Thursday, May 16, 2019

**Early Review** Texas Trouble by Gerry Bartlett

Title: Texas Trouble
Author: Gerry Bartlett
Series: #2 in the Lone Star series
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Lyrical Liaison (June 4, 2019)
Source: NetGalley
Rating: ☕☕1/2

Synopsis: Scarlett Hall followed a job and a friend to Texas, but that cost her more than she’d bargained for. Now, wounded but determined to get past one of the worst days of her life, she decides she has to pull herself together. First step: cover up the physical scars left from her ordeal. That’s easy. But the emotional scars are proving harder to handle . . .

Then she meets Ethan Calhoun. This bad boy seems ready to make his own changes and might be just what she needs to start a new chapter in her life. When he offers her a job as manager of his new bar, she decides to go for it. A change of pace and a hot guy who makes her forget her troubles while she’s in his arms are a great cure. But it soon becomes clear that danger will be in Scarlett’s life no matter how many changes she makes. As Scarlett comes face to face with her worst nightmare, it seems happiness was just an illusion. Maybe Texas is just too much trouble . .

My Thoughts: Ugh. This book took me forever to finish and honestly, I found various parts of it a bit ridiculous.

The Good, The Bad, and Everything Else: The chemistry between Scarlett and Ethan was off the charts and their work time together was a nice way to develop the characters and their connection more. Even though Ethan's character sometimes felt too young. There were quite a few "baby brother" comments that just didn't bode well for Ethan's potential Book Boyfriend Roll.

I did feel that I was thrown into an already existing storyline as this book recaps Scarlett's PTSD from an event that happened, I'm assuming, in the first book of the series. I know reading series books out of order can be tricky and normally I would not do this but when I got the opportunity to review a Gerry Bartlett book I was excited. I've been hearing about this author for years and never read one of her books before. Unfortunately reading book 2 before reading the first book was probably not the best idea as this book definitely had a part 2 feel to it. As if this were a continuation of book 1 rather than it's own entity. Everything from the original terror Scarlett had when she was kidnapped in the last book to Scarlett and her brother Rhett's names. Why were they named after Gone With the Wind characters? I have no idea.

The suspense aspect was lacking as well. There was a convoluted feel to the suspense part because there ended up being 2 different sets of "bad guys" with 2 sets of motives/plot lines running simultaneously. None of the baddies really caused me to be on the edge of my seat with worry either. Leroy Simms, who is a cop killing psycho, kept having tender thoughts about his woman running amok in the "I'm going to torture and kill Scarlett" plot thread. I just couldn't find anyone to root for in the book. Yes I root for bad guys just as often as I root for the good ones.

In addition, there was a whole lot of He-man chest beating in the form of "I carry a gun. I just wish I Leroy Simms would make an appearance 'round here. I could use the target practice." type crap. Ugh!!!

In a Nutshell: Overall a rather disappointing romance which makes me a sad panda. I really wanted to like this book. I will give Gerry Bartlett another try but will definitely go with one of the Real Vampire ones and steer clear of these Rom/Susp books. They just aren't for me.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Running Wild by Linda Howard and Linda Jones

Title: Running Wild
Author: Linda Howard and Linda Jones
Series: #1 in the Men From Battle Ridge series
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Ballantine Books (November 27, 2012)
Source: NetGalley
Rating: ☕☕☕☕

Synopsis: In book 1 of this steamy new contemporary Western romance series by two blockbuster authors, a cowboy and a woman on the run take a stand and fight for love.

Carlin Reed lives in fear, off the grid, moving from place to place. So Battle Ridge, Wyoming, a small town in the middle of nowhere, seems like a good place to lie low for a while. But after becoming cook and housekeeper to cattle rancher Zeke Decker, Carlin suspects that she’s made her first mistake. Rugged, sexy, and too distracting for his own good, Zeke is pure temptation mixed with something deep and primal that makes Carlin feel almost safe. Soon things are getting way too hot in the kitchen.

Zeke doesn’t challenge Carlin’s terms: cash, dead bolts, and no questions. It is easy to see that she’s a woman in trouble. Problem is, he’s so blindsided by his attraction to her he can’t think straight. Zeke tries to stay all business, no complications—but that game plan is sabotaged the second Carlin gets under his skin. And when her terrifying past follows her to the ranch, Carlin faces a heartbreaking choice: run away from the man she loves, or put him in the crosshairs of a madman.

My Thoughts: A really great contemporary romance with ok romantic suspense elements.

The Good, The Bad, and Everything Else: So what I really loved about this book was the honest romance that took it's time to blossom between Zeke and Carlin. Both Zeke's and Carlin's characters are pretty great and their banter between each other and with the secondary characters were highlights of the story. I did like the suspense aspect of the story but wish it would have more prominent in the middle of the story. The book started out so good with Carlin's stalker hunting her down. The climax of that plot thread was really well done as well. The middle lacked much in the way of the suspense. However, the good romance that built throughout the middle almost made up for it.

In a Nutshell: I really liked this book a lot and wish there was a second book already out in the series. Not sure when there will be a second book in the Battle Ridge series but since it's been so many years since the first one came out a new one doesn't look like it's coming, unfortunately.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Consumed by JR Ward

Title: Consumed
Author: JR Ward
Series: #1 in the Firefighters series
Genre:  Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Gallery Books (October 2, 2018)
Source: NetGalley
Rating: ☕☕☕1/2

Synopsis: Anne Ashburn is a woman consumed...

