Body Count: Sophie Anderson, Book 1

Body CountAuthor: P.D. Martin
Book Name: Body Count
Series: Sophie Anderson
Order: #1
Genre: Suspense/Mystery/Romance
Rating:  Good
3+stars



Blurb:  TO CATCH A KILLER, YOU HAVE TO THINK LIKE ONE

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.

 

 

One Grave Too Many: Diane Fallon Forensic Investigation, Book 1

One Grave Too ManyAuthor: Beverly Connor
Book Name: One Grave Too Many
Series: Diane Fallon Forensic Investigation
Order: #1
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Rating:  Excellent
5+stars



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.

Thoughts on Reading and Writing: What Are Your Favorites and Why

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.

Don’t Cry: Don’t Cry, Book 1

Don't CryAuthor: Beverly Barton
Book Name: Don’t Cry
Series: Don’t Cry
Order: #1
Genre: Suspense/Romance
Rating:  Good
3+stars



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.

 

Dragon Fall: Black Dragons, Book 1

Dragon FallAuthor: Katie MacAlister
Book Name: Dragon Fall
Series: Black Dragons
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars



Blurb:  YOU FLIRT WITH FIRE…

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.

Sleep with the Lights On: Brown and de Luca, Book 1

Sleep with the Lights OnAuthor: Maggie Shayne
Book Name: Sleep with the Lights On
Series: Brown and de Luca
Order: #1
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller/Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars



Blurb:  Through the eyes of a killer…

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.

 

I’ll Never Let You Go: Morgans of Nashville, Book 3

I'll Never Let You GoAuthor: Mary Burton
Book Name: I’ll Never Let You Go
Series: Morgans of Nashville
Order: #3
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars



Blurb:  Love Hurts

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.

And Sometimes

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.

It Kills

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.

Escaping Reality: Secret Life of Amy Benson, Book 1

Escaping RealityAuthor: Lisa Renee Jones
Book Name: Escaping Reality
Series: Secret Life of Amy Benson
Order: #1
Genre: Mystery/Romance
Rating:  Didn’t Like
2+stars



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.

A Deeper Darkness: Dr. Samantha Owens, Book 1

A Deeper DarknessAuthor: J.T. Ellison
Book Name: A Deeper Darkness
Series: Dr. Samantha Owens
Order: #1
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Rating:  Excellent
5+stars



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.

Heart of Evil: Krewe of Hunters, Book 2

Heart of EvilAuthor: Heather Graham
Book Name: Heart of Evil
Series: Krewe of Hunters
Order: #2
Genre: Paranormal/Suspense
Rating:  Good
3+stars



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.

The Will: The Magdalene, Book 1

The WillAuthor: Kristen Ashley
Book Name: The Will
Series: The Magdalene
Order: #1
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

 

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.

Be Afraid: Morgans of Nashville, Book 2

Be AfraidAuthor: Mary Burton
Book Name: Be Afraid
Series: Morgans of Nashville
Order: #2
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  The Fear Is Terrifying

When police rescue five-year-old Jenna Thompson from the dark closet where she’s been held captive for days, they tell her she’s a lucky girl. Compared to the rest of her family, it’s true. But even with their killer dead of an overdose, Jenna is still trying to find peace twenty-five years later.

But The Truth

On leave from her forensic artist job, Jenna returns to Nashville, the city where she lost so much. Instead of closure, she finds a new horror. Detective Rick Morgan needs Jenna’s expertise in identifying the skeletal remains of a young child. The case jogs hazy half-buried memories–and a nagging dread that Jenna’s ordeal hasn’t ended.

Is Even Worse

Now other women are dying. And as the links between these brutal killings and Jenna’s past becomes clear, she knows this time, a madman will leave no survivors. . .

Review:  I think that this was even better than book one, mostly because the crime is actually solved with smarts and police work, which is so refreshing.

