Flesh and Bone: Body Farm, Book 2

Flesh and BoneAuthor: Jefferson Bass
Book Name: Flesh and Bone
Series: Body Farm
Order: #2
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Rating:  Excellent
5+stars



Blurb:  Anthropologist Dr. Bill Brockton founded Tennessee’s world-famous Body Farm–a small piece of land where corpses are left to decay in order to gain important forensic information. Now, in the wake of a shocking crime in nearby Chattanooga, he’s called upon by Jess Carter–the rising star of the state’s medical examiners–to help her unravel a murderous puzzle. But after re-creating the death scene at the Body Farm, Brockton discovers his career, reputation, and life are in dire jeopardy when a second, unexplained corpse appears in the grisly setting.

Accused of a horrific crime–transformed overnight from a respected professor to a hated and feared pariah–Bill Brockton will need every ounce of his formidable forensic skills to escape the ingeniously woven net that’s tightening around him . . . and to prove the seemingly impossible: his own innocence.

Review:  It has been hard for me to find a crime drama genre book that I truly like, even though I do love the genre, let alone one that impressed me.  This one did.   Simply because all the things that all those other books do wrong and drive me crazy, this one managed to do right.

The main character, Bill, while incredibly educated and intelligent isn’t the one to do all the work in this to solve the crime.  His character does stick mainly to his expertise and lets others that have their own expertise come in and do their jobs.  The police aren’t idiots.  They may not be perfect and they may not always get it right, but they also don’t always need someone else to do their jobs for them.  On a whole, the situations that go on in this book are so much more realistic and believable than what you so often see in others in this same genre.

Having read the first book in the series, I really kind of knew just from reading the blurb where this would end.  In a way.  I had no clue the path it would take to get there, though, and that kind of hit me in the gut because I really didn’t expect that at all.

I was seriously impressed by the emotional impact of this story.  For me that is kind of huge as I don’t often see a male author get that aspect of a story to ring true enough for me to connect with it.  That is one of the bigger reasons I tend to stay away from male authors, so to be able to get the emotions to resonate as they did in this book is surprising and will definitely keep me coming back to this series as it continues.

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Dead Past: Diane Fallon Forensic Investigation, Book 4

Dead PastAuthor: Beverly Connor
Book Name: Dead Past
Series: Diane Fallon Forensic Investigation
Order: #4
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Rating:  Good
3+stars



Blurb:  As a child, Juliet Price witnessed the bloody slaying of an entire family. Then the killer chased her down, brutalized her, and left her for dead. The police were never able to find the man responsible. For years, Juliet’s traumatized mind hid the events from her. Then she sees a television show featuring the unsolved cold case, and the horrors come to her in her nightmares. She shares her fears with Diane Fallon, who realizes that Juliet’s shattered visions recall not one, but two intertwined crimes-crimes that Diane intends to uncover.

Review:  If you don’t mind a level of unbelievability and extreme coincidence, then this, like the others in this series, is a decent read, but there is just so much that screams “Yeah, right!” that it is sometimes hard to enjoy the rest of the story.

As the forth book in this series, I’m starting to wonder if this is going the wayside of the cookie cutter, formula writing as this just isn’t really anything new or different than what we got out of the other three books in this series.  As always, Diane is doing way more than just collecting and analyzing evidence.  As always, someone tries to hurt or kill her, multiple times throughout the book.  As always, the police are idiots and Diane knows everything there is to know about pretty much everything and is the one to solve all the different plot threads in the book.

Since I’m not much of a fan of reading the exact same thing with slightly different names and specifics over and over again, this book most likely dropped this series out of my list of potential reads for the future unless I’m just really hurting for something to read.  If you look at the book as a single entity, it is well written and decently interesting so it deserves a rating that reflects that.  But viewed in the context of the rest of the series, there is just nothing to make it stand out, which brings that rating way down.

With Everything I Am: The Three, Book 2

With Everything I AmAuthor: Kristen Ashley
Book Name: With Everything I Am
Series: The Three Series
Order: #2
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Didn’t Like

2+stars


Blurb:  One night, Callum is driven into the woods by instinct, an instinct to protect. In the form of wolf, he meets a young human child who he is instantly drawn to in a fierce way he doesn’t quite understand.