By her bitter family legacy, by her scorched career as a firefighter, by her obsession with department bad-boy Danny McGuire, and by a new case that pits her against a fiery killer.

Strong-willed Anne was fearless and loved the thrill of fighting fires, pushing herself to be the best. But when one risky decision at a warehouse fire changes her life forever, Anne must reinvent not only her job, but her whole self.

Shattered and demoralized, Anne finds her new career as an arson investigator a pale substitute for the adrenaline-fueled life she left behind. She doesn't believe she will ever feel that same all-consuming passion for her job again--until she encounters a string of suspicious fires setting her beloved city ablaze.

Danny McGuire is a premiere fireman, best in the county, but in the midst of a personal meltdown.

Danny is taking risks like never before and seems to have a death wish until he teams up with Anne to find the fire starter. But Danny may be more than a distraction, and as Anne narrows in on her target, the arsonist begins to target her.

My Thoughts: A book that started out as fire unfortunately fizzled towards the middle.

The Good, The Bad, and Everything in Between: What I love about JR Ward's books are her amazing characters. I love the complexity of her tortured heroes and in most cases the heroes' heroines are their equals in every way. In this book, Danny is a typical Ward hero. He's tall, massively built, good looking, and brooding (with good reason.) Anne is very much Danny's equal and in many ways she's just as tortured as he is, which adds a layer of complexity not usually found in romances. Many romance books that feature a tortured hero has a total opposite in their love interest to balance the drama of the story. In Consumed, because both characters are tortured, the book could have gotten bogged down with seriousness but Ward inserts some lighthearted moments as well which helped balance the book, Anne's rescue dog for example. I love when author's add dogs to their stories.

So, I love me a good romantic suspense and this one did have some suspense but honestly it wasn't until the end when I truly felt anxious for Danny and Anne. I like being on the edge of my seat in anticipation of what will happen, and the longer I'm there the better, but I never really had those feelings during this book. It might have be more my issue than Ward's because I never really warmed up to Anne. Her reasons for not being with Danny were mere excuses, one right after another. Her first being they were both firefighters in the same firehouse and dating would be near impossible as she was struggling to be considered just one of the guys. After the opener of the book, which I thought was stupendous by the way, we can see that particular excuse could no longer be used. Anne just found another....and another.

The romance lacked for me as well because there was not a significant amount of actual romance on the page. If you read the prequels (which is something I would recommend as a need to rather than a suggestion of maybe) then you know Anne and Danny had a quickie, one night stand...or rather one hour stand as there was no cuddling or sleeping or whatever after it was over. Slam Bam Anne is gone. See ya Danny Boy. And all Danny can think is how much he adores Anne. Not only did she do it once but she did it twice and Danny let her just hoping she'd come around and want him as much as he wanted her. Anne was just a cold character I never connected to but then when it comes to JR Ward's book, it's all about the hero for me. Thank goodness I was able to connect with Danny.

In a Nutshell: Not a terrible book but honestly not one of her better ones. I'll continue with the series though's Ward.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger

Title: Keeper of The Lost Cities

Author: Shannon Messenger

Series: #1 in the Keeper of the Lost Cities series

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publisher: Aladdin (October 2, 2012)

Source: Library Find

Rating: ☕☕☕

Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Sophie Foster has a secret. She’s a Telepath—someone who hears the thoughts of everyone around her. It’s a talent she’s never known how to explain.

Everything changes the day she meets Fitz, a mysterious boy who appears out of nowhere and also reads minds. She discovers there’s a place she does belong, and that staying with her family will place her in grave danger. In the blink of an eye, Sophie is forced to leave behind everything and start a new life in a place that is vastly different from anything she has ever known.

Sophie has new rules to learn and new skills to master, and not everyone is thrilled that she has come “home.”

There are secrets buried deep in Sophie’s memory—secrets about who she really is and why she was hidden among humans—that other people desperately want. Would even kill for.

In this page-turning debut, Shannon Messenger creates a riveting story where one girl must figure out why she is the key to her brand-new world, before the wrong person finds the answer first.

My Thoughts: A book with some fundamental issues but an OK read nonetheless.

The Good, The Bad, and The Whatever: This was a decent enough book but it definitely had it's flaws. One of my biggest complaints was with Sophie, herself. She's darned near perfect. She's the best human ever. A 12 year old senior with a photographic memory getting into a prestigious college next year. A beauty of a girl who makes teenage boys gaga over her..."the slender blond among her chubby brunette family". That was a quote from the book just an FYI. Then she finds out she's really an elf and then she's the best elf that ever lived. No elf has ever done what she could do with virtually no training. The storyline itself isn't terrible but it is pretty inconsistent in the rules Messenger chose to make. There are several laws in place to prevent the abuse of elfin powers. With the 3 most powerful elfin powers being prohibited. With Sophie's telepathic powers she's told from the beginning using her telepathic powers to sneak into someone else's mind without permission is prohibited. She does this anyway, multiple times and somehow isn't thrown in jail. Despite some weaknesses in her world building I actually didn't mind the action of the book and watching Sophie learning how to be herself. Beware of some Harry Potter similarities though. There are some reviewers who swear this is just a HP ripoff but to tell the truth HP wasn't the first to come up with a magical world with children but it has been one of the most popular. If you take this book and read it and not compare it you'll have a better experience with it.

