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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Hidden Warrior: Tamir Triad, Book 2

Hidden WarriorAuthor: Lynn Flewelling
Book Name: Hidden Warrior
Series: Tamir Triad
Order: #2
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


 

 

Blurb:  A trick of magic, a twist of fate.

As the orphaned nephew of the king, trusted companion to his cousin, and second heir to the throne of Skala, Prince Tobin’s future is clear. But not as clear as the spring in which a hill witch shows him his true face–and his secret destiny….

Now Tobin carries a burden he cannot share with even his closest friend, Ki, his squire. He is to rule–not as he is but as he was born: a woman. Given the shape of a boy by dark magic, Tobin is the last hope of the people of Illior–those who desperately seek a return to the old ways, when Skala was ruled by a line of warrior queens. They still believe that only a woman can lift the war, famine, and pestilence that have run rampant through the land since the king usurped his half sister’s throne. It is these outlaw wizards and witches who protect Tobin–and it is for them that Tobin must accept his fate.

With the unsuspecting yet fiercely loyal Ki at his side, Tobin must turn traitor against the only blood ties he has left. He must lift the masks of Skala’s rulers to show their true colors–before he can reveal the power of the woman within himself.

Review:  Thankfully this lacked much of the morbid factor that the first book had.  That opened up the story more for me to enjoy better.  It still skirts the fantasy genre line of what I like, though.  There are not a ton of elements that allow this to fit into that genre and is a big par of why it skirts that line for me.

Tobin’s whole situation is because of magic (which is mostly just background fact rather than situational substance), but outside of that and the extremely rare appearances of Brother there aren’t many instances of anything truly fantastical until late in the book.  Even then it isn’t really the focus of the story.   The focus is more on the characters themselves, their relationships and fighting rather than anything out of the ordinary.

I did like this, even though it isn’t my typical kind of read and is actually more of a young adult book, so I will be reading the last one in this series to see how it all finishes out in the end.

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The Bone Doll’s Twin: Tamir Triad, Book 1

The Bone Doll's TwinAuthor: Lynn Flewelling
Book Name: The Bone Doll’s Twin
Series: Tamir Triad
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


 

 

Blurb:  Sometimes the price of destiny is higher than anyone imagined….

Dark Magic, Hidden Destiny

For three centuries a divine prophecy and a line of warrior queens protected Skala. But the people grew complacent and Erius, a usurper king, claimed his young half sister’s throne.

Now plague and drought stalk the land, war with Skala’s ancient rival Plenimar drains the country’s lifeblood, and to be born female into the royal line has become a death sentence as the king fights to ensure the succession of his only heir, a son. For King Erius the greatest threat comes from his own line — and from Illior’s faithful, who spread the Oracle’s words to a doubting populace.

As noblewomen young and old perish mysteriously, the king’s nephew — his sister’s only child — grows toward manhood. But unbeknownst to the king or the boy, strange, haunted Tobin is the princess’s daughter, given male form by a dark magic to protect her until she can claim her rightful destiny.

Only Tobin’s noble father, two wizards of Illior, and an outlawed forest witch know the truth. Only they can protect young Tobin from a king’s wrath, a mother’s madness, and the terrifying rage of her brother’s demon spirit, determined to avenge his brutal murder….

Review:  I have to be honest, there were several points throughout this where I came very close to putting this down and not finishing it because, even though this is a fantasy genre book, it is just enough outside the type of fantasy that I typically enjoy.  It is very dark at points, with a horribly morbid, twisted undertone that was just almost too much for me to enjoy.  I was able to enjoy and appreciate the quality of writing despite struggling to stay in the story because of how twisted this got.  It was for that reason that I decided to stick with it until the end and I am glad because this is a good story.  It is still just a bit outside of what I normally like and is the main reason I can’t give this a higher rating.  That and the fact that this left off with a rather nasty cliff hanger, which drives me crazy so I am very much interested in seeing where the next book takes this.

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Daughter of Blood: Wall of Night, Book 3

Daughter of BloodAuthor: Helen Lowe
Book Name: Daughter of Blood
Series: Wall of Night
Order: #3
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


Blurb:  Malian of Night and Kalan, her trusted ally, are returning to the Wall of Night—but already it may be too late. The Wall is dangerously weakened, the Nine Houses of the Derai fractured by rivalry and hate. And now, the Darkswarm is rising . . .