Sonia Arlington has lived a lonely life. She has certain abilities that make her strange and she has a rare disease that, if untreated, could kill her. Her father makes her vow that she will never let others discover her abilities. This forces Sonia to stay distant, always guarding against exposure.

Intelligence leaks that Sonia is Callum’s human mate. He is now King of the Werewolves and has war on his hands. He’s forced to claim his mate and integrate Sonia into a world that is strange and frightening.

As Sonia attempts to adjust, Callum attempts to cope with the knowledge that his mate is mortal. He will have her beauty and gentleness only the length of a mortal life making their union unbearably bitter even as Sonia makes it unbelievably sweet.

Review:  More often than not, I really enjoy Kristen Ashley, but when I don’t, there are very specific reasons and this book is a classic example of the things I really don’t like about her writing.  If anything, this one is probably the worst offender.

What is classic KA is the alpha male.  In this case, that is literally as Callum is a werewolf.  But there is a gigantic difference between a sexy, bossy alpha male and what essentially amounts to ugly abuse.  Sometimes that line can be thin, but there is a definite line.  KA likes to skirt that line and when she gets too close to it, I don’t usually like those male characters.  For Callum, she went flying over that line with a jet pack.

This book basically states that if you are a female, feel a little different or lonely, that it is okay if the one person that makes you feel less alone treats you like trash and can run roughshod over your feelings, wants and desires.  That it is okay to be treated as an object and set aside when you are not currently in need.  That it is okay to push you into things that you don’t want, but since they make you feel not alone, that it is a privilege to have to put up with the crap to get the not alone.  That is force and coercion and that is not sexy.  It is not romantic.  It is not sweet.  It is ugly.

There is also a very, very thin line when it comes to violent sexual situations.  There can be, if it is handled well and carefully, consensual sexual violence, but is should be dealt with carefully, otherwise it is just violence.  What happens in this book really isn’t dealt with carefully in any way.  It edges in places to being rape, even if Sonia eventually gives in.

It doesn’t matter that there are parts of the romance in this book that are incredibly sweet.  It is like telling the abuser that it is okay that he beat the crap out of his wife because he apologized and gave her flowers afterwards.  Making the arrogant and controlling attitude seem to be a cultural thing in the werewolf community and that it is just a misunderstanding between the different cultures is just a way make something ugly look not so ugly.  You stick flowers in a turd, it is still gong to be a stinking turd.

Unlike so many other KA books, I had a visceral dislike of Callum and found him a truly ugly character, no matter what good parts were tacked onto what is essentially a pretty abuser.  So no, I really did not like this book at all.

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Mirror Sight: Green Rider, Book 5

Mirror SightAuthor: Kristen Britain
Book Name: Mirror Sight
Series: Green Rider
Order: #5
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Didn’t Like

2+stars


Blurb:  Karigan G’ladheon is a Green Rider—a seasoned member of the elite messenger corps of King Zachary of Sacoridia. King Zachary sends Karigan and a contingent of Sacoridians beyond the edges of his nation, into the mysterious Blackveil Forest, which has been tainted with dark magic by a twisted immortal spirit named Mornhavon the Black.

At the end of Blackveil, in a magical confrontation against Mornhavon, Karigan is jolted out of Blackveil Forest and wakes in darkness. She’s lying on smooth, cold stone, but as she reaches out, she realizes that the stone is not just beneath her, but above and around her as well. She’s landed in a sealed stone sarcophagus, some unknown tomb, and the air is becoming thin.

Is this to be her end? If she escapes, where will she find herself? Is she still in the world she remembers, or has the magical explosion transported her somewhere completely different? To find out, she must first win free of her prison— before it becomes her grave. And should she succeed, will she be walking straight into a trap created by Mornhavon himself?

Review:  To say that this was a disappointment would be a gross understatement.  I’d say that up until this book, the series has been relatively well crafted and interesting with regards to character and world building.  With this book, it seems as if all that work got hit with a giant eraser and tossed in the trash.  It honestly felt like I’d picked up a book by another author entirely with the subject in a completely different genre.  This book fit so poorly into the rest of the series that it just never should have been written.

There had been points in previous books where the main character, Karigan, had jumped around in time and that had been decently done, though time travel is not even remotely something I enjoy reading.  This entire book was out of time with the rest of the series, instead of just being a minor point along a larger thread, which is not what this series had originally been based on.

