I wanted to like this book. It was really promising, with a cross country road trip, estranged family inheritance and mysterious hitchhiker. While it does have all those things, I found it really hard to like any single character. Cora is a rather vapid fashion influencer (ugh) and had it not been 90% from her POV I suspect she would have been even more unlikable. Her husband is borderline controlling as he is constantly gaslighting her about her ability to make the trip and her friend Adele is ungrateful and jealous. Yes, some of that comes up in the twist—more on that in a moment.
After picking up their hitchhiker Gianna things get dicey and I get more involved, until Gianna disappears and they don’t go for any obvious next steps. Cora has Gianna's fathers phone number, why not call him, if she had many things that would have been avoided. Again some of that dopey oversight was needed for the twist, but it made me hate Cora even more.
The trip is really well researched—the author has clearly done a lot of googling or has traveled at least parts of their route, which was fun—to a point. Sometimes it felt a bit like a history lecture when they toured museums.
Then there's the twist. Now I love a twist, but I want it to be something that feels reasonable for the story—and this whole set-up is supposed to be: mysterious hitchhiker and bad-guy boyfriend. Out of nowhere we get a set of chapters from another character's POV where all is revealed and Cora’s life goes to hell. Sure, it makes some of the earlier issues I had make sense, but it all felt like quite a reach. Had I not been over 75% through the book I may have just quit there.
I was also really thrown, after the seemingly well researched trip, to have the ‘million dollar house’ she inherits be what appeared to be a 2 bedroom ranch.
I did like that Cora ended up sticking to her guns in the end and was able to get something from her inheritance other than money, which was a nice move for her, though I wish that depth of personality was shown to us earlier so I would have cared along the way.
Overall, I don't think I wasted my time with this one, but I don't think this author will be a repeat read for me.
I stumbled on this book down some reddit rabbit-hole (as one does) and was completely fascinated. Not enough to pay for it, but when I ended up with KU it was one of the first things on my list. Let me tell you, it did not disappoint. Well, I mean it did—it’s terrible by any normal writing or story standards…but hot damn, it is B-book (is that a thing? Like B-movies?) gold.
At first I thought, maybe this is satire, maybe this author is so over the paranormal romance genre that they are just going for it. But a quick look at their back catalog suggests otherwise. They are serious, and that, somehow—makes it all the better.
You might think, going in, that the half T-rex, half man is going to be the strangest thing in this book. You would be wrong, so wrong. Marc is totally a genetic f*ck-up—both in the story’s reality, and in ours trying to read it. The way the writer attempted to combine lizard and human biology is just...I can’t even. At one point she actually supposes that his torso (T-rex) is cold blooded while his legs (human) are warm blooded. Hmm...
Constantly, Marc’s big tick is biting his lip. On a human, sure cool, OK. T-rex though? Does he have lips? Not according to the cover. Again, hmm...
Marc’s biggest goal is to be a firefighter, but of course, he cannot be because of his tiny T-rex arms, he can’t grip the fire hose. So he is doomed to be a bouncer at the illegal dino-fight club.
But, lest you think Marc’s biological anomalies are the star of this story, think again! Our female love interest, Emily, is also genetically modified (as is everyone on this planet, there is some world building where it’s mentioned that this is required, possibly?) So, our normal looking lady has a most special talent, and it is what brings her to work undercover (maybe—it’s totally unclear how or why she is connected to the body investigating the dino fighting ring) and meet Marc.
She can sweat any substance she wishes. Yes, you read that right. Her hostess-type job has her sweating tequila for the patrons and we get lavish descriptions of them collecting her tequila-sweat in their glasses. Yum. As if that wasn’t bad enough, her ‘real job’ working her very own food truck features a special sauce and, you guessed it, she runs on the treadmill each morning to whip up a fresh batch! Double yum!
Their hook-up is surprisingly not all that steamy (it’s there, but I doubt anyone is blushing over it) and the whole thing ends rather anti-climatically with so many questions still on the table and with Marc’s biggest issue being easily fixed by a side character.
After all that insanity, though, there was one moment where I literally put the book down and had to go tell someone WTF just happened.
