Book Review: Archangel’s War, Guild Hunter- Book #12

Author: Nalini Singh
Book Name: Archangel’s War
Release Date: September 24, 2019
Series: Guild Hunter
Order: #12
Genre: Fantasy/Urban/Romance
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Wings of silver. Wings of blue. Mortal heart. Broken dreams. Shatter. Shatter. Shatter. A sundering. A grave. I see the end. I see. . . .

The world is in chaos as the power surge of the Cascade rises to a devastating crescendo. In furiously resisting its attempts to turn Elena into a vessel for Raphael’s power, Elena and her archangel are irrevocably changed. . .far beyond the prophecy of a cursed Ancient.

At the same time, violent and eerie events around the world threaten to wipe out entire populations. And in the Archangel Lijuan’s former territory, an unnatural fog weaves through the land, leaving only a bone-chilling silence in its wake. Soon it becomes clear that even the archangels are not immune to this deadly evil. This time, even the combined power of the Cadre may not be enough. . . .

This war could end them all.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Series Continuity/Expectations: 4/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3.5/5 Stars

Was this entertaining? Did I enjoy it? Did this keep me invested in the story? Yes. Yes. And Yes. But… (there always seems to be a but) it also kind of felt a lot like reading a book I’ve already read.

From the Elena and Raphael perspective, we’ve already done this dance before. Sure some of the specific details are a little different, but the bigger picture is still the same. Scramble to understand the newest change thrown at them from a power perspective. Have a raging archangel battle over New York. These are big pieces that are seen in nearly every Guild Hunter book that features them and you see them all again in this book, so it really does feel like reading the same thing again.

It also makes it feel like they spend so much time scrambling to deal with those constant changes, that they don’t get the opportunity to really grow as characters. You would think that by book 12 they wouldn’t have to still be doing that scrambling to catch up. That there would have been some maturing to how they handled situations, but you see the same Rafael and Elena that I feel like you’ve seen in the last couple of books they were the focus characters.

I did still enjoy this, but it felt more like revisiting an old favorite rather than picking up a new release.

Book Review: The Missing Years – Lexie Elliot

Author: Lexie Elliot
Book Name: The Missing Years
Release Date: April 23, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: An eerie, old Scottish manor in the middle of nowhere that’s now hers.

Ailsa Calder has inherited half of a house. The other half belongs to a man who disappeared without a trace twenty-seven years ago—her father.

Leaving London behind to settle the inheritance from her mother’s estate, Ailsa returns to her childhood home, nestled amongst the craggy peaks of the Scottish Highlands, joined by the half-sister who’s almost a stranger to her.

Ailsa can’t escape the claustrophobic feeling that the house itself is watching her—as if her past hungers to consume her. She also can’t ignore how the neighbourhood animals refuse to set one foot within the gates of the garden.

When the first nighttime intruder shows up, Ailsa fears that the manor’s careless rugged beauty could cost her everything.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

This had a really nice balance between being suspenseful and creepy without being outright terrifying, making this a great choice for an October read.

It took me a little bit before I could get into this, but once I did, I sort of just sunk into it. I liked the fact that you aren’t certain which characters are bad guys, or if you even really have one, because no one is really overtly awful or in your face. They all seem to be mostly decent people, even if they each have interesting quirks.

I liked the fact that this rides a paranormal edge even though it really isn’t a paranormal book. The way that thread was woven through this made it fun to at least wonder about how far it would go in that direction.

The little bits about Ailsa’s father in between chapters were a bit confusing for a while, but they ended up being another interesting piece of the story.

The specifics of the ending left me with a “Dang! That is messed up!” kind of reaction, but it was done really well. Overall, I really enjoyed this.

 

Book Review: Things You Save In A Fire – Katherine Center

Author: Katherine Center
Book Name: Things You Save In A Fire
Release Date: August 13, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/Family Life
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Cassie Hanwell was born for emergencies. As one of the only female firefighters in her Texas firehouse, she’s seen her fair share of them, and she’s a total pro at other people’s tragedies. But when her estranged and ailing mother asks her to give up her whole life and move to Boston, Cassie suddenly has an emergency of her own.

