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MommaSaysToRead

Momma Says to Read

Avid reader/reviewer and editor. I don't pull punches when I review, love it or hate it, you get what I think.

Emotionally charged and character driven story

Riven - Roan Parrish

Riven is an emotionally charged, character driven story that grabs hold and doesn't let go even after that last page is turned. Oddly enough, this isn't a book I would normally pick up. I rarely read rocker romances and if it looks angsty, I'll usually shy away. We get enough angst in every day life, right? But, something about the fabulous cover caught my eye. There's just something about it that is almost seductive, and the description hinted at something more than the norm for rocker romances. More is certainly what I found - in spades.

Occasionally, we find characters that are almost defined by their flaws and with some, those flaws are what draw the reader to them. That is case with Theo and Caleb. From struggling with sobriety to finding out that fame and fortune aren't what it's cracked up to be, both have their issues to deal with and often feel completely alone in their respective worlds. However, the way they deal with those issues is part of what makes them so great together, that and finding their solace in the music. 

I particularly liked that neither our lovable guys was hiding on the relationship front. They're both out and proud and that isn't a source of contention as is so often relied on for the big obstacle to overcome in these stories. 

In the end, Riven isn't so much about the glamorous life of rockstar, but what happens after the lights have gone down and the crowds are all gone - the loneliness that longs to be filled by that one person who can make us feel whole. So, while it is emotional and intense, underneath the angst lies hope. It's wonderfully written and passionate. These characters and their love story is one that will stay with you long after you've read that last page. 

The Favorite Sister

The Favorite Sister - Jessica Knoll

Let me start by saying that I don't watch reality TV. I get quite enough reality in everyday life. Nevertheless, the blurb for this one sounded interesting, so I decided to give it a gander. I did finish, but I set the book aside numerous times, mostly due to the fact that I couldn't find a single character in the book to actually root for. None of them were the least bit likable. Maybe that was the author's intention, but for me, I have a hard time getting invested in a story when no one has a redeeming quality.
We have five women who are each successful, but instead of being proud of that, they spend a crazy amount of time tearing each other down. The whole thing read like Mean Girls for grown-ups. We get lots of behind the scenes making of reality TV and how the drama gets encouraged, but the constant conniving among these women quickly grated on my nerves. There is a murder to give us some mystery and things do pick up in the end, but without that connection to any of the characters, it didn't help much.
I suppose I was expecting something more, some actual sisterhood at some point, and that's on me, but I still came away from this one disappointed.

Paper Ghosts

Paper Ghosts: A Novel of Suspense - Julia Heaberlin

Paper Ghosts started out with a creepy feel to it with our main character posing as a potential serial killer's daughter in order to find out if he killed her sister years before. The back and forth between the characters pulled me in and led me to think I had a riveting psychological thriller to sink my teeth into. Is Carl a serial killer? Does he really suffer from dementia or is he just a great actor hiding behind a facade? Did he kill this young woman's sister or is she on the wrong trail? All of these questions should've kept the suspense level high, but less than a hundred pages in, things become more about our main characters inner musings, and there are a lot of those. Considering the amount of time spent inside this woman's head, I was surprised that we don't learn her real name or what she does in her real life until the end. What I did learn was that she walked into a situation with a much too high opinion of herself and her ability to handle a man with dementia, let alone the possibility of him being a serial killer. We're told a lot about her "trainer" and how much time she's put in to learning to protect herself from Carl should she need to. The problem is that she really didn't know as much as she thought. I will admit that Carl does play some psychological games with our narrator, and those had the potential to be spine-tingling had our oh so prepared main character not been so completely unprepared for handling them. We do get answers to the many questions posed in this story, but too many were a bit too predictable and I never quite warmed up to the main character. I do prefer my mysteries and thrillers to be more edge of your seat, what's gonna happen next type stories and I didn't find that here, so quite possibly, this one just wasn't for me.

