So beyond excited that this is out! I’m, unfortunately, finishing another book at the moment, so won’t get to dig into this until later tonight, but I will be on this the second I’ve finished (probably skimming quickly so I can get there faster).
Linden McGregor is tall, rugged, and gunslinger handsome; a helicopter pilot with a Scottish brogue and charm to spare. He’s also one of Stephanie Robson’s best friends and has fit into that box for as long as she’s known him.
But some relationships can’t be boxed, can’t be classified, can’t be tamed.
Back in their mid-twenties and tired of the competitive hit-or-miss dating scene of San Francisco, Steph and Linden made a pact to marry each other if neither one of them are in a serious relationship by the time they hit thirty.
It sounds like fun and games but as the years to thirty tick past and lovers come and go out of their lives, the pact becomes larger than life.
Sex is inevitable. Friendships are tested. Hearts are on the line.
The pact is about to change everything.
Review: It is pretty difficult to enjoy or like a book when you don’t like the characters. Steph was okay, but kind of clueless and ditsy. James has a horrible, vindictive, jealous, ugly personality and Linden is so incredibly spineless that there just wasn’t much to like about him because that is impossible to overlook.
I’m not much of a fan of books that are all about lack of communication being the big issue in relationships, but this is all that the book is about for a huge portion. The first half of the book was drawn out and mostly boring, all because Linden doesn’t have the guts to speak up about his attraction to Steph. Because of that, they pretty much waste 5 years dating people they don’t like. When they finally do get together and things work out, he lets ugly vindictive boy shape his choices? What? Are we twelve? You are going to choose the best friend, who has been pretty nasty to you for a while over the love of your life? This so doesn’t work for me.
I was doing okay with the first half spinelessness, but the big break up and get back together at the end killed it for me. Maybe I’m just a really not forgiving person, but there would be no way I’d ever take the crap that gets tossed around in this and then be all hearts and flowers forgiving just because someone grovels and says sorry, and I mean that from all character perspectives. I don’t buy it in any way, shape or form. Sometimes things are just broken too badly to be fixed.
Author: Jefferson Bass
Book Name: Carved In Bone
Series: Body Farm
Rating: Really Good
Blurb: Renowned anthropologist Dr. Bill Brockton has spent his career surrounded by death at the Body Farm. Now he’s being called upon to help solve a baffling puzzle in a remote mountain community. The mummified corpse of a young woman dead for thirty years has been discovered in a cave, the body bizarrely preserved and transformed by the environment’s unique chemistry. But Brockton’s investigation is threatening to open old wounds among an insular people who won’t forget or forgive. And a long-buried secret prematurely exposed could inflame Brockton’s own guilt–and the dangerous hostility of bitter enemies determined to see him fail . . . by any means necessary.
Review: Knowing that this is written by an expert forensic anthropologist, it would be easy to assume it would lean towards a dry, technical read. It came as a bit of a surprise to find that wasn’t the case. You absolutely get some of the technical and scientific side of things, but that is beautifully balanced with humor, emotion and a genuinely well written story.
The very beginning of the book gave a very clear indication of how this book was going to go when you are immediately exposed to a somewhat gruesome and icky scenario juxtaposed against wry humor. It isn’t often that I get to laugh while a guy is driving a knife into someone, but that is exactly what you get here.
Brockton’s character is this incredibly accomplished and respected professional. We get this odd blend because that professionalism is offset with this imperfect, wacky, kind of scaredy cat, geeky personality that provides some lighter humor in the middle of some of the serious. His friend Art and his student Miranda are much the same and are a big part of why this keeps from being too much about just the science.
This has to be one of the better crime dramas that I’ve read in a while and I will absolutely be reading the next one in this series.
Author: Beverly Connor
Book Name: Dead Secret
Series: Diane Fallon Forensic Investigation
Blurb: In the depths of an unmapped cave, forensic anthropologist Diane Fallon makes an astonishing discovery: the decades-old skeleton of a caving victim. Soon, the remains of two more bodies are found—one in an old car submerged in the waters of an abandoned quarry, another buried in the Georgia woods. At first, with nothing to link the dissimilar victims except desiccated bones, Diane can’t fathom the connection. But someone in her shadow does. It’s the key to a mystery that reaches back seventy years in a heritage of love, greed, and murder—and an unearthed family secret that still holds the power to kill.
Review: As I’ve said with previous books in this series, I liked this book, but… It is becoming clear that these are going to be the kind of cheap thrill reads that are well written, but still a little cookie cutter with certain aspects.
In every book so far in the series, Diane is put into a situation where she is in danger and attacked. Once or twice I’ll buy, but not in every single book, or worse like this one, more than once in a single book. She is a museum director and crime scene specialist. She is not a cop on the front line, so her, and her team, shouldn’t be in danger with every case they take on. That pushes things into the realm of the ridiculous and unrealistic.
There is also the element of just way too much going on and an insane number of coincidences and connections to tie nearly all of those seemingly random threads together. The multiple plot lines are a common thing with these books, but this one kind of seemed as if it was a challenge to see how many different lines and coincidences could be worked into a single story.
As I said, this was good and I’ll most likely read the other books in this series because they are entertaining, but I will do so knowing how completely unrealistic they are and to not take them as serious crime dramas.
Author: Nalini Singh
Book Name: Rock Redemption
Series: Rock Kiss
Blurb: Kit Devigny could have loved rock guitarist Noah St. John. Their friendship burned with the promise of intense passion and searing tenderness…until the night Noah deliberately shattered her heart.
Noah knows he destroyed something precious the night he chose to betray Kit, but he’d rather she hate him than learn his darkest secret. All he has left is his music. It’s his saving grace, but it doesn’t silence the voices that keep him up at night. Chasing oblivion through endless one-night-stands, he earns a few hours’ sleep and his bad boy reputation.
When a media error sees Noah and Kit dubbed the new “it” couple, Kit discovers her chance at the role of a lifetime hinges on riding the media wave. Wanting—needing—to give Kit this, even if he can’t give her everything, Noah agrees to play the adoring boyfriend. Only the illusion is suddenly too real, too painful, too beautiful…and it may be too late for the redemption of Noah St. John.