While we did get to see the characters from book one, they were very minor and we didn’t have to suffer through pages and pages rehashing everything that happened in the first book.  Either the author expects readers to have already read that book and know what happened in it so there is no need or that even if you haven’t read that first book, you still don’t need the rehash as it really has no impact on this story other than maybe having a slightly better understanding of those only briefly mentioned characters.  Either way, I liked it as that isn’t something you see too often.  As readers, we really don’t always need tons of backstory or reminders of other books, especially when those books are pretty much independent plot wise from each other.

As an artist, I’m in awe of what other artists do and talents they have that don’t happen to be one of mine, so getting a character in a book that has this amazing ability is going to be seriously interesting to me.  I really got into Jenna’s character because of that.  Rick’s character is interesting, but his personality kind of gets lots in this outside of his injury.  I absolutely loved Tracker and would have liked to see even more of him.  Seriously, who doesn’t love a hero dog that loses part of one of his legs in the line of duty and still gets out there to keep being that hero dog?

Like book one, the romance aspect of the story is on the light side and isn’t the total focus.  I wasn’t too convinced of the connection there, though.  It is one way to approach the lesser important aspect of the story by minimizing the amount of page time it gets, but for me there just wasn’t enough time spent to make me believe the next step in the relationship between Rick and Jenna at the end of the book is for her to actually move in with him.  They had one intimate moment before everything goes crazy and almost no time spent doing any personal type of conversation that wasn’t related to the case.  The way it was written came across as kind of an afterthought of “Oh, there is supposed to be a romance part to this, better toss one in”.

Because the romance thread of the story is minor, the fact that it is lacking for me doesn’t do a whole lot to bring down the rest of what is a good story.

Wait for Me: Montgomery Brothers, Book 1

Wait for MeAuthor: Samantha Chase
Book Name: Wait for Me
Series: Montgomery Brothers
Order: #1
Genre: Romance
Rating:  DNF
2+stars

 

Blurb:  Executive assistant Emma Taylor is desperate for a little time away; away from her job, her life and from thoughts of her boss’s son who doesn’t seem to know she even exists. Tired of waiting for the time to be right, she takes advantage of her boss’s generous offer for a little weekend getaway to thank her for helping out with a difficult business deal.

Former NFL superstar Lucas Montgomery is still suffering from a career-ending injury. His self-imposed exile from life is exactly what he wants; a sanctuary where there’s no chance for disappointment or distractions and that’s exactly the way he likes it. While his family has been patiently waiting for Lucas to come around and embrace life once again, they don’t realize that it wasn’t just his career that was lost, but his sense of identity.

Lucas thought everything was fine until sweet, sexy and completely off-limits Emma Taylor comes crashing into his carefully constructed world one snowy weekend and turns his entire life upside down.

Review:  I couldn’t finish this.  I think I’ve just had it with pushing through lack luster stories with uninteresting characters, but this just was annoying.

Emma is a melodramatic shrew with such a contradictory personality that the term bipolar could easily apply, so could multiple personalities.  Lucas is a self absorbed, self pitying ass who has not one thing to recommend about him.  Outside of some not so great characters, the story and set up was so contrived that I thought I was going to strain a muscle from all the eye rolling going on.

I was probably close to half way through this when I decided to just stop.  If I was really that not into it, why torture myself by forcing myself to finish?  It is something I do way too often and there are just too many books that I do want to try and read to waste time on something that just isn’t doing it for me, so down it went.

 

Falling Into Us: The Falling, Book 2

Falling Into UsAuthor: Jasinda Wilder
Book Name: Falling Into Us
Series: The Falling
Order: #2
Genre: Romance/Erotic/New Adult
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

 

Blurb:  The story you thought you knew…

When Kyle Calloway died, he took a part of Nell with him. She wasn’t the only one left to pick up the pieces, however; Kyle’s death left a gaping hole in the hearts and lives of his parents and his older brother Colton, and ultimately broke the will of the girl he loved.

