Book Review: Bounty, Kaliya Sahni – Book #1

Author: Kristen Banet
Book Name: Bounty
Release Date: March 14, 2020
Series: Kaliya Sahni
Order: #1
Genre: Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Kaliya Sahni.
Tribunal Executioner. Bounty hunter. The last nagini.

Her reputation is larger than the desert she lives in.

Dangerous. Irresponsible. Antagonistic.

When a friend asks her to look into a supernatural bounty on a human, Kaliya finds herself taking the first steps into a conspiracy that had been in the shadows for nearly a decade. Too intrigued to get out before it’s too late, she dives straight into the deep end, ready to discover the truth.

When the mysterious bounty takes a personal turn, she knows there’s no turning back, no putting the lid back on the box.

It’s all or nothing in her world and Kaliya doesn’t like to lose.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Uniqueness Factor: 4/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

This is set in the same world as the Jacky Leon series but can be read on it’s own. Like that series, you get many of your typical fantasy types of beings, vampires, werewolves, witches and fae, but you also get a good dose of something not typical. In this case, Kaliya’s character is a Naga. I really like that this is somewhat typical, but also with that extra twist. Kaliya isn’t the only unusual character, either.

While the base story line of this gets a clean wrap up, it also brings in a lot of other pieces that don’t get wrapped up, clearly indicating that those will be ongoing pieces to this series. There wasn’t anything hanging so hard that I’d consider it a cliffhanger, but you don’t get the satisfaction of resolving everything in this book.

This will definitely be a series I’ll be watching for the next release on.

 

 

 

Book Review: Badger To The Bone, Honey Badger Chronicles – Book #3

Author: Shelly Laurenston
Book Name: Badger to the Bone
Release Date: March 31, 2020
Series: Honey Badger Chronicles
Order: #3
Genre: Urban/Fantasy/Romance/Humor
Overall SPA: 4.5 Stars
4.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: She’s the woman he’s been hired to kidnap. But ZeZé Vargas has other ideas . . . like getting them both out of this nightmare alive. Just one problem. She’s crazy. Certifiably. Because while he’s plotting their escape, the petite Asian beauty is plotting something much more deadly . . .

Max “Kill It Again” MacKilligan has no idea what one of her own is doing with all these criminal humans until she realizes that Zé has no idea who or what he is. Or exactly how much power he truly has.

But Max is more than happy to bring this handsome jaguar shifter into her world and show him everything he’s been missing out on. A move that might be the dumbest thing she’s ever done once she realizes how far her enemies will go to wipe her out. Too bad for them Zé is willing to do whatever it takes to keep her alive . . . and honey badgers are just so damn hard to kill!

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Series Continuity/Expectations: 5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4.5/5 Stars

I’m not even a little bit surprised that this was another win for me. I’ve really loved all the books from this world (this series and a couple of other interconnected series with some character overlaps) and this one is no exception. I’m just really glad that I wasn’t reading this when anyone was around or I probably would’ve had them convinced I was certifiable with all the snorts and outright belly laughs that burst out of me at random times.

The only real ding this gets from me is that the romantic line of this story isn’t quite a prominent as it is in most of the other books in this world. I would have really enjoyed more time with Max and Zé interacting, but their parts together are almost an afterthought to everything else that was going on.

It is because there is a whole lot of other stuff going on that this still manages to be an excellent book. This is an absolute recommend (along with pretty much every single other book in this world) for anyone that loves irreverent, snarky humor with a small side of steam.

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. Opinions stated are honest and my own.

 

Book Review: The Queen’s Bargain, The Black Jewels- Book #10

Author: Anne Bishop
Book Name: The Queen’s Bargain
Release Date: March 10, 2020
Series: The Black Jewels
Order: #10
Genre: Dark Fantasy/Romance
Overall SPA: 4  Stars

4 Stars

 

 

 

Blurb: POWER HAS A PRICE. SO DOES LOVE.

Return to the dark, sensual, and powerful world of the Black Jewels in this long-awaited new story in the New York Times bestselling fantasy saga

After a youthful mistake, Lord Dillon’s reputation is in tatters,
leaving him vulnerable to aristo girls looking for a bit of fun. To
restore his reputation and honor, he needs a handfast—a one-year contract of marriage. He sets his sights on Jillian, a young Eyrien witch from Ebon Rih, who he believes has only a flimsy connection to the noble society that spurned him. Unfortunately for Dillon, he is unaware of Jillian’s true connections until he finds himself facing Lucivar Yaslana, the volatile Warlord Prince of Ebon Rih.

Meanwhile, Surreal SaDiablo’s marriage is crumbling. Daemon Sadi, the Warlord Prince of Dhemlan, recognizes there is something wrong between him and Surreal, but he doesn’t realize that his attempt to suppress his own nature in order to spare his wife is causing his mind to splinter. To save Daemon, and the Realm of Kaeleer if he breaks, help must be sought from someone who no longer exists in any of the Realms—the only
Queen powerful enough to control Daemon Sadi. The Queen known as Witch.

As Jillian rides the winds of first love with Dillon, Daemon and Surreal struggle to survive the wounds of a marriage turned stormy—and Lucivar has to find a way to keep everyone in his family safe…even from each other.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Series Continuity/Expectations: 4/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

When I first saw that Anne Bishop was going to be revisiting the Black Jewels world after nearly 9 years, I was ecstatic because this is one of my favorite series.

