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A Bad Day for Sunshine by Darynda Jones

Sheriff Sunshine Vicram finds her cup o’ joe more than half full when the small village of Del Sol, New Mexico, becomes the center of national attention for a kidnapper on the loose.

Title:  A Bad Day for Sunshine
Author:  Darynda Jones
Series:  Sunshine Vicrum #1
Publish Date: April 7, 2020
Source: Netgalley – all opinions are my own – no incentive given

Publisher’s Description: Sheriff Sunshine Vicram finds her cup o’ joe more than half full when the small village of Del Sol, New Mexico, becomes the center of national attention for a kidnapper on the loose.

Del Sol, New Mexico is known for three things: its fry-an-egg-on-the-cement summers, its strong cups of coffee—and a nationwide manhunt? Del Sol native Sunshine Vicram has returned to town as the elected sheriff—an election her adorably meddlesome parents entered her in—and she expects her biggest crime wave to involve an elderly flasher named Doug. But a teenage girl is missing, a kidnapper is on the loose, and all of it’s reminding Sunny why she left Del Sol in the first place. Add to that trouble at her daughter’s new school and a kidnapped prized rooster named Puff Daddy, and Sunshine has her hands full.

Enter sexy almost-old-flame Levi Ravinder and a hunky US Marshall, both elevens on a scale of one to blazing inferno, and the normally savvy sheriff is quickly in over her head. Now it’s up to Sunshine to juggle a few good hunky men, a not-so-nice kidnapping miscreant, and Doug the ever-pesky flasher. And they said coming home would be drama-free.

Nervous Nellie’s nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel. In other words …SPOILERS. *BEWARE*


Nervous Nellie says…

It was good read Darynda Jones again. She has her trademark style from Charlie and incorporates it into Sunshine. There are the hilarious quotes that start the chapter and the snarky responses that are full on Charlie except are now being used as marquee signs about the town.

This story has a little paranormal in it but it could amp up throughout the series, just like with Charlie. There is a smoldering love interest, a quirky best friend, funny parents and a daughter. All the elements that can be mirrored from the Charlie Davidson series. There isn’t any sex in this story, but it is alluded to in conversation. There is no gore, but there is a murder. It’s a long ago murder that needs to be solved, but it’s one that isn’t hard to guess at the conclusion, HOWEVER,  I am sure that it won’t be as cut and dried as I think, which is a thrill.

I felt the story was chaotic and popping up with new characters every other page.  That could be because it’s a new series and the foundation has to be laid.   I enjoyed the back stories to the people of the town and their idiosyncrasies.  Every small town has those citizens that are strange and weird.  Each small town has those cases that just make you want to shake your head and ask, “Seriously?” Being the Sheriff, Sunshine would know them all. Darynda Jones knows how to make loveable characters. I like the way the daughter has got more of a focus, but I also think there is something about her that will bring the paranormal to the forefront. The book is wrapped around a town with key players waiting in the wings for their que.

I am somewhat on fence with this book.  I don’t want to disrespect this title or the author, but it’s hard for me to not make comparisons to her other work. There are a lot of reviews raving about this story, and I don’t debate that it’s good, but the cast has been cast before. It could be that the mix of characters that Darynda uses is her secret recipe and Sunshine Vicrum series will take on a life of it’s own. Here’s to hoping it’ll become it’s own singular style.

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The Dark Communion by Joey Ruff

Swyftt was a copper, a priest, a Night Hunter, a husband, a father. Now he’s just a burnt-out PI.  The only one that anyone can turn to when they encounter the other.

Title: The Dark Communion
Author:  Joey Ruff
Series: The Midnight Defenders #1
Publish Date: March 25, 2020
Source:  received from author – all opinions are my own and I did not receive this book as incentive

Publisher’s Description: When Daddy, Gramps, drunk Uncle Billy…whoever it was, looked at you when you were a little kid, blankets around your neck, trembling in bed, sure-as-shit convinced that there was something out to get you under your box-spring, in your closet, and they told you there wasn’t anything there – that monsters didn’t exist – they were lying to you.

Jono Swyftt knows this because that’s what he does. He kills things. Bad things. Nightmare things: Orcs, trolls, haunts, gnomes…the bloody Easter Bunny.

Swyftt was a copper, a priest, a Night Hunter, a husband, a father. Now he’s just a burnt-out PI with an arsenal of big-ass guns – an unrepentant foul-mouth who keeps everyone at arms length – and yet, whether your problem is a mating orgy of Cyclopes, a murderous imaginary friend, or a strip club full of horny Sirens, everyone from US Senators to Julia Roberts knows he’s the one man to call.

When a high-school student hires him to find a missing autistic boy and a catatonic billionaire runs away from a nursing home, it’s up to Swyftt, his partner, and his ward to piece together the clues and stop the nightmare that’s feeding on the city with an underground ring of serial-kidnapping bums. But that’s what Swyftt does. He’s the very last line of paranormal defense in the greater Seattle area.

And he ain’t bloody cheap.

