For You: The ‘Burg, Book 1

For YouAuthor: Kristen Ashley
Book Name: For You
Series: The ‘Burg
Order: #1
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Favorite
5+stars

 

Blurb:  Lieutenant Alexander Colton and February Owens were high school sweethearts. Everyone in their small town knew from the moment they met they were meant for each other. But something happened and Feb broke Colt’s heart then she turned wild and tragedy struck. Colt meted out revenge against the man who brought Feb low but even though Colt risked it all for her, Feb turned her back on him and left town.

Fifteen years later, Feb comes back to help run the family bar. But there’s so much water under the bridge separating her and Colt everyone knows they’ll never get back together.

Until someone starts hacking up people in Feb’s life. Colt is still Colt and Feb is still Feb so the town watches as Colt goes all out to find the murderer while trying to keep Feb safe.

As the bodies pile up, The Feds move in and a twisting, turning story unravels exposing a very sick man who has claimed numerous victims along the way, Feb and Colt battle their enduring attraction and the beautiful but lost history that weaves them together.

Review:  I knew that this series was out there, but I hadn’t gotten around to getting started on it for various reasons.  When I saw that my library finally had this, I grabbed it.  It is going to kill my book budget, because now I’m going to have to get the whole series.

This is classic Kristen Ashley with her super hot, badass guys and her quirky, fun adorable females with a darker twist than I think I’ve seen in most of the other books of hers that I’ve read so far.  And damn if this didn’t bring me to tears a couple of times.

There were a couple of times where I was wondering if the 20+ year span in the history between Feb and Colt was going to keep me from really getting into this, but once I got the full story, I was a total goner.  I just loved this and it probably climbed pretty darn close to the top of my KA favorites list.

 

 

Never Coming Home: Evonne Wareham

Never Coming HomeAuthor: Evonne Wareham
Book Name: Never Coming Home
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/Suspense
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  All she has left is hope

When Kaz Elmore is told her five-year-old daughter Jamie has died in a car crash, she struggles to accept that she’ll never see her little girl again. Then a stranger comes into her life offering the most dangerous substance in the world: hope.

Devlin, security consultant and witness to the terrible accident scene, inadvertently reveals that Kaz’s daughter might not have been the girl in the car after all.

What if Jamie is still alive? With no evidence, the police aren’t interested, so Devlin and Kaz have little choice but to investigate themselves.

Devlin never gets involved with a client. Never. But the more time he spends with Kaz, the more he desires her – and the more his carefully constructed ice-man persona starts to unravel.

The desperate search for Jamie leads down dangerous paths – to a murderous acquaintance from Devlin’s dark past, and all across Europe, to Italy, where deadly secrets await. But as long as Kaz has hope, she can’t stop looking…

Review:  I really struggled with where to rate this book because I really liked it, but there were a couple of things that kept me from putting this into the excellent category.

The personal connections and how coincidental a seemingly random event manages to tie some of those connections together was hard for me to buy.  Combine this with the apparent lack of fact checking that seems to have occurred at the accident scene that begins this whole story, it makes it just a little hard to swallow how the rest of the story manages to unfold since it all hinges on that first event.

That said, this book is really well written.  It is rare for me to not get utterly tripped up by issues that are on the unbelievable side, but with the quality of writing and how well the rest of the story flows, those things really didn’t detract too much and I was able to get beyond that and get immersed into the story.

I really enjoyed Kaz’s character, but Devlin was a bit harder to connect to as he came across as a little cold.  I did warm up to him eventually.

Absolutely loved the fact that this wasn’t a Scooby Doo ending where the bad guy is confronted and then spews the confession with all the details all over the place.  By the time you get to that point in the story, Kaz and Devlin have 99% of it figured out and only that 1% is left to be clarified, though I’m pretty sure the reader is already way ahead of them by that point.  The characters get to that point by hard work, research and smarts rather than dumb luck and the bad guy just giving it up.  So, awesome change of pace on that aspect of the story.

 

The Last Breath: Kimberly Belle

The Last BreathAuthor: Kimberly Belle
Book Name: The Last Breath
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/Suspense
Rating:  Excellent
5+stars

 

Blurb:  Humanitarian aid worker Gia Andrews chases disasters around the globe for a living. It’s the perfect lifestyle to keep her far away from her own personal ground zero. Sixteen years ago, Gia’s father was imprisoned for brutally killing her stepmother. Now he’s come home to die of cancer, and she’s responsible for his care–and coming to terms with his guilt.