Then, when the blurb came out and I saw that it was going to build on the short story from Twilight’s Dawn about Surreal and Daemon, I was REALLY torn. That’s because, of all the books and stories set in this world, that one was my absolute least favorite because I just could not get on board with those two together.

For me, that relationship had so many problems and I just didn’t like that after everything that Daemon went through, after getting his dream and the epic love between him and Jaenelle, that he would end up in a relationship with Surreal. It just felt wrong. It felt like he was forced to end up with a consolation prize. Reading this, I still feel that way. If anything, I feel that even more because of how their relationship continues to play out. I really want Daemon’s character to get a chance at real happiness and I don’t feel like it works with Surreal.

I also always liked Surreal’s character and felt that she fit so much better into that friend, almost sister role, with Daemon. To have her with Daemon feels like she is having to settle for someone that can never really love her the way she deserves. Again, I really, really want to see her get a shot at genuine happiness and it doesn’t feel like she gets it. It also felt like so much of what I loved about her as a character throughout this series is kind of neutered until the very end of this story. She looses that feeling of badassness that she is known for through how her relationship with Daemon is presented, at least until the very end.

If I could ignore that part of the storyline (and it is a decent size of the book), I adored getting back into this world and revisiting with these amazing characters. Even though I don’t like that relationship, it doesn’t take away from how much I still loved this book. Not much, anyway.

There is every indication that this won’t be the last dip back into the Black Jewels world. I won’t complain in the least that we are getting to do that, but I almost wish it would have taken a different path, maybe something along the lines of Shalador’s Lady, where the characters were entirely new and different.

I think this is a great example of being able to love and kind of hate a book at the same time.

 

Book Review: The Missing, FBI Psychics – Book #1

Author: Shiloh Walker
Book Name: The Missing
Release Date: November 4, 2008
Series: FBI Psychics
Order: #1
Genre: Paranormal/Romance
Overall SPA: 2.5 Stars
2.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Her psychic gift drove away the man she loved and years later has drawn him back to her

As a teenager, Taige Branch hated her psychic gift. No one could understand, except for Cullen Morgan, the boy who stole her heart. He did his best to accept her, until his mother was brutally murdered and he couldn’t forgive Taige for not preventing it.

Now a widowed father, Cullen Morgan has never forgotten Taige. But what brings her back into his life is another tragedy. His beloved little girl has been kidnapped, and Taige is his only hope of finding her. Working together against the clock, Cullen and Taige can’t help but wonder whether if they find his daughter in time, it isn’t too late for the overpowering love that still burns between them.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 2.5/5 Stars
Believability: 3/5 Stars
Peeve Factor: 2/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 2.5/5 Stars

I have had this sitting in my “potential reads” list for an incredibly long time, always seeming to hesitate when it came to actually picking it up. In part because I’m not a huge fan of the “old flame” trope, especially when the reasons for that relationship ending made the split on the ugly side.

I finally caved because I was really looking for a book with those paranormal aspects. For that piece of this book, I enjoyed how most of that unfolded, though it doesn’t have a solid world building foundation on why there are so many “gifted” people throughout the story.

Unfortunately, that was only about 40%, probably even less, of the entire story. The rest focused on the relationship between Taige and Cullen and a whole lot of mostly angry, borderline non-consensual sex. I’m all for a good, steamy romance. I even enjoy ones that are unconventional, but this just felt like it was more ugly than loving and rides lines of what would be considered an unhealthy relationship. That kind of killed my interest in most of the rest of the story.

 

Book Review: Last Memoria – Rachel Emma Shaw

Author: Rachel Emma Shaw
Book Name: Last Memoria
Release Date: May 10, 2020
Series: *
Order:*
Genre: Fantasy
Overall SPA: 3 Stars

3 Stars

 

 

 

Blurb: Sarilla has learnt one thing from stealing memories.
Everybody lies.

There’s nothing Sarilla hates more than stealing memories. It robs people of their lives as surely as if she killed them, leaving behind only the husk of who they once were. Since Sarilla is one of the few with the ability to transfer memories, she’s highly prized by the king. He makes her take them from his people to keep them in line. All Sarilla wants is to escape to where nobody knows what she is or what she can do, but her plans go awry when she runs into Falon. He hopes to use Sarilla to help get his stolen memories back, whether she wants to or not.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 2.5/5 Stars
Uniqueness Factor: 4/5 Stars
World Building: 4/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 2/5 Stars

I always struggle with writing a review when my personal opinion and preferences conflict with the quality of a book. This book pulls me in all directions because I’ve hit that kind of conflict as you can see by the disparity in my above area ratings.

I’ll be upfront and say that this isn’t the kind of book I enjoy. It has a heavy, depressing theme throughout that never really lets up. I struggled to like or sympathize with the characters because their thoughts and actions tend to heavily reflect that theme. If I had understood that ahead of time, I probably wouldn’t have read this. If I hadn’t been reading specifically for a review, I might not have finished at close to the half way point for that same reason. But those are my personal preferences, so take it with a grain of salt.

That said, this was definitely a well written, unique storyline with a nicely developed and interesting world. Anyone that likes the darker tones in their stories with deeply, humanly flawed characters would probably really enjoy this.

*I received a copy of this book from the author. Opinions stated are honest and my own.

