Book Review – Mercy Dogs: Tyler Dilts

Author: Tyler Dilts
Book Name: Mercy Dogs
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Suspense/Family Life
Rating: Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:

How can a shattered ex-cop follow the rules when he’s no longer sure of them?

For sixteen years, Ben Shepard loyally served the Long Beach Police Department. Then he took a bullet to the head, and his life was shattered. No one expects much of anything from him anymore—except his father, an old man receding into a fog of his own. And except maybe his tenant, Grace, who’s been a warm and friendly constant in his and his father’s bleak lives.

Until the day she vanishes.

After an official investigation stalls, Ben moves forward on his own. But stepping into Grace’s past—and all she was hiding—is a dangerous move for a man who can’t trust his memories from one day to the next. The deeper he gets, the more he has to question whether he’s being driven by the gut instincts of a suspicious former cop or by paranoia.

Recognizing what’s real can save Grace’s life. If only he can trust himself to do it…

This book has sat on my TBR for a while now only because I just wasn’t sure what to expect. Once I finally did pick it up, it took me a bit to get into it because of the jumping around of events and they way things were presented. I completely understand the why behind this and actually ended up liking that, but it took me a bit to sink into because of that.

While you have the overarching story of Grace and what is going on with her disappearance, for me, what made this story so great was seeing the relationship between Ben and his dad and how they were both struggling to overcome some significant struggles. Both of them having major issues that make just getting through the basics of life incredibly difficult, yet still being there and doing what they could for each other made this a really moving story. It is both heartwarming and poignant.

Book Review – The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness: Maddie Dawson

Author: Maddie Dawson
Book Name: The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Family Life/Family Drama
Rating: Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb: Three women, three lives, and one chance to become a family…whether they want to or not.

Newly orphaned, recently divorced, and semiadrift, Nina Popkin is on a search for her birth mother. She’s spent her life looking into strangers’ faces, fantasizing they’re related to her, and now, at thirty-five, she’s ready for answers.

Meanwhile, the last thing Lindy McIntyre wants is someone like Nina bursting into her life, announcing that they’re sisters and campaigning to track down their mother. She’s too busy with her successful salon, three children, beautiful home, and…oh yes, some pesky little anxiety attacks.

But Nina is determined to reassemble her birth family. Her search turns up Phoebe Mullen, a guarded, hard-talking woman convinced she has nothing to offer. Gradually sharing stories and secrets, the three women make for a messy, unpredictable family that looks nothing like Nina pictured…but may be exactly what she needs. Nina’s moving, ridiculous, tragic, and transcendent journey becomes a love story proving that real family has nothing to do with DNA.

This was a really interesting read that definitely takes you on a journey of differing emotions. The characters were particularly interesting because at times I really liked one or two, but maybe not so much another and then a little farther along, those feelings would start to shift and the character I wasn’t a huge fan of was now someone I could understand. At the same time, that previously liked character was showing bits of personality that frustrated me. Basically, they were these flawed and imperfect humans going through flawed and imperfect human lives.

There were a lot of traits and emotions I felt I could identify with throughout this story. I think this story touches on a lot of somewhat universal human needs and desires pertaining to family and relationships in general. One portion of a line really stuck out to me.

“…-had I been so needed, so important to someone else’s story.”

That desire to feel important to someone else’s story is kind of the backbone of this entire book and part of why I enjoyed it so much.

Book Review – Phoenix Unbound: The Fallen Empire, Book 1

Author: Grace Draven
Book Name: Phoenix Unbound
Series: The Fallen Kingdom
Order: 1
Genre: Romance/Fantasy
Rating: Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb: Every year, each village is required to send a young woman to the Empire’s capital–her fate to be burned alive for the entertainment of the masses. For the last five years, one small village’s tithe has been the same woman. Gilene’s sacrifice protects all the other young women of her village, and her secret to staying alive lies with the magic only she possesses.

But this year is different.

Azarion, the Empire’s most famous gladiator, has somehow seen through her illusion–and is set on blackmailing Gilene into using her abilities to help him escape his life of slavery. Unknown to Gilene, he also wants to reclaim the birthright of his clan.

To protect her family and village, she will abandon everything to return to the Empire–and burn once more

It took me a while to get through this, but I’m pretty sure that is just because my brain has been utterly scattered lately. There are a few parts, mostly towards the middle, where this slowed down for me, but I easily got back into it once I got over that tiny hump.

In all, I really liked this story and the characters. While it carries a thread of never ending obstacles or impossible odds, I was pleased with how the story wrapped up in the end because I really wasn’t certain how everything would play out. I will definitely be watching for the next book in this series.

Book Review – Playing With Fire: Magical Romantic Comedies, Book 1

Author: R.J. Blain
Book Name: Playing With Fire
Series: Magical Romantic Comedies
Order: 1
Genre: Romance/Paranormal/Urban/Fantasy
Rating: Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:

What do you get when you mix gorgons, an incubus, and the Calamity Queen? Trouble, and lots of it.

For Bailey, catering to the magical is a tough gig on a good day, but she has few other options. She can either keep spiking drinks with pixie dust to keep the locals happy, or spend the rest of her life cleaning up some of the world’s nastiest magical substances.

