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Currently Browsing: mystery/suspense
Jun
20

Review: At His Mercy by Shelly Bell

Review: At His Mercy by Shelly Bell At His Mercy Author: Shelly Bell Reviewer: VampBard Rating: C What I’m Talking About: While At His Mercy held promise for me, I struggle with many issues while reading it. I honestly try to leave my ‘editor eye’ out of it when I review a book. It’s…difficult, at best. I overlook typos, usage, and misplaced punctuation all the time. I mean, ARC copies can quite possibly be sent out prior to final proofreading. I know how the publishing industry works. But I struggled with this ARC. Next, a romance title can’t be all about sex scenes. While they’re a nice ‘frosting on the cake’, it can’t be the drift-from-one-sex-scene-to-the-next type of story or that makes it flat-out erotica. While we’re told that there was a veiled romance element in this title, I didn’t actually witness it myself. /soapbox. Okay. A solid Dominant/submissive relationship takes time to establish. If it’s a one-night stand, that’s one thing. However, jumping into a relationship without knowing the other person is just bad form and completely unsafe. I mean, Isabella didn’t let anyone know where she was going!!! For all she knew, Tristan was some psycho wack-job—she’d picked one before, who’s to say she didn’t pick one again? Isabella ranks up there in my Too Stupid to Learn heroines, and I didn’t feel a bit badly at the end for her. /off soapbox Tristan, for being an experienced Dom, is incredibly stupid. There’s lots of reasons, but listing them all would be spoilery. Lastly, there were plot inconsistencies. I can overlook a few here and there, but there were entirely too many going on—so much so, that I actually had to flip back in the book to make sure I wasn’t crazy several times. After all, there couldn’t be THAT many of them in the book, right?!?! Wrong. While I’m really intrigued by the premise for this title and the subsequent title(s), I think I’ll pass. My Rating: C, Finished It – Liked some, didn’t like some About the Book: Angel in his arms . . . Devil at her heels  One last, no-strings night of indulgence. That’s all Tristan wants before he begins a much-needed new chapter in his life. Instead he finds an innocent angel in pink who brings him to his knees. Isabella is done hiding from the world . . . and her haunting memories. Discovering courage in the arms of a perfect stranger, she finally lets go and sheds...
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Mar
13

Review: Insight by Santino Hassell

Review: Insight by Santino Hassell Insight Author: Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: If being raised in the intolerant, judgmental suburbs of Houston, Texas hadn’t been difficult enough, Nathaniel Black also had to bear the stigma of his family’s name. Though most of them are “gifted” with varying psychic abilities, they are better known for the resulting mental instability, addiction, and suicide that seem to accompany those talents. Nate would rather just avoid them all as much as possible. But, when the death of his identical twin brother, Theo, is labeled a suicide, Nate will do anything to discover the truth, even if it means embracing the very thing he hates most. Having read many of this author’s other titles, I’ve been very excited about Insight for quite some time. Not surprisingly, to say that I enjoyed reading it would be an understatement. While I’ve liked many books in the romance and paranormal genres, I simply can’t resist a good suspense or mystery story, and Insight kept me on edge from beginning to end. In fact, there was so much going on in this story, that this review has to be fairly limited in an effort not to ruin it. One of my favorite things about Insight is that, although there are many layers in the plot, I didn’t feel overwhelmed by a profusion of obvious distractions, which can sometimes be problematic with stories that combine elements of multiple genres. Despite the very “busy” nature of this story, however, every scene appeared to be deliberate, if not economical, in its implementation, while consistently providing enough rich detail and imagery that immersing myself in the narrative was effortless. While Insight should certainly be categorized as “Suspense” or possibly a “Thriller,” there’s no denying the significance of its romantic elements, as well. I found both Nate and Trent to be equally likable, and thought the complimentary nature of their developing relationship fit the story very nicely. Nate’s journey is one of self-acceptance as much as it is about discovering the truth, and watching him learn that he truly can be loved was a highlight of the novel for me. Overall, I think Insight is a finely-crafted exploration of a world where truths and monsters dwell beneath the skin. Nate is an intriguing protagonist, and he and Trent each won me over with little effort from the very first chapter. The many twists and turns proved to be consistently riveting, the tension building...
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Jan
5