Review: This is how you do broken beautifully. Seriously. There just aren’t many books with truly broken characters that I like quite as much as I like Noah. He is seriously messed up, in a way that makes your heart want to bleed for him, and even though he thinks he is destroyed, he isn’t. He still has heart and is willing to try. There is no letting the brokenness be all that there is, but it is also absolutely there and a part of who he is, not written off or made to be a nothing bit of just history. That is what makes it beautiful.
It would be easy to say that Kit’s character isn’t as strong personality wise, but hers is a quite, subtle strength that isn’t in your face. It almost comes at you from behind the scenes, but it is a critical element to support and balance out Noah’s much stronger, obvious presence.
I think that what I love the most about this book (and it is similar in the other books in this series) is that the romantic relationship isn’t all perfect hearts and flowers and rainbow farts. It gets a little gritty and ugly, but even with that, Noah and Kit are all about working through the ugly to get to keep the beautiful. You may have those moments that are difficult trials and end up in the characters needing a bit of space, but they aren’t blown out into ridiculous proportions. They are just real moments that need to be worked through. Just really loved this all the way around.
Author: Erica Spindler
Book Name: Copy Cat
Series: Kitt Lundgren
Blurb: Five years ago, three young victims were found murdered, posed like little angels. No witnesses, no evidence left behind. The Sleeping Angel Killer called his despicable acts ‘the perfect crimes.’ The case nearly destroyed homicide detective Kitt Lundgren’s career–because she let the killer get away.
Now the Sleeping Angel Killer is back.
But Kitt notices something different about this new rash of killings–a tiny variation that suggests a copycat killer may be re-creating the original ‘perfect crimes.’ Then the unthinkable happens. The Sleeping Angel Killer himself approaches Kitt with a bizarre offer: he will help her catch his copycat.
Kitt must decide whether to place her trust in a murderer–or risk falling victim to a fiend who has taken the art of the perfect murder to horrific new heights.
Review: This was hard for me to get into because I just wasn’t much of a fan of the characters and how they came across. Kitt is so beyond messed up that it isn’t all that believable that she is still a cop. M.C. comes across as one of these horribly competitive women who can’t stand it when another woman is in charge or looks better than them on paper. Again, I just don’t like her as a cop. Both kind of come across as not so smart, either on the job or in their personal lives. I found both of their characters annoying and not all that interesting to me because of it. There was also this all around lack of professionalism with both of their characters and to some extent how the police work plays out that grated on my nerves.
I just wasn’t much of a fan overall. This wasn’t bad and I did think there were some decent parts, but the parts I didn’t like kept me from feeling as if this was anything other than just an okay story.
Author: Allison Brennan
Book Name: Notorious
Series: Max Revere
Rating: Really Good
Blurb: Maxine Revere has dedicated her life to investigating murders that the police have long since given up any hope of solving. A nationally renowned investigative reporter with her own TV show and a tough-as-nails reputation, Max tackles cold cases from across the country and every walk of life. But the one unsolved murder that still haunts her is a case from her own past.
When Max was a high school senior, one of her best friends was strangled and another, Kevin O’Neal, accused of the crime. To the disgrace of her wealthy family, Max stood by her friend, until she found out he lied about his alibi. Though his guilt was never proven, their relationship crumbled from the strain of too many secrets.
Now Max is home for Kevin’s funeral—after years of drug abuse, he committed suicide. She’s finally prepared to come to terms with the loss of his friendship, but she’s not prepared for Kevin’s sister to stubbornly insist that he didn’t kill himself. Or for an elderly couple to accost her at the airport, begging her to look into another murder at Max’s old high school. Max is more interested in the cold case at her alma mater than in digging around Kevin’s troubled life, but she agrees to do both. As Max uncovers dark secrets, she finds herself caught in a complicated web of lies that hit far too close to home. And it’s becoming increasingly clear that someone will do whatever it takes to make sure the truth stays buried.
Review: Even though I really enjoy this genre, I struggle to find books that I like because way too often they are written in a cliche loaded, Scooby Doo ending way that drives me crazy. Thankfully, this one is not one of those and doesn’t fall into that category.
This has quite a bit going on, so you have to be in it and paying attention or you are going to miss something important. With the two separate murders that Max ends up digging into, it could have easily gotten to be too much to follow, but this was written well so that isn’t an issue.
I liked Max’s character. She is smart, resourceful, but far from perfect with her trust issues. It is nice to see a character that isn’t capable of doing every last thing without help. I like it when a character has their strengths, but when something falls outside of that, they are willing to acknowledge that and let someone else step in to cover. We do get to see lots of other characters, but the focus is almost soley on Max.
On a slightly negative side, this does skirt the concept that the police are totally incompetent. I think that it was handled pretty well overall, but it comes close to being on the too much side. Nick’s character keeps it from getting into the realm of ridiculous and keeps it realistic.
I did really enjoy this. Even though I had a pretty good idea of who the bad guy was going to end up being at an earlier point in the story, there were enough bits here and there that kept me thinking that there was a chance I was going to be wrong. I like being able to figure it out along with the characters without it being too obvious or too obscure. This had a great balance. I’ll definitely be reading more in this series.
Author: Laura Anne Gilman
Book Name: Hard Magic
Series: Paranormal Scene Investigations
Blurb: Welcome to P.U.P.I.–Private, Unaffiliated, Paranormal Investigations
A handpicked team trained to solve crimes the regular police can’t touch–crimes of magic.
My name’s Bonnie Torres. Recent college grad, magic user and severely unemployed. Until I got a call out of nowhere to interview for a job I hadn’t applied for. It smelled fishy, but the brutal truth was I needed the work–so off I went.
Two days later I’m a PUPI–me and Nick, Sharon, Nifty and Pietr. Five twentysomethings, thrown into an entirely new career in forensic magic.
The first job we get is a doozy: proving that the deaths of two Talents were murder, not suicide. Worse, there are high-profile people who want us to close up shop and go away. We’re sniffing out things they’d rather keep buried.
Looks as if this job is gonna get interesting. The only problem is, we’re making it up as we go along….
Review: There was an awful lot of what I considered good potential in this that didn’t end up realized. After starting extremely dry and slow, with a whole lot of info dumping, things finally started actually happening at about the 40% mark. That is way too deep into a book to get things going and you are going to lose a bunch of readers if you can’t make it interesting long before then. I was very nearly one of them.
