Book Review: Killing Mind, D.I. Kim Stone- Book #12

Author: Angela Marsons
Book Name: Killing Mind
Release Date: May 13, 2020
Series: D.I. Kim Stone
Order: #12
Genre: Suspense/Mystery/Police/Crime
Overall SPA: 5 Stars
5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: It had seemed so simple. Get in, get the information, get out. But now they were getting inside her mind and she didn’t know how to stop them…

When Detective Kim Stone is called to the home of Samantha Brown, she finds the young woman lying in bed with her throat cut and a knife in her hand. With no sign of forced entry or struggle, Kim rules her death a tragic suicide.

But a visit to Samantha’s parents rings alarm bells for Kim – there’s something they’re not telling her. And, when she spots a clue in a photograph, Kim realises she’s made a huge mistake. Samantha didn’t take her own life, she was murdered.

Then a young man’s body is found in a local lake with his throat cut and Kim makes a link between the victim and Samantha. They both spent time at Unity Farm, a retreat for people seeking an alternative way of life.

Beneath the retreat’s cosy façade, Kim and her team uncover a sinister community preying on the emotionally vulnerable.

Sending one of her own undercover into Unity Farm is high risk but it’s Kim’s only hope if she is to catch a killer – someone Kim is convinced the victims knew and trusted.

With Bryant distracted by the emergence of a harrowing case close to his heart, and an undercover officer in way over her head, Kim’s neck is on the line like never before. Can she protect those closest to her before another life is taken?

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 5/5 Stars
Believability: 5/5 Stars
Series Continuity/Expectations: 5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 5/5 Stars

Another phenomenal addition to an already amazing series! I cannot say enough how much I still love the D.I. Kim Stone books.

As with most of the other books in this series (only a few exceptions), you can read this without having read all the other books first. There may be some smaller nuances that you’d miss if you haven’t, but you won’t be lost as all the important parts of the story are entirely new.

It amazes me that you can be 12 books deep into a series and still feel like the material you are reading is fresh and new, but that is exactly what you get with a Kim Stone book, be it book one or book twelve.

Most every book in this series seems to pick a different psychological or criminal element to highlight. For this one, you get to delve into the cult mindset and how they manage to draw people in. It was really interesting to take a deeper look into the how and why behind the types of people that can be attracted to those groups and how they operate.

As a US based reader, I have always really enjoyed being able to see the similarities between UK police practices and procedures and those of the US. For the first time I got a glimpse of what may be a very different approach between the two, at least when it comes to determining a suicide. I will note that I am by no means an expert on US practices and only have what I would consider common assumed knowledge gleaned from reading and other casual sources, so that difference may not be that broad. It was still really interesting to see it handled differently than what I would have expected from an investigation of similar circumstances in the US.

Like with so many of the other books in this series, you get to follow multiple different storylines, each one just as intriguing as the next and are given some surprising finishes.

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. Opinions stated are honest and my own.

**This review was also published in Envie! Magazine’s May 2020 edition.

 

Book Series Review: Age of Andinna, Kristen Banet – Book #1 – 4

Author: Kristen Banet
Series: Age of Andinna
Order: #1 – 4
Books In Series: The Gladiator’s Downfall, The Mercenary’s Bounty, The Warrior’s Assault, The Rebel’s Vision
Genre: Fantasy/Romance/Reverse Harem
Overall SPA: 5 Stars
5 Stars

 

 

Blurb – Book #1: She’s an Andinna. A member of the winged, horned, and tailed warrior race that the Elvasi Empire defeated in the Hundred Year War and then enslaved. She’s a slave, and has been one for a thousand years, the personal property of the Empress of the Elvasi Empire, since the end of the War. She’s a gladiator, thrown onto the sands of the Colosseum to die, though it backfired on those who wanted her dead. She’s the Champion of the Colosseum, and has been for roughly nine hundred years.

All of these things have marked her as an outcast among her own people. Hated, distrusted, and despised, she knows the name of her people, but not much else.

But she knows where she stands. Keeping her head down and her blades sharp has carried her this far, and she refuses to acknowledge the deepest wishes she holds in her heart. Those will only get her killed.

