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.

Book Review: Anna – Patricia Dixon

Author: Patricia Dixon
Book Name: Anna
Release Date: June 4, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/Women’s Fiction/Family Life
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Against the odds, can you learn to trust and love again? 

Set on the coast of Portsmouth and the beautiful Loire Valley, this is the story of Anna. A married mother of three, the unremarkable rock of her family is content with her life until she discovers that Matthew, her husband of 22 years, is having an affair.

Consumed by hurt and tainted memories, Anna’s life is turned upside down by first betrayal and then loss. Her confidence totally destroyed, she is tormented by the spectre of Matthew’s unknown lover. Whilst keeping the secret of his affair from her family, Anna must find her way through the pain alone.

With one son on the other side of the world, another about to enter a war zone and her daughter off to university, Anna’s life gradually begins to crumble until someone from her past appears.

Can Anna find peace and learn to love again?

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

Trying to rate a book like this is incredibly difficult. There are parts I really enjoyed and parts that I really didn’t and it is kind of difficult to separate them in the end because they are all tangled together.

If I look at the basic story line and the realistic nature of the characters, I can say that for the most part, I really enjoyed those pieces. There are points where the emotions are really drawn out and these points sucked me in and I was anxious about how it was going to move on. But if I look at the execution and how most of that was presented, there were a lot of times where I struggled with my own personal reaction to some of the situations and this frustrated me and  made me not like certain aspects of Anna’s character.

Those really good parts were also like bright spots in a very long and very drawn out story. According to Goodreads, the page count for this book is 470 pages, which is way too long for a story like this. There are so many parts that are deeply detailed that could have so easily been removed and you still would have had a really good story.

This gets exacerbated by the number of times the reader is subjected to Anna having to rehash what she knows about Matthew’s affair. After about the third time, I was done with it and the emotions surrounding it all, but we get it again. And again. And… it was too much and started to lose the emotional impact and just slowed things down.

I kept thinking I’d hit a point where it looked like the story was winding down and wrapping up only to look down and I was only at 50% or 70% or still not even close to being done. When that happened yet again, I suddenly hit a point marked “Book 2”. I think it is an epilogue or something, but it really isn’t an actual break in the story, just a continuation of the exact same story so I was really frustrated and confused by the entire point of that break. And the fact that it wasn’t actually the end of the story yet.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike this story. I think the basis and the bones were really good, but the sheer length of this with all of these little pieces and oddly arranged timeline bounces of looking back when you really didn’t have a purpose to do so in probably 90% of the instances made this drag. It is the kind of book that I really wish someone would have just stepped in and said “all these bits here really don’t add anything to the overall story, you should consider cutting them”. It would have kept the emotional flow going, uninterrupted, and allow the story to move forward without distracting the reader. By the time I got to the actual epilogue, I kind of no longer cared and only skimmed it.

 

 

Book Review: Stand In Place – Mary Calmes

Author: Mary Calmes
Book Name: Stand in Place
Release Date: July 17, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/LGBTQIA
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: One summer won’t be enough….

Kaenon Geary was done fighting the small minds in his sleepy Texas town when he made his escape and never looked back. But now, for the first time in more than a decade, he’s returned to Braxton to spend the summer with his beloved grandmother—her final summer—and no longer recognizes the home he’d left behind all those years ago.

Everything has changed.

Everything but the man he’s never stopped wanting.

Brody Scott was the local football hero who became a gridiron champ, but he retired from the fast lane to forge a new life as the Chief Constable of Braxton. He longs to put down roots in the community he is now sworn to protect. Though he’s not at all sure he can protect his heart from the quiet, earnest boy he once knew. The boy who has come back a man.

Starting something would be a mistake. Kaenon plans to fly away at summer’s end, but his love is something Brody desperately wants to have…and to keep. Their days together are numbered. Unless some simple hometown magic can make all the right things bloom and show them the true definition of love.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Believability: 3/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

This was a really sweet and warm read. I loved Kaenon’s character and the allusions to magic and the occult, though it isn’t technically a fantasy. As much as I enjoyed this, there were a few things that I had issues with.

One is more of a personal buttons kind of issue with regards to forgiveness and acceptance of past wrongs. There are some pretty horrific past wrongs in this book that end up just being wiped away as though they were nothing and I really struggled with that.

Slightly tied into that is how quick Kaenon and Brody got together. It just felt like there should have been more there, more discussion or working through some of their past issues.

I was also just a bit thrown with how and where this book ended. It wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t what I was expecting, which left me a little torn on how I felt about it. Again, it felt like there should have been more to it.