Years after helping Police Chief Samuel Quinn escape an unhappy marriage, Bailey is once again entangled in his personal affairs. To make matters worse, Quinn’s ex-wife is angling for revenge, tossing Bailey into the deep end along with her sexiest enemy.

Warning: This novel contains excessive humor, action, excitement, adventure, magic, romance, and bodies. Proceed with caution.

This was full of snark and humor in an over the top kind of way, but knowing it was over the top makes most of the ridiculous even more funny. It never really settles into any level of serious, maintaining that crazy, snarky vein throughout the entire book.

It takes a slightly different perspective from the typical in the magical and creature concepts that fantasy/paranormal worlds are built on, which I found really refreshing. By the time I got to the end of this, I was really wishing it delved a bit more into that world because it was different and interesting.

This was also very light on the steam factor, so if that is what you are looking for, you won’t get it here. Nothing at all against steamy, but I did love that there wasn’t so much page time dedicated to overly wrought steam scenes because it left more time for snark and ridiculousness and frickin’ flaming unicorns that think napalm is fun to eat. In this case, I’ll take the flaming unicorns.

Book Review – Upside Down, N.R. Walker

Author: N.R. Walker
Book Name: Upside Down
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/MM
Rating: Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb: Jordan O’Neill isn’t a fan of labels, considering he has a few. Gay, geek, a librarian, socially awkward, a nervous rambler, an introvert, an outsider. The last thing he needs is one more. But when he realizes adding the label ‘asexual’ might explain a lot, it turns his world upside down.

Hennessy Lang moved to Surry Hills after splitting with his boyfriend. His being asexual had seen the end of a lot of his romances, but he’s determined to stay true to himself. Leaving his North Shore support group behind, he starts his own in Surry Hills, where he meets first-time-attendee Jordan.

A little bewildered and scared, but completely adorable, Hennessy is struck by this guy who’s trying to find where he belongs. Maybe Hennessy can convince Jordan that his world hasn’t been turned upside down at all, but maybe it’s now—for the first time in his life—the right way up.

This was cute and sweet and seriously funny. One of those warm, fuzzy reads. Come one, who isn’t going to crack up at the perfect visual of “feline buttholitis of the face.” Both of the main characters were adorable, but I really loved Jordan.

I think the only reason I’m not giving this the full five stars is because it does ride that line of being syrupy, perfect sweet, but it is still a really awesome book and is exactly what I was in the mood for.

Book Review – Dead Memories: D.I. Kim Stone, Book 10

Author: Angela Marsons
Book Name: Dead Memories
Series: D. I. Kim Stone
Order: #10
Genre: Suspense/Mystery/Police/Crime
Rating: Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb: She ruined their lives. Now they’re going to destroy hers.

‘Someone is recreating every traumatic point in your life. They are doing this to make you suffer, to make you hurt and the only possible end game can be death. Your death.’

On the fourth floor of Chaucer House, two teenagers are found chained to a radiator. The boy is dead but the girl is alive. For Detective Kim Stone every detail of the scene mirrors her own terrifying experience with her brother Mikey, when they lived in the same tower block thirty years ago.

When the bodies of a middle-aged couple are discovered in a burnt-out car, Kim can’t ignore the chilling similarity to the deaths of Erica and Keith – the only loving parents Kim had ever known.

Faced with a killer who is recreating traumatic events from her past, Kim must face the brutal truth that someone wants to hurt her in the worst way possible. Desperate to stay on the case, she is forced to work with profiler Alison Lowe who has been called in to observe and monitor Kim’s behaviour.

Kim has spent years catching dangerous criminals and protecting the innocent. But with a killer firmly fixed on destroying Kim, can she solve this complex case and save her own life or will she become the final victim?

Oh, look! I’m writing about a book that isn’t mine!

The fact that this is book 10 in this series and that I’m still sticking with it is nearly miraculous, especially considering genre. Ms. Marsons has managed to keep me interested in these characters and these stories by ensuring that they stay feeling fresh and unique instead of falling into the trap of having similar (or even identical) plot pieces that make stores feel cookie cutter. That is one of the things I have loved about this series. Every story always feels like it is different from all the others.

For the first time in the series, though, this book brings in the concept for a second time of Kim being targeted specifically. The first time, it was sort of a secondary plot line in a larger story. This time, it is the focus. I did like that it brings up a lot of Kim’s history and we learn more about her as a character, but this book didn’t feel quite as unique as the others in the series.

I did really enjoy this story, but I wonder if it is an indication we are getting to that point where that uniqueness begins to wear off. I’d really hate to see that because it is one of the things that has kept me coming back book after book.

Cast in Oblivion: Chronicles of Elantra, Book 14

Author: Michelle Sagara
Book Name: Cast in Oblivion
Series: Chronicles of Elantra
Order: #14
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: Really Good

4+stars

 

 

Blurb: POLITICS ARE HELL

Kaylin wasn’t sent to the West March to start a war. Her mission to bring back nine Barrani might do just that, though. She traveled with a Dragon, and her presence is perceived as an act of aggression in the extremely hostile world of Barrani-Dragon politics. Internal Barrani politics are no less deadly, and Kaylin has managed—barely—to help the rescued Barrani evade both death and captivity at the hands of the Consort.