The tough, old-school Boston firehouse is as different from Cassie’s old job as it could possibly be. Hazing, a lack of funding, and poor facilities mean that the firemen aren’t exactly thrilled to have a “lady” on the crew—even one as competent and smart as Cassie. Except for the infatuation-inspiring rookie, who doesn’t seem to mind having Cassie around. But she can’t think about that. Because love is girly, and it’s not her thing. And don’t forget the advice her old captain gave her: Never date firefighters. Cassie can feel her resolve slipping…and it means risking it all—the only job she’s ever loved, and the hero she’s worked like hell to become.

Katherine Center’s Things You Save in a Fire is a heartfelt and healing tour-de-force about the strength of vulnerability, the nourishing magic of forgiveness, and the life-changing power of defining courage, at last, for yourself.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

I think I picked this one up at the perfect time for me, because it was exactly what I needed.

Cassie’s character is really interesting. There were times that I felt she was riding the edge of coming across as too perfect and too capable of pretty much anything, but that was balanced out by the places she was also far from either of those things.

The focus of this story for me seems to be more about Cassie’s personal emotional growth than the romance because most of that development happens off the page. What you do get on the page is sweet and warm.

Normally I struggle hard with books that have a heavy emphasis on betrayals and forgiveness, but I think this handled those issues pretty well for the most part and is a big part of why I did end up enjoying this.

This takes some dings in a couple of areas, though. Almost all of those are towards the end and the wrap up because it pushes this just over the line into the too perfect and everything gets wrapped up in a pretty bow range. It narrowly escaped falling off the believability cliff in one area (not saying which to avoid spoiling anything), but it flirted heavily with it for a while.

Overall, this is a warm, sweet, feel good kind of read.

 

Book Review: Brave The Tempest, Cassandra Palmer – Book #9

Author: Karen Chance
Book Name: Brave The Tempest
Release Date: July 30, 2019
Series: Cassandra Palmer
Order: #9
Genre: Fantasy/Urban/Romance
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Cassie Palmer has been chief seer of the supernatural world for a little over four months. In that time, she’s battled two gods, fallen in love with two men, and confronted the two sides of her own nature, both god and human. So it’s not surprising that she currently finds herself facing two adversaries, although they have a single purpose: to wipe out the supernatural community’s newest fighting force, leaving it vulnerable to enemies in this world and beyond.

To prevent catastrophe, the vamps, mages, and demons will have to do the one thing they’ve never managed before and come together as allies. Cassie has the difficult task of keeping the uneasy coalition intact, and of persuading her own two opposing forces, a powerful mage with a secret and a master vampire with a growing obsession, to fight at her side. She just hopes they can do it without tearing each other apart

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4.5/5 Stars
Series Continuity/Expectations: 4/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3.5/5 Stars

This book showed me that I still love this world. There is so much to enjoy about it and it is incredibly well built. The common theme seen in previous books, the one where Cassie is constantly knocked down and isn’t even back on her feet to take a breath before she gets knocked right back down again, is, thankfully, not as prevalent throughout this book.

Sadly, in it’s place is a massive amount of rehashing the events in all the previous books. It isn’t all at once, more sprinkled throughout the book, but it is way more than was probably needed for the majority of readers since you simply cannot read these as standalone and not be utterly lost. Mentioning a previous event in another book is one thing, going into a lot of those details made this feel bloated.

For the first half of this book (maybe a little less), you spend a lot of time with Cassie either “remembering” some of those events or doing an awful lot of navel gazing. On one hand, this is a bit refreshing because the reader isn’t being constantly batted around by the events, but at the same time, it doesn’t feel like you are actually getting anywhere.

If you look back at Cassie from the first books in the series and compare them to the Cassie in this book and you don’t see much growth or change. Granted, all 9 of these books happen over an incredibly short period of time, but SO MUCH has happened, you think that how she reacts to all the stuff thrown at her would have progressed at least a little. That lack of growth has become really frustrating for me.

There is a point, later in this book, where you think this is finally getting addressed and you are going to get to see some progress with it. Then, in classic Cassie Palmer style, things start to get knock down, attempt to stand, but get knocked down again before you can get your balance and you lose that forward progress.