This was a really good story and most of my issues with it were more of a personal taste thing than anything.

 

 

On My TBR – September 2019 Edition

When I did the first one of these a few months ago, I thought for sure I wouldn’t end up being a fan and dropping it. Mostly because I am very much a mood reader and I didn’t think I’d ever really get through all the books on a TBR list. Oh, I’d read that number of books and then some, but not necessarily those specific books.

Now that I’m getting ARCs and requests from indie authors, this has actually been kind of helpful in keeping me focused a bit to ensure I meet my obligations. That and it has been kind of fun. So, I’m sticking with it.

There was only one book on last month’s TBR that I didn’t end up reading beyond the first couple of pages (really was not a fan of the writing and dropped it), otherwise, I had no problem getting to them all. I also only really put the books on this list that I currently have available to read or I’m expecting to release and pick up in that month, so it isn’t an excessively long list.

 

Anna
Anna

Anna
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Family Life

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evvie Drake Starts Over
Evvie Drake Starts Over

Evvie Drake Starts Over
Genre: Romance

 

 

 

 

 

 

September’s Anxiously Awaiting Release:

Archangel's War
Archangel’s War

Archangel’s War – Guild Hunter Book #12
Genre: Romance, Urban, Fantasy
Release Date: September 24, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

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

Brave the Tempest
Brave the Tempest

Brave the Tempest – Cassandra Palmer Book #9
Genre: Urban, Fantasy

 

 

 

 

 

 

NetGalley ARCs:

Good Girls
Good Girls

Good Girls
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Family Life
Release Date: October 8, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

Traces of Her
Traces of Her

Traces of Her
Genre: Mystery, Suspense
Release Date: October 25, 2019
*Putting this on the list because I have it approved, but may wait until closer to the release date to actually read.

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

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

 

 

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

And a coyote shapeshifter.

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

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

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

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

We will die to keep it.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

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

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

 

Book Review: The Blacksmith Queen, The Scarred Earth Saga – Book #1

Author: G.A. Aiken
Book Name: The Blacksmith Queen
Release Date: August 27, 2019
Series: The Scarred Earth Saga
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Romance/Humor
Overall SPA: 5 Stars
5 Stars

 

 

Blurb:  The Old King Is Dead
 
With the demise of the Old King, there’s a prophesy that a queen will ascend to the throne of the Black Hills. Bad news for the king’s sons, who are prepared to defend their birthright against all comers. But for blacksmith Keeley Smythe, war is great for business. Until it looks like the chosen queen will be Beatrix, her younger sister. Now it’s all Keeley can do to protect her family from the enraged royals.

Luckily, Keeley doesn’t have to fight alone. Because thundering to her aid comes a clan of kilt-wearing mountain warriors called the Amichai. Not the most socially adept group, but soldiers have never bothered Keeley, and rough, gruff Caid, actually seems to respect her. A good thing because the fierce warrior will be by her side for a much longer ride than any prophesy ever envisioned …

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

When I first saw this book was the start of a new series, I was a tiny bit concerned it wouldn’t follow what I’ve come to know and love about G.A. Aiken’s style. You never really know for sure what you’re getting into with a new series and the blurb doesn’t quite do this justice, falling on the more serious side. Fans of the Dragon Kin series will be happy to know this series is set in that same world. Though there isn’t any kind of crossover just yet, the potential is there for future books.

Everything I’ve always loved about a G.A. Aiken novel is in this one. All the over the top, effortlessly badass female characters. The phenomenal, irreverent snark and humor layered into those intensely grotesque battle scenes. I don’t know another author that can make me laugh so hard about someone getting their head smashed to a pulp. Those things really shouldn’t ever be funny, but because of the way she writes, I cannot read and drink anything at the same time.

I was really surprised this went the direction it did with Keeley’s and Beatrix’s relationship. At first, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it, but I really did. It felt different for this author (unless I’ve forgotten something or missed a book in the past) to go that route.

Even though this is the same world as the Dragon Kin series and you get to see similar beings (dragons, centaurs), they are still unique to the part of the world this book is founded in. So, while similar in setting and general feel, it still has the sense of newness that I thoroughly enjoyed. The next book in this series cannot come soon enough.

For those new to G.A. Aiken, no need to worry. You won’t feel lost. If you love a little magic, a wide range of interesting types of characters, battle scenes and lots of humor (the kind that gets everyone looking at you funny when you snort, choke or belt out your most embarrassing laugh), you absolutely should be putting this one on your TBR.

