Book Review: Badger To The Bone, Honey Badger Chronicles – Book #3

Author: Shelly Laurenston
Book Name: Badger to the Bone
Release Date: March 31, 2020
Series: Honey Badger Chronicles
Order: #3
Genre: Urban/Fantasy/Romance/Humor
Overall SPA: 4.5 Stars
4.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: She’s the woman he’s been hired to kidnap. But ZeZé Vargas has other ideas . . . like getting them both out of this nightmare alive. Just one problem. She’s crazy. Certifiably. Because while he’s plotting their escape, the petite Asian beauty is plotting something much more deadly . . .

Max “Kill It Again” MacKilligan has no idea what one of her own is doing with all these criminal humans until she realizes that Zé has no idea who or what he is. Or exactly how much power he truly has.

But Max is more than happy to bring this handsome jaguar shifter into her world and show him everything he’s been missing out on. A move that might be the dumbest thing she’s ever done once she realizes how far her enemies will go to wipe her out. Too bad for them Zé is willing to do whatever it takes to keep her alive . . . and honey badgers are just so damn hard to kill!

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

I’m not even a little bit surprised that this was another win for me. I’ve really loved all the books from this world (this series and a couple of other interconnected series with some character overlaps) and this one is no exception. I’m just really glad that I wasn’t reading this when anyone was around or I probably would’ve had them convinced I was certifiable with all the snorts and outright belly laughs that burst out of me at random times.

The only real ding this gets from me is that the romantic line of this story isn’t quite a prominent as it is in most of the other books in this world. I would have really enjoyed more time with Max and Zé interacting, but their parts together are almost an afterthought to everything else that was going on.

It is because there is a whole lot of other stuff going on that this still manages to be an excellent book. This is an absolute recommend (along with pretty much every single other book in this world) for anyone that loves irreverent, snarky humor with a small side of steam.

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

 

Book Review: The Missing, FBI Psychics – Book #1

Author: Shiloh Walker
Book Name: The Missing
Release Date: November 4, 2008
Series: FBI Psychics
Order: #1
Genre: Paranormal/Romance
Overall SPA: 2.5 Stars
2.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Her psychic gift drove away the man she loved and years later has drawn him back to her

As a teenager, Taige Branch hated her psychic gift. No one could understand, except for Cullen Morgan, the boy who stole her heart. He did his best to accept her, until his mother was brutally murdered and he couldn’t forgive Taige for not preventing it.

Now a widowed father, Cullen Morgan has never forgotten Taige. But what brings her back into his life is another tragedy. His beloved little girl has been kidnapped, and Taige is his only hope of finding her. Working together against the clock, Cullen and Taige can’t help but wonder whether if they find his daughter in time, it isn’t too late for the overpowering love that still burns between them.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 2.5/5 Stars
Believability: 3/5 Stars
Peeve Factor: 2/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 2.5/5 Stars

I have had this sitting in my “potential reads” list for an incredibly long time, always seeming to hesitate when it came to actually picking it up. In part because I’m not a huge fan of the “old flame” trope, especially when the reasons for that relationship ending made the split on the ugly side.

I finally caved because I was really looking for a book with those paranormal aspects. For that piece of this book, I enjoyed how most of that unfolded, though it doesn’t have a solid world building foundation on why there are so many “gifted” people throughout the story.

Unfortunately, that was only about 40%, probably even less, of the entire story. The rest focused on the relationship between Taige and Cullen and a whole lot of mostly angry, borderline non-consensual sex. I’m all for a good, steamy romance. I even enjoy ones that are unconventional, but this just felt like it was more ugly than loving and rides lines of what would be considered an unhealthy relationship. That kind of killed my interest in most of the rest of the story.

 

Book Review: The Last Sister, Columbia River- Book #1

Author: Kendra Elliot
Book Name: The Last Sister
Release Date: January 14, 2020
Series: Columbia River
Order: #1
Genre: Crime Drama/Suspense/Romance
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb:

Twenty years ago Emily Mills’s father was murdered, and she found his body hanging in the backyard. Her younger sister, Madison, claims she was asleep in her room. Her older sister, Tara, claims she was out with friends. The tragedy drove their mother to suicide and Tara to leave town forever. The killer was caught. The case closed.

Ever since, Emily and Madison have tried to forget what happened that night—until an eerily similar murder brings it all back. It also brings FBI special agent Zander Wells to the Oregon logging town. As eager as he is to solve the brutal double slaying, he is just as intrigued with the mystery of Emily’s and her sisters’ past.