 

Book Review: Oath Sworn, Jacky Leon – Book #1

Author: Kristen Banet
Book Name: Oath Sworn
Release Date: July 15, 2019
Series: Jacky Leon
Order: #1
Genre: Paranormal/Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 4.5 Stars
4.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Jacky Leon isn’t someone who goes looking for trouble. She owns a bar, pays her taxes, and serves her drinks cold outside a small town in Texas. The fact that she’s a werecat is just something she’s had to live with. Alone in her territory, she’s lived a secretive life for six years: under the radar, avoiding her past and the baggage that comes with it.

Trouble finds Jacky, though, in the form of an eleven year old girl and a werewolf turf war just outside her borders. Forced to honor an ancient treaty and the Laws of the supernatural world, Jacky swears an oath to protect Carey Everson, the human daughter of a local werewolf Alpha from Dallas.

When his enemies come after Jacky and her charge, she’s going to have to embrace the more dangerous side of who and what she is. She’s going to have to challenge the very Laws that govern her kind.

And nothing is going to stop her from honoring her word.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4.5/5 Stars
World Building: 4.5/5 Stars
Uniqueness Factor: 4.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4.5/5 Stars

I already tend to be a sucker when kids or taking care of kids takes a big role in a book. Combine that with a fantasy book with shifters in it and I could not pass this one up.

The second that “get the kid” scenario popped up in the story, I was seriously hooked. I loved how the problem of this really out there premise is presented. For one, that is kind of right up my alley as far as a kid premise goes and I’m always fascinated to see how an author can pull that theme off, if they can actually do it in a way that makes a reader believe it. Because this was a fantasy, it was a cool and unique way of presenting the problem and the author sold it really well. And believe me, I was watching that closely as I know how hard it is to make that work, so I was thrilled to see it pulled off.

That whole premise and how it ties into the world that is created here helps to add to the uniqueness factor of what would otherwise be a normal shifter style book. You get the range of paranormal creatures often seen in UF, though the main focus are the werecats and werewolves, but the background and history of this world felt new and different.

The only reason this didn’t tip over into a full 5 star range for me is that once you hit that shift in the story (a little over the half way mark), the plot slows a bit and I lose a tiny bit of what I loved about the first part.

I really enjoyed this and already have the next in the series downloaded and ready to dig into.

 

Book Review: Great Balls of Fury, Federal Bureau of Magic – Book #1

Author: Annabel Chase
Book Name: Great Balls of Fury
Release Date: February 22, 2019
Series: Federal Bureau of Magic Cozy Myster
Order: #1
Genre: Paranormal/Urban/Fantasy/Mystery
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Annoying but loving family? Check.

Picturesque small town with a hot police chief? Check.

A rescue hellhound, a black cat with attitude, and a pet python that thinks he’s a puppy? Triple check.

My story has all the hallmarks of a sweet and cozy supernatural tale, but there’s a twist—

I am evil.

Well, I’m supposed to be evil thanks to both nature and nurture, but I fight it with every fiber of my being. I just want to live a normal life. I even joined the FBI instead of the Federal Bureau of Magic, until my powers reared their ugly head and the agency sent me packing back to my hometown to fight magical crimes instead.

Now I’m back in Chipping Cheddar, living with my evil family, with a new job and all my old baggage.

Oh, and there’s a dead body, which was definitely not an accident.

So there you have it. Welcome to my world.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Peeve Factor: 3/5 Stars

World Building: 3/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3/5 Stars

I honestly struggled with this one. Mostly, I like the bones of the story and the world that is created here. I like the idea that the main character is a fury.

But… and there are few of these… but, there are just some things that didn’t work for me. Normally I love me some irreverent snark and attitude. I’m pretty sure that was the direction this is trying to go with the family dynamics, but instead of it coming across as funny, it feel ugly and mean, something I’m not a fan of at all.

I also sort of get this feeling that if there is a paranormal/mystical type of creature that exists anywhere in mythology or fantasy, there is a very high probability that you are going to see it at some point in one of these books. That may not actually be the case. It just feels like this has that catch all flavor, instead of a specific, defined basis for the overall world, like it isn’t entirely sure what kind of fantasy/paranormal type of book it really wants to be.

The main character is interesting, but again, not completely defined to where you really know who she is. The side characters have personality, but they are either strangely ugly (the family) or lacking in much depth. Again, you aren’t really sure who they are as characters.

While I mostly liked this, it was a little weak in areas and pushed my peeves in others.

 

 

Book Review: The Last Sister, Columbia River- Book #1

Author: Kendra Elliot
Book Name: The Last Sister
Release Date: January 14, 2020
Series: Columbia River
Order: #1
Genre: Crime Drama/Suspense/Romance
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb:

Twenty years ago Emily Mills’s father was murdered, and she found his body hanging in the backyard. Her younger sister, Madison, claims she was asleep in her room. Her older sister, Tara, claims she was out with friends. The tragedy drove their mother to suicide and Tara to leave town forever. The killer was caught. The case closed.

Ever since, Emily and Madison have tried to forget what happened that night—until an eerily similar murder brings it all back. It also brings FBI special agent Zander Wells to the Oregon logging town. As eager as he is to solve the brutal double slaying, he is just as intrigued with the mystery of Emily’s and her sisters’ past.

When more blood is shed, Zander suspects there’s a secret buried in this town no one wants unearthed. Is it something Emily and Madison don’t know? Or aren’t telling? And Tara? Maybe Emily can’t bear to find her. Because when Tara disappeared, she took a secret of her own with her.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3/5 Stars
Believability: 2.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3.5/5 Stars

I picked this up, excited for, and expecting, a similar story feel to the Mercy Kilpatrick series by the same author as I have really enjoyed those. Many of the things I enjoyed about the MK series seem to be missing here which left me disappointed in this one.