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

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

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

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

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

Book Review: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, Abbi Waxman

Author: Abbi Waxman
Book Name: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill
Release Date: July 9, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/Women’s Fiction

Blurb: The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.

When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?

Nina considers her options.

1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)

It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.

Let’s do this one a little differently, shall we? All the normal review pieces to follow.

10 Things I Learned Reading The Bookish Life of Nina Hill:
(Please read the below with extreme levels of sarcasm and snark; in a shrill excited tone if you prefer)

1) It is absolutely just awesome to have a “gay guy” as a fun accessory. This isn’t seen as offensive at all because it is just so cute and adorable and trendy! This amazingness is magnified when you find out you are actually related to one of THEM!

2) Being pretentious and judgmental is so THE thing and it makes a person unique and quirky and oh so funny!

3) When meeting previously unknown family members, it is like running into a copy of yourself. You will have this amazing, instant connection and have EVERYTHING in common all because of genetics. Having that blood tie means you are instant besties. Even the nasty ones turn around eventually.

4) Don’t you know? Women are ONLY irritable when their period is impending or they have a brain tumor, silly! The brain tumor is preferable.

5) If you have any feelings at all that aren’t perfectly positive, then you just need to get over it. No need to sit and dwell on those things as they are unimportant and get in the way. Besides! It is just SO easy to do!

6) Of course millennials are drunks! Don’t you know that wine fixes absolutely EVERYTHING!?

7) Who DOESN’T relate to the most instantly recognizable and common smell ever? Hasn’t EVERYONE smelled the inside of dogs’ ears?!

8) If you want to fit into the Pompous American crowd, you must say things like “properly” to describe nearly everything and use phrases like “Fancy a cup of tea?” You aren’t properly Pompous if you don’t.

9) Women expecting men to want to actually get to know them for what is between their ears is so last year! It is absolutely okay to fall in love with a guy who can’t bother to listen to the words coming out of your mouth because they are so lost in their heads dreaming about anything and everything BUT what is coming out of your mouth. It is also okay to let go of any and all standards if they give great sex. *vigorous head nods*

10) Here is just the best!! (Feel free to drop the snark) Apparently it is okay to still write books in this day an age that disparages nearly every single subgroup that could in any way shape or form be considered “different” by dragging out the extreme levels of stereotypes and mocking them for being who they are.

Okay, that last may be a tiny bit of an exaggeration when I say every group, but it is still very applicable here. I’m not sure I’ve read a book that tried so exceptionally hard to be unique and quirky only to land as an extreme cliche’ instead. I also don’t think I’ve read a character that has come across as nearly so pompous and judgemental and disparaging of others, which is quite a feat as she had enough of her own issues, the last thing she should have been doing was pointing fingers at anyone else’s faults.

To summarize, I did not like this book. I didn’t find the humor funny, nor did I find the character the least bit cute or quirky. Even if I could take those things away (which was a huge chunk of the book), I wouldn’t have cared one tiny bit about the romantic aspects because they very nearly didn’t exist. A couple of conversations that contain less than a dozen words each and suddenly you “know” the other person. Uh, nope. Doesn’t work for me and made worse by the truly awful “make-up” ending.

I was only at about the 20% mark when I began really wondering what all the fuss was about and why on Earth so many people love this so much. I was ready to put it down, but I really wanted to figure it out so I finished it. I still haven’t figured it out. I get sometimes needing to just laugh at the world around you, but this really missed the mark for me.

 

Overall SPA: 2 Stars
2 Stars

 

 

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

 

 

Book Review: What Doesn’t Kill You, Willa Pennington, P.I.- Book #1

Author: Aimee Hix
Book Name: What Doesn’t Kill You
Release Date: January 8th, 2018
Series: Willa Pennington, P.I.
Order: #1
Genre: Romance/Crime Drama/Suspense
Overall SPA: 2 Stars
2 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Favors are for suckers, especially when they lead you straight to a dead body

Willa Pennington thought that becoming a PI would be better than being a cop. She thought she’d never have to make another death notification or don a bulletproof vest again. She thought she’d be safe.

But she couldn’t have been more wrong, because Willa’s real problem is that she’s always sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong. And people really don’t like that.

Now, agreeing to do a simple favor has netted her a dead body, a missing person, and an old friend who just may be a very bad guy. If whoever is trying to kill her would lay off she could solve the murder, find the missing girl, and figure out if the person she’s trusted with her life is the one trying to end it.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 2.5/5 Stars
Believability: 2/5 Stars
Peeve Factor: 1.5/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 2.5/5 Stars

This one ended up being only an okay book, and just barely at that, for me for a couple of reasons. I really have a difficult time with crime/police drama books that disregard the most commonly known beliefs about police procedure and practices. This book seems to stretch, bend and break a lot of those. No, Willa isn’t a police officer, but she manages to get involved in this case and access to things that a non-police officer should never get. It doesn’t matter if she was a former police officer. She wasn’t even a detective, just a basic officer, which makes those breaches even worse in my opinion.