The story you never imagined…

Becca de Rosa is Nell’s best friend. When Kyle died, Nell was so devastated that no one could reach her, not even her best friend Becca. As she tries to help Nell through her grief, Becca’s own life is thrust into turmoil, and everything she knows is changed.

Jason Dorsey asked Nell out the week after her sixteenth birthday, but that date never happened. Instead, he ended up going out with Nell’s best friend, Becca. He had no way of knowing, then, how that one date would send him on a life-long journey with Becca. He had no way of knowing the tragedies and triumphs he would experience, or that in Becca, he might find the love of a lifetime.

The heartache you’ll never forget.

Review:  The issues I had with the first book in this series are only amplified in this book.  This is a YA into NA book, not an adult romance, no matter the more explicit nature and parts.  And yes, I’m calling it YA because we are dealing with 15 to 16 year olds for a large chunk of the book.  First of all, my library has yet again failed in the labeling and tagging and didn’t have either of those genres noted when, at bare minimum it should have had a NA tag.  I did sort of know what I was getting into since I read the first book, but I still wasn’t expecting it to lean so heavily into the YA/NA for so much of the book.

I have to say that yet again, I do not enjoy reading about mid to late teen first time sex.  It is so far from interesting to plow through the layers of awkward.  Where the first book we only had that for about a 1/3 of the book, this one was well over the half way point before our characters began to mature.  Even then, we were still focused on mostly late teen years so the expected maturing to full adults didn’t really happen until the last maybe 10 to 20% of the book.

Also with book one, we were dealing with some pretty darn heavy emotional drama for almost all of the book.  That allowed me to look past the lower maturity level because the rest was really pretty intense.  In this one, there were definite points where that was the case, but they were fewer with a lot of not so interesting in between.  Taking my general dislike for the YA/NA bent of the story out of the way, the less than emotionally dramatic points in this book just didn’t have much of anything going on which left this as really an okay story and there weren’t enough of those stronger points to overcome that.  It also didn’t help that a huge chunk of those better points were points that we’d already hit in book one so they weren’t really new and had lost a lot of the impact.

It is a struggle to rate this because the genre is just so not my thing and that seriously colors how I feel about this.  I do think that it is well written for what it is and should get the notice for that, but overall, I’m just not much of a fan.  I liked the first book quite a bit better than this one.  After this, though, I most likely won’t read the next one just because I am not a fan of the genre.

 

 

A Highlander’s Obsession: Highlander’s Beloved, Book 1

A Highlander's ObsessionAuthor: Vonnie Davis
Book Name: A Highlander’s Obsession
Series: Highlander’s Beloved
Order: #1
Genre: Romance/Fantasy
Rating:  Didn’t Like
2+stars

 

Blurb:  Somehow able to telepathically communicate with animals, Paisley Munro has found meaning in her so-called gifts by working as a veterinary assistant. But while traveling to Scotland for a relative’s funeral, Paisley fears that she really has lost her mind. Out in the highlands, she hears distinctly human thoughts coming from a wild bear. Terrified and desperate, she returns to the lodge and collapses in the powerful arms of its owner, a mysterious man with whom she shares a simmering attraction.

Creighton Matheson and his fellow shape-shifters have been roaming this land freely for centuries. Now Paisley may inherit his home, putting his kind in grave danger. His mistrust only deepens when he realizes she can read his mind. Yet he cannot deny that this tantalizing woman makes him burn with desire–and hunger for the prospect of a tender love. Now Creighton must decide which would hurt more: revealing the truth or losing Paisley forever.

Review:  Along with the standard blurb, this book came with the claim that is is along the lines of Jennifer Ashley and Shelley Laurenston, so I had a whole lot of expectations from this book.  Didn’t even come close.  Sorry, but if you are going to compare a book about shifters to some of the top authors in the genre, you better be ready compete.  If not, you are just insulting those authors and their level of talent.

