Book Review: The Secrets of Lost Stones – Melissa Payne

Author: Melissa Payne
Book Name: The Secrets of Lost Stones
Release Date: September 1, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Suspense/Paranormal
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Thirty-two-year-old Jess Abbot has lost everything: her job, her apartment, and—most heart-wrenching—her eight-year-old son, Chance, to a tragic accident. Haunted by memories and grief, Jess packs what’s left and heads for the small mountain town of Pine Lake, where she takes a position as caregiver to an eccentric old woman.

A rumored clairvoyant, Lucy is strange but welcoming and immediately intuits Jess as a “loose end” in need of closure. But Jess isn’t the only guest in Lucy’s large Victorian home. There’s also Star, a teenage runaway with a secret too painful to share. And the little boy with heart-shaped stones, who comes with a hope for reconciliation—and a warning.

Soon Jess learns that she’s not the only lost soul running from the ghosts of the past. She and Star have been brought together for a reason: to be saved by the very thing that destroyed them.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Believability: 3.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

This is a book with a lot of real life issues and emotions, but it is also threaded through with this sense of paranormal. I really enjoyed that balance between the two. At one point, I was a little worried that this was going to have a much darker ending than I prefer, but I was pleasantly surprised it didn’t go that direction.

I was surprised that I liked the majority of the characters in this book, because that is kind of rare for me. They were all really well written and well balanced with the layers they were supposed to have. I loved Lucy’s character and I would have loved to have gotten more of her history because she is so interesting.

This is just a really good, solid story all the way through. Because of the ghostly paranormal vibe, this would be a great book for a fall/Halloween read without being over the top scary.

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

 

Book Review: Storm Cursed, Mercy Thompson – Book #11

Author: Patricia Briggs
Book Name: Storm Cursed
Release Date: May 7, 2019
Series: Mercy Thompson
Order: #11
Genre: Urban/Fantasy/Paranormal/Romance
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: My name is Mercedes Athena Thompson Hauptman, and I am a car mechanic.

And a coyote shapeshifter.

And the mate of the Alpha of the Columbia Basin werewolf pack.

Even so, none of that would have gotten me into trouble if, a few months ago, I hadn’t stood upon a bridge and taken responsibility for the safety of the citizens who lived in our territory. It seemed like the thing to do at the time. It should have only involved hunting down killer goblins, zombie goats, and an occasional troll. Instead, our home was viewed as neutral ground, a place where humans would feel safe to come and treat with the fae.

The reality is that nothing and no one is safe. As generals and politicians face off with the Gray Lords of the fae, a storm is coming and her name is Death.

But we are pack, and we have given our word.

We will die to keep it.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Series Continuity: 4/5 Stars
Series Expectations: 4/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

The Mercy Thompson books always seem to be really hard for me to review. I always really enjoy them. I think they are incredibly well written. The world is awesome as are all of the characters and creatures and the layers of different mythologies all built into the stories.

All of that said, I think I’ve always liked the first several books much more than these last few. I still really like these, that hasn’t changed at all. The series seems to be holding strong and keeping with the expectations set in those earlier books. I’m just not sure it is doing much more than just meeting expectations, that the readers are ever really getting anything all that different to generate new excitement and interest. I think it is that fact that keeps these books from creeping into my favorites category and ending up on my “release day” reads list.

 

On My TBR – August 2019 Edition

The bare bones of my August TBR list, as always, I’ll probably read way more than this, but this is what is waiting to be read:

Shadow's Bane
Shadow’s Bane

Shadow’s Bane – Dorna Basarab #4 (yes, this one is a hold over from last month)

Genre: Fantasy/Urban

 

 

 

 

Fated
Fated

Fated – Book #1 Alex Verus

Genre: Fantasy/Uban/Paranormal

 

 

 

 

 

The Scribe
The Scribe

The Scribe

Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Crime

 

 

 

 

 

 

August’s Anxiously Awaiting Release:

The Blacksmith Queen
The Blacksmith Queen

The Blacksmith Queen – Book #1 in The Scarred Earth Saga

Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Comes out August 27th
Requested via NetGalley

 