One of the things that is a must for me when it comes to crime drama books is believability. This one feels like it drops the ball in that regards. Both with how the investigative aspects are handled and in some of the character presentations.

Zander’s character comes across in a weird way for me. At times, unprofessional. Other times as though he doesn’t know what he is doing as an investigator. Considering he isn’t cast as a newbie FBI agent, these aspects made it really hard for me to believe in his character.

I won’t go too far into the ending and wrap up, but I’ll just say that it was another example of the character not really fitting and making no sense. This book relies heavily on racism as a motivation, but the pieces really don’t mesh well together to get to that outcome with the “bad guy” in a realistic way.

It also felt like there were a lot of extra pieces and side storylines that just felt distracting and, in the end, really unnecessary. I’m certain they are in place for future books, but I felt like they were just too much with everything else that was going on in this story.

I won’t say that I didn’t like this, but it fell short of what I was expecting and hoping for when I picked it up. This is also sort of an off shoot of another series with some of the same characters and you get several references to events potentially from those books. Not so much you get lost, but it can be a little frustrating at times. If this book is any indication, I’m not all that tempted to see if those books are any better.

Book Review: Blood & Ash, The Jezebel Files – Book #1

Author: Deborah Wilde
Book Name: Blood & Ash
Release Date: January 14, 2020
Series: The Jezebel Files
Order: #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Romance
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Cold-blooded kidnappers. Long-lost magic. When things get serious, she goes full Sherlock.

Ashira Cohen takes pride in being the only female private investigator in Vancouver. With her skills, her missing persons case should be a piece of cake.

She wasn’t counting on getting bashed in the skull, revealing a hidden tattoo and supernatural powers she shouldn’t possess.

Or the bitter icing on top: a spree of abductions and terrifying ghostly creatures on a deadly bender.

And don’t even get her started on the golems.

Reluctantly partnered with her long-time nemesis Levi, the infuriating leader of the magic community, Ash resolves to keep her focus on the clue trail and off their sexual tension because WTF is up with that?

But with a mastermind organization pulling strings from the shadows and Levi’s arrogance driving her to pick out his body bag, can Ash rescue the captives and uncover the truth or will the next blood spilled be her own?

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Uniqueness Factor: 4/5 Stars
World Building: 4/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

This weaves together serious and seriously funny. It is loaded with snark and attitude, but isn’t completely irreverent when presenting heavier aspects, giving you a really well balanced story.

There is also a very different feel to the way the world in this is presented as it pulls elements from the Jewish faith without veering so far as to place this into a religious fiction category. You have classic urban fantasy elements, like magic, but the origin of that magic and how it manifests felt very fresh and new, which is always a huge bonus for me.

While this is also a romance, I wouldn’t say it fits into a classic romance box as this has a whole lot of push and pull, back and forth between Ash and Levi with a bit of a steam factor tossed into that mix. That isn’t a trope I’m normally a fan of, but this didn’t quite take it to the extreme levels that would make me dislike the book. It runs along the side of the bigger plot and, while still a somewhat big part of the story, it isn’t the main focus.

The overall story arc in this is resolved, but it leaves a lot of threads open for future books. Not anything that I would call a cliffhanger. Maybe a small, cliffhanger light? As someone who really dislikes cliffhangers, the way this wrapped up didn’t push that button for me, but it may come close for some.

Overall, this was a fun and different feeling read.

Out Of My Comfort Zone

So, this is very, VERY different for me. I don’t do photos of myself. EVER. But… I’ve officially taken on a staff roll for Envie Magazine as a book reviewer and a profile pic is part of the gig. Both the photo and the spot at the magazine are taking me so far outside my comfort zone I have to keep reminding myself to not freak out, but I’m still excited about it.

The position is a volunteer thing as the magazine’s goal is to remain free to subscribers and to those that want exposure, which I love and is one of the reasons I finally caved after lots of cajoling. My first review is already featured in this month’s edition that came out today.

This is going to be interesting and challenging for me. On the surface, it should be easy to come up with one book review per month, but I’m so picky as a reader and a reviewer, it might be harder than I think to find one I’m willing to recommend every month.

I really love what this amazing group of people are doing for the writing community and indie authors. It is going to be fun to be a part of it.

Book Review: An Everyday Hero, A Heart of a Hero- Book #2

Author: Laura Trentham
Book Name: An Everyday Hero
Release Date: February 4, 2020
Series: A Heart of a Hero
Order: #2
Genre: Romance
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: At thirty, Greer Hadley never expected to be forced home to Madison, Tennessee with her life and dreams of being a songwriter up in flames. To make matters worse, a series of bad decisions and even crappier luck lands her community service hours at a nonprofit organization that aids veterans and their families. Greer cannot fathom how she’s supposed to use music to help anyone deal with their trauma and loss when the one thing that brought her joy has failed her.

When Greer meets fifteen-year-old Ally Martinez, her plans to stay detached and do as little as possible get thrown away. New to town and dealing with the death of her father in action, she hides her emotions behind a mask of bitterness and sarcasm, but Greer is able to see past it and recognizes pieces of who she once was in Ally. The raw and obvious talent she possesses could take her to the top and Greer vows to make sure life’s negativities don’t derail Ally’s potential.