Review: Nico by Sarah Castille

Review: Nico by Sarah Castille Nico Author: Sarah Castille Reviewer: VampBard Rating: B What I’m Talking About: I was going to start off 2017 with a DNF. It’s super rare that I do that. I’m sure the NetGalley version I received for review needed some polish before hitting the shelves. Normally, I can turn off my editor brain—and maybe it’s really not any more than normal, it’s just that I’m super sensitive to awkward wording, extra words in sentences that should’ve been deleted, and missing words. I found myself rephrasing sentences in my head several times, which interrupted my reading flow. Or, maybe I’m just irrationally irritated by stuff right now. I liked the story so much I took a peek at the sample on Amazon. **blinks** The dozen or so errors I’d marked by the time I’d reached 13% weren’t there, for the most part. So, I bought a copy. I liked the characters and the plot enough to care. Still found some stuff I couldn’t let go of as I read, but the story was good enough the couple dozen or so things I did find didn’t bother me quite as much. Part of the reason I paid for a copy when I wasn’t sure I’d 100% be able to make it through the book was because I **really** liked Mia. Her strength and bull-headedness reminded me of the me I wanted to be. That Dee in my brain. The one who was the little devil on my shoulder egging me on to do something outrageous or to buy an outfit that would make me stand out instead of blending into the crowd. Although, I don’t know whether I would’ve stood out in a good way or not. I can identify with Mia regarding her family situation, too. I am definitely on the fringes—I use a pen name when I write because it would be embarrassing to my family, and I don’t want my parents to have to explain away their smut-writing daughter. I felt a kinship with Mia that made me root for her—and her relationship with Nico. Seriously? A Mafia boss? I haven’t really read a lot of Mafia fiction. I did my fair share of researching, watching biopics, and basically stalking Al Capone during a period in my life, though. I have an affinity for Sinatra, Sammy, and Dean (and thank god for Michael Buble for the revival!). I’m all about the couture of the 50s and rockabilly, too—my...
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Aug
3

Review: The Right Kind of Trouble by Shiloh Walker

Review: The Right Kind of Trouble by Shiloh Walker The Right Kind of Trouble Author: Shiloh Walker Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Reading the McKays series has been a delight. In The Right Kind of Trouble, readers of the first two titles will be pleased to know we get to hear a whole lot more about Moira and Gideon, as well as revisiting couples we’ve come to know and love. Brannon and Hannah, as well as Neve and Ian, play integral roles through this title, which wraps up the plot arc for these characters. Moira McKay has had a rough life. Her parents’ death caused her to grow up entirely too soon, putting her own life—and love—on hold. But that’s not all. Mystery is wrapped around the matriarch of the McKay clan. What IS the ‘treasure’ of which legend was built? Moira knows, and someone is out to dredge the information out of her. Moira is an interesting character. She’s powerful, yet sensitive and—dare I say it—needy…in all the right ways. She’s afraid to show her vulnerability to those around her. As she’s grown the McKay empire, she’s learned a thing or two about trust and where to place it. The thing is, there’s always a wrench thrown into what we think we know. Moira’s strength and tenacity is what draws me to her as a character. She’s not one to give up, nor is she one to take things lightly when they’re super serious. Compounded with hits to her business holdings, Moira is…irritated, and maybe a bit terrified. She has serious cause to reflect on her life, and makes some startling revelations. This is where Gideon comes in. Not only is he the chief of police in McKay’s Treasure, he’s Moira’s the one that got away. Fireworks splash across the sky any time these two are in close proximity. We’ve seen it in the first two titles in the series, and The Right Kind of Trouble gives us a spectacular finale display. One of the things about Gideon, however, is the fact that he’s been put off so much by Moira that he’s reluctant to let his heart be entrapped by the redheaded vixen. It’s super difficult to open up and let love in when you’ve been burned by the most brilliant thing you’ve ever seen more times than you can bear. Like many of Ms. Walker’s titles, it’s difficult to review without spoilers. Suffice it to say: I DIDN’T SEE THIS ONE COMING....
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Jun
8