Nervous Nellie’s nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel. In other words …SPOILERS. *BEWARE*


Nervous Nellie says…

I would qualify this book as a horror novel. There is no sex. There is a lot of violence and some gore.  It involves missing and murdered children.  There is bad language.  It’s probably not for the faint of heart.

Right out of the chute, I’m going to tell you that I give this book 4 stars.  The premise is horrifying, but when you are looking for a dark thrill, that’s where it’ll lead ya.

Children are missing.  There are no leads for the cops and Jono wants to steer clear of the whole mess.  Why is that? Well, because it’s easier to look the other way and not see what is really there. It’s much easier to not see the child you lost in the faces that are taken…if you don’t look. He’d much rather not think about the things that are out there that could easily fit the criteria of child-nappers.  The horrid and scary things.  The monsters.  To clarify, the things that aren’t human.

Jono has an interesting life set up for himself.  He’s his deceased PI partner’s daughter’s caretaker.  He lives with a rich friend who has been cast away by his own family.  He has a paranormal PI business that is used by the rich and famous as well as those that are regular joes like you and me. He is also haunted by what creatures he’s seen and the mayhem in which these creatures create.

He knows what could be taking these children and in order to stop this…this…thing, he has to find it and put it down.  The only problem with that plan is that he needs more than himself to do it.  There is a non believer in the FBI that is trying her best to pin bad things on Jono.  Oh, and to throw the whole thing into a further uproar? Jono has the gift of Psychometry.  He touches something and can see into it’s past. He has to race time to stop the children from being taken.  He has to convince the cops to keep him out of jail.  He has to convince himself that he can really do some good.

The battle scenes are page turners.  The protagonist isn’t lovable but neither can I find fault in his actions.  He’s not exactly a hero, more like a survivor.  He does what he has to do and the job he has is worse than scary.  Very few will thank him for his work and even less will acknowledge he ever did it in the first place.

It’s a good book.   It’ll suck you in when you give it a try.

Other books similar to this that you may like to try…

 

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The Girl In Red by Christina Henry

Christina Henry’s series of reimagined fairy tales continues with The Girl In Red, a post-apocalyptic version of Little Red Riding Hood.

Title: The Girl In Red
Author: Christina Henry
Publish Date: June 18, 2019 by Berkley
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic fiction
Narrator: January LaVoy
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: It’s not safe for anyone alone in the woods. There are predators that come out at night: critters and coyotes, snakes and wolves. But the woman in the red jacket has no choice. Not since the Crisis came, decimated the population, and sent those who survived fleeing into quarantine camps that serve as breeding grounds for death, destruction, and disease. She is just a woman trying not to get killed in a world that doesn’t look anything like the one she grew up in, the one that was perfectly sane and normal and boring until three months ago.

There are worse threats in the woods than the things that stalk their prey at night. Sometimes, there are men. Men with dark desires, weak wills, and evil intents. Men in uniform with classified information, deadly secrets, and unforgiving orders. And sometimes, just sometimes, there’s something worse than all of the horrible people and vicious beasts combined.

Red doesn’t like to think of herself as a killer, but she isn’t about to let herself get eaten up just because she is a woman alone in the woods…

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Invested Ivana says…

After a deadly virus wipes out most of the population, Red—the only surviving member of her immediate family—travels overland toward her grandmother’s house, hoping Grandma has also has survived. Along the way, she encounters packs of ruthless scavengers, the military, some children, one good person, and a possible mutation to the virus that is even scarier and more deadly than the original strain.

Many characteristics of The Girl In Red are familiar for fans of post-apocalyptic fiction, particularly The Walking Dead (but without the zombies). However, there are several novel elements and some really good characterization that keep it from feeling stale. For example, Red has a prosthetic leg. Imagine what it would be like to travel 300 miles overland through wooded areas with a prosthetic leg.

In flashbacks, the reader gets a good feel for Red’s life before the apocalypse and her family’s dynamic. They serve as great contrasts to her post-apocalypse experience and demonstrate her resilience.

There is one element I thought particularly fun. Red attributes her knowledge and preparedness for the apocalypse to her love of post-apocalypse genre fiction and movies. Henry doesn’t make the mistake of making Red unrealistically capable—fiction is just fiction after all. Red makes her fair share of mistakes, but she is slightly more prepared mentally because she has some idea of what to expect in a post-apocalyptic situation. One role that fiction entertainment plays in our world is allowing us to mentally “practice” in situations that we have never encountered in real life. Red’s actions in this book are a great example of this.

In contrast, Shakespeare appears often in this book. Red’s mother is a professor of Shakespeare, and so some of his work is embedded in Red’s mind as well. Through her, the reader gets just a small taste of “Compare and contrast the relevance of literary Shakespeare and genre fiction in today’s world.”

I like it when characters in a book are readers themselves. It’s a nod from authors to their fans, an acknowledgment of shared interest and inclusion in The Club of Readers.

There are actually lots of themes that could be teased out of this book for a discussion: family dynamics, race (Red is mixed-race), physical disabilities, human behavior during crises, skills necessary for survival, the material nature of modern life. But the strongest theme has to be that of resilience and its ability to see you through difficult times.