When more blood is shed, Zander suspects there’s a secret buried in this town no one wants unearthed. Is it something Emily and Madison don’t know? Or aren’t telling? And Tara? Maybe Emily can’t bear to find her. Because when Tara disappeared, she took a secret of her own with her.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3/5 Stars
Believability: 2.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3.5/5 Stars

I picked this up, excited for, and expecting, a similar story feel to the Mercy Kilpatrick series by the same author as I have really enjoyed those. Many of the things I enjoyed about the MK series seem to be missing here which left me disappointed in this one.

One of the things that is a must for me when it comes to crime drama books is believability. This one feels like it drops the ball in that regards. Both with how the investigative aspects are handled and in some of the character presentations.

Zander’s character comes across in a weird way for me. At times, unprofessional. Other times as though he doesn’t know what he is doing as an investigator. Considering he isn’t cast as a newbie FBI agent, these aspects made it really hard for me to believe in his character.

I won’t go too far into the ending and wrap up, but I’ll just say that it was another example of the character not really fitting and making no sense. This book relies heavily on racism as a motivation, but the pieces really don’t mesh well together to get to that outcome with the “bad guy” in a realistic way.

It also felt like there were a lot of extra pieces and side storylines that just felt distracting and, in the end, really unnecessary. I’m certain they are in place for future books, but I felt like they were just too much with everything else that was going on in this story.

I won’t say that I didn’t like this, but it fell short of what I was expecting and hoping for when I picked it up. This is also sort of an off shoot of another series with some of the same characters and you get several references to events potentially from those books. Not so much you get lost, but it can be a little frustrating at times. If this book is any indication, I’m not all that tempted to see if those books are any better.

Book Review: Blood & Ash, The Jezebel Files – Book #1

Author: Deborah Wilde
Book Name: Blood & Ash
Release Date: January 14, 2020
Series: The Jezebel Files
Order: #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Romance
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Cold-blooded kidnappers. Long-lost magic. When things get serious, she goes full Sherlock.

Ashira Cohen takes pride in being the only female private investigator in Vancouver. With her skills, her missing persons case should be a piece of cake.

She wasn’t counting on getting bashed in the skull, revealing a hidden tattoo and supernatural powers she shouldn’t possess.

Or the bitter icing on top: a spree of abductions and terrifying ghostly creatures on a deadly bender.

And don’t even get her started on the golems.

Reluctantly partnered with her long-time nemesis Levi, the infuriating leader of the magic community, Ash resolves to keep her focus on the clue trail and off their sexual tension because WTF is up with that?

But with a mastermind organization pulling strings from the shadows and Levi’s arrogance driving her to pick out his body bag, can Ash rescue the captives and uncover the truth or will the next blood spilled be her own?

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

This weaves together serious and seriously funny. It is loaded with snark and attitude, but isn’t completely irreverent when presenting heavier aspects, giving you a really well balanced story.

There is also a very different feel to the way the world in this is presented as it pulls elements from the Jewish faith without veering so far as to place this into a religious fiction category. You have classic urban fantasy elements, like magic, but the origin of that magic and how it manifests felt very fresh and new, which is always a huge bonus for me.

While this is also a romance, I wouldn’t say it fits into a classic romance box as this has a whole lot of push and pull, back and forth between Ash and Levi with a bit of a steam factor tossed into that mix. That isn’t a trope I’m normally a fan of, but this didn’t quite take it to the extreme levels that would make me dislike the book. It runs along the side of the bigger plot and, while still a somewhat big part of the story, it isn’t the main focus.

The overall story arc in this is resolved, but it leaves a lot of threads open for future books. Not anything that I would call a cliffhanger. Maybe a small, cliffhanger light? As someone who really dislikes cliffhangers, the way this wrapped up didn’t push that button for me, but it may come close for some.

Overall, this was a fun and different feeling read.

Book Review: An Everyday Hero, A Heart of a Hero- Book #2

Author: Laura Trentham
Book Name: An Everyday Hero
Release Date: February 4, 2020
Series: A Heart of a Hero
Order: #2
Genre: Romance
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: At thirty, Greer Hadley never expected to be forced home to Madison, Tennessee with her life and dreams of being a songwriter up in flames. To make matters worse, a series of bad decisions and even crappier luck lands her community service hours at a nonprofit organization that aids veterans and their families. Greer cannot fathom how she’s supposed to use music to help anyone deal with their trauma and loss when the one thing that brought her joy has failed her.

