Book Review: The Forgotten Girls

review-cover-the forgotten girlsTitle: The Forgotten Girls [Stevens & Windmere 6]

Author: Owen Laukkanen

Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

She was a forgotten girl, a runaway found murdered on the High Line train through the northern Rocky Mountains and, with little local interest, put into a dead file. But she was not alone. When Kirk Stevens and Carla Windermere of the joint FBI-BCA violent crime force stumble upon the case, they discover a horror far greater than anyone expected—a string of murders on the High Line, all of them young women drifters whom no one would notice.

But someone has noticed now. Through the bleak midwinter and a frontier land of forbidding geography, Stevens and Windermere follow a frustratingly light trail of clues—and where it ends, even they will be shocked.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I wanted to like The Forgotten Girls by Owen Laukkanen more than I did, but honestly, I’m not sure I was the right audience. The cover was gorgeous, the description sounded interesting—the plot kept me involved with the story… but I tend to prefer character-driven fiction, and even though I do enjoy thrillers and mysteries, I had a hard time connecting to the characters in this story.

The first part of the story was built around Mila, a girl who’s best friend has gone missing, and then part way through the book, the majority of the story switches to the killer. It was a strange dynamic to get so involved with one character and then switch to another. That aside, there wasn’t a lot of time put into getting to know any of the characters deeply, and because of this, I found them rather interchangeable. I didn’t feel upset over any of the deaths, I was only mildly irritated with the killer, and by 70% into the book, I’d completely lost interest. I did finish the book, but it was a slog to get through the ending, because I just didn’t care about the characters, and the murders were so briefly touched upon that I didn’t have a macabre fascination to keep me interested in what was happening.

Was it a bad book, though? No. It was well edited and well written. I didn’t get hung up on the sentence structure, vocabulary, or any other sort of technical error. The story moved smoothly and cleanly from one event to another, and I never got confused or lost—but there was a lack of tension that I felt should have been present, and because of that and my lack of interest in the characters, I found it hard to push through the slow pace of the story.

I think if you like mystery books that aren’t too complicated and don’t have too much gore, you may enjoy this book quite a bit—like I said, it was well written, but if you’re like me and prefer character driven fiction or gripping thrillers, this may be a little bit off the mark for you. I gave this book 3 stars because it was a bit of a “meh…” read for me. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t awful either, it just didn’t interest me as much as I’d hoped.

Book Review: Legacy of Lies

review-cover-legacy of liesTitle: Legacy of Lies [Hell’s Valley 1]

Author: Jillian David

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Thriller, Paranormal

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Garrison Taggart doesn’t have time to deal with touchy-feely junk like “trust issues” or “feelings.” His dad’s health is waning and the family’s Wyoming ranch is being sabotaged. Too bad his supernatural ability to tell when someone is lying has been exactly zero help in ferreting out the betrayer so far. So, when sweet schoolteacher Sara Lopez raises concerns about his son being bullied, who can blame a guy for getting a little testy?

The last thing Sara needs is any more attention or gossip after her recent breakup with big-shot rancher Hank Brand. So her attraction to surly but sexy Garrison, Hank’s rival, is entirely unwanted. When she uncovers an insane plot to kidnap the Taggart boy and throws herself in harm’s way to protect him, Garrison must risk his deepest secret and his own life to save the people he cares for the most. But will his heroics cost him everything?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I really enjoyed Legacy of Lies by Jillian David. It was a strange and fresh new concept of a contemporary rancher-romance juxtaposed with elements of paranormal and thriller, which isn’t something I’ve run across in the past.

Technically speaking, the book was well written. There were no obvious or jarring typos. The narrative was clean, flowed easily, and for the most part, the dialogue was believable and natural.

The main characters were flawed, interesting, and adorable in their strained romance—but I also think they were possibly the weakest point of the story. I liked them—I did, but there was this weird back and forth with the two main characters where they loved each other, but kept self-doubting their way out of the relationship. The way they kept backing out of the romance was irritating, frustrating, and honestly, didn’t make a lot of sense at times. It came across as a bit contrived.

That aside, I still greatly enjoyed the book. The plot was new and interesting, I liked the characters and their development. Had it not been for the constant self-doubt of the main characters, this easily would have gotten 5 stars. I was entertained, and I got sucked into the book. There’s not much more I can ask for. If you enjoy rancher-romances or enjoy contemporary paranormal or romantic thrillers, you’ll probably really enjoy this story. I’d suggest giving it a try.

Book Review: Cloud Cuckoo

review-cover-cloud cuckooTitle: Cloud Cuckoo [The Never Dawn 2]

Author: R.E. Palmer

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Science Fiction

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Following their shock discovery, Noah and Rebekah reluctantly return to the lower levels of The Ark. Isolated and apart once more, Noah struggles to remember what happened at the surface and suspects Mother has altered his memory.

