Tag Archives: Reedsy Discovery

Book Review: Toxic Octopus – Interestingly Informative Novel Wrapped in Fun

Toxic Octopus

By Lisa Haneberg

Xena Cali is a private investigator. She also owns Paradise Lost Spy Shop on Galveston Island.  Conveniently, she employs Sparky and Dora, the other members of her team. When a member of a local privately funded non-profit organization BARL is murdered Xena and her team are called in after the police determine Fred, a male octopus killed Dr. Jane Moore. Ari, the manager of the cephalopod lab, is sure Fred is not guilty and Xena agrees with him, especially after meeting Fred.

So begins the bizarre investigation including spy cams, Segway Personal Transporters and more danger than Xena could imagine when she agreed to take the case. Soon there is an additional murder that is linked to the case. She will have to use every trick in the book and several of the items she sells in her Spy Shop to catch the real killer and keep herself from being the third victim.

Toxic Octopus is an interestingly informative novel wrapped in fun. I learned more about octopuses than I could have imagined. Yes, the plural of octopus is really octopuses. I also found out that sadly, after mating, the male octopus dies and after laying her eggs the female octopus dies. I also learned all about freerunning, which is also called parkour. Xena practices this art of efficient movement adding ninja like fun to some very dangerous situations.

The plot moves along quickly, building tension until the killer is revealed. One of vehicles carrying the book is the characters’ quick wit and humor. Haneberg made me laugh out loud more than once, especially when Xena gives everyone she meets a different reason for the fashion choice she wears to a gala. There are times when Xena talks directly to the reader, much like the characters in the TV series Scrubs, and it absolutely works.

If you are a fan of Christopher Moore, you will love Toxic Octopus. Haneberg’s style is fun and informative – perfectly balanced with a solid plot and intriguing whodunit. This is the first book in the Spy Shop Mystery Series. The second book, Dead Pelican is available now. I cannot wait to read it.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from  Reedsy Discovery in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Charles Manson and the Killing of Shorty Shea

Charles Manson and the Killing of Shorty Shea

By Edwin Colin

with Deb Silva

As an eight-year-old, Edwin Colin, the author of this book, knew Shorty. It was 1953 when Colin’s father wars hired to be a full-time foreman at Corriganville, a Movie Ranch in nearby Simi Valley. Corriganville was owned by the famous stunt rider, Crash Corrigan, who was also and friend of Shorty Shea. So begins Colin’s fascination with the man who will be killed by Charles Manson and his followers right before the infamous  Tate and LaBianca murders.

Charles “Shorty” Shea was many things in his life. He was a horse wrangler, stuntman, husband, a U. S. Military Veteran and a victim of Charles Manson and his Family. Shorty wanted to be an actor in Westerns, but he seemed to always be in the wrong place at the wrong time. By the time he made enough connections in the business, Westerns were not getting the funding to be produced as audiences no longer flocked to them.

He spent his last years working on the Spahn Ranch. He took care of the livestock, did some Wild West shows for dwindling crowds and had the unfortunate fate of meeting Charles Manson. Manson and his Family basically moved into Spahn Ranch and took it over. The owner, George Spahn was getting older and was nearly blind by the time Manson and his followers descended upon his property. For whatever reason, he let them stay.

Some say that Shorty’s death was a direct result of not ignoring Charles Manson. Not one to ever back down from confrontation, he did not like Manson and everyone knew it. Sadly, his stubbornness was most likely the reason Charles Manson, Tex Watson, Bruce Davis and Steve Grogan murdered him in cold blood on August 26, 1969.

Colin weaves a sordid insider look at the murder of Shorty Shea and subsequent deaths of Sharon Tate and the LaBiancas. With Deb Silva, the duo uncovered death certificates, autopsy results and firsthand accounts of the horrific crimes committed by the Manson Family. The small facts that surrounded the Spahn Ranch and those that lived there are fascinating to me. There are connections to famous actors, TV shows and events that most have heard of, but from a different, closer perspective. For example, one of men that participated in Shea’s death is now out of prison and another one is up for parole this year – but has dementia.

Charles Manson and the Killing of Shorty Shea is an entertaining work of non-fiction. The book is fascinating, but at times disjointed. There was a bit of repetition, as the author seemed to give the facts ahead of the timeline, then repeated with more detail later. Overall, it was an interesting insider look into the lives of the Manson Family as well as Shorty Shea and all of the people they encountered during this brief period of history.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from  Reedsy Discovery (https://reedsy.com/discovery/book/charles-manson-and-the-killing-of-shorty-shea-edwin-colin) in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: No Fences in Alaska – Finding Redemption in Alaska

No Fences in Alaska

By Glen Sobey

Harper is a troubled sixteen-year-old. She is going down a path that her parents never thought a daughter of theirs would travel. Deeply religious, her father is the head of a Christian School. Harper has been expelled from the school and is dabbling in sex and drugs. Searching for herself in the cocoon of religious righteousness has not been easy. She feels as though her family has chosen religion over the love for her they once had.

When Harper finds herself over her head and can’t see a way out of the trouble she is in, she turns to the grandfather she hasn’t seen in years. He lives in Alaska, far away from the family that turned their backs on him many years ago. Her grandpa, Cooper, welcomes her without judgement or conditions. Little does Harper know that he is hiding a secret that will soon affect all of their lives.