Not only is the entire book out of the timeline of the series, but the only character you actually get to see really is Karigan.  The rest are entirely new.  As I said, it was like reading a completely different series.  What made it worse is that even the Karigan we have come to know through this series isn’t the one we saw in this book.  The self assured, strong woman from previous books becomes this utterly weak and powerless creature that has to rely on everyone around her and she trusts in places that her previous character never would have.  It also strikes me as untrue to her character that in 4 books, she never got really romantically involved outside of her feelings for Zachary, definitely not enough to form a physical relationship with someone, but in book 5 she suddenly becomes a twitty little lust muffin.  So much so that she is oblivious to what is going on around her.

Tack on to all of that ridiculousness the fact that, in the end, the entire story was pretty useless to the rest of the series because, having gone forward and then back, that future never actually happens.  Every single bit of this story, as painfully slow and uninteresting as it already was (did not have anything even remotely exciting happen until about 60% and then it got dull again until almost the end) has zero actual impact on this series outside of a very few minor details that could help the realm in the upcoming battle, if that even happens at all now.  It would have been much better handled as a glimpse of precognition and then move on to more important things rather than an entire book dedicated to something that essentially gets erased.  It is a waste of a read.

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Blackveil: Green Rider, Book 4

BlackveilAuthor: Kristen Britain
Book Name: Blackveil
Series: Green Rider
Order: #4
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Really Good

4+stars


Blurb:  Karigan G’ladheon is a Green Rider—a seasoned member of the elite messenger corps of King Zachary of Sacoridia. But Karigan is no ordinary Rider, for she was able to transport the evil spirit of Mornhavon into the future, though no one knows how far he has been sent. During this window of relative safety, King Zachary decides to send Karigan and a small contingent of scouts, accompanied by a small group of Eletians—a magical race who once lived in the lands now tainted by Mornhavon’s magic—into Blackveil Forest.

Though Mornhavon is gone, the forest is still a treacherous place filled with monstrous creatures and deadly traps. And unbeknownst to the band of Eletians and Sacoridians, another small group has entered the forest—Arcosian descendants who have kept Mornhavon’s dark magic alive in secret for centuries, and who now plan to avenge their long ago defeat by bringing Sacoridia to its knees. Blackveil is the fourth novel of the acclaimed Green Rider series.

Review:  This is going to be rather short and sweet.  Like the last book, there were places where this slowed down a bit and started to kind of drag on.  This also started to get more into deeper court intrigue and political plays, which isn’t my favorite.

Other than those things, I did really like this.  Until I hit the end.  Major, ugly cliffhanger, which I really do not like at all.  This hasn’t been a series that has done that up to this point so that was a big disappointment.  All I can say is that I’m seriously glad that the next book was already available so I could jump right in where I left off.  This is still a 4 star book, but if this is any indication of where this is going to go from here on out as a series, I’m not sure the other books are going to be able to hold on to that rating.

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The High King’s Tomb: Green Rider, Book 3

The High King's TombAuthor: Kristen Britain
Book Name: The High King’s Tomb
Series: Green Rider
Order: #3
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Really Good

4+stars


Blurb:  More than a thousand years ago the armies of the Arcosian Empire, led by Mornhavon the Black, crossed the great sea and tried to conquer the land of Sacoridia using terrible dark magic. Eventually Mornhavon had been captured, and his evil spirit imprisoned in Blackveil Forest, protected by the mighty D’Yer Wall; and in the centuries since the war’s end, knowledge of the working of magic had disappeared from Sacoridia.

Karigan G’ladheon was now a seasoned Green Rider—a member of the magical messenger corps of the king. But during her first year as a Rider, a rogue magician had cracked the D’Yer Wall. The spirit of Mornhavon, sensing the weakness, had begun to wake, seeking vengeance. Karigan had managed to transport the spirit of Mornhavon into the future, buying valuable time for her king and country. But how far in the future was Mornhavon now? There was no way to tell.

And though Karigan and her fellow Riders scoured the land searching for lost magical knowledge, they were unaware of a threat to their kingdom that lay far closer: the descendants of ancient enemies had spent generations honing their powers of dark magic—a force against which the Sacoridians had no defense.