When Greer meets fifteen-year-old Ally Martinez, her plans to stay detached and do as little as possible get thrown away. New to town and dealing with the death of her father in action, she hides her emotions behind a mask of bitterness and sarcasm, but Greer is able to see past it and recognizes pieces of who she once was in Ally. The raw and obvious talent she possesses could take her to the top and Greer vows to make sure life’s negativities don’t derail Ally’s potential.

After Greer is assigned a veteran to help, she’s not surprised Emmett Lawson, the town’s golden boy, followed his family’s legacy. What leaves her shocked is the shell of a man who believes he doesn’t deserve anyone’s help. A breakthrough with Ally reminds Greer that no one is worth giving up on. So she shows up one day with his old guitar, and meets Emmett’s rage head on with her stubbornness. When a situation with Ally becomes dire, the two of them must become a team to save her—and along the way they might just save themselves too.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

This was a sweet, funny, and heartwarming story, a definite feel good kind of read. I really enjoyed all the different pieces and characters in this. I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a warm story about overcoming and characters finding themselves with a small side of low steam romance.

For me, it ran just a touch to far to the “everything is perfectly wrapped up” side of things and a little light on the romance side, though it was still a really good story overall.

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

 

 

Book Review: A Madness of Sunshine – Nalini Singh

Author: Nalini Singh
Book Name: A Madness of Sunshine
Release Date: December 3, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Thriller/Suspense/Crime/Romance
Overall SPA: 4.5 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: On the rugged West Coast of New Zealand, Golden Cove is more than just a town where people live. The adults are more than neighbors; the children, more than schoolmates.
 
That is until one fateful summer—and several vanished bodies—shatters the trust holding Golden Cove together. All that’s left are whispers behind closed doors, broken friendships, and a silent agreement not to look back. But they can’t run from the past forever.

Eight years later, a beautiful young woman disappears without a trace, and the residents of Golden Cove wonder if their home shelters something far more dangerous than an unforgiving landscape.

It’s not long before the dark past collides with the haunting present and deadly secrets come to light.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

This is a very different book for Nalini Singh with the genre, but still very much on the same level of quality, detail, and great story telling that her readers have come to expect. Stepping into a different genre for an author can be risky, so I really wasn’t certain how much I’d like it. I really shouldn’t have been worried as Ms. Singh has always done a great job at building her stories, no matter the genre. While this does have romantic elements to it, they are light in comparison to the rest of the story.

The only real dings this takes from me are in the couple of places (one in particular) where a little piece was dropped like a hint, but never picked up or addressed later in the story and in a couple of other very minor hits on believability. Otherwise, this was a great story that kept open so many different options for the outcome all the way through to the end, it really wraps up in unexpected ways. It isn’t often that an author can find that balance of keeping readers realistically guessing and giving it away with obvious clues. This one hit that perfect balance for me.

 

 

Book Review: Crossing the Line – Joy Slaughter

Author: Joy Slaughter
Book Name: Crossing the Line
Release Date: November 4, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/Women’s Fiction
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Sergeant Nathan Thompson lost his leg in Afghanistan. Megan hides a secret. When they are assigned as a paramedic team, tensions flare—Nathan thinks Megan is a condescending know it all, and Megan resents a partner who might not be able to offer 100%. As they respond to calls their mutual respect grows. Then Nathan notices bruises on Megan’s arms, and her excuses don’t add up. The next life Nathan must save may be that of his own partner—if only she’ll let him

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

I really enjoyed all the various medical scenarios in this one. They were a nice balance of being technical without going over my head or falling into instruction manual zone with too much explanation.

There is a romantic thread through this that runs along side Megan’s personal struggles. Those two threads combined have about the same amount of page space as the medical threads, making the focus of this story lean a little heavier on the medical side.

While I really enjoyed Nathan’s character, I felt like Megan’s personality was just a little fuzzy around the edges, making it hard to pin her down as a character. It wasn’t major, but enough to make me think certain situations or responses didn’t quite fit well or make sense for her.

For readers that need the heads up, there are some big trigger issues in this book. Subjects like domestic abuse, emotional abuse, rape, cheating, and suicide get page time and a couple of scenes may be disturbing.

This falls into the romance genre, but is very light on the steam for those that prefer that side of romance.