Among Grayharbor backstreets, an orphan boy falls foul of dark forces. On the Wall, a Daughter of Blood must be married off to the Earl of Night, a pawn in the web of her family’s ambition. On the Field of Blood, Kalan fights for a place in the bride’s honor guard, while Malian dodges deadly pursuers in a hunt against time for the fabled Shield of Heaven. But the Darkswarm is gaining strength, and time is running out—for Malian, for Kalan, and for all of Haarth . . .

Review:  So much better than the last one!  Instead of huge chunks of time seeming to just drag along like we saw in the first two books, this one picks things up and keeps a steady, intense pace throughout.  We also spend way more time with the focus being on our main characters rather than hopping all over between main and secondary characters.

Of the main characters, this one seems to focus most heavily on Kalan so we get to see his character growth first hand.  While we do see bits of Malian, they are small and with the little actual growth we saw of her in the last book and the short page time in this one, it feels like we’ve missed some important changes along the way.  That would have to be one of my only drawbacks to this, the fact that we saw so little of her.

The only other drawback, and it is more of a personal taste thing than anything, is the giant cliff we were left hanging off at the end of the book.  It is understandable that with an ongoing series that builds book to book that you aren’t going to see major story line resolutions and that is fine.  I’m just not a huge fan of a main character doing or experiencing something big only to not know the outcome.  As a major character, you know it can’t be world ending, but still.  Not a fan of the hang.  Sadly, I’m not seeing when the next one in this series is going to get released yet, so I’m going to have to wait a while to get any answers.  Otherwise, I liked this one the best of the series so far.

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The Gathering of the Lost: Wall of Night, Book 2

The Gathering of the LostAuthor: Helen Lowe
Book Name: The Gathering of the Lost
Series: Wall of Night
Order: #2
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


Blurb:  Garrisoned by the Nine Houses of the Derai, the towering mountain range called the Wall of Night is all that separates the people of Haarth from the terrible Darkswarm.

Five years have passed since the Wall was breached and the Keep of Winds nearly overrun. Five years since the Heir of Night, Malian, and her friend and ally Kalan went missing in the wild lands of Jaransor.

Now, in Haarth’s diverse southern realms, events are moving. From the wealthy River city of Ij to the isolated Emerian outpost of Normarch, rumors of dark forces and darker magics are growing. As the great Midsummer tournament at Caer Argent approaches, Haarth will have one opportunity to band together against an enemy in which few believe . . . or be lost forever.

Review:  This was a frustrating read.  Don’t get me wrong.  I still really liked this, but it took way too long to get to that point where I was still interested in what was going on.

It started out just fine and looked like it was going to continue from where the first book left of, but quickly turned into something else entirely.  Firstly with the entire focus being on the heralds from book one rather than on the two other major characters.  I get it.  Most of what went on was important to events later in the plot, but there was a whole lot of extra in there that could have been paired back.

Then there is another character perspective shift, one that made absolutely zero sense.  I had my suspicions as to the general path it was leading to, but there was just so much that, at that point, had no relation to the story so far.  A good half of the first 50% of the book fell into that “didn’t relate” realm that I very nearly called it quits.  Yes, I’m glad I didn’t as there was a really nice twist that helped, but it was just almost too much and it felt like a lot of the momentum that was built up in the first book got lost in this one during that apparently unrelated time.  By the time you actually got to the point where the familiar characters emerged and became a part of the story again and things got interesting with many of the magical aspects from the first book, it stalls out a bit again with the heavy emphasis on the tournaments.

In the end, we actually see very little actual page time or character growth from the two expected to be the focus of this series, Kalan and Malian.  What we do see is only just alluded to because there is a 5 year gap in the timeline of their story (which still makes them only 17 and 19, so still a YA book) so we don’t get to see what little growth they did have and how it came about.  That and the purpose behind the title of this book doesn’t even come into play until the very last 10% or so.  I do absolutely enjoy this series.  It is definitely unpredictable and doesn’t follow any set formula for a book in this genre.  There is just a lot of extra that tends to drag at the parts that are so good that it doesn’t break into the truly great class.

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The Heir of Night: Wall of Night, Book 1

The Heir of NightAuthor: Helen Lowe
Book Name: The Heir of Night
Series: Wall of Night
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


Blurb:  

If Night falls, all fall . . .

In the far north of the world of Haarth lies the bitter mountain range known as the Wall of Night. Garrisoned by the Nine Houses of the Derai, the Wall is the final bastion between the peoples of Haarth and the Swarm of Dark–which the Derai have been fighting across worlds and time.

Malian, Heir to the House of Night, knows the history of her people: the unending war with the Darkswarm; the legendary heroes, blazing with long-lost power; the internal strife that has fractured the Derai’s former strength. But now the Darkswarm is rising again, and Malian’s destiny as Heir of Night is bound inextricably to both ancient legend and any future the Derai–or Haarth–may have.