After Greer is assigned a veteran to help, she’s not surprised Emmett Lawson, the town’s golden boy, followed his family’s legacy. What leaves her shocked is the shell of a man who believes he doesn’t deserve anyone’s help. A breakthrough with Ally reminds Greer that no one is worth giving up on. So she shows up one day with his old guitar, and meets Emmett’s rage head on with her stubbornness. When a situation with Ally becomes dire, the two of them must become a team to save her—and along the way they might just save themselves too.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Believability: 4/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

This was a sweet, funny, and heartwarming story, a definite feel good kind of read. I really enjoyed all the different pieces and characters in this. I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a warm story about overcoming and characters finding themselves with a small side of low steam romance.

For me, it ran just a touch to far to the “everything is perfectly wrapped up” side of things and a little light on the romance side, though it was still a really good story overall.

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. Opinions stated are honest and my own.

 

 

Book Review: First Blood, D.I. Kim Stone – Prequel

Author: Angela Marsons
Book Name: First Blood
Release Date: November 14, 2019
Series: D.I. Kim Stone
Order: Prequel (release order #12)
Genre: Suspense/Mystery/Police/Crime
Overall SPA: 5 Stars
5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: In the darkness of a cold December morning, Detective Kim Stone steps through the doors of Halesowen Police Station. She’s about to meet her team for the first time. The victim of her next case is about to meet his killer…

When the body of a young man is found beheaded and staked to the ground in a secluded area of the Clent Hills, Kim and her new squad rush to the crime scene.

Searching the victim’s home, Kim discovers a little girl’s bedroom and a hidden laptop. Why is his sister relieved to hear he’s dead – and where is the rest of his family?

As Kim begins to unearth the dark secrets at the heart of the case, D.C. Stacey Wood finds a disturbing resemblance to the recent murder of Lester Jackson. But that’s not all Stacey finds …

She’s convinced there is a link between the victims and a women’s shelter run by Marianne Forbes, Lester’s niece. A child of the care system herself, Kim knows all too well what it means to be vulnerable. Could Marianne be the key to cracking this case?

With the killer about to strike again, Kim is in deep water with a rookie squad. Inexperienced Stacey is showing signs of brilliance but struggling to hold her nerve and, while D.S. Bryant is reliable and calm, D.S. Dawson is a liability. With his home life in pieces, his volatile behaviour is already fracturing her fragile new team.

Can Kim bring Dawson in line and pull her crew together in time to catch the killer before another life is taken? This time, one of her own could be in terrible danger…

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 5/5 Stars
Believability: 5/5 Stars
Series Continuity/Expectations: 5/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 5/5 Stars

I straight up loved this. There is honestly not a negative thing I can come up with to say about this, which might just be a first for me. It is also really surprising as I am not normally a big fan of prequels, for a whole host of reasons. None of those reasons applied in any way to this book, though.

I really loved getting to see how the team came together in the beginning, knowing where they end up and all that happens throughout this series. While there really isn’t anything new about the team in particular that you learn in this, it was great to see the origins of the dynamic between them.

The one thing that we do learn new (at least, I don’t remember ever seeing it mentioned before, though it is possible I missed it) was about Woody’s history. And holy cow! That was a really interesting piece to learn. It kind of shifts the perspective on all the puzzle pieces of this series. It makes me really want to see him get a whole lot more page time in the future.

As with any of the books in this series, if you are a police/crime drama fan, you really need to have this one on your TBR if you don’t already.

 

Cast in Wisdom: Chronicles of Elantra, Book 15

Author: Michelle Sagara
Book Name: Cast in Wisdom
Release Date: January 28, 2019
Series: PChronicles of Elantra
Order: #15
Genre: Fantasy
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: SOMETHING IS WAKING

The fiefs that exist at the heart of the city of Elantra are home to sentient Towers that guard the world against the incursion of Shadow. But between the fiefs exists the gray world of the border zone. In it, geography changes between one passage across a border and the next. The rules of magic are different there—and yet somehow familiar to Kaylin Neya.

When a Shadow escapes, Kaylin must find out how…and why. If Shadows can breach the barrier erected by the Towers, the whole of Elantra will be devoured. It’s happened on other worlds. Bellusdeo, Kaylin’s Dragon companion, absolutely believes it can happen on theirs.

The border zone holds secrets and ancient histories, and people are gathering there in search of its power. Without even understanding what that power is, or why it exists, Kaylin is in a desperate race against time to find those secrets first. She doesn’t know who her enemies are. She doesn’t know how many she’ll face. But she won’t face them alone.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

World Building: 5/5 Stars
Series Continuity/Expectations: 3/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

I am yet again struggling to review a book in this series that I love. I could almost copy and past my review from the last book as the issues I had with that one are still very much present in this one.

This is now the at least the third book in a row where you see little to no character growth from Kaylin. You see little to no page time from some of the original favorite characters like Marcus, the Hawklord or Sanabalis.

Though we do get more time with Nightshade, that interaction is done almost entirely through his mental link with Kaylin and no actual interaction. There is a great deal of Kaylin’s interactions in this book that are handled in this manner. This is frustrating because it seems that somewhere along the way the deep tensions between Kaylin and Nightshade and Kaylin and Severn have been lost. Whatever tension existed between them has vanished. Severn’s place has turned more into a less personal bodyguard kind of a role while Nightshade has been relegated to more of an advisor/information bank.

I did love that we got to spend more time with the Arkon. This really was more about his story than anything and I was glad to see the focus shift from the cohort. You still get a good dose of them in this book, but they aren’t the focal point. It was also nice to see that Kaylin didn’t collect anyone or anything new in this book.