As I mentioned before, I still really love this world. I enjoy most of the characters, but the overall progress in the last few books feels like running in place a bit and it is frustrating. Yes, there is some change, but it feels sort of like a lateral move rather than a forward one.

 

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

Cover: 2/5 Stars

Why does it feel like the covers for these books have regressed the age of Cassie with each new release? I get that she might be on the young side (mid 20’s maybe?), but she isn’t a teenager. Please don’t make her look like one. This one seems to be the least fitting cover in the series.

 

Book Review: Hellion, 415 Ink- Book #3

Author: Rhys Ford
Book Name: Hellion
Release Date: September 17, 2019
Series: 415 Ink
Order: #3
Genre: Romance/LGBTQIA
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: From the moment SFPD Detective Ruan Nicholls meets Ivo Rogers, he knew the tattoo artist was going to bring chaos to his neat orderly life. A hellion down to the bone, Ivo is someone Ruan not only doesn’t understand but isn’t even sure he needs to. Everything about Ivo is vibrant, brash, cocky and arrogant and Ruan wants no part of him.

Or at least that’s the lie he tells himself when he damps down his desire for the social wild child life tosses into his path.

For Ivo Rogers, his life revolves around two things; his family and 415 Ink, the tattoo shop he co-owns with his four brothers. His family might be stitched together by their battle scars from growing up in foster care but their brotherhood was tight—and strong enough to hold Ivo together during the times when he fell apart.

Now Ivo faces a new challenge when he falls for a cop with an old-school mentality on what a man looks and acts like. Ruan is the promise of a life Ivo thought he’d never have but their thunderous clashes threaten any chance of a relationship. Being the family’s hellion makes it easy to be misunderstood yet Ivo has faith Ruan will not only embrace who he is but love him as well.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

From the beginning of this series, I have thought that Ivo was going to be the most interesting character to read about. Now that I’ve read this, I still think he is probably my favorite (at least so far), but he is still very much on par with all the other great characters in this series so that is only by a narrow margin.

Ivo broke my heart in a couple of places through this. I counted probably a half dozen lines that poked really hard at some of my soft, raw spots. Especially the concept of feeling as though it was so easy to be thrown away.

Even with all that, I don’t think this was my favorite of the series because I think I expected or wanted something a bit more from his book. It’s probably just that I wanted more overall and I’m not quite ready to see less of Ivo yet.

Book Review: Single, Single Dads- Book #1

Author: RJ Scott
Book Name: Single
Release Date: June 12, 2019
Series: Single Dads
Order: #1
Genre: Romance/LGBTQIA
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Ash wants a family, and is determined to continue with a surrogacy he’d begun with his ex. Bringing baby Mia home, he vows that he will be the best father he can be. Nothing in this world matters more to him than caring for his daughter, not even accidentally falling in lust with the doctor next door. Challenged by his growing attraction to Sean, and confronted by painful memories of his family, Ash has to learn that love is all that matters.

When ER doctor Sean moves in with his friends next door to sexy single father Ash, he falls so quickly it takes his breath away. The sex they have is hot, but Ash is adamant his heart is too full with love for his daughter to let anyone else in. Why is Sean the only one who sees how scared Ash is, and how can he prove to his new lover that he desperately wants the three of them to become a family?

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Believability: 4.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

This was a really great blend of incredibly sweet and slightly steamy, without going too far over in either direction. I will always be a sucker for stories with kids and babies, especially when you throw in the struggling, but loving single dad.

If I have much of anything to say beyond that, it is that I really would have liked just a little bit more. A little bit more time with both Sean and Ash to get a better feel for them and their connection. It is absolutely there and I loved it, but it was kind of this soft touch of them and then their story ends a little too quickly.

In all, though, I really liked this and it was exactly what I needed to lighten my reading for a bit.