 

 

 

On Hold At The Library (should be in for this month’s TBR):

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

Genre: Women’s Fiction/Romance

 

 

 

 

 

Caged
Caged

Caged

Genre: Mystery/Suspense

Book Review: Demon Magic and A Martini, The Guild Codex: Spellbound – Book #4

Author: Annette Marie
Book Name: Demon Magic and A Martini
Release Date: April 12, 2019
Series: The Guild Codex: Spellbound
Order: #4
Genre: Paranormal Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: When I first landed a bartending job at the local guild, I didn’t know a thing about magic. These days, I’m practically an expert on the different magical classes, but there’s one nobody ever talks about: Demonica.

Turns out they have a good reason for that.

My guild is strictly hellion-free, but some people will risk life and soul to control the biggest bullies on the mythic playground. And now a demon has been loosed in the city.

My three best friends are determined to slay it, but even badass combat mages are critically out-magicked. And that’s not all. The monster they’re tracking–it’s not hiding. It’s not fleeing. It’s not leaving a trail of corpses everywhere it goes.

The demon is hunting too. And in a city full of mythics, it’s searching for deadlier prey.

If we can’t unravel the demon’s sinister motivations, more innocent people will die, but finding the answers means digging into dark secrets … and learning truths I never wanted to know.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Series Expectations: 3.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3.5/5 Stars

Wow. This one got way more intense and serious than the previous books. You still get doses of that fun, funny, snarkiness that has been something of a hallmark for all the books up to this point, but not nearly the amount as before.

If I had to say that any of the guys got a book, this one would be Ezra’s. You learn a lot about him, his powers and his history in this. And some of that is pretty intense in a way I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it in the series going forward.

I’m even more iffy on how there is now this jumping attraction thing going on from Tori with the guys. This isn’t a reverse harem story and isn’t classified as romance in any of the genre tags, but there is definitely attraction and flirting in the previous books. Now we are seeing the object of that attraction shifting onto another guy in the group, making Tori’s character start to seem a little flighty where she hasn’t been so far, which is a little disappointing as I’ve loved pretty much everything about her character up until now.

This is still a really good story, but I have my concerns about the direction it may take in future books. So far, this really hasn’t felt like a NA/YA book, even if the character ages fit the genre, but some of the ways I see this potentially going will bring some of my least favorite elements that genre into this series.

Book Review: Two Witches and A Whiskey, The Guild Codex: Spellbound – Book #3

Author: Annette Marie
Book Name: Two Witches and A Whiskey
Release Date: February 8, 2019
Series: The Guild Codex: Spellbound
Order: #3
Genre: Paranormal Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Three months ago, I landed a job as a bartender. But not at a bar—at a guild. Yeah, the magic kind.

I’m not a badass mage like my three smokin’ hot best friends. I’m not a sorcerer or an alchemist, or even a wussy witch. I’m just a human, slinging drinks like a pro and keeping my non-magical nose out of mythic business. Seriously, I know my limits.

So why am I currently standing in a black-magic ritual circle across from a fae lord?

Somewhere behind me, my three mage friends are battling for their lives. Somewhere near my feet is the rogue witch I just knocked out with a stolen spell. And I have about five seconds to convince this very angry sea god not to shmoosh me like a bug.

I’m pretty sure this wasn’t part of the job description.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Series Expectations: 4.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

I’m still loving these books. I’m sadly at that point with reviews, though, where I feel like I’m going to be saying all the same things. I love Tori’s character. I love that she is special because she kind of isn’t. I love the guys. I love how they have this amazing friendship between them all. I’m still loving the world and how it works. This fits all of those, same as the previous books.

Of the first three books, this one delves just a little deeper into Tori’s need to fit in. I like seeing this aspect of her character. I’m a little worried that after this book she is going to lose some of what I’ve liked about her up to this point, the pieces that made her stand out from the other characters, so I’m anxious to see where that overarching thread goes in the next books. It also has a couple of scenes that were super sweet and touching, which was a nice shift from either funny or intense.

So, yes. Still enjoying the hell out of these and hope they continue to be just as fun as the first three.

