Tag Archives: Mystery

“The Pineville Heist” by Lee Chambers

Seventeen year old Aaron stumbles into the aftermath of a five million dollar bank heist gone wrong. Hiding under a canoe, Aaron partially catches the murder of one of the robbers. In the chaos he sneaks away with the money and heads straight for the closest place of safety, his high school. Terrified, Aaron tells his shocking tale to Amanda Becker, his drama teacher, but it doesn’t take long for one of the psychotic robbers to show up. In the locked down school the pair are relentlessly pursued in a quest to get the money back and wipe out the evidence. (from amazon.com) 

Original Cover

Aaron Stevens is a typical high school student, who argues with his father, and likes to skip the occasional class.  Aaron’s father is very wealthy, and that wealth sometimes becomes a thorn in Aaron’s side, and gives other students a reason to raze him.   

On an ordinary day, Aaron and two of his friends get caught in the middle of a bank heist; a bank heist that now includes guns, murder, lost friendships, and death.  This kind of excitement is more than Aaron and his friends bargained for.  Aaron quickly becomes the key, the centre of an intricate plot that captures the reader’s attention, and keeps hold until the final paragraph. 

The story moves at a quick pace; sometimes taking wonderful gigantic leaps!  The reader will want to keep up – and quite possibly read the book in one sitting. The book is classed as “Middle Grade” reading, but I recommend that any adult who likes adventure and mystery, pick up “The Pineville Heist” soon!  It is definitely a good read! 

Middle Grade students will no doubt enjoy “The Pineville Heist”.  My only comment is a word of caution, with respect to the occasional injection of swearing into the conversation.  While it is likely that Middle Grade students will pass by this language without a thought, I found it unnecessary in a book of the calibre of “The Pineville Heist”. 

New Front Cover

The author, Lee Chambers, keeps situation and character description to a minimum.  Action and dialogue take centre stage, treating the reader to mind-spinning and mind-boggling twists and turns.  In Aaron Stevens, Chambers has created a very likeable hero, who remains through it all, an ordinary guy who exhibits extraordinary courage, someone the reader will care about and cheer on until the last page. 

This is a fabulous adventure and mystery novel, sent to me by Lee Chambers, in exchange for an impartial review.  A review I am very happy to post. 


“The Joy of the Written Word” was exemplified as I smiled and gasped my way through “The Pineville Heist”!  Definitely a wonderful read. 

Choose Joy! 





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Book Review: “Blind Sight: Through the Eyes of Aniela Dawson” by Eliabeth Hawthorne

A blind girl drawing is abnormal even on the magical island of Edaion where leaves brush themselves into piles in the middle of the night. As an immigrant, Leocardo is not biased by accepted rules of magic and determines that Odette’s drawings are premonitions. Aniela grew up with magic and knows premonitions are impossible. She determines Odette is a medium channeling voiceless spirits.
In this volume: While Aniela tries to escape a lifestyle where obligations take priority over friendships, she befriends Odette, a blind girl with the ability to draw. Almost immediately, concerns and questions arise as Aniela suspects that Odette’s gift is far stronger than any seen before.  In the middle of family turmoil and a complicated romantic relationship with Odette’s brother, Aniela faces the realization that helping her comatose friend means disobeying her mother, something she has never done before.  (from Goodreads)

So, here we are, moving forward with a book review of the second novel of “Blind Sight”.  (For additional information, please visit my blog post from yesterday, March 20, 2012).   As with the first novel, the author gifted me with a free copy, in exchange for an impartial review.  To briefly recap,  this novel actually consisted of two books, both entitled “Blind Sight”, but each told through the perspective of a different main character; “Through the Eyes of Leocardo Reyes” by Ermisenda Alvarez and “Through the Eyes of Aniela Dawson” by  Eliabeth Hawthorne.  A compilation effort of the two authors, combining even their names as:  Ermilia.  The plot line of both books is the same, the telling of the story written through the vision of different main characters.  Today’s book is written through the eyes of Aniela Dawson.

The first comment I will make is that these two books are very different.  I expected sameness, and most surprisingly, got difference – not necessarily a bad thing!   The authors mentioned that the order in which the books were to be read was “Reader’s Choice”.   I would not agree with that comment.  Had I read this book first, Aniela’s perspective, I would have been puzzled by the storyline.  If I had not read Leocardo’s perspective first, I may not have felt so positive about the mystery aspect.  Without Leocardo’s influence, Aniela herself seems a little lost.   The two storylines are quite divergent, sometimes leaving me knowing I had read the scene before….., but I could not quite recognize from where… In Aniela’s view, the role of secondary characters is much smaller than in Leocardo’s view.  And in Aniela’s story, the romance aspect gets more play.

author Eliabeth Hawthorne

Personally, I preferred Leocardo’s version of the plot line, and at times wished the two perspectives  – Leocardo’s and Aniela’s – were blended as one book.  This would give me immediate gratification of how both parties were feeling – but I did not have the forward thinking vision with which these two authors are gifted.

