Book Corner

Book Review: Losing Leah Holloway

Five years ago, Claire Fletcher escaped her abductor. But some scars never fade, and surviving was just the beginning…

When Claire sees a car full of children careen into a river, she rushes to the rescue. But the driver, a mother named Leah Holloway, prefers to drown. For Claire and her ex, Detective Connor Parks, it doesn’t add up. What would motivate a woman with a beautiful family and a successful career to resort to such unspeakable extremes? What Connor finds out confirms Claire’s suspicions of something dreadful behind Holloway’s picture-perfect facade: a link between the terrified mother and a serial strangler targeting Sacramento soccer moms.

As Claire and Connor are drawn back together, their investigation leads them to unearth everything Holloway was hiding. What they find could be the only way to stop a killer from striking again.

First of all, if you haven’t read Finding Claire Fletcher, I would highly recommend it. Though Losing Leah Holloway is not about Claire, she is a character in this story that gets pushed into the drama and to understand her character and her struggles, reading Finding Claire Fletcher will help you understand Claire better.

I gave this story four stars but that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, I just didn’t love it. And I think I didn’t love it because the “main” characters played more of a secondary role in the story, which makes no sense and on the surface sounds really weird, but in this story, it worked, I just wish the story centered more on the main characters and less on Claire.

Though Claire is an interesting character and the reader feels like she knows Claire through the previous book and she is central to the beginning of the story, (her and her sister witness the car driving off the bridge and Claire is the one who saves the children), she’s not really who the story is about. She is a character who keeps things moving – the glue that makes the story stick together.

This story is not about Claire specifically, it’s about the story that happens around Claire – on her peripheral, and it’s …… interesting.

Once again, the premise is different and disturbing. Though I ultimately predicted where the story was going I wasn’t quite sure how it would end. It was somehow satisfying for Claire to be the catalyst at the beginning of the story and then be the inhibitor at the end of the story as well. That approach felt well rounded and complete, somehow, even though the main story wasn’t really about her.

I know this sounds confusing, but Ms. Regan does a good job of making it work and I appreciated the creative approach to this story. It was almost as if Leah’s story was told through Claire.

And though interesting and entertaining, I still felt like it missed something. Though the author takes us back in time and you can see Leah’s rationale for doing what she did, I still felt like I didn’t really know her, D.J. or Rachel. I would have like to get inside their heads a bit more just to fully flesh out the story.

But I understand why Ms. Regan didn’t approach it this way because again, it was a story that happened TO Claire, it wasn’t Claire’s story.

At any rate, I really enjoyed the bread crumbs that Regan dropped into the story. Things are definitely not as they appear and Leah’s life is all about appearances. I find this concept fascinating because it makes me wonder what sort of lives people are TRULY living when they drop their facade.

We all have a public face, a public persona, but who are we, truly? I can tell you with 100% conviction my public face is NOT who I really am.

What goes on behind closed doors? What are people really thinking? How exhausting is it to maintain that facade? What is the thing that makes that carefully constructed castle finally crumble?

This is really what this story is about. Human endurance and reaching the breaking point. It’s a story about desperation and depression and the lengths people will go to mask those feelings and fake normal. It’s about finally opening the “forbidden” drawers in your psyche, pulling out the horrors folded within and allowing them out to air dry.

And if that doesn’t sound pretty, it’s because it’s not.

Book Corner

Book Review: Play Dirty

Love this cover, too.

After five long years in federal prison, Griff Burkett is a free man. But the disgraced Cowboys quarterback can never return to life as he knew it before he was caught cheating. In a place where football is practically a religion, Griff committed a cardinal sin, and no one is forgiving.

Foster Speakman, owner and CEO of SunSouth Airlines, and his wife, Laura, are a golden couple. Successful and wealthy, they lived a charmed life before fate cruelly intervened and denied them the one thing they wanted most — a child. It’s said that money can’t buy everything. But it can buy a disgraced football player fresh out of prison and out of prospects.

The job Griff agrees to do for the Speakmans demands secrecy. But he soon finds himself once again in the spotlight of suspicion. An unsolved murder comes back to haunt him in the form of his nemesis, Stanley Rodarte, who has made Griff’s destruction his life’s mission. While safeguarding his new enterprise, Griff must also protect those around him, especially Laura Speakman, from Rodarte’s ruthlessness. Griff stands to gain the highest payoff he could ever imagine, but cashing in on it will require him to forfeit his only chance for redemption…and love.

Griff is now playing a high-stakes game, and at the final whistle, one player will be dead.

Play Dirty is Sandra Brown’s wildest ride yet, with hairpin turns of plot all along the way. The clock is ticking down on a fallen football star, who lost everything because of the way he played the game. Now his future — his life — hinges on one last play.

Disclaimer: Sandra Brown is one of my all-time favorite authors. If I ever get off my lazy butt and actually write something, her style of writing appeals to me and I would want to emulate that to the best of my ability.

So I’m coming at this review a bit biased. But I will try my best to be objective and fair.

I haven’t read a Sandra Brown book in quite some time. Mainly because I’m on a Kindle Unlimited kick and I refuse to pay money for books when I have so many options at my fingertips for $10 bucks a month through Kindle Unlimited.

I was so surprised when I saw a Sandra Brown book pop up in Kindle Unlimited that I snatched it up.

The reviews on this story surprised me a bit, at least on GoodReads – it has 4.3 out of five on Amazon.

I usually go by the reviews on GoodReads as opposed to the reviews on Amazon as I have found my peeps on GoodReads seem to align with my personal tastes better.

But Play Dirty on GoodReads only has 3.92 stars out of five.

And I think I know why.

The premise of the story is unusual and ethically questionable. It’s disturbing but fascinating at the same time and that’s a large reason why I liked it; it was different and interesting. Most stories follow a certain format and I appreciated the fact that this story did not.

At first, I was a bit repulsed by the premise. A wealthy couple pay for a stud. Our star quarterback basically prostitutes himself out to get back on easy street and at first, you don’t like Griff but you can understand his desperation and reasons why he might decide to do this deed, though you may not like it very much.