 

Review:  As with many new fantasy series (at least new to me), this one left me cautiously optimistic.  The world is wonderfully crafted and there is a full cast of interesting characters.  I was definitely pulled deeply into the story.

I was a bit surprised at the ages of a couple of the main characters because this wasn’t noted as being a young adult book.  Since Malian is 12 and Kalan is 14, this kinda sorta should have that label.  They aren’t the only big characters and all the rest appear to be adults, but Malian and Kalan are mostly the focus of this story.  I can say that many of the things I don’t like about YA books are not present here.  If anything, I had a difficult time remembering that those two were actually that young as they appear much more mature than their stated ages, so for me that was actually a plus.

I already have the next book checked out and ready to go, so I’m excited to see if book 2 holds up to what book 1 has built up so far.

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Elemental Arcane: The Eldritch Files, Book 1

Elemental ArcaneAuthor: Phaedra Weldon
Book Name: Elemental Arcane
Series: The Eldritch Files
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


Blurb:  Samantha Hawthorne lives a rather curious life in New Orleans running a magic and herb shop. As an Elemental Witch in the Big Easy and owner of a wolf Familiar as well as the head of a former Faerie Queen, curious is as quiet as it gets for Sam.

Until children start turning into blood-thirsty Changelings and attack their parents.

When one of these children shows up in front of her shop, Sam and her friends are determined to find out where they’re coming from and where the exchanged children are being kept and put a stop to it. But will they succeed when they find themselves pitted against ninja ghouls, one of the oldest and darkest enemies of the mortal world, and a secret from Sam’s childhood that could unravel her magic?

Review:  Since this is a new author for me, I really wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.  Though on the shorter side, I did end up liking this quite a bit.

There were enough twists and turns in the plot to keep it interesting and is apparently not one of those stories where the main character is this can do not wrong, perfect, mega-magic user that just happens to be able to easily solve everything with the awesomeness of her powers.  Instead, she has lots of potential balanced out by normal, human imperfections.  So far I’m liking many of the supporting cast of characters as well.

I’m left feeling cautiously optimistic about this author.  Sadly, these aren’t carried at my local library, so I may only be able to grab additional books occasionally between my “must have” purchase budget.

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Sebring: Unfinished Hero, Book 5

SebringAuthor: Kristen Ashley
Book Name: Sebring
Series: Unfinished Hero
Order: #5
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


Blurb:  Nick Sebring has issues. Born feeling like an outsider in his own family, growing up under the shadow of a brother who could do anything, Nick isn’t that great of a guy. But when this culminates with Nick lashing out to hurt his brother through the woman he loves, Nick turns inward and makes some decisions about the man he intends to be.

And as he does this, he falls in love and truly learns the man that he’s grown to be.

When his love is murdered right before Nick’s eyes, Nick knows he has to avenge her. He knows how he’s going to avenge her. And he has no qualms using Olivia Shade to exact that vengeance.

Olivia Shade has grown up on the outside of her family too. Her problem is that they don’t want her outside. They want her all the way in, right under their thumbs. She pays the price for seeking escape and learns her lesson—she’ll never see a dawn where she wakes up free.

Then she meets Nick Sebring, and even as she fights it, the hope that died years ago starts to blossom. She can find love. She can have a man of her own. She can be happy. She can be free.

Olivia hopes while Nick schemes.

However, as Nick peels back the layers of all that is Olivia Shade, he finds something surprising. He understands its fragility. He falls in love with its beauty. He seeks to protect it.

But he forgets to protect his Livvie from one thing: Nick Sebring.

Review:  This was definitely one of KA’s sweeter books, which seems odd as this entire series falls on the darker side as far as her characters go.  I enjoyed it mostly because it was a sweeter romance than many of the other KA books I’ve read recently.

Livvie isn’t one of my favorite characters, but she isn’t a cotton candy character that melts in light drizzle.  She has something of a quiet strength, but she isn’t bold and does tend towards doormat status, at least within her family.

I really enjoyed Nick’s character in that he isn’t over the top bossy and the softer side he does have is pretty awesome.  He still had his quirks, but nothing that was overt enough to take away from the rest.

It was nice seeing the other characters from this series pop up, and I was overjoyed with the fact that they were just sort of pop up notes rather than whole additions that weren’t necessary.  There was just enough page time with most of them to get that taste, but we weren’t forced to overindulge in them as this was Nick and Livvie’s story, not theirs.  It was a nice, clean finish to this series.

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