One comment on the third main character – Odette, Leocardo’s younger sister, the blind girl spoken of in the Goodreads book summation.  Odette does have a major role in this single plot line, and in both books joins Leocardo and Aniela together.  But, does  Odette’s character ‘need’ to be blind?  Maybe….. but, maybe not.  I am still mulling that concept over in my mind.  You will have to read both books, then give that some thought.  A great discussion looms on the horizon!

I encourage you to leave a comment on this post, as one random commenter will receive a $5.00 Visa Gift Card, from the authors, Ermisenda Alvarez and Eliabeth Hawthorne. 

So, readers, where is today’s Joy?  For me,  the Joy is found in the innovative thinking of these two novelists, who challenged themselves to tackle a new writing style.

Choose Joy! 






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Book Review: “Blind Sight: Through the Eyes of Leocardo Reyes” by Ermisenda Alvarez

A blind girl drawing is abnormal even on the magical island of Edaion where leaves brush themselves into piles in the middle of the night. As an immigrant, Leocardo is not biased by accepted rules of magic and determines that Odette’s drawings are premonitions. Aniela grew up with magic and knows premonitions are impossible. She determines Odette is a medium channeling voiceless spirits.
In this volume: Snatched out of their life in Spain, Leocardo and his blind sister Odette find themselves on an island with no recollection of the trip. After foiled attempts to escape, Odette’s strange behavior gets worse. Even after learning the island has bestowed magic upon them both, Leocardo faces the possibility his sister is having a mental break down.  Just as he thinks he is settled in, job and romantic life stable, Odette disappears.  (from Goodreads)

My first introduction to “Blind Sight” indicated the novel could be considered as Paranormal, and was definitely a Fantasy/Urban Fantasy storyline.  As my regular readers know, this category is outside of my “normal range” for both reading and reviewing.  But, when I read the Goodreads’, and others’, synopsis, it seemed that it would be more like a Mystery Novel with a Fantasy edge.  So, with that in mind, I accepted Ermisenda Alvarez’s request to participate in the Book Blog Tour, and she kindly gifted me with a free copy, in exchange for an impartial review.  I then learned that this novel actually consisted of two books: both entitled “Blind Sight”, but each told through the perspective of a different main character; “Through the Eyes of Leocardo Reyes” and “Through the Eyes of Aniela Dawson”.   And, the Aniela Dawson perspective was written by a second author:  Eliabeth Hawthorne.  In fact, it was a compilation effort of the two authors, combining even their names as:  Ermilia.  Ok, now I was hooked.  I will not jump the gun, and say this never happened before, but it was certainly unique to me as a reader.  But, I am getting a little sidetracked, and will return to the matter at hand; and offer my review of “Blind Sight:  Through the Eyes of Leocardo Reyes”.

One of the great features of this book is the element of surprise.  This began in the Prologue, right through to the last chapter, in fact, to the last page.  As I read, I found myself frequently puzzled, and asking “How did we get here??”, or “Did I miss something?”, or simply “What? What happened?”.   For the most part this was a positive feature of the novel, and one of the reasons it could be classified as a Mystery Novel.  The author very cleverly keeps the reader’s full attention, and keeps the fast pace of the novel.  I was concerned that as a Fantasy Novel, the storyline would be bogged down by descriptions.  No need to worry about that – nothing that I got bogged down in!  However, I will qualify my comments by saying that at times a little more description would have been welcome, especially with respect to character description.  Minor characters sometimes arrived without filling the reader in on who they were.  This bothered me, until I realized that in some instances, these characters left as quickly as they had arrived.  Nevertheless, I did catch myself flipping pages back, (which is not an easy thing to do using an online eReader program!), trying to find out where characters had come from.  In most, if not all of the cases, I think it was just a case of missing information, not an intentional holding back by the author. 

author Ermisenda Alvarez

There is an element of romance in this novel, which I found brought a gentler focus to the overall storyline.  That gentler focus, coupled with the light fantasy plotline made this book much more enjoyable than I had expected.  My concern of facing a typical Young Adult Paranormal Fantasy was completely unfounded.  In fact, if anything, I would say that this novel left me wondering if other light fantasy novels were out there!  One of the aspects that appealed to me was the element of a sixth sense – rather than ‘fantastical’ elements.  This sixth sense tone also fitted in with the gentler focus of the overall storyline. 

The characters in the novel, both the main characters and the secondary ones, are all quite likeable.  Even those portrayed as having an edge, or being a little outside the law, were enjoyable to read about.  I think that is a sign of clever writing techniques, as well as who the character was within the story. 

