Hearing Evil: Cycle of Evil, Book 2

Author: Jason Parent
Book Name: Hearing Evil
Series: Cycle of Evil
Order: 2
Genre: Thriller/Suspense/Crime
Rating:  Good

3+stars

Blurb:

Michael Turcotte wants nothing to do with his so-called gift—the ability to see other people’s fates simply by touching them. Michael decides to spend his summer searching for answers about his past. He can’t rest without the sounds of forgotten tragedy echoing through his dreams, but reconstructing his memories will come with a whole new set of problems even he can’t foresee.

Detective Samantha Reilly has always looked out for Michael, but now that she’s taken him into her home, she fears her maternal instincts are lacking. When a brutal gang sets off a chain reaction of crimes, Sam struggles to choose between the two most important things in her life: her job and her new foster son. Fate intervenes when Michael is kidnapped, forcing her two roles to collide.

As Michael’s past meets Sam’s present, their bond will be tested while a city crumbles around them. They’ll need all their skills and a lot of luck in order to survive.

While the first book in this series deals with the concept of the paranormal, its focus leaned more heavily towards the crime aspects and the gruesomeness of those crimes. This book heads deeper into the paranormal and steps away from the gruesome and the crime. Personally, I was a bit relieved by that.

At the same time, I didn’t like this one as much as the first because that shift more towards the paranormal brings with it an even bigger leap into over the top situations and scenarios, losing some of its grip on reality and believability. It is incredibly difficult to marry paranormal with realism, especially if you are going to focus on things like crimes and police work. There has to be a solid foundation in reality to be able to pull that off in a believable way for a reader. I think this one took several of the scenarios too far out of the bounds of being able to suspend disbelief.

Top that off with a story line that seems overly complicated and disparate at times, I struggled to really get to the point behind a lot of what was going on. I understand that this book is built in such a way to create a foundation (and what seems to be a very elaborate one at that) for future books, but it all just got to be a bit too much for me as I’m just not a huge fan of those types of stories.

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

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.**

Someone to Call My Own: Road to Blissville, Book 2

Someone to Cal lMy OwnAuthor: Aimee Nicole Walker
Book Name: Someone to Call My Own
Series: Road to Blissville
Order: 2
Genre: Romance, LGBT
Rating:  Okay

3+stars

 

 

 

Blurb: Psychic Emory Jackson and former black ops specialist Jonathon Silver are men from two completely different worlds with one thing in common: heartbreak. Emory still mourns the loss of his husband five years prior, and Jon is reeling with grief from the recent death of his twin brother.

Sparks fly when mutual friends introduce them, but it’s so much more than basic attraction. There’s an undeniable awareness and a sense of belonging that neither man can deny. Despite Emory’s premonition of a future with Jon, he has vowed never to love again. Jon is convinced that his tainted soul is the reason he will never have someone to call his own. What if they’re both wrong?

Maybe these broken men with their jagged edges could somehow align perfectly to form something whole and beautiful. But will that realization come too late for them?

This was on the disappointing side. Having read all the books in the Curl Up and Dye series and loved them, I had high expectations for this series since it is set in the same world with lots of run ins from the characters in that series. Sadly, with the second installment in The Road to Blissville series, it just doesn’t measure up.

My first issue is that there are so many overlaps between the story lines in the Curl Up and Dye series that there is a good chunk of events and information in this book that I’d already read in that series. I think in this case, you just might be better off if you haven’t read the other series first. For me, that made the first third of this book seem to drag because I needed something new (kind of the point in picking up a new book).

The other is probably more of a personal taste issue, but I strongly dislike stories with this concept of fated mates where the people have no choice. Don’t get me wrong. I love all kinds of things that run to the paranormal and I don’t even mind the general concept of fate, but when it is pushed to the point where it feels like all choice is taken away and it doesn’t matter how a character feels about it, that is just the way it is going to be, I lose any kind of connection to the story. It pushes boundaries for me that are distasteful to me. This pushed those boundaries.

Because of how unwelcoming both characters felt about this relationship, it made it even harder for me to believe anything that happens emotionally, especially when you are suddenly getting the “I love you” bombs dropped and they know absolutely nothing about each other. When you have absolutely nothing to base those feelings on, I cannot find any realism in them. It just does not work at all for me.

There was so much energy and character and fun in the Curl Up and Dye series that this book (and the first one in this same series) is lacking. I was expecting at least a few touches of the same here, but you never get it. That is also a part of why this only rated as okay for me. I was just expecting more.