The world building here is lacking. We know that we have Talents, people with the ability to use and work magic; Nulls, non-magical humans; and Fatae, which I was a bit confused on, but got the impression that they were some sort of non-human fae. Where that gets seriously confusing is whether or not Nulls are aware of those other types of people and beings. At times, it seems as if they do not, and it is even alluded to a couple of times with a brief mention of witch hunts. Then in the next moment you have some seriously strange Fatae out in the open, but there is absolutely no explanation as to whether or not Nulls see them as they are because they know about them so there isn’t any reaction or if they see them but see them as a normal human and only Talent and other Fatae can see them for what they really are. There is also no explanation of all the apparent damage that gets done by Talent and their use of current.
For me, this lack drags down the ability to really sink into the story because I’m constantly wondering what the people on the outskirts of the story are seeing and thinking while all of this other stuff is going on or why there is no reaction to what would seem to be incredibly strange happenings. Just because it isn’t an issue that is brought up in the book does not mean it doesn’t exist. They many not be getting mentioned, but those outskirt people in a story are the negative space. You may not see it, but it is still there and helps form the shape of what you do see. It needs to be dealt with one way or another. This is kind of a head in the sand kind of approach to world building if you don’t.
The magic system created for this world also seems incomplete or a kind of mish mash of ideas tossed around. In the beginning of the story, Bonnie uses crystals in an attempt to scry but we do not see any use of any external focus or tool in the rest of the book by any of the characters. While there is something of an explanation of how the system works, it also seems to contradict itself and ends up not making a whole lot of sense. Talent apparently can’t read minds, but that is basically what seems to happen a lot, especially between Vanec and Bonnie. It is almost as if the system concept got changed midstream while this was being written. It is explained that Talent can burn out if they try to pull too much current, but there isn’t any real consequence for using it at all. No kind of checks and balance kind of thing in place. There also isn’t any kind of structure around who has what level or kind of power and why. There are no clear limits of what it can and can’t do. Like I said, it feels incomplete, like it wasn’t fully thought out.
I had a hard time getting any kind of solid feel for Bonnie’s character as who she is changed from chapter to chapter. Almost all of the characters were much the same way, but since Bonnie is the focus, the need for a definite personality is much higher and nothing ever really got set with her since she was kind of all over the place.
This was far from an awful story, but it was also pretty far from great. I may pick up the next in the series to see if it gets any better, but I’m not holding out a lot of hope because there was a lot that was just not there with this one.
Rachel de Luca’s uncanny sense of perception is the key to her success as a self-help celebrity. Even before she regained her sight, she had a gift for seeing people’s most carefully hidden secrets. But the secret she shares with Detective Mason Brown is one she has promised to keep. As for Mason, he sees Rachel more clearly than she’d like to admit.
After a single night of adrenaline-fueled passion, they have agreed to keep their distance–until a string of murders brings them together again. Mason thinks that he can protect everyone he loves, including Rachel, by taking them to a winter hideaway, but danger follows them up the mountain.
As guests disappear from the snowbound resort, the race to find the murderer intensifies. Rachel knows she’s a target. Will acknowledging her feelings for Mason destroy her–or save them both and stop a killer?
Review: This one was harder to figure out where to rate this as I didn’t like it quite as well as book one. Where book one stretched the believability hard, this one kind of broke it at time or two.
I missed much of the humor that I really liked in book one as well. For some reason, Rachel’s smartass attitude was hugely downplayed in this book so we didn’t get those funny moments. They weren’t needed quite as much in this book, but I still missed them as it is one of the things that I enjoyed about her character the last time.
Mason’s character is still leaving me on the fence as to whether I like him or not, because we get another situation where he breaks lots of cop rules. This leads to a pretty big spoiler (can’t avoid it if I want to address one of my biggest issues), so don’t read past this if you don’t like to know.
Mason’s first rule break was when he covered up the fact that his brother was a serial killer in book one. He does this to protect his family (which was one of my believability stretches last book) so they don’t have to know what an awful person he was. In this, he takes evidence from yet another murder scene to protect his nephew, which ends up not being all that necessary because it is the sister-in-law (the dead serial killer’s wife, and yes, she plants evidence that would implicate her own son). She apparently goes on a killing spree to recover the organs because she felt guilty that she new her husband was a killer and didn’t do anything about it.
All of that is already a giant stretch to begin with, husband is a serial killer then the wife starts killing after he commits suicide. When she is caught, not once is it mentioned that the boys, and everyone else for that matter, are now going to know, not only was Mason’s brother and the boys’ father a serial killer, but that Mason covered it up. They are going to have to find out because that is why Marie was killing. This is all simple logic, but none of it happens. They are just going to write is off as the fact that she snapped after the suicide and the loss of the baby. What? Like the police aren’t going to talk to the crazy lady, they are just going to take Mason’s word that she snapped? And if they do talk to her, she isn’t going to say anything at all about why she started killing people by yanking organs out of their bodies? There is only so much cover up that is going to go over here.
This makes me kind of angry because I really did like the rest of the book. I’m just not a huge fan of how there is absolutely no fall out for the massive amount of lying and covering up going on and the apparent ability to say and do whatever and it is never an issue with the police or the investigation. We can pretend and overlook a lot, but this is all just way too unrealistic. Despite all that and being pretty frustrated at the end, this was still good enough that I’ll read the next one, but it won’t take much more for me to toss in the towel on this series.
Author: Beverly Connor
Book Name: Dead Guilty
Series: Diane Fallon Forensic Investigation
Rating: Really Good
Blurb: In Beverly Connor’s absorbing series, the bones of the dead reveal the secrets of the living. In this latest investigation, forensic anthropologist Diane Fallon must lead a chilling excavation of a crime with harrowing implications: the murder of three people, hanged execution-style in an isolated patch of Georgia woods.
Review: While I did like this one, I didn’t like this quite as much as the first book, which is a disappointment.
In the first book, we saw some issues with the police, but it worked because it was a part of a larger sort of political posturing thing. As far as I was concerned, that was pretty much taken care of in book one, but we see a level of ignorance and incompetence from the police characters in this book that is on the annoying side. I hope this isn’t going to be a trend in Diane’s character and her team that they are the only ones that are capable of doing anything to solve the crimes and that the police don’t do anything to contribute at all, including interviewing witnesses. That is a bit of a peeve of mine in the crime/police drama types of books (and TV and movies).