In a Nutshell: An OK book I just enjoyed because I didn't compare it to something else. I'll read the next book and see where that takes me.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Love is Murder by Allison Brennan

Title: Love is Murder
Author: Allison Brennan
Series: #0.5 in the Lucy Kincaid series
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Ballantine Books (January 24, 2011)
Source: Library Find
Rating: ☕☕☕1/2


After a tough breakup with her boyfriend, Lucy Kincaid needs a different kind of break. So she heads west to join her brother, an ex-cop, for a long weekend of skiing in the mountains. At a picturesque lodge tucked high in the Sierra Nevada, Lucy finds just what she’s looking for: a peaceful retreat undisturbed by Internet, television, and cell phone distractions. She also finds an unexpected group of newlyweds seeking their own idyllic getaway.
But finding one of her fellow guests dead wasn’t in the brochure. And neither was the overnight snowstorm that leaves the lodge cut off from the outside world. When Lucy’s brother suspects the honeymooner’s death was foul play, he’s mysteriously stricken ill. Now, to keep him and herself alive, it’s up to aspiring FBI agent Lucy Kincaid to figure out which of the lovebirds trapped in the lodge is really a bird of prey.

My Thoughts: This was a nice introduction to the Lucy Kincaid series but it isn't necessary in the grand scheme of things to read it prior to starting the series.

The Good, The Bad, and Whatever Else I want to Mention: Since this was the first of her series, Lucy is young and not as established as she was in the Max Revere book featuring her and Max. It really was nice to see Lucy as a young woman. Thankfully the issues I had, not necessarily with her but with the way her background was rehashed, in Shattered, were mostly absent from this book. It's been a few months since I read this book because I'm a little behind in my reviews but I recall a vague mention of her past but that was it which I'm grateful for because the constant rehashing that was done in Shattered diminished my enjoyment of that book.

As I mentioned earlier in the overall grand scheme of the series (which I've not yet read but am fairly confident in drawing my conclusions) this novella is a throwaway. For me, this means you could read it or you could skip it. Nothing really happened that would have a tremendous impact on Lucy's character in future books. It was a nice little mystery set in a snowed in ski lodge setting and Lucy and her brother were interesting characters but had I not read this book I would have been A-OK to just jump into book 1 of the Lucy Kincaid series. Also as a side note this was labeled Romantic Suspense but there is no romance in it at all. Lucy is fresh out of a breakup and there is no love interest in the works either.

In a Nutshell: If you have time and enjoy the Lucy Kincaid series I'd recommend you spend an hour or so reading this short novella. If you're looking for a mystery/thriller in the vein of Karin Slaughter or Lisa Gardner I'd skip this one.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

The Wrong Man by Kate White

Title: The Wrong Man
Author: Kate White
Series: Stand Alone
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks (June 16, 2015)
Source: Library Find
Rating: ☕☕

Synopsis: She wanted to be more daring, but one small risk is about to cost her everything—maybe even her life.

Bold and adventurous in her work as owner of one of Manhattan's boutique interior design firms, Kit Finn couldn't be tamer in her personal life. While on vacation in the Florida Keys, Kit resolves to do something risky for once. When she literally bumps into a charming stranger at her hotel, she decides to make good on her promise and act on her attraction. But back in New York, when Kit arrives at his luxury apartment ready to pick up where they left off in the Keys, she doesn't recognize the man standing on the other side of the door. Was this a cruel joke or part of something truly sinister? Kit soon realizes that she's been thrown into a treacherous plot, which is both deeper and deadlier than she could have ever imagined. Now the only way to protect herself, her business, and the people she loves is to find out the true identity of the man who has turned her life upside down.

My Thoughts: This was the book that could have been...but wasn't.

The Good, The Bad, and Everything Else: While the beginning of this book was so very interesting, towards the middle I found I could care less in learning how this book ends. With mistaken identities, liars, corporate intrigue, break-ins, murders, and a host of other stuff this book could have been amazing. It just wasn't. With Kit (no explanation as to if this was a nickname or not) being a truly TSTL heroine, making one bad decision after another, killed this book. Honestly, I can't blame it all on the heroine. The excruciatingly slow pacing through the middle of the book made the beginning of the book feel so far withdrawn I almost forgot the beginning was good. As far as the plot, insider trading type of corporate intrigue could be a decent enough plot to carry a book along, although this was nothing I expected from the back blurb and the beginning. From the beginning we find Kit is being manipulated and used by a person who appears to be up to no good. From there her world starts falling apart. The reasoning behind this seems a complete stretch and not as believable as the author probably intended.

In a Nutshell: While this was a new to me author and I normally give an author at least 2 shots at becoming a regular spot in my TBR pile I'm honestly not sure I will seek out another book by Kate White for a very long time. I can't recommend this book either. The only thing that save it from being rated lower was the good beginning.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Shattered by Allison Brennan

Author: Allison Brennan
Series: #4 in the Max Revere series
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Minotaur Books; Reprint edition (August 22, 2017)
Source: Library Find
Rating: ☕☕☕☕

Synopsis: Over a span of twenty years, four boys have been kidnapped from their bedrooms, suffocated, and buried nearby in a shallow grave. Serial killer or coincidence?

That’s the question investigative reporter Maxine Revere sets out to answer when an old friend begs her to help exonerate his wife, who has been charged with their son’s recent murder. But Max can do little to help because the police and D.A. won’t talk to her—they think they have the right woman. Instead, Max turns her attention to three similar cold cases. If she can solve them, she might be able to help her friend.