Before the unplanned “visit” to the West March, Kaylin invited the Consort to dinner. For obvious reasons, Kaylin wants to cancel dinner—forever. But the Consort is going to show up at the front door at the agreed-upon time. The fact that she tried to imprison Kaylin’s guests doesn’t matter at all…to her.

A private Barrani Hell, built of Shadow and malice, exists beneath the High Halls. It is the High Court’s duty to jail the creature at its heart—even if it means that Barrani victims are locked in the cage with it. The Consort is willing to do almost anything to free the trapped and end their eternal torment. And she needs the help of Kaylin’s houseguests—and Kaylin herself. Failure won’t be death—it will be Hell. And that’s where Kaylin is going.

It pains me greatly to write this, but… I didn’t love this book. I have adored this series (and pretty much every single thing put out by this author) from the very beginning, but…

There really wasn’t anything new in this book. Kaylin does all the same kinds of things that Kaylin has always done. There really wasn’t any real growth for her in this book. That and like the last one, I don’t feel like I got enough of the other characters that I want to have page time, mostly Severn and Nightshade. We didn’t even get to see Marcus or the Hawklord in this book. I’m not dissing this. It was not a bad book at all. It was still really good. I just didn’t feel like it did much to move the series forward. There was so much time spent on dealing with the cohort, in this and the last one, that nothing else has room to develop.

Things seem to be getting crowded for Kaylin in this series. She has become a collector, of people and magical creatures, and there are only so many new people/things you can introduce before you lose the important ones that have been there from the beginning. You see it heavily in this book.

I would love to see the next book having more of the feel of the earlier books where more time is spent with Kaylin actually doing things rather than massive chunks of time spent in her head. Characters need to grow. Absolutely. But there are things about characters that readers fall in love with and if you leave those things behind, you may end up leaving the readers behind as well. This book rides very close to that line for me.

Straight From The Heart: Wilde Love, Book 1

Author: Sam Burns
Book Name: Straight from the Heart
Series: Wilde Love
Order: 1
Genre: Romance/LGBT
Rating:  Really Good

4+stars

Blurb:

On the same night that Alex finds himself disowned and sleeping on his best friend’s couch, he meets Liam, who saves him from being mugged. It’s a strange time for him to be starting a relationship, but everything about being with Liam feels right. When it becomes apparent that Liam isn’t exactly the prince charming he seems to be, Alex has to deal with some hard truths about not just his new boyfriend, but his own history as well.

Liam is just trying to do his job, but everything keeps getting in the way. First he gets assigned to watch some stranger, then somehow, he finds himself dating the guy. Even if it doesn’t offend the boss, Liam knows the wrong thing to do when he does it. He finds himself wondering, though: is his job really the most important thing in his life, or can he walk away from it all for a brand new relationship?

 

I hesitated on reading this at first because the blurb made me think this was going to be a pretty heavy, darker read. I was pleasantly surprised that it really wasn’t. It was sweet and funny, but still balanced with enough of the deeper stuff to make it pretty well rounded.

Though Alex can come across as a little simple and naive, I still really liked his character. I especially liked Liam, though I can’t quite put my finger on why. He just came across as this genuine, yet conflicted guy. I think I liked the sense of humor the two shared together.

Some of my favorite books are those that can portray their characters with that kind of lighthearted banter that actually works without coming across and cheesy or trying too hard. This one really made it work.

Buying the Farm: Kimberly Conn

Author: Kimberly Conn
Book Name: Buying the Farm
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Literature/Family Drama
Rating:  Really Good

4+stars

Blurb: Missi Jennings has no family, with the exception of her cold, critical mother, who makes her feel like a perpetual disappointment. She muddles through life in Washington, D.C. despondent, yet unmotivated to do anything about it. When a horrific accident on a Downtown street leaves Missi shaken, numb, and wealthy beyond her wildest imagination, it also becomes a catalyst for unthinkable change, launching her on a journey to a place completely foreign to her—rural Mississippi. The cynical, solitary city girl must confront a lifetime of lies created by the woman she always knew to be her mother and contend with a large, loud, extended family she had no idea existed. Missi’s fortitude is tested by strange new surroundings and a cantankerous grandfather, but it is a child-like woman with Down syndrome, with whom Missi shares an unbreakable bond, who changes her the most. Buying the Farm is a poignant story about loss, gain, and both the joy and pain that come from being a part of a family.

This was a truly heartwarming kind of book that had a wonderful balance of emotional responses, which is one of my favorite kinds. If you can evoke laughter and tears, both happy and sad, all rolled into a single story then you have done an awesome job as an author.