Review: All the Broken Places by Anise Eden

Review: All the Broken Places by Anise Eden All the Broken Places Author: Anise Eden Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: All the Broken Places was a rather interesting read, and unlike my normal fare. I liked it. Reader advisory: our main character, Cate, is dealing with the suicide death of her mom, and has suicidal ideation tendencies. If this is a trigger for you, I don’t recommend reading this title. Even though All the Broken Places deals with some tough content, I felt it was handled honestly and with incredible sensitivity. Cate, practically agoraphobic since her mom’s death ten weeks prior, is struggling to regain ‘normal’. She has a slim support system in a work colleague and her friend-with-benefits. Cate, however, is a social worker. In addition to the strong empathy a ‘normal’ social worker has, Cate is able to sense her clients with some different empathic ability. This ability is causing her additional issues as she recovers from her mom’s death, and continues to check on her clients through their bond. Her boss recommends she see someone to help her process her mother’s death, and she is sent to Dr. MacGregor. In the good doctor’s office, she is eventually able to open up about the ‘weird’ things about her. Fortunately, the doctor and her hottie son are experts in weird. They want Cate to agree to attend an intensive program for three weeks. Cate is cautious, but says she is willing to listen. As the nature of this pretty cool program is revealed to Cate, she becomes skeptical, and wants to leave the program. There’s a couple reasons she doesn’t, in my opinion. One of which is Ben MacGregor, who she is attracted to, but struggles to reconcile the emotions swirling around about him. Ben is also a bit broken, and I think all the participants in the MacGregor Group are, to some extent. I like Ben, and I am really interested to learn more about him in the next title. We got some great formative information about him in this title–just enough to whet my appetite. I was particularly interested in the world building done by the author. Ancient civilizations, alternative belief systems, and some quirky personalities make for some fascinating interactions and created all the questions for the next title. My Rating: A, Loved It About the Book: All of Cate’s problems are in her head. That may be her greatest strength.  Cate Duncan is a promising young therapist, dedicated to...
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Nov
12

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Dresden Files Part 1

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Dresden Files Part 1 Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Dresden Files Series Author: Jim Butcher Narrator: James Marsters Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Dresden Files #1-2 Genre: Urban Fantasy / Mystery Source: purchased Storm Front (#1) Wow! Just… wow! I was pleasantly surprised and extremely impressed with the audiobook of Storm Front, the first story from the Dresden Files series by James Butcher. I really didn’t know much about the series, never watched the show, and had no idea what to expect, other than I’d heard the books are good. Harry Dresden is a wizard for hire – think private investigator with a bit of a twist. No one really believes him, but there are the few who either heard rumors or are desperate enough to seek his help. Most people don’t believe in magic or the supernatural, and those that do, don’t know the full extent of its reaches. Harry works in and around both kinds of people, helping where he can. He even helps out the police special investigations unit from time to time, and their current case is one that leaves even Harry a bit disturbed. Storm Front is, at its core, a paranormal whodunit, and a complex and engrossing one at that. Told from Harry’s perspective, the listener is privy to supernatural details the average person wouldn’t pick up on. I loved how Harry’s brain works as he puts the pieces together. What I enjoyed even more were the compromises Harry must make with himself in order to do what is right in the grand scheme of things. Harry has a dark past and is subject to close scrutiny by the White Council, a sort of policing agency for wizards. Harry struggles with the best way to save those who need help, without endangering his own well-being. Unfortunately, the decisions he makes, while probably best in the long run, sometimes alienate those closest to him and even put him in the line of suspicion. What makes this book even better is the sublime narration by James Marsters. Best known for his role as Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, long gone is his cockney accent. Instead, listeners enjoy a deep, rich, soothing voice that embodies all that is Dresden: his worries, triumphs, fears, and celebrations. His cadence is extremely fitting, full of sighs, lip smacks, and pauses, creating the illusion that I’m actually inside Dresden’s mind as he works his way through the case and life. While he...
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Nov
6