Justin Stanton was killed twenty years ago, and his father wants closure—so he is willing to help Max with her investigation on one condition: that she work with his former sister-in-law— Justin’s aunt, FBI Agent Lucy Kincaid. Trouble is, Max works alone, and she’s livid that her only access to the case files, lead detective and witnesses depends on her partnering with a federal agent on vacation. She wants the career-making story almost as much as the truth—but if she gets this wrong, she could lose everything.

Haunted by Justin’s death for years, Lucy yearns to give her family—and herself—the closure they need. More important, she wants to catch a killer. Lucy finds Max’s theory on all three cases compelling—with Max's research added to Lucy’s training and experience, Lucy believes they can find the killer so justice can finally be served. But the very private Lucy doesn’t trust the reporter any more than Max trusts her.

Max and Lucy must find a way to work together to untangle lies, misinformation, and evidence to develop a profile of the killer. But the biggest question is: why were these boys targeted? As they team up to find out what really happened the night Justin was killed, they make a shocking discovery: Justin’s killer is still out there … stalking another victim … and they already may be too late.

My Thoughts: This series just gets better and better.

The Good: With this book Allison Brennan brought in the star of her Lucy Kincaid series into Max's world. I have not read any of the Lucy Kincaid books and now I really want to. Max doesn't really work well with others and to see her have to work with an FBI agent was a great way to move Max's character forward. Lucy is a mystery to Max and Max doesn't do well with mysteries. She needs answers and with Lucy she can't get those answers. This is where you see Max really maturing even more than in the last few books. She lives with it. I liked seeing Max realizing she wanted more from her life as well.

The plot was pretty straight forward but kind of took a little back seat to the characters of Lucy and Max. I'm so character driven so I didn't hate this and if there were slow parts or flaws in the plot I never noticed. The actual story of boys being murdered was pretty intense and I really liked it a lot. Even though we know who the killer was through a large portion of the book the investigation was still riveting.

The Bad: There was quite a bit of repetition in regards to Lucy's background that was an irritant. Since I had not read any of the Lucy Kincaid books this was new information to me but it is told and told again and if you didn't get it the first dozen times it is told again. All of this was strictly for the reader as Max had no knowledge of Lucy's traumatic past and the book ended with her still in the dark about it. Had I gone into this book having read the Lucy books this repetition would have been even worse.

Another thing some people would find as a negative in this book would be the lack of romance. Sure Lucy and her husband, Sean, have an amazing relationship but Max's romance was completely lacking in this book. There is no sex and barely even any communication between Max and the man she has been dating since the end of book 1.

In a Nutshell: I love this series and can't wait for the next book to come out. Until I can get my hands on the next book once it's published I'm happy to be able to read more about Lucy Kincaid. I'd recommend people who like Romantic Suspense to read these Max Revere books but don't let her abrasive personality in the first book stop you from continuing on. This series is good.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Death Below Stairs by Jennifer Ashley

Title: Death Below Stairs
Author: Jennifer Ashley
Series: #1 in the Kat Holloway series
Genre: Historical Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley (January 2, 2018)
Source: Library Find
Rating: ☕☕1/2

Synopsis: Victorian class lines are crossed when cook Kat Holloway is drawn into a murder that reaches all the way to the throne.

Highly sought-after young cook Kat Holloway takes a position in a Mayfair mansion and soon finds herself immersed in the odd household of Lord Rankin. Kat is unbothered by the family’s eccentricities as long as they stay away from her kitchen, but trouble finds its way below stairs when her young Irish assistant is murdered.

Intent on discovering who killed the helpless kitchen maid, Kat turns to the ever-capable Daniel McAdam, who is certainly much more than the charming delivery man he pretends to be. Along with the assistance of Lord Rankin’s unconventional sister-in-law and a mathematical genius, Kat and Daniel discover that the household murder was the barest tip of a plot rife with danger and treason—one that’s a threat to Queen Victoria herself.

My Thoughts: While  much of this book is actually very well written I just wasn't as engaged as I could have been.

The Good, The Bad, and Everything In Between: A mystery set in Victorian times told from a servant's perspective was so great. Jennifer Ashley does a great job of researching her books. The details of Kat's cooking was so amazing I wanted to join the family eating it. Everything Kat prepared was well detailed I was a little surprised I had a hard time connecting with the characters. This is the first book in the series but it reads like book 2. I later found out there was a novella prequel but my library doesn't have it and $2.99 is just too much to pay for a novella, IMHO. I'm not a huge fan of novellas in general but dislike "having" to read one just so I don't feel lost while reading a a first in series? Thumbs down.

The mystery aspect happened about 1/3 into the book and even though Kat was determined to figure out who killed the kitchen maid (who had 3 different names just an FYI) nothing really came about it until the very end. A second mystery cropped up during the course of the book and all investigation ceased on the poor kitchen maid's demise.

The main characters remained a mystery to me even after finishing the book and I'm not even sure I liked any of them. As the book progressed we did get to know some of Kat's background but Daniel is an absolute enigma. Where did he come from? How did they meet and what caused them to be so enamored with each other? What is his real job? Some of these things could have been explained enough for me to determine if Daniel is even a worthy man. Worthy of Kat. Worthy of becoming a book boyfriend...yes this is an important thing. As of now, he isn't. I don't even know if he is a good man except Jennifer Ashley said he was.