The one thing that kept me from rating this higher was how nearly every single character in this book fawned over Missi as though she was some sort of perfect paragon deserving adoration just because she exists, even those she just met 2 seconds ago. There are a few exceptions. Her boss, but he is such a tiny, minor character as to not make a difference. Nina, one of the few people that SHOULD have treated her that way, but again, still kind of at a periphery level. And her grandfather who is the only major character to kind of go the opposite direction. The near hero worship from so many characters nearly became too much and lessened some of her realism for me.

I did love the family story here and the various turns this took. It made the story feel very unique and atypical, which I loved. And the emotional touches were incredibly well done.

Seeing Evil: Cycle of Evil, Book 1

Author: Jason Parent
Book Name: Seeing Evil
Series: Cycle of Evil
Order: 1
Genre: Thriller/Suspense/Crime
Rating:  Really Good

4+stars

Blurb: Fate in plain sight.

Major Crimes Detective Samantha Reilly prefers to work alone—she’s seen as a maverick, and she still struggles privately with the death of her partner. The only person who ever sees her softer side is Michael Turcotte, a teenager she’s known since she rescued him eleven years ago from the aftermath of his parents’ murder-suicide.

In foster care since his parents’ death, Michael is a loner who tries to fly under the bullies’ radar, but a violent assault triggers a disturbing ability to view people’s dark futures. No one believes his first vision means anything, though—not even Sam Reilly. When reality mimics his prediction, however, Sam isn’t the only one to take notice. A strange girl named Tessa Masterson asks Michael about her future, and what he sees sends him back to Sam—is Tessa victim or perpetrator?

Tessa’s tangled secrets draw Michael and Sam inexorably into a deadly conflict. Sam relies on Michael, but his only advantage is the visions he never asked for. As they track a cold and calculating killer, one misstep could turn the hunters into prey.

One of the first things that stood out to me in this book was the author’s ability to write in such a way to make it incredibly easy to visualize a scene. For me, that maybe wasn’t such a good thing because there are some seriously gruesome scenes in this book that are told in minute detail. For lovers of true thriller type novels where the more gruesome the better, that is probably a great thing.

As someone who enjoys crime dramas, I also have a few peeves about them. Mainly that they fall into a believable range with regards to following actual police procedure (or at least a semblance of it). This kind of pushed those boundaries for me just enough to make parts of this feel a bit too much. Yes, you have a paranormal aspect to the novel, but that doesn’t mean everything else can be fantasy and unreal. That said, though, I think for me it was probably a good thing that parts of this were unbelievable, otherwise this would have given me nightmares.

I liked Michael as a character and how he was presented with his ability worked for me, but I struggled to really get a good feel for who Sam is which made it harder to connect with her. I can’t say that I disliked her, but I don’t feel like there was enough of her in the story to find something to like about her either. Part of that for me was that her lack of procedure following made it difficult to understand her as a police officer or what drives her and motivates her decisions.

I don’t typically like straight up thriller/horror. There is a reason I don’t watch scary movies (nightmares are NOT something I enjoy). I love a good crime novel, suspense, mystery and even thrillers that run more towards the psychological rather than the straight up gore and terror, which made this one a little harder to review because, on a personal taste level, I didn’t enjoy those parts of the book. I even stopped a couple of times to mention to Hubby how sick something was. I do know that much of what I wasn’t a fan of would be pure gold to someone that loves that kind of thing.

**This book was provided to me in exchange for a review.**

One Man’s Trash: The Heretic Doms Club, Book 1

One Man's Trash
One Man’s Trash

Author:  Marie Sexton
Book Name: One Man’s Trash
Series: The Heretic Doms Club
Order: #11
Genre: Romance/LGBTQ
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


 

 

Blurb:

After four tours in Afghanistan, Warren Groves couldn’t settle into civilian life. For the last twelve years, he’s survived by working odd and often illegal jobs for some of Denver’s less fortunate. His personal life is equally unsatisfactory. He can barely remember the last time he had sex, let alone the last time he got to use somebody hard and rough, the way he likes. Fate intervenes when a favor for a friend leads him to a pretty young rentboy named Taylor Reynolds.

Taylor’s spent the last few years on his own, working as a hustler, going home with anybody who’ll give him a warm meal and a place to sleep. He enjoys having a bit of force used against him, and he makes Warren an offer he can’t refuse — all the sex he wants, as rough and dirty as he likes, in exchange for room and board.

At first, Warren thinks he’s struck gold. Taylor’s the perfect roommate — he cooks, he cleans, and he’s dynamite in the sack. But Taylor has some dark demons in his head and some even darker cravings. Falling for somebody as volatile as Taylor is dangerous enough, but when Taylor’s urges turn truly self-destructive, it’ll be up to Warren to decide just how far to let things go. 

*Potential Minor Spoilers*

First off, no matter how I feel about this book, it is absolutely not one for everybody. It runs along a very dark side and deals with some seriously ugly subject matter that will just flat out be unappealing to some (addiction and abuse for some specifics). That said, that dark is liberally laced with spots of brightness and the better aspects of humanity shining through.

I thought this was beautifully written, no matter the subject matter. It pinged on several concepts of right and wrong that I’ve been pondering a lot lately, so some of those background themes really resonated with me. Even though I don’t usually go for dark books like this, I did really like it. Probably because of how many of those issues were presented and dealt with. There was no preaching to either direction, side, or right or wrong, simply presented as just the way it is.

