Recommended Reads From April

Looks like April was fantasy book month for me based on this list of 4 and 5 star reads. I really don’t find it the least bit surprising that I’d be looking for something that takes away from reality right now. There are a few that are more contemporary, but they were spread out over the month.

 

Grave Concerns
Grave Concerns
Author: Gwen Hunter
Book Name: Grave Concerns
Release Date: March 11, 2014 (First pub: 1/1/04)
Series: Rhea Lynch
Order: 4
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Medical
Overall SPA: 5
Reviewed: No
Heart of Ice
Heart of Ice

Heart of Stone
Heart of Stone
Author: Lisa Edmonds
Book Name: Heart of Ice & Heart of Stone
Release Date: October 9, 2017 & June 18, 2019
Series: Alice Worth
Order: 3 & 4
Genre: Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
Reviewed: No & No

Never Dead
Never Dead
Author: M.L. Bullock
Book Name: Never Dead
Release Date: April 2, 2020
Series: Welcome to Dead House
Order: 1
Genre: Paranormal
Overall SPA: 4
Reviewed: No

Killing Mind
Killing Mind
Author: Angela Marsons
Book Name: Killing Mind
Release Date: May 13, 2020
Series: D.I. Kim Stone
Order: 12
Genre: Suspense/Mystery/Police/Crime
Overall SPA: 5
Reviewed: Yes (will post May 2nd – Envie!’s May Review)

Shadow Valley
Shadow Valley
Author: Gwen Hunter
Book Name: Shadow Valley
Release Date: March 4, 2015
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Romance
Overall SPA: 5
Reviewed: Yes

Broken Loyalty
Broken Loyalty
Author: Kristen Banet
Book Name: Broken Loyalty
Release Date: April 15, 2020
Series: Jacky Leon
Order: 3
Genre: Urban/Fantasy/Romance
Overall SPA: 5
Reviewed: No

The Gladiator's Downfall
The Gladiator’s Downfall
Author: Kristen Banet
Book Name: *
Release Date: *
Series: Age of Andinna
Order: #1 – 4 (First 4 of the series)
Genre: Fantasy/Romance/Reverse Harem
Overall SPA: 5
Reviewed: Yes

Battle Bond
Battle Bond
Author: Lindsay Buroker
Book Name: Battle Bond
Release Date: March 14, 2020
Series: Death Before Dragons
Order: 2
Genre: Fantasy/Urban
Overall SPA: 4
Reviewed: No

Semi-Psychic Life
Semi-Psychic Life
Author: Elizabeth Hunter
Book Name: Semi-Psychic Life
Release Date: April 21, 2020
Series: Glimmer Lake
Order: 2
Genre: Paranormal/Urban/Family Life
Overall SPA: 4.5
Reviewed: No

Book Series Review: Age of Andinna, Kristen Banet – Book #1 – 4

Author: Kristen Banet
Series: Age of Andinna
Order: #1 – 4
Books In Series: The Gladiator’s Downfall, The Mercenary’s Bounty, The Warrior’s Assault, The Rebel’s Vision
Genre: Fantasy/Romance/Reverse Harem
Overall SPA: 5 Stars
5 Stars

 

 

Blurb – Book #1: She’s an Andinna. A member of the winged, horned, and tailed warrior race that the Elvasi Empire defeated in the Hundred Year War and then enslaved. She’s a slave, and has been one for a thousand years, the personal property of the Empress of the Elvasi Empire, since the end of the War. She’s a gladiator, thrown onto the sands of the Colosseum to die, though it backfired on those who wanted her dead. She’s the Champion of the Colosseum, and has been for roughly nine hundred years.

All of these things have marked her as an outcast among her own people. Hated, distrusted, and despised, she knows the name of her people, but not much else.

But she knows where she stands. Keeping her head down and her blades sharp has carried her this far, and she refuses to acknowledge the deepest wishes she holds in her heart. Those will only get her killed.

Alone, she’s stood against everything they have ever thrown at her, refusing to give them what they want.

What Mave doesn’t know is that it’s all about to change.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

It isn’t often that I will pick up books that fall into the reverse harem sub-genre and it is rare that I like them when I do as they tend to jump all over my peeve button for a variety of reasons. These are the first books I’ve read that fall into that sub-genre that I genuinely thought were excellent. I decided to take a chance on these as I’ve read several other books by this author that I’ve really enjoyed and I absolutely was not disappointed.