Review:  It took a little longer for things to start really going in this book, at least for Karigan.  Once it did, though, things really took off.  Despite the slowish start, this was just as good as the other two books in the series.

Karigan’s character does a whole lot of growing up in this book, having to face the fact that life isn’t always what you wanted it to be, nor are the people in it.  She still has her moments that show a less mature side, but that is part of the growing up process.  It doesn’t happen instantly.

We see a side of Estora in this that I wasn’t a huge fan of.  She seems to get wrapped up in herself and her own desires an awful lot, not taking into consideration the impact that might have outside of herself and that doesn’t bode well for a future queen.  At one point, I thought she was also going to undergo a forced maturation by being tossed into the fires of real life.  There were definite indications that she was also being forced to see many of the same lessons that Karigan was, but towards the very end, we kind of see that same attitude from the beginning of the book peak back out so it is hard to tell if those lessons stuck.

I’m conflicted as to how I feel about Karigan’s relationship with the king.  So many times, especially in fantasy, when you have an impossible to come to fruition romance because of class lines between nobility and commoner, you usually end up getting some solution that ends up allowing those characters to come together.  Most of the time it is some discovery of some previously unknown heritage getting revealed so that the commoner isn’t so common after all.  Whatever it is, it is usually one of those way too perfect to be believable situations.  So far, this hasn’t happened in this series and I’m not sure that I want it to.  I also don’t want there to be a new potential romantic interest for Karigan in every other book or so.  I’m anxious to see if this is going to continue to be really good or if it is going to start going off the rails into the ridiculous.  I’m leaning towards the really good, so I’m really interested to see how that is managed and what direction the story is going to take from here.

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Triptych: Will Trent, Book 1

TriptychAuthor: Karin Slaughter
Book Name: Triptych
Series: Will Trent
Order: 1
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars
Blurb:  From Atlanta’s wealthiest suburbs to its stark inner-city housing projects, a killer has crossed the boundaries of wealth and race. And the people who are chasing him must cross those boundaries, too. Among them is Michael Ormewood, a veteran detective whose marriage is hanging by a thread–and whose arrogance and explosive temper are threatening his career. And Angie Polaski, a beautiful vice cop who was once Michael’ s lover before she became his enemy. But unbeknownst to both of them, another player has entered the game: a loser ex-con who has stumbled upon the killer’s trail in the most coincidental of ways–and who may be the key to breaking the case wide open.

Review:  Following what appears to be something of a pattern in the crime drama genre, we get this story from a wide variety of perspectives.  Interestingly, though, none from the victims.  I was a bit surprised when I read the blurb that the person this series is named after wasn’t even mentioned.  Probably because he isn’t the focus character in this book.  Will is a part of it, but really kind of isn’t the star of the show.

I’ll say absolutely that I liked this and that I thought it was really good, but I did have a few issues.  Sometimes having that many perspectives going on can be a bit too much.  It is really easy to miss out on details when you are jumping all over the place.  There were a couple of times that I thought I ran into errors with a couple of facts along the way, but they were pretty minor in the overall so I didn’t take the time to dig to be sure.

There were a couple of times where I was frustrated when a character meant to talk about something with another character that would have opened up the plot more, but then doesn’t get around to it.  It is one way to write a story and build up the suspense, but it does sometimes take away from the story a bit if it is overused.  This came close.

Since I’m not a cop, have never been a cop or ever known one or what procedures are in different situations, I don’t know this for a fact, but it sure does seem like there are quite a few places where fiction may be playing fast and loose with fact in this one.  Same thing with the legal/trial procedure end of things.  This is another thing that came pretty close to being just too much without ever actually crossing over that line into the ridiculous.

I didn’t feel as though Will got enough page time for a reader to get to know him as much as we probably should in the first book in a series.  I think I was more emotionally connected to John and learned more about and understood most all of the other characters than I did Will.  Hopefully that will be rectified in future books.

While I did have those few issues, and they were few, but they were just enough to keep this from getting a 5.

