Friday, July 21, 2017

EARLY REVIEW: Before the Dawn by Cynthia Eden

Title: Before the Dawn
Author: Cynthia Eden
Series: #2 in the Killer Instinct series
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: HQN Books (July 25, 2017)
Source: NetGalley
Rating: ☕☕☕☕

Synopsis: Ex-SEAL Tucker Frost knows that the world is full of evil. He saw it in the face of his own brother, Jason Frost, a cold, methodical, sadistic killer. A killer Tucker put down with his own hands in order to save Jason's final victim—Dawn Alexander, the only girl who got away from the infamous "Iceman."

It's Tucker's up close and personal experience with evil that's made him perfect for Samantha Dark's experimental profiling division in the FBI. Samantha wants agents who have personal ties with killers, who have unique insights into the minds of monsters. And when women start turning up murdered with the same MO used by the Iceman, Tucker is sent back to Louisiana to investigate.

The last person he expects to see is his ex-lover, Dawn. Ten full years have passed since the night that Tucker faced down his brother…and since he last saw Dawn. But the dark need still burns just as hot between Tucker and Dawn. As they grapple with a desire that never died, they must also face the shared shadow from their pasts. Both Tucker and Dawn have the same question—has Jason Frost come back from the dead to hunt again? And this time, will he succeed in killing the victim who got away?

My Thoughts: Cynthia Eden can write romantic suspense with the best of them. I loved reading this book and want to dive right into more by her.

The Good: The opening sequence was written so well. It captured my attention exactly as it was meant to do and made me want to keep reading. The momentum continued throughout the book as well. Nothing sucks the life out of a Rom/Susp that can't keep up with it's own prologue. The characters are well thought out and I liked that we continued to learn and understand them throughout the book. The secondary characters are intriguing, especially Macey and Bowen who are part of the special task force Tucker is on. I also enjoyed the investigation aspect of the book. From the precinct, to the morgue, to the hospital, we were with the team every step of the way. The mystery suspense aspect in the story was well balanced with the romance as well. There weren't a lot of annoying misunderstandings between Tucker and Dawn and the characters didn't constantly push each other away (even though at one point it felt like it was almost going that way.)

The Bad: I went into this book with no knowledge of the series, the book order, or even what this book was about. With that in mind I need to say that even though this book was easily read without any other background of the characters or the special FBI unit Tucker is part of I am now very aware of who the perpetrator was in the first book, After the Dark. I'm not sure if this was common knowledge, meaning if the identity was known from almost the beginning of that book, but I'm a bit disappointed in knowing the killer's name and his ties to the other characters. So with that said, I'd recommend reading this series in order. I would prefer to read books as I pick them up and since you really shouldn't in this case I find it a negative. I also thought the killer's identity was a bit of a stretch and his reasoning a bit sketchy but nothing that would prevent me from recommending this book to lovers of these subgenre.

In a Nutshell: A very good book to what appears to be a good series. I'm looking forward to reading the others and if I didn't already have several books lined up I would even consider reading them all back to back. I never binge read so that says something about this book.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Just the Thing by Marie Harte

Title: Just the Thing
Author: Marie Harte
Series: #2 in the Donnigans series
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Sourcebooks - Casablanca (July 4, 2017)
Source: NetGalley
Rating: ☕☕☕☕

Gavin Donnigan left the Marine Corps a shell of a man, hounded by guilt for deaths he couldn't prevent. But teaching a self-defense class at the local gym brings some stability to his life―along with a gorgeous leggy woman who won't give him the time of day.
Zoe York lost her twin sister to a freak car accident a few months ago. She's been struggling to bury her grief, but it isn't until she signs up for a self-defense class with its distractingly hot instructor that she begins to come out of her shell again. With the memory of her sister telling her to live a little, Zoe decides a fling with buns-of-steel Gavin Donnigan might be just the thing.
Soon they're sparring both in and out of the gym. And for the first time in a long time, each is looking forward to tomorrow.

My Thoughts: So, I have a confession to make. I requested this book from the publisher based purely on the cover. I'm happy to say that it totally worked out for me because I've now found a new to me author I can happily binge read.