 

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: Beautiful Sky Beautiful Sky – Stephen Parolini

Author: Stephen Parolini
Book Name: Beautiful Sky Beautiful Sky
Release Date: September 3, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Family Life/Coming of Age/Historical
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: High school senior David Tinker is a failed former second-string linebacker, a wannabe rock star, a pothead, a writer, and a bit of a jerk. It’s his final semester at North High and he’s beyond ready to be done with school. Wendy, his once-compliant girlfriend, expects too much of him. His ever-shrinking circle of friends is testing his patience. And his insult-slinging father is increasingly impossible to endure. And then there’s the choir director, Mr. Halston, who wields the power of graduation and isn’t above a little blackmail. When David’s world suddenly spins out of control, he finds himself searching for the one thing he didn’t know he was missing: hope.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Believability: 4.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

This is the kind of story that is heavily layered, the kind that takes a little time for those layers to start building and before they become visible.

There were pieces here and there early on that I found running along some really offensive lines, but I had to stop and take in the fact that this is very much an honestly representative piece for the time it was set in. As someone that grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, sometimes it isn’t pleasant to confront the ideas and attitudes and prejudices of that time and how easily they slipped off the tongue or into the mind back then. There are many times where you come face to face with those less than stellar aspects of that era in this book. It is an incredible look from that aspect of things to see how far we have come as a society and how far we have yet to go. As a child of that time, it makes me look at myself and how I’ve managed to grow since then.

Because this is set in 1980, you also get this amazing flood of music and cultural references to balance out some of the ugly. It is kind of this trip down memory lane for the senses of your mind in that respect. I’m not often tempted to listen to music while reading, but I almost wish this had a playlist at the beginning just so I could do that along the way. All of the songs referenced do this amazing job of setting the tone for many different scenes in the book and plays a huge part to the overall story. Because music tends to be so tied into emotions, it was a bit of a minefield for me, but I loved it.

One scene in particular sort of reached inside and ripped me apart because it could have been written based on my own personal history. Having already been primed with the setting and all the musical and cultural references, it was like hearing the words for myself all over again. This was an incredibly hard bit to read, but it was so much a product of this time period and attitudes, especially towards girls and women. So, yes, I absolutely connected with a certain character in particular.

If I had to pick an overall tone for this story, I’d say it is very heavy. The overall subject matter throughout is on the harsh, ugly side of things, but it has that tiny thread running through it to give it a little light. It is layered and complex. I can easily see this being the kind of book that people spend lots of time talking about and picking apart to analyze on a deeper level. I don’t often enjoy books like that, but this one is definitely going to be one that sticks with me for a long while.

I will note that there are some potentially sensitive subjects dealt with and discussed in this book, many only a mention, but they are still there. Things like racial stereotypes, homophobia, depression, suicide, drug use and sexual assault.

 

 

Book Review: The Unkindest Tide, October Daye- Book #13

Author: Seanan McGuire
Book Name: The Unkindest Tide
Release Date: September 3, 2019
Series: October Daye
Order: #13
Genre: Fantasy/Urban
Overall SPA: 4.5 Stars
4.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Hundreds of years ago, the Selkies made a deal with the sea witch: they would have the sea for as long as she allowed it, and when the time came, she would call in all their debts at once. Many people assumed that day would never come. Those people were wrong.

When the Luidaeg—October “Toby” Daye’s oldest and most dangerous ally—tells her the time has come for the Selkies to fulfill their side of the bargain, and that Toby must be a part of the process, Toby can’t refuse. Literally. The Selkies aren’t the only ones in debt to the Luidaeg, and Toby has to pay what she owes like anyone else. They will travel to the fabled Duchy of Ships and call a convocation of the Selkies, telling them to come and meet the Luidaeg’s price…or face the consequences.

Of course, nothing is that simple. When Dianda Lorden’s brother appears to arrest Dianda for treason against the Undersea, when a Selkie woman is stripped of her skin and then murdered, when everything is falling apart, that’s when Toby will have to answer the real question of the hour.

Is she going to sink? Or is she going to swim?

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

Pretty sure I say this most every time I review a book this deep in a series that I like. It is incredibly HARD to write a review. I can’t say anything helpful to new readers really except, start at book 1 or you’re going to be lost. We are on book 13. Catch up, because you should be reading this now!

I can’t say anything to other readers of this series that they don’t already know. This is just as great as all the others in the series. Toby is still awesome. You get a good dose of Tybalt and the Luidaeg (always awesome). You get another great story. You should be reading this now!

So basically, you should be reading this now if you aren’t already.

