Dead Silence by Robin Caroll

Christian political suspense

I should have paid more attention when picking this book up, that it was listed as Christian fiction, as I know that I have many problems with that. In fact, this book could also be surmised as “Mother of deaf child works her way back to God through additional trials and tribulations.” Yes, the substory was essentially that, which I felt a little uncomfortable with. It wasn’t too preachy, surprisingly, but as soon as a book goes into that sort of territory, I do hope that it’s not going to go too far.

But the main thing that invited me to read this book was actually the fact that the MC’s son is deaf. Sign language, lip reading, and deafness aren’t huge topics for a mystery suspense, so I liked the idea.

So, anyway, as for the main part of the story itself, we have a single mother, who lost her husband a few years previously, who now loses her difficult mother-in-law. She can sign and lipread, making her great as a court sign-language interpreter. But it also puts her into other difficult territory, when she reads the lips of someone without thinking, who turns out to be planning the murder of her mother-in-law, one of the state senators.

Well, of course, something comes in the way, so she can’t inform anyone, until it’s too late and the FBI are already at her workplace asking her questions. One FBI agent, who’s rude, abrasive, and incompetent. Another who is well meaning, but completely blind to how bad his partner actually is. When a leak puts Elise’s life in danger, all secrets are excruciatingly slowly forced out into the open.

In actual fact, it takes Elise herself, plus the assistance of a reporter who wants to help rather than going for the big money, and her ex-press step-father-in-law and sister-in-law, to crack the case. They somehow, between themselves, manage to uncover things that the FBI hasn’t.

How believable all of that truly is, I’m not quite sure. It was quite a ride, which left me wanting to read further at many points. Although it was pretty frustrating when it was revealed what Liliana (MiL) was actually working on and the penny didn’t even drop as to who the villain actually was. For me, it was blazingly obvious! So with the Christian elements, the FBI incompetence, and the supposedly ‘good sleuthing crew’ missing obvious clues, there were a few head bashing moments.

All of it put together, and it ends up as an OK read instead of a brilliant one. I don’t regret reading it, yet it doesn’t warm me to read any of the author’s other books.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆ – Sort of liked/OK

*I received a free digital ARC via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Join or Die by J. Adrian Ruth

The race to save Otherworld

This book is initially set in the human realm, before Alex suddenly receives a visitor who tells him that his absentee father is a “Creature”, the various monsters out of myths and legends, and that he most likely will transform into one, too.

So there Alex is, a half breed with a human mother, suddenly taken away to a private boarding school for Creatures in another realm, Otherworld, leaving behind his best friend, Carlos, his mother, and everything he’s ever known. Worse than that, he’s told that he’s the Scion Heir (leader of all the Creatures), being a descendant of the original Scion, and that he’ll eventually have to battle the other Heir to become the leader of all.

Luckily, he somehow manages to find his place in this new world, making new friends who gradually form a part of his Ciorcal (Celtic for “circle”), the group that will support, protect, and guide him, if and when he does fulfil his destiny.

In the meantime, however, he has no idea what Creature he himself is going to be, and has to face off a Creature who has been killing off all of the Heirs. Along with some other hijinks with his Ciorcal, it’s a fight for survival he hadn’t been warned of or planned for.

I must say that the beginning didn’t thrill me quite so much, but the last part of the book made up for that and was pretty good. I can only assume that this is because this is quite obviously the author’s first book, with it having at times too much information, then at others not enough. There are still quite a few typos in this book, but I’m guessing that that is because it is, at the time of ARC release, still not fully edited.

However, despite its similarities to other Paranormal schools, it has enough differences in it to make it a new take on the idea, somewhat familiar yet with unique elements.

Hopefully the sequel, once it’s finally released, will further develop the ideas here and, after reading the preview, it looks like we will find out more about the current Scion and the ongoing war against him.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free digital ARC via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Pursuing Pandora by Maggie Brown

A not-to-be-missed romance-come-mystery

This book was quite delightful, in so many ways. We have sultry Pandora, who isn’t at all what she seems. Recently burnt Winter, who is happy to finally be able to move on from her controlling ex. Then Winter’s array of family and friends, some who really don’t appear to have her best interests at heart.