There are a few side characters, one gorilla/human type guy called Bobo - he’s probably the most normal being in this whole mess. But my (gender neutral) dude Taylor, a friend and sometimes sort-of hookup for Emily, can literally turn themself into a washing machine. Full stop, spin cycle, washing machine. My brain stopped working when I read that one.
Upon finishing, I immediately sent it to some friends. This takes a special audience to appreciate. Have you seen Troll 2? The Room? Loved every moment of their bat-shit craziness backed up by a creator who (at least seems to be) convinced they are works of art? Then this is the book for you.
If you think this review is the ramblings of a crazy person, you might be right. But read the book. You won’t be disappointed, or you will, but in the best way. The journey is worth it. You will never look at another T-rex or ‘I sweat awesome sauce’ work out tee-shirt the same way.
So I’ve been reading a lot of romance lately, in many forms (indie, best seller, ARC, sweet, steamy... the gamut) to get a feel for the genre as I continue my journey writing in it. Let me tell you, I’ve always seen myself as extremely open-minded and ruthlessly liberal—however, some of this stuff has really set me on edge. I get the whole don’t kink-shame people and I will not. But there are things I don’t see as kinks—dub-con and non-con most specifically. I will argue against that in romance (I’ll come back to this in a moment**) until I’m in the ground. HOWEVER, I understand some people’s fascination/attraction to it. I mean, who doesn’t love a horror movie that is all about murder and mayhem, right? I sure do. Do I want to live it? Not in the slightest.
I think this is where the attraction is. Reader see the forbidden, and on the page is a safe way to interact with it. They can get their heart rate up and become involved with these characters in sometimes terrible relationships and feel safe at the same time because it’s on the page.
Two of my favorite moves are Jaws and Jurassic Park. I re-watch them ALL THE TIME. I’m invested, I’m engaged. Do I want to visit Isla Nublar? No way. Am I going to swim in the open ocean? Also, no. But I come back to those movies again and again. And stepping back, I realize that these ‘romances’ I cringe at are those movies to other people.
** Back to my romance comment. I’m not sure they belong in the ‘typical’ romance genre, though. We don't really have anything set aside to better categorize them and I think we need that. Because much of romance genre is all about glorifying the relationship shown, and we absolutely do not need those darker/menacing relationships to be something that reader may aspire to. A stalker who doesn’t take no for an answer and eventfully ‘wins’ the object of their obsession is not a great role model for a relationship. Is that something that adults ought to be allowed to explore on the page? Sure, you do you. But branding it in with the rest of the romance genre feels iffy to me.
I know Dark Romance exists, but I think very little actually gets relegated to it. I have stumbled upon SO MANY instances of horrible characters (both male and female) in mainstream romance, with adoring fans who likely wouldn’t pick up a ‘dark romance’ book. Years ago people were too shy to read anything darker/steamier than a hallmark movie on the bus, then (for better or worse) 50 Shades changed that. I think we need to further de-stigmatize Dark Romance so that books that belong there can be categorized as such, without detriment to the author, so that when we pick up something ‘mainstream’ we know that it will at least end with a vision of a healthy romance.
I don’t mind if characters START OUT questionable, it’s a great beginning to a moving character arc, but in mainstream romance we need to glorify that CHANGE for the better, not the abusive (verbally/mentally/emotionally/physically/etc) ways that the love interest decides to ignore because the abuser is great in bed and/or super hot and/or super rich.
Write what you want, and read what you want, but categorize it correctly. And maybe, just maybe, that story you wrote is a thriller and not a romance. Hey, that’s fine too!
I know I am due for another review, and I have started SO MANY new books lately, but nothing is catching my attention. I am in a real thriller/horror slump. I can’t even get into something enough to feel like I could give it a DNF. It’s more like a did not start. Ugh. I’m pretty sure it’s not even really the books’ faults.
I’ve been going through my TBR pile and many I had totally forgotten about. I know I’m not in the mood for a police/detective/PI character right now, so those are out. I’ve tried two domestic suspense novels, both ended up being present tense—something I do not like—so I put those down.
