can be like a small town, but it’s not the same). While there are fewer businesses, and I wouldn’t want everyone knowing my business, I’d like to try it somewhere down the line. This is why I can enjoy books, Hallmark movies and country songs about the lifestyle. Even if an author’s portrayal is an exaggeration, how would I know? It’s similar to when doctors can’t watch Grey’s Anatomy because of the inaccurate medical jargon, but most fans aren’t bothered at all.

What I like about “Talk of the Town” is that it’s more than you’d expect from the summary. On the surface it looks like a typical city-girl-meets-country-boy tale, Hollywood-meets-small town America, and I was sold on that alone. Then I picked up spiritual undertones, a theme about questioning where we are in life. (I’ve already mentioned I’m not religious but I can be interested when it shows up in media. For a while I was even hooked on Touched by an Angel reruns. Goes along with that “appreciating the passion/beliefs of others” mindset.) The book runs deeper than anticipated thanks to Daily native Imagene Doll. Her story about finding herself after her husband’s passing is just as endearing as the younger characters’ love story. Meanwhile, co-main character/reality show producer’s assistant Mandalay Florentino has second thoughts about her fast-paced Los Angeles lifestyle and the direction of her career.

There are two more in the series I plan to read next. You can download “Talk of the Town” here.