Alone, she’s stood against everything they have ever thrown at her, refusing to give them what they want.

What Mave doesn’t know is that it’s all about to change.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 5/5 Stars
World Building: 5/5 Stars
Uniqueness Factor: 4/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 5/5 Stars

It isn’t often that I will pick up books that fall into the reverse harem sub-genre and it is rare that I like them when I do as they tend to jump all over my peeve button for a variety of reasons. These are the first books I’ve read that fall into that sub-genre that I genuinely thought were excellent. I decided to take a chance on these as I’ve read several other books by this author that I’ve really enjoyed and I absolutely was not disappointed.

First and foremost is the incredibly well developed world building in these books. I found it fascinating and unique, giving the reader a lot of rich details and interesting concepts like the individual races of the different characters. While those races may be loosely based on some classic mythological beings like dragons and, very slightly, elves, they are their own unique beings set in their own unique world and not anything I’ve seen before.

One of the things that stands out for me is the fact that the main character, Mave, is absolutely fierce in every way. For once you get a mature female character that can easily stand on her own two feet and doesn’t need to be coddled. She is no simpering princess and takes no BS from anyone. She is a true survivor and an absolute badass. She also isn’t perfect, not by a long shot. She has a lot to deal with and overcome, but she does so by standing in front of it and facing it head on.

What came as a surprise in these books is that, while this is a reverse harem, it isn’t the main focus of the story and comes along slowly. If anything, this is just as much a series that focuses on finding family as it does on the romance. You also spend way more time on the action going on around the characters and the conflicts of the world around them than you do on most anything else. The romance and the family building are tightly woven through everything else giving you an incredibly well balanced story.

For those that really aren’t a fan of a lot of heavy steam, you won’t get that here. There are maybe one or two scenes in each book. They don’t go too heavy on the detail and don’t take up a lot of page space. They are easily skimmed or skipped if you really aren’t interested. For those that do like a lot, this could be a disappointment, but you still get some and there is enough amazing storytelling going on around it to make up for it.

This was such a surprising series and I’m a little amazed at how much I really ended up loving it. So much so, that this may have pushed this author into my auto buy group. The first to be added to that group in a really long time.

I do want to note that there are more than 4 books in this series. When I first considered picking these up, I saw a box set or collection available, so made the assumption that the series was finished. It is not and book 4 makes that beyond obvious as it leaves off at a place that is as close to a cliffhanger as you can get without actually being one. The next book in the series is due out in June 2020.

*Cover art and blurb are only for book #1.

 

Book Review: Shadow Valley – Gwen Hunter

Author: Gwen Hunter
Book Name: Shadow Valley
Release Date: March 4, 2015
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Romance
Overall SPA: 5 Stars
5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Mackenzie Morgan thinks she’s doing the right thing by taking her teenaged daughter, Bella, into the Appalachians on a photography shoot. Fleeing a crumbling marriage, Mac needs time to bond with her daughter and escape the betrayal that still leaves her numb. But when a drifter abducts Bella and carries her deep into the steep mountain woods, Mac must draw on her deepest reserves to fight for her daughter’s safe return.

When her soon-to-be ex-husband arrives, old wounds flare, and Mac turns to Caleb Howell, a local tracker, who helps keep her focused on the most important task: finding Bella. Then astonishing evidence comes to light that reveals the abduction was not as random as they first believed. As hours turn into days, Mac struggles to keep her hope—and her terrified daughter—alive.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 5/5 Stars
Believability: 5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 5/5 Stars

This was an intense, action packed read that I really did not want to put down once I picked it up. For those that love stories about how far a mother will go for her child, this is a great one to grab. While I’m kind of stuck on the short and sweet side of this review, that so isn’t what this book is. It was just a really great read that is worth the time to pick up.

Book Review: Suddenly Psychic, Glimmer Lake- Book #1

Author: Elizabeth Hunter
Book Name: Suddenly Psychic
Release Date: February 18, 2020
Series: Glimmer Lake
Order: #1
Genre: Paranormal/Women’s Fiction/Family Drama/Romance
Overall SPA: 5 Stars
5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Every woman goes through changes in their forties.
Just not… these changes.