And though the reasons why the wealthy couple go this route as opposed to other more conventional routes makes sense … in a bizarre, okay it’s your money and if you’re willing to do this way then go for it.

Still weird. But interesting enough to keep me reading.

What I thoroughly enjoyed from this story was the unpredictability. Nearly every scenario took me somewhere I wasn’t expecting. It’s like Ms. Brown got to a comfortable spot in her story, stopped and thought, “what new hell can I put these characters through?” And I LOVED it. I get so tired of reading stories that follow a formula. True, writers can vary how they get to the answer of the problem but ultimately, we all get there eventually.

And though this story ultimately reaches a satisfactory ending, it’s more of a REALISTIC ending.

I like unusual, real stories. Life is messy and weird and confusing at times and though the premise of this story is unusual and likely not probable, it’s possible. Which for me, is the only thing required. I can buy pretty much anything if leading up to the situation is possible.

Truth really IS stranger than fiction.

I liked how Griff wasn’t a wealthy, asshole alpha male. Wait, let me rephrase that, he was until he cheated and landed himself in jail. I love how Brown started the story AFTER all of that occurred though it would be interesting to read a story about Griff’s life BEFORE he went to jail, too.

Griff is majorly flawed. He allowed his greed and big ego to overshadow common sense and it landed him in big trouble. So when he was released from jail, he wasn’t broken but he was certainly different.

When you’re first introduced to Griff, he’s a douche. He cheated. He went to jail. He is looking for a fast buck to get his life back on track. Everyone hates him because of what he did. He’s pretty much at the bottom of the barrel and at first, your sympathies lie with Foster, a wheelchair-bound man just trying to achieve his greatest desire, to have a child. I didn’t really feel much for Laura at first. She’s just the vehicle stuck between the two men doing what she is being told. If anything, I felt impatient with her and couldn’t understand why she would go along with her husband’s unusual request.

But then, Brown starts to throw me bits and pieces of character backstory and motivations and suddenly my interest piques and my sympathies shift.

And instead of giving me these tidbits all at once, Brown does a great job of spoon feeding me more and more as the story progresses so that by the end, it’s not the same story you began with.

I LOVED that aspect of the story.

I also really love how Brown writes. She provides just enough detail to place you in the scene but leaves out enough for your imagination to kick in and fill in the blanks. Her dialogue was snappy and realistic and the story just kept moving forward. I didn’t really feel like there were any stagnant parts, every part had something interesting.

Though the parts where Griff and Laura meet for the first few times are incredibly awkward and cringe worthy, it was believable and horrifying at the same time. Brown placed those characters in an impossible situation and yet somehow, they made it work.

Whenever I stop to think about story ideas for my own writing, THIS is the sort of plot I’m looking for. I want to write something that makes my reader squirm, shift loyalties and be surprised. I want to write about messy lives and awkward situations and put my characters through hell. This story does all of that and Brown does an excellent job of balancing different genres,: mystery, thriller, romance, into one cohesive, entertaining read.

I’m inspired.

Book Corner

Book Review: What I’ve Done

Morgan Dane’s new client has blood on her hands—and no recollection of what happened—as the #1 Amazon Charts bestselling series continues.

Haley Powell wakes up covered in blood, with no memory of the night before. When she sees a man lying in the backyard, stabbed to death, she has only one terrified thought: What have I done?

Agreeing to take the case as a favor to her PI friend Lincoln Sharp, Morgan must scale a mountain of damning circumstantial and forensic evidence to prove her client innocent. Haley couldn’t appear more guilty: her bloodstained fingerprints are on the murder weapon, and she has no alibi. But Morgan can’t shake the feeling that this shocked young woman has been framed.

Someone out there is hell-bent on sabotaging her defense, targeting Morgan, her partner, and especially Haley. Someone who will stop at nothing—and whose next move will be deadly.

Definition of cozy mystery – “a sub-genre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community. Cozy mysteries do not employ any but the mildest profanity. The murders take place off stage, frequently involving relatively bloodless methods such as poisoning and falls from great heights. The wounds inflicted on the victim are never dwelt on and are seldom used as clues. Sexual activity, even between married characters, is only ever gently implied and never directly addressed, and the subject is frequently avoided altogether.”

That definition sums up the Morgan Dane mysteries. Clearly, I like the character enough to keep coming back, this is my fourth time and there is a fifth story that I will read at some point but it is simplistic and though not entirely predictable, the author does a good job leading us down the path to a very probable solution.

Morgan is a defense attorney and I like how her character is learning about investigating crimes the same time as her readers. I like how she’s a strong female and has a level head about her but is still a female and does have physical limitations. Hence the reason for her love interest, Lance.

I also really like that Morgan is a non-traditional female in that she has lost her husband and is raising three small girls, lives with her grandfather and employs a rather interesting nanny. Nothing about her “family” is traditional, though more and more common nowadays and yet it works for me.

Though I personally prefer my mysteries to be a bit more gritty and messy, it’s nice to read a cozy mystery from time-to-time if for no other reason than to cleanse my rather disturbing palate.

If you’re looking for an easy, entertaining read, I would recommend the Morgan Dane series.

Book Corner

Book Review: Tapping The Billionaire

A secret duo of romance authors team up under the pseudonym Max Monroe to bring you a sexy, laugh-out-loud new series. Are you ready to meet the Billionaire Bad Boys?

Blind dates? Online dating profiles? Been there, done that.

Georgia Cummings has zero luck with dating, and the era of the internet is not her friend.

No matter how fast she runs, how many corners she turns, she can’t find her way out of this weird, alternate universe where men think dick pics are a replacement for small talk and getting to know a girl. One more crotch selfie and she might write men off for good…

But why can’t she stop fantasizing about him?

Kline Brooks is the quintessential billionaire bad boy—dark, styled, short hair, muscles for days, and a panty-dropping smile.

Except—he isn’t.

As his employee, he won’t touch her with a ten foot pole.

But she won’t touch him either.

