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: Sinful Vices

review-cover-sinful vicesTitle: Sinful Vices

Author: Heather West

Genre: Romance, Thriller, Dark

Rating: 2 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

I’m no saint. She’s no angel. This is a match made in hell.

Cassidy is the one girl forbidden to me.

The one I’d sworn never to touch.

But when her father demands that I be her bodyguard, I can’t say no.

I should stay away.

I should leave her be.

But I can’t.

The temptation, the hunger, the need…

It’s too much to resist.

She’s so supple in my hands, so easy to bend to my will.

Owning her is ecstasy.

Until her father founds out what I’ve done.

Now, I’ve been exiled.

Stripped of my patch, my pride, and my woman, I’m a lost soul.

But I won’t be humiliated that easily.

I’m coming back.

I’m coming to take what’s mine.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Sigh. I can’t even with this book. I wanted to like it—I really did—and I did manage to finish it… but this is what I’d call a fluff book. It had plot, characters, conflict… but entirely lacked any sort of grounding. As much as I liked the main characters, their romance and the overall arch of the story, the dialogue, actions, and decisions of the characters were so ridiculously unbelievable that it ruined the book for me.

The worst perpetrator of this was the father of the main female lead, who talked like an old mob-boss. He was so over-the-top dramatic all the time that he made me want to roll my eyes. His dialogue was some of the most unrealistic I’ve ever read.

I don’t know if the author just rushed through this book in order to get it published as quickly as possible, or what—but it was definitely sub-par to the sort of care and craft I generally look for in a romance.

If you’re just looking for a fun, quick read to while away the time, this book is probably fine… but it’s not something I’d pick up if there were any other romance book within arm’s reach. I expected more.

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: 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: 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.

Book Review: Spirals

review-cover-spiralsTitle: Spirals

Author: Sarah Dalton

Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, Thriller, Novella

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Before Mary came to terms with her paranormal gifts, she was a normal girl at a normal school. Then she meets Anita Bridgewater, a wild girl teetering on the edge of self-destruction.

Mary is popular for the first time ever. She’s friends with the coolest girl in school, and there’s a relationship blossoming with her first crush, Mike Parkinson.

But there’s just one problem. These zombies keep turning up, and they seem to be warning her about something. Mary soon finds herself out of her depth and spiralling out of control with catastrophe waiting around the corner…

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I didn’t know a lot going into this short foray of fiction. I didn’t know who Mary Hades was. I didn’t know that this was part of a larger series of fiction. I didn’t know that this was a novella. So understandably, my view of this story is a little different than most people picking it up.

On the one hand, I had an unbiased, fresh look at how this book stood on its own two feet. On the other hand, things I normally would have  let slide because this was an origin story, are also what, in the end, didn’t make the story work for me.

Technically speaking, the book was well written. Though perhaps a little predictable, I liked the characters, I enjoyed the plot, and the writing itself was pretty flawless. It flowed nicely and wasn’t encumbered by a multitude of grammatical errors or spelling mistakes. The paranormal aspect of the plot threw me off guard and  drew me into the story as I wondered what the significance of the zombies was and how their appearance would impact or even predict the turns of the plot.

But, just as I was getting engrossed in the story, it ended. I wasn’t expecting a novella, and the abrupt ending left me feeling unsatisfied. Why was Mary seeing zombies? I have no idea. It was never explained, and as an introduction to a character that goes on to star in a much longer series—I kind of get it. This was almost a prolog of sorts to a more detailed story—But, as a stand-alone story? It didn’t cut it. The story ended as a tragedy without any real explanation of some of the major plot points.

I think if you’re going to read this story as part of the larger series, then this short origin story may be a tiny bit of flavor that further expands the world of Mary Hades, and you may really enjoy it—it was well written. But, if you’re like me, and you pick it up as a stand alone? Well, it’s an interesting read, but don’t expect to have your questions answered. You’re going to be left wondering how everything tied in together, and there just aren’t going to be any answers in it for you.