The Good: Both the main characters in this book are broken. Gavin, by his PTSD and survivor's guilt after 3 of his good friends are killed in action over seas while he was in the medical unit healing from a previous mission. Zoe is also suffering a tragedy and dealing with her own demons. Despite them being broken I loved that this book really looked at their healing process. It was portrayed in such a healthy way. We've all experienced loss, I liked that this book didn't gloss over the grieving process and portray the new relationship between Gavin and Zoe as a "cure" for their grief. Their relationship was not a case of instalove but rather a build up over time. We were never blindsided by the I love yous because we saw them grow together as a couple. I really loved this.
The Donnigans are quite the family. Their prank wars were epic and I loved every minute of their interactions. The extended family (Harte wrote about in her McCauley Brothers series) was intriguing as was the tattooed woman, Del, who married into the family during the course of this book. Lets not even start on her family, who appears to be in her Body Shop Bad Boys series. I really love when series books connect like this.
I also would like to mention that during the course of the book I might have teared up a couple of times. Or it was allergies. But seriously, Gavin just broke my heart watching him go through his healing process.

The Bad: I really had a hard time with Gavin's "I'm a Studly Man" mentality. Overall I think he was portrayed this way to contrast between the public Gavin and the mentally anguished Gavin, but for me, he came across a bit too egocentric at times. In addition there were a couple instances where I had to pause and remind myself this man was supposed to be in his early 30's. Some of the things he said came across as a frat boy, barely adult male.
Last thing, at times the book felt a bit too long. I'm wondering if some additional editing could have happened to reduce the page numbers. This might have worked but it could have also happened at the expense of the carefully woven romance. Oh and if you are not someone who appreciates super steamy sex-capades you might want to stay away from these books. The sex is scorching and plentiful. I totally didn't mind this but put it in the "bad" just because I know this is something someone else will be wary of.

In a Nutshell: Despite my issues with Gavin and his Ego I loved this book. I'm looking forward to Hope Donnigan's story and in the future Theo's as well. I'm going to read the McCauley series as well as the Body Shop Bad Boy series. I'm really excited to read more of Marie Harte's contemporary romances.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Unsub by Meg Gardiner

Title: Unsub
Author: Meg Gardiner
Series: #1 in the Unsub series
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Publisher: Dutton (June 27, 2017)
Source: NetGalley
Rating: ☕☕☕

Synopsis: Caitlin Hendrix has been a Narcotics detective for six months when the killer at the heart of all her childhood nightmares reemerges: the Prophet. An UNSUB—what the FBI calls an unknown subject—the Prophet terrorized the Bay Area in the 1990s and nearly destroyed her father, the lead investigator on the case.
The Prophet’s cryptic messages and mind games drove Detective Mack Hendrix to the brink of madness, and Mack’s failure to solve the series of ritualized murders—eleven seemingly unconnected victims left with the ancient sign for Mercury etched into their flesh—was the final nail in the coffin for a once promising career.
Twenty years later, two bodies are found bearing the haunting signature of the Prophet. Caitlin Hendrix has never escaped the shadow of her father’s failure to protect their city. But now the ruthless madman is killing again and has set his sights on her, threatening to undermine the fragile barrier she rigidly maintains for her own protection, between relentless pursuit and dangerous obsession.
Determined to decipher his twisted messages and stop the carnage, Caitlin ignores her father’s warnings as she draws closer to the killer with each new gruesome murder. Is it a copycat, or can this really be the same Prophet who haunted her childhood? Will Caitlin avoid repeating her father’s mistakes and redeem her family name, or will chasing the Prophet drag her and everyone she loves into the depths of the abyss?

My Thoughts: This book started out slowly for me but became a whirlwind of a thriller that I enjoyed ultimately, towards the end.

The Good: Once the investigation really took off so did the book. As Caitlin started to put clues together I really started getting interested in the outcome. I enjoyed the revelation the department had when finally figuring out what the Prophet was all about but this was also a weakness within the plot, in my opinion.

The Bad: Ultimately, this book relies on it's readers to suspend their disbelief quite a bit. From a rookie homicide detective solving the case when seasoned veterans couldn't do so in 20 years to a serial killer who was able to de-escalate and just stop killing for all those years as well. Also, as a reader who favors characters over plot, I found myself unable to really connect with Caitlin even once the killer attacked close to home.