My one complaint about this book is that there isn’t more. The story is told from Red’s point of view exclusively, and she’s not a major player in the apocalypse event, just a victim of it. But things happen in her world that I want to know more about, such as where the virus comes from and how widespread its effects are. And what about the possible mutation? A want to know a LOT more about that mutation! And, as always, I want to know what happens to Red next, after this book ends.

But that’s not the story Henry is telling, darn it. I completely understand why those things aren’t explained in detail—they aren’t part of Red’s story. But my curiosity doesn’t care; I want to know more.

Despite the fact that this book appears to be a stand-alone and not a full-blown post-apocalyptic series, it is an enjoyable read. I felt very invested in Red and some of the characters she interacts with. January LaVoy’s narration for the audiobook is excellent, which makes it that much more enjoyable. If you can stand the “not-knowing,” aspects of this book, I recommend it highly.

Our reviews in this series…

While not quite a real series, here are the books in Christina Henry’s retold fairy tales so far along with our reviews:

The Mermaid by Christina Henry

Christina Henry continues her series of fairytale-inspired retellings with The Mermaid, the grown-up version of The Little Mermaid for cynical adults.

Title: The Mermaid
Author: Christina Henry
Publish Date: June 19th, 2018 by Berkley
Genre: Historical fantasy
Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionOnce there was a mermaid who longed to know of more than her ocean home and her people. One day a fisherman trapped her in his net but couldn’t bear to keep her. But his eyes were lonely and caught her more surely than the net, and so she evoked a magic that allowed her to walk upon the shore. The mermaid, Amelia, became his wife, and they lived on a cliff above the ocean for ever so many years, until one day the fisherman rowed out to sea and did not return.

P. T. Barnum was looking for marvelous attractions for his American Museum, and he’d heard a rumor of a mermaid who lived on a cliff by the sea. He wanted to make his fortune, and an attraction like Amelia was just the ticket.

Amelia agreed to play the mermaid for Barnum, and she believes she can leave any time she likes. But Barnum has never given up a money-making scheme in his life, and he’s determined to hold on to his mermaid.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Invested Ivana says…

The Mermaid is a grittier, and probably more accurate, tale of the famous P.T. Barnum than The Greatest Showman, though he isn’t the main protagonist. The central character is Amelia, a mermaid whose curiosity drove her to land. The first part of her life on land is somewhat idyllic. But the later part is full of heartache.

I am absolutely in love with Henry’s retellings of Alice in Wonderland (Alice and The Red Queen). So I expected a lot from The Mermaid. But, while it was a good story and a great audio performance, the story wasn’t quite as dazzling for me. Amelia, the mermaid, gets screwed over by men, and is even somewhat complicit in her own screwing over, though she finds her own strength in the end. I think it’s just not quite as novel a story as Alice — a woman getting screwed over by men is an all-too-familiar story these days.

In Alice, I also enjoyed seeing all the elements of the original story that Henry reinterpreted in her grittier version. That part was missing in The Mermaid, though not through any fault of Henry’s. I haven’t read the original H.C. Anderson version of The Little Mermaid, so if there were reinterpretations, I wasn’t aware of them. But I suspect there aren’t as many quirky characters and images as in Carroll’s tale.

Despite those subjective observations, there is nothing bad about the book. The story is well-written and interesting. The characters are believable and sympathetic. I’d recommend it to fans of The Greatest Showman who want a better taste of what P.T. Barnum was really like.

Jackaby by William Ritter

If you dropped Sherlock Holmes into an urban fantasy setting, you’d get something like Jackaby.

Title: Jackaby
Author: William Ritter
Series: Jackaby, Book 01
Publish Date: September 16th, 2014 by Algonquin Young Readers
Genre: Historical urban fantasy
NarratorNicola Barber
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionNewly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–deny.

Doctor Who meets Sherlock in William Ritter’s debut novel, which features a detective of the paranormal as seen through the eyes of his adventurous and intelligent assistant in a tale brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Invested Ivana says…

Mixing Sherlock Holmes with a female Watson and magic in an urban fantasy setting made for a fun story.

Jackaby is a competent, somewhat arrogant, socially-awkward scholar of magic. He can see supernatural creatures and forces others can’t.  Therefore, he has access to more information about the world, much like his counter-part, Sherlock Holmes, has because of his powers of observation. Jackaby fancies himself a detective on cases that involve the supernatural.

His Watson, Miss Abigail Rook, is a young female interested not in frocks and parties and marriage, but in having adventures and being independent. She forces her way into Jackaby’s investigations, and they make a good pair since Abigail can’t see magic and brings some grounded reality to the investigations.

I particularly enjoyed some of the secondary characters–the ghost and the duck, especially. The running joke about staring at the toad was cute as well.

As for the mystery, it was very interesting. However, this book did the one thing in mysteries that really bothers me. The mystery is solved by happenstance, not through any effort on the part of the detectives. I find this disappointing as it makes all their efforts to understand the case irrelevant.

Overall, the story is cute. The narrator does a good job of bringing the characters to life. It might be just about right as a young adult series, as it’s marketed. It’s not going to be on my must-read list, but I might eventually continue with the rest of the book in the series as long as the cases are actually solved by the protagonists.

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