Book Review: Mann Cakes

review-cover-mann cakesTitle: Mann Cakes

Author: Mysti Parker

Genre: Contemporary Romance, Suspense

Rating: 2 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Twin brothers and Air Force vets, Tanner and Garrett Mann, return from deployment to find their thriving business burned to the ground. Time for Plan B: Move back to their hometown of Beach Pointe to start over.

But that means running into Paige and Morgan Baxter –gorgeous, curvy, and owners of Two Sisters Cupcakes.

There’s an old diner for sale across town, Garrett’s a great cook, and Tanner has an idea. They’ll make savory cupcakes that men would like. We’re talking bacon and Cheez Whiz. Even better? They’ll call it Mann Cakes. Problem is, they end up attracting an unexpected crowd.

Paige is furious. Every man in her life has left her behind, including Tanner. She’s sacrificed everything for her shop. She won’t lose it over some egotistical ex-boyfriend, even if he does have an Air Force-chiseled body. Her younger sister, Morgan, isn’t helping matters. She’s been gaga over Garrett since high school.

To hell with that. If it’s a fight Tanner wants, it’s a fight he’ll get. But how much is Paige willing to risk to win a cupcake war?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I almost gave this book 3 stars. Almost. I just couldn’t do it. I was bored. After the first few pages, I was ready to put the book down. I hung on, and I did finish the book, but I didn’t really enjoy it.

Very little time was spent on the suspense portion of this book. The murdered friend was mentioned less than a handful of times, and other than one or two incidents in the entire book, there really was no active danger or suspense built up for the characters and reader.

There was also very little of the supposed “cupcake war” this book was about. There was maybe an hour in-book time dedicated to the war between the brothers and sisters, and it was entirely one sided and basically, only one character was even involved. Everyone else was just fine. There was no animosity between them.

The romances themselves were paced pretty identically between the two couples—so it felt like we were just seeing the same romance in an echo. The romance moved along so quickly that I didn’t feel anything for the characters. It didn’t feel realistic. The entirety of the book felt like it passed in a handful of days, and before you knew it they were at their HEA’s.

Overall, it felt like the book lacked any tension or conflict. Everything was a little too easy for the characters, and nothing really happened to move the plot or relationships forward. In the end, the book just wasn’t for me.

Free Fiction Friday #81

Hello, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Free Fiction Friday #81! For those of you who are new to this blog, or who may have missed out on the previous Free Fiction Fridays—every Friday I post an article containing 10 fiction e-books that are 100% FREE on Amazon at the time of posting and an additional 5 that are roughly of the same genre, and on sale for less than $5.

I try my best to make sure they are all 4+ stars, have over 40+ reviews, and are 100 pages minimum—so you can have a hand-picked list of the best-of-the-best to choose from and enjoy over the long weekend (while I do more important things, like laundry). I try to switch up the genres every week, and this week our theme is: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense!

THE FREE

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THE BARGAINS

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Book Review: Mind Waves

review-cover-Mind WavesTitle: Mind Waves [Mind Hackers 1]

Author: Amanda Uhl

Genre: Paranormal, Thriller, Romance

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

If he can control her mind…

Government operative David Jenkins is skilled at controlling his emotions. Feelings are lethal when your job is to infiltrate minds, erase and implant thoughts, and guard the nation’s intellectual capital. But even he can’t fight his strange attraction to Grace Woznisky. He’ll do whatever it takes to protect her from a madman intent on possessing both their minds. Neither suspect their dangerous enemy has a larger motive, and David may be Grace’s only chance for survival.

Can he control her heart?

All freelance artist Grace wants is steady-paying work and to see her flighty sister to the altar. But after David offers her a job, she finds herself in the middle of a mental tug of war—one that has her reeling from nightmares and fighting for her life. She must decide: Are her growing feelings for her new boss authentic, or is she a victim of his mind-altering abilities?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

To be honest, Mind Waves by Amanda Uhl isn’t my typical pick for a romance. Sure, it has all the elements I love in fiction: Suspense, Romance, Paranormal… but I don’t often look to combine all three. However, I find that I enjoyed this book regardless. There was a lot of tension in this book and a sense of imminent danger. The romance was equal parts dangerous, sweet, and sexy.

