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.*

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.*

Burn the Dark by S.A. Hunt

Poor Start to Near-Epic Finish

This book started off with a bunch of bad sayings, that made no sense whatsoever. Well, it was a review copy, so may have been updated by the time the book was released, but there is nothing more off putting (well, perhaps there is) than a bunch of author-created nonsensical sayings.

But, once I got into the book, despite the horror edge to the story, I actually quite enjoyed it. A few laughs, a few gory moments. A few excellent characters to top it off, with a few interweaving storylines.

The witches themselves are devious. And there is just something not right about that house… Yet Robin manages to go back to where she grew up and find out more about her past than she could have wished for, gaining a handful of trusty sidekicks along the way.

I might not understand much about the background or culture (typical Brit trying to watch US TV dramas and failing to get the context), but all in all it wasn’t bad at all.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

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

Blood and Deceit by Laura Greenwood

Naughty Necromancers

That title of mine might give the wrong impression, when this is actually about necromancers who decide to act like “Gods” above all others. But not all necromancers are that way – Tabitha happens to be a necromancer of the old school, disappointing several of her old acquaintances. But new connections come along and she finds out that she’s not as alone as she might seem.

I must admit, I found a couple of points of this a little disappointing. The big “reveal” didn’t feel anywhere near as dramatic as it could have been. The characters, too, whilst the main characters should have been likable, I didn’t feel like they had enough depth to be able to connect to them.

Not a bad story, but unfortunately a bit forgettable.

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

*I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.*

Big City Billionaires Box Set by Michele de Winton

Even billionaires need love

I’m a little bit behind in my reviewing, due to having been sick. So luckily I had lots of books, light reads, to keep me company, including this one. Each story is reviewed individually below.

Valentine’s Vengeance

This first story I recognised as I’d already read it as part of the  Happily Ever Alpha box set. It was the story that first introduced me to Michele de Winton’s writing and drew me in to read more of her works, eventually landing me right back at the beginning.

I absolutely loved the story when I first read it. I must admit, I wasn’t as in to the “OMG” overreacting stuff this time around, but the story as a whole still really appealed to me and I eventually found that I enjoyed it as much as the first time around.

Rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

Love Stuck

Sass is pretty much awesome. Alternative, knows who she is and what she wants. Yet it appears to unsettle her first ever client as an independent stylist. Unsettle him in more ways than one.

Seriously good fun, back and forth, with a not-so-easily-won HEA. MdW definitely knows how to write drama!

Rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

Lady Boss

This was my absolute favourite of the series, and that had nothing to do with the lady being the billionaire this time around. It’s a great twist, sure, as there should be more stories with a powerful woman leading them, instead of it always being the man who has all the money and power. Better still, it detailed obstacles that needed to be overcome for the woman to become the powerhouse.

But, what I loved most about this was the detailed descriptions, of places visited, of the flight. I was really into the story, much further than most easy-read stories take me. Truly a hidden gem.

Rating: ★★★★★ – Loved it/couldn’t put it down

Bonus Story: Fighting for Freya

I was quite happy to see a continuation to the Hot Tide series and all the characters I was familiar with from it, especially a story for Holokai, the apparent “more interested in surfing than girls” guy. With someone there who actually gets under his skin, he does relax more. But the big shame that came with this story is that, for me, it was too short. There were too few words to give depth to the story, so it ended up as an unfortunate disappointment rather than the huge Holo victory that it should have been.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ – Sort of liked/OK

Overall, a great, quick-read boxset that will leave you hanging for more.

Final rating (rounded to the nearest number): ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.*