First and foremost is the incredibly well developed world building in these books. I found it fascinating and unique, giving the reader a lot of rich details and interesting concepts like the individual races of the different characters. While those races may be loosely based on some classic mythological beings like dragons and, very slightly, elves, they are their own unique beings set in their own unique world and not anything I’ve seen before.

One of the things that stands out for me is the fact that the main character, Mave, is absolutely fierce in every way. For once you get a mature female character that can easily stand on her own two feet and doesn’t need to be coddled. She is no simpering princess and takes no BS from anyone. She is a true survivor and an absolute badass. She also isn’t perfect, not by a long shot. She has a lot to deal with and overcome, but she does so by standing in front of it and facing it head on.

What came as a surprise in these books is that, while this is a reverse harem, it isn’t the main focus of the story and comes along slowly. If anything, this is just as much a series that focuses on finding family as it does on the romance. You also spend way more time on the action going on around the characters and the conflicts of the world around them than you do on most anything else. The romance and the family building are tightly woven through everything else giving you an incredibly well balanced story.

For those that really aren’t a fan of a lot of heavy steam, you won’t get that here. There are maybe one or two scenes in each book. They don’t go too heavy on the detail and don’t take up a lot of page space. They are easily skimmed or skipped if you really aren’t interested. For those that do like a lot, this could be a disappointment, but you still get some and there is enough amazing storytelling going on around it to make up for it.

This was such a surprising series and I’m a little amazed at how much I really ended up loving it. So much so, that this may have pushed this author into my auto buy group. The first to be added to that group in a really long time.

I do want to note that there are more than 4 books in this series. When I first considered picking these up, I saw a box set or collection available, so made the assumption that the series was finished. It is not and book 4 makes that beyond obvious as it leaves off at a place that is as close to a cliffhanger as you can get without actually being one. The next book in the series is due out in June 2020.

*Cover art and blurb are only for book #1.

 

Book Review: Shadow Valley – Gwen Hunter

Author: Gwen Hunter
Book Name: Shadow Valley
Release Date: March 4, 2015
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Romance
Overall SPA: 5 Stars
5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Mackenzie Morgan thinks she’s doing the right thing by taking her teenaged daughter, Bella, into the Appalachians on a photography shoot. Fleeing a crumbling marriage, Mac needs time to bond with her daughter and escape the betrayal that still leaves her numb. But when a drifter abducts Bella and carries her deep into the steep mountain woods, Mac must draw on her deepest reserves to fight for her daughter’s safe return.

When her soon-to-be ex-husband arrives, old wounds flare, and Mac turns to Caleb Howell, a local tracker, who helps keep her focused on the most important task: finding Bella. Then astonishing evidence comes to light that reveals the abduction was not as random as they first believed. As hours turn into days, Mac struggles to keep her hope—and her terrified daughter—alive.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

This was an intense, action packed read that I really did not want to put down once I picked it up. For those that love stories about how far a mother will go for her child, this is a great one to grab. While I’m kind of stuck on the short and sweet side of this review, that so isn’t what this book is. It was just a really great read that is worth the time to pick up.

Book Review: Suddenly Psychic, Glimmer Lake- Book #1

Author: Elizabeth Hunter
Book Name: Suddenly Psychic
Release Date: February 18, 2020
Series: Glimmer Lake
Order: #1
Genre: Paranormal/Women’s Fiction/Family Drama/Romance
Overall SPA: 5 Stars
5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Every woman goes through changes in their forties.
Just not… these changes.

Robin Brannon was a normal wife, mom, and antique shop owner until a brush with death turned her day-to-day life upside down. Now she and her two best friends are seeing things that belong in a fantasy novel. Ghosts. Visions. Omens of doom. Nothing that belongs in the peaceful mountain town they call home.

Added to that, Robin’s marriage is on the rocks, her grandmother’s health is failing, her mother is driving away the customers at her shop, her teenage daughter refuses to get her drivers’ license, and her left knee aches every darn morning.