Book Review: Dark Arts and a Daiquiri, The Guild Codex: Spellbound – Book #2

Author: Annette Marie
Book Name: Dark Arts and a Daiquiri
Release Date: November 18, 2018
Series: The Guild Codex: Spellbound
Order: #2
Genre: Paranormal Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: When I found myself facing down the scariest black-magic felon in the city, practically daring him to abduct me, I had to wonder exactly how I ended up here.

It all started when I accidentally landed a job as a bartender—but not at a bar. At a guild, populated by mages, sorcerers, alchemists, witches, and psychics. Good thing this lame-o human is adaptable, right?

Then my favorite guild members—three sexy, powerful, and intermittently charming mages—asked for my help. Did they want access to my encyclopedic knowledge of cocktails? Oh no. They wanted to wrap me up in a pretty ribbon and plunk me in the crosshairs of a murderous rogue to lure him out of hiding.

So that’s what we did. And that’s why I’m here. About to be kidnapped. Oh, and our grand plan for safely capturing said murderous rogue? Yeah, that completely fell apart about two minutes ago.

Why did I agree to this again?

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Series Expectations: 3.5/5 Stars
World Building: 4/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

This was another fun read that I really enjoyed.

When things first got going, I was a little worried and disappointed as it looked like we weren’t going to see much, if any, page time from the guys from the guild in the last book, which was really disappointing. It took a little bit, but I got over that and got into learning about a couple of new characters that I really hope to see again in later books.

I loved getting to learn more about the magical world in this series. It has a few typical things for this genre, but it also steps outside of the typical in many other ways, which was exciting. I like the newness of that, though I feel like there were certain aspects that didn’t get clarified to my liking.

You still get some attitude from Tori, but you don’t see it nearly as much in this book as the last one and I missed that. One of the things I love the most about the first book was her snark and sass and that was toned down quite a bit in this one.

It was still a really good book and I’m off to the next one!

 

 

Book Review: Tethered to the World, Phantom Touched – Book 1

Author: Stacey Brutger
Book Name: Tethered to the World
Release Date: June 19, 2019
Series: Phantom Touched
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Paranormal Romance/Reverse Harem
Overall SPA: 3.5
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: ONE TOUCH CAN SAVE YOU FROM CERTAIN DEATH…OR SENTENCE YOU TO AN ETERNITY IN HELL.

Born with the ability to defy death, Annora has been warned to keep her gift secret, but her greedy uncle can’t resist exploiting her by any means necessary. Starvation, beatings, broken bones–she’s survived them all and emerged stronger. But it’s not enough for him. It will never be enough. When she discovers her uncle plans to sell her to the highest bidder, she risks everything to escape the prison that has become her life.

The last thing she expected was to land at a university for supernaturals…or be paired with a pack of men as broken as her. As students go missing, Annora can’t get over the suspicion that she’s being hunted. To protect her, the guys must set aside their personal troubles and begin working as a team. But as her past collides with her present, she must make the ultimate sacrifice and expose her secrets to save the guys who’ve become more than family to her…and hope she’s strong enough to live with the consequences.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Believability: 3.5/5 Stars
Peeve Factor: 3/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 3.5/5 Stars

A couple of areas got dinged in this for me. One is the missing genre tags on Amazon. This was not marked as being a Reverse Harem. Yes, I really should have picked that up from the blurb, but didn’t. I also should have checked Goodreads as it does have that tag there, so this is only a small ding. The other missing tag is the new adult tag. I’m also not giving this a heavy ding with that because you don’t actually know the ages of the guys, but Annora is mentioned as being 20 and this has a college like setting, though that isn’t the bulk of the plot. This skirts the edges of that tag, but it still kind of applies.

The other one, and this one is a big one for me as it is a massive peeve of mine, is that this ends in a huge cliffhanger. More times than not, I will avoid books with a cliffhanger because they tick me off. Especially when it is a new book and the other books in the series haven’t even been written yet as is the case with this book. I have no problems with continuing story arcs across a series, but I need each book in that series to have an encapsulated story that gets wrapped up in each book. Or at least comes to a clean end. This is one great big cliff to hang on to, which really irritated me as I did really enjoy the rest of the book.