Another piece that was different in this one from many previous books is that Kaylin seems like more of an observer. She participates and has a few points where her abilities are key, but it isn’t her actions that are the most important. In a way, it is nice to see her not always being the one to come in and save the day, but she is the basis for the series. I would have really liked to see this be a book that helped her character grow in some way.

As far as series expectations go, this is where I tend to get tangled up. If you look at the last several books in this series, this is absolutely right in line with those books. But if you look at the earliest books in the series, this doesn’t have quite the same characteristics and feel. It does have more going on and brings about some drastic changes to the world than the last couple of books, so I’d say it falls in between the early books and the last couple as far as those expectations go.

As I mentioned in my review of Cast in Oblivion, I still love this series and these books, but characters need to grow. There are also things about characters that readers fall in love with and if you leave those things behind, you may end up leaving the readers behind as well. This one did a better job of bringing some of those things along than the last few, but not quite as much as I would have liked.

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. Opinions stated are honest and my own.

 

Book Review: I Not David, Finding Me – Book #1

Author: Kameo Monson
Book Name: I Not David
Release Date: November 20, 2019
Series: Finding Me
Order: #1
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Family Life
Overall SPA: 4.5 Stars
4.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: When three-year-old Joey is diagnosed with autism, Kat’s heart sinks. With a single phone number and a few suggested therapies, she and her husband Derek are left to wade through the unknown abyss of ASD. Derek assures Kat their son will grow out of it, but she has done enough research. That never happens. Still, Joey can improve, and Kat vows to make his life better any way she can.

Jumping feet first into the depths of therapies and developmental preschool, Kat gives it her all. Everything should get easier. But Derek still can’t handle Joey’s meltdowns, and now he only wants to spend time with her. What happens if his attitude doesn’t change?

As Kat’s world continues to crumble around her, she finds something in herself that she didn’t know was missing.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4.5/5 Stars
Believability: 4.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

This book ticked most of my boxes for what makes a really good, emotional book. It is a small snapshot of life as a mother learns to parent her autistic child and all the struggles that entails, including the strain it can put on a marriage.

The first couple of chapters felt a little choppy with a lot of events happening quickly and jumping to the next, but it smoothed out after a few chapters and I was able to sink into Kat’s story. As a mother that only ever barely brushed up against a tiny fragment of the issues presented in this book, it was easy for me to relate to and sympathize with her struggles from that mother’s perspective and to understand her willingness to do anything and everything to give her child every opportunity for a good life. The story touches on a lot of typical parental fears for their children and magnifies them through the lens of autism.

Having no background knowledge of autism, I wasn’t sure how accurate the experiences and scenarios regarding diagnosis and treatment were throughout the book, but they felt authentic. Something that stood out for me and had me questioning the reality a bit was the lack of support or suggestion of counseling for the parents or available resources to support them and help them learn to raise an autistic child. There is plenty addressed with regards to support and treatments for Joey, but there wasn’t any mention of any resources to help the parents with such a drastic change in the way they would need to parent him and how those changes could impact them as a family. There aren’t even mentions of support groups. After finishing the book and reading the author’s comments about the background of the story and her personal history, I’m a little floored that this is apparently reality, or was at the time of her experiences (at least not as something that is ever mentioned in the book).

This book only covers a small span of time and leaves several threads open at the end (most likely because this will be part of a series). There aren’t any cliffhangers, but there are some larger pieces that do not get resolved by the end.

Overall, I really enjoyed this story and the very real glimpse it gives you into life with a young, autistic child.

*I received a copy of this book from the author. Opinions stated are honest and my own.

Book Review: A Madness of Sunshine – Nalini Singh

Author: Nalini Singh
Book Name: A Madness of Sunshine
Release Date: December 3, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Thriller/Suspense/Crime/Romance
Overall SPA: 4.5 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: On the rugged West Coast of New Zealand, Golden Cove is more than just a town where people live. The adults are more than neighbors; the children, more than schoolmates.
 
That is until one fateful summer—and several vanished bodies—shatters the trust holding Golden Cove together. All that’s left are whispers behind closed doors, broken friendships, and a silent agreement not to look back. But they can’t run from the past forever.

Eight years later, a beautiful young woman disappears without a trace, and the residents of Golden Cove wonder if their home shelters something far more dangerous than an unforgiving landscape.

It’s not long before the dark past collides with the haunting present and deadly secrets come to light.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 5/5 Stars
Believability: 4/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 5/5 Stars

This is a very different book for Nalini Singh with the genre, but still very much on the same level of quality, detail, and great story telling that her readers have come to expect. Stepping into a different genre for an author can be risky, so I really wasn’t certain how much I’d like it. I really shouldn’t have been worried as Ms. Singh has always done a great job at building her stories, no matter the genre. While this does have romantic elements to it, they are light in comparison to the rest of the story.

The only real dings this takes from me are in the couple of places (one in particular) where a little piece was dropped like a hint, but never picked up or addressed later in the story and in a couple of other very minor hits on believability. Otherwise, this was a great story that kept open so many different options for the outcome all the way through to the end, it really wraps up in unexpected ways. It isn’t often that an author can find that balance of keeping readers realistically guessing and giving it away with obvious clues. This one hit that perfect balance for me.