Robin Brannon was a normal wife, mom, and antique shop owner until a brush with death turned her day-to-day life upside down. Now she and her two best friends are seeing things that belong in a fantasy novel. Ghosts. Visions. Omens of doom. Nothing that belongs in the peaceful mountain town they call home.

Added to that, Robin’s marriage is on the rocks, her grandmother’s health is failing, her mother is driving away the customers at her shop, her teenage daughter refuses to get her drivers’ license, and her left knee aches every darn morning.

Robin doesn’t have the time, energy, or knees to unearth the secrets buried at the bottom of Glimmer Lake, but fate doesn’t seem to care. Some secrets are just dying to be exposed.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 5/5 Stars
Uniqueness Factor: 4.5/5 Stars

Believability: 4.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 5/5 Stars

This is a beautiful mash up of some of my favorite genres all in one book. Top that with the main characters being mature, adult women (something that is rare in the paranormal genre) dealing with real life type issues associated with being that age along side the twist of the paranormal, toss it all with very real characters with sass, attitude and relatable flaws and this was nearly a perfect fit for me.

While the premise behind the three women and best friends, Robin, Monica, and Val, suddenly getting psychic abilities in their mid 40’s may be a bit far fetched, the author does an amazing job of selling it with the way she manages to blend it with real life.

The story is told from each of the three women’s perspectives, but falls more heavily on Robin’s perspective as she is the main character. That imbalance was unusual for me, but I really enjoyed how it helped the story flow and to get an idea of how each woman was dealing with the sudden changes. I adored the amazing, loving relationship between these three friends. It is the type of friendship most everyone would love to have in their life.

The romantic aspect of the story comes in a couple of different places, mainly in Robin’s relationship with her husband. How she is feeling in that relationship was so relatable to what many women, especially those that are also mothers, feel at some point. This just added to how much I liked her character.

This book made me laugh while connecting with the characters. Then topped it off with the kind of cry that is sad and happy at the same time. Since this is the first in a series, I’ll be anxiously awaiting the next book and probably digging into this authors back list as this was the first book I’ve read from them.

*This review was also published in Envie! Magazine’s April 2020 edition.

 

Book Review: First Blood, D.I. Kim Stone – Prequel

Author: Angela Marsons
Book Name: First Blood
Release Date: November 14, 2019
Series: D.I. Kim Stone
Order: Prequel (release order #12)
Genre: Suspense/Mystery/Police/Crime
Overall SPA: 5 Stars
5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: In the darkness of a cold December morning, Detective Kim Stone steps through the doors of Halesowen Police Station. She’s about to meet her team for the first time. The victim of her next case is about to meet his killer…

When the body of a young man is found beheaded and staked to the ground in a secluded area of the Clent Hills, Kim and her new squad rush to the crime scene.

Searching the victim’s home, Kim discovers a little girl’s bedroom and a hidden laptop. Why is his sister relieved to hear he’s dead – and where is the rest of his family?

As Kim begins to unearth the dark secrets at the heart of the case, D.C. Stacey Wood finds a disturbing resemblance to the recent murder of Lester Jackson. But that’s not all Stacey finds …

She’s convinced there is a link between the victims and a women’s shelter run by Marianne Forbes, Lester’s niece. A child of the care system herself, Kim knows all too well what it means to be vulnerable. Could Marianne be the key to cracking this case?

With the killer about to strike again, Kim is in deep water with a rookie squad. Inexperienced Stacey is showing signs of brilliance but struggling to hold her nerve and, while D.S. Bryant is reliable and calm, D.S. Dawson is a liability. With his home life in pieces, his volatile behaviour is already fracturing her fragile new team.

Can Kim bring Dawson in line and pull her crew together in time to catch the killer before another life is taken? This time, one of her own could be in terrible danger…

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 5/5 Stars
Believability: 5/5 Stars
Series Continuity/Expectations: 5/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 5/5 Stars

I straight up loved this. There is honestly not a negative thing I can come up with to say about this, which might just be a first for me. It is also really surprising as I am not normally a big fan of prequels, for a whole host of reasons. None of those reasons applied in any way to this book, though.