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

 

On My TBR – November 2019 Edition

I didn’t get to all my books on my list last month. I made the mistake of loading up too much on the really heavy reads and needed more of a break in between. I read more than what was on the list, though I didn’t review them all. That was part of the break I needed. I’m trying to leave a bit more padding for that this month.


NetGalley ARCs:
The Other Daughter
The Other Daughter

The Other Daughter
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Release Date: November 5
(Currently Reading)

 

 


Library:
Lost You
Lost You

Lost You
Genre: Mystery/Psychological Thriller

 

 

 

The Shape of Night
The Shape of Night

The Shape of Night
Genre: Mystery/Suspense

 

 

 

Don't You Forget About Me
Don’t You Forget About Me

Don’t You Forget About Me
Genre: Contemporary/Romance

 

 

 

 


Indie Book Reviews:
Another Dead Intern
Another Dead Intern

Another Dead Intern
Genre: Paranormal/Fantasy

 

 

 

Crossing the Line
Crossing the Line

Crossing the Line
Genre: Romance
Release Date: November 4th

 

 

 

 


KU/Open Reads (No Due Date)
Blood Echo
Blood Echo

Blood Echo (Burning Girl Book #2)
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/SciFi

 

 

Book Review: How To Shield An Assassin, Unholy Trifecta- Book #1

Author: AJ Sherwood
Book Name: How To Shield An Assassin
Release Date: October 13, 2019
Series: Unholy Trifecta
Order: #1
Genre: Romance/LGBTQIA+/Suspense
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: It’s not stealing if you’re stealing it back….

Ari had a game plan for life. Shoot people. Get money. Hang out with fellow criminal friends. He saw absolutely no reason to change that plan until one dark night in Memphis, when a little girl reached out to him with pocket change and a desperate plea for him to help her.

Adopting an abused little girl off the streets was, needless to say, not part of the plan. Ari had no idea what he was doing with an eight year old. He especially didn’t know how to juggle taking contracts and raising a little girl.

Things get more complicated when the mercenary, Carter Harrison, approaches him with a job. He needs Ari’s expertise to get into the very high-security museum, Knowles, and steal back Monet’s Water Lily Pond. The job isn’t an easy one. He’d need more than the two of them to make it happen. It’s further complicated because Ari’s not sure what to do with his new daughter while working this job.

And for that matter, how’s he supposed to handle the sexy mercenary?

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

I am almost always a sucker for a book about tough guys looking out for little kids so this book was an obvious pick up for me. It ended up being cute and adorable and funny. It did push a few of my believability and “too perfect” buttons on a couple of the scenarios, but I enjoyed the rest too much for that to make much of an impact on my overall opinion of the story.

 

Book Review: Heartsong, Green Creek – Book #3

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

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

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

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

 

 

Book Review: Jon’s Downright Ridiculous Shooting Case, Jon’s Mysteries- Book #1

Author: AJ Sherwood
Book Name: Jon’s Downright Ridiculous Shooting Case
Release Date: March 22, 2019
Series: Jon’s Mysteries
Order: #1
Genre: Romance/LGBTQIA/Paranormal/Urban/Mystery
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: A psychic without an anchor. A student in trouble. A shooter on the loose.

I’m Jonathan Bane, a licensed psychic who consults for the police. I routinely help the police put the bad guys away and, for that reason, the criminal world doesn’t like me much. People like to take a swing at me, or go stabbity, or try for a gun. It makes for interesting times. My psychic ability prevents me from handling anything electronic—and I do mean ANYTHING, I fry it in seconds—so calling for help isn’t always a possibility.

I need an anchor, a partner, but I’m resigned: it’s just wishful thinking.

At least, I thought so until he walked through the door.

Donovan Havili looks like a thug and has the soul of a superhero. He shines so bright in my vision it’s like watching a supernova. He definitely has the right mindset and skills for this crazy job. But asking anyone to take me on long-term is a bit much. And now we’ve got multiple cases to handle, a Chinese exchange student falsely accused who needs our help, and someone taking random shots at me. It’s a bit much for any new guy to handle and I’m half-afraid that my new partner will run for the door.

But in Donovan Havili, the criminal world has met its match. And maybe, just maybe, I have as well.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Believability: 3.5/5 Stars
World Building: 4/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

The title of this is such a mouthful, but so fun! It isn’t often that I find a book that attempts to blend small bits of the paranormal, in this case the psychic elements, with the normal world and actually pull it off. There are still places where it pushes hard on the believability boundaries, but the author does an amazing job of still making those pieces work.

