Book Review: Thin Air, Jessica Shaw- Book #1

Author: Lisa Gray
Book Name: Thin Air
Release Date: June 1, 2019
Series: Jessica Shaw
Order: #1
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Crime
Overall SPA: 2.5 Stars
2.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: She investigates missing persons—now she is one.

Private investigator Jessica Shaw is used to getting anonymous tips. But after receiving a photo of a three-year-old kidnapped from Los Angeles twenty-five years ago, Jessica is stunned to recognize the little girl as herself.

Eager for answers, Jessica heads to LA’s dark underbelly. When she learns that her biological mother was killed the night she was abducted, Jessica’s determined to solve a case the police have forgotten. Meanwhile, veteran LAPD detective Jason Pryce is in the midst of a gruesome investigation into a murdered college student moonlighting as a prostitute. A chance encounter leads to them crossing paths, but Jessica soon realizes that Pryce is hiding something about her father’s checkered history and her mother’s death.

To solve her mother’s murder and her own disappearance, Jessica must dig into the past and find the secrets buried there. But the air gets thinner as she crawls closer to the truth, and it’s getting harder and harder to breathe.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 2.5/5 Stars
Believability: 3/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 2.5/5 Stars

I picked this up because the premise of this sounded really amazing. The idea that you are in fact the adult version of a child that had been missing for years and you never had a single clue? Love this concept!

I did like the resulting story and this kept things moving and intense all the way through. But… there were a couple of things that kind of stuck out like a sore thumb and yanked me out of the story thinking “How can anyone be alive in the United States today and not know that isn’t accurate?” In the grand scheme of things, these weren’t major issues with the plot or progression of the story and pointing them out seems a bit nit picky, but they just really felt wrong and out of place.

One is that there are probably very, very few schools across the country that don’t have some form of secure entrance where anyone off the street could walk in, walk through hallways containing lockers before they were ever confronted with a school official. Most have the kind of security where you are buzzed directly into the office itself and can’t access the rest of the building without someone confirming you are allowed beyond that point. I cannot imagine that any schools in the L.A. area would be so lax. Again, this was minor, but it yanked me out of the story because it was so out of place.

One of the others was police kicking in the door to a suspect’s residence without any provocation. Things like arrest and search warrants are requirements for police unless there is some mitigating circumstance, like at least the hint of a belief that someone is in danger or something along those lines. You aren’t even given that flimsy excuse for the entrance. This one was a little bigger for me because it goes to the believability of the story and the investigation of the crime aspects. There were a couple of other smaller issues that aren’t worth pointing out, but they added up.

I think I got a better feel for who nearly every single character in this book was, even the much smaller side characters, than I ever got for Jessica. If asked, I don’t think I could really give you any kind of aspect to her personality other than the fact that she may not be so bright. I could tell you some facts about her physically and what she does, but not who she is or what is important to her or really much of anything about her past outside of the history of what was going on around her before she disappeared. Considering this is the first book in a series, it is problematic that this is missing because I don’t know that she is interesting enough for me to want to read more about her.

I did enjoy most of the basics and the bones of this story, but it was missing a lot of the more important nuances that would have pushed it into the really good range for me.

 

 

Book Review: Close To Home, Sawyer’s Ferry – Book #4

Author: Cate Ashwood
Book Name: Close To Home
Release Date: June 11, 2019
Series: Sawyer’s Ferry
Order: #4
Genre: Romance/LGBTQIA
Overall SPA: 3 SPA Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb:

Witt:
I excelled at two things: systems engineering and going completely unnoticed.
The engineering took work and determination. The invisibility came naturally. Until one day, the wrong person noticed me. Battered and broken, I fled, escaping to Sawyer’s Ferry and the only friends I’d ever had.
Now, I just needed to figure out what I was going to do next.