One of the things that makes those two authors so great at what they do is by giving you these stunningly dynamic and rich characters set in truly unique worlds.  The characters in this book are none of those things.  Paisley comes across as a completely ignorant and stupid woman that has the maturity level of a 12 year old.  I didn’t like her at all.  Creighton is a guy that has spent his life pretty much doing whatever and getting whatever so he has no need to consider that someone may have a brain in their head or an opinion, so that when he finally crosses someone that challenges that worldview, his solution is to basically throw a temper tantrum.  Again, didn’t like what I was getting.

The story is your typical highlander story that thinks it can get away with a lack of world and character building by tossing an apparently hot guy into a kilt with a little shifter thrown in to attempt to make it look original.  What little there was beyond that was pretty cheesy rather than romantic.

I guess I’ve just come to expect an awful lot of certain types of books, especially if you are going to toss out big names in the genre.  This didn’t even come close to the expectations it established in using those names for comparison.  Even if I took away those expectations, this was only an okay book because there was absolutely nothing that was all that interesting or unique about it.

The Way Home: One-Eyed Jacks, Book 2

The Way HomeAuthor: Cindy Gerard
Book Name: The Way Home
Series: One-Eyed Jacks
Order: #2
Genre: Romance/Suspense
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  Killed in Action—the most dreaded words imaginable for a soldier’s wife. Jess Albert has been living with them for four years, since the death of her husband in Afghanistan. Finding blessed numbness in routine, she doesn’t dare to look ahead, any more than she can bear to look back. Then Tyler Brown, a former special-ops warrior, shows up at her small general store in Minnesota North Woods, jarring her back to life. Jess knows better than to fall in love with another man who places duty to his country before love of his wife—but there’s no denying the longing and the hope for a future that Ty makes her feel.

A world away, a lost American soldier clings to life and sanity in a lantern-lit cave. At his side is a dark-haired and dark-eyed woman whose touch is caring, despite the resentment he hears in her voice and sees on her face. But is it honor igniting her compassion for her enemy, or is it something more?

A heartwarming, richly emotional, action-packed story about homecomings, The Way Home follows two women on opposite sides of the world. While they both walk a dangerous path between betrayal and honor, they each must find for themselves where to draw the line between duty and love.

Review:  Early on, I sort of felt as though I were missing pieces as this apparently falls in a reading order that aligns with other series than just this one, but not so much that I felt lost. (Never did find an actual reading order that covered the various different series, so I don’t know for sure where this falls as I haven’t read the Black Ops series) It was a bit of that confusion that kept me from figuring out how this was considered a One-Eyed Jacks story for a while as well.  I expected to see a story focused more on one of the team members rather than a family member and I didn’t really remember what mention Ty got in the last book (probably my sad memory at fault with most of that confusion).  By the time I got all the dots to connect and figured out who was who, I was already deep enough into the story to not have it matter.

This was also a slightly different kind of story than others I’ve read from Ms. Gerard as it covered two couples, not just one and it was on a much less intense level dramatically, but not emotionally.  Since I am used to a more heavily action based dramatic story, I wasn’t expecting Ty and Jess’ part of this story to be quite so low key.  It was absolutely sweet, and I connected with both characters, but I was confused for a while by that lack of intensity because I kept expecting something crazy to happen.  You absolutely get that intensity out of Rabia’s side of the story, though.  While I liked both separate threads of the romance stories, I wasn’t as big of a fan of how those relationships managed to intersect and that they resolved a bit too perfectly and cleanly.  The intersection itself was far from perfect or clean, so that definitely helped, but the “everyone is happy, healthy, perfect forever after” resolution is sometimes just a bit too much.

As a whole this was still a really good book and I liked the fact that it was different and not the same old, same old for the majority of the book.

Dark Moon: Spirit Wild, Book 3

Dark MoonAuthor: Kate Douglas
Book Name: Dark Moon
Series: Spirit Wild
Order: #3
Genre: Romance/Fantasy/Erotic
Rating:  Didn’t Like
2+stars

 

Blurb:  Shapeshifting creatures of amazing strength and sensuality, the Chanku now live openly all over the world. Yet the primal power of the pack beckons, calling each one home to surrender to pure pleasure. . .

