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.

Book Review: Resthaven

review-cover-resthavenTitle: Resthaven

Author: Erik Therme

Genre: Young Adult, Thriller

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

The last thing Kaylee wants to do is participate in a childish scavenger hunt–especially inside the abandoned retirement home on the edge oftown. When she finds a bruised, deaf boy hiding inside one of the rooms, she vows to lead him to safety . . . only to discover the front doorsare now padlocked, and her friends are nowhere to be found. Kaylee isabout to learn that not everything that goes ‘bump in the night’ isimaginary, and sometimes there are worse things to fear than ghosts.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAYE ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Resthaven by Erik Therme was not exactly what I was expecting when I opened the front cover, and yet, was everything it promised. A good old-fashioned YA Thriller set in a creepy, abandoned retirement home, the pages of Resthaven were filled with terrifying moments, a vivid atmosphere, and ever-present danger. The book was thrilling, scary, and engaging in a way that kept me reading as I devoured the story of Kaylee and her group of angsty teenage friends.

Okay, so they weren’t really friends in the strictest sense of the world. In fact, as far as I could tell, none of the teens even liked each other. Jamie was a wreck of a spoiled trust-fund teen who drew in broken people around her and continually told them how lucky they were to even be in her presence. Personally, I couldn’t stand her. For the most part, the characters were selfish, cowardly, and at times very close to being considered crazy. Kaylee though not perfect, seemed to be the most stable of the bunch.

My favorite character by far, though was Corbin, the deaf, dinosaur-loving kid who lived in little more than a closet. Without him, this story would have been vastly different. He really helped to solidify Kaylee as the protagonist and kept the plot moving.

Honestly, I liked the book a lot, but I wasn’t a fan of the characters. I found it hard to identify with them, and the story leading up to the scavenger hunt at Resthaven seemed flimsy. Did I enjoy the book? Yes. It was engaging, well edited, and the danger was exciting… but I don’t think it was as good as it could have been. In the end, I gave it a solid 4 stars because even though it wasn’t perfect, it was still an engaging read, and I’m glad to have read it.

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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Book Review: Last Alpha

cover-review-last alphaTitle: Last Alpha

Author: Ruby Fielding

Genre: Romance, Suspense, Fantasy, Paranormal, Werewolves

Rating: 3 (2.5) Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

He never wanted to fall in love. She never planned to let him. Jenny Layne has made a career out of investigating werewolf reports, but every case has only confirmed that shapeshifters are the stuff of legend or madness. Until now. Lured to a remote Scottish estate to meet a researcher working on the science behind the werewolf phenomenon, Jenny finds steadily mounting evidence that something strange is running wild in the hills.

Billy Stewart has traveled the world in pursuit of stories of shapeshifters and other strange phenomena, but the last thing he ever expected to find was love. Billy is not a man who falls easily, but when he does, it is a force of nature. When he meets Jenny he knows immediately that she is his soulmate, but Jenny is not so sure. Are his intense feelings for her just some kind of insanity, or is Jenny turning him away because that’s exactly what she always does when a guy gets interested?

By turns passionate romance and gripping paranormal thriller, Last Alphatells the story of two people whose paths collide with earth-shattering consequences. As love boils over and the dark secrets buried away in Jenny and Billy’s past rise to the surface, a night of murder raises the stakes yet higher.

And as she fights for her own survival, Jenny must face perhaps the biggest question of them all. In matters of life, death and love, can Beauty ever really hope to tame the Beast?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I wanted so very badly to like this book. Parts of it, I found exceptionally well written… and other parts, lacked. As far as the technical side of the writing went, it was nearly flawless. I spotted less than a handful of noticeable errors throughout the text. For the most part, the writing was spot on. There wasn’t an overabundance of awkward sentences, misspelled words, or formatting errors.

The plot was interesting and packed full of suspense. It was obvious that the author put a lot of thought into the details of the plot and the character development. The world building was spot on… I found it fascinating. The problem is… I was also bored. The pacing of the story dragged on at a pace that made it hard to keep my interest. The tension was missing for me, and the romance, with the exception of some pretty steamy  sex scenes, was lukewarm. The characters barely knew each other and fell in love at a pace that seemed unrealistic given the obstacles to their relationship.

Overall, the book was a bit of a mixed bag. I loved the characters, the suspense, and the mystery. I loved the world building, the detail, plot, and setting… I just wasn’t enthralled by the writing. This didn’t feel like a romance. It felt like a dark suspense/mystery with a side element of romance thrown in as an afterthought—and that’s wonderful if that’s what you want to read, but it’s not what the book promised. I ended up giving this book  3 stars. I didn’t really like it, and, to be honest, I could have put it down several times and been okay with that decision. It wasn’t an awful book, it just wasn’t what I thought I was getting, and in the end, it just wasn’t to my tastes.

If you’re a fan of dark, suspenseful paranormal plots, you’re probably going to like this book. If you’re looking for a paranormal romance though, you may not enjoy this book as much as you were expecting.