In a Nutshell: The good, unfortunately, just didn't outweigh the bad for me in this one. I just don't see myself picking up the second book in this series but will definitely read more from this author.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Gone to Her Grave by Melinda Leigh

Title: Gone to Her Grave
Author: Melinda Leigh
Series: #2 in the Rogue River series
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Montlake Romance (October 21, 2014)
Source: NetGalley
Rating: ☕☕☕

Synopsis: In Solitude, Oregon, everyone has secrets…and some will kill to keep them.

When she believes a teen is falsely accused of drug dealing, social worker Carly Taylor takes on a high-risk case and her estranged husband—the detective in charge of the investigation—to prove the boy innocent. A deadly new designer drug has taken hold of her small rural hometown of Solitude, Oregon, and Carly is determined to find the real dealer and clear the teen’s name. But the deeper she digs into the case, the more danger she unearths, until someone decides it’s time for Carly to move on…permanently.

Investigator Seth Harding knows he can’t stop his wife when she has a child to protect. But he risks any chance of reconciliation with Carly if he can’t learn to accept her dangerous job. When a drug dealer decides Carly is getting too close, will Seth lose her altogether?

A pulse-pounding Rogue River novella, Gone to Her Grave is the second exciting addition to the new romantic suspense series from Melinda Leigh and Kendra Elliot.

My Thoughts: While I really enjoyed the first installment in this series I thought the lack of conclusion in this book was more pronounced than the former.

The Good: I liked the suspenseful moments where Carly was making home visits to a family in a really bad situation. This smacks of realness and it made me identify with Carly and the fact that she didn't run headlong into danger was a plus. I liked seeing Stevie once again even though she had a very small part in this book.

The Bad: The continuing storyline that connects all four novellas in the Rogue River series didn't really move forward even though the death of Carly and Stevie's dad is being investigated now. If it weren't for the rehashing of the big bad drug craze happening in the small town there wouldn't have been much to connect the two stories.

Also, the romance was problematic because Seth and Carly are married yet separated throughout the entire book. There was huge communication issues between the two because of Seth. I couldn't connect with him because he was a macho-my job is more important than yours is-jerk. I could see how they might be able to work it out but only if Seth does some major soul searching and changes his attitude. A novella just didn't give a warring couple time to work out their differences.

In a Nutshell: I'm invested in Rogue River and will continue reading the next two books.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Early Review: Poppy Harmon Investigates by Lee Hollis

Title: Poppy Harmon Investigates
Author: Lee Hollis
Series: #1 in the Desert Flowers Mystery series
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Kensington (July 31, 2018)
Source: NetGalley
Rating: ☕☕☕1/2

Synopsis: When Poppy goes from complacent retiree to penniless widow in a matter of weeks, the idea of spending her golden years as the biggest charity case in Palm Springs renders her speechless. With no real skills and nothing left to lose, Poppy uses her obsession with true crime shows to start a career as a private eye . . .

But after opening the Desert Flowers Detective Agency with help from her two best friends, Violet and Iris, Poppy realizes that age brings wisdom, not business--until she convinces her daughter's handsome boyfriend, Matt, to pose as the face of the agency. It's not long before Matt's irresistible act snags a client desperate to retrieve priceless jewelry burglarized from an aging actress at the Palm Leaf Retirement Village. Or before Poppy stumbles upon the bloodied body of the victim's arch rival . . .

In a flash, Poppy's innocent detective gig is upstaged by a dangerous murder investigation riddled with slimy suspects and unspeakable scandal. As she and her team uncover the truth, Poppy must confront the secrets about her late husband's past and swiftly catch a killer lurking around the retirement community--even if it means turning her world upside down all over again.

My Thoughts: A decent first book in a new series with some of my favorite cozy tropes.

The Good: The whacky cast of characters were just delightful in this book, minus some of Iris's cantankerous scenes where she grated a bit. Their interactions were the highlight of this book. There were many passages I ended up highlighting in my kindle, even.

The mystery aspect took a long time to show up but it was a decent mystery in the end. I'm hoping as the series progresses the mysteries will be more prevalent in the books. Overall, each character provided a special part within the investigation which made the whole mystery interesting.

The Bad: None of the men portrayed within the book were highlighted in a positive way. In the end Matt did redeem himself but for most of the book all the men were superficial, egocentric, and ginormous tools. In regards to the other characters, I did like them but I feel Poppy's character took a hit when her daughter turned out to be a shrew and in the end Poppy blamed herself for her daughter's actions. Her full grown adult daughter.

Also, the introduction of the characters and Poppy's background in particular took a major chunk of the book. The first mystery wasn't introduced until 40% into the book which made it seem as if it weren't a big deal and the book didn't have a cozy mystery feel because of this. In addition there was a murder, which was actually an interesting part of the book, but coming into the book in the last 1/3 of the book made if feel like an afterthought.

In a Nutshell: It took me quite awhile to really get into this book but once I hit the halfway point I flew through the rest of the book. This was my first book by Lee Hollis and I would read another one by her.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Poisonous by Allison Brennan

Title: Poisonous
Author: Allison Brennan
Series: #3 in the Maxine Revere series
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Minotaur Books; Reprint edition (April 12, 2016)
Source: Library Find
Rating: ☕☕☕1/2

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

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

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

My Thoughts: While I wasn't as involved with the crime part of this book as I was in the previous book I did enjoy this book quite a bit.