In a Nutshell: A decent start to a new series and I'm hopeful the issues are just first book in series troubles and the followups will knock it out of the park. Will I read more by this author? Yes. Will I read more in this series? Yes, again. Would I recommend this book to fans of the genre. I would.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Branded As Trouble by Delores Fossen

Title: Branded As Trouble
Author: Delores Fossen
Series: #3 in the Wrangler's Creek series
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: HQN Books (June 27, 2017)
Source: NetGalley
Rating: ☕☕☕☕

Synopsis: Every town needs a bad boy, and Wrangler's Creek's has been gone far too long...
Getting his high school girlfriend pregnant was just one square in Roman Granger's checkered past, but it changed him forever. When his son's mother skipped town after the birth, Roman decided to do the same, baby Tate in tow, hoping for a fresh start.
Now Roman fears his teenage son is following in his wayward footsteps, so he returns home to Wrangler's Creek, aiming to set him straight. It's there he encounters Tate's aunt, Mila Banchini, the good-girl opposite of Roman who's had a crush on him since childhood. The old spark between them undeniably never died, though Roman worries it'll only lead to heartache. But if falling for Mila is such a bad idea, why does everything about holding her feel so right?

My Thoughts: My first book by Delores Fossen and certainly not my last.

The Good: The personal conflicts cropping up throughout this small town has a little bit of a Soap Opera feel to it but I loved every minute of it. I very much enjoyed most of the characters and their quirks. I felt the family connections between the Grangers and their extended family, including Mila, was probably one of the best things about this book. Although not completely parallel, the town reminds me a bit like Brenda Novak's Whiskey Creek or Susan Mallery's Fool Gold settings.

The Bad: One of my least favorite romance tropes is an older virgin. At 31, Mila and her virginity, seems completely weird. Barring a vow of celibacy while waiting for marriage or Jesus I'm not sure a woman remains a virgin to 30+ without having something seriously wrong with her. In Mila's case, she was just too picky she said. She had her heart set on Roman. Therefore she refused to do the deed until Roman came around and did the deed with her. Even for a romance novel this seems pretty far fetched. One last thing that bugged me a bit. Both Mila's and Roman's mothers seemed equally quirky. Mila's mom is an ex free loving flower child who thinks she's psychic and is rumored to put the stink-eye on people that cross her. Roman's mom is a widow of many years who raised 4 children and is more of a society icon in the town because the Grangers pretty much own the town. These women are polar opposites yet seem to have the same wacky impulses. It was a bit weird but not necessarily a deal breaker when it comes to the enjoy-ability of this book.

In a Nutshell: I really enjoyed this book and will seek out the rest of the series. If you like those small town feel contemporary romances please pick this one up.

Take It To the Grave (Part 1 of 6) by Zoe Carter

Title: Take It To the Grave (Part 1 of 6)
Author: Zoë Carter
Series: #1 in the Take It To the Grave series (Part 1 of 6)
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Publisher: Harlequin Special Releases (June 1, 2017)
Source: NetGalley
Rating: ☕☕

Synopsis: Sarah Taylor-Cox has the perfect life—a gorgeous husband, a picture—perfect house in the Hamptons and a beautiful baby, Elliot. Now, the invites are being sent out for Elliot's christening, and the Taylor—Coxes are determined the party will be the event of the year.

There's just one chink in Sarah's carefully constructed calm demeanour—her sister, Maisey, will be coming. The sisters used to be close, but now their lives couldn't be more different. Surely though, they will slip back into their old ways, and the party will go off without a hitch…

Then, Sarah's difficult relationship with Maisey is pushed to the back of her mind when she receives a note, one which makes her whole body shake with dread: I know your secret. I'm going to tell.

Part 1 of 6: a riveting new installment in this darkly compelling psychological thriller

My Thoughts: I thought this would be a short, thrilling piece of work, and an introduction to a new to me author, Zoë Carter. Well, two outta 3 ain't bad.

The Good: It was short. Yep, that's about it folks. I'd like to say the writing style appealed to me but it didn't. I'd like to say the intrigue of the storyline captured me but it didn't. I'd like to say the characters spoke to me but....well, actually they did. They said we are all horrible creatures drawn to be completely unlikable to our readers. Not necessarily a good thing when it comes to someone as character driven as myself. However, the plot wasn't without some interest on my part. I thought the opening prologue was interesting, even though nothing in the next 50 pages mentioned it again. I thought the ending was interesting as well, except it came a little to late for me to care what happens next in the story.