Robin doesn’t have the time, energy, or knees to unearth the secrets buried at the bottom of Glimmer Lake, but fate doesn’t seem to care. Some secrets are just dying to be exposed.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

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

This is a beautiful mash up of some of my favorite genres all in one book. Top that with the main characters being mature, adult women (something that is rare in the paranormal genre) dealing with real life type issues associated with being that age along side the twist of the paranormal, toss it all with very real characters with sass, attitude and relatable flaws and this was nearly a perfect fit for me.

While the premise behind the three women and best friends, Robin, Monica, and Val, suddenly getting psychic abilities in their mid 40’s may be a bit far fetched, the author does an amazing job of selling it with the way she manages to blend it with real life.

The story is told from each of the three women’s perspectives, but falls more heavily on Robin’s perspective as she is the main character. That imbalance was unusual for me, but I really enjoyed how it helped the story flow and to get an idea of how each woman was dealing with the sudden changes. I adored the amazing, loving relationship between these three friends. It is the type of friendship most everyone would love to have in their life.

The romantic aspect of the story comes in a couple of different places, mainly in Robin’s relationship with her husband. How she is feeling in that relationship was so relatable to what many women, especially those that are also mothers, feel at some point. This just added to how much I liked her character.

This book made me laugh while connecting with the characters. Then topped it off with the kind of cry that is sad and happy at the same time. Since this is the first in a series, I’ll be anxiously awaiting the next book and probably digging into this authors back list as this was the first book I’ve read from them.

*This review was also published in Envie! Magazine’s April 2020 edition.

 

Recommended Reads From March

I haven’t written many reviews recently, but have still been reading a ton. I’ve also gotten away from posting any kind of TBR. I thought I might try posting a sort of a reverse TBR, instead. Basically a list of books I read over the month that I’d recommend instead of what I intend to read.

All books will be 4 to 5 star ratings and books that I enjoyed enough to say, “Hey, you should maybe pick this one up!” All books will also be books I read in that month, but not necessarily books released in that month. Not sure if it is something I’ll stick with, but thought I’d try it out, just for something different.

Based on this list, I’d say I had a decent month when it comes to books I enjoyed. The massive number of books that start with an “S” was purely luck and completely unintentional.

Badger to the Bone
Badger to the Bone
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
Reviewed: Yes – HERE

The Queen's Bargain
The Queen’s Bargain
Author: Anne Bishop
Book Name: The Queen’s Bargain
Release Date: March 10, 2020
Series: The Black Jewels
Order: 10
Genre: Dark Fantasy/Romance
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
Reviewed: Yes – HERE

Suddenly Psychic
Suddenly Psychic
Author: Elizabeth Hunter
Book Name: Suddenly Psychic
Release Date: February 18, 2020
Series: Glimmer Lake
Order: 1
Genre: Paranormal/Women’s Fiction/Family Drama/Romance
Overall SPA: 5
Reviewed: Yes – Will post on 4/2/2020 (Also for Envie! Book Review)

Shifting Dreams
Shifting Dreams
Author: Elizabeth Hunter
Book Name: Shifting Dreams
Release Date: March 5, 2013
Series: Cambio Springs
Order: 1
Genre: Urban/Fantasy/Romance
Overall SPA: 4
Reviewed: No

Bounty
Bounty
Author: K.N. Banet (Kristen Banet)
Book Name: Bounty
Release Date: March 14, 2020
Series: Kaliya Sahni
Order: 1
Genre: Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
Reviewed: Yes – HERE

Smoke Bitten
Smoke Bitten
Author: Patricia Briggs
Book Name: Smoke Bitten
Release Date: March 17, 2020
Series: Mercy Thompson
Order: 12
Genre: Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
Reviewed: No
Spiked
Spiked

Summoned
Summoned
Author: C.P. Rider
Book Name: Spiked & Summoned
Release Date: August 14, 2019 & November 30, 2019
Series: The Sundance
Order: 1 & 2
Genre: Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
Reviewed: No
Heart of Malice
Heart of Malice

Heart of Fire
Heart of Fire
Author: Lisa Edmonds
Book Name: Heart of Malice & Heart of Fire
Release Date: June 5, 2017 & May 29, 2018
Series: Alice Worth
Order: 1 & 2
Genre: Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
Reviewed: No

Shatter the Earth
Shatter the Earth
Author: Karen Chance
Book Name: Shatter the Earth
Release Date: February 5, 2020
Series: Cassandra Palmer
Order: 10
Genre: Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 4
Reviewed: No

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.