I’ve got one now that I’m about 8% in and maybe, just maybe, I’ll stick with it long enough to have something useful to share with you. I am 100% open to recs. Tell me your most un-putdownable read: old, new, I don’t care. I need to get sucked back into SOMETHING! Like I said above, no cops (as MCs, side characters are fine) and no present tense. 1st or 3rd person are both fine. Single or multi POV. Thriller, suspense, horror...all good. Although if it’s horror, I prefer ghosts to slashers, but if it’s good, that’s not a hard and fast rule. I’d even be down for some YA dystopia, as long as it’s light on the sci-fi.
Tell me what you love! I know I need to get back to it, because reading slumps are often followed by writing slumps for me, and I have things I need to get done.
The second book in the My...Self series by Jessica Huntley gets five stars! My True Self carries on a while after book one ends. Alicia has moved and unexpectedly settled (due to the pandemic) in Italy.
She grew on me in this book, and I liked to see her figuring out how to deal with ‘regular’ people despite being a psychopath. My main/only gripe is we are reminded often in the text that she is a psychopath and she doesn’t have emotions. Even if I hadn’t read book one, I figured that out. But beyond that I was really engaged the whole time.
I don’t want to spoil anything, so it’s hard to say much. But the new character of Ben was fun, and I loved how he interacted with both Alicia and Josslyn. In those moments, we really got to see how different their voices were and it was really well done. The set up for book three is a big one, as with many book two’s it almost feels like it ends in an odd place, but that happens so much it’s kind of industry standard now so no complaints there. I tend towards stand-alones though for this reason. I can’t wait for the end of that cliffhanger! What I am happiest about though, and a reason I LOVE reading indie authors is, the morning after I finished reading I saw a date for the book three title and cover reveal is just a week away. Being able to interact with authors I read is so fun. I love some Stephen King, but he’s not replying to your comments about reading his latest book.
You can find my review of book one here
I have to go with just 2 stars from Mrs. Rochester's' Ghost, I DNF'd this at about 30%, I could not get into it. The setting was nice but the characters altogether boring and nothing was happening. While I may read slow sometimes, I hate to not finish something but this one was just impossible to pick back up for even a few pages at a time.
It wasn't because I *love* Jane Eyre, like many low rated reviews cite - I have *gasp* never read it, and typically enjoy re-tellings of this nature. I did a beta read on a Pride and Prejudice re-telling that was one of my best reads of the year. This though never had any inkling of catching my attention. Poor Mrs. Rochester, I guess, who knows whats going on with her ghost.
I give No good Deed by James Swain 4 stars. I loved the first book in the Lancaster and Daniels series by James Swain and was excited to finally get to the second book in my TBR pile. I’ll be honest, it took me a little while to get into. I’m not sure exactly what it was, but until I hit about the 1/3 point, I’d read only a chapter at a time before putting it down. Gradually I got sucked in as the case widened from the singular murder and abduction that started Lancaster onto the case.
Once I was in, I was in. I enjoyed learning more about Team Adam and how Lancaster got involved with them, finding out more of his back story and the hints about him and Daniels. I’m not a big romance reader, but I could have enjoyed a bit more time with them together off the clock (we get almost nothing outside the case—which is fine, it’s a thriller) I think it could have rounded them out even better to see them in that capacity. We get to know a lot about Lancaster in this one and I hope future books will delve more into Daniel’s history, too. Yes—I will read more from this series!
The plot unfolds with biker gangs, parolees, missing persons and all the goodies you would want from an FBI thriller. I won’t say too much to spoil how this crime expands and explodes into something bigger than expected. If you want some good character building along with your crime thrillers, this series is for you. Looking back, I think if I had set to dive in more fully right off the bat I would have been sold even sooner, but even if you start out like me, hold and stick with it. If you enjoyed the first book, you will enjoy this one as well.
At first I wasn’t sold on My Dark Self by Jessica Huntley, but in the end I give it 4 stars. There were few typos/miss-used words in the early chapters that had me almost putting it down, but I kept going because I enjoyed the voice and was intrigued by the character(s). I’m not sure if the actual disorder is well (or factually) represented, but I am not really one to be bothered by inaccuracies if they do not affect my reading or engrossment of the book. The mystery was well kept up; when you think there is one thing, it leads you along, then tosses that thing you think you knew out and sends you on a new venture.