This was also a bit drier and, at points more tutorial/instruction manual. Those points were, thankfully, presented during a part of the story where it made sense, but it was a bit too much. It was also kind of a stretch that Neva gets dumped on the team from the police department with no apparent forensic background and luckily she is an artist, which no one apparently knew before she got dumped. It is also a stretch that supposedly, because she is an artist, she is good at any form of art; drawing, sculpting, computer generated and with any kind of subject; animal, person/facial, reconstruction, objects and apparently architecture. Is it possible? Sure. Is it probable? Kinda not so much.
I hate that those things came up for me because I loved book one. These are issues for me and make me like this quite a bit less because those things pull me out of the story when they are just too far out of the bounds of believable. You can push those boundaries in a lot of ways, but once you cross way over, then it just isn’t as fun of a read any more. I think this rating is even, in part, a bit of a carry over from book one and hope the next will be more like that than it is as much about this book.
FBI agent Sophie Anderson has been trained to uncover the minds of serial killers, to understand their vile impulses and cravings–to catch them before they kill again.
Newly relocated from Australia, Sophie is settling in to her job at Quantico with the help of her new friend, Agent Samantha Wright, and a potential new boyfriend, Agent Josh Marco, and is quickly becoming the FBI’s star profiler.
The only problem is the nightmares.
These intense images are more than dreams. They are psychic visions, like those she experienced during childhood when her brother was abducted.
When grisly details match recent crime scene photos, she confides in Sam, and her visions lead to several breakthroughs in the case. But when Sam is abducted, Sophie must finally trust her visions and use them. She may not have been able to save her brother, but perhaps she can save Sam–and herself.
Review: Given the blurb for this, with its emphasis on the visions and Sophie’s brilliance as a profiler, I had higher expectations out of this than what what I got. Mainly because even with those vision and that brilliance, plus a full team of people helping, Sophie couldn’t figure out who the bad guy was and we still end up with a Scooby Doo moment when we find out. Sorry, but it kind of made the entire story and all the work those people did pretty much useless.
This started out pretty dry and a bit too heavy on the technical side, almost coming across as a profiling how to primer in a couple of places. Sure, the reader sometimes needs that technical input, but like presenting character history, it really needs to be done along the context of the rest of the story, not as an info dump or an instruction manual.
Sohpie’s character seemed to be pretty decent for the first part of the story and then it started to fall apart. Initially, she is strong and self assured, but suddenly she is relying more on her visions than her profiling ability, which wouldn’t have been bad if she didn’t suddenly become stupid. You would think that someone with her experience and training would have been able to rule out one of her potentials based on personality, because there really isn’t any way he fit that profile. Plus, no FBI agent would go check out a very real potential for a bad guy’s lair without, at the very least, letting someone else know where she was going, or, better yet, calling in some back up, just in case. Especially when she is that bad guy’s next target. That is a too stupid to live girl characteristic and doesn’t fit with a supposedly brilliant profiler.
This wasn’t horrible, it was a little better than just okay, and there is a chance that I’ll pick up another book in this series at some other point, but it isn’t going to be on the top of my priority list for books to read and it will definitely only be a library check out, not a purchase.
Author: Beverly Connor
Book Name: One Grave Too Many
Series: Diane Fallon Forensic Investigation
Blurb: With spot-on details, a smart new voice, and ingenious plot twists, Beverly Connor has been compared to the hottest crime writers on the scene. Now, she ratchets up the suspense with a brand new series featuring one of today’s most cunning and complex sleuths: forensic anthropologist Diane Fallon. Her new job as director of the RiverTrail Museum of Natural History in Georgia takes Diane out of the game-until a former love and a murdered family bring her back in.
Review: I thought this was excellent. I guess I’m a little surprised by that because it does have some elements of things being just a bit too coincidental or moments of “that would never actually happen”, but as a whole this was just a story that worked all the way around and was incredibly entertaining.
When I read a suspense/crime/mystery type of story, I want the main characters to be smart enough to work through everything and figure it it out, either on their own through hard work, or with the help of other characters. That is what this is all about, from top to bottom. Diane is that incredibly smart character that is well rounded, but doesn’t know everything all by herself. She does ask for help when it is needed.
There was a whole lot going on in this with a couple of bigger plot lines running side by side through this story. I’m not sure if all the books in this series are going to be that full or if this was more because this is the first book in the series and a lot of ground work needed to be put in place for how it is going to play out from here on in. Either way, both lines were fully developed and fleshed out. Each one was given all the attention it needed to be complete story lines. It is such a shock to read a book that has more than one line running where I didn’t feel like anything was lacking from any of the lines. It was all just beautifully executed.
Knowing how well I liked this one, I have some seriously high hopes for the next book in the series because this is exactly what I was looking for in this type of book and I’m hoping the next one is just as good.
This post has been pestering me for a while, but I’ve struggled to get it written because there are just so many different things to say and ways to say it that its hard to narrow it down below a novel level. I initially thought this would be more about authors’ writing styles and creation processes or about character building and development or what makes a great writer stand out from just a good writer, but you have to note all of those things and more to really get to the meat of the subject.
Almost all of my reading material comes from the library, usually Kindle or ePub versions and only a very few am I willing to spend money on from my limited book buying budget. Those are books written by authors that have proven time and time again to be exactly what I love and crave in a great story. If I bought every book I wanted to read, I’d read myself right into the poorhouse, so I only buy what I know I’m going to love.
I have found that I like a pretty large variety of subjects and genres (all within the fiction realm) when it comes to reading, but I rarely love anything to the point where I know I’m going to read it over and over again. It takes an extremely special and unique combination set of things to push any book near that coveted Favorite rating for me. I will give a book a 5 star/Excellent rating, but it still won’t make it onto my Favorites list but even that is a pretty rare occurrence.
If you look at that list, I have quite a few, but in comparison to the total number of books I’ve read over the years, it is an extremely small percentage. What there is is almost exclusively books that fall into the Fantasy genre. I really do love a great book that involves the impossible, magic and shifters and worlds that are not the one we live in. Where people are capable of things that we can only dream about. There are a crap ton of books out there that have all those things in their stories, but the ones that are truly awesome are the ones that are capable of making all that impossible real.