 

 

 

Rituals: Cainsville, Book 5

RitualsAuthor: Kelley Armstrong
Book Name: Rituals
Series: Cainsville
Order: #5
Genre: Fantasy/Paranormal/Romance
Rating:  Favorite

5+stars

 

 

 

Blurb: When Olivia Taylor-Jones found out she was not actually the adopted child of a privileged Chicago family but of a notorious pair of convicted serial killers, her life exploded. Running from the fall-out, she found a refuge in the secluded but oddly welcoming town of Cainsville, Illinois, but she couldn’t resist trying to dig out the truth about her birth parents’ crimes. She began working with Gabriel Walsh, a fiendishly successful criminal lawyer who also had links to the town; their investigation soon revealed Celtic mysteries at work in Cainsville, and also entangled Olivia in a tense love triangle with the calculating Gabriel and her charming biker boyfriend, Ricky. Worse, troubling visions revealed to Olivia that the three of them were reenacting an ancient drama pitting the elders of Cainsville against the mysterious Huntsmen with Olivia as the prize.

This is the fifth and final book in the Cainsville series, so the description above is very vague, to avoid spoilers!

This is a hard one to write a review on without giving anything away. The story did it’s job of wrapping everything up with a solution for pretty much everything.

I’m giving this a full rating because the story is awesome. That said, I kind of felt like I already knew what was going to happen when it was all done. Yes, there were all kinds of directions this could have gone, but it ended how I expected it to, so this just kind of felt like confirming those thoughts. That was just a tiny bit of a let down because I didn’t feel all that surprised in the end.

Then again, I always feel a little let down when I get to the end of a series that I love because I’m just not quite ready to say goodbye to the characters.

Ghost Gifts: Laura Spinella

Ghost GiftsAuthor: Laura Spinella
Book Name: Ghost Gifts
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Paranormal/Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


Blurb:  All Aubrey Ellis wants is a normal life, one that doesn’t include desperate pleas from the dead. Her remarkable gift may help others rest in peace, but it also made for an unsettling childhood and destroyed her marriage. Finally content as the real estate writer for a local newspaper, Aubrey keeps her extraordinary ability hidden—until she is unexpectedly assigned the story of a decades-old murder.

Rocked by the discovery of a young woman’s skeletal remains, the New England town of Surrey wants answers. Hard-nosed investigative reporter Levi St John is determined to get them. Aubrey has no choice but to get involved, even at the terrifying risk of stirring spirits connected to a dead woman’s demise and piquing her new reporting partner’s suspicions.

As Aubrey and Levi delve further into the mystery, secrets are revealed and passion ignites. It seems that Aubrey’s ghost gifts are poised to deliver everything but a normal life.

Review:  Normally when I get notices from Amazon about the books available for free to Prime members, I either completely ignore the email or glance over the offerings, finding nothing that appeals to me (hence the ignoring the emails), but I took a chance this last time and ran across this one.  It looked interesting enough and, it’s free, so why not?  I honestly had zero expectations one way or another as I’ve never read this author before, so I was pleasantly surprised by the time I finished reading this that I liked it as much as I did.

I don’t think I would call this a typical paranormal romance.  It absolutely had aspects of both the paranormal and the romance, but neither were entirely the focus of the story.  The focus is more on the characters and their lives and how those lives intersect.  I think it is as much because it isn’t the typical that I enjoyed this as much as I did.  It was unexpected, which was a wonderful change of pace for me.

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Heart of Evil: Krewe of Hunters, Book 2

Heart of EvilAuthor: Heather Graham
Book Name: Heart of Evil
Series: Krewe of Hunters
Order: #2
Genre: Paranormal/Suspense
Rating:  Good
3+stars



Blurb:  Emerging from the bayou like an apparition, Donegal Plantation is known for its unsurpassed dining, captivating atmosphere, haunting legends…and now a corpse swinging from the marble angel that marks its cemetery’s most majestic vault. A corpse discovered in nearly the same situation as that of Marshall Donegal, the patriarch killed in a skirmish just before the Civil War.

Desperate for help traditional criminologists could never provide, plantation heiress Ashley Donegal turns to an elite team of paranormal investigators who blend hard forensics with rare–often inexplicable–intuition. Among the “Krewe of Hunters” is an old flame, Jake Mallory, a gifted musician with talent stretching far beyond the realm of the physical, and a few dark ghosts of his own.

The evil the team unveils has the power to shake the plantation to its very core. Jake and Ashley are forced to risk everything to unravel secrets that will not stay buried–even in death….

Review:  Compared to book one, I liked the story better in this book, but I liked the characters better in the first one.  The characters here came across as rather flat.

I also had an issue (one of those must suspend disbelief kinds of things) with the fact that Jake, who previously was pretty much just a musician that also apparently helped to find people (unless I’m mistaken on that aspect), now is a full fledged FBI agent that knows all about protocols, procedure and apparently the knowledge to give a behavioral analysis of bad guys.  It was all a little too pat for my liking.  Even more so when his apparent finding ability seems to have been forgotten.  It was also hugely coincidental that Ashley can also see and talk to ghosts.