 

Book Review: Delayed Diagnosis, Rhea Lynch, M.D. – Book #1

Author: Gwen Hunter
Book Name: Delayed Diagnosis
Release Date: March 13, 2012 (first published 2001)
Series: Rhea Lynch, M.D.
Order: #1
Genre: Medical/Mystery/Suspense
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Dr.Rhea Lynch left a suffocating life in Charleston to practice medicine in the ER of a small South Carolina hospital. Now Dawkins County is her home, a place that holds the only real family she’s ever known.
But when she returns from vacation, Rhea is shocked to discover her best friend, Marisa, near death and unable to communicate. The official diagnosis: a paralyzing stroke. Despite the family’s attempts to keep her away, Rhea is determined to make her own diagnosis. In an illicit examination, a hideous truth is revealed.

Then a man is brought into her ER with similar symptoms. And then another. Each one of her patients has been willfully, brutally, silenced in a most inhuman way.

Desperate to find answers, Rhea must determine who she can trust, as a powerful conspiracy threatens the people she loves–and perhaps the entire community.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

I am coming to this series really late in the game because I just found out that Gwen Hunter is a pen name for Faith Hunter (how did I not know this?!) and I had to pick this up. For the most part, I really wasn’t disappointed. Many of the stylistic parts of a Faith Hunter novel are present in this one as well.

This is one of those genres in fiction that can become dated very quickly because of how fast things change in the medical industry. Things that we take for granted now or consider common place may be different in the next year, sometimes even faster. Picking up a book based on medical practices that was published more than 10 years ago can be a bit jolting. I actually enjoyed it being able to see some of those changes and how far we’ve come. Things that were obvious to me because this is so heavily detailed.

The only bits that I’m going to say that I’m disappointed in here are the pieces that pushed the believability barriers a little. There weren’t a lot, but they were there. Otherwise, I really enjoyed this, dated as it is and fully intend on picking up other books in this series and under the Gwen Hunter pen name.

 

Book Review: Abandoned, Max Revere – Book #5

Author: Allison Brennan
Book Name: Abandoned
Release Date: August 14, 2018
Series: Max Revere
Order: #5
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Investigative reporter Max Revere has cracked many cases, but the one investigation she’s never attempted is the mystery from her own past. Her mother abandoned her when she was nine, sending her periodic postcards, but never returning to reclaim her daughter. Seven years after the postcards stop coming, Martha Revere is declared legally dead, with no sign of what may have happened to her. Until now.

With a single clue―that her mother’s car disappeared sixteen years ago in a small town on the Chesapeake Bay―Max drops everything to finally seek the truth. As Max investigates, and her mother’s story unfolds, she realizes that Martha teamed up with a con man. They traveled the world living off Martha’s trust and money they conned from others.

Though no one claims to know anything about Martha or her disappearance, Max suspects more than one person is lying. When she learns the FBI has an active investigation into the con man, Max knows she’s on the right path. But as Max digs into the dark secrets of this idyllic community, the only thing she might find is the same violent end as her mother.

New York Times bestselling author Allison Brennan weaves the intimate, unputdownable story of an investigator confronting the most important–and most dangerous–mystery of her career.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

This one was better than the last because you get back to Max being more of the focus of the story. This one even more so than most because you get to delve into the history of her mother and all that was going on behind her leaving Max behind.

There were bits of this that tended to push hard on the believability barriers with some pretty heavy coincidences and Max’s newest love interest being a little close to insta-love, but these only dinged my rating a little bit. I was still impressed with the fact that enough is left open along the way that you don’t know for certain what happened with Max’s mother until deep into the story.

It is going to be interesting to see how, or if, the series continues from here after the events in this book because so much will need to change for Max. Considering this was published a year ago and I don’t see the next book yet, I don’t know for sure if there will be another one or if this closed out the series. The way it ended, it could go either way and I’d, mostly, be okay with it since there really aren’t any lose threads left hanging. I would be disappointed as I’ve really enjoyed Max and I am not ready to be done with her yet.