Too bad their hormones missed the memo.

Disclaimer:
If you’re the type of woman who prefers crotch selfies to small talk, this book isn’t for you.

If you enjoy random men you’ve never met filling up your inbox with dirty words and porn—for reasons focused more towards diddling your donut than laughing at the absurdity—this book isn’t for you.

If you HATE laughing, this book isn’t for you.

If you want your male leads to grunt, thrust like jack rabbits, and have one-track minds that prefer a nice pair of tits to brains every hour of every day for the rest of forever, well, then, this book still isn’t for you.

But.

If you enjoy a good swoon, a hearty laugh, witty banter, and some hot as f*@% f*@%ing, then consider Georgia Cummings your Girl Friday and Kline Brooks your next irresistible book boyfriend

So ………………..

The disclaimer annoys me.

Actually, the whole blurb annoys me and does not, at all, represent the book. I think I would have liked the story better if it had mirrored the blurb.

I mean, I guess I know what they’re going for here – if you like a more serious story, then you may not appreciate the humor in this story.

And there is humor. I personally respond to stories of relationships that have a solid sense of humor interlaced throughout, but I sort of feel like this story DOES contain lots of grunts, growls and other choice sex terms throughout.

In fact, almost TOO much.

I felt like the story spent the majority of time on the sex part of their relationship. And that DOES NOT do it for me.

Let me back up a minute …

This story takes place between a high-ranking person within the company and the owner/boss of the company. Nothing new here. It’s a common fantasy of many women to have a sexual relationship with a powerful man, someone who can make or break your career. There is an element of danger in the relationship, makes it exciting on some level.

But the authors are trying to sell me on the idea that these two, very hot, very attractive, very smart individuals have worked closely together for two years before they really notice each other?

I mean, I get noticing each other, maybe a fantasy or two, but the transition between these two work colleagues to so much more happens at warp speed and that ruins the story for me. It’s like, “Excuse me.” To “Oh HI! Let’s have sex!” I like some build up, some teasing, some friction before going right into the nasty.

Not sexy, at least to me.

And the male character is just too perfect. He’s a gentleman. He’s super hot. He’s super rich. He’s super respectful of her feelings and taking her V card.

I mean, that’s great, too bad more men AREN’T like this, but it doesn’t make for a very good story.

It’s sort of boring.

I wanted to see more intellectual interaction between the two. We get it, THEY ARE ATTRACTED TO EACH OTHER AND CAN’T KEEP THEIR HANDS OFF EACH OTHER, but to me, there is so much more to a rich relationship than just sex.

I felt like the characters had potential, I just feel like the authors didn’t take the time to fully flesh them out. Instead, it was all about the sex. Which they wrote in detail, A LOT.

Ho hum.

There are only so many ways one can write about the physical side of a relationship before it becomes … boring.

And the event that temporarily broke them up…..

Come on. Really??? It was so WEAK!

These are two intelligent professionals who both act like children over an event that literally would have taken one phone call and five minutes to explain. Instead, the authors put their characters through some torturous days before clearing the air. It was just trivial and felt contrived. If these two lovebirds, who clearly love each other, have professed their love for one another and crave to be together allow one little text message to tear them apart, are they really meant to be together? What sort of reaction would they have if something really big happened?

I nearly put this story down several times. But then the authors would throw in something funny, or cute, and I would think, “Okay. Here we go. It’s getting better.”

No. Not really.

It’s like the authors know the formula for a cute little romance, threw two characters together, came up with a haphazard back story, a frail, and quite frankly, lame, “deal breaker” into the story and called it a book.

There. Done. Meant our deadline. Whew.

There are two more books in this series so far. I already know who the story in book two will be about based on the epilogue of this book and I already don’t care much for the characters. So I’ll pass, thanks.

I mean, if you haven’t been reading romance for very long, then you’ll likely enjoy this. But if you’re like me, who has been reading romance for years and expects more conflict, more depth, to the story, I wouldn’t recommend it.

It’s all fluff and very little substance.

Book Corner

Book Review: The Lullaby Girl

 

Detective Angie Pallorino took down a serial killer permanently and, according to her superiors, with excessive force. Benched on a desk assignment for twelve months, Angie struggles to maintain her sense of identity—if she’s not a detective, who is she? Then a decades-old cold case washes ashore, pulling her into an investigation she recognizes as deeply personal.

Angie’s lover and partner, James Maddocks, sees it, too. But spearheading an ongoing probe into a sex-trafficking ring while keeping Angie’s increasing obsession with her case in check is taking its toll. As startling connections between the parallel investigations emerge, Maddocks realizes he has even more than Angie’s emotional state to worry about.

Driven and desperate to solve her case, Angie goes rogue, risking her relationship, career, and very life in pursuit of answers. She’ll learn that some truths are too painful to bear, and some sacrifices include collateral damage.

But Angie Pallorino won’t let it go. She can’t. It’s not in her blood.

 

This is the second Angie Pallorino book in the series. I like this character, a lot. She’s strong, independent, not afraid of getting hurt, either physically or emotionally, all in the name of doing what is right.

She’s damaged. And she has demons to work through, but don’t we all, on some level?

I REALLY like how the first book’s case led directly into the second book. You can read this book as a standalone, but the reading The Drowned Girls would make The Lullaby Girl make a bit more sense.

I didn’t give it five stars because I felt like it dragged a bit, but not so much that it  yanked me out of the story. I also really like how Ms. White weaves a story around two different cases at once. At first, it’s a little confusing and a bit disorienting, but she soon makes it clear that the cases are tied together somehow and it works.

There were a few editorial mistakes. Missing words that momentarily made me stumble, but they were minor and not a deal breaker.

The story itself was disturbing but believable. Unfortunately, I’m sure there are sex-trafficking rings moving to this day and I’m sure they won’t be going anywhere any time soon. That sort of evil goes hand-in-hand with our fallen world today.