Ashley’s character was a tad on the annoying side and a bit flip-floppy for my tastes.  I really didn’t like her hypocritical attitude and how she was with Jake early on, then just dropped all issues as if they were nothing and everything is all hunky dory in romance land with the two of them.

Another, more minor, irritant was an issue with names getting switched.  There were several places where it was obvious the character in question was one person, but the name used was another.  Should have been Jackson, but said Jake instead.  Same with Angela and Ashley.  That is one huge downside to using similar character names in a book.  If you are going to do that, you had better be on your toes during the editing process to make sure that gets caught because a mistake like that can completely yank a reader right out of the story, depending on how important the scenario is.

I did really like the non-romance part of this story, though.  There are still aspects that are just a little too perfect and coincidental to make this a really good story and is what keeps in on the just good level, but it was good.  It kept me interested and I didn’t get bored with the plot.

Phantom Evil: Krewe of Hunters, Book 1

Phantom EvilAuthor: Heather Graham
Book Name: Phantom Evil
Series: Krewe of Hunters
Order: #1
Genre: Paranormal/Suspense
Rating:  Good
3+stars

Blurb:  A secret government unit, a group of renegade paranormal investigators…and a murder no one else can crack

Though haunted by the recent deaths of two teammates, Jackson Crow knows that the living commit the most heinous crimes.

A police officer utilizing her paranormal intuition, Angela Hawkins already has her hands full of mystery and bloodshed.

But one assignment calls to them too strongly to resist. In a historic mansion in New Orleans’s French Quarter, a senator’s wife falls to her death. Most think she jumped; some say she was pushed. And yet others believe she was beckoned by the ghostly spirits inhabiting the house–once the site of a serial killer’s grisly work.

In this seemingly unsolvable case, only one thing is certain: whether supernatural or all too human, crimes of passion will cast Jackson and Angela into danger of losing their lives…and their immortal souls.

Review:  One of the peeves I have with the suspense/mystery genre is that it is incredibly rare that the story doesn’t end with a big Scooby Doo moment.  Sadly, this book really wasn’t an exception so it slammed that peeve button hard for me.  Seriously!  Why can’t the characters be intelligent enough to figure it out through hard work and smarts rather than having the bad guy just dump it all into your lap?  I’m just not a fan of that.

The other part that kind of annoyed me was the dialog.  When there was dialog in the less intense parts of the book, it came across as awkward and clunky because there wasn’t much background reference for the conversation to flow naturally.  Again, another peeve of mine.  I don’t think I noticed this as much when there was a lot of drama going on because that is what I was focused on, so it wasn’t a horrible distraction as a whole, but just obvious in the less intense places.

I can say that outside of those kind of big irritants, I did like this.  I like the concept of this group that has come together and what they are doing.  I like the fact that the paranormal is a big part of what they do, but it isn’t the entirety of their purpose.  I’m not usually a fan of books that fall into the horror or seriously scary end of things and this just skirted that for me (really wish I’d not read parts of this right before bed), but didn’t cross the line or I wouldn’t have finished it.

Considering that this is the first in the series and things can improve over time with an author’s experience, I do want to read more of these, though I think I’ll need some lighter material in between.

Emily & Einstein: Linda Francis Lee

Emily and EinsteinAuthor: Linda Francis Lee
Book Name: Emily & Einstein
Series: *
Order:*
Genre: Romance/Paranormal
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

 

Blurb:  He was a man who didn’t deserve a second chance. But he needed one…

Emily and her husband Sandy Portman seemed to live a gracious if busy life in an old-world, Upper West Side apartment in the famous Dakota building. But one night on the way to meet Emily, Sandy dies in a tragic accident. The funeral isn’t even over before Emily learns she is on the verge of being evicted from their apartment. But worse than the possibility of losing her home, Emily is stunned when she discovers that her marriage was made up of lies.

Suddenly Emily is forced on a journey to find out who her husband really was . . . all the while feeling that somehow he isn’t really gone. Angry, hurt, and sometimes betrayed by loving memories of the man she lost, Emily finds comfort in a scruffy dog named Einstein. But is Einstein’s seemingly odd determination that she save herself enough to make Emily confront her own past? Can he help her find a future—even after she meets a new man?

Review:  Even though my library didn’t have this classified as paranormal or fantasy, I’ve added that label to clarify that this isn’t what you’d expect.  This is another one of those books that wasn’t awful, but just wasn’t my thing.  I was looking for different, and this was definitely that, but not what I was looking for apparently.

There were some things that rubbed me wrong in this.  So many of the characters came across as insufferably arrogant.  That is in part because they absolutely were and in part because the writing seemed pretentious, almost to the point where I struggled not to read many of the voices as having a snobby British accent at times.