The Good: I liked Max's interactions with the kids in this book. She showed immense compassion when talking with them and treated Tommy, an 18 year old with special needs, with respect. I'm not sure if she would have been as compassionate if this was the case we read about in the first book. In the first book she was colder...almost impersonal. She also did whatever it took to get to the truth  regardless of who might get hurt. In the second book she had to take a hard look at who she was as a person and made some discoveries she didn't like. In this book she is still struggling with her discoveries she made of herself in the previous book. This has made her a better character. She isn't as "in your face" and even though she is still a very strong woman she doesn't plow over people or jump into verbal confrontations immediately, as she would have in the first book.

The investigation was interesting and completely relevant to the time with social media such a huge impact on our youth. I liked seeing, once again, Max's methodology and her legwork when it came to investigating the cold case.

The Bad: While I like that Max's character is growing I don't think she made as much of a forward movement as she could have. She is having a hard time not opinionating about Nick's and David's ex's. She's not understanding even though the women, mother's of their children, are complete witches there is a large amount of finesse and towing the line in making sure those women do not cut the men completely out of their kid's lives. Max's personality is to just blast the women, hire a better lawyer, take what is owed you. Stop playing nice. The men don't want that stress on their kids because those women would make the kids miserable by not letting them see their dads, talking bad about their dads in front of them, etc. I'm not sure if Max has the capability to learn these things. She has no intention of becoming a mother and I'm not sure is she is maternal at all even with the compassion she showed the boys.

Also, there was some things that were repeated throughout the book. I was a little annoyed with this but didn't notice it happening in the other books so I'm hoping it's just a one off. Oh and if you're more interested in the romance aspect of Rom/Susp this book has very little in the way of romance. Nick does make an appearance a couple times in the book but the majority of the book is about the investigation. There isn't a lot of suspense build up either. There is some at the end but like I said it's mostly about the investigation.

In a Nutshell: I'm enjoying these books more than I thought I would after reading that first book. Even though I only rated this 3.5 I'm looking forward to the next book a lot.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Vanish by Tess Gerritsen

Title: Vanish
Author: Tess Gerritsen
Series: #5 in the Rizzoli/Isles series
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Publisher: Ballantine Books (August 23, 2005)
Source: Library Find
Rating: ☕☕☕1/2

Synopsis: A nameless, beautiful woman appears to be just another corpse in the morgue. An apparent suicide, she lies on a gurney, awaiting the dissecting scalpel of medical examiner Maura Isles. But when Maura unzips the body bag and looks down at the body, she gets the fright of her life. The corpse opens its eyes.

Very much alive, the woman is rushed to the hospital, where with shockingly cool precision, she murders a security guard and seizes hostages . . . one of them a pregnant patient, Jane Rizzoli.

Who is this violent, desperate soul, and what does she want? As the tense hours tick by, Maura joins forces with Jane s husband, FBI agent Gabriel Dean, to track down the mysterious killer s identity. When federal agents suddenly appear on the scene, Maura and Gabriel realize that they are dealing with a case that goes far deeper than just an ordinary hostage crisis.

Only Jane, trapped with the armed madwoman, holds the key to the mystery. And only she can solve it if she survives the night.

My Thoughts: This was the second time I've read this book and my opinion is the same as it was so many years ago. A good installment to the series but not my favorite.

The Good: The suspense was so realistic with Gabriel's emotional journey while Jane was trapped in the hospital and the final scene where Jane thought she and her baby were going to die. I liked both Maura's and Jane's input into this book where in the past books the focus was on one woman or the other. In this one it felt a little more balanced between the two of them as they both were hostages at one point or another by Olena and they had input into the investigation in their own way.

The Bad: While I think this book was truly a good installment into this series it just didn't resonate with me. I think there were too many conspiracy theory things going on. It was hard to take some things serious when it appeared the conspiracy theorists were just whackadoos and pointing their fingers at everyone in authority. I also took issue with Maura's opinion that one of the secondary characters was really attractive. I am so glad nothing came of it because it seems that in every book Maura seems to have another man she's attracted to. Come on Maura!

In a Nutshell: I'm happy to have been re-reading these first few books in the series and I'm looking forward to my re-read of the 6th book as well.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

A School For Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin

Title: A School for Unusual Girls
Author: Kathleen Baldwin
Series: #1 in the Stanje House series
Genre: Historical Romance YA
Publisher: Tor Teen (May 19, 2015)
Source: Library Find
Rating: ☕☕☕

Synopsis: It’s 1814. Napoleon is exiled on Elba. Europe is in shambles. Britain is at war on four fronts. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of Regency England’s dark little secrets. The daughters of the beau monde who don’t fit high society’s constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young ladies. Or so their parents think. In truth, Headmistress Emma Stranje, the original unusual girl, has plans for the young ladies—plans that entangle the girls in the dangerous world of spies, diplomacy, and war.

After accidentally setting her father’s stables on fire while performing a scientific experiment, Miss Georgiana Fitzwilliam is sent to Stranje House. But Georgie has no intention of being turned into a simpering, pudding-headed, marriageable miss. She plans to escape as soon as possible—until she meets Lord Sebastian Wyatt. Thrust together in a desperate mission to invent a new invisible ink for the English war effort, Georgie and Sebastian must find a way to work together without losing their heads—or their hearts . . .

My Thoughts: While I enjoyed the first half of this book I thought the last half was a little long and drawn out.