 

 

Peyton Hammond’s Review For An Unexpected Turn

Peyton is one of the book bloggers I approached to review An Unexpected Turn and she most graciously agreed. She tends to read a wide variety of books and does so all while going to school, so I’m impressed with all she accomplishes. I cannot thank her enough for taking time out of her busy schedule to read for me. I’m even more excited by the fact that she enjoyed it. This is just a glimpse of her 4 star thoughts:

The writing was fantastic and the storytelling was very smooth. I enjoyed it immensely. I love when writing keeps you in love with a story.

You can find the full review here. Be sure to check out all the rest of the books and reviews she’s posted. There is so much to choose from!

Book Review: Another Dead Intern – Joel Spriggs

Author: Joel Spriggs
Book Name: Another Dead Intern
Release Date: October 15, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Fantasy/Urban/Suspense
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: When Morgan Burns applied for an internship with Hemlock Connal P.I, he thought he’d signed up for coffee runs and printing jobs, not preternatural investigation.

As he starts his new job, Morgan learns about the unseen and blended landscape of magic. Soon he finds himself meeting grungy pixies, mixing with fairy royals, and the annoyingly bad musical talents of a half demon. Morgan has to also face the fact that Hemlock’s last three interns met painful ends.

Morgan must quickly adapt to his broadening world to keep the two things he needs most: a paycheck and his life. Hemlock has to keep her wits about her and watch that she doesn’t end up with yet another dead intern.

When a friend comes to her about random Bostonians start losing their memories, Hemlock tries to find a paying customer. The only one willing to entertain her unnatural explanations is the head of the Irish mob, Bobbi Cotter. Cotter wants to find out why one of her top hitmen has lost his memory, and why one of his planned executions was just carried out by a fifteen year old cheerleader.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3/5 Stars
Peeve Factor: 2.5/5 Stars
World Building: 3/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 3/5 Stars

The foundation and plot of this story are both really good. I would have given this a higher rating, but it is a little rough around the edges and I kept running into issues that pulled me out of the story.

One of the bigger ones I was never able to quite pinpoint and say “this is an editing issue” or “this is a stylistic thing” because I just could not tell for sure. There are a lot of places where the phrasing of a sentence felt off. Either a word was missing, an additional word that didn’t feel like it belonged was included, or the word choice was off a bit (I saw all three at different points, multiple times throughout the book). Whether this is a stylistic thing or just something that got overlooked during editing, it kept forcing me to stop and reread sections which broke up the flow of the story.

I’ve never been a huge fan of character perspectives that flip at random without distinct cues letting the reader know there is a change. This is very much a personal preference, but it added to the difficulty I had staying in the flow of the story. The characters all felt as though they had similar personalities and voices with very little to distinguish one from another. When you have that perspective swap mixed in, even more effort needs to be made to stay immersed in the story.

Another issue that isn’t a huge deal to the overall story, but is a huge peeve of mine was the swapping of character names. I only noticed this in one small section, but I again was forced to stop and reread, even go back and refresh my memory on the stated names to make sure I wasn’t confused.

The world, while interesting at first glance, lacked a certain distinction. I was never certain how the world worked exactly, especially with regards to how common the knowledge and acceptance of magic and magical beings were to the non-magical sections of society. There were some conflicting scenes on this, so I was never sure if everyone knew or if the magical side was supposed to be hidden. The presentation of the fae breaks from most traditional presentations I’ve seen, though still a little on the vague side in detail. This could be a very good thing or not depending on the type of reader.

The ending was a little abrupt and it felt like some of the side/supporting pieces to the story didn’t get completely fleshed out or resolved. I prefer to have more of those types of things cleanly tied up.

Overall, this fell onto the okay side of good for me.

*I received a copy of this book from the author. Opinions stated are honest and my own.

 

 

Book Review: Crossing the Line – Joy Slaughter

Author: Joy Slaughter
Book Name: Crossing the Line
Release Date: November 4, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/Women’s Fiction
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Sergeant Nathan Thompson lost his leg in Afghanistan. Megan hides a secret. When they are assigned as a paramedic team, tensions flare—Nathan thinks Megan is a condescending know it all, and Megan resents a partner who might not be able to offer 100%. As they respond to calls their mutual respect grows. Then Nathan notices bruises on Megan’s arms, and her excuses don’t add up. The next life Nathan must save may be that of his own partner—if only she’ll let him

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Believability: 3.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

I really enjoyed all the various medical scenarios in this one. They were a nice balance of being technical without going over my head or falling into instruction manual zone with too much explanation.

There is a romantic thread through this that runs along side Megan’s personal struggles. Those two threads combined have about the same amount of page space as the medical threads, making the focus of this story lean a little heavier on the medical side.

While I really enjoyed Nathan’s character, I felt like Megan’s personality was just a little fuzzy around the edges, making it hard to pin her down as a character. It wasn’t major, but enough to make me think certain situations or responses didn’t quite fit well or make sense for her.

For readers that need the heads up, there are some big trigger issues in this book. Subjects like domestic abuse, emotional abuse, rape, cheating, and suicide get page time and a couple of scenes may be disturbing.

This falls into the romance genre, but is very light on the steam for those that prefer that side of romance.

*I received a copy of this book from the author. Opinions stated are honest and my own.

 

Book Review: The Other Daughter – Shalini Boland

Author: Shalini Boland
Book Name: The Other Daughter
Release Date: November 5, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Nine years ago her daughter was taken. And now she’s back.