I’ve read a handful of interview questions or FAQs from a variety of different authors over the years and I noticed something that seems to be a common thread among my all time favorite authors that doesn’t appear to be there for authors that don’t make that list. That is that their characters are real to them. They have lives. They have opinions. They have discussions with the author. They will have an all out hissy fit if the author tries to push them in a direction the character doesn’t want to go. They are, in essence, real. In just about any other group of the population, if someone said that they have voices talking in their heads they’d end up medicated and in a hospital somewhere.
At one point, I kind of thought that was some serious crazy talk until I was forced to understand it after making several custom pieces for clients that, while not quite so out and out words and conversations with me, had some seriously strong opinions as to what they were going to be. I finally, really, truly got it at that point because those ended up being not only some of my favorite pieces, but some of my best.
I’ve compared authors to artists before and that is what they are, their medium is the written word instead of paint or clay or metal or some other physical, tangible medium. Like musicians use notes and instruments, writers use words to paint their pictures and the most talented ones pull you so thoroughly into their pictures that you are living them right beside the characters. It isn’t just characters, though. Those are vivid, vibrant, deeply layered and complex beings that you know exist even if they really don’t. The worlds they live in are just as rich and cultivated that, as a reader, there is very little need to truly imagine it because it has been painted is such detail it is hard to miss. When I read a book, that is what I want. I want the full experience. I want all of my senses engaged, not just my eyes and my imagination.
It has been something of an unofficial goal this year to find at least one new author to add to my Favorites list. I have yet to find one because there are so very few that seem to write to that level that I’m looking for. So many authors write for quantity rather than quality and there are so very many that are cookie cutter or formula writers that it is amazing there are any decent books at all. They aren’t awful writers at all, don’t get me wrong. They just are the bare effort, riding on previous success writers that aren’t willing to put in the extra needed to make something great. They are okay with just being okay.
I can’t begin to tell you how many books I’ve read that were so obviously in that cookie cutter/formula crowd. The first book or two by an author you read, you may not notice and it is easy to think that you might have found something good, but then you read a few more and realize how wrong you are. At one point, I actually watched my percentage mark as I read and found that the author I was reading literally had points where certain things had to happen in their story. 20% would have the first sexual event, 50% would have say some major drama point, 80% would have the big misunderstanding/breakup/separation and 90% would have the miraculous make-up and lets live happily ever after before the end of the book. The only real differences would be the basic specifics like names, places personalities and scenario details. It was like reading some plug and play book. Ever since then (and after having something similar happen several more times), I’ve become leery of reading what I call bulk authors. Again comparing to other types of art, it is like seeing mass produced costume jewelry sitting next to a custom, handmade piece. You are going to notice a difference.
While I get hugely frustrated that my favorite authors don’t produce at a higher rater, I’m also extremely glad that they don’t because that means I’m still going to get awesome when they do put something new out. It usually takes time to produce something amazing. Look at pregnancy and gourmet cooking and gemstones like diamonds, they don’t come quick and easy. Like fast food and quick meals, as a reader I’ll read those mass produced authors because I like to read and sometimes something that isn’t quite so full and rich is called for, but that doesn’t mean those will ever be read more than once or earn a spot on the Favorites list. I will keep looking as I do want a broader range of authors I wait rather impatiently for new material, the ones I’m willing to spend my very limited buying budget on. The rest, I’ll see you at the library during those long waits.
Author: Beverly Barton
Book Name: Don’t Cry
Series: Don’t Cry
Blurb: Nowhere To Run
The crime scenes are horrifying: the victims arranged with deliberate care, posed to appear alive despite their agonized last moments and the shocking nature of their deaths.
No Place To Hide
Chattanooga grief counselor Audrey Sherrod moonlights for the local police. It’s clear to her, and to Special Agent J.D. Cass, that the murders are the work of a deranged serial killer. At first, the only link is the victims’ similar physical appearance. But then another connection emerges, tying them to a long-ago series of horrifying crimes Audrey hoped would never resurface–crimes that hit all too close to home.
No Time To Cry
Each grisly new discovery proves the past has not been forgotten, and the worst is yet to come. Audrey went looking for the truth and she’s about to find it. . .and it will be more twisted and more terrifying than she ever imagined. . .
Review: Please note, this will contain some big spoilers. There is just no real way for me to write about this one without doing that. Sorry!
All the way through this book until I hit about the last 10-15%, I thought this was a pretty good book, a bit creepy and twisted, but good. When I hit that point, though, things kind of started to fall apart. I had a few bits here and there that were bugging me, but I was still ready to give this a much higher rating until towards the end.
There is a whole lot of personal drama going on here between all kinds of characters outside of the bigger crime thread of this book and we get to see all that going down by getting it handed to us through all those different characters points of view. It got kind of confusing at times and took a little while to get used to the flow of the writing. This wasn’t huge, but it was an annoyance.
Another minor, but still annoying issue was more of a realistic/factual thing not really meeting up or meshing with how this was written. The crimes are written such that you have a woman cradling and rocking a child (either dead or alive, the position is still the same), yet that child is between 2 and 3 years old. Children of that age are usually way too big to be cradled. You can sit them on your lap, but you can’t really cradle them unless they are on the really small side, at least not without it being extremely awkward and difficult. This issue made it incredibly hard to really visualize this set up accurately because it is written as though you would hold and rock an infant, not a toddler. This tripped me up almost every time it was mentioned.
You spend the entire book digging through all that drama and trying to following what gets revealed about the murders and you have a pretty good idea that there is probably something hinky going on with Blake’s abduction. You don’t know, but you realize at a decent point in the story that it is at least a possibility. That is fine. You keep reading and keep that in the back of your mind.
Then we get the huge, insanely coincidental bad guy reveal. It wouldn’t be that big of a deal if the character connects didn’t twist and turn and intertwine like a backwoods inbred family tree. What are the chances that the bad guy ends up dating Audrey, the sister of one of the kids that was supposedly kidnapped all those years ago? The bad guy that was the twin brother of the baby that the crazy mom killed and then replaced by kidnapping said kids? The bad guy that when he was a boy was adopted out to some other family? Oh, and let’s twist that a bit tighter because Blake, Audrey’s brother, wasn’t actually one of those kids.