You also get a fun blend of snarky sass, adorable sweetness and fun tossed in with the seriousness of the crimes addressed in this book. Yes, you also get some insta-love going on in here, but… again, I liked the way it was done and, while a bit of a stretch, it manages to still work.

If I were to point out any negatives at all, it would probably be some of the liberties taken in the police work aspects, which tends to be a peeve of mine. That said, there are some explanations for why those liberties can be taken, but I think I would have liked them to be a bit more solid and defined. It really wasn’t enough to impact my enjoyment of the story, though.

This was a fun, sweet read and I’ve already got the next book ready to slot in when I need another lighter read.

 

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: 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: Take Me Home, Finding Home – Book #1

Author: Rachel Branton
Book Name: Take Me Home
Release Date: September 17, 2017
Series: Finding Home
Order: #1
Genre: Romance/Family Life
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: What if everything you ever thought was true about your past, wasn’t true at all?

Liana Winn has always felt like an outsider in her family. As a child she was adopted by relatives after her parents’ plane accident in India, but now that she is as an adult, her disjointed memories—and nightmares—of the past continue to make it impossible for her to bridge the wide gulf she still feels with her adoptive family. She is plagued by questions about her parents’ deaths and wonders if that event is the reason for her inability to form deep personal relationships. Although her adoptive brother Christian has become her greatest friend and supporter, she even has difficulty bonding with him. Needing someone means love, and losing those you love hurts too much.

When Liana meets successful businessman, Austin Walker, who has risen above his own difficult childhood on a Wyoming farm, she’s certain their business will not extend to friendship. Yet she cannot deny their powerful connection and the feeling of hope he offers for romance.

But the ghosts of the past will not rest for Liana, and while searching for answers, she makes a shocking discovery that just might mean the end of everything she’s ever believed.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

This has all the critical pieces of a heartfelt, emotional story. I was intrigued by Liana’s backstory and wanted to know why she held herself at a distance from people. I did struggle a bit to understand her coldness and forced distance toward her adopted family, mostly because of her age when she was adopted by them didn’t quite seem to fit with that kind of an extreme emotional reaction. As you move through the story, you see a bit more behind the why, but for me it never quite felt like a solid fit.

While this is classified as a romance, it isn’t the main focus of the story. That part is sweet, if a little light and fast in the founding of that relationship.

I was not a fan of Karyn’s character earlier in the book as she felt much, much younger and much more immature than her presented 20 year age, not to mention incredibly self centered. Even if I take into consideration the historical time frame of the mid/late 60s, that level of immaturity didn’t seem to make sense and it didn’t do much to garner any sympathy. Even some of the entries from later in her life, while a bit better, didn’t improve my opinion of her.

Between that and how cold and almost aggressively distant Liana’s character came across early on, the overall emotional impact of the story was brought down a bit for me. Overall, this was a good and interesting story, but it felt as though there were places that were missing tiny pieces that would smooth it all together.

 

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

 

On My TBR – October 2019 Edition

The end of September got interesting for me. Between getting into the groove of the new schedule with BG’s dance, managing my Amazon ad, and getting an influx of ARCs, several indie requests and all the books I picked up that I wanted to read, I’ve kind of felt a little swamped. For the first time ever, I’ve had to create a list of all the books I have obligations for and the dates so I don’t miss out on any. Feels kind of weird when you are mood reader.

Anyway, my TBR this month will reflect that list in its current state.


Anxiously Awaited October Releases:
Heartsong
Heartsong

Heartsong (Green Creek Book #3)
Genre: Fantasy, Urban
Release Date: October 22

Shattered Bonds
Shattered Bonds

Shattered Bonds (Jane Yellowrock Book #13)
Genre: Fantasy, Urban
Release Date: October 29

 

 


NetGalley ARCs:
Traces of Her
Traces of Her

Traces of Her
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Release Date: October 25
*The only book I didn’t get to in September, in part because of the late pub date.