The other major issue was how utterly all over the map Willa’s character is. Is she a hormone driven idiot? Or is she this composed, put together professional? Does she have a moral core or does she have no compunction at all for breaking rules and laws to get the results she wants? Is she a bumbling amateur without two brain cells to rub together or is she a bit of a badass that knows her shit? All the different parts of her personality tended to contradict themselves, making her character seem flighty and difficult to like. I could never pinpoint how old she was supposed to be because her levels of maturity weren’t consistent. More times than not, she seemed like a willful, bratty teenager and not someone who was old enough to have ever been a police officer.

To add to the pile of peeves, you get this weird, annoying thing where everyone in any authority gives her whatever she wants because she is apparently brilliant. More so than the actual police and federal agents working on the case.  See the above comments about her coming across as a bumbling amateur and you will see why this was an even more annoying occurrence. And why I really wasn’t a fan.

 

Book Review: Close To Home, Sawyer’s Ferry – Book #4

Author: Cate Ashwood
Book Name: Close To Home
Release Date: June 11, 2019
Series: Sawyer’s Ferry
Order: #4
Genre: Romance/LGBTQIA
Overall SPA: 3 SPA Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb:

Witt:
I excelled at two things: systems engineering and going completely unnoticed.
The engineering took work and determination. The invisibility came naturally. Until one day, the wrong person noticed me. Battered and broken, I fled, escaping to Sawyer’s Ferry and the only friends I’d ever had.
Now, I just needed to figure out what I was going to do next.

Mason:
Life was good.
I had a great job, good friends, and a family who loved me. Even my roommate was decent. At least he was until he let his nudist brother come to visit. The opportunity to house-sit and help an injured friend couldn’t have come at a better time.
All I’d needed was to avoid an awkward situation for a few days, but I got more than I bargained for when my entire uncomplicated life flipped upside down. The last thing I’d been looking for was love, but it wasn’t until Witt that I realized just how much I’d been missing out on.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Series Expectations: 3/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 2.5/5 Stars

This started out really good and I connected with Witt’s character right away. I liked Mason right away as well. I liked how their story was unfolding. But… this ended up being this really long and drawn out story where not much actually happens for the bulk of the story. Then, in the last 10% of the book, the reader gets steamrolled with big stuff going on, Mason and Witt going from taking this snail slow pace to being in love, followed by a huge time jump that wraps it all up in a bow. It started out good, then started to drag and then you hit light speed right before you hit full stop. It was like there was this great story idea but there wasn’t a specific path to a finish. The end felt jumbled and rushed which clashes with the much slower pace of the earlier parts of the story making this fall more into the “Okay” range for me.

 

On My TBR – August 2019 Edition

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

Shadow's Bane
Shadow’s Bane

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

Genre: Fantasy/Urban

 

 

 

 

Fated
Fated

Fated – Book #1 Alex Verus

Genre: Fantasy/Uban/Paranormal

 

 

 

 

 

The Scribe
The Scribe

The Scribe

Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Crime

 

 

 

 

 

 

August’s Anxiously Awaiting Release:

The Blacksmith Queen
The Blacksmith Queen

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

Genre: Women’s Fiction/Romance

 

 

 

 

 

Caged
Caged

Caged

Genre: Mystery/Suspense

Book Review: A Merciful Fate, Mercy Kilpatrick – Book #5

Author: Kendra Elliot
Book Name: A Merciful Fate
Release Date: January 15, 2019
Series: Mercy Kilpatrick
Order: #5
Genre: Romance/Mystery/Suspense/Crime
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Raised by preppers, survivalist and FBI agent Mercy Kilpatrick has a deep-rooted need for a safe place. Her getaway in the Cascade Foothills is her secret. But when skeletal remains are unearthed—those of a murdered man linked to a notorious heist—Mercy realizes she isn’t the only one with something to hide.

Thirty years ago, an armored-car robbery turned deadly. The mastermind was captured. Four conspirators vanished with a fortune. One of them, it appears, never made it out of the woods alive. For Mercy and her fiancé, Police Chief Truman Daly, their investigation opens old wounds in Eagle’s Nest that cut deeper than they imagined. Especially when a reckless tabloid reporter draws fresh blood. It’s clear to Mercy that somebody in this close-knit community is not who they seem to be.

