Sunday Book Review – Just Before Sunrise by Carol Balawyder

Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. Today I’m delighted to share my review for Carol Balawyder’s page turning story about love, lust, crime and the innocent people who get caught in between in her noir thriller – Just Before Sunrise.


A coming-of-age story with a domestic noir twist.

Nadine, tired of running her call-girl agency has upgraded to gold digger as she finds the perfect rich widower to marry. Discovering that her wealthy widower is an abuser she seduces his stepson, Charlie, to plot her husband’s murder.
But things don’t go as planned and soon she is turning to her experience hiring young call-girls to find the perfect girl to save her from going to prison…
Homeless Maya is drifting on the streets, grieving the recent loss of her mother.
When she is offered the opportunity to prepare a lake-side house to be used as a half-way home for delinquent girls, she doesn’t think twice.
She soon falls for Charlie, the attractive boy next door, who has a seriously dark side. She is drawn into his murderous schemes, doing anything he asks her to, risking her own safety for the promise of a future with him. When she finds herself party to murder, and she realises he is more concerned with his older female accomplice than with her, she must learn to trust her instincts and use all of her courage to get out of their trap alive.
As a subplot there is the rocky romantic relationship between an older woman and a younger man who become involved in investigating the murder for which young Maya is accused of committing.
Just Before Sunrise is a story about loss and survival. About loneliness, betrayals and deadly desires.

My 5 Star Review:

This book begins with different people telling the story that seamlessly converges into a page-turning dark tale.

It begins with the relationship between Joni, a women’s homeless and abuse counselor, and her younger boyfriend Adam. Their relationship is like good friends with benefits with question marks about developing into more. The two love each other, but with Joni in her mid fifties, she isn’t keen on having kids, and Adam still in his thirties, struggles with not having any. He even contemplates marrying someone just so he can have children.

At this same time, we meet Nadine, an ex call girl who uses her beauty and wiley ways to meet men with money. She craftly meets wealthy Logan, at his wife’s funeral. Nadine pretends she was friends with his wife and wiggles into Logan’s life – with an end goal of marrying him.

Nadine moves in with Logan and his step son Charlie and soon hatches a plot of pretending to fall in love with the young Charlie so she can win his attention to help her set up her end goal plan of getting rid of Logan – a man they both despise.

The convergence of this story occurs when Joni meets Maya, a sixteen year old homeless girl. Joni has a cottage next door to Charlie’s parents’ summerhouse and decides to use her cottage as a safe house for homeless young women. When Joni takes Maya up to her cottage to help prepare the place, Maya befriends Charlie. Maya begins feeling a connection with Charlie as he shares stories with her about him being abused when he was younger, to win her sympathy so he can use her for a decoy later on with evil Nadine’s dirty plans.

After Nadine and Charlie’s plan to get rid of Logan take place, they find they are left with a money hungry brother of Logan’s that they need to get out of the way of their plans to have everything. As the plot thickens, poor Maya unknowingly becomes part of a sinister plan. The two evil doers snag in this innocent girl into their dark scheme in hopes to use her as a scapegoat for their insidious crimes.

In this story we’ll witness relationship awakenings, self-discoveries, and finally, regained self-worth by Maya, while Adam and Joni grow through searching for missing Maya and both finally realize what it is they really want out of life. No surprise the author, with her criminal psychology background, does a wonderful job of writing noir and getting us invested in her richly drawn characters and her lovely setting of Quebec, Ontario in this book that will keep you turning the pages.


Sunday Book Review – Made in Acapulco – The Emilia Cruz Series

Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. I came across this series when the title grabbed me in a list of free books for the day I receive from Reading Deals. As a person who loves Mexico and has been to Acapulco many moons ago, and knowing how Acapulco, once the number one party vacation destination has sadly, turned dangerous to visit this past decade, I was curious to read this crime/mystery series. This book, Made in Acapulco – The Emilia Cruz Series is a prequel to the rest of Amato’s 8 book series, and I believe it is perma-free as an introduction with short stories from some of the other books in the series. The author Carmen Amato is an ex CIA officer! I love police procedural mystery solving and Amato brings it plus, through Emilia’s tough, smart and sexy character in a world full of dirty cops and criminals.




Acapulco never had a female police detective before . . . And nobody wants one now.

How did Emilia Cruz fight to become the first female police detective in Acapulco? This collection of prequel stories goes behind the scenes of the award-winning police series!


“A thrilling series” — National Public Radio


MADE IN ACAPULCO is a collection of 5 stories that introduce Emilia Cruz, the first and only female detective on the Acapulco police force, and her first cases:

The Beast captures Emilia’s struggle to become the first female police detective in Acapulco. It previously appeared in The Huffington Post’s 50 Featured Fiction showcase.