The only thing that didn’t quite sit right with me was the mind-reading bits (and I’ll admit that’s a pretty significant part of the book). I couldn’t get over the weird in-mind visuals of the guys fighting with long whip-like arms, the constant referral to “portals” and “happy place”. It came across as a bit cheesy. Although I can’t quite put my finger on it, it felt almost… dated… reminding me of similar books I read in the late 90’s. I’m sure it’s probably just a personal hang up… but I just couldn’t get over it.

I also wish the sweet and sometimes sexy romance between the two main characters had been a little more sexually charged. The couple spent so much time doubting and arguing with each other that I sometimes forgot they were in love. It would have been nice to see a little more sexual tension thrown in, and a few more endearing moments to round it out.

That being said–it wasn’t all bad. I found the plot compelling. I liked the characters (even the evil ones). The writing was impeccable; the pace moved along steadily and I never ran into any jarring grammatical issues or structure hang-ups. Despite my rather tepid feelings towards how the mind-reading was handled, I did enjoy the book quite a bit. Which why I gave it four stars. I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of readers out there that enjoy certain aspects of the books more than I did, and I encourage you to give this book a try if it sounds like something you might be interested in. I’d say it leans a little more heavily towards the suspenseful side of the plot than the romance, but there’s still a good measure of romance to it. Give it a try.

Book Review: Remnants

review-cover-remnantsTitle: Remnants [Brandon Fisher FBI Series 6]

Author: Carolyn Arnold

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Crime

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

When multiple body parts are recovered from the Little Ogeechee River in Savannah, Georgia, local law enforcement calls in FBI agent and profiler Brandon Fisher and his team to investigate. But with the remains pointing to three separate victims, this isn’t proving to be an open-and-shut case.

With no quick means of identifying the deceased, building a profile of this serial killer is more challenging than usual. How are these targets being selected? Why are their limbs being severed and their bodies mutilated? And what is it about them that is triggering this person to murder?

The questions compound as the body count continues to rise, and when a torso painted blue and missing its heart is found, the case takes an even darker turn. But this is only the beginning, and these new leads draw the FBI into a creepy psychological nightmare. One thing is clear, though: The killing isn’t going to stop until they figure it all out. And they are running out of time…

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Remnants by Carolyn Arnold is not the type of book I would normally pick up. Although I love murder mysteries and suspense stories, I’ll admit that character-driven fiction is the main basis for my love of most books—and this book wasn’t character driven. We’ll get to that in a minute, though.

Technically speaking, Remnants was well written. It was easy to follow along, there weren’t a lot of grammatical or punctuation mistakes, and the pace of the book was steady throughout. It was effortless to sink into the story and follow along with the story—I have nothing to complain about.

The crime was interesting and thrilling, and like the characters, I had a hard time puzzling out who the perpetrator was until near the very end. My only true nitpick is that I didn’t feel like I really connected with any of the characters. I didn’t relate to them, I didn’t particularly like them, and aside from the murderer, I didn’t find them all that interesting. Maybe it’s my penchant for character-driven fiction—I don’t know—but It did drop this book down a star for me.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t like the book though. Overall, I enjoyed the book for what it was, and if you love crime fiction, this is a solid choice. I only wish I’d been a little more drawn to the characters than I was. It would have been nice to get sucked into the personalities of the FBI agents a little more.

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: Caged

review-cover-cagedTitle: Caged [Caged 1]

Author: D.H. Sidebottom

Genre: Suspense, Thriller, Erotica, Ménage, Dark

Rating: 2 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Judd Asher was taken from his front garden when he was just four years old. After an extensive search he was never found.