 

The Empy Nest
The Empy Nest

The Empty Nest
Genre: Mystery/Psychological Thriller
Release Date: November 1

 

 

The Other Daughter
The Other Daughter

The Other Daughter
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Release Date: November 5

 

 


Library:
Lost You
Lost You

Lost You
Genre: Mystery/Psychological Thriller

 

 

 

Things You Save in a Fire
Things You Save in a Fire

Things You Save In A Fire
Genre: Romance

 

 

 

The Missing Years
The Missing Years

The Missing Years
Genre: Mystery/Suspense

 

 

 

Archangel's War
Archangel’s War

Archangel’s War (Guild Hunter Book #12)
Genre: Fantasy, Urban

 

 

 

Stolen Things
Stolen Things

Stolen Things
Genre: Mystery/Suspense

 


KU/Open Reads (No Due Date)
Blood Echo
Blood Echo

Blood Echo (Burning Girl Book #2)
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/SciFi

 

 

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: Fast Women – Jennifer Crusie

Author: Jennifer Crusie
Book Name: Fast Women
Release Date: May 1, 2001
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/Mystery/Humor
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: When a down-on-her-luck divorcée meets a determined-to-dominate detective, they find out that falling in love can be murder. . . .

Nell Dysart’s in trouble. Weighed down by an inexplicable divorce and a loss of appetite for everything, Nell is sleepwalking through life until her best friend finagles a job for her with a shabby little detective agency that has lots of potential and a boss who looks easy to manage.

Gabe McKenna isn’t doing too well, either. His detective agency is wasting time on a blackmail case, his partner has decided he hates watching cheating spouses for money, and his ex-wife has just dumped him . . . again. The only thing that’s going his way is that his new secretary looks efficient, boring, and biddable.

But looks can be deceiving, and soon Nell and Gabe are squaring off over embezzlement, business cards, vandalism, dognapping, blackmail, Chinese food, unprofessional sex, and really ugly office furniture, all of which turn out to be the least of their problems. Because soon, there are murders. And shortly after that, Nell and Gabe start falling in love. . . .

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

I picked this one up based on a recommendation for something on the funny side of things (thank you nananoyez!). The first 1/3 or so of this absolutely did it’s job with that and was exactly what I was looking for. Nell’s breakdown was just absolutely epic and I loved every second of it.

After that point, things start to level out and you get less of that humor and a bit more serious as the story begins to focus more on the relationships and the background mystery. I wasn’t a huge fan of how Nell and Gabe treated each other for the bulk of the story, so the romance part of this fell a little flat for me. There is a whole lot of toxic going on there and with every relationship in this book, but since this is more than just a romance, I was able to look past that enough to still enjoy the rest of the story.

The mystery part was decent if a little over the top. I’m not certain if I missed pieces or there just weren’t any hidden indications for the reader to be able to figure it out along the way, but the end and wrap up was a bit of a surprise.

The time frame of this story is around the early 2000s, so just a heads up to anyone that hasn’t read this that there are a few points with some dated references that tripped me up a few times because for some reason I expected this to be set in the current decade. It didn’t impact how I felt about the story, it just threw me a bit.

In all, the humor threaded throughout this story is what makes the book in my opinion. Since that was exactly what I was looking for, this hit the spot.

 

 

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 Oysterville Sewing Circle – Susan Wiggs

Author: Susan Wiggs
Book Name: The Oystervill Sewing Circle
Release Date: August 13, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Romance
Overall SPA: 2.5 Stars
2.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: At the break of dawn, Caroline Shelby rolls into Oysterville, Washington, a tiny hamlet at the edge of the raging Pacific.

She’s come home.

Home to a place she thought she’d left forever, home of her heart and memories, but not her future. Ten years ago, Caroline launched a career in the glamorous fashion world of Manhattan. But her success in New York imploded on a wave of scandal and tragedy, forcing her to flee to the only safe place she knows.

And in the backseat of Caroline’s car are two children who were orphaned in a single chilling moment—five-year-old Addie and six-year-old Flick. She’s now their legal guardian—a role she’s not sure she’s ready for.

But the Oysterville she left behind has changed. Her siblings have their own complicated lives and her aging parents are hoping to pass on their thriving seafood restaurant to the next generation. And there’s Will Jensen, a decorated Navy SEAL who’s also returned home after being wounded overseas. Will and Caroline were forever friends as children, with the promise of something more . . . until he fell in love with Sierra, Caroline’s best friend and the most beautiful girl in town. With her modeling jobs drying up, Sierra, too, is on the cusp of reinventing herself.

Caroline returns to her favorite place: the sewing shop owned by Mrs. Lindy Bloom, the woman who inspired her and taught her to sew. There she discovers that even in an idyllic beach town, there are women living with the deepest of secrets. Thus begins the Oysterville Sewing Circle—where women can join forces to support each other through the troubles they keep hidden.