The very imperfect humanness of the characters and their situations made them feel real. That kept me skirting this edge of compassion and understanding for them. It didn’t tip me into being overly emotional about them. That and the darker side that isn’t my favorite kept this from getting that slightly higher rating.

Even with the heavier nature of this, it does have a positive ending for the main characters. That is probably the other reason why this did work for me. I wouldn’t have like it even a fraction as much if this had not had that kind of ending.

Our Little Secret: Roz Nay

Our Little Secret
Our Little Secret

Author: Roz Nay
Book Name: Our Little Secret
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Suspense/Thriller
Rating:  Really Good*/Didn’t Like*

4+stars

2+stars


 

Blurb:

Our Little Secret is a twisted tale of love, pain, and revenge that will stay with the reader long after they turn the last page.

They say you never forget your first love. What they don’t say though, is that sometimes your first love won’t forget you…

A police interview room is the last place Angela expected to find herself today. It’s been hours, and they keep asking her the same inane questions over and over. “How do you know the victim?” “What’s your relationship with Mr. Parker?” Her ex’s wife has gone missing, and anyone who was close to the couple is a suspect. Angela is tired of the bottomless questions and tired of the cold room that stays the same while a rotating litany of interrogators changes shifts around her. But when criminologist Novak takes over, she can tell he’s not like the others. He’s ready to listen, and she knows he’ll understand. When she tells him that her story begins a decade before, long before Saskia was in the picture, he gives her the floor.

A twenty-something young professional, Angela claims to have no involvement. How could she? It’s been years since she and H.P., Mr. Parker that is, were together. As her story unfolds, it deepens and darkens. There’s a lot to unpack… betrayal, jealousy, and a group of people who all have motives for retribution. If Angela is telling the truth, then who’s lying? 

Yes, I have two different star ratings on this. It was nearly impossible to rate this because I have two very different opinions on it.

This was truly very well written and well developed. The problem? I didn’t like it. Not because of poor quality or that it tripped any of my pet peeves, but because by the time I finished the book, I felt as though it had left a stain on me.

There is not a single likable character in the book. Again, not because they were poorly written, but because they all touch on some of the ugliest aspects of humanity , the ones that are subtle and insidious. At one point or another in the book, each character just felt as though they were coated in slime. Not necessarily evil, but ugly.

The story is interesting and intriguing, but along the lines of watching a train wreck. There is just not a single, genuinely positive thing that happens in the entire book. The tiny bits that seem to be good/happy/positive as you read them become tainted as the story moves along. Combine that with the truly unlikable, nearly vile characters, and no, I really didn’t like this, though I won’t completely ding the rating because of my personal tastes as this author is talented.

For those that enjoy that kind of a story, you will probably love this book. It just really wasn’t for me.

Cast in Deception: Chronicles of Elantra, Book 13

Cast in Deception
Cast in Deception

Author: Michelle Sagara
Book Name: Cast in Deception
Series: Chronicles of Elantra
Order: #13
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: Really Good

4+stars

 

 

 

Blurb: WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE, WHO NEEDS ENEMIES?

Private Kaylin Neya thought her home couldn’t possibly get more crowded. But when one of her housemates, Annarion, decides to undertake the Barrani Test of Name, his friends refuse to let him face his task alone—and Kaylin’s sentient home, Helen, is the only structure capable of shielding the rest of Elantra from the magnitude of their power.

Annarion and Mandoran almost caused the destruction of the High Halls once already. Add nine of their closest friends, and the danger is astronomically higher—especially since these guests are at the heart of a political firestorm. Imprisoned almost a millennium ago, their recent freedom threatens the rulership of several prominent Barrani families, and the machinations of those Lords make it almost impossible to tell friend from foe.

As political tensions ramp up, the shadows beneath the High Halls are seeking a freedom that has never been possible before. Kaylin must find a way to keep those shadows from escaping, or that freedom will destroy her city, the empire and everything she holds dear.

If I had to compare this to any of the others in the series, it is probably most like Cast in Peril. That said, I think this is the most different of all of the books so far. It is probably my second least favorite of the series.

Even though I still really enjoyed this, it felt like I was missing much of my favorite characters because the focus was almost entirely on the extended group of the cohort than on any of the established existing characters. It is obvious that Kaylin is bringing them into her sphere of people she considers hers, but I’m not as much of a fan of this group as I have been of every other character that has been brought in.

It was also missing a bit of what I’d consider classic Kaylin. Her personality is absolutely still there. She is still growing and maturing, but there was very little of her innate abilities displayed in this book so it almost felt as if even she were somewhat missing from this story.

This was a much lower key book, with the focus on the politics and intrigue of the Barrani court. If it follows a pattern being much like Cast in Peril (feeling sort of like a gap book to bridge major story arcs), then the next book will be much fuller in the sense of action and progress.