The love story between Angie and James is a bit hard to swallow. They seem too mismatched and the majority of this book they didn’t interact much at all. I don’t doubt their feelings for one another but I do wonder at the motivation for their feelings for one another. I understand where they are coming from but given the personalities I’ve read thus far it almost makes them a couple feel … off. I think the ending, between these two, was too rushed and felt contrived. I would have liked to see them interact more and maybe put off the ending for another book, or two. I feel like these two need more relationship building opportunities, outside of solving cases together.

Though I understand Angie’s anger and confusion, she needs to get herself sorted out first, and allow the reader to see this growth, before she jumps into anything long term with any character. Though to be fair, nothing concrete was resolved in this book between the two, just implied.

I didn’t really see the bad guy coming till near the end of the book, which was a nice surprise. I like how Angie’s parent’s relationship was complicated and a by product of their unfortunate circumstances. It’s hard to write anything more about that situation as I feel like that was a central part of the book’s premise and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but suffice it to say, it was believable, on a more disturbing, realistic level.

I am definitely looking forward to reading book three in Angie Pallorino’s series.

Book Corner

Book Review: Phantom Evil by Heather Graham

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’s 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.

 

 

So, I finished this book at about 11:30 last night. (Hence the reason I was a zombie at work today), so that should tell you something. I was interested enough to continue reading well past the time I knew I should be reading.

I haven’t read anything from Ms. Graham, though I’ve seen her name everywhere and have been meaning to. So when I saw her name on Kindle Unlimited, I thought “why not?”

I’m not typically into “horror” books or like any stories dealing with the supernatural – it just spooks me. Not the content itself but because I believe in demon spirits and the possibility of these spirits manifesting  and making its presence known in my life.

No thank you.

But my curiosity got the better of me and I read it.

The writing itself is not bad. It flowed easily and I wasn’t jerked out of the story by awkward phrasing or stilted conversation on the characters’ part. Though I was personally not bothered by the sheer number of “main characters,” the author did a good job keeping them straight, I can see that being confusing for a lot of readers.

There are a lot of characters and there is a lot going on at a given time.

But again, Ms. Graham does a good job keeping Jackson in our sights and the character himself divvies out responsibilities/tasks to the characters so the reader knows who is doing what, where.

The book opens with the prologue, which in essence, is the crime. The rest of the book works on solving “who dun it.”

A group of misfit characters are assigned to the job by one FBI agent who appears at the beginning of the book but then just becomes a character in the background. All of these characters who form the team have some “special” talent. Though it’s not entirely clear yet who can do what, Ms. Graham does a good job of giving us hints so we have a general idea of what roles these characters play in this task force.

The crime itself is … interesting. It’s an interesting premise, I will give her that. And the way the characters go about investigating is organized and makes sense.

However, the premise behind the story, of ghosts that can be seen, and sometimes even physically felt, just felt contrived to me.

Again, I tend to roll my eyes at paranormal stories. On one hand, they are creepy as shit, and on the other hand, they are almost ridiculous, which I would think would be a writer’s challenge for this type of genre, the sheer challenge of “selling” this premise to the reader without making it look over-the-top or just plain silly.

Most of the characters in the group can see dead people.

It’s hard to write that sentence without smirking. I feel like there was an idea for this story and then the author just decided to throw in some supernatural element to make it more interesting. It was definitely more interesting but for me, it just didn’t work.

Not to mention, Jackson and his love interest, Angela. The amount of time that these two started a physical relationship really turned me off. They knew each for what, TWO DAYS before it started getting steamy. And the fact that the rest of the team, again, all strangers and all just meeting, were perfectly fine with it did not appeal to me.

String me along!

I think, for me, if Ms. Graham is going to make this team a series, and it looks like she does, then let’s slow things down a bit. Let’s see the relationship grow, let’s see the characters tease each other and get to know each other before doing the nasty.

That completely turned me off.

In addition, the brainwashing church cult aspect of this story stuck out like a sore thumb, too.

I felt like the author took some story ideas, threw them against the wall and kept the ones that stuck. It felt hodge-podged and disjointed. Not to mention the “bad guy’s” reason for bringing the team in in the first place was sort of a weird, thin reason, in my opinion.

Overall, I’m still on the fence if I want to read any more in this series. Granted, the paranormal story lines are not my thing but I don’t think I’m ready to completely write this series off yet. I downloaded books two and three from Kindle Unlimited – let’s see if I like them enough to continue reading the series.

 

Book Corner

Goodreads 2018 Reading Challenge – COMPLETE

Click above for a listing of all the books I read

This is only the second time I’ve completed the Goodreads Reading challenge. The first time was in 2014 where I read 66 books. This year, I read 85. A new record.

I read ZERO books in 2017. Shame on me.

I have quit watching TV. It’s useless and I usually end the program feeling disappointed. “What did I just watch? Can I get my 90 minutes back, please?” I’ve lost interest in shows though I can’t promise that I won’t watch a bit when (if?) I get back to using my treadmill.

But that’s a different post.

Here are my reading stats for 2018:

I think one of the reasons I read so many books this year is because I found a lot of good books to read. I’m a member of Kindle Unlimited. I read exclusively on my Kindle. I haven’t bought a “real” book in years. My Kindle is my most prized possession.

I rarely download and read a book with less than four stars. I feel like the ratings are an excellent indicator whether a book is good or not and so far, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by my picks.

Here are MY five-star picks from the books I read this year (warning, there are quite a few!):

 

Beneath A Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan

Based on the true story of a forgotten hero, Beneath a Scarlet Sky is the triumphant, epic tale of one young man’s incredible courage and resilience during one of history’s darkest hours.

Pino Lella wants nothing to do with the war or the Nazis. He’s a normal Italian teenager—obsessed with music, food, and girls—but his days of innocence are numbered. When his family home in Milan is destroyed by Allied bombs, Pino joins an underground railroad helping Jews escape over the Alps, and falls for Anna, a beautiful widow six years his senior.

In an attempt to protect him, Pino’s parents force him to enlist as a German soldier—a move they think will keep him out of combat. But after Pino is injured, he is recruited at the tender age of eighteen to become the personal driver for Adolf Hitler’s left hand in Italy, General Hans Leyers, one of the Third Reich’s most mysterious and powerful commanders.