At times, I wasn’t sure I liked Alicia (I know she’s a psychopath, but I always like a love-to-hate character and I’m not sure I ever truly liked her) but she engaged well with the other characters and it was interesting how the POV shifted and kept us as in the dark as Josslyn was much of the time.
The final twist was well executed, although not totally surprising once we got there. I think some areas could have been expanded on in this quick read, but I definitely enjoyed it for that. Being able to pick it up and flip the last page in a short time frame made the dark theme fun and almost light reading-wise. Little things didn’t bother me because of the length. I love to read and write short, so this was really in my wheelhouse. I look forward to where the series takes us!
*spoiler free, so may be a little strange if you have read it, but it’s hard to talk about without spoilers so.... here we go*
Final Girls by Riley Sager comes off my TBR pile after a long time to an unimpressive 3 stars. It took me a long time to get into this one. I only kept going because I had heard so many good things about it, and its twists. For the first half I kept finding myself thinking of twists that it may be that would really piss me off, but I pressed on. The pace picked up some after the two-third mark, but at that point I was more finishing it to see it through rather than because I was into it. I found I didn’t like any of the characters: Quincy annoyed me, Sam was kind of a bitch, Jeff was bland, Coop was kind of creepy with his ‘helpfulness’ and so on.
In the end, I supposed I didn’t *quite* see the twist(s) coming exactly. I had a good idea where it was going with the killer, and it got a bit of an eye-roll when we got there. Sam’s surprise was a welcome relief, but after the whole book, it didn’t feel like it was worth it, and felt kind of forced in the speedy wrap-up. Am I glad I read it? I suppose. Was it what I expected? No, I wanted more into the final girls; I wanted the story, not the conspiracy. Maybe I had too high hopes for it since it was littering my thriller pages for such a long time, and it was unfair to start with. Although my always-gripe, I know there was some mystery at first as to the authors gender, but without any research I can tell you Riley Sager is male. I did get one or two of those eye-roll moments where you basically get ‘ she breasted boobily’ please, men, for gods sakes please stop. That always tears me right out of the story. I can’t find the line right now, but maybe a few more early female readers could help.
So, I know other people really like this one, and don’t run off on my account. But maybe reel in your expectations—it may be a perfectly fine book, if that’s what you are looking for. If you think it’s the next big thing—I suspect you will be a bit disappointed like I was. If you can justify a whole book for a couple of final-final act twists, go for it.
I give Thief River Falls by Brian Freeman 3 stars, it should have been a book I loved. The promise of mystery, suspense and a twist ending got me excited to start it. I was interested, the main character Lisa Power is a writer and well known in her small town. A mysterious boy with no memory appears at her house.... I'm totally sold. Police are looking for him, but something is off, they seem hostile. She lies. She hides him and tries to find the truth. I'm still sold, although as I go on the waterfall of metaphors and the like are cascading off the page and getting in the way a bit. But I press on, I want to know what is going on!
Lisa keeps running around her home town trying to find allies and answers, but it seems that both are in short order. A few more things pop up that annoy me, I had to look back to see that the book was written by a man; it is- and it isn't anything big but there are a few times where it just screams off the page (Native Americans are referred to as Indians - something I wouldn't expect from the MC, and at one point he refers to getting an introvert o come out of their shell- sorry but no.) Lisa and her boy run all over town, blocked in and hunted. He remembers bits and pieces and she starts to figure his story out - it is eerily close to the plot of her famous book! What a coincidence!
Still, I'm on board, waiting for this ending that is promised to be amazing... I'm still trying here. We start getting bits from other character perspectives and things are starting to get hazy - I'm getting the idea that it isn't all Lisa thinks it is. I think I have a clue as to what is going to happen and I'm starting to get let down.
In the end I did not see the ‘twist’ coming, but I wouldn't register it as a twist personally. I'm sure lots of people were thrilled with it, but I found it almost as cliche as the ‘it was all a dream’ endings. The only thing that made me go ‘OK, alright’ were the two words that she mentions throughout. They are not the two words you think they are, but the reveal of that is too late to have enough impact. So it gets three stars, I finished it, it wasn't full of typos or anything. But I wouldn't pass it along to a friend.