 

Book Review: Poisonous, Max Revere- Book #3

Author: Allison Brennan
Book Name: Poisonous
Release Date: April 12, 2016
Series: Max Revere
Order: #3
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Teen-aged Internet bully Ivy Lake fell off a cliff and few people cared … except her mentally-challenged eighteen-year-old step-brother, Tommy. He loved her in spite of her cruelty. He’s distraught and doesn’t understand why his blended family is falling apart. After a year, the police still have no answers: Ivy could have jumped, could have been pushed, or it could have been an accident. With too many suspects and not enough evidence, the investigation has grown cold.

Tommy thinks that if someone can figure out what happened to his step-sister, everything will go back to normal, so he writes to investigative reporter Maxine Revere. This isn’t the type of case Max normally takes on, but the heartbreak and simple honesty in Tommy’s letter pulls her in. She travels to Corte Madera, California, with her assistant David Kane and is at first pleased that the police are cooperative. But the more Max learns about Tommy and his dysfunctional family, the more she thinks she’s taken on an impossible task: this may be the one case she can’t solve.

If Ivy was murdered, it was exceptionally well-planned and that kind of killer could be hiding in plain sight … planning the next act of violence. Max believes the truth is always better than lies, that the truth is the only thing that matters to gain justice for victims and their families. But for the first time, she wonders if this time, the truth will kill.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

It has been a really long time since I read the first two books in this series and I’m really kind of kicking myself now that it has taken me so long to get back to it as I really enjoyed this book.

I think one of the things that struck me with this is that it managed to hit a lot of personal points for me, which is both good and bad as that can really color how I feel about a book or the characters. The issues with characters that I struggled with or disliked the most were the ones that poked at some of my personal personality trait peeves, but that is actually something that makes everything in the story feel so real.

I still like the slightly different take these stories have on the traditional crime drama. You definitely get some of the elements you would from a crime drama, but from a less rigid and structured standpoint, allowing the story to flow in a different way than if it were a straight up police procedural.

Normally, I like a book that I can figure out the mystery before it actually gets revealed. Every once in a while, it is nice to be surprised in a way that still makes the story work and make sense. I really didn’t expect this to end up the way it did, which was a really nice touch. I have a feeling this might just kick off a reading binge of the rest of the books in this series.

 

 

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.

 

Book Review: Shadow’s Bane, Dorina Basarab – Book #4

Author: Karen Chance
Book Name: Shadow’s Bane
Release Date: July 31, 2018
Series: Dorina Basarab
Order: #4
Genre: Fantasy/Urban/Romance
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Dorina Basarab is a dhampir—half-human, half-vampire. As one of the Vampire Senate’s newest members, Dory already has a lot on her plate. But then a relative of one of Dory’s fey friends goes missing. They fear he’s been sold to a slaver who arranges fights—sometimes to the death—between different types of fey.

As Dory investigates, she and her friends learn the slavers are into something much bigger than a fight club. With the Vampire Senate gearing up for war with Faerie, it’ll take everything she has to defeat the slavers—and deal with the entirely too attractive master vampire Louis-Cesare….

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

It had been a while since I’d read any books in this series so it took me a bit to get back into it. Once I did, I was kind of kicking myself for taking so long to pick this one up, because I really enjoyed it, even if I’d felt a little lost at times because I’d forgotten so much.

I’ve enjoyed all the other books in both this series and in this world, so I don’t have a clue why I hesitated. I really like all the characters and the world and always have. I think the one thing, and it is the thing that maybe holds me back, is that these do tend to be long and sometimes feel slow even with all the action going on. You also have that constant feeling of Dory being knocked on her butt, barely getting back up and then getting knocked right back down again before she’s even gotten then chance to catch her balance. That can be hugely frustrating because it feels like you don’t get anywhere. It was great getting to see the new direct interaction between Dory and Dorina in this book, though.

I’m really torn on what to think and feel about Mircea. Anyone that is reading both this series and the Cassie Palmer series sees two very different people being presented in each of them. I get that the books are supposed to focus on Dory or Cassie (depending on the series), but Mircea is a huge tie between them and is impossible to push to the side. Especially when you have a book like this that spends a lot of time focusing on one point of his history.

As always with these books, this was a hugely entertaining read, even with the pieces I feel like I’d forgotten. It may mean it is time for a reread marathon of the two different series.