Return To Surrender

Igmutaka is her Spirit Guide and protector. But Star desires so much more. She wants to take him as her mate. Years away have not diminished her craving for him and so she is returning home, to face the past and experience the exquisite rapture that only one of her kind can give.

Despite the passion she and Igmutaka share, Sunny knows she has yet to find her one true mate. And when she comes upon carnage in the forest and sees the massive wolf standing proud before her, she wonders if this is the one who will finally satisfy all her carnal needs. . .

Review:  There is this really simple, but apt phrase “Less is more” that seems to be what should have been the theme when this book was written.  In every single area.  There are so many things that I didn’t like and was so out there and over the top about this that it is going to be hard following my own advice.

A huge issue for me was the concept of the sexual culture in this world.  I really do love a great steamy book, in all kinds of various combinations.  The one thing that I feel I must have to really feel those are truly good, steamy stories, though, is that the intimacy has emotional depth and reason other than just being horny (at least with the truly connected characters) and doesn’t come across as so completely casual, random and meaningless that I feel as though I’ve been tossed into the middle of a swingers party.  This was sadly the latter situation.  I’m not sure I want to even share my thoughts on the ick factor of the person to animal, absolutely non-steamy sexy parts that got dropped into this.  There are some lines that just should never be crossed.  This book vaulted over that line and ran for the hills.

There was not a lot of thought or creative effort put forth to really rationalize multipartner relationships and make them believable.  Sorry, but it is kind of cutting creative corners to explain away how you can get 4 near strangers to suddenly be in a committed relationship just by saying it is fate and they are all mates.  The mate thing sort of works when you are talking shifter stories, but even then, most of the time I connect way better when the authors build beyond fate and because you are mates and actually have their characters form real connections beyond or outside of those cliched rules.  Toss in more than just two people and it is beyond over the top.  Creativity is part of what makes a story great but this is missing it.

I’ve read an awful lot of really awesome, kick ass shifter stories.  Some are even near the top of my favorites list.  This didn’t even come into the ballpark.  There are so many parts to this supposed shifter world that it feels so totally haphazard and jumbled that I couldn’t even come close to believing any of it.  It brought to mind a painter who loves color and tossed every single color and dab of paint from his pallet, his stash and all the paint that could be bought at the local art store on a 4″ x 4″ canvas and instead of something lovely and moving, he is left with a giant blob of dirt brown.

I felt absolutely no connection to any of the characters in this book.  What little interest they may have had got stomped on as soon as they started interacting with anyone else and they suddenly became dull, hormonal porn star extras.  Even the story line felt crammed in there in an effort to say that there was one outside of the erotic parts of the story, which again were just not all that interesting in the first place.

Even with the “Less is more” idea, I don’t know that this would have been fixable in my opinion.  I just really did not like a thing about this book.  Knowing that this is book 3 in the series, I’m extremely glad I haven’t read any of the others and have no intention of picking any of them up after reading this one.

 

Glitterland: Alexis Hall

GlitterlandAuthor: Alexis Hall
Book Name: Glitterland
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/LGBT
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

 

Blurb:  Once the golden boy of the English literary scene, now a clinically depressed writer of pulp crime fiction, Ash Winters has given up on love, hope, happiness, and — most of all — himself. He lives his life between the cycles of his illness, haunted by the ghosts of other people’s expectations.

Then a chance encounter at a stag party throws him into the arms of Essex boy Darian Taylor, an aspiring model who lives in a world of hair gel, fake tans, and fashion shows. By his own admission, Darian isn’t the crispest lettuce in the fridge, but he cooks a mean cottage pie and makes Ash laugh, reminding him of what it’s like to step beyond the boundaries of anxiety.

But Ash has been living in his own shadow for so long that he can’t see past the glitter to the light. Can a man who doesn’t trust himself ever trust in happiness? And how can a man who doesn’t believe in happiness ever fight for his own?