Gia reluctantly resumes the role of daughter to the town’s most infamous murderer, a part complete with protesters on the lawn and death threats that are turning tragedy into front-page news. Returning to life in small-town Tennessee involves rebuilding relationships that distance and turmoil have strained, though finding an emotional anchor in the attractive hometown bartender is certainly helping Gia cope.

As the past unravels before her, Gia will find herself torn between the stories that her family, their friends and neighbors, and even her long-departed stepmother have believed to be real all these years. But in the end, the truth–and all the lies that came before–may have deadlier consequences than she could have ever anticipated….

Review: Truly well written and emotionally gripping, you cannot help but get emotionally involved in this book.

Every single one of these characters were compelling.  Some you loved from the beginning to the end, like Gia.  Others, you liked then hated then liked again or the other way around.  There were so many layers to each one it was easy to connect to them.

The plot had so many variables that you just didn’t know for sure which way it was going to resolve.  Sure, some potentials were stronger than others, but there was just enough doubt to not be absolutely certain how it was going to end keeping the door open on several possibilities.  At the same time, there wasn’t so much that it was bloated or overwhelming.  It was a perfect balance.  For this type of book, that is extremely rare.

Not only is there a wide range within the plot, but also within the emotional responses this book generates.  It may be intense, but it has its lighter funny moments that have you laughing at the characters as well as the softer sweet parts that give you warm fuzzies.

I seriously loved this book all the way around.

 

Unravel: Fairfax, Book 1

UnravelAuthor: Calia Read
Book Name: Unravel
Series: Fairfax
Order: #1
Genre: Romance/Suspense
Rating:  Excellent
5+stars

 

Blurb:  One kiss can change everything.

One month ago I was admitted to a psych ward. Yesterday, Lachlan told me I’m losing my mind. But I know what I saw. Will you believe me?

Behind the walls of a mental hospital, Naomi Carradine feels her world breaking to pieces. She’s starting to believe all the voices questioning her sanity. Only visitors from the outside world keep her tethered to reality. But deep in her thoughts, Naomi is haunted by memories of a golden summer that twisted into a waking nightmare of obsessive love and fractured truths.

Just home from college, Naomi moves in with her best friend, Lana, the daughter of a Virginia senator. At a lavish party thrown by Lana’s father, Naomi meets a sexy stockbroker named Max and finds herself unable to resist his charms. One fiery kiss and she’s going back for more, beginning a terrifying descent. After Naomi witnesses the unspeakable, she has only one hope of escape: unraveling the devastating secrets of her past.

Review: Wow.  Just… wow.  This was intense, crazy, twisted, dark and ugly.  Not typically the style of book I enjoy as it is really dark, but this was just incredibly written.  The story is one of those that once you pick it up, you aren’t going to want to put it down because you are going to want to know how it resolves.

At the point where we get the first critical information reveal, I was beginning to form an idea of where this might go.  The farther into the book I got, the more I though it was possible.  It took me until the very end to realize that I was wrong and that I couldn’t have predicted what was going to happen.

This is just an excellently written book.  I will say that this book may not be a good choice for people that have potential trigger issues.

The Broken: The Apostles, Book 1

The BrokenAuthor: Shelley Coriell
Book Name: The Broken
Series: The Apostles
Order: #
Genre: Romance/Suspense/Mystery
Rating:  Good
3+stars

 

Blurb:  He took her life, but left her alive.

Three years ago, reporter Kate Johnson was the first victim-and only survivor-of the Broadcast Butcher. Scarred both physically and psychologically by the brutal serial killer, Kate lives life on the run, knowing that one day, he will find her and finish what he started.

In the pursuit of justice, you sometimes have to step outside the law.

Agent Hayden Reed spends his life chasing monsters. The only way to stay sane is to detach, but the second the Broadcast Butcher case crosses his desk, Hayden knows this is the case that might just cost him his soul. To catch this vicious murderer before he strikes again, Hayden must find Kate and earn her trust. For it’s her darkest secrets that hold the key to stopping this madman once and for all . . .