I really loved getting to see how the team came together in the beginning, knowing where they end up and all that happens throughout this series. While there really isn’t anything new about the team in particular that you learn in this, it was great to see the origins of the dynamic between them.

The one thing that we do learn new (at least, I don’t remember ever seeing it mentioned before, though it is possible I missed it) was about Woody’s history. And holy cow! That was a really interesting piece to learn. It kind of shifts the perspective on all the puzzle pieces of this series. It makes me really want to see him get a whole lot more page time in the future.

As with any of the books in this series, if you are a police/crime drama fan, you really need to have this one on your TBR if you don’t already.

 

Book Review: Heartsong, Green Creek – Book #3

Author: TJ Klune
Book Name: Heartsong
Release Date: October 22, 2019
Series: Green Creek
Order: #3
Genre: Paranormal/Urban/Romance/LGBTQIA
Overall SPA: 5 Stars
5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: All Robbie Fontaine ever wanted was a place to belong. After the death of his mother, he bounces around from pack to pack, forming temporary bonds to keep from turning feral. It’s enough—until he receives a summons from the wolf stronghold in Caswell, Maine.

Life as the trusted second to Michelle Hughes—the Alpha of all—and the cherished friend of a gentle old witch teaches Robbie what it means to be pack, to have a home.

But when a mission from Michelle sends Robbie into the field, he finds himself questioning where he belongs and everything he’s been told. Whispers of traitorous wolves and wild magic abound—but who are the traitors and who the betrayed?

More than anything, Robbie hungers for answers, because one of those alleged traitors is Kelly Bennett—the wolf who may be his mate.

The truth has a way of coming out. And when it does, everything will shatter.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 5/5 Stars
Series Continuity/Expectations: 4.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 5/5 Stars

I was utterly lost when I first started this. So much so, I even went back and reread the last couple of chapters of Ravensong, just to be sure I didn’t miss something or forgot something. I was so confused and frustrated and wondering what the hell was going on, verging on angry. Then, suddenly, I was like “Oh. OH! What the HELL did you do?!” I’m now convinced that TJ Klune is simply evil.

This entire book just kind of reaches in, grabs you by the heart and twists it until it is an unrecognizable mess. I was so torn by it all. I loved Robbie’s character in the previous books and this was so hard to read because… okay, I won’t say more or I’ll give too much away. But, it took a while for me to get back to that point. I kind of hated what happened in this book, but I loved the book anyway.

Then it had to go and end that way and it is way too damn long before the next and final book comes out. Like I said. TJ Klune is evil. And is why I had to ding at least one of my rating categories by a half a star, because that’s just wrong. Also why the next book is going on pre-order the second it is available.

 

 

Book Review: The Blacksmith Queen, The Scarred Earth Saga – Book #1

Author: G.A. Aiken
Book Name: The Blacksmith Queen
Release Date: August 27, 2019
Series: The Scarred Earth Saga
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Romance/Humor
Overall SPA: 5 Stars
5 Stars

 

 

Blurb:  The Old King Is Dead
 
With the demise of the Old King, there’s a prophesy that a queen will ascend to the throne of the Black Hills. Bad news for the king’s sons, who are prepared to defend their birthright against all comers. But for blacksmith Keeley Smythe, war is great for business. Until it looks like the chosen queen will be Beatrix, her younger sister. Now it’s all Keeley can do to protect her family from the enraged royals.

Luckily, Keeley doesn’t have to fight alone. Because thundering to her aid comes a clan of kilt-wearing mountain warriors called the Amichai. Not the most socially adept group, but soldiers have never bothered Keeley, and rough, gruff Caid, actually seems to respect her. A good thing because the fierce warrior will be by her side for a much longer ride than any prophesy ever envisioned …

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 5/5 Stars
Believability: 5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 5/5 Stars

When I first saw this book was the start of a new series, I was a tiny bit concerned it wouldn’t follow what I’ve come to know and love about G.A. Aiken’s style. You never really know for sure what you’re getting into with a new series and the blurb doesn’t quite do this justice, falling on the more serious side. Fans of the Dragon Kin series will be happy to know this series is set in that same world. Though there isn’t any kind of crossover just yet, the potential is there for future books.