Yet just as Caroline regains her creativity and fighting spirit, and the children begin to heal from their loss, an unexpected challenge tests her courage and her heart. This time, though, Caroline is not going to run away. She’s going to stand and fight for everything—and everyone—she loves.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3/5 Stars
Believability: 3/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 2/5 Stars

I had a really hard time trying to rate this as I went into it expecting to love it, but I really didn’t.

There were three very distinct pieces to this book. The piece of the story that inspired the title and is the support group that Caroline creates. The piece that is Caroline’s relationship with Will. And the piece that is Will’s relationship with Sierra. Each piece, when completely separated from the other pieces are all really compelling and emotional stories that I would have probably been in love with if they had stood on their own.

I would have loved this emotional story about a group of women getting together and working through their struggles with abuse. I would have even really enjoyed it if this had been layered in with even one other portion of this book.

Will and Sierra’s story, on its own could have been this amazing story about a loving, married couple coping with life and all the changes that brings even when those changes mean that the marriage isn’t working anymore. It also could have been really compelling to see where they both ended up after things fell apart.

But, for me at least, the way all three of these pieces tied together really didn’t work for me. The support group piece kind of gets lost in the background behind the other two pieces. The final piece, Will and Caroline’s story, feels tainted by Will and Sierra’s story. It puts Caroline in this sort of ugly position of being the second choice, second place, runner up kind of person and I just really didn’t enjoy that. Especially when you add in the piece that, through it all, Caroline and Sierra were best friends. None of those pieces play well together. I’m not normally a huge fan of the old flame trope in the first place (some work for me, many don’t), but the whole, “the guy falls in love with the best friend but the odd girl out maintains that crush for years and years when a simple conversation could have made things entirely different” are even less appealing to me.

None of these things are made any better by the time jumps back to when the three were teenagers. If anything, it made me just not like any of the characters all that much. I could have done without almost all of those parts of the book. On the flip side of that, most of the opportunities to develop a relationship between Caroline and Will organically later in the story never actually happens on the page. They are glossed over through huge time gaps forcing the reader to just make big assumptions about what has and hasn’t happened.

I’m going to skip over the whole kids part of this as it is a massive peeve of mine, but I will mention it was another, smaller piece that made it hard to enjoy this one. I really loved the different pieces for what they could have been, but I just didn’t like how they were all woven together. It really did kind of feel like 3 different stories all at different levels of being complete were tied together in an attempt to create a whole, but there are big gaps left in all of them and the ties are weak and distort the shapes of what should have been.

 

Book Review: Evvie Drake Stars Over – Linda Holmes

Author: Linda Holmes
Book Name: Evvie Drake Stars Over
Release Date: June 25, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: In a small town in Maine, recently widowed Eveleth “Evvie” Drake rarely leaves her house. Everyone in town, including her best friend, Andy, thinks grief keeps her locked inside, and she doesn’t correct them. In New York, Dean Tenney, former major-league pitcher and Andy’s childhood friend, is struggling with a case of the “yips”: he can’t throw straight anymore, and he can’t figure out why. An invitation from Andy to stay in Maine for a few months seems like the perfect chance to hit the reset button.

When Dean moves into an apartment at the back of Evvie’s house, the two make a deal: Dean won’t ask about Evvie’s late husband, and Evvie won’t ask about Dean’s baseball career. Rules, though, have a funny way of being broken–and what starts as an unexpected friendship soon turns into something more. But before they can find out what might lie ahead, they’ll have to wrestle a few demons: the bonds they’ve broken, the plans they’ve changed, and the secrets they’ve kept. They’ll need a lot of help, but in life, as in baseball, there’s always a chance–right up until the last out.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

After having read a few reviews of this book, I think I was expecting a much lighter read than what this is. While there are definitely moments of humor and fun, they almost all happen at a time when they are trying to cover up much heavier emotions in the characters. This isn’t a bad thing, just not quite what I’d expected.

I also had a hard time connecting with Evvie’s character. It took a really long time to figure out that the lack of emotion from her had a purpose. By the time I was able to really get into that and understand it, I was already pretty deep into the book. I absolutely got it then, but it just took me too long to get there. I think this lessened the emotional impact for me, even though I could very easily have stood in similar shoes in my own experiences.

I also wasn’t a huge fan of the ending as it is a bit too much like a typical cookie cutter romance ending. This was still a good book, but it fell a little short for my tastes.