The Bad: The book was narrated by both Sarah and Maisey, alternatively. I don't normally mind this but when you're looking at the grand scheme of the book I had in hand, it didn't really work. I had 1/6th of this story. The constant back and forth perspectives made it impossible to really get "into" the story and to feel the tension it was supposed to create. In addition, the characters didn't have the time to grow and feel three dimensional to the reader because we were limited in page space. If the goal was always to release this book as a serial, having the first part as Sarah's voice and the second part, Maisey's, alternating that way, might have worked more in it's favor. Now here is one of my biggest contentions about this book....perhaps, through no fault of the author herself, the first part was offered for free on Amazon, at first. Now it costs $1.99. Each part costs $1.99, with the exception of part 2 right now is on sale for $.99. So, if you managed to get the first part for free and the second part for a buck to get the complete story you, dear reader, will shell out almost $9.00 for a book by an author who now has 2 books under her belt. I'm not trying to undermined all the work Ms. Carter put into her craft but when I can spend only a couple more dollars to get a brand new release by an author who is tried and true with dozens of NT Times #1 best sellers, why would I? I wouldn't.

In a Nutshell: I'm sorry Ms. Carter but I refuse to read any more of this book. Perhaps if it were to be offered as one complete book at a decent price I might reconsider. However, I do see your other book on Amazon is reasonably priced and is a full novel. I will check it out because I don't feel as if I've given you and your writing a reasonable chance.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Phantom Evil by Heather Graham

Title: Phantom Evil
Author: Heather Graham
Series: #1 in the Krewe of Hunters series
Genre: Romantic Suspense (with paranormal undertones)
Publisher: Mira (March 27, 2011)
Source: Library eBook
Rating: ☕☕☕

Synopsis: A secret government unit, a group of renegade paranormal investigators... and a murder no one else can crack.
Though haunted by the recent deaths of two teammates, Jackson Crow knows that the living commit the most heinous crimes.
A police officer utilizing her paranormal intuition, Angela Hawkins already has her hands full of mystery and bloodshed.
But one assignment calls to them too strongly to resist. In a historic mansion in New Orleans French Quarter, a senator's wife falls to her death. Most think she jumped; some say she was pushed. And yet others believe she was beckoned by the ghostly spirits inhabiting the house — once the site of a serial killer's grisly work.
In this seemingly unsolvable case, only one thing is certain: whether supernatural or all too human, crimes of passion will cast Jackson and Angela into danger of losing their lives... and their immortal souls.

My Thoughts: Another Heather Graham book that had great potential but got mucked up while bringing the romance into the book to become an average read.

The Good: The backdrop of NOLA and the setting of a historical mansion, a new murder interwoven with that of a century old serial killer's terrifying reign on the area all coupled with paranormal elements had me glued to my kindle. The introduction of all the Krewe team and their quirks/abilities was interesting and will keep me coming back to the Krewe Hunters series.

The Bad: Angela and Jackson's romance. Just bad. It was so forced. It felt unnatural. At one point, Angela and Jackson had just met, yet were drawn together, of course, and she kissed him on the check in a "friendly" way to show her appreciation. Now, take into mind Jackson is essentially Angela's boss. They've known each other for a few short hours and she kissed him. Granted, it was on the check but still. I've known my boss for over 11 years and even though I really like him and respect him and his opinion  I would Never. Kiss. Him. Also the ending felt a bit rushed and I was left feeling there should have been more.

In a Nutshell: A decent start to a new series even though the concept isn't a new one and definitely one that Graham has done repeatedly. I'll continue with the series because I overall enjoyed reading this book.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Runaway Vampire by Lynsay Sands

Title: Runaway Vampire
Author: Lynsay Sands
Series: #23 in the Argeneau series
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Avon  (February 23, 2016)
Source: Purchased
Rating: ☕☕☕

Synopsis: Dante Notte has heard it said that love hurts. He just wasn't expecting it to run him over in an RV. Still, a punctured lung and broken ribs are nothing compared to the full-body shock he feels whenever he's near the vehicle's driver, Mary Winslow. He needs to keep her safe from their pursuers while he rescues his brother. Most challenging of all, he needs to claim this smart, stubborn woman as his life mate.