Some are still shattered by the heist. Some still have reason to be afraid. But which one will kill again and again to hide three decades of secrets? To land this case, it’s up to Mercy to unmask a familiar stranger before someone else dies.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Believability: 2.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3/5 Stars

This series has always been interesting to me. I have really enjoyed the insight into the world and mindset of preppers, so I always look forward to seeing bits of that life in these books. This book didn’t really touch on that nearly as much as previous books.

The one issue I’ve had with the series, at least on a small scale, is that some of the plotlines get a little convoluted and unbelievable. That was the case with this one as it really felt a bit ridiculous at times, more so than most of the previous books. At one point, I honestly wondered how many characters were going to get shot or killed or have really bad things happen to them. If a character appeared on a page, I was pretty certain it was going to turn into something ugly or traumatic.

For what is supposedly a relatively small community, there is an extremely high percentage of bad guys that seem to all live there. There are also a somewhat extreme number of cases that overlap between the FBI and local police. I like Mercy and Truman’s characters, but there are only so many cases they can have intertwine so they work together before you’ve broken the realistic barrier, fiction or not. The fact that this is book 5 and all of these same issues showed up again frustrated me. Those aspects keep this series from being a really great one in my book.

 

 

 

Book Review: Year One, Chronicles of the One – Book #1

Author: Nora Roberts
Book Name: Year One
Release Date: December 5, 2017
Series: Chronicles of the One
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Romance/Science Fiction/Distopian
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: The sickness came on suddenly, and spread quickly. The fear spread even faster. Within weeks, everything people counted on began to fail them. The electrical grid sputtered; law and government collapsed—and more than half of the world’s population was decimated.

And as the power of science and technology receded, magic rose up in its place. Some of it is good, like the witchcraft worked by Lana Bingham, practicing in the loft apartment she share with her lover, Max. Some of it is unimaginably evil, and it can lurk anywhere, around a corner, in fetid tunnels beneath the river—or in the ones you know and love the most. As word spreads that neither the immune nor the gifted are safe from the authorities who patrol the ravaged streets, Lana and Max make their way out of a wrecked New York City. At the same time, other travelers are heading west too, into a new frontier.

In a world of survivors where every stranger encountered could be either a savage or a savior, none of them knows exactly where they are heading, or why. But a purpose awaits them that will shape their lives and the lives of all those who remain.

The end has come. The beginning comes next.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

This book actually fell pretty far outside of my normal reading genres as I rarely ever read dystopian or science fiction (just not my thing). I had honestly expected a lot more of this to be on the fantasy/magical end of the spectrum and is why I picked it up, but at this point in the larger story arc of this series, you really haven’t gotten a whole lot of it.

When it comes to believability in a story, you can get away with a lot more when it is because of magic and this book’s main premise is based on that fact, otherwise there would be some issues with how so many of the world’s population died. The basis does work, but it stretches to get there. The magical aspects fall on the flimsy side of things for me because there is never much explanation behind it. I get that much of that is supposed to come later in the series storyline, but it leaves readers in this place where they are expected to believe in it just because they are told to without any kind of foundation to support it.

There were some characters I really liked, that came across as layered and interesting, but I struggled with Lana’s character. She just kind of came across as a bit… not flighty exactly, but the dreamy sighs attitude of “It was meant” seemed a bit repetitive and too much, as though she really wasn’t fully grounded in the horror of the world around her. Max wasn’t much better.

For the most part, I felt the story was interesting and I was invested in where it was going. Then you get this shift and things change. Suddenly every character that the reader has been introduced to gets dropped off the page. I kept expecting to get back to some of their perspectives, but it never happens. When I finally got to the end, I was kind of wondering what the point was of getting anything at all from their perspective in the first place. You get all these threads of their stories and then they are all just dropped.

The final piece that really kept this from being a really good story for me was how the last 1/4 or so of the book wraps up and the events in that wrap up. I’m not going to go into spoiler levels here, but lets just say it really did not work for me when it came to character relationships.

I have the next book on my TBR, but I have a feeling it is is going to be one that I keep setting aside in favor of other books I’d much rather read.

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

Personal Opinion: 3.5/5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cover: 4/5 Stars

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

Book Review: A Family of Strangers – Emilie Richards

Author: Emilie Richards
Book Name: A Family of Strangers
Release Date: June 25, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/Suspense/Family Drama
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Could a lifetime of memories…be a lifetime of lies?

All her life Ryan Gracey watched her perfect older sister from afar. Knowing she could never top Wendy’s achievements, she didn’t even try. Instead Ryan forged her own path while her family barely seemed to notice.