Do This For Me

Do This For Me - Eliza Kennedy

The story line for Do This For Me started off quite good. Raney finds out that her husband is cheating and sets a course for revenge by hitting him where it hurts - his professional life. The way she went about it and the people she involved in that revenge was on the unbelievable side, but it did make for some amusing reading and at that point, I considered her very much the heroine and was fully in her corner. However, I found myself slipping further and further away from that corner as the story progressed. Raney slips way past the line of figuring out the whys of it all while I can appreciate the just learn to live and enjoy life, she takes it to a level that I just couldn't get behind.
The story moves at a fast pace and I enjoy the writing style - mostly. Several time throughout the story, it felt like I was reading a journal entry. Raney is a list maker, I get it. But the exact time she arrived at work, the many times she checked her email and deleted x amount, etc. became tedious and didn't add anything to the story for me. It came across as more telling than showing and really only served to pull me out of the story.
I did keep reading in hopes that Raney would learn something from her antics and find a happy medium, but in the end, I'm not sure she learned anything. There are some chuckle worthy moments and the story does get emotional, but once my opinion of Raney changed, I found her increasingly unlikable and less heroine-like as I continued to read. By the end of the book, I can't say that I particularly liked any of the characters and for me, the conclusion to this one was lackluster at best.
To sum it up, this one was easily a four-star read in the beginning, but by the end, I was somewhere around two. So, I split the difference with three.

To be continued...

The Crooked Staircase - Dean Koontz

I enjoyed the first two Jane Hawk novels, and was looking forward to this one. Given the length and blurb for this one, along with the way book 2 ended, I thought we would finally get some resolution to Jane's quest for justice. Sadly, that didn't happen. Instead, I now have more questions without answers.
The premise for Jane's story is quite terrifying. The very idea that people could be controlled to the point of suicide, plus the many other ways that the technology is used is more spine-tingling than any of the things that go bump in the night. The problem is that this one seemed to be an almost watered down version compared to the first two books in the series. The edge of your seat tension that was so prevalent in book 2 was missing here. In addition to that we get Jane, who was quite the heroine in beginning but becomes rather unbelievable in this third book in the series. She seems to know everything about everything and borders on invincible.
The story becomes drawn out with overly descriptive prose that sometimes seems to go nowhere. I'm all for setting a scene and painting a picture for the reader, but Koontz went a bit over the top with it here. At a certain point, it began to feel like so much filler and it became more distraction than anything else. We do get some gripping story and even some action in between those descriptions, but in the end, this one was just too easy to set aside. Dean Koontz has proven himself a master at nail-biting suspense, but I didn't find much of that this time around.
To sum it up, I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either, and given the time I've vested in Jane Hawk's story, I will read the next book, which hopefully is more story than filler and brings some resolution.

Stories within a story

Sorority - Genevieve Sly Crane

Sorority is more a collection of short stories than a full-length novel. The story starts with an introduction of sorts to each girl, or sister, in the the sorority, and from there we get a story from each of them. From the blurb, I expected a bit of suspense surrounding Margot's death and I suppose there is some question about whether or not it's suicide, but primarily, the book covers some part of each young lady's life, either right before, during, or after college. Having never been in a sorority, I would hope that this representation would be the extreme as every one of the sisters has some issue - some worse than others and some evoking more sympathy than others. I do have to say that I didn't find any of the characters particularly likable, which played a large part in the book being a middle of the road read for me. I did keep reading, thinking that maybe there would be some big revelation in the end, but this really isn't one of those books that gives the reader that type of closure. The author is talented and I would check out more of her work, but this one left me straddling the fence, so to speak. 

 

Conflict of Interest Series #4

Leading the Witness (The Conflict of Interest Series) - Chantal Fernando

It's finally Hunter's turn and the sexy, tatted up lawyer does not disappoint. This one has a somewhat slower build on the romance with so many things keeping Hunter and Riley apart, but the chemistry between them is through the roof. I loved Hunter's patience as he quite literally woos Riley, breaking down her walls little by little. We also get some suspense by way of both Riley's ex and her past, and this one had some twists that I never saw coming. The story does stand on its own, but for those familiar with the wonderful characters of this series, we get plenty of peeks at past favorites and what is going on in their lives. This one did feel a bit more drawn out at times, but it's full of Fernando's trademark wit and sass, along with some intrigue and a romance that is both sweet and scorching hot. All in all, another solid addition to the series. 

School for Psychics

School for Psychics - K.C. Archer

School for Psychics is a fast-paced read that is a little bit conspiracy mixed with some mystery and a touch of possible romance. We have a group of misfits with special abilities thrown together at a school designed to help them hone those abilities and make them into crime fighters. All of this should've had me in its clutches from the start. Sadly, the actual story didn't even come close. Our main character, Teddy, is unlikable from the start, then we have the rest of her classmates, who aren't much better. I realize that with a series, there is time to stretch out world and character building, but this group of misfits are almost interchangeable. They're all at this school as a last resort - not because they want to be, but because they don't have any other choices. Instead of making the most of a last chance opportunity, they continue to break the rules and don't seem to learn from their mistakes. I expected young adult, but this bunch of twenty somethings act more like hormone driven high school students. All of this combined to make for a story that just didn't pull me in and make me want to keep reading. 