Now, with the opportunity to spy for the Allies inside the German High Command, Pino endures the horrors of the war and the Nazi occupation by fighting in secret, his courage bolstered by his love for Anna and for the life he dreams they will one day share.

I don’t normally like war stories, but Pino’s love for Anna was inspiring and his determination to reach her was admirable.

 

A Criminal Defense by Williams Myers

Losing the trial of his life could mean losing everything.

When a young reporter is found dead and a prominent Philadelphia businessman is accused of her murder, Mick McFarland finds himself involved in the case of his life. The defendant, David Hanson, was Mick’s close friend in law school, and the victim, a TV news reporter, had reached out to Mick for legal help only hours before her death.

Mick’s played both sides of Philadelphia’s courtrooms. As a top-shelf defense attorney and former prosecutor, he knows all the tricks of the trade. And he’ll need every one of them to win.

But as the trial progresses, he’s disturbed by developments that confirm his deepest fears. This trial, one that already hits too close to home, may jeopardize his firm, his family—everything. Now Mick’s only way out is to mastermind the most brilliant defense he’s ever spun, one that will cross every legal and moral boundary.

 

 

This story had some very clever twists and the ending was justified and unexpected.

 

The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne

Professor Theo Cray is trained to see patterns where others see chaos. So when mutilated bodies found deep in the Montana woods leave the cops searching blindly for clues, Theo sees something they missed. Something unnatural. Something only he can stop.

As a computational biologist, Theo is more familiar with digital code and microbes than the dark arts of forensic sleuthing. But a field trip to Montana suddenly lands him in the middle of an investigation into the bloody killing of one of his former students. As more details, and bodies, come to light, the local cops determine that the killer is either a grizzly gone rogue… or Theo himself. Racing to stay one step ahead of the police, Theo must use his scientific acumen to uncover the killer. Will he be able to become as cunning as the predator he hunts—before he becomes its prey?

I found this book surprisingly gripping. It’s a slow starter but stick with it.

 

 

 

 

 

True Fiction by Lee Goldberg

 

#1 New York Times bestselling author Lee Goldberg hits the ground running in a breakneck thriller where truth and fiction collide for the unluckiest writer alive.

When a passenger jet crashes onto the beaches of Waikiki, bestselling thriller writer Ian Ludlow knows the horrific tragedy wasn’t an accident.

Years before, the CIA enlisted Ian to dream up terrorism scenarios to prepare the government for nightmares they couldn’t imagine. Now one of those schemes has come true, and Ian is the only person alive who knows how it was done…and who is behind the plot. That makes him too dangerous to live.

Ian goes on the run, sweeping up an innocent bystander in his plight–Margo French, a dog walker and aspiring singer. They are pursued by assassins and an all-seeing global-intelligence network that won’t stop until Ian and Margo are dead. Ian has written thrillers like this before, but this time he doesn’t know how it’s going to end–or if he will be alive to find out.

 

 

Action packed and hilarious.

 

 

It Ends with Her by Brianna Labuskes

He started the game. She’ll end it. 

FBI special agent Clarke Sinclair doesn’t give up easily. She’s spent years tracking serial killer Simon Cross, forced to follow his twisted clues and photographs across the country. Clarke knows that Cross selects only redheaded women and that he doesn’t target another victim until Clarke discovers the previous one.

He’s never broken pattern…until now.

A girl has already gone missing in upstate New York when a second one is kidnapped—a blonde. The killer’s MO has changed, sending Clarke back to the drawing board. The closer she gets to the truth, the deeper she’s drawn into an inescapable trap made just for Clarke. Whatever Cross’s ultimate game is, it ends with her.

A deadly game of cat-and-mouse with multiple points of view.

 

 

A Dark Lure by Loreth Anne White

 

Twelve years ago, Sarah Baker was abducted by the Watt Lake Killer and sexually assaulted for months before managing to escape. The killer was caught, but Sarah lost everything: her marriage, her child, and the life she loved.

Struggling with PTSD, Sarah changes her name to Olivia West and finds sanctuary working on Broken Bar Ranch. But as her scars finally begin to heal, a cop involved with her horrific case remains convinced the Watt Lake Killer is still out there. He sets a lure for the murderer, and a fresh body is discovered. Now Olivia must face the impossible—could the butcher be back, this time to finish the job?

As a frigid winter isolates the ranch, only one person can help Olivia: Cole McDonough, a writer, adventurer, and ranch heir who stirs long-dormant feelings in her. But this time, Olivia’s determination to shut out her past may destroy more than her chance at love. It could cost her her life.

 

 

 

A dark novel of survival and healing.

 

The Gravity of Us by Brittainy C. Cherry

Graham Russell and I weren’t made for one another.

I was driven by emotion; he was apathetic. I dreamed while he lived in nightmares. I cried when he had no tears to shed.

Despite his frozen heart and my readiness to run, we sometimes shared seconds. Seconds when our eyes locked and we saw each other’s secrets. Seconds when his lips tasted my fears, and I breathed in his pains. Seconds when we both imagined what it would be like to love one another.

Those seconds left us floating, but when reality knocked us sideways, gravity forced us to descend.

Graham Russell wasn’t a man who knew how to love, and I wasn’t a woman who knew how to either. Yet if I had the chance to fall again, I’d fall with him forever.

Even if we were destined to crash against solid ground.

Again, stick with it, you’ll thank me later.

 

 

The Girl on the Bridge by James Hayman

From New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed McCabe and Savage series comes an electrifying new thriller of taut and twisted suspense.

On a freezing December night, Hannah Reindel leaps to her death from an old railway bridge into the rushing waters of the river below. Yet the real cause of death was trauma suffered twelve years earlier when Hannah was plucked from a crowd of freshman girls at a college fraternity party, drugged, and then viciously assaulted by six members of the college football team.