The end of this book was……. Well, actually, you will need to find that out yourself….!! 

Tomorrow, I will post my review of the second book, told from the perspective of the character Aniela Dawson, and fit the two novels together as one. 

I encourage you to leave a comment on this post, as one random commenter will receive a $5.00 Visa Gift Card, from the authors, Ermisenda Alvarez and Eliabeth Hawthorne. 

So, readers, where will the Joy be found in this review?  Well, for me, the Joy awaits you at the end of the final chapter of “Blind Sight:  Through the Eyes of Leocardo Reyes”!!  The Joy of Surprise! 

Choose Joy! 






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Book Review: “Splattered Blood” by Michael A. Draper

The Chief of Internal Security for New England’s professional basketball team, the Highlanders, is found dead in his office, with a suicide note and conflicting evidence of foul play. Refusing to believe he would have had reason to kill himself, and frustrated with the slowness of the police force’s progress on the case, Johnny’s widow, Roseanne, and best friend, Randy, launch a renegade investigation of their own. Aided by Roseanne’s brother Graham, a fiercely protective loose cannon, they dig up evidence that Johnny, just previous to the date of his death, was running his own undercover investigation into the drug overdose of a star player for the Highlanders. The amateur detectives find themselves mixed up with a ruthless gang of mobsters, many of whom are responsible for the drug trade-and a string of violent murders – from Washington, D.C. to Boston. When their quest takes a gruesome and deadly turn, the three wonder if they’re in over their heads. A gritty tale in the vein of Dennis Lehane and Robert B. Parker, Splattered Blood keeps readers guessing, with suspense and retribution on every page. (Amazon.com)


Splattered blood is not an image I would like to hold in my mind.  But then again, anything to do with blood makes me a little queasy – if I think about it too long!  So, why would I read a book entitled “Splattered Blood”?  Well, firstly, it is written by a familiar name in the Blog Book Review world – Michael A. Draper.  And secondly, I like mysteries.  It is as simple as that! 

I knew I was hooked by page 3!  The central character telling the story, Randy, immediately came across as very likeable.  The kind of character you root for when the fights break out.  There are two other main characters – Roseanne and her brother Graham.  Roseanne has just become a widow, which immediately draws on the reader’s emotional side.  The author succeeds in doing this, without turning the situation sappy.  Graham comes across as a pretty rough character, which means the author must somehow turn the reader to Graham’s side – at least allowing the reader to accept Graham as is.  Through Randy’s viewpoint, Graham kind of grows on us! 

Michael A. Draper

I admire Mike Draper’s writing style.  It is clear, crisp, and defined.  It moves the story along at a quick pace, without sacrificing character or plot development.  As I read, I was reminded of the mystery writers of the past:  Raymond Chandler, Georges Simenon, Mickey Spillane.  Also, Draper’s writing is not overloaded with excess scenery description or excess dialogue. 

In the first part of the book, I wondered if the plot was moving too fast, if it might make the storyline less believable.  After all, for all intents and purposes, our three driving characters were not professional crime solvers.  Yet, here they were trying to solve a crime that appeared to have links to some type of organized crime.  Fortunately, Draper’s writing made the roles of the characters believable.  Draper accomplished this by not being afraid of pushing the boundaries of our main characters’ drive and motivation. 

There were times when the descriptive writing got a little too descriptive for my liking, and I must admit reading a few pages through half closed eyes, blocking out the small amount of ‘gory stuff’ that the book included.  Other readers might not call these violent scenes ‘gory’, but to the faint of heart – like me – and although very limited in the novel – it pushed my boundaries!  I was also glad that the offensive language was very limited, as too much of it can ruin a book for me.  While I did skim over the language once or twice, most readers will not be at all troubled by a small amount of ‘strong’ language. 

There were a few times where the plot reminded me of a few tricks used by Agatha Christie – my most favourite author.  And I will admit to being caught by Draper’s twists and turns – which, of course, added to the mystery. 

This book was a steady read for me, without any evidence of a dragging storyline.  If you are looking for a new mystery novel that will engage you and hold your interest from beginning to end, “Splattered Blood” is the book for you. 

My delight in this novel included reading how the inclusion of my hometown – Kingston, Ontario, Canada – fit into the storyline!  Mike Draper even found a way to include the name of his town in the story – Guilford.  I always enjoy those small delights!

This is Michael Draper’s first novel, and I hope it will not be his last.

This is one of the books that I purchased for my own enjoyment, with the intention of adding a Book Review.

Mike Draper's Cover Inspiration

So, in keeping with the theme of my blog, where is the Joy in a mystery novel, that deals with organized crime and murder? 