Winter ends up meeting Pandora after her aunt cajoles her into going to an upscale nightclub to check on her nephew, who insists he’s going to marry Pandora. Only problem is, instead of disliking her, Winter is attracted to her. As is her best friend, Jessie. Although Winter assumes that Pandora wouldn’t be interested in her, noting all the male attention she gets at the club. Oh how wrong could she be!

So, she gets to know Pandora, whilst setting up a trap for her nephew, unfortunately involving Jessie. Now, will everything go to plan there?

And of course, the intelligent Winter is able to discover some of Pandora’s secrets. Yet whether it will all be too much for both of them, when Pandora finally has to move on, is a secret that I’m not revealing.

Sometimes it’s quite frustrating finding out the details as I go along, rather than them being laid bare from the beginning, yet in this instance, it worked quite well. The only thing I will say that I disliked was how mean both Winter’s aunt and Jessie were to her! Considering how badly Winter was treated by her ex, I had expected better treatment from her family and friends.

Anyway, it’s still a worthwhile read. And also really nice to experience a little bit of Australia as a change!

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free digital ARC via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Road Rage by Jessica Veen

What happened there?!

First off, I’ll start by commenting on the author, as she is listed as Jessica Veen on Goodreads and Amazon, but as Scarlette Hunt on NetGalley. There is an older book around written under the second name, so I assume that either can be an alias.

Anyway, on to the story itself. Well, it’s a… It’s… Yeah, it’s that. Pretty much. That’s to say that it had interesting parts, but was for the most part unbelievable. I mean, seriously, Rand is the only one that knows anything is off with this guy? And she is recruited by the FBI just like that, just because she happened to bump into and start a “relationship” with a guy who’s on the hunt for the same guy she is. And her first “mission” is something ridiculous to put her not only in danger, but at odds with everyone. Right, yep, that goes. Then there’s the time jumps, meaning that we learn more of what happened before, in a sort of chronological way, but at later points. There is no overall chronological story arc, which might have made it easier to read.

The story had potential but, to put it bluntly, was a raving mess! It’s supposed to be some sort of action-adventure-crime-thriller. OK – there’s crime, check. There’s action, check. Adventure? Thriller? Perhaps a little bit of thriller, but not so much. I think with how unrealistic everything was, it detracted from its thriller potential, big time. I ended up more bored at points than waiting with my heart racing for the next to happen.

With everything considered, there is nothing that surprises me about the book’s average rating.

Final rating: ★★☆☆☆ – Disliked

*I received a free digital ARC via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Mistaken Identity by Beth Urich

Could have been better

There was so much that could have been right about this book, but so much that went wrong, too. It’s probably obvious that it’s the author’s first book, even though it has been recently updated.

Kate is the typical reporter, really: pushy, desperate, sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong. So of course, she’s the one who has to solve the puzzle, too. And what makes it even more complicated? Oh, right – her father has been accused of the murder, an investigation which just happens to be led by a Detective Sergeant who is also an ex of hers. Who does she actually know who isn’t involved in the plot somehow? Add to that, she finds out that her current boyfriend was keeping secrets from her as well.

It had some nice twists and turns, but in the end just wasn’t gripping enough. Too many clichés, nothing concrete. Although the ending, which could probably have been seen coming a mile away, was still a nice twist, even if it didn’t save it. Especially as some of those final scenes were the worst, just drove me mad, with all the dithering. If someone is going to shoot someone, they just get on with it! Hanging on too long just loses all of the suspense.