As crazy and totally unreal as all those twists and turns are, that isn’t even what I had the biggest problem with (and that wasn’t a tiny one to begin with). No, I had a problem with all the insane that vomited all over the pages AFTER the bad guy went down. We new there was a chance of stuff with Blake. We had a pretty good idea that there was a huge chance that it was either Enid or Hart that caused his death and expected it to be found out after the bad guy was caught and they didn’t find Blake’s body. The problem I had was that Garth, this respected, apparently well liked, police officer of many years goes off the rails when it is about to come out and kills Hart and tries to kill Audrey. All to protect his seriously depressed sister, who has now been dead for more than 20 years. That made absolutely no sense at all and was a level of drama that was completely unnecessary.
Don’t even get me started on how badly every single police officer involved apparently dropped the ball with regards to searching after Blake was reported missing to have missed his body in a freezer and then just later in the week after he disappears, the freshly planted rose in the back yard. So believable!
It also basically stated that serious crazy and mental health issues run in families because the bad guy family had Bad Guy, Bad Guy’s Mom, Bad Guy’s Uncle/Dad and then you have Enid, her son Hart and her brother Garth. Funny how every single one of those characters are dead by the end of the book except Bad Guy who ends up in a mental institution.
Sorry, but that is all just too much. WAY too much. Sadly, all of that makes this one of those books that has a lot of good and a lot of bad all mixed together, leaving a book that is just decent.
For Aoife Dakar, seeing is believing-and she’s seen some extraordinary things. It’s too bad no one else believes her claim a supernatural murder occurred at an outdoor fair. Returning to the scene for proof, Aoife encounters a wise-cracking demon dog-and a gloriously naked man who can shift into a dragon and kiss like a god. Now thrust into a fantastical world that’s both exhilarating and terrifying, Aoife is about to learn just how hot a dragon’s fire burns.
WHEN YOU DATE A DRAGON
Kostya has no time for a human woman with endless questions, no matter how gorgeous or tempting she is. He must break the curse that has splintered the dragon clans before more of his kind die. But his powerful attraction to Aoife runs much deeper than the physical-and there may be more to her than even his sharp dragon eyes can see. To survive the coming battle for the fate of his race, he needs a mate of true heart and soul . . .
Review: It had been quite some time since I’d read a Katie MacAlister book that fell into one of the many connected series that this book is in. Either I don’t remember something on the important side, or I missed a book or two, so it took a little bit to put what I did remember in perspective against what was going on in this book. Once I did, though, I dropped right into it.
As with so many of her other books, this was insanely hysterical. I think it is because there is so much of that crazy running rampant through the book that I find it a bit easier to overlook the insta-love that goes on. It may be insta-love, but it sure isn’t perfect. All that isn’t perfect is tossed around with loads of attitude and spunk and totally inappropriate tangent conversations that can’t help but crack you up. It is the humor I love the most about this.
The characters themselves would be absolutely lost and useless without the humor and attitude, though. Kostya is hugely pompous in a way that would normally be grating and annoying, but it is presented so that instead of hating the guy, you are laughing at him. Aoife is kind of a doofus, but again, as a hugely funny doofus.
This was a perfect humor break needed after some heavier books.
Rachel de Luca has found incredible success writing self-help books. But her own blindness and the fact that her troubled brother has gone missing have convinced her that positive thinking is nothing but bull.
Her cynicism wavers when a cornea transplant restores her sight. The new eyes seem to give her new life, until they prove too good to be true and she starts seeing terrifying visions of brutal murders–crimes she soon learns are all too real.
Detective Mason Brown’s own brother recently died, leaving behind a horrific secret. In atonement, Mason donated his brother’s organs, though he’s kept the fact quiet. Now he wants to help Rachel find her brother, but when he discovers the shocking connection between her visions and his own brother, he suddenly has to do everything in his power to save her from a predator who is somehow still hunting from beyond the grave.
Review: I thought this was actually kind of awesome. I had some doubts when I first checked it out as I have heard of similar concepts (haven’t read anything like it, but heard of the concept), but it still sounded interesting and thought it might be worth it. Ended up that it was.
The concept alone forces the reader to really stretch the imagination and believability line to very near the point of breaking. Some readers just aren’t going to be able to do that because this is out there. BUT… it is still a pretty great book and it handles that stretch incredibly well.
I think that part of why it works is because this book isn’t 100% full throttle intensity. You can be reading this horrifically, crazy awful, detailed part that has you wanting to leave those lights on all night on one page and the next, you are smacked upside the head with this insanely wild and hilarious personality that is Rachel’s character and you are pulled out of all that awful and given a chance to breathe for a bit. This so works for me because if a book is too much intense for too long, I almost need to put it down and walk away a bit on my own. This book allows that away moment without you having to get out of the story to do it.
Rachel is kind of epic. She is brash and funny and quirky, often times to hide that she is terrified. She is this solid wall of will and attitude that doesn’t allow her to be knocked down without a fight.
I wasn’t as big of a fan of Mason. As a cop that keeps breaking rules (really big, important kinds of breaking rules), he sort of comes across a bit weak and unsolid (cannot come up with a better word to describe it). It isn’t so much that I actually dislike him as a character, but just that he seems to be lacking something that, as a reader, I felt I needed from him.
And, oh, thank goodness we don’t have this insta-love thing going on. As good as this book is outside of the romance aspect (which is flirted with and touched on, but isn’t the main focus), I would have been hugely disappointed if that had been the case. As it is, I like this “lets approach this attraction with care and time” kind of attitude. Especially since, as the name of the series appears to make obvious, we are going to see lots more of these two.
I have to be honest. The only reason this didn’t get my highest rating, and it just barely shaved itself under that 5 star mark, was that the concept did really stretch things and Mason’s actions didn’t end up having any consequences. Quite a few things got said and done throughout that didn’t even garner a second glance let alone some seriously deep questioning. It all still works out in the end, but really only just barely. I think I was able to stretch farther than I normally would have just because I liked all the rest of this so much that I was able to overlook some of the unrealistic parts.
In all, I’m pretty darn excited about stumbling on this series.
He promised to kill her. One night four years ago, Leah Carson’s husband almost succeeded. Phillip stabbed her twenty-three times before fleeing. The police are sure he’s dead. But fear won’t let Leah believe it.