Mason:
Life was good.
I had a great job, good friends, and a family who loved me. Even my roommate was decent. At least he was until he let his nudist brother come to visit. The opportunity to house-sit and help an injured friend couldn’t have come at a better time.
All I’d needed was to avoid an awkward situation for a few days, but I got more than I bargained for when my entire uncomplicated life flipped upside down. The last thing I’d been looking for was love, but it wasn’t until Witt that I realized just how much I’d been missing out on.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Series Expectations: 3/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 2.5/5 Stars

This started out really good and I connected with Witt’s character right away. I liked Mason right away as well. I liked how their story was unfolding. But… this ended up being this really long and drawn out story where not much actually happens for the bulk of the story. Then, in the last 10% of the book, the reader gets steamrolled with big stuff going on, Mason and Witt going from taking this snail slow pace to being in love, followed by a huge time jump that wraps it all up in a bow. It started out good, then started to drag and then you hit light speed right before you hit full stop. It was like there was this great story idea but there wasn’t a specific path to a finish. The end felt jumbled and rushed which clashes with the much slower pace of the earlier parts of the story making this fall more into the “Okay” range for me.

 

Book Review: A Merciful Fate, Mercy Kilpatrick – Book #5

Author: Kendra Elliot
Book Name: A Merciful Fate
Release Date: January 15, 2019
Series: Mercy Kilpatrick
Order: #5
Genre: Romance/Mystery/Suspense/Crime
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Raised by preppers, survivalist and FBI agent Mercy Kilpatrick has a deep-rooted need for a safe place. Her getaway in the Cascade Foothills is her secret. But when skeletal remains are unearthed—those of a murdered man linked to a notorious heist—Mercy realizes she isn’t the only one with something to hide.

Thirty years ago, an armored-car robbery turned deadly. The mastermind was captured. Four conspirators vanished with a fortune. One of them, it appears, never made it out of the woods alive. For Mercy and her fiancé, Police Chief Truman Daly, their investigation opens old wounds in Eagle’s Nest that cut deeper than they imagined. Especially when a reckless tabloid reporter draws fresh blood. It’s clear to Mercy that somebody in this close-knit community is not who they seem to be.

Some are still shattered by the heist. Some still have reason to be afraid. But which one will kill again and again to hide three decades of secrets? To land this case, it’s up to Mercy to unmask a familiar stranger before someone else dies.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Believability: 2.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3/5 Stars

This series has always been interesting to me. I have really enjoyed the insight into the world and mindset of preppers, so I always look forward to seeing bits of that life in these books. This book didn’t really touch on that nearly as much as previous books.

The one issue I’ve had with the series, at least on a small scale, is that some of the plotlines get a little convoluted and unbelievable. That was the case with this one as it really felt a bit ridiculous at times, more so than most of the previous books. At one point, I honestly wondered how many characters were going to get shot or killed or have really bad things happen to them. If a character appeared on a page, I was pretty certain it was going to turn into something ugly or traumatic.

For what is supposedly a relatively small community, there is an extremely high percentage of bad guys that seem to all live there. There are also a somewhat extreme number of cases that overlap between the FBI and local police. I like Mercy and Truman’s characters, but there are only so many cases they can have intertwine so they work together before you’ve broken the realistic barrier, fiction or not. The fact that this is book 5 and all of these same issues showed up again frustrated me. Those aspects keep this series from being a really great one in my book.

 

 

 

Book Review: Year One, Chronicles of the One – Book #1

Author: Nora Roberts
Book Name: Year One
Release Date: December 5, 2017
Series: Chronicles of the One
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Romance/Science Fiction/Distopian
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: The sickness came on suddenly, and spread quickly. The fear spread even faster. Within weeks, everything people counted on began to fail them. The electrical grid sputtered; law and government collapsed—and more than half of the world’s population was decimated.

And as the power of science and technology receded, magic rose up in its place. Some of it is good, like the witchcraft worked by Lana Bingham, practicing in the loft apartment she share with her lover, Max. Some of it is unimaginably evil, and it can lurk anywhere, around a corner, in fetid tunnels beneath the river—or in the ones you know and love the most. As word spreads that neither the immune nor the gifted are safe from the authorities who patrol the ravaged streets, Lana and Max make their way out of a wrecked New York City. At the same time, other travelers are heading west too, into a new frontier.

In a world of survivors where every stranger encountered could be either a savage or a savior, none of them knows exactly where they are heading, or why. But a purpose awaits them that will shape their lives and the lives of all those who remain.

The end has come. The beginning comes next.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Believability: 3.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3/5 Stars

This book actually fell pretty far outside of my normal reading genres as I rarely ever read dystopian or science fiction (just not my thing). I had honestly expected a lot more of this to be on the fantasy/magical end of the spectrum and is why I picked it up, but at this point in the larger story arc of this series, you really haven’t gotten a whole lot of it.