Those responsible have never faced or feared justice. Until now. A month after Hannah’s death, Joshua Thorne—former Holden College quarterback and now a Wall Street millionaire—is found murdered, his body bound to a bed and brutally mutilated.

When a second attacker dies in mysterious circumstances, detectives Mike McCabe and Maggie Savage know they must find the killer before more of Hannah’s attackers are executed. But they soon realize, these murders may not be simple acts of revenge, but something far more sinister.

The Girl on the Bridge is a compelling and harrowing tale of suspense that once read will not easily be forgotten.

 

Disturbing story but a satisfying ending.

 

Stuck-Up Suit by Vi Keeland / Penelope Ward

Four consecutive weeks on the New York Times and #1 in Romance. 

It started out like any other morning on the train.
Until I became mesmerized by the guy sitting across the aisle.
He was barking at someone on his phone like he ruled the world.
Who did the stuck-up suit think he was…God?
Actually, he looked like a God. That was about it.
When his stop came, he got up suddenly and left. So suddenly, he dropped his phone on the way out.
I might have picked it up.
I might have gone through all of his photos and called some of the numbers.
I might have held onto the mystery man’s phone for days―until I finally conjured up the courage to return it.
When I traipsed my ass across town to his fancy company, he refused to see me.
So, I left the phone on the empty desk outside the arrogant jerk’s office.
I might have also left behind a dirty picture on it first though.
I didn’t expect him to text back.
I didn’t expect our exchanges to be hot as hell.
I didn’t expect to fall for him―all before we even met.
The two of us couldn’t have been any more different.
Yet, you know what they say about opposites.
When we finally came face to face, we found out opposites sometimes do more than attract―we consumed each other.
Nothing could have prepared me for the ride he took me on. And I certainly wasn’t prepared for where I’d wind up when the ride was over.
All good things must come to an end, right?
Except our ending was one I didn’t see coming.

Cute and steamy.

 

Wait for it by Mariana Zapata

If anyone ever said being an adult was easy, they hadn’t been one long enough. Diana Casillas can admit it: she doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing half the time. How she’s made it through the last two years of her life without killing anyone is nothing short of a miracle. Being a grown-up wasn’t supposed to be so hard. With a new house, two little boys she inherited the most painful possible way, a giant dog, a job she usually loves, more than enough family, and friends, she has almost everything she could ever ask for. Except for a boyfriend. Or a husband. But who needs either one of those?

 

Three words: The. Sock. Story. I laughed a full five minutes, tears streaming down my face, after reading that part. I don’t feel compelled to write reviews very often, but this story, this story was sweet, raw, selfless, touching and real all at once. Diana was strong, vulnerable, independent and loving, I could easily be her friend. Her sense of humor had me smiling, chuckling and full out laughing multiple times through her story. I loved all of the characters in this story. I loved the simple complexity of this story. I loved the writing, it was easy, real, didn’t feel forced or stilted and it never, not once, jerked me out of the story. I felt like I was standing right alongside Diana every step of the way. I felt every emotion and every struggle as if I was one of her many friends helping to live her life. This story pulled every emotion out of my body so that not only was I satisfied when it ended, I was also a little relieved. I don’t have many friends, and that’s by choice. People grate on my last nerve – too whiny, too selfish, too self absorbed, too ignorant too …. something. The few friends I have are more like Diana, well rounded, independent, compassionate, honest, funny as hell and just good PEOPLE. This is why I loved Diana. We need more Diana’s in this word. Thank you for an excellent story, Ms. Zapata.

I have since read a few more books by Mariana Zapata and she’s fast becoming one of my favorite authors. CHECK HER OUT.

 

The Ghostwriter by Alessandra Torre

Four years ago, I lied. I stood in front of the police, my friends and family, and made up a story, my best one yet. And all of them believed me. 

I wasn’t surprised. Telling stories is what made me famous. Fifteen bestsellers. Millions of fans. Fame and fortune.

Now, I have one last story to write. It’ll be my best one yet, with a jaw-dropping twist that will leave them stunned and gasping for breath.

They say that sticks and stones will break your bones, but this story? It will be the one that kills me.

This book is not a romance. It is contemporary fiction, but very suspenseful in nature. It is about a famous romance author and a dark secret she keeps

 

 

 

 

The Memory of Butterflies by Grace Green

To keep a devastating family secret from being revealed, a young mother’s desperate lies could end up destroying everything, and everyone, she loves. The Memory of Butterflies is a poignant story of family and forgiveness—of knowing when to let go and when to hold each other close.

Hannah Cooper’s daughter is leaving for college soon. The change is bittersweet. A single mother since the age of eighteen, Hannah isn’t eager to confront the pain of being alone, but she’s determined not to let her own hang-ups keep Ellen from the future she deserves. As Ellen’s high school graduation approaches, Hannah decides it’s time to return to her roots in Cooper’s Hollow along Virginia’s beautiful and rustic Cub Creek.

With the help of longtime friend Roger Westray, Hannah devotes her energies to building a new house on the site of the old family home, destroyed in a fire more than a decade ago. But Hannah’s entire adult life has revolved around one very big secret. And her new beginning comes with unanticipated risks that will cost her far more than she could have imagined—perhaps more than she can survive.

When a confrontation forces Hannah to expose her secret, the truth may destroy her beloved daughter. Hannah is prepared to sacrifice everything to protect her family, but can their lives and their bond withstand the seismic shift that’s coming?

 

(Geez, I didn’t realize how many 5-star books I read over this past year – but that’s a good thing!)

 

Drive by Kate Stewart

Music . . . the heart’s greatest librarian. 

The average song is three and a half minutes long; those three and a half minutes could lead to a slow blink, a glimpse of the past, or catapult the soul into heart-shattering nostalgia.

At the height of my career, I had the life I wanted, the life I’d always envisioned. I’d found my tempo, my rhythm. Then I received a phone call that left me off key.

You see, my favorite songs had a way of playing simultaneously. I was in love with one man’s beats and another’s lyrics. But when it came to the soundtrack of a life, how could anyone choose a favorite song? So, to erase any doubt, I ditched my first-class ticket and decided to take a drive, fixed on the rearview.