It starts with little things. Missing keys. A flat tire. Mysterious flowers. All easily explained away if the pattern wasn’t so terrifyingly familiar. Leah has a new veterinary practice and a new life with no ties to her nightmare. But Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agent Alex Morgan suspects something. And when another woman’s body is found, stabbed twenty-three times, Leah knows her past has found her.
As Leah and Alex untangle the horrifying truth, he watches her, ready for the perfect moment. Until death–that was the vow they made. And a killer always keeps his word. . .
Review: So many times with a mystery/suspense novel you can pick things up along the way and have a pretty good idea of where it is going to end up. I have to say that this one surprised me. Not sure if it was that I just didn’t pick up on the smaller bits because I was so into this one, but I didn’t expect this to go the direction it did.
I’d have to say that this is my favorite book in this series so far. Everything just sort of all fell into place well. Through most all of this book I kept on edge waiting for something big and creepy to jump out at me. Loved the level of suspense in this.
I liked Leah’s character. We actually have a character with some serious trauma in her background that does effect her present life (so not common for authors to do, they normally gloss over it and treat it as nothing other than just background story). She definitely has issues, but they don’t emotionally cripple her to the point where she can’t move forward or function.
Alex is a bit on the bland side for me. I like him as the TBI agent, but don’t really get much at all out of him as a romantic interest. I was relieved to see that we don’t have an insta-love situation here. Sure, they get together, but we aren’t talking about them living together or getting married at the end of the book. So glad about that because I didn’t get any kind of chemistry at all between Alex and Leah. It is also good that the romance aspect of these stories isn’t a huge part of the stories.
I just really got into this one. If the romance bits had been better I probably would have rated this even higher.
Author: Lisa Renee Jones
Book Name: Escaping Reality
Series: Secret Life of Amy Benson
Rating: Didn’t Like
Blurb: His touch spirals through me, warm and sweet, wicked and hot. I shouldn’t trust him. I shouldn’t tell him my secrets. But how do I not when he is the reason I breathe? He is what I need.
At the young age of eighteen, tragedy and a dark secret force Lara to flee all she has known and loved to start a new life. Now years later, with a new identity as Amy, she’s finally dared to believe she is forgotten—even if she cannot forget. But just when she lets her guard down, the ghosts of her past are quick to punish her, forcing her back on the run.
On a plane, struggling to face the devastation of losing everything again and starting over, Amy meets Liam Stone, a darkly entrancing recluse billionaire, who is also a brilliant, and famous, prodigy architect. A man who knows what he wants and goes after it. And what he wants is Amy. Refusing to take “no” as an answer, he sweeps her into a passionate affair, pushing her to her erotic limits. He wants to possess her. He makes her want to be possessed. Liam demands everything from her, accepting nothing less. But what if she is too devastated by tragedy to know when he wants more than she should give?
Review: There are so many things that I didn’t like about this. If I had a bullet list of all the things that end up as peeves and drive me crazy in stories, it could have been used as the overall outline for this book.
It is a romance, so we have to have that instantaneous, boiling hot attraction that manages to melt all brain cells so that the female character cannot possibly think. Not a fan of that ploy in just about any circumstance, but it is infinitely worse here because our main female character, Amy, is supposedly on the run and is in fear for her life. So, of course it is totally logical to trust someone you just met on plane after just having been forced to leave all that you know behind because you were once again not safe. This character’s lack of self preservation and skepticism makes her one of those that is truly too stupid to live characters.
Because the whole insta-lust romance part of this book was completely unbelievable for me, I wasn’t much interested in that part of the story. Considering that is a huge part, I ended up doing a bunch of skimming, even through the steamy parts because when you have that kind of a foundation for your characters’ relationship, even the steamy isn’t so steamy and takes on the same dull hue as the relationship itself and these were definitely on the boring side.
Liam is just horrible. I’m sure the intent was that he is this sexy, bossy alpha kind of guy. To me, he came across as a self absorbed, controlling bully who really is borderline abusive. Not sexy in any way.
While I was more interested in the suspense parts of the story, even those were seriously annoying and just re-emphasized how unintelligent Amy actually is. The reader also only ever really gets hints at her past and why all the BS is going on in the first place. Instead of being intriguing and interesting, it just doesn’t make any sense. Was her family murdered? Is her name really Amy? Why the hell does it seem as though she doesn’t remember a bunch of stuff one minute, and the next she does? WTF is with this supposed “handler”? For crying out loud, “handler”? What, is she really some deep cover CIA operative? What is all that about? Not one thing made any sense whatsoever.
That leads me to the last and what pissed me off the most is that this has no finish. Not one thing gets resolved in this, leaving the reader with one giant honking cliff hanger. What makes that so much worse is that by the time I finished, I was still left wondering what actually happened in the book outside of Amy being seriously dumb, because nothing happened. It was just this huge teaser of disjointed and random information that led to nothing by the end of the book. Really glad this was a library book for me.
Author: J.T. Ellison
Book Name: A Deeper Darkness
Series: Dr. Samantha Owens
Blurb: As a medical examiner, Samantha Owens knows her job is to make a certain sense of death with crisp methodology and precision instruments.
But the day the Tennessee floods took her husband and children, the light vanished from Sam’s life. She has been pulled into a suffocating grief no amount of workaholic ardor can penetrate–until she receives a peculiar call from Washington, D.C.
On the other end of the line is an old boyfriend’s mother, asking Sam to do a second autopsy on her son. Eddie Donovan is officially the victim of a vicious carjacking, but under Sam’s sharp eye the forensics tell a darker story. The ex-Ranger was murdered, though not for his car.
Forced to confront the burning memories and feelings about yet another loved one killed brutally, Sam loses herself in the mystery contained within Donovan’s old notes. It leads her to the untouchable Xander, a soldier off-grid since his return from Afghanistan, and then to a series of brutal crimes stretching from that harsh mountainous war zone to this nation’s capital. The tale told between the lines makes it clear that nobody’s hands are clean, and that making sense of murder sometimes means putting yourself in the crosshairs of death.
Review: This is a beautifully wrought and executed story.
All of the peeves, annoyances and character issues that I typically rail about just don’t happen here. The few things that I could jump on, the issue with an out of town ME actively participating in an investigation and the apparent insta-connection/attraction towards the end that gives this a tiny smidgen of a romantic bent just aren’t issues because of how well they were handled. The participation with the investigation works because Sam has a certain intimate knowledge (a personal history with him and his family) and access to one of the victims that the police may not have gotten without her. It may slightly stretch believably, but it still works with how things are laid out.