When it comes to believability in a story, you can get away with a lot more when it is because of magic and this book’s main premise is based on that fact, otherwise there would be some issues with how so many of the world’s population died. The basis does work, but it stretches to get there. The magical aspects fall on the flimsy side of things for me because there is never much explanation behind it. I get that much of that is supposed to come later in the series storyline, but it leaves readers in this place where they are expected to believe in it just because they are told to without any kind of foundation to support it.

There were some characters I really liked, that came across as layered and interesting, but I struggled with Lana’s character. She just kind of came across as a bit… not flighty exactly, but the dreamy sighs attitude of “It was meant” seemed a bit repetitive and too much, as though she really wasn’t fully grounded in the horror of the world around her. Max wasn’t much better.

For the most part, I felt the story was interesting and I was invested in where it was going. Then you get this shift and things change. Suddenly every character that the reader has been introduced to gets dropped off the page. I kept expecting to get back to some of their perspectives, but it never happens. When I finally got to the end, I was kind of wondering what the point was of getting anything at all from their perspective in the first place. You get all these threads of their stories and then they are all just dropped.

The final piece that really kept this from being a really good story for me was how the last 1/4 or so of the book wraps up and the events in that wrap up. I’m not going to go into spoiler levels here, but lets just say it really did not work for me when it came to character relationships.

I have the next book on my TBR, but I have a feeling it is is going to be one that I keep setting aside in favor of other books I’d much rather read.

Book Review: A Stranger on the Beach – Michele Campbell

Author: Michele Campbell
Book Name: A Stranger on the Beach
Release Date: July 23, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Suspense/Mystery/Thriller
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: There is a stranger outside Caroline’s house.

Her spectacular new beach house, built for hosting expensive parties and vacationing with the family she thought she’d have. But her husband is lying to her and everything in her life is upside down, so when the stranger, Aiden, shows up as a bartender at the same party where Caroline and her husband have a very public fight, it doesn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary.

As her marriage collapses around her and the lavish lifestyle she’s built for herself starts to crumble, Caroline turns to Aiden for comfort…and revenge. After a brief and desperate fling that means nothing to Caroline and everything to him, Aiden’s obsession with Caroline, her family, and her house grows more and more disturbing. And when Caroline’s husband goes missing, her life descends into a nightmare that leaves her accused of her own husband’s murder.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3/5 Stars
Believability: 3/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3/5 Stars

Based on feedback from other bloggers raving about this book, I was really excited to pick this one up. I don’t think I got the same things out of this that they did, so I’m definitely in the minority on my reaction.

I found myself, really early on, not liking characters I was probably supposed to and liking ones I wasn’t. I’m the kind of reader that needs some form of connection with characters, or to feel a certain sense of relatability and those early impressions made that difficult.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the whole “If I’d known” lines that get dropped all through the beginning of the book that seemed to give away what was going to happen later. They were like glowing neon signs screaming “Look HERE!” I understand the purpose, but they bugged me.

The dual perspective through the majority of the book, giving you vastly different versions of what is going on throughout the story, kind of fell in the middle of like and dislike for me. On one hand, it was interesting seeing the way this was presented, but it took me a little too long to not have those different versions be jarring. When I finally get used to those disparities and come to expect them, a new character’s perspective gets tossed into the mix.

While there were a lot of things going on, it took way longer than it should have to actually settle in and get somewhat invested in how the story played out.

If you are the kind of reader that picks up on small details, the ending won’t be a shock to you. There are definitely a range of possibilities by that point, but, for me, this story could have gone in any of those directions and I wouldn’t have been surprised, though the path to get to any of them is a bit over the top and twisted along the way. In all this was a decent read, but I didn’t love it either.

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

 

 

Book Review: The Witchkin Murders, Magicfall – Book 1

Author: Diana Pharaoh Francis
Book Name: The Witchkin Murders
Release Date: June 7, 2019
Series: Magicfall
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Urban Paranormal Romance
Overall SPA: 3.25
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb:

Four years ago, my world—the world—exploded with wild magic. The cherry on top of that crap cake? The supernatural world declared war on humans, and my life went straight to hell.