The Good: I really liked the idea of a YA historical romance and for the most part this book was a winner. I liked Georgie and felt she was very real. She was self conscious about her looks because red hair and freckles were not considered beautiful and her parents continued to remind of that often. Her only option she had as a young woman was to learn to be a proper lady and marry well. This was not what Georgie was all about. She had a scientific mind and liked to do experiments. This was also a contention between her and her parents. I liked her logical mind. I liked how she thought through issues. I also liked the other girls in the Stranje house.

I thought Georgie's reactions to Sebastian were all in agreement with a teenage girl. I thought maybe she would be more scientific about it but she is first and foremost a girl so even though I don't care much for teenage angst this did ring true as well.

The Bad: I thought the book would be more about Emma Stranje's teaching of the girls. She was teaching them lock picking, how to remove themselves from being tied to a chair, how to be a spy, etc. Unfortunately, between the longish introduction to Georgie and the girls in Stranje House then the entire second half trying to rescue Georgie's love interest, there wasn't a whole lot of learning. I also struggled with the history aspect a bit. The author takes some liberties with history and called it "alternate history". I would rather a book with so much (and there was a lot) history have that history accurate.

In a Nutshell: Although I did like this book, I only liked it to a point. Since I found the last half of the book a bit tedious and the spying aspect of the book was not my cuppa I probably will not continue with this series.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Fragile by Lisa Unger

Title: Fragile
Author: Lisa Unger
Series: #1 in the Jones Cooper series
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Publisher: Crown; (July 28, 2010)
Source: Library Find
Rating: ☕☕1/2

Synopsis: Everybody knows everybody in The Hollows, a quaint, charming town outside of New York City. It's a place where neighbors keep an eye on one another's kids, where people say hello in the grocery store, and where high school cliques and antics are never quite forgotten. As a child, Maggie found living under the microscope of small-town life stifling. But as a wife and mother, she has happily returned to The Hollows's insular embrace. As a psychologist, her knowledge of family histories provides powerful insights into her patients' lives. So when the girlfriend of her teenage son, Rick, disappears, Maggie's intuitive gift proves useful to the case--and also dangerous.

The investigation has her husband, Jones, the lead detective on the case, acting strangely.  Rick, already a brooding teenager, becomes even more withdrawn.  In a town where the past is always present, nobody is above suspicion, not even a son in the eyes of his father.

Determined to uncover the truth, Maggie pursues her own leads into Charlene's disappearance and exposes a long-buried town secret--one that could destroy everything she holds dear.

My Thoughts: While the ending was quite good the entire book was bogged down by an excruciatingly slow pace and so many characters it was hard to keep track of them all.

The Good: The last 25% of the book was quite interesting and Unger did a great job of wrapping things up in a very believable way. I actually enjoyed reading how everything was interwoven and discovering everyone's secrets. Of course by the time I got to the 75% mark I opted to skim read the last part to just get through it. This doesn't bode well for any book, IMHO.

The Bad: As mentioned above, the extremely slow pacing of the book made the first half seem overly long and really boring. In addition, Unger added almost two dozen characters, either by mention or by an actual appearance, which  made the first half confusing, not to mention there were no characters who I actually liked. Out of all of them! During the course of the book I thought about stopping the book and adding it to my DNF list several times.

In a Nutshell: Even though the ending was rather good I couldn't get over the first half of the book being so...well, not good. I usually give an author at least 2 tries but I'm seriously thinking of not picking up another Unger again, if this book is a testament to how she writes.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Promise Not to Tell by Jayne Ann Krentz

Title: Promise Not to Tell
Author: Jayne Ann Krentz
Series: #2 in the Cutler, Sutter, and Salinas series
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Berkley (January 2, 2018)
Source: Library Find
Rating: ☕☕☕

Synopsis: A painter of fiery, nightmarish visions throws herself into the sea—but she leaves her secrets behind . . .

Seattle gallery owner Virginia Troy has spent years battling the demons that stem from her childhood time in a cult and the night a fire burned through the compound, killing her mother. And now one of her artists has taken her own life, but not before sending Virginia a last picture: a painting that makes Virginia doubt everything about the so-called suicide—and her own past.

Like Virginia, private investigator Cabot Sutter was one of the children in the cult who survived that fire... and only he can help her now. As they struggle to unravel the clues in the painting, it becomes clear that someone thinks Virginia knows more than she does and that she must be stopped. Thrown into an inferno of desire and deception, Virginia and Cabot draw ever closer to the mystery of their shared memories—and the shocking fate of the one man who still wields the power to destroy everything they hold dear.

My Thoughts: While I found the mystery interesting this book just won't stick with me in the long run.

The Good: The underlying cult theme that started in the first book moved forward during this book which I actually enjoyed even though I don't gravitate towards books with cults in them. I'm looking forward to seeing how JAK wraps it up in the last book of this trilogy but having to wait until January of next year seems like such a long wait. I liked some of the supporting characters in this book especially Anson (Cabot's dad) and Xavier (Cabot's young cousin). The pacing of the book is really good as the suspense and tension starts right away and continues to grow through out the book.

The Bad: Once again, as with the first book, I found the romance just not quite right. I didn't see their attraction and despite JAK having dialogue to support it (in the form of "I want to kiss you,") it just wasn't there. There were no epiphanies of "I can't live without you". There were no instances where I just felt they had to be together.