Archangel’s Viper: Guild Hunters, Book 10

Archangel's ViperAuthor: Nalini Singh
Book Name: Archangel’s Viper
Series: Guild Hunters
Order: #10
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Really Good

4+stars

 

 

 

Blurb: Once a broken girl known as Sorrow, Holly Chang now prowls the shadowy gray underground of the city for the angels. But it’s not her winged allies who make her a wanted woman—it’s the unknown power coursing through her veins. Brutalized by an insane archangel, she was left with the bloodlust of a vampire, the ability to mesmerize her prey, and a poisonous bite.

Now, someone has put a bounty on her head…

Venom is one of the Seven, Archangel Raphael’s private guard, and he’s as infuriating as he is seductive. A centuries-old vampire, his fangs dispense a poison deadlier than Holly’s. But even if Venom can protect Holly from those hunting her, he might not be able to save himself—because the strange, violent power inside Holly is awakening…

No one is safe.

Years of reading and loving Nalini Singh has left me with certain expectations from one of her books. This is probably one of my least favorite in the Guild Hunter series.

Don’t get me wrong, this is still a great book (see all those stars), but, for me, I just struggled to really feel or get any chemistry from this pair. I liked them both, but this didn’t quite grip me emotionally like pretty much every single other Nalini Singh book out there. What I did get, and it was there, seemed to come way late and with not quite enough going on between the two to make the fast turn around work as well as it could have.

I guess this was just missing that bit more spark I’m used to.

Bright Side: Bright Side, Book 1

Bright SideAuthor: Kim Holden
Book Name: Bright Side
Series: Bright Side
Order: #1
Genre: Literature/Romance*
Rating:  Really Good*
4+stars


 

Blurb: 

Secrets.
Everyone has one.
Some are bigger than others.
And when secrets are revealed,
Some will heal you …
And some will end you.

Kate Sedgwick’s life has been anything but typical. She’s endured hardship and tragedy, but throughout it all she remains happy and optimistic (there’s a reason her best friend Gus calls her Bright Side). Kate is strong-willed, funny, smart, and musically gifted. She’s also never believed in love. So when Kate leaves San Diego to attend college in the small town of Grant, Minnesota, the last thing she expects is to fall in love with Keller Banks.

They both feel it.
But they each have a reason to fight it.
They each have a secret.

And when secrets are revealed,
Some will heal you …
And some will end you.

*Possible Spoilers*

I have never once written a review and rated a book that I’ve had to note with an *, yet this is the second one in a very short period of time. This was so hard to figure out how to rate this.

If you are looking for a happy book with a nice happy ending, don’t read this because this is so not that book. This is just incredibly sad. I will say straight up that this is really well written and that it can wring some deep emotions from the reader, and it is for that that I’ve given this the rating that I have.

That said, I struggled with this. I didn’t really know what to expect with this, but it wasn’t what I got. I didn’t expect to struggle to read the last half of the book because I was trying to do so through tears, and not happy tears.

Before that, I seriously struggled to like Kate because she is unbelievably perfect, the stereotypical saint that everyone loves and gravitates to, she is perfect at everything she does and is the kind of person that is just too good for this flawed world we live in. There were several times I came close to not finishing because I just really didn’t like her all that much. Even after the big reveal when you gain a bit of understanding, I still just couldn’t believe her.

In the end, I’m not sure what I got out of this besides a serious crying headache. There really weren’t any feel good kind of feelings by the time the story wrapped up. I have no clue if I I will be reading the other books in this series. I liked some of the other characters that those books would follow, but I’m just not a fan of depressing reading and anyway you look at it, that is what this was. Sure there was love, both romantic and friendship, but it is all lost and that is just depressing.

Stillhouse Lake: Stillhouse Lake, Book 1

Stillhouse LakeAuthor: Rachel Caine
Book Name: Stillhouse Lake
Series: Stillhouse Lake
Order: #1
Genre: Suspense/Thriller/Mystery
Rating:  Really Good*
4+stars


 

Blurb: Gina Royal is the definition of average—a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children. But when a car accident reveals her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she must remake herself as Gwen Proctor—the ultimate warrior mom.

With her ex now in prison, Gwen has finally found refuge in a new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. Though still the target of stalkers and Internet trolls who think she had something to do with her husband’s crimes, Gwen dares to think her kids can finally grow up in peace.

But just when she’s starting to feel at ease in her new identity, a body turns up in the lake—and threatening letters start arriving from an all-too-familiar address. Gwen Proctor must keep friends close and enemies at bay to avoid being exposed—or watch her kids fall victim to a killer who takes pleasure in tormenting her. One thing is certain: she’s learned how to fight evil. And she’ll never stop.

Seriously?! Cliffhanger?! GRRRR!!!! I hate those with a passion! This book is a lesson to me to do a little deeper research into a book before I read it. I saw that this was a part of a series, but I didn’t really think about it for some reason (I normally dig when I see that) or I would have realized there was no way for this book to be self contained. I also didn’t realize (again, lack of research) that I’d read this author before with her Weather Warden series and found it beyond frustrating and never finished the series. If I’d known those things, I don’t think I ever would have read this.