With the romance, that is so very much not the focus of the story. It is so little of it that this book really doesn’t even qualify as falling into the romance genre. Besides, while there is a definite quick attraction, those characters do not make the decision to truly get involved until after quite a bit of time spent together. That is glossed over a bit, but it is still clear that thought and time was actually put into that relationship rather than just jumping into it. It does go a little on the fast side, but again, it works, and well.
Sam is an intelligent, strong female character, yet handles her broken parts with strength instead of letting them make her weak. No matter her issues, she can still get in and do her job. She may have broken parts, but they don’t break her completely. I love that about her.
It is going to be interesting seeing how the rest of this series holds up against this first book, since I did like it so much. Especially seeing as it looks like it may even come from a very different kind of perspective. I have a lot of hope for its potential.
Author: Heather Graham
Book Name: Heart of Evil
Series: Krewe of Hunters
Blurb: Emerging from the bayou like an apparition, Donegal Plantation is known for its unsurpassed dining, captivating atmosphere, haunting legends…and now a corpse swinging from the marble angel that marks its cemetery’s most majestic vault. A corpse discovered in nearly the same situation as that of Marshall Donegal, the patriarch killed in a skirmish just before the Civil War.
Desperate for help traditional criminologists could never provide, plantation heiress Ashley Donegal turns to an elite team of paranormal investigators who blend hard forensics with rare–often inexplicable–intuition. Among the “Krewe of Hunters” is an old flame, Jake Mallory, a gifted musician with talent stretching far beyond the realm of the physical, and a few dark ghosts of his own.
The evil the team unveils has the power to shake the plantation to its very core. Jake and Ashley are forced to risk everything to unravel secrets that will not stay buried–even in death….
Review: Compared to book one, I liked the story better in this book, but I liked the characters better in the first one. The characters here came across as rather flat.
I also had an issue (one of those must suspend disbelief kinds of things) with the fact that Jake, who previously was pretty much just a musician that also apparently helped to find people (unless I’m mistaken on that aspect), now is a full fledged FBI agent that knows all about protocols, procedure and apparently the knowledge to give a behavioral analysis of bad guys. It was all a little too pat for my liking. Even more so when his apparent finding ability seems to have been forgotten. It was also hugely coincidental that Ashley can also see and talk to ghosts.
Ashley’s character was a tad on the annoying side and a bit flip-floppy for my tastes. I really didn’t like her hypocritical attitude and how she was with Jake early on, then just dropped all issues as if they were nothing and everything is all hunky dory in romance land with the two of them.
Another, more minor, irritant was an issue with names getting switched. There were several places where it was obvious the character in question was one person, but the name used was another. Should have been Jackson, but said Jake instead. Same with Angela and Ashley. That is one huge downside to using similar character names in a book. If you are going to do that, you had better be on your toes during the editing process to make sure that gets caught because a mistake like that can completely yank a reader right out of the story, depending on how important the scenario is.
I did really like the non-romance part of this story, though. There are still aspects that are just a little too perfect and coincidental to make this a really good story and is what keeps in on the just good level, but it was good. It kept me interested and I didn’t get bored with the plot.
Blurb: Early in her life, Josephine Malone learned the hard way that there was only one person she could love and trust: her grandmother, Lydia Malone. Out of necessity, unconsciously and very successfully, Josephine donned a disguise to keep all others at bay. She led a globetrotting lifestyle on the fringes of the fashion and music elite, but she kept herself distant.
While Josephine was trotting the globe, retired boxer Jake Spear was living in the same small town as Lydia. There was nothing disguised about Jake. Including the fact he made a habit of making very bad decisions about who to give his love.
But for Josephine and Jake, there was one person who adored them. One person who knew how to lead them to happiness. And one person who was intent on doing it.
Even if she had to do it as her final wish on this earth.
Review: This is the closest I’ve ever come to not finishing a Kristen Ashley book. Not because the story itself was bad or anything but because I really couldn’t stand the main female character.
Josie is the most ridiculous character I think that KA has ever written. Her ladies are usually fun and quirky and a bit crazy, but in a really cool way. Josie was so not any of those things. The way she was presented kept making me think of a character that was either a literal alien from another planet or this person that got yanked out of a time period hundreds of years ago and dumped into the modern era. Since neither of those are the actual plot of the story, that makes her make no sense. She seems to know absolutely nothing about how the real world works.
I also had some major cringe moments when she first started interacting with the kids. Sorry, but someone meets my kids for the very first time and starts correcting their behavior and telling them what they should do and how they should behave is so not happening. It makes her seem as if she is this holier than thou person. The fact that Jake, the kids father, just sits back and lets her do that lessons my opinion of him as a parent.
She not only jumped right in on the kids, but with just about every single other character she ran across, yet everyone thought it was sweet and cute instead of thinking she was this uppity bitch that thought she new better than everyone around her. Her thought and speech quirks upped that level of snobbery even higher. You’d think she was royalty with the way she behaved around everyone.
Josie had the added background of being severely abused, not just as a child, but in a romantic relationship. The personality that she has and her reactions to people just don’t really reflect that. She has no issue whatsoever of having a badass get up in her face when he is angry, has no problem with him having an incredibly violent hobby/career with the boxing and, other than her lack of forming any real romantic relationship, she has zero real baggage from that history. Absolutely, people deal with trauma in various different ways, but there just weren’t ANY kinds of triggers or issues at all and that just didn’t add up for me.
I’ve seen klutzy characters before that made that trait a cute aspect of who they were. With Josie, it didn’t fit with this super elegant, appearance is everything, height of fashion person. Instead of being cute, it just came across as awkward and weird.
Trying to mesh all of those really random personality aspects created this incredibly confusing and unbelievable character that made no sense at all and didn’t give the reader anything to actually like about her.
I did end up reading the whole thing, though it was so close at a few points. I liked the story itself and it was on the sweeter side, but it was really difficult to overlook how much I disliked Josie to be able to enjoy the rest. I really kind of didn’t even like the kids in this one as much either. In all, this just snuck in on the okay level rather than the didn’t like, but only barely.
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