Even though Harper knows what she wants to do, she so soon realizes that even the best laid plans are subject to change. As she grows closer to Cooper and the lifestyle in Alaska, she begins to change. Cooper encourages her to focus on her love of music again. Her outlook on life changes drastically, but will it be too late to repair the relationship with her father? Is he willing to give her the chance she needs to become herself instead of the perfect person he has tried to create?

Cooper and Harper are the perfect pair. The characters are both deeply flawed, much like most human beings. It is not the flaws that we should judge by, it is how obstacles are overcome and challenges are met. Sobey does a magnificent job of bringing real issues to the forefront and meeting them head on. That is not to say the characters always choose the best or easiest options, but realistically, who does?

Classified as a YA Novel, adults will also find that No Fences in Alaska is a heartwarming tale of redemption, love and change. The setting of Alaska is perfect. Bears, moose and the cold all play roles in the book. The beauty and serenity of the Alaskan wilderness allows more introspect than any state in the lower 48 could possibly offer.

This is the first book I’ve read by Glen Sobey. His previous book, The War Blog was also set in Alaska. Both of his novels are standalone, but both seem to have the same common thread of love, coming of age and the sharp truths some teens have to live with.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from  Reedsy Discovery in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: V.E.N.O.M. – Explosively Excellent Thriller

V.E.N.O.M

By Ty Mitchell

The mysterious death of an older Chinese couple in the Catskills has multiple law enforcement agencies scrambling for answers. By all accounts the two had several children living with them that are now missing. The reference to a group calling themselves V.E.N.O.M. comes into play.

New York City detective Jake Penney is called to work the case. He was a great cop at one time. The death of his family and subsequent spiral into alcohol and drug abuse has all but robbed him of his job. Hanging on by a thread, his CO decides that investigating the murders away from NYC may be the change of scenery he needs. The outcome of the case could determine the path his life will take, either with or without the NYPD.

As soon as Jake arrives he butts heads with the locals. Enter Special Agent Ethan Parker, an investigator that is pulled into the case from parts unknown. Parker recognizes the skill and knowledge Jake possesses and latches on to him. Parker uses tactics that are barely above the law to get information from suspects, which makes Jake more than uncomfortable. Parker is willing to go to any length to find the golden grail – a Catalogue containing details of deals and debts, assassinations and assassins spanning the globe. He explains to Jake that V.E.N.O.M. stands for The Veiled and Exclusive Nation of Organized Mercenaries – for a price the best assassins in the world will do your bidding.

Meanwhile, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Zasha Avery gets wind of the events in New York. Living and working in Miami will not stop her from following the case in the Catskills. She smells a story and is determined to be the one to investigate and write another award winning series before anyone else. She hones in on Jake and Parker, realizing that they are the ticket to the ride she wants to take no matter the consequences.

V.E.N.O.M. is a fast paced action novel with no shortage of character development. Jake, Parker and Zasha, the trio of main characters, are complex and flawed, often exploding on the pages for the reader’s enjoyment.

The fast-paced plot is twisted in the perfect way to keep readers breathless as the tension builds. By the last pages all has been revealed – or has it? The last pages tie up all loose ends.  Lucky for the reader, this appears to be the first in a series and I for one cannot wait for the second book in the series.

If you are a fan of Marvel characters and movies, you will love this fast-paced thriller. I see great things in Mitchell’s future, be sure to be along for this ride.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from  Reedsy Discovery in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Mystery of Ruby’s Mistletoe – Delightful Historical Cozy Mystery

The Mystery of Ruby’s Mistletoe

By Rose Donovan

Spending the holidays with the aunt that disowned her after her father’s death was definitely not on Fina’s list of things to do. But when the constable showed up at Oxford looking for her best friend Ruby, the girls need to get away from the college before one or both of them spend the holidays in jail even though neither of them has committed a crime.

Fina used to love her Aunt Millicent, known to most as Lady Shillington. But after Fina’s brother was wrongfully hanged for the murder of Fina’s father. Lady Shillington cut all ties with Fina and her mum after the trial, so it came as a surprise that she would invite Fina for the holidays.

Because Fina knows her brother was innocent, she and Ruby decide to find the real killer when visiting the village for the holiday. Unbeknownst to them, Lady Shillington has invited all of the people involved with the untimely deaths to celebrate the holidays at her home.

Fina, Ruby and their friend Pixley are locked in a snowbound mansion with the person or persons that are undoubtedly the murderer or murderers. Will someone else die before Christmas dinner is served? Fina and her friends must find the killer but who can they trust to help trap the guilty person or persons?

This historical cozy mystery set in the 1930s it is full of red herrings, twists and turns. Like all cozies, the murder is not graphic and the gumshoes are college students not police inspectors. But do not discount the detailed hunt for the killer using the only tools available to solve crime in the early 1900s, which pretty much amounts to good old brain power.

Reading Ms. Donovan’s book is reminiscent to one of my favorite authors, Dame Agatha Christie. Setting up the suspects in a snowbound house, asking them to meet in the drawing room and the cleverly satisfying conclusion was extremely satisfying. I can picture Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot nodding at Ms. Donovan saying “Well done!”

This is the sixth book in the Ruby Dove Mystery Series. It is the first one I have read. It works fine as a standalone novel, but there were some references to previous cases that escaped me. That is okay, because the reader in me will seek out the five previous books so that I can be privy to the inside jokes between Ruby and Fina as well as learn about their previous cases that were referenced in The Mystery of Ruby’s Mistletoe.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received an Advanced Review Copy (or ARC) on Reedsy Discovery in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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