Everything I’ve always loved about a G.A. Aiken novel is in this one. All the over the top, effortlessly badass female characters. The phenomenal, irreverent snark and humor layered into those intensely grotesque battle scenes. I don’t know another author that can make me laugh so hard about someone getting their head smashed to a pulp. Those things really shouldn’t ever be funny, but because of the way she writes, I cannot read and drink anything at the same time.

I was really surprised this went the direction it did with Keeley’s and Beatrix’s relationship. At first, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it, but I really did. It felt different for this author (unless I’ve forgotten something or missed a book in the past) to go that route.

Even though this is the same world as the Dragon Kin series and you get to see similar beings (dragons, centaurs), they are still unique to the part of the world this book is founded in. So, while similar in setting and general feel, it still has the sense of newness that I thoroughly enjoyed. The next book in this series cannot come soon enough.

For those new to G.A. Aiken, no need to worry. You won’t feel lost. If you love a little magic, a wide range of interesting types of characters, battle scenes and lots of humor (the kind that gets everyone looking at you funny when you snort, choke or belt out your most embarrassing laugh), you absolutely should be putting this one on your TBR.

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Book Review: Dear Wife – Kimberly Belle

Author: Kimberly Belle
Book Name: Dear Wife
Release Date: June 25, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Overall SPA: 5 Stars
5 Stars

 

 

Blurb:

Beth Murphy is on the run…

For nearly a year, Beth has been planning for this day. A day some people might call any other Wednesday, but Beth prefers to see it as her new beginning–one with a new look, new name and new city. Beth has given her plan significant thought, because one small slip and her violent husband will find her.

Sabine Hardison is missing…

A couple hundred miles away, Jeffrey returns home from a work trip to find his wife, Sabine, is missing. Wherever she is, she’s taken almost nothing with her. Her abandoned car is the only evidence the police have, and all signs point to foul play.

As the police search for leads, the case becomes more and more convoluted. Sabine’s carefully laid plans for her future indicate trouble at home, and a husband who would be better off with her gone. The detective on the case will stop at nothing to find out what happened and bring this missing woman home. Where is Sabine? And who is Beth? The only thing that’s certain is that someone is lying and the truth won’t stay buried for long.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 5/5 Stars
Believability: 5/5 Stars
Uniqueness Factor: 5/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 5/5 Stars
I am gushing over how much I loved this book! I don’t normally gush, and I don’t think I ever have over a mystery/suspense book, but I am gushing because this was everything a mystery/suspense novel is supposed to be. It is also the kind of book that you really don’t want to know a whole lot about before you read it. You want to go in mostly blind and without any opinions or expectations to get the full impact of the story, so I’m doing my best to keep it really general.

This started out with the best first chapter I’ve read in a really long time, if not the best first chapter ever. Talk about getting sucked in. I was a little worried that with that strong of a start, there was no way it would continue that strong, but it absolutely did.

The entire story is told from three different characters’ perspectives, Beth, Marcus – the detective looking into Sabine’s disappearance, and Jeffery – Sabine’s husband.

I won’t say that I loved all of the characters in this book, but you don’t normally love the bad guy in a story. That said, I did really enjoy the way the bad guy was written and presented.

It was also impossible not to feel sympathy for Beth, her pain and her desperation, even if you have doubts about her character at times. I was emotionally invested in her and Sabine’s story from the start.

The storyline throughout this felt really unique and not something recycled from a dozen other similar novels, which is a huge thing for me, especially in this genre.

I cannot say enough how well this story flowed. I loved how when I thought I knew what kinds of connections existed, or at least suspected, something gets revealed that makes those assumptions less sure. Or you know there is no connection and you are given a piece that shows, maybe there really is. You are just never entirely sure. I was really deep into the book before some of the larger puzzle pieces started to be visible and it wasn’t a picture I was expecting. All of those hints and reveals are done in incredible, subtle ways. Subtle enough that there were a couple I didn’t pick up until another small piece was uncovered.

Basically, this was awesome. If it isn’t on your TBR yet, it absolutely should be.