Blood Veil

Blood Veil - Megan Erickson

This second book in Megan Erickson's Mission series brings all the action and adventure that we saw in Blood Guard only this one is more of an enemies to lovers romance. The conflict between the Gregorie Valarian clans is what brings Idris and Celia together with the twist that Idris has plans to use her for revenge and Celia has no idea of who she even is, let alone knowing anything about vampires. Of course, nothing goes as planned, which is to be expected and was certainly predictable with this type of story. Regardless of the predictability of certain things in the book, the endearing characters and witty dialogue, along with a fast-paced storyline held my interest from start to finish. Idris makes quite the journey from brooding vampire deadset on revenge to doing what is best for his family and clan, and Celia is the very definition of a damsel in distress who learns what it means to love and sacrifice. Blood Veil can be read as a standalone, but I would recommend starting at the beginning to get the impact of Erickson's vampire world and it's wonderful characters. 

Too Close to Breathe

Too Close to Breathe - Olivia Kiernan

Too Close to Breathe is dark, gritty, and at times, deeply disturbing. The story takes us on a chilling journey through the world of BDSM, abuse, self-harm, and the dark web. The hunt for the killer did draw me in and kept me reading to see how it would all play out, but the drawback for me was a lack of connection with Frankie. She's just returning to work and still dealing with an attack during a previous case. We do get bits of pieces of that case throughout the book, so I can understand and empathize with her, but for whatever reason, there was that lack of connection that kept me from getting fully immersed in the story. The author does have talent and I'll be interested to see her growth as the series progresses. 

The Beloveds

The Beloveds - Maureen Lindley

There's an expression that my grandmother used to say about people who thought a bit too much of themselves - 'I'd like to buy them for what they're worth and sell them for what they think they're worth.' That came to mind several times while reading The Beloveds. This story is told from the perspective of Betty Stash, one of the most unlikable characters I've come across in some time. Now, given that she's the antagonist of this tale, that's to be expected. Betty is unhinged at best with her obsession over her childhood home - a house that speaks to her no less. I could get behind the crazy obsession and even Betty's frustration over her sister inheriting the house, but for a story that was supposed to be about sibling rivalry, I really didn't see much of that here. Don't get me wrong, Betty definitely doesn't like her sister, but the thing is she doesn't like anybody, including her own husband, so it's more like a rivalry with everyone. She does have her sinister side, complete with plans to get what she wants. All of this could've made for a thrilling read, including when Betty's plans backfire on her. Unfortunately, this one lacked that edge of your seat feeling that should come with a thriller. Instead, Betty comes across as whiny and pathetic most of the time, and that whining went on and on for the majority of the story. Her self-entitled, that should be mine attitude and the incessant poor pitiful me theme wore thin pretty quickly and made for a story that felt much too long. There are a handful of moments when the tension ramped up, but they were just too few and far between to make up for the tedium of the rest of the book. The author clearly has talent, and the premise was good. In fact, this could've made for an excellent short story, but as it stands, I found myself wanting to skim more often than not and it was much too easy to set it aside for later.

The Awkward Squad

The Awkward Squad - Sam Gordon, Sophie Hénaff

A police procedural where the police don't exactly follow procedure. The Awkward Squad is formed to keep a group of misfits out of sight and out of mind, but these misfits certainly don't stay there. This crime mystery is well-written and fast-paced from beginning to end. So often, books in this genre tend to lag a bit in the middle, but that is not the case here. Each character has a different story - a different reason for being assigned to this squad of misfits. Of course, there is some butting of heads within the group, but whether it's because of their differences or in spite of them, they're all interesting and the banter between them is witty and often chuckle worthy. The pacing and story line keep the pages turning and I hope to see more of this quirky bunch of crime fighters.