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Closer Than You Think: Cincinnati, Book 1

CloserThanYouThinkAuthor: Karen Rose
Book Name: Closer Than You Think
Series: Cincinnati
Order: 1
Genre: Romance/Suspense
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars
Blurb:  Psychologist Faith Corcoran is desperate to escape the stalker who’s made her life a nightmare for the past year—desperate enough to run to the one place that has been her nightmare far longer. Both boon and bane, her recent inheritance of her grandmother’s old house in Cincinnati offers sanctuary in which she can start her life anew, but requires that she face the dark memories that still resonate to this day.

But she has no idea how close to home her fears still are.

Two college girls have gone missing in the area, and FBI Special Agent Deacon Novak is called to work on the case. When his inquiry unexpectedly leads him to Faith, he finds a beautiful and brave woman he can’t help but fall for. Soon they’ll discover that this seemingly simple investigation is anything but. Reaching back decades into Faith’s own past, it will shatter everything she believes to be true and will give terrifying new meaning to flesh and blood.

Review:  I really loved the characters in this.  Faith is genuine, intelligent and easy to connect with.  Deacon is just cool.  I liked him from the moment he stepped onto the page flaunting his uniqueness in a way that makes it work for him and not so much against him.  I definitely liked them together.

You do get a touch of the instant attraction thing going on here, but it is in one of the very few situations where it works.  When you are thrown together into intensely emotional, life and death kinds of situations, you tend to get to know a person’s character pretty quickly and that is the case with this book.  Spending nearly every waking second together while going through all of that, it is kind of impossible not to know the person you are spending that time with, so this is the exception to the rule with the insta-romance thing.

This was seriously intense, with bodies dropping left and right.  Normally, I’d be screaming that it is way too much, but again, this is an example of how you do that right.  There is a lot going on.  There appear to be some pretty crazy coincidences going on that wouldn’t be believable under other circumstances, but once you get into it, you realize that all of that isn’t so crazy after all.

Love the fact that this is resolved with hard work, smarts and teamwork.  No one person is the big hero doing all the heavy lifting.  It is incredibly well balanced.  What we figure out isn’t given to us in a giant reveal.  It is doled out in bits and pieces along the way which is exactly the way I like it.

Heat Exchange: Boston Fire, Book 1

Heat ExchangeAuthor: Shannon Stacey
Book Name: Heat Exchange
Series: Boston Fire
Order: #1
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Okay
3+stars



Blurb:  Lydia Kincaid’s shipping back to Boston, but she’s not happy about it. She left to get away from the firefighting community–her father was a firefighter, her brother’s a firefighter and, more importantly, her ex is a firefighter. But family is number one and her father needs her help running the pub he bought when he retired. Soon, Lydia finds it hard to resist the familiar comfort and routine, and even harder to resist her brother’s handsome friend Aidan.

Aidan Hunt is a firefighter because of the Kincaid family. He’s had the hots for Lydia for years, but if ever a woman was off-limits to him it’s her. Aside from being his mentor’s daughter, she’s his best friend’s sister. The ex-wife of a fellow firefighter. But his plan to play it cool until she leaves town again fails, and soon he and Lydia have crossed a line they can’t un-cross.

As Aidan and Lydia’s flirtation turns into something more serious, Lydia knows she should be planning her escape. Being a firefighter’s wife was the hardest thing she’s ever done and she doesn’t know if she has the strength to do it again. Aidan can’t imagine walking away from Boston Fire–even for Lydia. The job and the brotherhood are his life; but if he wants Lydia in it, he’ll have to decide who’s first in his heart.

Review:  I’m not sure if it was that I just wasn’t in the mood or if I’m getting too old to think that some of this kind of stuff is sexy or romantic, but so much of this just felt a bit too middle school for my tastes and I just wanted to yell at everyone to grow the hell up already.

The idea that you have to keep your relationship secret when everyone involved are supposedly mature, rational adults just didn’t do it for me.  Then, when the secret finally gets let out, the adult men end up like school yard idiots beating each other up.  These are not the makings for a mature relationship.

I also couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that every single family mentioned in this book was seriously messed up.  Not only that, but that it was okay that those families were messed up, treated each other like crap and yet the not messed up members of the family kept coming back for yet another emotional beat down.  I don’t see it as noble or grand for a person to take care of or continue to participate with a family that is horrible.  I see it as a form of self flagellation and that isn’t an appealing trait.