Review: Ex-Con: Bad Boy Romance by M.S. Parker & Shiloh Walker

Review: Ex-Con: Bad Boy Romance by M.S. Parker & Shiloh Walker Ex-Con: Bad Boy Romance Author: M.S. Parker & Shiloh Walker Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Warning: Potential Spoilers. I absolutely love a good suspense wrapped around a fabulous romance. M.S. Parker and Shiloh Walker have created an intriguing story with a well-crafted plot that kept me riveted to the page. Ex-Con: Bad Boy Romance leads the reader down a trail, splits the path, and hops on a highway. The best kind of suspense. Carly grew up the daughter of a famous musician. I connected with her in a lot of ways—not that I have money or anything—but because she lived in a shadow, and had to put on a facade for the public. People didn’t *really* know who she was—only what she let them see. Watching her evolve from a cantankerous, saucy girl into a woman that cared deeply about things was one of the highlights of the book for me. Can’t discount Bobby though. After living through a stint in prison for killing a man—in a self-defense situation—he did his time and was paroled. Doesn’t mean it didn’t screw up his life. Doesn’t mean he didn’t have regrets. Doesn’t mean he didn’t still think he was a piece of crap, and didn’t deserve happiness. Bobby is the character I really connected with. As he grew through the book, learning to trust and learning his own value, he started to care for people. Sometimes, we don’t realize our own value. We don’t have to go through something like Bobby did—life just hands us a bad hand and we have to deal with it. And we have to deal with the aftermath. Taking a character that’s had it rough and persevered to become a beautiful person gives me hope with the students I teach, too. Watching Bobby and Carly develop as a couple was pretty spectacular, too. There’s one character, a father-figure for Carly, that we lose through the course of the story, and if you follow my reviews at all, I nearly had to put this title down. He dies from cancer, and that’s a HUGE trigger for me. We’re talking down the proverbial rabbit hole for days. I may have some fallout from that little foray, but it wasn’t a big part of the story (the cancer itself), so I’m thinking it’ll be okay. Probably. The reaction of Carly and Bobby to the death of this character was… unique. The suspense part… threats against an...
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Oct
12

Review: Lessons for Sleeping Dogs by Charlie Cochrane

Review: Lessons for Sleeping Dogs by Charlie Cochrane Lessons for Sleeping Dogs Author: Charlie Cochrane Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: While I was excited to have the opportunity to review a Cambridge Fellows mystery, I was also worried that my lack of familiarity with the series might impact my ability to lose myself in the story. Happily, that wasn’t the case at all, although I enjoyed the relationship between the two main characters a great deal and would like to read all the previous stories just to witness its evolution from the beginning. While there are plenty of tender moments between Jonty and Orlando, Lessons for Sleeping Dogs is well balanced throughout, and the mystery at the center of it all was very easy to become wrapped up in. Despite a few references to past cases, Lessons for Sleeping Dogs follows one specific case from beginning to end, and I had no trouble following along. The case itself I found thoroughly intriguing, and I enjoyed trying to puzzle through each new development as the narrative progressed. Both men brought different strengths to the process, and their continual efforts to out-theorize each other were highly entertaining. Although it started as a fairly clear-cut situation, the mystery kept shifting in increasingly unexpected directions, making the story as a whole a lot of fun to read. Of course, Jonty and Orlando’s relationship is the heart of the story, and it was a pleasure to see the obvious affection they share. There was a sweetness to their interactions that has clearly been borne of time, experience, and sacrifice, and, while I was certainly able to enjoy their sleuthing, it was apparent that I’d missed a lot between the two, which I truly regret. Easily shifting from teasing to concern, from flirtation to propriety, and so forth, theirs is a genuine partnership, the warmth they feel for one another achingly evident from the very first scene. Although there is no lack of passion in Lessons for Sleeping Dogs, the realities of the lovers’ circumstances are always present, and any scenes of a more carnal nature are more abstract than explicit—something that fit the narrative well, and added to my overall enjoyment of the story. Lessons for Sleeping Dogs was a wonderful introduction to the Cambridge Fellows mysteries, especially given my lack of familiarity with the series. While it stands alone well enough to enjoy without experiencing the series in its entirety, it was clear that I was missing a...
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Mar
27