Anyway, an OK read, but nothing great.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆ – Sort of liked/OK

*I received a free digital ARC via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Thunder Bay by Douglas Skelton

Darkness on the Sound

This story is based on a fictional Scottish Island, Stoirm, based in one of the Scottish Sounds. Now there are a couple of straits in Scotland with the name “Sound” as far as I can figure out: either “Inner Sound”, close to Skye, or “Sound of Islay”, between the islands of Islay and Jura. I’m not sure which is meant, but there are a couple of islands in either area which could give you that “small island community” feel. Not that I’ve ever been to Scotland, let alone a remote island with one main town where everyone knows each other.

So I took my ideas of what such a small community would feel like based on my very limited experiences of a small village community where, yes, everyone knows each other, and not always in a friendly way.

This small community on Stoirm has its secrets, which no one repeats, and must stay in the past. But that is all about to be stirred up with the return of Roddie Drummond, who was “not proven” of murdering his girlfriend, Mhairi, 15 years previously, and Rebecca Connolly, who not only wants to dig into the past to find out the truth of what happened to Mhairi, but also wants to discover why her father left the island in his youth, and why he never talked about it.

There’s a lot of twists and turns into finding the truth, which not only the islanders, but some dangerous men (such a typical cliché, them being Eastern Europeans) want to keep well hidden.

The trouble is, the truth. Well, the truth is not exciting at all. And the truth of why Rebecca’s father left, it didn’t give the impact expected, either. The most action to be had was in what appeared to be a homophobic attack on two of Rebecca’s new-found friends. That aside, Rebecca defying everyone to get the story she’s looking for, which is just as much her boss as the islanders themselves, is just as cliché as some of the rest.

The best part about this book, apart from the cover (the main reason I picked up the book in the first place), was probably the place descriptions. Thunder Bay was described beautifully, as a place that must be visited, and the scenery on the routes was just as detailed.

It’s a shame, really, as there was so much that could have been good and even better about this. In the end, I’m a little disappointed, with the grip not quite catching me completely.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆ – Sort of liked/OK

*I received a free digital ARC via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Fangs For All by Laura Greenwood and Arizona Tape

Awesome ending

Ha! What a conclusion! Considering I’d been following the series from book one (which is best, as otherwise it’s impossible to keep up), there are certainly some things I didn’t see coming.

So, we learn more about the Blood Slave auctions and, of course, Lucy and her band are still hot on the tail to try to stop them, at any cost. Yet, what will it cost them? For Lucy, it costs her more than she would have wanted at the beginning of her journey into the dark side of vampire high society. Yet, when stepping into her inheritance appears to be the answer to almost all of her aims and questions, she finally does it, and with flourish.

Mika. Now, I wouldn’t have expected that to be the real background story! Yet, with all her strangeness, it does make perfect sense. Despite everything, she proves quite an ally.

But that damned cat! When will we finally understand what’s going on with him?!

And then there’s Lucy and her men… Not quite a complete HEA, yet things appear to definitely be working out for her! Not that her mother would approve, but hey – isn’t she one of the ones supporting keeping the Blood Slaves…?

With her grandmother somehow speaking from beyond her Sleep, all the clues have been right under Lucy’s nose the entire time.

Final rating: ★★★★★ – Loved it/couldn’t put it down

*I received a free digital ARC via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.*

The Gamble by Tara Crescent

Plenty of hotness in a second-chance romance with a twist

This is a new reworking of the book Gambling with Gabriella. I hadn’t read this book, so everything inside is completely new to me. I actually read it in pieces, as part of a newsletter release. Not something I’ve actually done before, so I got to submit a couple of corrections, and enjoy the book as each part came out.

Moving onto the story itself, wow does that contain some huge hotness! As my title says, it’s a second-chance romance with a twist – Gabriella had a one-night stand with two hot guys, which was wonderful, but at the time she wasn’t up for anything else. Yet, there they are, still in her mind. And it appears that they can’t stop thinking about her, either.

A complete chance meeting happens as she is given a PR assignment in Atlantic City, and just happens to be staying in the very hotel that these two hot guys, Dominic and Carter, own. With a little bit of awkwardness at first, it’s only a matter of time before these three hook up again. Yet, is it a match for life, or just another night of fun…?