But Noah’s attempts to unite the workers to rebel are halted when Mother begins The Purge. Her cruel, relentless trials bring Noah to breaking point as he fights to survive when faced by his worst fears. Forced to accept Mother’s terms after a month in Re-Education, Noah finally learns the truth about his people’s past that leave him determined to defeat her once and for all.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Cloud Cuckoo by R. E. Palmer was a great addition to the Never Dawn trilogy. Often after a good book, subsequent books in the series don’t always live up to the quality or the hype of the first book, but in this case, that definitely wasn’t true. My daughter and I read this book together and often found ourselves reading for several hours at a time, often into the wee hours of the morning. We were sucked into Noah’s world.

Technically speaking, much like the first book, I was given a copy that had quite a few typos/errors in it, but again, these didn’t bother me. None of the errors were jarring or subtracted from the story in any way. The writing was clean, concise, and easy to follow, and the story moved at a good pace. It was constructed in such a way that by the end of every chapter, I couldn’t keep myself from continuing on into the next chapter. I was drawn in.

Much like the previous book, the characters were a delight and the world building was expansive and well constructed. One of my favorite parts of this particular book, however, was the change in scenery for Noah. We got to see new parts of the ship. We got to spend more time with characters we hadn’t previously gotten to. There were the same old mysteries, but also a lot of new ones as Noah found out more and more about his world and the people in it.

Overall, I loved this book. I love this series, and my daughter would easily say the same. R.E. Palmer has become one of my new favorite authors. If you enjoy YA or dystopian stories, I would highly recommend you pick up this series and give it a try. You will not regret it. I am so excited to see what the third book has in store for us when it’s released!

Book Review: An Intriguing Proposition

review-book-an intriguing propositionAuthor: An Intriguing Proposition [The Defiant Hearts Series Prequel]

Title: Sydney Jane Baily

Genre: Historical, Romance

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Following her father’s untimely death, eldest daughter Elise Malloy discovers that the family home is collateral for a mysterious loan. With no record of payments made from her father’s accounts, whoever was paying the bank has now stopped, and foreclosure is imminent.

Desperate to keep the news from her grieving, funds-starved family, Elise answers the bank summons and faces Michael Bradley, an old flame who still owns her heart. When Michael extends an unseemly dinner invitation, Elise invents a nameless suitor as an excuse.

Now, to save face, she must produce him.

Jonathan Amory, Esquire, seems the perfect choice, until her long-desired relationship with Michael unexpectedly catches fire, and Jonathan makes it clear he will stop at nothing to destroy her family and lock her into a loveless marriage.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I nearly didn’t make it through this book, which is an odd thing to say about something I ended up giving 4 stars to. The beginning was slow, the main female lead came across as weak and demure, and there was something about the opening sequence that just didn’t sit well with me. Maybe it was the contradictions in the way we were first introduced to the main characters, maybe it was the fact that my pet peeve over having a character commit actions out of sequence (reaction before action) that had me all riled up. Regardless, I never put the book down.

But I didn’t.

By the time the love interest and Elise’s situation came into play, I was engrossed in the story (though I admit, I was hoping for a twist to the romance plot that sadly didn’t happen). The romance between Elise and Michael was sweet and adorable. I do wish there had been a little more sexual tension or tension at all in their relationship… I think it could have been dragged out a little more, but overall it was lovely. The only thing that really bothered me about the plot is that the one gay character also happened to be the ‘bad guy’. Yes, I do understand that at that time it was generally frowned upon, but did he have to be gay to be the bad guy? No.

Other than that, the book was pretty well written. I only ran into one typo. The book flowed well, and it was easy to sink into. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a sweet historical romance with a tiny bit of sultry spice to it.

Book Review: Bite of a Vampire

review-cover-bite of a vampireTitle: Bite of a Vampire [Volume 1]

Author: Anna Belsky

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Vampires

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

I never was a romance novel kind of girl, maybe that’s why I decided to get in the business of proving that love was meant to be unfaithful. Call me bitter but my full name is Emily Johnson, and I work as a private investigator for Jonesville Extramarital Affairs. It’s my daily job to investigate, snap photos of and usually proves that a spouse has found someone else to dilly-dally with. It was a bit of a dream job after having my own respect and dignity broken so many times in college by a guy named Robert, Bob for short. I don’t hold a grudge against him, he was my first, and he taught me that love relationships are not really things that exist. My best friend Abby doesn’t believe me so I decided to prove my point and become a Private Investigator.

On this night Emily’s world turns upside down when she comes across a vampire attacking one of her investigations. She is swept into a world of the supernatural and must draw from all her experiences as Private Investigator to survive… or so she thinks until she meets Michael.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Bite of a Vampire by Anna Belsky was a fun, if short, endeavor into an imaginative vampire-filled world. To be honest, I’m a little up in the air over it. It was a fun book. I liked the characters, I liked the intrigue of the plotline, the danger, and the steamy romance. There was a good amount of gore and danger, and the more paranormal aspects of the books (like the ghosts) were really well done.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the book was perfect. The editing in this book was poorly done. I ran into dozens of grammatical mistakes, misspellings, and sentences that just made no sense. The errors made me pause several times to re-read, and ultimately pulled me out of the book. The writing style was first person, present tense…but sometimes that tense was messed up. The style of the writing was a little underdeveloped, and it often felt like I was being ‘told’ the story a little too much, rather than the author letting me sink into the narrative.