That said, I did think this was a really great book. It pushes to just past the line of believability, but it makes up for it in the crazy, twisted, well thought out way the rest of it is written. I loved Gwen. She is kind of a badass. I want to be that kind of mom when I grow up. Really, if you look past the ugly, twisty that is the surface of the story, that is really what this book is about, the love of a mother and what she is willing to do to protect her kids. That is what I loved the most about this book.

See the little * next to my “Really Good”? The only reason I’m giving this book that high of a rating is because it is well written. I saw signs throughout this that ticked some red flags for me, but wasn’t until I went to start doing my links for my review that I realized the author and her connection to that other series. The main reason I quit reading that one series is because it became this never ending, bleak, hopeless mess of crazy. Every single time the MC got knocked down and then stood back up, they got knocked down again before they could even take a single step. Over. And over. And OVER. I seriously hate books/series like that. I saw an awful lot of potential with that in this book, but know that there really aren’t a ton of authors that go that route and overlooked it and let it go. Now, as much as I liked this, I’m seriously worried that this is going to do the exact same thing and I really don’t want to waste my time reading books that frustrate the hell out of me. If that is your thing, cool, but I just don’t enjoy books/series that suck every last drop of hope out of a reader. They are too damn depressing. I honestly don’t know that I will read the second book.

 

 

Some Kind of Hero: Troubleshooters, Book 19

Some Kind of HeroAuthor: Suzanne Brockmann
Book Name: Some Kind of Hero
Series: Troubleshooters
Order: #19
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


 

Blurb:

Navy men don’t come tougher than Lieutenant Peter Greene. Every day he whips hotshot SEAL wannabes into elite fighters. So why can’t he handle one fifteen-year-old girl? His ex’s death left him a single dad overnight, and very unprepared. Though he can’t relate to an angsty teen, he can at least keep Maddie safe—until the day she disappears. Though Pete’s lacking in fatherly intuition, his instinct for detecting danger is razor sharp. Maddie’s in trouble. Now he needs the Troubleshooters team at his back, along with an unconventional ally.

Romance writer Shayla Whitman never expected to be drawn into a real-world thriller—or to meet a hero who makes her pulse pound. Action on the page is one thing. Actually living it is another story. Shay’s not as bold as her heroines, but she’s a mother. She sees the panic in her new neighbor’s usually fearless blue eyes—and knows there’s no greater terror for a parent than having a child at risk. It’s an ordeal Shay won’t let Pete face alone. She’s no highly trained operative, but she’s smart, resourceful, and knows what makes teenagers tick.

Still, working alongside Pete has its own perils—like letting the heat between them rise out of control. Intimate emotions could mean dangerous, even deadly, consequences for their mission. No matter what, they must be on top of their game, and playing for keeps . . . or else Pete’s daughter may be gone for good.

It is kind of funny, I rarely still like any books in a series by the time you get past book 4 or 5, let alone any deeper because it always seems like the author just no longer has anything new or interesting to add. This seems even more apt when talking about romance books because they tend to become cookie cutter, fill in the blank books. This is probably one of the very few book series that I can easily say doesn’t fit the standard in any way and that is a very good thing.

One of the things that I like so much about Suzanne Brockmann and why I still, after all this time pick up any of her books, is that her characters are always strong, especially her female leads. Too often in romance, the women suddenly become weak and needy when an alpha  male comes into the picture and they need the cliched rescue. Not so with Brockmann’s characters. They are always capable of standing on their own, even when they do need a little help. It is rare you will see a weak, ditzy character. The times it is touched on, that character is never genuinely weak, just less confident in that strength.

I also love that her alpha males are never these overbearing, borderline assholes. They are true badasses that do not diminish their romantic counterparts. Both sides fully complement the other, no matter who they are.

Her characters are also extremely varied. Yes, this series focuses almost exclusively on SEALs, but outside of that restriction, you will find characters of all shapes, sizes, races, physical abilities and sexual preferences. Not only does this give the reader variety, but it opens the door to different challenges for the characters to overcome, which is part of why this series hasn’t gone stale.

This book fits perfectly into the mold that Ms. Brockmann set from the very beginning of this series. Strong, capable characters from both sides of the romantic relationship. A truly enjoyable story that keeps you turning the page every step of the way. It does run just a little bit into the romance novel trap of “too perfect”, but sometimes that is exactly what you want and need. Something light and fun tossed with a bit of intense action.

The Kinfolk: Eliza Maxwell

The KinfolkAuthor: Eliza Maxwell
Book Name: The Kinfolk
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Literature, Suspense, Family
Rating:  Really Good

4+stars

 

 

 

Blurb: Along the banks of the Neches river, surrounded by the dense piney woods of east Texas, where the humidity makes even the mosquitos go a little soft in the head, there’s a pack of liars, thieves, and fools that Mimosa Mabry reluctantly calls family. After a lifetime spent trying to put the place behind her, the kinfolk have come calling, and they want her home.

Against her better judgement, Mo returns, but finds the answer she’s searching for—the truth about a child named Lucy—slipping further from her grasp than ever. Because in deep east Texas, at the mercy of your kin, truth is relative. As enigmatic as a carnival shell game. And the game is rigged.