Two days.

One playlist.

And the long road home to the man who was waiting for me.

 

Into the Light by Aleatha Romig

Sara Adams awakes blind, unable to remember the most basic details of her life, but her darkness seems a blessing when she discovers the terrors of The Light.

Stella Montgomery investigates the news on the mean streets of Detroit, where she’s noticed a disturbing trend: young women are vanishing. When her best friend disappears, Stella investigates—despite warnings from her police detective boyfriend—following a twisted trail that leads her through the city’s most dangerous and forsaken precincts. There she uncovers something more sinister than she could have imagined: a shadowy organization known as The Light, led by the enigmatic Father Gabriel.

As Sara struggles to understand her place in the strange world she’s awakened to—an oppressive cult demanding unquestioning obedience—and her feelings for Jacob, the husband she can’t recall and whose harsh and tender attentions confuse and beguile her, Stella risks all to discover the truth. But enlightenment always comes with a price…

 

 

 

 

Away from the Dark by Aleatha Romig

(I loved her other book so much, I dove into her next one).

Nine months ago, Sara Adams awoke with no memory. The man holding her hand told her she’s a member of The Light, a tight-knit religious group led by the terrifying and charismatic Father Gabriel. As a woman in the community of The Light, her duty is to be unquestionably obedient and to submit to the will of her husband.

But as Sara’s memory starts to return and she remembers her past, she sees that everything she’s been told is a lie. The Light is an insidious and dangerous organization, and its corrupting influence reaches well beyond the confines of the remote campus where Sara is being held.

With everything at stake, Sara struggles to sort out her true memories from her indoctrination. The desire to escape consumes her, but who can she trust? And which other followers of The Light were forced into this life, brainwashed to believe they belonged? The more she remembers, the more it becomes clear that Jacob, the man who calls himself her husband, is keeping shattering secrets of his own.

But Sara cannot flee alone, leaving innocents behind. She must fight to extinguish The Light.

 

 

 

 

The Drowned Girls by Lorenth Anne White

He surfaced two years ago. Then he disappeared … 

But Detective Angie Pallorino never forgot the violent rapist who left a distinctive calling card—crosses etched into the flesh of his victim’s foreheads.

When a comatose Jane Doe is found in a local cemetery, sexually assaulted, mutilated, and nearly drowned, Angie is struck by the eerie similarities to her earlier unsolved rapes. Could he be back?

Then the body of a drowned young woman floats up in the Gorge, also bearing the marks of the serial rapist, and the hunt for a predator becomes a hunt for a killer. Assigned to the joint investigative task force, Angie is more than ready to prove that she has what it takes to break into the all-male homicide division. But her private life collides with her professional ambitions when she’s introduced to her temporary partner, James Maddocks—a man she’d met the night before in an intense, anonymous encounter.

Together, Angie and Maddocks agree to put that night behind them. But as their search for the killer intensifies so does their mutual desire. And Angie’s forays into the mind of a monster shake lose some unsettling secrets about her own past . . .

How can she fight for the truth when it turns out her whole life is a lie? 

 

From Lukov with Love by Mariana Zapata

If someone were to ask Jasmine Santos to describe the last few years of her life with a single word, it would definitely be a four-letter one. 

After seventeen years—and countless broken bones and broken promises—she knows her window to compete in figure skating is coming to a close.

But when the offer of a lifetime comes in from an arrogant idiot she’s spent the last decade dreaming about pushing in the way of a moving bus, Jasmine might have to reconsider everything.

Including Ivan Lukov.

 

 

 

 

The Wall of Winnipeg by Mariana Zapata

Vanessa Mazur knows she’s doing the right thing. She shouldn’t feel bad for quitting. Being an assistant/housekeeper/fairy godmother to the top defensive end in the National Football Organization was always supposed to be temporary. She has plans and none of them include washing extra-large underwear longer than necessary.

But when Aiden Graves shows up at her door wanting her to come back, she’s beyond shocked.

For two years, the man known as The Wall of Winnipeg couldn’t find it in him to tell her good morning or congratulate her on her birthday. Now? He’s asking for the unthinkable.

What do you say to the man who is used to getting everything he wants?

 

 

 

 

Arrogant Devil by R.S. Grey

Everyone in Cedar Creek, Texas, knows Jack McNight is an arrogant devil. Physically, I get it: he’s tan and fit, with coal-black hair that’s clearly been scorched by hellfire. Oh, and his personality? It burns just as hot.

When I show up on the doorstep of Blue Stone Ranch, I’m run-down and rockin’ my last pair of underwear. I’m hoping for a savior, but instead, I find him.

My opinion of Jack is marred by a dismal first impression, but his opinion of me is tainted even before I arrive. He’s heard I’m a spoiled princess there to take advantage of his goodwill. To him, I’m more trouble than I’m worth.

Our button-pushing banter should get under my skin. His arrogance should be a major turn-off. Problem is, devils are known to offer their own form of temptation.

Every one of his steely glares sends a shiver down my spine.

Every steamy encounter leaves me reeling.

Sure, it could be the Texas heat messing with my head, but there’s no way I’ll survive the summer without silencing him with a kiss and wrestling him out of those Wranglers.

Who knows…going to bed with the devil might just be the salvation I’ve been looking for all along.

 

Spilled Milk by K.L Randis

Brooke Nolan is a battered child who makes an anonymous phone call about the escalating brutality in her home.

When social services jeopardize her safety condemning her to keep her father’s secret, it’s a glass of spilled milk at the dinner table that forces her to speak about the cruelty she’s been hiding. In her pursuit for safety and justice Brooke battles a broken system that pushes to keep her father in the home.

When jury members and a love interest congregate to inspire her to fight, she risks losing the support of family and comes to the realization that some people simply do not want to be saved.

Spilled Milk is a novel of shocking narrative, triumph and resiliency.

 

 

 

 

The Fourth Monkey by J.D. Barker

For over five years, the Four Monkey Killer has terrorized the residents of Chicago. When his body is found, the police quickly realize he was on his way to deliver one final message, one which proves he has taken another victim who may still be alive.