Two-and-a-half-year-old Holly is playing happily in a pink plastic playhouse, while her mother Rachel sips coffee and chats with a friend nearby. It should be an ordinary day for all of them. But, in the blink of an eye, it turns into every family’s worst nightmare.

Holly is taken by a stranger and never found.

Nine years later, Rachel is living a quiet life in Dorset. She’s tried to keep things together since the traumatic day when she lost her eldest daughter. She has a new family, a loving partner and her secrets are locked away in her painful past.

Until one afternoon when Rachel meets a new school parent Kate and her teenage daughter Bella. Rachel’s world is instantly turned upside down – she’s seen Bella before. She’d recognise that face anywhere – it’s her missing child.

And she will stop at nothing to get her back…

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3/5 Stars
Believability: 3/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3/5 Stars

Even with my category breakdowns, I’m having a hard time rating this. Please note that the little bit I mention may be considered a mild spoiler, though I’m trying to be as vague as possible.

I struggled through the bulk of this book with the main character’s actions and choices in the circumstances as they were presented. So much of it just never rang true or as believable or realistic to me. If I had to rate this as it stood before the plot wraps up at the end of the book, this would have been incredibly low because of those issues.

The ending turned it all around. Things finally begin to work as you get to understand why those were issues, but I didn’t get genuinely invested until that point. It was difficult to keep wanting to read that far without just giving up on the story as being on the ridiculous side. I could almost give category ratings to the beginning of the book and the end of the book because of how I felt about the different parts.

I am glad I stuck with it because, in the end the story was interesting. It was frustrating to get there, but it was good.

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. Opinions stated are honest and my own.

 

 

Book Review: Shattered Bonds, Jane Yellowrock- Book #13

Author: Faith Hunter
Book Name: Shattered Bonds
Release Date: October 29, 2019
Series: Jane Yellowrock
Order: #13
Genre: Fantasy/Paranormal/Urban
Overall SPA: 4.5 Stars
4.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Jane Yellowrock is a shapeshifting skinwalker, and vampire killer-for-hire, but her last battle with an ancient arcane enemy has brought her low. She seeks retreat in the Appalachian Mountains to grieve the loss of her friends, and to heal–or to die–from the disease brought on by her magic.

But malevolent elements in the paranormal community still seek to destroy Jane, and the younger Son of Darkness stalks her, even into the safety of the hills. With nowhere to run and her body failing, the rogue-vampire hunter and her inner Beast must discover a way to defeat this new threat, and find a form that gives her a chance to fight another day.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 5/5 Stars
Series Continuity/Expectations: 4/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 5/5 Stars

So much happened and changed by the end of Dark Queen, I really wasn’t certain what to expect with this book, especially with the not quite a cliffhanger you got at the end of that one. I did expect that issue to be addressed or at least mentioned pretty quickly in this one, but it takes a bit for it to come up, which left me wondering if that event was somehow getting changed.

This felt different than most any of the other JY books. You still get some great shift scenes. You get a good amount of Beast time. You still get a few battle scenes. You still get a few scenes of Jane connecting with her people. But… those all seem to have the edges dulled a bit because, to a large extent, she has to take more of a backseat in this one. She doesn’t get to be the full on badass all the time which shifts the overall tone and feel of this book.

This does tie off a couple of the loose threads introduced in the last book, but you are again left wondering where the series is going to go next. One big thread is glanced across and cannot possibly be all we see for the end of that thread. A whole lot happens along the side of what happens in this book. Things that are introduced through brief conversations, but are left wide open by the last page. You are definitely left with the feeling that there is a lot more yet to come.

As always, the biggest downside is that there is a last page and too big of a time gap in which I have to wait for the next book.

 

Book Review: The Empty Nest – Sue Watson

Author: Sue Watson
Book Name: The Empty Nest
Release Date: November 1, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Psychological Thriller/Suspense/Mystery
Overall SPA: 2 Stars
2 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Kat remembers the days when her only daughter Amy wouldn’t leave her side. Amy was the baby who cried when you walked out of the room, the toddler who was too shy to speak to strangers, the small child who clung to Kat’s legs in the school playground.

But now Amy is grown up, and Amy is gone – to university in a town several hours away. Kat’s house – which once felt too full, too noisy, too busy – is deathly quiet, and Kat awaits the daily phone call to tell her that her beloved daughter is thriving and happy.

Until the day Amy doesn’t call, sending Kat into a panic. Her husband and friends say she’s being paranoid – surely Amy is just out, having fun? But Kat feels sure something is very wrong – she knows her daughter, and she would never just disappear.

As the hours turn into days, her fears are confirmed: Amy is missing. But there are secrets about her daughter that Kat doesn’t know about yet. And the truth about Amy’s whereabouts may be closer to home than Kat could ever imagine…

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 2.5/5 Stars
Believability: 2/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 2/5 Stars

I really wasn’t a fan of this one. You spend the bulk of the book inside Kat’s head with very little actually going on. The emotions she expresses go from one extreme to another, from one sentence to the next, enough to give the reader whiplash. This is basically a story about extremely unhealthy relationships, relationships between mother and daughter, between friends, and even between husband and wife.

I couldn’t find anything in any of the characters that made me feel much sympathy towards what they were going though because they all had some pretty horrible traits. I did feel something towards Amy, but that kind of gets killed when you get a good glimpse into her personality as well.

The specifics of the plot just felt really overblown and extreme from all aspects. The struggle with believability along with the lack of connection to  the characters made this not a good book for me.

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. Opinions stated are honest and my own.