And of course, there are plenty of twists and turns. Carter is at risk of losing the nephew he’s looked after for so long for good. And Gabriella has a nasty secret of her own – she’s gotten herself addicted to underground gambling as a way of earning enough to start her own business, threw all caution to the wind in one night of madness, and ended up seriously in debt.

As each storyline twists and brings our three MCs together, they end up saving each other in more ways than one.

Final rating: ★★★★★ – Loved it/couldn’t put it down

*I received a free digital ARC via the author and am voluntarily leaving a review.*

A Rose to the Torch by Bartholomew Lander

Incredible world building

I can completely understand why people have a “Marmite” reaction to this (i.e. they either love it or hate it): if I hadn’t read the prequel to this, All Bleeds Through (ABT), then I believe that I would have been somewhat confused, too.

ABT lays out the basics of the universe, with tales set inside it that eventually all link together. This brings nearly all of those loose threads together, and shows how much each individual and story really are connected. When I realised this, I had to go back and check, and I was wowed.

Not only that, the mythology is set up brilliantly. We not only have the Hemomancers and Humans, and how they are affected by events and each other, we also have a whole background of religious mythology with such amazing depth to it, that it’s completely believable that it could be our world and not just an alternate universe.

As for the story itself, here we have Coral, and Gavin, alongside other characters who were introduced to us in ABT. It is primarily Coral and Gavin’s histories which are revealed here as being important to the story as a whole, neither of whom actually truly knew about their background and the true meaning of it.

Coral goes from being a scared, ambivalent teenager, to a strong wildcard contender. She’s supposed to be a “nought”, one with the blood type O Negative, who has no control over the blood of others. Yet there is a huge fight over her blood; in the hunt to kill noughts over the years, Coral is now perhaps the only one left, the only one who can save an evil lord whose blood was poisoned years ago in order to end the slaughter.

But, this is where it gets complicated for Coral: who is the real monster in this story? The lord who has tried to control all other hemomancers for more than a century? Or those willing to sacrifice Coral for the greater good?

Can Coral not only prevail but find a way to fight back? It’s not until the very end that she finds out who are true friends are, but by that time, will it be too late?

I must admit, my rating hovered back and forth on this, mostly due to the characterisation. But it all came together wonderfully, as the characters and the story developed. Most of all, towards the end, it was possible to understand the characters and their reasonings better. The ending was a total shock, but shouldn’t have been so surprising, really. No one is safe and what can go wrong, will go wrong, etc. So, along with all of the above, I just have to rate it highly, just like the prequel.

The final lines leave hope, despite the devastation. A nice way to make way for the sequel.

Final rating: ★★★★★ – Loved it/couldn’t put it down

*I received a free digital ARC via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

All Bleeds Through: Ten Stories of Hemomancy and the World It Shaped by Bartholomew Lander

Dark, vermillion arts

This book is a compilation of linked stories. In it we see the very “human” side of Hemomancers (those born with the ability to control blood). It shows fear, jealousy, revenge, as well as stigmatisation and the effects of being ostracised from society, from mere bullying to being hunted down and killed. These are people who are both feared and reviled, sometimes correctly, other times less so (the hunting of Hemomancer children is seen to be as just as if they were fully-fledged adults, the fear is so great).

This is a book full of well-filled arguments, from both sides of the coin, from the Human side and the Hemomancer side, and how each action affects the other. We have murderers, thieves, but also scientists and defenders. In this book, through the stories, you come to truly understand what it is like to be a Hemomancer, or a Human living in fear of them. Never have I read a story that links different POVs to truly allow such understanding.

At the beginning, I wasn’t so endeavoured with the story, after reading the first part. But, by the end, as all parts started to link through, I was wowed. The end links into the beginning, to create a round circle that allows everything within this book to make sense. Each character has their own attributes, to allow you to live with them. The pain, the fear, the anger, the determination, it all shines through.

Quite a remarkable collection of stories that I definitely want to continue with.

Final rating: ★★★★★ – Loved it/couldn’t put it down

*I received a free ARC via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*