Was the book terrible? No. I did enjoy it—but I think it could have easily been better than what it was. The story was just too short to do it’s characters and plotline justice, and the editing was sub-par, making it a difficult book to get into. This is something I’d recommend for people looking for a light, paranormal read to soak in on a bus ride.

Book Review: My Fair Assassin

review-cover-my fair assassin

Title: My Fair Assassin

Author: C.J. Anaya

Genre: Urban, Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

It’s not everyday a teenage girl is singled out for assassination.

Crysta has come to accept the fact that she is freakishly different. Her shocking white hair, creepy powers, and weird eating habits have prevented her from fitting in with her various foster families. Now that she is fully emancipated and providing for herself, she hopes that life will settle down and become something halfway normal.

Her hopes are shattered when a dangerous man with lethal intent breaks into her apartment, but this enticing stranger isn’t what he seems. Is he here to kill her or protect her from others who will?

My Fair Assassin is a romantic short story with elements of paranormal and urban fantasy woven in for an entertaining read. It also touches on social issues involving personal self-esteem and acceptance. Adults and teens alike will enjoy getting lost in the pages of Crysta’s story as she finally comes to accept who she is…or rather what she is.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Though perhaps a bit short, I enjoyed My Fair Assassin by C.J. Anaya. The book was well written—I spotted maybe one typo in the entire book, which is pretty fantastic for any book, traditionally published or otherwise. The writing was clear, easy to follow, and moved at a decent pace.

I will admit that the characters struck me as a bit under-developed though. It didn’t feel as though Crysta was a genuine 17-year-old, and given her upbringing, she seemed a bit too well-adjusted to be believable. She felt fabricated at times because of this, and older than she was meant to be. Jareth on the other hand came across as, well, a bit dumb to be honest. I understand that he was meant to be simply ignorant of the idiosyncrasies of human culture and language, but between his complete lack of understanding of the nuances of a language he seemed quite fluent in and his penchant for bowing to Crysta’s will, he came across as a bit of a pushover, and maybe even a little air-headed. Also, despite his proclivity for speaking Gaelic, we never actually heard him even hint at using his professed favorite language. Outside of the two main characters, we barely saw any other characters in the story, and the ones we did see (Crysta and Jareth), didn’t seem well developed.

That being said, I did enjoy the story, and despite the flaws, I found with the characters, I did end up liking them both. It was hard not to enjoy their relationship. The world building, though not heavily delved into, was interesting, and I especially liked the plot. Overall, it was a quick, fun, read and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a shorter story that isn’t too heavy or gritty with its world building. It’d make a great sunny afternoon read for someone looking to while away a few hours. I do wish the book had been developed a bit more, and I think if it had been, the book probably would have easily made a full-length novel, but for what it is, I found it entertaining and enjoyable.

Book Review: Tormented By Ghosts

review-cover-tormented by ghostsTitle: Tormented By Ghosts: True Life Experiences

Author: Lynda Bogert, Darrell Gibbs

Genre: Paranormal, Non-Fiction, Memoir, Horror

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

She wants to be normal, but the spirit world has other plans. Tormented by Ghosts is a true story about unfortunate encounters with ghosts and other otherworldly paranormal phenomena that have greatly affected Lynda’s life. The struggles include harrowing encounters of unwanted Out of Body Experiences (OBEs), her Near Death Experience (NDE), her horrifying visit from a demonic apparition, and mysterious bone-chilling ghostly visits. This book encompasses her thirty years of coping to learn and educate herself to understand and utilize her spiritual abilities and tools to help herself and others. Her daily battle is to overcome the paranormal and control the abilities that she has been given! Is she seeing and hearing ghosts that may have a message for her or to let themselves be known or to simply taunt her? This is a story with many stories. You’ll want to sleep with the lights on because it could also happen to you, too…

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Think what you will, I’ve been a long time believer in the supernatural—though I still consider myself a skeptic. Because of this, I am a huge fan of ghosts stories, but I also like to view ghost stories with a healthy amount of skepticism. I want proof. Evidence. Unfortunately, the way Tormented by Ghosts by Lynda Bogert was written it was very difficult to believe that these were true stories—and maybe they were—who am I to judge? My hesitance is not so much a product of the stories themselves, but the way they were presented.

Honestly, the book was not well written. The narrative rambled from topic to topic with no clear format or breaks to delineate what was happening. The writing wasn’t fluid or clear and concise, but instead hard to follow. The dialogue was about as believable as a Carebear’s scripted speech and throughout the narrative, the author threw in big bad thesaurus words like stymied and invidious that really didn’t fit the context or style of the writing.

I tried to get through this book and stick to following the story, but I just couldn’t. I didn’t like it, and I don’t know that I could recommend it. It needs another strong round with an experienced editor. Lines like “I’ve never vibrated this much in my life.” Should never have made it into the final copy.