The main female character and her family were nearly as bad.  When you combine that with the fact that she is so wishy washy on getting involved with another fireman drove me a bit nuts.  Either accept that you have feelings for someone that might live in a way that could be difficult for you and deal with it or be willing to draw the hard line on what may not be an emotionally healthy relationship for you.  There is nothing wrong with the fact that some people just don’t have what it takes to be in a relationship with someone that has a highly risky job, but have the guts to own that you may be one of those people.  Oh, but it isn’t even the risky job that is the issue, it is the fact that Lydia wants to be a priority and come first.  Again, that is fine, but open the mouth and have the words come out to have that conversation rather than expecting someone else to read your mind and just do and be what you want them to be.

Maybe it is a combination of too old and not in the mood because, while this was okay, it just wasn’t that great.

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The Seventh Victim: Texas Rangers, Book 1

The Seventh VictimAuthor: Mary Burton
Book Name: The Seventh Victim
Series: Texas Rangers
Order: #1
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Romance
Rating:  Good
3+stars



Blurb:  If At First You Don’t Succeed

It’s been seven years since the Seattle Strangler terrorized the city. His victims were all young, pretty, their lifeless bodies found wrapped in a home-sewn white dress. But there was one who miraculously escaped death, just before the Strangler disappeared. . .

Kill

Lara Church has only hazy memories of her long-ago attack. What she does have is a home in Austin, a job, and a chance at a normal life at last. Then Texas Ranger James Beck arrives on her doorstep with shattering news: The Strangler is back. And this time, he’s in Austin. . .

And Kill Again. . .

He’s always craved her, even as he killed the others. For so long he’s been waiting to unleash the beast within. And this time, he’ll prove he holds her life in his hands–right before he ends it forever. . .

Review:  I normally like Mary Burton better than this one.  The story was decent, but in many ways, I had this one pegged early on.  It twisted a bit in a way I didn’t expect, which made this better, but I still kind of new, which made this a little less interesting.

The thing that mostly bugs me about this is the romance aspect.  There is so very little of it and what is there, really just doesn’t work for me.  There isn’t any believable chemistry going on.  That and the one intimate scene we get is really not all that good, topped with a bout of unsafe sex, which is kind of ridiculous considering the bad guy used a condom when he raped his victims.  What?  Safe sex is only for preventing DNA evidence at a crime?  I’m not sure what the point was in having any kind of a romantic line to the story as it did nothing to help or support the rest of the story.  If anything, it detracted from the rest of it and brought it down.

If you are going to have a romantic bent to a story, please put some effort into making that line of your story work well.  Otherwise, just leave it out.

Better When He’s Bad: Welcome to the Point, Book 1

Better When He's BadAuthor: Jay Crownover
Book Name: Better When He’s Bad
Series: Welcome to the Point
Order: #1
Genre: Romance/New Adult
Rating:  Good
3+stars



Blurb:  Welcome to the Point . . .

There’s a difference between a bad boy and a boy who’s bad. . . . Meet Shane Baxter.

Sexy, dark, and dangerous, Bax isn’t just from the wrong side of the tracks, he is the wrong side of the tracks. A criminal, a thug, and a brawler, he was the master of bad choices, until one such choice landed him in prison for five years. Now Bax is out and looking for answers, and he doesn’t care what he has to do or who he has to hurt to get them. But there’s a new player in the game, and she’s much too innocent, much too soft . . . and standing directly in his way.

Dovie Pryce knows all about living a hard life and the tough choices that come with it. She’s always tried to be good, tried to help others, and tried not to let the darkness pull her down. But the streets are fighting back, things have gone from bad to worse, and the only person who can help her is the scariest, sexiest, most complicated ex-con the Point has ever produced.

Bax terrifies her, awakening feelings she never thought she’d have for a guy like him. But it doesn’t take Dovie long to realize . . . some boys are just better when they’re bad.

Review: Normally I really like Jay Crownover.  Her Marked Men series is one of the better New Adult series I’ve read.  But this book just seemed to be missing the extra spark that made those books so good.

This does lean towards a darker side and I’m normally fine with that, but I just had difficulty connecting with these characters and this story.  I usually really enjoy books with those less than perfect, struggling characters and this had those kinds of characters but there was just something about both of them that lacked something that, as a reader, I needed.  Maybe it was that Dovie was a bit too perfect and unfailingly loyal.  Or maybe it was that Bax mostly didn’t have lines that he wasn’t willing to cross.  Both cases sort of flatten those characters for me.