Now Wendy shares two little girls with her perfect husband while Ryan mourns the man she lost after a nearly fatal mistake in judgment. The sisters’ choices have taken them in different directions, which is why Ryan is stunned when Wendy calls, begging for her help. There’s been a murder—and Wendy believes she’ll be wrongfully accused.

While Wendy lays low, Ryan moves back to their hometown to care for the nieces she hardly knows. The sleuthing skills she’s refined as a true-crime podcaster quickly rise to the surface as she digs for answers with the help of an unexpected ally. Yet the trail of clues Wendy’s left behind lead to nothing but questions. Blood may be thicker than water, but what does Ryan owe a sister who, with every revelation, becomes more and more a stranger?

Is Wendy, who always seemed so perfect, just a perfect liar—or worse?

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

This book surprised me. In good ways and on a couple of different levels.

Initially, I got frustrated because I wasn’t seeing what the blurb had led me to believe this book was about and I thought it was beyond time to start seeing those things. That’s when I noticed I was only at like 15-20% and I was a bit shocked. So much had already happened, I felt like I was much farther along than I was, so it wasn’t unreasonable I hadn’t hit those things. Once I realized that, I let go of the impatience and settled into the story.

One of the things I really liked about this was that there were lots of threads in this story, but they are all mostly tied together and related. The only real exception is Ryan and Teo’s back story, which you get in drips for a while (one of the points of early frustration and my one real irritant). The connected threads all fit smoothly together.

I loved how those threads all developed. Even as the story seems to get complex and convoluted, the author does a good job of making it all work, of making it believable. There are several “surprises” along the way. Most I could see coming, but I still liked how they came about. One that I saw, the author managed to distract me enough I’d forgotten about it only to have it pop back up when I wasn’t looking (LOVED that).

The very few negatives I’d have to mention are all mostly centered around Ryan and Teo’s relationship. Those early drips of their back story did annoy me as there didn’t seem to be any real purpose to the slow doling out of that part of the story other than to add a level of suspense, which was unnecessary with so much other stuff going on. The one piece I struggled with believing was how their previous relationship ended. That part really didn’t get wrapped up until deep into the story and it felt a little weak, as though there had to have been a lot more to it than there was. It wasn’t enough to do too much damage to how much I enjoyed the rest of the book, though.

Overall, I really enjoyed this and once I got over myself and my impatience, this kept me intrigued all the way through.

 

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

Cover: 4/5 Stars
Just wanted to point out that the cover was one of the things that got me to look closer at this book. It sets the perfect tone and backdrop for the story.

 

Book Review: Chasing Shadows, South Shores – Book 1

Author: Karen Harper
Book Name: Chasing Shadows
Release Date: November 29, 2016
Series: South Shores
Order: #1
Genre: Romance/Suspense
Overall SPA: 2 Stars
2 Stars

 

 

Blurb: The dead still talk if you know how to listen… 

Every case that Claire Britten cracks is a win, not only professionally but personally. The forensic psychologist has spent a lifetime fighting a neurological disorder, and her ability to conquer it is a testament to her razor-sharp intuition.

Nick Markwood is used to winning in the courtroom, so when his latest case is overthrown by Claire’s expert testimony, he can’t help being impressed by her skill. He needs her on the team of his passion project—investigating unusual cases involving mysterious deaths. Her condition doesn’t deter him, and neither does the attraction that sparks between them…even if it should.

As they join forces to investigate a murder in St. Augustine, Florida, Claire is thrust into a situation far more dangerous than she’d anticipated, pushing her disorder to a breaking point. Just when she fears she can’t trust her own mind, she discovers Nick’s personal connection to the case—and wonders whether she can trust anyone at all.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

Personal Opinion: 2/5 Stars
While reading this, I was smacked repeatedly with the lack of believably, both in the plot and the characters. You kind of get hit over the head with the abundance of truly ignorant characters. This is made worse when the main characters, those that are supposed to be professional, at least in some capacity, come across as though they are completely incompetent and ignorant. I’m not sure a single character wasn’t one of those Too Stupid To Live types, unless you count the child prop that is Claire’s daughter.

There are only so many times you can turn a character that is a potential suspect in a crime into someone that is worthy of suspicion and then attempt to twist them back into being obviously innocent before then going back to being suspicious before you stop being clever and just become annoying. And yet, every single character was both suspicious and obviously innocent numerous times throughout this book.