Review:  So many times when an author attempts to portray a character suffering with severe depression they manage only to make the character this horrible, pitiful thing that generally has zero redeeming qualities.  That isn’t the case with this book.  The depression Ash’s character deals with is handled in a much more realistic, genuine and sympathetic way.  Unfortunately for me, it seems that was almost the entire focus of the book, the depression rather than the romance.

Even with the interesting characters (really liked Darian, his uniqueness and personality) and how well written the depression issues, I was disappointed with how little it seemed we got to see of the actual relationship between Darian and Ash.  They were both such good characters that I wanted more of them rather than just the depression.  I get the point, absolutely, about how all encompassing that is, but since I picked this up as a romance, that is more of what I was expecting.

I do have to note that I found it frustrating while also completely hilarious at how mind bending it was at times to decipher what was being said as an American reading a wholly British novel.  That is always something I find entertaining, but this one was just so much more than any others I’ve read in the past.

 

Chain of Command: Greenway Range, Book 1

Chain of CommandAuthor: Helenkay Dimon
Book Name: Chain of Command
Series: Greenway Range
Order: #1
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Didn’t Like
2+stars

 

Blurb:  Retired marine Sawyer Cain can’t forget all he’s seen and lost, but he can try to start over. Opening a gun range with his closest friends is the first step toward a new life–one where he finally buries the guilt he can’t seem to shake. So much depends on the property he needs to buy…and the gorgeous but completely frustrating woman who refuses to sell it.

Hailey Thorne is done–with loss and with anything military, after the closest thing she had to an uncle died in Afghanistan. When Sawyer shows up on her porch he has military written all over him. He’s one more in a long line of people who wants the land she inherited, and suddenly he’s everywhere she goes. Hailey can’t get the broad-shouldered, dirty-talking, dead-serious man out of her head. Or her life.

Sawyer’s not above using his skills in the bedroom to try to convince her to sell, and Hailey is more than willing to let him. Their pleasure-only arrangement works…until emotions get in the way. But Sawyer has a secret he’s convinced will have Hailey hating him forever, and Hailey’s not willing to risk loving anyone she could lose.

Review:  There were so many things that were off on this book that I couldn’t even manage an okay rating for it.  One of the most annoying and noticeable issues was with editing.  I think one part was the result of a conversion issue between one format and another resulting in quite a few sentences ending in “3/4” instead of whatever text was supposed to be there.  It is really hard to figure out what is being said in conversations when huge parts of those conversations are missing.  That is not an issue with the writing, but with some technical issue on some other person’s part.  There were other issues that were related to editing and writing that were just as annoying.  So many times words were either missing or wrong and I’d have to go back and reread parts a couple of times to try and figure out what was actually meant.  Nothing is worse than being yanked out of a story to try and figure out something shouldn’t have even been an issue.

Beyond the technical and editing issues, the story itself just didn’t interest me at all.  The characters were not well developed, made no sense and didn’t mesh with what the author was supposedly trying to portray.  Both were so sex on the brain you would think that they were horny teenagers that just discovered sex with another person for the first time.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love a good sexy story as much as the next person, but so many times sex came up and totally overrode a serious conversation at completely inexplicable points in the story that I was left wondering how we went from point A to point 3BZ0 without a transition.  Not only that, those scenes were generally lacking and on the dull side.

I felt the same way about the dialog.  There would be a thread of conversation going along and at the next turn of character speaking, you are on some completely other thread without any recognizable tangent.  That left me wondering if the whole format transition issues had eliminated larger parts of the book and not just parts of sentences, but I really think that was just the way this was written.  I was beginning to wonder if I was going to have whiplash by the time I finished.  That was if I didn’t think that I’d lost all ability to follow a conversation or story line.  For a bit there, I felt kind of stupid because I didn’t get half of what I was reading.  There was no natural conversational or scene transition rhythm.

The format and editing issues had me nearly stopping this book early on, but I pushed through.  Being an optimist, I had hope it would get better, but by the time I finally finished, this really wasn’t worth it because there just wasn’t anything that I found redeeming in it.