Having read The Grave Tender, I had extremely high expectations for this book, which doesn’t usually bode well. While I think this was still extremely well written, it didn’t have that extra layer of “wow” or that sense of being extremely disturbed and enjoying it at the same time that I got from The Grave Tender. Because of that and being unable to not compare the two even though they aren’t related in any way other than being written by the same author, I just didn’t find that I liked this as well as I would have if I’d read this first. That said, this was still a really good book.

The Roanoke Girls: Amy Engel

The Roanoke GirlsAuthor: Amy Engel
Book Name: The Roanoke Girls
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Suspense, Family Saga
Rating:  Really Good

4+stars

 

 

 

Blurb: “Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.”

After her mother’s suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother’s mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran…fast and far away.

Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. Did she run too? Or something worse? Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind. Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer. But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.

As it weaves between Lane’s first Roanoke summer and her return, The Roanoke Girls shocks and tantalizes, twisting its way through revelation after mesmerizing revelation, exploring the secrets families keep and the fierce and terrible love that both binds them together and rips them apart.

This was kind of hard to rate. Not because the book isn’t good or incredibly written, because it really is, but because it is seriously sick and twisted. It is hard to say, “Yeah, I really liked it” when it is that dark and heavy.

This isn’t something that has harsh jumps or revelations. You pretty much know from very early on what the ugliness is in this family. In a way, this story is more about Lane. How she deals with it all, her own personal growth through it and where she lands in the end.

So, yeah, I liked it. I can’t love it, it was just a little too dark and twisty for me to love, but it is incredibly well written. So much so, I liked pretty much all of the characters, even the ones that I probably shouldn’t. Fair warning, though. This is a book that can be way too ugly for some readers.

Where Angels Rest: Mann Family, Book 1

Where Angels RestAuthor: Kate Brady
Book Name: Where Angels Rest
Series: Mann Family
Order: #1
Genre: Suspense/Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


 

 

Blurb:  A RACE FOR SALVATION

For the past decade, psychologist Erin Sims has been helping victims of violent crimes move on with life . . . but the one person she can’t save is the one who matters most. In only seven days, her brother will be executed for a murder he didn’t commit. Convinced she knows the identity of the real killer, Erin is determined to find the man and bring him to justice.

A COUNTDOWN TO DESTRUCTION

Sheriff Nick Mann moved to rural Ohio hoping to forget the tragedies of his past. When Erin shows up in town, bringing scandal and unwanted media attention with her, Nick knows she’s trouble. No one believes sleepy Hopewell could harbor a serial killer . . . until residents begin to disappear. Now as Nick untangles the dark secrets plaguing his town, he can’t help falling for the beautiful woman with the warm heart and iron will. And, as the days tick by, the truth becomes clear: Erin is hunting a vicious murderer-one whose only escape is to silence her forever.

Review:  I’ll get it out of the way right up front.  This does have that insta-love kind of thing going on here since the time line of this story lasts only about 7 days (14 if you count the time skip at the end, but I’m not being picky here).  That said, because there is so much that goes on in those seven days, I’m willing to overlook that because it does mostly work here.  Still not my favorite thing in a story, but it doesn’t kill this for me.  Because the timeline for this is so extremely short, it pushes the bounds of believability with all that does happen in this story, but again, it is still written in a way that it works.

I liked this.  The characters were interesting and had decent personalities that made them likable.  That isn’t often something I tend to find in romantic suspense lately.  I liked the fact that Erin had a backbone and Nick wasn’t all alpha-male to the point where he treated Erin like some fragile piece of glass.

This was also pretty twisty as to trying to figure out who the bad guy was, at least for a large portion of the book.  It was nice to not really know from page one exactly who and why.  Sure there were hints if you were really paying attention, but I think the author did a pretty good job of making the reader have doubts about those hints for quite a while.

It was definitely good enough to make me want to pick up another book by this author.

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The Oracle’s Queen: Tamir Triad, Book 3

The Oracle's QueenAuthor: Lynn Flewelling
Book Name: The Oracle’s Queen
Series: Tamir Triad
Order: #3
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


 

 

Blurb:  Under the rule of a usurper king, the realm of Skala has suffered famine, plague, and invasion. But now the time for the rightful heir has come, a return to the tradition of warrior queens. And the Lightbearer’s prophecy is to be upheld at last: so long as a daughter of the royal line defends and rules, Skala will never be subjugated.

Now a mystical fire has burned away the male body known as Prince Tobin, revealing Princess Tamír, a girl on the verge of womanhood–and a queen ready to claim her birthright after a life in disguise under the protection of wizards and witches. But will her people, her army–and the friends she was forced to deceive–accept her? Worse, will the crown’s rival heir, friend to Tobin, turn foe to Tamír, igniting civil war in a fierce
battle for Skala?

Review:  It is a little shocking, if you consider how closely I came to not finishing the first book in this series, how much I ended up liking this.  I’ve said before that this just isn’t quite what I typically like to read in a fantasy book/series.  That is still true.  This wouldn’t be one of my first choices, but it would be one that I’d absolutely pick up and read again.

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