While all of those did a fun little jig on my peeve button, I was still resigned to finish this on a relatively decent note of being okay with this book. But what was an oddly placed side plot line got yanked at the last minute and turned this into utter ridiculousness. Not only are you given one hell of a cliffhanger, and one that is completely unrelated to the majority of the plot for this book (an attempt to drag readers into other books in this series), but you are given one hell of a level of crazy, over the top, unbelievable “what the hell?” kind of stupid. Sorry, but it was just way too much and pushed me straight into the “Nope!” range for me.

If you are okay with extreme levels of totally unrealistic (as in the author didn’t do much to make the reader believe the story), clumsy and unprofessional behavior from supposedly professional characters, hints at a really odd and potentially abusive love triangle, slightly clunky dialog, side characters that have zero set personality, or you are one of those people that loves the really bad scary movies so you can yell at the dumb characters, then this may be the book for you. If not… might want to skip this one.

 

 

Book Review: The Witchkin Murders, Magicfall – Book 1

Author: Diana Pharaoh Francis
Book Name: The Witchkin Murders
Release Date: June 7, 2019
Series: Magicfall
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Urban Paranormal Romance
Overall SPA: 3.25
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb:

Four years ago, my world—the world—exploded with wild magic. The cherry on top of that crap cake? The supernatural world declared war on humans, and my life went straight to hell.

I used to be a detective, and a damned good one. Then Magicfall happened, and I changed along with the world. I’m witchkin now—something more than human or not quite human, depending on your perspective. To survive, I’ve become a scavenger, searching abandoned houses and stores for the everyday luxuries in short supply—tampons and peanut butter. Oh, how the mighty have fallen, but anything’s better than risking my secret.

Except, old habits die hard. When I discover a murder scene screaming with signs of black magic ritual, I know my days of hiding are over. Any chance I had of escaping my past with my secret intact is gone. Solving the witchkin murders is going to be the hardest case of my life, and not just because every second will torture me with reminders of how much I miss my old life and my partner, who hates my guts for abandoning the department.

But it’s time to suck it up, because if I screw this up, Portland will be wiped out, and I’m not going to let that happen. Hold on to your butts, Portland. Justice is coming, and I don’t take prisoners.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3/5 Stars
This one was a hard one to rate as I liked most all of the characters, but not one of the major ones.

Uniqueness Factor: 4/5 Stars
While you have an often seen theme of the real world being changed by a catastrophic event that results in magic and magical beings, I do think it was presented in a new and interesting way.

World Building: 3/5 Stars
Like the uniqueness factor, I mostly enjoyed the world this is built on. I had a few issues with some of the founding facts of the world and how well the author made it work, basically some quirks that didn’t pan out for me.

Personal Opinion: 3/5 Stars
Overall, I enjoyed this book. I liked the majority of the characters and there was a freshness to the way magic was brought into the story in this world. That said, I didn’t love it. It was a good story, but there were a few things that kept it from being a much better story for me.

I was not a fan at all of Ray’s character. He comes across as a volatile, angry, nearly abusive person and I’m never a fan of those types of characters being the love interest in the story. This has a touch of the enemies to lovers trope for those that are interested in that theme, but Ray’s character makes it hard for me to get on board with the romantic aspect of this story.

The way the introduction to magic was presented in this book was really intriguing and I was drawn in by that, but there were certain aspects of it that made it hard to believe. The idea that certain things were difficult to obtain was awesome, but it fizzled a bit in the implementation of that idea because you don’t really see the lack. If a region is cut off with regards to communication and transport of goods, there are going to be much larger issues than what you see in this book. Access to a whole lot of different foods, especially something like coffee, kind of grated on me. Mostly because there was very little explanation as to how things were obtained after transportation channels were cut off. Again, I love the idea, but it didn’t feel completely developed.

Though I wasn’t a fan of those aspects, I was still able to enjoy the story.

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

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

Cover: 2/5 Stars
I think I’m developing a peeve when it comes to covers. I get this fits the genre, but I’m kind of tired of seeing the ripped, scantily clad bodies, especially women, on most every single cover. Especially when they take up the majority of the cover and don’t really do much of anything to reflect any of the specifics in the story. I think for me it is as much about creativity as anything. How creative did you really have to get when you are doing pretty much the same cover as every other book in this genre?

Peeve Factor: 3/5 Stars
I didn’t include this in the SPA because it wasn’t a horrible abuse of my peeves, but it is worth mentioning and touches a bit on my personal opinion rating. I really don’t like characters like Ray. The angry, never thinks before he speaks, volatile and damn near verbally abusive character. I can tolerate them to an extent and am more willing to do so when it is a side character or a bad guy, but I really dislike them in a lead, romantic role. I’m even willing to overlook that when it is a part of character growth, but you honestly don’t see much of that at all in this.