Book Review: Loving Henry, Kate Lawson

Author: Kate Lawson
Book Name: Loving Henry
Release Date: June 24, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Family Life/LGBTQIA
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Henry’s mother gave him up for adoption and although he’s been the most loved boy in the world, he always wondered why his birth mother gave him away.

Elizabeth wanted a son, a little man to dote upon, but she always worried he would leave her one day, like the man she had intended to be his father.

Rachel had to give her son up for adoption, just like her mother gave her up when she was born, but she always wondered, what if…?

A chance encounter changes their lives forever and brings to light emotions all three have been trying to suppress. Can they all move on now their lives are entangled, especially when they’re all holding on to the secrets in their past?

Loving Henry is a novel about the search for identity and purpose, and an examination of the true meaning of family.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

I always have a soft, squishy spot for stories about family, especially ones where the families are built on more than just blood and genetics, so this was a really good fit for me. The characters came across as fallible and human, without dipping into stereotypes, making them relatable. This gives a good look into some of the issues that can come up with both adults and kids that have been adopted as well as seeing it from the perspective of those adopting and those letting go. It was nice to see all those different perspectives. I wasn’t pulled in quite as hard emotionally as I would have expected given the subject matter as this didn’t take me to extremes and is probably my one ding to the overall rating for me. Otherwise, this was a really good story.

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

Cover: 4/5 Stars: I had to note that I really liked this cover and the simplicity of it. It just feels really calming and soothing.

Book Review: The Body Keeper, Detective Jude Fontaine Mysteries – Book #3

Author: Anne Frasier
Book Name: The Body Keeper
Release Date: June 4, 2019
Series: Detective Jude Fontaine Mysteries
Order: #3
Genre: Suspense/Mystery/Crime
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: A boy’s frozen body is found trapped in the ice of a Minneapolis lake. The horrifying discovery leads Detective Jude Fontaine and her partner, Uriah Ashby, to more bodies in the ice, all of twelve-year-old boys missing for twenty years.

Then, in one of the worst blizzards the city has ever seen, a four-year-old is abandoned on Jude’s doorstep. The child can’t tell them where he’s from, who his parents are, or how he got there. He doesn’t even know his name.

But in his unspoken language, Jude reads something horrifying—a connection to the dead boys. Now a four-year-old with no name may be the only key to a twenty-year-old, very cold case.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Believability: 3.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4.5/5 Stars

This is a series that I really enjoy, but has tiny bits here and there that keep me from loving it and keeps it off my favorites list. This book fits the mold of the previous two books.

I really love Jude’s character and seeing how her past trauma and damage shape who she is today and the choices she makes. It is one of the the things I like the most about this series. I like the fact that this book breaks down some of the barriers she’s put up in the past. It keeps her feeling very real and human.

The pieces I’m not a huge fan of are the extreme levels of evil that the bad guys always seem to hit. That and the crazy, twisty levels of coincidence take a bit of a ding for me when it comes to rating. This book had just a few too many. The story is really great without those coincidences, could have definitely stood amazingly on its own without them and I would have absolutely loved it, but the addition of those took a bit of the shine off in a couple of areas.

The one coincidence and twist I saw coming from the beginning and I’m good with that one. It is going to make things interesting moving forward and getting to see how Jude copes with it.

 

Book Review: Unspoken Vow, Steele Brothers – Book #2

Author: Eden Finley
Book Name: Unspoken Vow
Release Date: July 9, 2019
Series: Steele Brothers
Order: #2
Genre: Romance/LQBTQIA
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: 𝙃𝙚’𝙨 𝙚𝙫𝙚𝙧𝙮𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙄 𝙬𝙖𝙣𝙩 𝙗𝙪𝙩 𝙧𝙪𝙣 𝙖𝙬𝙖𝙮 𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙢.

There’s a long list of things I don’t handle well:
Change.
Relationships.
Breakups.

But there’s one person above everything else I can’t seem to get a handle on.
𝘉𝘳𝘰𝘥𝘺 𝘞𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘢𝘤𝘦.

In short, he’s perfect. The reality, he scares me.He’s the opposite of what I usually go for. He’s bigger. Intimidating. He reminds me of someone I’d rather forget.