The Disappeared sees Emilia search for a friend who goes missing. Those who have gone missing amid Mexico’s drug war violence is a continuing theme throughout the mystery series.

The Artist was inspired by Mexican poet Javier Sicilia’s efforts to bring awareness to the plight of families impacted by the drug war violence and references photos of some of the rallies held in Mexico in recent years.

The Date explores the downside of a job that pits Emilia against Mexico’s enduring culture of machismo, while also drawing on real events that occurred in a nightclub in Mexico in 2006.

The Cliff is the original Emilia Cruz story. Written for a literary critique group, the story introduces hotel manager Kurt Rucker. It became the first chapter of CLIFF DIVER, the first Emilia Cruz novel.

Grab your copy today

With hot nights on the beach and suspense straight out of the news, the series goes inside Mexico’s drug war with a fearless style and a woman who will be hard to forget.

Poison Cup award for Outstanding Series — CrimeMasters of America

Author Carmen Amato is a former CIA intelligence officer who uses her own counterdrug and espionage experiences to craft intrigue-filled crime fiction that keeps you guessing until the very end. Amato is a recipient of both the National Intelligence Award and the Career Intelligence Medal.

If you love international police procedural series by Ian Rankin, Jo Nesbo, Ann Cleeves, Peter May, Louise Penny, and Jussi Adler-Olsen, you’ll want to read the Detective Emilia Cruz series. It’s a must-read for fans of Don Winslow’s cartel and border thrillers set in Mexico.


“Consistently exciting.” ― Kirkus Reviews

“Emilia . . . is a force to be reckoned with.” ―

“Amato’s unique setting, realistic characters, and intriguing plot set her apart.” ―

“Danger and betrayal never more than a few pages away.” ― Kirkus Reviews

“A thrill to crime-loving aficionados.” – Latina Book Club

“Astounding.” – Nightstand Reviews

The Detective Emilia Cruz series


My 5 Star Review:

Detective Emilia Cruz is the protagonist of the series, and it didn’t take long for me to get hooked. This prequel gives us the beginnings background of how she made detective in a city where the cartel have infiltrated, in a male dominant police force where it’s difficult to learn who is corrupt and who to trust. In this 8 book series, I believe they are each stand alone stories featuring Detective Cruz, and this prequel will give you enough background history to for reading the books randomly.  Emilia is a brave female cop in a man’s world facing having to deal with some gruesome crimes – murders, kidnappings, and counterfeits, and often not knowing who she can trust both, at work and in her personal life.

The scenery descriptions are beautiful as is Acapulco, makes me sad of the political happenings that changed the landscape from the fun, safe party vacation town to a dangerous place for tourists. Amato keeps the stories interesting with pace and action, and rich and authentic descriptions of locations and real events.

These short stories kept me glued with wondering – how do you know if you can trust your own colleagues? I am looking forward to reading more in this series as two of Amato’s books already await me.


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Sunday Book Review – Examining Kitchen Cupboards by Stevie Turner

Welcome to this week’s Sunday Book Review. I was delighted to receive an ARC copy of Stevie Turner’s latest release – Examining Kitchen Cupboards. I found the title quite clever as soon as I realized the premise of the book. Stevie has taken a true controversial event about some misdoings taking place with college entrance exams kept locked in a ‘cupboard’ and created an intriguing discovery and chase down in search of the culprits behind this shady occurrence.



Examining Kitchen Cupboards by [Turner, Stevie]

Available now on Pre-Order for a Limited time 99 cents!



Jill Hayes discovers that not all is as it seems in her new post as a college examinations administrator. When she turns whistle-blower and tries to report her findings to the authorities, she is horrified to discover that some people will stop at nothing to ensure her silence.

For readers’ information:
Although the characters and college are fictional, the actual exam question that sparked Jill’s nightmare is a genuine one from 1999.


My 5 Star Review:

Stevie Turner never disappoints. From her fictional family sagas to her nonfiction, and mystery/thrillers, she knows how to keep a reader engaged. In this telling book, Turner takes us into a story, which begins with Jill Hayes – a college examinations admin whose curiosity leads to her discovery that something is awry with the exams given to high school students for their college entrance exams – the questions are much too junior for the high school age level students, making it a cinch for them to get accepted to college. As Jill delves deeper into the basis for such juvenile questions, her life becomes threatened and we’re taken into a whole other world of corporate greed at the expense of student’s education and government funding.

Jill’s personal investigations lead right to the higher ups involved in the ring, and through the unveiling of her findings, we are led into the private lives of these criminals and colorful characters, spreading beyond the discoveries into international crime, lies, affairs and ultimately, murder.

Based on a factual occurrence of the exam findings, this book had me engrossed on the topic itself, but Turner takes the situation to a whole new level with the plot and intrigue created in this story. A fun, short and engrossing read for a cozy thriller reading escape.