The naked, injured, insanely gorgeous younger man who clambered into her RV insists they belong together. If Mary wasn't feeling their incredible connection in every inch of her being, she wouldn't believe it. But now that the men who took Dante's twin are after her too, trusting her gut means risking her life for an immortal who's the very definition of a perfect stranger.

My Thoughts: A nice quick read that had some underlying issues I had a hard time moving on from.

The Good: I liked the back story of Dante and Tomasso's capture and Dante's escape. It added a bit of intrigue to the book that had me wanting more. This storyarch looks to be something that will take place in multiple books and I'm looking forward to reading more about it. I liked Dante's character as well but found the relationship between the H/h problematic.

The Bad: Mary. She is a recent widow who claims to have loved her husband so very much but the more we learn about their relationship the more I was convinced it was terrible. Mary was less of a woman in my eyes for putting up with her husband and to stay in a marriage and making all involved miserable as well, UGH! She also had hangups about her 60-ish self and the hot stud that was Dante. Everytime she would mention it (which was all the time) I was pulled out of the story and thought, well maybe she is right. Which is NOT who I really am but when you get beat over the head with it over and over and over again you start to think it as well. Because Mary had so many issues I had a hard time with their romance. I also hated there was no real ending to this book. The interesting backstory of Dante and Tomasso was left dangling and Dante and Mary's HEA felt lackluster.

In a Nutshell: Like I said, it was a quick read. It kept my interest but nothing I'd encourage someone else to read unless they are already fans of the series but I will continue to read The Argeneau series anyway.

The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey


Title: The Girl With All the Gifts
Author: MR Carey
Series: #1 in the Girl With All the Gifts series
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Orbit (January 14, 2014)
Source: NetGalley
Rating: ☕☕1/2

Synopsis: Melanie is a very special girl. Dr. Caldwell calls her "our little genius."

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh.

Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children's cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she'll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn't know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

The Girl with All the Gifts is a sensational thriller, perfect for fans of Stephen King, Justin Cronin, and Neil Gaiman.

My Thoughts: I have a love/hate relationship with this book. There were parts I loved. There were parts I hated. There were parts I wished would just get over with quickly because I was bored during them. I read this with a friend who said "Hey, let's start a book club" then failed to finish the book and drove 1500 miles to get away from it. Technically it could have been his summer job in Yellowstone that drove him from our area but the coincidences are too great to ignore.

The Good: I absolutely love zombie books. Even when the book doesn't come out and say "I'm a zombie book" I'm pretty much hooked and going to enjoy it on a basic level. There is something about an apocalyptic event turning people to mindless flesh eating monsters that can be terrifying and totally awesome at the same time. So props to Carey for writing a book that I was super excited for and for making the first half of the book amaze-balls! I was in love with the carefully laid out plot and the idea that the children were not exactly children but weren't zombies either. What an freaking fantastical beginning!

What else did I like? Melanie. I adored Melanie. I liked seeing things from her perspective and her ability to understand she wasn't like Miss J or the doctor. I thought her character was amazing and her growth during the book was well thought out. Melanie was the book, in my opinion.

The Bad: The entire middle of the book bored me to tears. I couldn't care less what caused the apocalypse. I hated all the science-y mumbo-jumbo and honestly, I thought Dr. Caldwell's entire part within the book was boring and annoying. She made the book almost unbearable to me. How were we to believe she was working on a cure yet she didn't know any more about the thing causing the apocalypse than we did and kept ooooing and ahhhhing over the weird zombie plants. Not to mention she was TSTL (to stupid to live) and almost got the surviving handful from the base killed multiple times.

In a Nutshell: My experience was this book....I'm loving this book. Love it. Love it. Love it. I'm going to totally tell everyone to read this book! What's going on...what happened to this book?.....zzzzzzzzzz.....wha...what?....Did I miss something? nope...zzzzzzzz.......oh good she's finally gone....Well that's an interesting twist....That's the end? WTF? I don't know how I feel about this. If only my Book Club Buddy, KJ, would have finished this book so I can discuss it with him!!!!!!!