Review:  Overall, really a pretty good book.  It was easy to connect with the characters.  Loved both Smoky Joe and Lottie even though they weren’t the main characters.  They added a lot of dimension and lightheartedness to the story.

I have to say that the biggest disappointment for me, and why I didn’t give it a higher rating, is because it seemed as if the ending, the actual solution to the entire story, was completely disjointed and didn’t at all fit.  I’m all for twists and turns and unexpected outcomes, but I’m not a fan of things that seem to go off on completely random tangents.  Even more so when we are talking a story that is like a puzzle that is working to get solved.  It is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, having a dozen or so pieces left, and realize that those pieces actually go to a different puzzle all together.

This took a huge turn and when the bad guy is revealed, spewing it all in the end (a writing device that I’m really not a fan of and one of the bigger reasons why I quit reading any kind of mysteries for a while), none of the little bits and clues you followed throughout the story really even connected any dots to this guy.  What connections were there, seemed forced and so hugely and ridiculously coincidental making what was up until that point a cleverly wrought story seem extremely contrived.  It lost all its momentum and kind of died for me.

I also struggled with the fact that there were some pretty momentous events that never got explained.  The biggie for me was how in the world Kate managed to get away and survive the second attack.  She has a scar that is bad enough to have needed medical attention, but how she managed to get away and live through it was never addressed.  The attack on Lottie also didn’t seem to work with the apparent mindset of this killer since he had the opportunity to actually kill her when she hit her head and ended up unconscious.  It only would have taken a second or two to finish her off, but he didn’t.  Apparently because of a waitress, but if there was any chance he’d be seen, he never would have taken the chance in the first place.  It just didn’t fit.  It is never explained why the last mirror never got smashed either.  That was apparently a huge deal and a big clue at that crime scene, but it was never dealt with.  At one point it is assumed the stalker was seen and it prevented the killer from finishing, but we later learn that when he saw the old lady he left, that he didn’t see the murder, so he didn’t interrupt it.

There were just enough of those kinds of oddities in the story to make it just okay good rather than really good.  Attention to detail is huge in this kind of a story as far as I’m concerned.  It loses a lot if you can’t pay attention to those kinds of things.

Bad Nights: Rockfort Security, Book 1

Bad NightsAuthor: Rebecca York
Book Name: Bad Nights
Series: Rockfort Secruity
Order: #1
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Didn’t Like
2+stars

 

Blurb:   You Only Get a Second Chance…

Private operative and former Navy SEAL Jack Brandt barely escaped a disastrous undercover assignment, thanks to the most intriguing woman he’s ever met. When his enemies track him to her doorstep, he’ll do anything to protect Morgan from the danger closing in on them both…

If You Stay Alive…

Since her husband’s death, Morgan Rains has only been going through the motions. She didn’t think anything could shock her—until she finds a gorgeous man stumbling naked and injured through the woods behind her house. He’s mysterious, intimidating—and undeniably compelling.

Thrown together into a pressure cooker of danger and intrigue, Jack and Morgan are finding in each other a reason to live—if they can survive.

Review: This entire story, plot, romance, everything was lukewarm at best.  There was so much that just didn’t mesh for me that I kept getting pulled out of the story with a “That would so never happen!” reaction and I struggled to get through the whole thing.

The romance part was totally unbelievable for me.  Even with the supposed intensity level of the situation, which there just wasn’t enough to justify the level of connection the story expects the readers to go for, I just cannot fathom any realistic level of trust, let alone affection or love that could have come from that situation in the incredibly short amount of time this story takes place in.  Morgan supposedly lost her husband a year and a half ago and is so broken by the loss that she is barely living, yet can absolutely and totally fall into love with a complete stranger in under 48 hours.  Not buying it.

The plot that the romance is supposed to be based on, while is kind of intense, has very little actual interaction and conversation between the characters or really any kind of situations that would truly force two people to trust each other they way this story wants you to believe.  There are a couple, but the very few that are there are also mostly counteracted with events that look untrustworthy.  Morgan is supposed to be a PhD in psychology, but comes across as gullible and really kind of stupid as everything that she is presented with gets a “Sure, okay” reaction from her.