I used to be a detective, and a damned good one. Then Magicfall happened, and I changed along with the world. I’m witchkin now—something more than human or not quite human, depending on your perspective. To survive, I’ve become a scavenger, searching abandoned houses and stores for the everyday luxuries in short supply—tampons and peanut butter. Oh, how the mighty have fallen, but anything’s better than risking my secret.

Except, old habits die hard. When I discover a murder scene screaming with signs of black magic ritual, I know my days of hiding are over. Any chance I had of escaping my past with my secret intact is gone. Solving the witchkin murders is going to be the hardest case of my life, and not just because every second will torture me with reminders of how much I miss my old life and my partner, who hates my guts for abandoning the department.

But it’s time to suck it up, because if I screw this up, Portland will be wiped out, and I’m not going to let that happen. Hold on to your butts, Portland. Justice is coming, and I don’t take prisoners.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3/5 Stars
This one was a hard one to rate as I liked most all of the characters, but not one of the major ones.

Uniqueness Factor: 4/5 Stars
While you have an often seen theme of the real world being changed by a catastrophic event that results in magic and magical beings, I do think it was presented in a new and interesting way.

World Building: 3/5 Stars
Like the uniqueness factor, I mostly enjoyed the world this is built on. I had a few issues with some of the founding facts of the world and how well the author made it work, basically some quirks that didn’t pan out for me.

Personal Opinion: 3/5 Stars
Overall, I enjoyed this book. I liked the majority of the characters and there was a freshness to the way magic was brought into the story in this world. That said, I didn’t love it. It was a good story, but there were a few things that kept it from being a much better story for me.

I was not a fan at all of Ray’s character. He comes across as a volatile, angry, nearly abusive person and I’m never a fan of those types of characters being the love interest in the story. This has a touch of the enemies to lovers trope for those that are interested in that theme, but Ray’s character makes it hard for me to get on board with the romantic aspect of this story.

The way the introduction to magic was presented in this book was really intriguing and I was drawn in by that, but there were certain aspects of it that made it hard to believe. The idea that certain things were difficult to obtain was awesome, but it fizzled a bit in the implementation of that idea because you don’t really see the lack. If a region is cut off with regards to communication and transport of goods, there are going to be much larger issues than what you see in this book. Access to a whole lot of different foods, especially something like coffee, kind of grated on me. Mostly because there was very little explanation as to how things were obtained after transportation channels were cut off. Again, I love the idea, but it didn’t feel completely developed.

Though I wasn’t a fan of those aspects, I was still able to enjoy the story.

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

 

Other areas of note (not included in the SPA rating):

Cover: 2/5 Stars
I think I’m developing a peeve when it comes to covers. I get this fits the genre, but I’m kind of tired of seeing the ripped, scantily clad bodies, especially women, on most every single cover. Especially when they take up the majority of the cover and don’t really do much of anything to reflect any of the specifics in the story. I think for me it is as much about creativity as anything. How creative did you really have to get when you are doing pretty much the same cover as every other book in this genre?

Peeve Factor: 3/5 Stars
I didn’t include this in the SPA because it wasn’t a horrible abuse of my peeves, but it is worth mentioning and touches a bit on my personal opinion rating. I really don’t like characters like Ray. The angry, never thinks before he speaks, volatile and damn near verbally abusive character. I can tolerate them to an extent and am more willing to do so when it is a side character or a bad guy, but I really dislike them in a lead, romantic role. I’m even willing to overlook that when it is a part of character growth, but you honestly don’t see much of that at all in this.

Also, if you are going to create a world, especially a fantasy one with a magical aspect, I really want to see it fully rounded out. If you are going to do something like in this book and say that transport between regions or even cities is near impossible, then you really need to work on how your characters survive, because in the real world, EVERYTHING is felt on a global basis. There are probably very few areas of the US that could be truly self sustaining without some severe areas of deficits. If the situation in this world had happened over a period of time so that those regions could prepare, that would be one thing, but that isn’t what happened. Granted, this is really a small potatoes issue with regards to the overall story, but it is something that I notice and it irks me a bit when it is glossed over and not actually addressed or dealt with.

There were a couple of others that I noticed while I was reading, but they weren’t really big enough to stick with me by the time I finished. The ones I noted weren’t enough to make me hate this, but it definitely impacted how much I liked it.