 

Confess: Colleen Hoover

ConfessAuthor: Colleen Hoover
Book Name: Confess
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  At age twenty-one, Auburn Reed has already lost everything important to her. In her fight to rebuild her shattered life, she has her goals in sight and there is no room for mistakes. But when she walks into a Dallas art studio in search of a job, she doesn’t expect to find a deep attraction to the enigmatic artist who works there, Owen Gentry.

For once, Auburn takes a chance and puts her heart in control, only to discover that Owen is keeping a major secret from coming out. The magnitude of his past threatens to destroy everything important to Auburn, and the only way to get her life back on track is to cut Owen out of it.

To save their relationship, all Owen needs to do is confess. But in this case, the confession could be much more destructive than the actual sin.

Review:  I hadn’t even made it beyond the prologue, wasn’t at even 3% yet and I already had enough tears going that I could hardly read the words.  This is a pretty emotionally intense book, though it does let up enough to not leave you feeling constantly torn up.

The only reason I didn’t rate this higher was because I really kind of needed more at the end.  It just felt unfinished.  Sure, there is an awful lot that a reader can assume, but I prefer things to be tied up a bit more than this rather than left open, so I was just a bit frustrated by that.  More so because this is a new adult book and the point in our characters’ lives is kind of unsettled anyway and not getting some idea as to how that resolves irritated me.

The story itself, outside of the lack of full resolution (which other than my personal preference wasn’t a bad thing), was beautifully written.  It is probably because I was enjoying both Owen and Auburn’s characters so much that I wasn’t thrilled with the end. I wanted the chance to get to know them more.

Phantom Evil: Krewe of Hunters, Book 1

Phantom EvilAuthor: Heather Graham
Book Name: Phantom Evil
Series: Krewe of Hunters
Order: #1
Genre: Paranormal/Suspense
Rating:  Good
3+stars

Blurb:  A secret government unit, a group of renegade paranormal investigators…and a murder no one else can crack

Though haunted by the recent deaths of two teammates, Jackson Crow knows that the living commit the most heinous crimes.

A police officer utilizing her paranormal intuition, Angela Hawkins already has her hands full of mystery and bloodshed.

But one assignment calls to them too strongly to resist. In a historic mansion in New Orleans’s French Quarter, a senator’s wife falls to her death. Most think she jumped; some say she was pushed. And yet others believe she was beckoned by the ghostly spirits inhabiting the house–once the site of a serial killer’s grisly work.

In this seemingly unsolvable case, only one thing is certain: whether supernatural or all too human, crimes of passion will cast Jackson and Angela into danger of losing their lives…and their immortal souls.

Review:  One of the peeves I have with the suspense/mystery genre is that it is incredibly rare that the story doesn’t end with a big Scooby Doo moment.  Sadly, this book really wasn’t an exception so it slammed that peeve button hard for me.  Seriously!  Why can’t the characters be intelligent enough to figure it out through hard work and smarts rather than having the bad guy just dump it all into your lap?  I’m just not a fan of that.

The other part that kind of annoyed me was the dialog.  When there was dialog in the less intense parts of the book, it came across as awkward and clunky because there wasn’t much background reference for the conversation to flow naturally.  Again, another peeve of mine.  I don’t think I noticed this as much when there was a lot of drama going on because that is what I was focused on, so it wasn’t a horrible distraction as a whole, but just obvious in the less intense places.

I can say that outside of those kind of big irritants, I did like this.  I like the concept of this group that has come together and what they are doing.  I like the fact that the paranormal is a big part of what they do, but it isn’t the entirety of their purpose.  I’m not usually a fan of books that fall into the horror or seriously scary end of things and this just skirted that for me (really wish I’d not read parts of this right before bed), but didn’t cross the line or I wouldn’t have finished it.

Considering that this is the first in the series and things can improve over time with an author’s experience, I do want to read more of these, though I think I’ll need some lighter material in between.