I also expected this to be more about an actual romance after loss and betrayal.  Instead it is a somewhat twisted story a dead guy getting a second chance at becoming a better person by becoming, instead of an arrogant man, an arrogant dog.  There is still a romantic aspect to the story, but there is so little of it that it comes across almost as an afterthought.

If this had been more along the lines of what I was wanting, I probably would have enjoyed this more.  Since it wasn’t, it really was just an okay story for me.

 

Deceptions: Cainsville, Book 3

DeceptionsAuthor: Kelley Armstrong
Book Name: Deceptions
Series: Cainsville
Order: #3
Genre: Fantasy/Paranormal/Romance
Rating:  Favorite
5+stars

 

Blurb:  Olivia Taylor Jones’s life has exploded. She’s discovered she is not only adopted, but her real parents are convicted serial killers. Fleeing the media frenzy, she took refuge in the oddly secluded town of Cainsville. She has since solved the town’s mysteries and finds herself not only the target of its secretive elders but also her stalker ex-fiancé.

Visions continue to haunt her: particularly a little blond girl in a green sundress who insists she has an important message for Olivia, one that may help her balance the light and darkness within herself. Death stalks both Olivia and the two men most important to her, as she desperately searches to understand whether ancient scripts are dictating the triangle that connects them. Will darkness prevail, or does Olivia have the power to prevent a tragic fate?

Review:  Authors like Kelley Armstrong are why I like to read.  This is the third book in the Cainsville series and is yet another really wonderful, detailed addition.

This book proves some suspicions from the other books true.  We see a very solid conflict arise between Olivia, Gideon and Ricky.  While we got hints of it in the previous books, it has never caused any real issues.  This time, it starts to shake the comfortable balance between the three of them and their friendships.  It also isn’t what I’d consider a classic love triangle either because it is so heavily weighted in actual friendship.  There is absolutely romantic layers to it, but I’m not sure at this point that it is the romantic parts that are what is truly important.

We get more of what we’ve learned to expect with this series in the unexpected twists, and there are quite a few.  This book is more heavily weighted on the fae aspects of the story than we’ve seen previously and we get to learn so much more about how that is important.  There are also more resolutions to many of the side plots in this book than we’ve seen in the other two, enough to leave me wondering where the series is going to go or focus next.  There are still a lot of questions that need answers and we are definitely going to need to see a resolution to the Olivia, Gideon, Ricky situation, but some of the bigger unfinished pieces seemed to have been revealed in this one.

This is one of those books that I almost hated to pick up because I knew that meant that I’d also have to finish it and I so wasn’t ready to be done when I hit the last page.

Cainsville Series Overview

Kelley Armstrong‘s latest book in the Cainsville series, Deceptions, was released earlier this week.  I again wanted to make sure I had a refresher read to make sure I didn’t end up missing anything in the new book, so I took the time to read the previous two books.  So glad I did, because I’d kind of forgotten how complex this story line actually is.

These books are all intricately connected and cannot be read as stand alone.  They absolutely have to be read in order or you are going to be seriously lost.  The general, larger story line, focuses on the main female character Olivia (Eden) and that she is the daughter of serial killers who was adopted after her parents arrest when she was two.  She didn’t find that fact out out until the point where the book starts (when she is 25).  Once she finds out, she spends her time dealing with the fallout when that becomes public knowledge, delving into her history and digging into the facts surrounding her birth parents crimes with the help of Gideon, an ethically questionable lawyer.

This series is packed full of side plots, dramas, details, intrigue and conspiracy throughout this series that makes this the kind of read where you really need to be aware and paying attention or you may end up missing something.  The first book gives quite a few hints as to what direction the series is going to go with hints of fae and celtic mythology showing up in Olivia’s background.  That takes a minor role starting out, but you know it is going to become a larger one later on down the line.  Everything is always tied back to the very unusual and isolated small town, Cainsville.

The unique approach to the paranormal in this book is probably one of the things that lands this series solidly on my favorites list.  It is contemporary, but with the aspects that put this into that paranormal genre beautifully worked in.  With the first book, you get those hints but then it twists off into a totally unexpected direction.  Each book seems to delve deeper into the paranormal side as more bits and pieces of Olivia’s history and origins are uncovered.

If you are a fan of Ms. Armstrong’s Otherworld series, this has a very different feel to it than those stories.  Since there is so much to these and they are so tightly woven together with lots of the side plots left open by the end of the books (without any ugly cliffhangers), the focus stays on the main characters instead of different characters and their stories being the focus of individual books.  I love how we get a smattering of reading from the different characters’ perspectives (and not just the main characters, but some of the side characters as well), but we aren’t constantly flip flopping.

Both the character development and world building in this series is beautifully done.  The characters are richly expressed and easily connected with.  The world is subtle, but that makes it so much easier to believe in it without stretching the imagination too far.

I highly recommend this series to anyone who hasn’t picked it up yet.