Review: The Mourning Bells by Christine Trent

Review: The Mourning Bells by Christine Trent The Mourning Bells Author: Christine Trent Reviewer: Una Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: The Mourning Bells, the fourth installment in the Lady of Ashes Mysteries, is haunting and gripping.  Though Violet seemed a bit slow on the uptake on some of the clues in this novel, she continues to be a gripping, unique, sensitive, and unconventional sleuth. First off, I continue to love Violet.  She is a fairly down-to-earth woman, for the Victorian era.  I love that she fusses over her appearance (and the extra pounds she seems to be fighting).  These qualities help to humanize her and allow me to truly connect to her.  Despite her insecurities, she possesses determination and steadfastness for the dead and those under her care.  Her worry over Inspector Hurst’s interest in Mary, the bit of lackluster in Susanna’s personality as of late, and her husband Sam’s continued attempts to secure a loan for his coal mining venture all distract her while she tries to figure out why such strange things seem to be occurring.  Though she seemed to be slow at picking up what seemed to be to be fairly obvious clues, she does eventually catch on. Even though the clues were there, seemly obvious, the main villain wasn’t.  I enjoyed how clues were strung so plainly but the path connecting them was so twisted and hazy.  I seriously thought I had it all figured out only to be thwarted at the end when I realized how wrong I was.  This is what I truly love about this series, no matter how the clues fit together, there is always something minute I miss that turns it all around.  The nemesis in The Mourning Bells was very clever, extremely greedy, and very secretive as it turns out.  His unveiling was captivating and excruciatingly nail-biting. There are several things going on when the novel concludes.  These threads leave me wondering what is next for Violet.  I worry about Susanna and how she will do once she returns to Colorado.  Sam’s venture and the Queen’s request for Violet and Sam to join her for the opening of the canal loom in the future.  Not to mention Hurst’s continued pursuit of Mary – there is much I am anticipating in the next Lady of Ashes Mystery.  Whatever it is, you can bet I will be reading it. If you haven’t tried this series and enjoy historical mysteries with unconventional sleuths, pick up the first book,...
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Mar
17

Review: Tempest by Lisa Henry & J.A. Rock

Review: Tempest by Lisa Henry & J.A. Rock Tempest Authors: Lisa Henry & J.A. Rock Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Picking up right where Merchant of Death left off, Tempest begins at a sprint and doesn’t slow down for the duration of the story. Agent Ryan “Mac” McGuinness, not quite formerly of the FBI, and Henry Page (aka too many aliases to list), along with Henry’s twin sister, Viola, are running for their lives and heading to the only safe place Mac can think of: his parents’ farm in Altona. Again. But, with few allies and even fewer clues as to who is setting them up, getting their happy ending will take more than even the most fitting Shakespeare references can do. While I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of the stories in the Playing the Fool series, I definitely liked Tempest best. It has just the right amount of everything I appreciate about the quirkier tales I’ve had the opportunity to read. Suspenseful and exciting, Tempest makes good use of simultaneous, yet disparate, scenes that put relatively pleasant happenings on a collision course with those filled with tension or danger, resulting in a fast-paced chain of events that kept me turning pages as quickly as I could. Each main character has evolved a great deal since the first story, and, while not as obvious as Henry’s, I think that Mac’s transformation has been just as pronounced. Having admitted his feelings for the other man, at least to himself, he seems warmer and more balanced, even though his life has erupted in utter chaos with the addition of Henry. Now that Mac’s a fugitive, too, he’s become more empathetic about Henry’s circumstances, which, in turn, lends him more credibility with the very reluctant con man. Extra kudos also go to Mac for wanting to truly understand Henry, a development that provides more frustration for Henry, but, in general, is a better situation for them both. Henry continues to be an ever more winsome and fascinating character, even more so than in the first two stories. Caring about Mac is a mixed bag for Henry, but the relationship really is exactly what he needs, no matter how much he wants to run from it sometimes. Tempest is precisely that for Henry, with threats and losses hitting him from all sides; the life he’d fought to build for himself crumbling down around him. I found it impossible not to ache for him. Even though this is an understandably more somber...
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