Golden Prey - Lucas Davenport #27

Golden Prey - John Sandford

Lucas Davenport is back and this time as a US Marshall. I've followed this series since the beginning, and Lucas has made a number of changes over the years with the one constant being his quick wit and love of the hunt. Those things haven't changed, but this time he doesn't have his usual group to depend on and he has to figure out how to navigate away from his home turf. While I certainly missed the usual crowd - Del, Jenkins, Shrake, etc - we get a couple of new additions to help with the hunt. Bob and Rae are a good fit for Lucas and it looks like we'll be seeing more of them in the series. Sandford has taken us inside the minds of his bad guys before, but we get a bit more of that here and this one does get violent and even gruesome as our bad guy has some even worse guys looking for him. In the end, this wasn't my favorite Davenport book, but it is good and Richard Ferrone narrated it wonderfully. I'll be interested to see what's next for this series and where this new direction leads.

Sirens

Sirens: A Novel (An Aidan Waits Thriller) - Joseph Knox

This debut novel by Joseph Knox had the potential to be a gritty and gripping crime thriller complete with an anti-hero and criminal underground, which is what drew me to in the beginning. The story is dark and full of police corruption, drugs, and danger. All of this combined should have made for a hard to put down tale that kept the pages turning. Sadly, that was not the case for this reader. The story does have a noir feel and there are numerous colorful characters introduced, which could have garnered interest if not for the drawn out pacing. The chapters are very short – as in one or two pages each – and many of them end quite abruptly, which felt more distracting than anything else. Some chapters were devoted solely to setting a scene with the next chapter getting on with whatever was happening in the story. While these short chapters do give the impression of making progress, there are over one hundred of them, and for me, the end of a chapter was just one more excuse to set this one aside for later. The author does have talent for setting a scene, so much so that Aiden Waits could very well work wonderfully on film, but the book just didn’t work for me. I prefer my thrillers to have that edge of your seat, what’s gonna happen next element and that was missing here. So, try as I might, I was never able to become engaged with any of the characters or the story as a whole. Technically, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the writing, the words are all there, but for whatever reason, those words didn’t make me feel. Whatever that something is that makes a reader care about the characters and their lives is missing here and without that, it’s just a whole lot of words on paper.

Not That I Could Tell

Not That I Could Tell - Jessica Strawser

There seems to be a surge of "no one really knows their neighbor" tales lately and after reading the blurb, I was seriously hoping to find at the least, a good mystery. The problem is the story is just not particularly mysterious. The answer to Kristin's disappearance is pretty obvious from very early on and the rest of the story is a slow-moving jumble of everyday life with a few tidbits of Kristin's life thrown in. The chapters alternate between Clara, a stay at home mom of two who seems to be friends with everybody, and Izzy, the newest addition to the neighborhood who is trying to get as far away from lost love as possible. Amid the lengthy descriptions of nursing and cranky babies, day care gossip, errands, laundry, housework, meals, etc, we get the odd glimpse of Kristin's estranged husband and various theories about what might have happened to her and the twins. We do get a bit of excitement and a twist at the end, and I will say that the way it all played out was an interesting idea... If the story hadn't been so bogged down in the details of everyday life for this neighborhood, most of which had absolutely nothing to do with Kristin or her disappearance. The only glimpses of the actual investigation that we see are from Clara and Izzy, and those are periphery at best for most of the story, so the bulk of this one boils down to the day to day lives of this neighborhood, which in all honesty, can be heard by having a drink with the neighbors in Any Town, USA on any given evening. 

 

Dirty Games

Dirty Games (The Dirty Series) - HelenKay Dimon

I absolutely loved Finn in the first "Dirty" book, so I was excited to read his story. Sadly, this second book in the series left me disappointed. As far as the story goes, there is plenty of action and intrigue, but whether it was just this book or I don't remember as much about the first one as I thought, I had trouble getting into this one. In the beginning, I felt a bit like I was being thrown into the middle of a story rather than the start. That aside, things did start coming together on that front and made for an interesting storyline. However, the romance between Finn and Justin just didn't feel very romantic. Justin's on and off, hot and cold was enough to give a person whiplash. He was like a lovesick puppy one minute and being a complete jerk the next. Plus, there's the added info of a past fling with Finn's brother which added nothing to the story in my humble opinion - other than a bit of an ick factor. I did still like Finn, but got a little aggravated with him being such a pushover with Justin. I spent a good deal of this story hoping that Finn would get tired of Justin's antics, give him a much needed attitude adjustment, and just walk away. That, in itself, doesn't say much for what was supposed to be a romance. So, while I did enjoy the first book, this one leaves me undecided about whether I'll check out whatever is next for the Dirty series.