As the lead investigator on the 4MK task force, Detective Sam Porter knows even in death, the killer is far from finished. When he discovers a personal diary in the jacket pocket of the body, Porter finds himself caught up in the mind of a psychopath, unraveling a twisted history in hopes of finding one last girl, all while struggling with personal demons of his own.

With only a handful of clues, the elusive killer’s identity remains a mystery. Time is running out and the Four Monkey Killer taunts from beyond the grave in this masterfully written fast-paced thriller.

 

 

 

My review of this book:

I never thought I would say this, but I actually grew to like, (respect?), the bad guy. You couldn’t help but feel sorry for his circumstances. This story was full of twists and the author did an excellent of job of wrapping the plot up into a white box and tying it off with a black string for the reader. Highly recommend. Excellent read.

 

And there you have it! Wow, sorry for the long post, but I guess 21 five-star books out of 85 is pretty good. I HIGHLY recommend any of these books, if you’re looking for something decent to read this next year, and if you’re part of Kindle Unlimited, you can get them for free!

I’m looking forward to “cracking” open (though I don’t actually read physical books, Ebooks for the win for me) a new set of interesting books this year. I hope I have as good of luck with these next batches of book that I did in 2018.

You can keep track of what I’m reading via the Goodreads’ Widget in the right-hand column, if you’re so inclined.

HAPPY READING!

Book Corner

Book Review: The Sholes Key

Amazon Kindle link

My Grade: C

Author’s Website

Plot / Premise

All across London, single mothers are vanishing. Margaret Hill, mother of two, walked out of her house two months before, never seen again. A month later, Carrie-Anne Morgans takes her two-year-old son for a walk in the park and disappears leaving him alone in his stroller. Lorna McCauley leaves her London flat in the early hours of the morning to buy medicine for her sick child and disappears.

Newly promoted Detective Inspector Theophilus Blackwell is assigned the case of Lorna McCauley, which, on the outside seems to be a simple case of mid-life crisis and child abandonment. Elsewhere in London, MI5 analyst, Sophia Evans, is working undercover to catch an animal rights group responsible for targeted bombings.

As her case (and her personal life) fall to pieces, she receives a strange envelope in the mail. It contains a picture of Lorna McCauley s lifeless face along with a daunting code. Now the police and MI5 are forced to work together to stop the murders, and Sophia must find her way into the terrifying mind of a serial killer

My Thoughts

I would have given this book four stars save for one thing: the whole sub-story with Marc. What was the purpose of that? I thought it detracted from the whole story. If the author wanted to give Theo and Sophia an opportunity to meet, there would have been easier, less awkward ways of doing that. I would have preferred to see the entire Marc/bombing story deleted and a blooming interest between Theo and Sophia develop throughout the story. There would have been plenty of emotional conflict given Theo’s wife’s situation. I felt like the whole Marc story was thrown in there as an afterthought and it just didn’t add anything to the story, in my opinion. In fact, it was distracting and a bit annoying, if you want the truth.

Other than than, the story was interesting and moved along nicely.

Book Corner

Book Review: The Do-Over

Amazon Kindle link

My Grade: B-

Author’s Website

Plot / Premise

Just before her fortieth birthday, Mara Jane Mulligan, devoted wife and mother, runs out of bubble bath, and the ensuing panic attack drives her to Canada for more. She realizes that one foamy soak probably won’t cure what ails her, so she takes a 30 day vacation from her life. (What woman doesn’t need one of those?)

Surely her family will understand. Her son’s visiting Grandma, and maybe her husband won’t even miss her. Unfortunately, her husband doesn’t miss much and tracks her to Abundance, a Vancouver bubble bath company.

As her 30 days sail by, Mara Jane Mulligan discovers she has a decision to make that even Dorothy couldn’t avoid… Will she click her heels for home or kick them up for good?

My Thoughts

I liked this story – I was scared to really like this story.

I’m pushing 50, half my life is over. (Because I fully intend to live until I’m 100, with mind and body intact, thank you very much). So this story really resonated with me. It’s human nature to sit back and wonder .. what if? What if I had made different choices? What if I make a change now? What if I choose door B instead of stepping through door A. And what lies behind door C? I think we can all relate to the age-old question – is there more??

I confess, I almost stopped reading a few times. The character’s thoughts were all over the place and it was hard to stay in this character’s head, let alone try and empathize with her, for very long – there were times she wouldn’t finish a thought before another, even less rational thought, would pop into her head.

But that’s what happens when we’re confused. Nothing makes sense. When our normal day-to-day life changes, whether with, or without, our conscience consent, it’s hard to find a firm hold on an alternate reality. So … the character’s messy thoughts somehow … seemed appropriate, given what she was going through.

But here’s what I really liked about this story – the character didn’t just give up and walk away from her responsibilities or her life. She didn’t simply focus on her selfish motivations – she bathed in the sweet-smelling fragrance, liked it, didn’t want to give up her new-found happiness, but then made the decision to go back anyway. She gave her husband a chance to change WITH HER. She didn’t just write him off and decide she didn’t love him anymore, she made her wishes for change known, granted, she went about it in an overly drastic fashion (one would have to be completely dense to miss the furniture out on the lawn and the entire house painted yellow not to GET THE HINT), but she was not only brave enough to take the first step for change, she was even more brave to ask her husband if he would make the journey with her.

How many women would have simply written off the old in favor of the new?

Exactly.

It was refreshing to follow a character who made a responsible choice for a change. I get so sick of selfish characters, whether fictional or real, who think of nothing but, “I want a change and screw everyone else” mentality. (This of course, does not apply to women who decide to leave an abusive, or unhealthy, relationship – then one MUST be selfish in those instances to maintain one’s health, or even life).

I’ve been married for almost 24 years. Life DOES get stale after a while and change can be good. If there is one thing everyone can count one in life, its change. The beautiful part about this philosophy is when you have a partner who is willing to change right alongside with you.

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