Also, if you are going to create a world, especially a fantasy one with a magical aspect, I really want to see it fully rounded out. If you are going to do something like in this book and say that transport between regions or even cities is near impossible, then you really need to work on how your characters survive, because in the real world, EVERYTHING is felt on a global basis. There are probably very few areas of the US that could be truly self sustaining without some severe areas of deficits. If the situation in this world had happened over a period of time so that those regions could prepare, that would be one thing, but that isn’t what happened. Granted, this is really a small potatoes issue with regards to the overall story, but it is something that I notice and it irks me a bit when it is glossed over and not actually addressed or dealt with.

There were a couple of others that I noticed while I was reading, but they weren’t really big enough to stick with me by the time I finished. The ones I noted weren’t enough to make me hate this, but it definitely impacted how much I liked it.

 

Book Review: Alone In The Dark, Romantic Suspense: Book 17

Author: Karen Rose
Book Name: Alone In The Dark
Series: Romantic Suspense/Cincinnati
Order: 17/2
Genre: Romance/Suspense/Crime Drama
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Homicide Detective Scarlett Bishop has seen enough bad guys slip through the cracks and too many innocent victims go unavenged to know good doesn’t always prevail. So far she’s been able to lock away her rage and her vigilante fantasies. That lock is about to break.

Former Army Ranger Marcus O’Bannion is a fierce champion of victims’ rights. His secret past gives him good reason. He believes he’s seen the depths of human depravity, but then his investigation into the murder of a young girl who once asked for his help lures him and Scarlett down a dark, dark road—and straight into the crosshairs of a dangerous, powerful underground ring that deals in human trade. To stop them, Scarlett and Marcus have to be just as cunning and just as ruthless. But first they have to make it out alive.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
This could have been a slightly higher rating if every single bad guy in the book wasn’t so extremely “bad guy” cliche, and there are a whole lot of bad guys, with the good guys being a tiny bit too good.

Believability: 3/5 Stars
This ties in with the characters because rarely do people fall into such stark black and white ranges. Even the events in the book all fall into extremes, which kind of breaks some believability lines.

Personal Opinion: 3/5 Stars
Overall I enjoyed this book, but there were a few too many pieces that fell on the over the top side of things to make me really love it.

Every bad guy in this book, and there were an abundance of them, either directly related to the plot or indirectly via character histories, were extreme levels of bad guy making them all charactures. They all also had a level of stupidity that made you question how they managed to get where they were and not get caught before.

There is also a nearly black and white level of extreme difference between those bad guys and the good guys, though the good guys did have a few things that might be considered gray areas. Even those are still very much held on the “good” end of the scale. Those extremes push the believability of the entire story, especially when you add in all the actual events.

How many times can one person be shot or shot at in a book before the reader is getting eye strain from all the rolling going on? Marcus is a great example here. When you add in his LONG, extremely dramatic backstory, it makes what is on the surface a likable, human character, into something nearly superhuman because all those parts that make him up are so unbelievable.

Scarlett is a little bit better, but some of her personal issues and struggles that made her interesting lost some of their luster when they got neatly tied up and fixed when a misunderstanding is revealed later in the story. It was one of those easy solutions that tied her up in a pretty bow.

The neat little bow tying can be applied to a lot of the secondary lines threaded throughout this book. While I do appreciate not being left in a cliff hanger or having random threads just left unfinished, I’m not a huge fan of everything being perfectly fixed, especially when it happens in an extremely unlikely and unbelievable way. That is just those little side threads. The main plot was resolved in a somewhat predictable way as the reader is given neon hints along the way.

Reading this reminded me that while I can enjoy a Karen Rose book, I’m not going to love it because all of them tend to be on that over the top/extreme side of things, which I’m not a huge fan of.

 

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

Cover: 3/5 Stars
This was a nothing special cover for me and so similar to other covers that it just didn’t do anything for me either way.

Uniqueness Factor: 2.5/5 Stars
While the themes of good guy vs. bad guy are pretty standard, the background story and history of Marcus’ character is interesting, if not a little extreme.

Peeve Factor: 3/5 Stars
A couple of aspects brushed up against my peeve issues in this book. The characters border on unrealistic because they tend to range on the extreme ends of the spectrum. For the most part, those extremes were handled in a way to not be obnoxious, but it was enough to drop my overall enjoyment. I’m also not a huge fan of hormonal hornies popping up at the most ridiculous times between characters. It takes away from the seriousness of what is going on in the story.