This was still a good book, but just not as good as I’ve come to expect from Ms. Crownover and maybe that is just as big of a reason why I didn’t like this one quite as well as some of her others.

 

Whirlwind: Kate Page, Book 1

WhirlwindAuthor: Rick Mofina
Book Name: Whirlwind
Series: Kate Page
Order: #1
Genre: Suspense
Rating:  Didn’t Like
2+stars



Blurb:  An anguished mother loses her baby in a deadly storm…

A kind stranger helps Jenna Cooper protect her baby boy when a killer tornado rips through a Dallas flea market. But in the aftermath, Jenna can’t find her son or the woman who’d been holding him.

A journalist under pressure breaks the story…

Upon discovering the tragedy, reporter and single mom Kate Page, battling for her career and trying to hold her life together, vows to determine what happened to tiny Caleb Cooper.

A vortex of life-and-death forces

As the FBI launches an investigation amid the devastation, Kate uncovers troubling clues to the trail of the woman last seen with the baby–clues that reveal a plot more sinister than anybody had imagined. Against mounting odds, Kate risks everything in the race to find the truth…before it’s too late.

Review:  There wasn’t much at all that I liked about this book.

The confluence of events in this hits such impossible levels, and so early on, that there is no way to get this to rate much above a good.  Starting at only good, you don’t have a lot of room to move after that because it isn’t going to get better.

There really is no character development going on here, and considering there are loads of people that get point of view mentions, that is kind of sad.  All we get out of any of these people is a basic purpose in the story (reporter, mother, bad guy/girl, FBI, boss) and maybe one or two small personality traits and that’s it.  You do not get to know a single character on anything other than a superficial level.

While the plot is somewhat interesting and tries to tug on emotions with the devastation of the storms and the kidnapping, there just isn’t much intensity or depth.  The reader knows exactly what is going on from the get go and that takes the deeper, gripping kind of reaction right out of the story.  This doesn’t garner even a blip on the ol’ heart rate.  If you are expecting any kind of actual crime type drama or mystery, this is so not it.

The probability of even the potential for anything at all like this happening (with the number of tornadoes, the way they hit, who is impacted, the number of times and places) is so far in the ridiculous zone that if this were a movie, it would be on the same level as a truly bad horror flick.  It is utterly unrealistic on so very many levels.

 

The Pact: Karina Halle

The PactAuthor: Karina Halle
Book Name: The Pact
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Didn’t Like
2+stars



Blurb:  It all started with a pinky swear…

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.

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Carved In Bone: Body Farm, Book 1

Carved In BoneAuthor: Jefferson Bass
Book Name: Carved In Bone
Series: Body Farm
Order: #1
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars



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.

Dead Secret: Diane Fallon Forensic Investigation, Book 3

Dead SecretAuthor: Beverly Connor
Book Name: Dead Secret
Series: Diane Fallon Forensic Investigation
Order: #3
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Rating:  Good
3+stars



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.

Rock Redemption: Rock Kiss, Book 3

Rock RedemptionAuthor: Nalini Singh
Book Name: Rock Redemption
Series: Rock Kiss
Order: 3
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Excellent
5+stars



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.

Copy Cat: Kitt Lundgren, Book 1

Copy CatAuthor: Erica Spindler
Book Name: Copy Cat
Series: Kitt Lundgren
Order: #1
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Rating:  Okay
3+stars



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.

 

Notorious: Max Revere, Book 1

NotoriousAuthor: Allison Brennan
Book Name: Notorious
Series: Max Revere
Order: #1
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars



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.

Hard Magic: Paranormal Scene Investigations, Book 1

Hard MagicAuthor: Laura Anne Gilman
Book Name: Hard Magic
Series: Paranormal Scene Investigations
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Okay
3+stars



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.

Wake to Darkness: Brown and de Luca, Book 2

Wake to DarknessAuthor: Maggie Shayne
Book Name: Wake to Darkness
Series: Brown and de Luca
Order: #2
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller/Romance
Rating:  Good
3+stars



Blurb:  Stranded with a murderer…

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.