Jack is a former Navy Seal, yet is so far from an actual badass that is is kind of funny.  The fact that he got caught, didn’t know he was being followed by people that end up looking like bumbling fools by the end of the book is ridiculous.  He comes across as being pretty stupid for someone that is supposed to have had some seriously elite military training.  You can’t just say someone is a Navy Seal in a book without backing that up with the actual talent and have the story work.

The author also committed a cardinal sin in my book with regards to a romance and allowed her characters to have unprotected sex (which I was kind of wondering why these parts were even in the story as they were far from steamy and really bland, more like filler).  Again, the characters didn’t even know each other for barely over a day and it wasn’t even discussed?  Hell, they weren’t even in the middle of crazy action and thinking they were going to die.  They had made it to a safe and secure location, there was nothing currently going on, yet they so didn’t even think about it.  Before or after.  Multiple times. Another example of them both being incredibly stupid characters.

Everything in this book felt forced and that the thoughts for the plot and romance of the story were far from fleshed out.  There was an awful lot of time spent with the bad guys and not much of that seemed all that relevant to the plot, again, filler. So yeah, I think that lukewarm is probably a compliment.

 

Cover Your Eyes: Mary Burton

Cover Your EyesAuthor: Mary Burton
Book Name: Cover Your Eyes
Series: Morgans of Nashville
Order: #1
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  Don’t Look

At first, they struggle to escape. Then a torrent of blows rains down upon their bodies until their eyes cloud over in final agony. The killer shows no remorse–just a twisted need to witness each victim’s last terrified moments.

Don’t Speak

Public defender Rachel Wainwright is struggling to reopen a decades-old case, convinced that the wrong man is in prison. Homicide detective Deke Morgan doesn’t want to agree. But if Rachel’s hunch is correct, whoever fatally bludgeoned young, beautiful Annie Dawson thirty years ago could be the source of a new string of brutal slayings.

Just Prepare To Die

Rachel’s investigation is about to reveal answers–but at a price she never thought to pay. Now she’s become the target of a rage honed by years of jealousy and madness. And a murderer is ready to show her just how vicious the truth can be. . .

Review:  This was a seriously intense read with lots of twisty and unexpected turns that left me constantly trying to guess where it was going to go next.  There were lots of different characters and it got confusing a couple of times, but there really weren’t any that didn’t end up being important in one way or another to the story.

Both Rachel and Deke were very well written characters.  Both having their own issues, neither being perfect, but they were both solid in the characters that were created for them.  While the romance between the two was far from the focus, it was given just the right amount of attention without taking shortcuts and giving it the quick, perfect, hearts and flowers ending in the last couple of pages.  It deals with their interest in each other and their willingness to explore that, but doesn’t force the idea that it was a romance story perfect relationship.  It showed the potential for a great relationship that was different and special, but it was also very real.

In the end, we do get a lot of the bad guy giving it all up kind of a situation, but not every last crumb of the mystery was resolved in those moments.  Some came earlier from good old fashioned observation and smarts, some came in the big reveal and some was shown to be discovered by connecting some of those loose strings after the fact, so it makes the revelation scenario a bit more believable.

Just really enjoyed this one all around.

I’ll Find You: Nancy Bush

I'll Find YouAuthor: Nancy Bush
Book Name: I’ll Find You
Series: **
Order: **
Genre: Suspense/Mystery/Romance
Rating:  Good
3+stars

 

Blurb: Only Killing Stops The Pain. . .

Callie Cantrell has only fragmented memories of the car accident that killed her husband and son. One year later, she’s still trying to start over, yet she can’t shake her unease. Especially when former LA cop West Laughlin barges into her life, searching for his young nephew. At first he thinks Callie’s lying about who she is and what she knows. But soon it’s clear that Callie and West are linked by a killer who has bent others to his twisted will. The worst night of Callie’s life was just the beginning of his vengeance. And when her turn comes again there will be no escape. . .

Review:  For the most part, this was a pretty good book.  The balance between the suspense and the romance was well done and the storyline itself was interesting enough to keep the pages turning.

That said, there were a couple of things that were irritating enough that it dragged me out of what I was reading long enough for me to lose the flow a few times.