When I need to find a new place to live, Brody offers me his spare room, but I have no plans on taking him up on the offer. He doesn’t know what happened to me five years ago, and I want to keep it that way.But with limited options, I find myself outside his apartment holding a full moving box and wondering: How can I do this without exposing the darkest part of my past?

**𝘜𝘯𝘴𝘱𝘰𝘬𝘦𝘯 𝘝𝘰𝘸 𝘪𝘴 𝘢 𝘧𝘶𝘭𝘭-𝘭𝘦𝘯𝘨𝘵𝘩 𝘔𝘔 𝘯𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘭 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 a 𝘏𝘍𝘕/𝘏𝘌𝘈 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘥𝘦𝘢𝘭𝘴 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘢𝘭 𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘯𝘦𝘴𝘴. 𝘗𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘴𝘦 𝘤𝘩𝘦𝘤𝘬 𝘵𝘳𝘪𝘨𝘨𝘦𝘳 𝘸𝘢𝘳𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘴 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘯𝘵 𝘮𝘢𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳.**

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Unwritten Law, so when I saw that this had been released, I was really excited. This is a sweet romance that delves into some really heavy emotional issues and it does so in an incredible way without getting too heavy or dark.

I think this book does an amazing job of dealing with and showing the emotional fallout from both physical and emotional trauma. It does so from a very realistic and human perspective without falling into preaching or educating about mental health while still telling an incredible story. The serious aspects are balanced against the right amount of humor and sweetness.

The utter lack of perfection in working out the relationship issues in this book is probably one of the things I like the most. Anders doesn’t suddenly and magically become “fixed” just because he gets into a relationship with Brody, but rather they work on their issues knowing that it will always be a thing they need to work on. That kind of realism when dealing with the emotional issues in this book is what really clenched how much I liked this.

There was one part that bounced up against a typical romance trope that I wasn’t a huge fan of, but even that was handled well enough to not really take too much from my enjoyment of the rest of the story.

If you like emotionally fragile characters that fight to not be so fragile, who are really at heart way more and way stronger than simply fragile, and the loved ones that help them in that fight, then you really need to read this one.

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: Three Mages and A Margarita, The Guild Codex: Spellbound – Book 1

Author: Annette Marie
Book Name: Three Mages and A Margarita
Release Date: September 14, 2018
Series: The Guild Codex: Spellbound
Order: #1
Genre: Paranormal Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 4.5 Stars
4.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Broke, almost homeless, and recently fired. Those are my official reasons for answering a wanted ad for a skeevy-looking bartender gig.

It went downhill the moment they asked me to do a trial shift instead of an interview—to see if I’d mesh with their “special” clientele. I think that part went great. Their customers were complete dickheads, and I was an asshole right back. That’s the definition of fitting in, right?

I expected to get thrown out on my ass. Instead, they… offered me the job?

It turns out this place isn’t a bar. It’s a guild. And the three cocky guys I drenched with a margarita during my trial? Yeah, they were mages. Either I’m exactly the kind of takes-no-shit bartender this guild needs, or there’s a good reason no one else wants to work here.

So what’s a broke girl to do? Take the job, of course—with a pay raise.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4.5/5 Stars
Uniqueness Factor: 4/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 4.5/5 Stars

This was such a fun and exciting read! It was cute and funny and intense. While there are typical elements found in a lot of other books in this genre, this one felt a little new and different from what I normally see.

One of those differences, and probably one of my favorites, is that our main character isn’t some magical badass hero. She is a human that stumbles into the magical side of this world. She doesn’t have any special powers, unless you consider snark and smartass to be super powers (which I kinda do). She is also bold and gutsy. Powers or no, she can hold her own, which I really enjoyed.

The guys are also funny, but not class clowns that can’t take things seriously, a deadly combination when it comes to character personalities in my book. While they are magical badasses to some extent, they aren’t invincible, their best being when they work together.

Another thing that I really loved about this was that, while there were all kinds of flirty teasing going on, this wasn’t an overblown romance. There is definitely some interest going on, but that isn’t the focus of the story. I love a good romance in a book, but it is nice every once in a while to see something a little different.

I enjoyed this so much I’ve already got the next one in the series cued up and ready to go.