Even though I haven’t been a huge fan of reverse harem books in the past, this one was done pretty well so far. There aren’t a lot of games played within the group. None of the typical teeny-bopper-angsty drama. I did tend to get confused early on as to which one of the guys was which. There were a couple of times I was certain the wrong name was used in referring to one of the guys. The characters are decently mature, intelligent and likable (loved Mason) and I loved their different shifters and abilities.

I am a bit of a sucker for shifter type stories and even more so when they aren’t all the typical shifters. You absolutely get the not typical in this, which was a really refreshing take on that theme, with the exception of the wolves being on the stereotypical side as the mostly bad guys.

I’m not a huge fan of the college like setting as it isn’t something I typically enjoy and, so far, that setting hasn’t really been justified. There isn’t much of an actual purpose to it, which makes it even less appealing to me. Past that and the issues I mentioned above, I enjoyed the story and the interesting shifters and characters. I mostly enjoyed the world being built here, but there isn’t enough of it to really understand it yet.

Will I read the next book in the series? Probably, but depending on where it goes, it would be just as easy for me to drop it after that.

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

Cover: 4/5 Stars

I thought this cover was really pretty and I love the effect it creates. I probably like the cover way more than I like the book.

Book Review – Tuesday’s Child: Psychic Visions, Book 1

Author: Dale Mayer
Book Name: Tuesday’s Child
Series: Psychic Visions
Order: #1
Genre: Romance/Paranormal
Rating:  Okay/Good
3+stars

 

Blurb:

What she doesn’t want…is exactly what he needs.

Shunned and ridiculed all her life for something she can’t control, Samantha Blair hides her psychic abilities and lives on the fringes of society. Against her will, however, she’s tapped into a killer—or rather, his victims. Each woman’s murder, blow-by-blow, ravages her mind until their death releases her back to her body. Sam knows she must go to the authorities, but will the rugged, no-nonsense detective in charge of tracking down the killer believe her?

Detective Brandt Sutherland only trusts hard evidence, yet Sam’s visions offer clues he needs to catch a killer. The more he learns about her incredible abilities, however, the clearer it becomes that Sam’s visions have put her in the killer’s line of fire. Now Brandt must save her from something he cannot see or understand…and risk losing his heart in the process.

As danger and desire collide, passion raises the stakes in a game Sam and Brandt don’t dare lose.

I have really mixed feelings about this one. I love the basic concept this story is built on, but there are things about it that I really struggled with when it came to overcoming disbelief. Sure, as a paranormal book, that is kind of a requirement, but there still has to be a way for the reader to believe the events/scenarios are possible in the world that is created.

The first issue I had wasn’t with the visions Sam has, but with the physical manifestation of those visions in such a way that make this more than just a paranormal concept. The physical, mortal wounds that miraculously heal within minutes was a really hard one to swallow because there is no logic or explanation given to make it a believable concept. If this were a full on fantasy, it could be because of some magical component or a natural aspect of some fantastical being, but that isn’t the case here. Sam is just a human with psychic abilities, yet has this other seemingly miraculous additional ability. As a reader, you are just required to completely accept it as fact without question.

There are also parts that seem oddly out of place or that feel like they weren’t fully fleshed out. One example would be when Sam’s coworkers found out about her abilities. It was mentioned, the reader is told they talked but isn’t given any details of the conversation, just that every single person just went about it like it was no big deal and Sam is totally accepted by every one of them and everything is fine. No real tension or doubt, no real questioning of her abilities. Just “Oh, you’re psychic. Okay.” Several of the conversations and emotional situations throughout the book are handled in a similar way making it really difficult to believe the emotions of Sam or Brandt. The reader is given a small sentence or two of information and expected to just accept it at that face value.

Those things made it harder to sink into the rest of the book leaving me with kind of a “meh” reaction to the whole. It does appear that this book has the lowest rating of all the others in the series, so I’m willing to give the next one a try to see if those things are handled better because I do still really like the basic psychic concept that seems to be the foundation for this series.

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

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

 

Blurb:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Save

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.