The first one wasn’t huge, but considering it got my brain going along that path rather than where the story was supposed to take me was enough to mention it.  That is the huge number of personal connections between the various different characters and the possibility that things could have actually played out the way they did.  In most cases, the meetings that happened between characters, while hugely coincidental, were mostly justified, even if we didn’t figure out that justification right away.  I was able to get my brain past thinking, “Well, that was convenient” most of the time, but the final straw came at the very end.  No matter how well explained all the other potential meets came out, the last connection was so not realistic, especially with all the other connections in the story that it kind of killed it for me at that point.

Also, not a huge fan of the bad guy(s) spilling their guts at the end to explain everything in the last 15% of the book.  No matter how inventive or creative you get in the rest of the story, I tend to lose a bit of respect for the creativity if that is how things get wrapped up, no matter how you get those character’s to spill.  It is taking the easy way out.

Finally, this book hit on one of my peeves in writing.  It had a huge, glaring, neon sign contradictory back story for one of the big baddies.  I knew I’d read one thing early on and then read something totally different later.  At first, I thought maybe what I’d read actually applied to another character, then decided to go dig to make sure I wasn’t completely losing my mind (thank goodness I was reading on my Nexus and could search out terms to find what I was looking for).  Sure enough, early on in the book, the bad guy supposedly whacked his abusive dad on the head with a rock and then drown him when he was 9, followed by the mom pretty much wasting away after the death.  Then, towards the end, the same character supposedly had that same dad, who was apparently loved by lots and lots of women along with the mother (so not the image of a vicious abusive ass) die of cancer when he was 16 and then kept in contact with the mother until her own death much more recently.

No, neither back story was really critical to the plot of the story, but it was supposed to help explain a bit of the crazy for this particular bad guy, which in the end didn’t actually matter at all and could have been left out entirely.  The fact that it was not only not cut, but not caught was seriously annoying as it totally pulled me out of the story to go fact checking.  After that, little things bugged me even more, like the personal connections, and I ended up not liking the book as well as I could have, because other than those things, it was a good book.

Where Secrets Sleep: Marta Perry

Where Secrets SleepAuthor: Marta Perry
Book Name: Where Secrets Sleep
Series: **
Order: **
Genre: Suspense/Mystery/Romance
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

 

Blurb: In small town Laurel Ridge, not everything is as simple as it appears

After a terrible betrayal, Allison Standish flees Philadelphia for the small Amish village of Laurel Ridge to claim an unexpected inheritance. Allison intends to sell the mansion housing various shops on Main Street–until she meets Nick Whiting, a single father and tenant of Blackburn House, who challenges everything she believes about her estranged grandmother and the Amish community.

Strange stipulations in her grandmother’s will soon bring distant relatives and seething townsfolk to Allison’s door. As anonymous threats escalate, Nick grows protective of Allison, and she finds herself falling for the handsome carpenter… But then she discovers her grandmother’s death may not have been accidental, and someone wants Allison gone. Permanently.

Review: I really wasn’t jazzed by this book.  While the basic story with regards to the mystery/suspense part of the book was pretty well done, it totally lacked the support of the romance aspect of it.  That came across as something of an afterthought on the author’s part.  You would be reading along and getting into the story and then it was as if the author remembered that this was also supposed to be a romance and threw those characters together for a brief moment before getting back to business.

I don’t need a book to have loads of steamy for me to classify it as a romance, but you absolutely need more personal interaction than a few tiny kisses here and there for me to believe the emotion behind a relationship.  You definitely need more than a few hours together over a few weeks for me to believe that your characters are deeply, emotionally connected to each other no matter what else may be going on in the story.  Heck, even if those personal interactions are just conversations and time spent doing anything together, it works way better than the effort that was put into this.

I used to really love the mystery genre, but I haven’t been all that interested lately.  I picked this up because I  wanted something different for a change.  The potential for a good mystery romance seemed to be just want I was looking for.  Since the romance totally fell flat for me, I hoped I’d get a lot more out of the mystery aspect of the story.  While it was decent, it wasn’t awesome and definitely didn’t make up for the missing romance.  Besides, there are only so many times when the bad guy spills his guts at the end to wrap everything up nicely in a bow before it becomes a cookie cutter ending to a mystery and leaves the reader half expecting to here “… darn meddling kids!”