Twenty-one years after a random call out, Judd is found chained and beaten in the basement of an old rundown farmhouse where he has lived the life of an animal for the last twenty-one years.

Kloe Grant is assigned as Judd’s personal therapist. It’s her job to rehabilitate him, to guide him back to normal life. But as Judd’s only emotion is rage, Kloe finds it both heart-breaking and challenging mending a soul that’s not only broken but caged inside him by the demons of his past.
However, when Kloe’s relationship with her patient raises some eyebrows, Kloe can’t fight against the powers that want to see her fail, and with an arm behind her back, she walks away, leaving behind a man who has come to live life again for her.

Four years later Judd, now known as Anderson Cain, the darkest and most formidable cage fighter in a world where violence and crime are the only way to keep breathing, Judd finds there’s not a lot in life that can abate the rage that still twists and prowls beneath his skin.

Not until a chance encounter brings him to her door. To the woman with the bluest eyes and the most stunning smile, the woman who took his hand in the darkness and led him through the door into the sun.

But Kloe Grant left him when he needed her the most. She took the only shred of hope and trust he had left and annihilated it. She starved his belief, and she fed his fury.

She owes him. And he’s going to make sure that this time, she pays. In blood. In lust. In pain. And with her soul.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I should have done way more research on my reading choice before I picked up Caged by D.H. Sidebottom. It looked like a bit of a dark romance when I picked it up and based on the description, I had hopes of an interesting if somewhat dark read. This went far beyond that.

Technically speaking, the book was well edited. There weren’t a lot of noticeable typos, grammar issues, or sentence structure problems. The writing was easy to read and follow, and I sunk into the story easily. Does that mean the book was written well? No—but we’ll get into that.

The book was dark—some would say depraved. So if you need a trigger warning, this is it: There is a lot of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse in the book. There is torture, murder, stalking, kidnapping, dog mutilation, and rape. There are M/M/F, M/M, and M/F explicit sex scenes which for the most part includes anal, both consensual and nonconsensual to the point of actual bloody harm. This is not going to be a book a lot of people will enjoy.

Still with me? Good. So here’s the issue with this book: if you like horror and dark thrillers, you may get some sort of perverse pleasure out of reading this book. It’s a bit like watching a train wreck because you’re curious to see the dead bodies. It is an interesting book if you in any way enjoy the dark thriller tone. It is not, however, a well-written book. The characters are unrealistic and shoddily slapped together. Kloe was supposed to be a personal therapist for heavily damaged people, and at first she was set up to be just that, but not too long into the book she clearly steps over the line with her patient, Anderson, and it seemed totally at odds with how her character was set up until that point in time. Anderson functioned too well, too quickly for a man that spent 20 years abused, raped, and chained in a basement. Halfway through the book, the story changes into an entirely different one as four years have passed, and Kloe suddenly becomes the kidnap victim of Anderson, and Anderson is now a fairly well-adjusted cage fighter. It’s like the author wrote two books with the same characters, mildly tied together and decided to just make it one. It was weird and clunky, and I didn’t like it. The book was a mess.

Overall, it wasn’t a book I can easily recommend. If you enjoy very dark thrillers or horror, you may enjoy this book, but it certainly isn’t going to be for everyone, or even most people. Read the trigger warning beforehand.

Free Fiction Friday #66

Hello ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Free Fiction Friday #66! For those of you who are new to this blog, or who may have missed out on the previous Free Fiction Fridays, every Friday I post an article containing 10 fiction e-books that are 100% FREE on Amazon at the time of posting, and an additional 5 that are roughly of the same genre and on sale for less than $5. I try my best to make sure they are all 4+ stars, have over 40+ reviews, and are 100 pages minimum—so that you can get a hand-picked list of the best-of-the-best to choose from and enjoy over the long weekend (while I do more important things, like laundry). I try to switch up the genres every week, and this week our theme is: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense!

THE FREE

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THE BARGAINS

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