In addition, the mystery was subpar. Although, Cabot is a PI, and we follow his methods to investigating Hannah's death they seem to jump to conclusions a lot. Even with Cabot explaining to Virginia they can't rely on speculation as facts they seem to make some conclusions just because it fits the storyline instead of relying on just the facts. "Follow the money" makes perfect sense but to draw a conclusion that the entire thing was about money with no hard evidence seemed a stretch. Also, the number of murderers in this one, similarly to the first book, seems more complex than necessary.

In a Nutshell: So, even though these are only average reads and there are way better Romantic Suspense books out there I'm going to read the last book when it comes out. I want to read how the underlying story-arc pans out.

Monday, July 2, 2018

When All the Girls Have Gone by Jayne Ann Krentz

Title: When All the Girls Have Gone
Author: Jayne Ann Krentz
Series: #1 in the Cutler, Sutter, and Salinas Trilogy
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Berkley (November 29, 2016)
Source: Library Find
Rating: ☕☕☕

Synopsis: When Charlotte Sawyer is unable to contact her stepsister, Jocelyn, to tell her that one of her closest friends was found dead, she discovers that Jocelyn has vanished. 

Beautiful, brilliant—and reckless—Jocelyn has gone off the grid before, but never like this. In a desperate effort to find her, Charlotte joins forces with Max Cutler, a struggling PI who recently moved to Seattle after his previous career as a criminal profiler went down in flames—literally. Burned out, divorced and almost broke, Max needs the job.  

After surviving a near-fatal attack, Charlotte and Max turn to Jocelyn’s closest friends, women in a Seattle-based online investment club, for answers. But what they find is chilling...

When her uneasy alliance with Max turns into a full-blown affair, Charlotte has no choice but to trust him with her life. For the shadows of Jocelyn’s past are threatening to consume her—and anyone else who gets in their way...

My Thoughts: As a fan of many of JAK's books this one was just lukewarm for me.

The Good: The underlying plot thread which should continue throughout the trilogy is actually pretty interesting even though I don't usually care for "cult" themed novels. Max and his 2 brothers were children when their parents joined a cult. They were orphaned when the leader lit fire to the entire complex, including the barn where the children were kept. Placed in  foster care, Max, Cabot, and Jack were taken in my the cop who saved all the children. Anyway, this plot thread is actually pretty interesting as they all three believe the cult leader is still alive despite being pronounced dead in a boating accident years after the cult complex fire.

I did like Max and Charlotte but didn't necessarily believe in their romance completely. I liked Charlotte's quirkiness and absolutely loved the retirement home she worked at. With the retirement home came with some wonderful residents. Their appearances in the story stood out to me in such a positive way.

The Bad: While I did like the darker themes within the book (rape cases in addition to murders) I thought they were underplayed a bit while JAK was trying to pull off a believable romance. Also, the mystery was a bit convoluted as the number of murderers increased and finding connections between everything seemed a bit of a stretch.

Even though Max and Charlotte fell in love and we could see how they were heading towards this I thought it was not quite believable because of the time frame and well, insta-love. Throwing in an ex-fiancé into the mix didn't do much to propel the story forward either.

In a Nutshell: Even though this book was just an OK for me I definitely will continue the trilogy to find out how the cult story arch plays out.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Compulsion by Allison Brennan

Title: Compulsion
Author: Allison Brennan
Series: #2 in the Maxine Revere series
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Minotaur Books (April 7, 2015)
Source: Library Find
Rating: ☕☕☕☕

Synopsis: Investigative reporter Maxine Revere has a theory: that the five New York City murders for which Adam Bachman is being tried are just part of his killing spree. In probing the disappearance of a retired couple who vanished the prior summer, Max uncovers striking similarities to Bachman's MO and develops a theory that Bachman wasn't working alone.

Max wins a coveted pre-trial interview with the killer, whose disarming composure in the face of her questions is combined with uncomfortable knowledge of Max's own past. She leaves the room convinced, but unable to prove, that Bachman knows exactly what happened to the missing couple. The D.A. wants nothing to jeopardize his case against Bachman and refuses to consider Max's theory. With no physical evidence, Max has to rely on her own wits and investigative prowess to dig deep into Bachman's past. The picture that Max puts together is far darker and more deadly than she ever imagined.

As Max gets closer to the truth, she doesn't realize that she's walking down a road that has been paved just for her. That every step she takes brings her one step closer to a brilliant, methodical sociopath who has been waiting for her to make just one small mistake.
And when she does, he'll be there waiting.

My Thoughts: While the first book in this series was just ok for me I really enjoyed this second one a lot!

The Good: Maxine was a little hard to like in the first book. As an investigative reporter she digs for the truth often to the point of causing some people emotional distress, like her family. In this one she is forced to acknowledge her shortcomings (and there are many). It was nice to see her so vulnerable. We also got to know more about David and Marco. Love David by the way.

The suspense did take nearly half the book to really take off. The first half is interesting though because we see Max's methodology in researching the cold cases in addition to the beginnings of a trial. These aspects, I felt, were really well written. And oh boy! When the suspense took off it did. Maxine proved she is not only a strong independent woman but a kick ass survivor.

The Bad: Even though I really liked this book I thought the mystery kind of got really convoluted and complex. I think simpler might have been a little better but ultimately I did enjoy the mystery as well. Also just an FYI this is light on the romance so if you're looking for some hotness this one is really mild with the smooching and the wet parts.

In a Nutshell: I totally liked reading this second book in the Maxine Revere series and I'm really looking forward to the third book.