I must go with Joy being found within the writing style of a new author.  A style which does not get entangled with a complicated plot, but rather, sits underneath the characters, moving them forward. 

Choose Joy!! 




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Book Review: ‘”The Girl in the Box'” by author Sheila Dalton

Caitlin Shaughnessy, a Canadian journalist, discovers that Inez, a traumatized young Mayan woman originally from Guatemala, has killed Caitlin’s psychoanalyst partner, Dr. Jerry Simpson. Simpson brought the girl, who may be autistic, back to Canada as an act of mercy and to attempt to treat her obvious trauma. Caitlin desperately needs to find out why this terrible incident occurred so she can find the strength to forgive and move on with her life.  Inez, whose sense of wonder and innocence touches all who meet her, becomes a focal point for many of the Canadians who encounter her. As Caitlin struggles to uncover the truth about Inez’s relationship with Jerry, Inez struggles to break free of the projections of others. Each must confront her own anger and despair. The doctors in the north have an iciness that matches their surroundings, a kind of clinical armour that Caitlin must penetrate if she is to reach Inez.  The Girl in the Box is a psychological drama of the highest order and a gripping tale of intrigue and passion. (from Goodreads)

A number of months ago, I came across the unfamiliar term “literary fiction”. What is Literary Fiction? There are various definitions and opinions, but the one that stood out for me is that with Literary Fiction “what is really important are the thoughts, desires, and motivations of the characters as well as the underlying social and cultural threads that act upon them”. (Nathan Bransford) (“ What Makes Literary Fiction Literary ”)

For me, “The Girl in the Box” is Literary Fiction. In the character of Caitlin Shaughnessy, as much as we think we know her thoughts, desires, and motivations, as the novel evolves so do these aspects of Caitlin’s personality. And in some ways, without even knowing it, the reader seeks that evolution, and the author delivers.

The human conditions existing in Guatemala are among the subjects tackled by Sheila Dalton. This book speaks to human relationships of love, friendship, trust, jealousy, pain, suffering, and enlightenment. The characters are complex and the plot line is intricate and deftly woven by the author.

The storyline is not linear, but rather, it is told from various characters’ perspective, back and forth over a time span of approximately six months. This means the reader must stay focused on who is speaking and telling the tale. I truly enjoy novels written in this style – it keeps me interested in ‘who will speak next’! If the reader is one who enjoys fiction with a chronological plot line, this book may be a challenge.

While not technically highlighted as a mystery novel, there were many elements of mystery throughout this novel. I found the most intriguing mysteries were between the characters, how relationships developed, changed, grew, and in some cases, deteriorated.

“The Girl in the Box” caught my attention before I finished the first page. And it still had my attention on the last page. I will qualify that by saying that, in the first part of the second half of the book I found the story started to slow down, and I found it a little tougher reading. There was a lot of descriptive narrative, and a lot of introspection by the character of Caitlin Shaughnessy. I found it slowed the pace of the novel, and I resisted the urge to skip a few pages. (I was really much too afraid I would miss something good!)

Lake Atitlan (Click to Enlarge)

There was an added bonus to reading this book, and that was: Education. It is very clear that Sheila Dalton has an impressive knowledge of Guatemala, and the various political and social conflicts that have plagued that region for many years. It is also eye-opening to know that a number of these conflicts are current or recent history in nature. These also incorporate international issues that can affect everyday people, like you and I.

The murder victim’s life story included professional jealousies that exist specifically in the mental health profession, and generally within many professions today – and yesterday! It forces all of us to think twice about how we treat our co-workers on any level.

Although not planned this way, my review is coinciding with Mental Health Awareness in Canada. The challenge is to remove the stigma of mental health illness that continues to exist. While the character of Inez is at an extreme end of a spectrum, the way other characters react to her, and around her, is reminiscent of how mental health is often both overlooked and ignored. This is, as is probably clear, often detrimental to both the individual, and those around them

As a psychological drama, “The Girl in the Box” pulls the reader deeply into the lives of the characters. As a work of Literary Fiction, the motivations of the characters become intriguing puzzles. As a mystery, the ending brings everything together in one place, ties all the connections together.

To say that I thoroughly enjoyed this novel sounds trite given the nature of the book. But, it is true! I thoroughly enjoyed this novel!!   

I surprised myself by my depth of involvement with the characters. The book became more about the characters, than about solving the murder mystery. I grew in my knowledge of some international issues. And the ending was one I accepted on an emotional level.

What more could I ask for?

Labrador Highway in Winter (photo: Jamie Pye)

In keeping with the theme of my blog, I ask myself “Where is the Joy?” in this book, in this review. Joy is an emotion we can choose. For me, the Joy in this book is found in the small shared moments of the characters with each other.

So very real.




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