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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.

Running Out of Time

Running Out of Time - Myers,  Cindi

This final TCD romantic suspense finished the series with a bang - literally. But it starts with a poisoning, and I may be dating myself here, but I remember the tainted Tylenol that's mentioned in this story. I also remember the panic and worry people had until it was figured out. So, something similar being used here was interesting to me. Honestly, I read a lot of mystery, suspense, and thrillers, and I'm surprised that I haven't seen it before now, so I have to give props to the author for coming up with a mystery that will likely be original to a good portion of the book's readers. Then we have the opposites attract romance, which is always good for a bit of banter and fun. There's a fine line between love and hate, and passions run high when two people are butting heads. I liked Jace from the start, but he's one of my favorite types of characters - a bit arrogant with a heart of gold. Laura is a little cold but with good reason, and I liked seeing her loosen up little by little as she and Jace got to know each other. The story is full of action and has a great balance between romance and suspense. I've enjoyed this whole Tactical Crime Division series, and I'd recommend it to anyone who reads romantic suspense. 

A Hidden Heir to Redeem Him

A Hidden Heir to Redeem Him (Feuding Billionaire Brothers #1) - Dani Collins

A Hidden Heir to Redeem Him felt more like a short story than a novel or novella. I knew it was going to be a pretty quick read at a little over 200 pages, but there are a lot of unanswered questions, at least for me. I think the main thing for me is that these characters don't receive the development or growth they need for a successful relationship. I spent a good deal of this one really wanting Kiara to put Val in his place. I also had to keep reminding myself that this was based on a very different culture than my own. Otherwise, these women would've driven me a bit crazy. Nevertheless, this pair does make for some witty and fun banter, especially in the first half of the book, and we get a sweet and sassy little lady to keep them on their toes. I will say that the title is pretty perfect for this book because if anyone needs a bit of redemption, it would be Val. He doesn't display too many redeeming qualities except for his reactions to his daughter, and I wasn't sure he would figure the whole relationship thing out. It was near miss, and the author certainly held out until the final moments to get there, but for those who want to quit, I would suggest holding out until those last few pages. Val does have some redeeming qualities in there. It just takes a bit of digging. The epilogue does bring some resolution to the story as well as a smile and a sigh from any romance lover. To sum it up, this is a quick, instalove romance with surprisingly more after the insta part than before. I would say that anyone who enjoys a bit of instalove, secret baby romance will love this one.

Secret Investigation

Secret Investigation - Heiter,  Elizabeth

If you require more romance than suspense or even equal parts romance and suspense, Secret Investigation may not be what you're looking for. This one is kind of romance adjacent. There are looks exchanged and Leila and Davis clearly share an attraction, but I just didn't get the romance vibe from these two. There's also what seems to be a little something going on between a couple of the other members of the team in this one, but there are only hints of what it could lead to. What this one does excel at is mystery. The suspense side of Secret Investigation is well - suspenseful. The pacing is good and while there are a handful of characters to choose from as our culprit, the author doesn't quite give us enough info to completely solve this one until the reveal is upon us. I wouldn't necessarily like that in a longer story, but for the length of this one, it works pretty well, and it serves to keep the pages turning. The relationship between Davis and Leila is sort of a forbidden one at least from an FBI standpoint, or it would be with a bit of relationship development. As it stands, it's pretty darn close to instalove. Nevertheless, the characters are likable, and I do enjoy a good fast-paced mystery, and on that, this one certainly delivers.

Claimed by a Steele

Claimed by a Steele (Forged of Steele #13) - Brenda Jackson

Claimed By a Steele is a slow burn romance that turned around very quickly. Gannon and Delphine do make a good couple once they get out of their own way, and they're both likable characters. I really liked how this one started and concluded - kind of like it was coming full circle, and of course, there's lots of this great family to round things out. From the parents down to the last of them, the Steele's have certainly made for fun reading, and I kind of hate to see them go. I would've liked a bit more flair for the finale, but Gannon's story is still a solid addition to the series. I know this one is titled Claimed By a Steele, and that's kind of been the theme all the way through, but truly, I think this series is more about the women who claim these alpha males more than the other way round. So, to sum it up, this final book in the series is another curl up on the couch for a couple of hours and escape into a bit of romance story that's sure to please.

48 Hour Lockdown

48 Hour Lockdown - Cassidy,  Carla

48 Hour Lockdown is an edge of seat romantic suspense that kicks off the Tactical Crime Division series in style. I love a good second chance romance and Evan and Annalise's second chance starts off under high tension circumstances, and Carla Cassidy builds on that tension steadily as the story progresses. We get a double whammy on the suspense side of this one. On the one hand, there are the bad guys we can see, and on the other, there's the bad guy working behind the scenes who remains a mystery until the end. Now, I did eventually guess the identity of the mystery man or woman, but the author didn't make it too easy. Then we have the romance, and I'll admit that I was a little worried about how this one would work under the circumstances, but it's very well done, and I love that time is taken for these two to take a look at what happened the first time around. All in all, this first TCD book is a fast-paced, entertaining read with characters you genuinely want to root for. It's full of tense, sit up a pay attention moments as well as a plenty of feels romance. Carla Cassidy has set the bar high for the rest of this series, and I can't wait to see what's next.

The New Husband

The New Husband - D.J. Palmer

The New Husband has good tension, interesting characters, and a gritty storyline. The pacing is pretty steady overall with no serious lags along the way. Yet, it doesn't quite cross over from okay to really good. It does have a psychological element, and there are some decent twists. The problem is those twists are entirely too predictable. Don't get me wrong, the bad guy is sufficiently bad and creepy, and Nina is likable and easy to root for. That said, there isn't a single thing in this story that I haven't seen before. Whether it be in book form or in a movie or television show, this has been done and done again. That wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing if there were something to set this one apart from the crowd, but there isn't. The book showed promise, and I kept reading, hoping to find something that I didn't see coming or that I hadn't seen before, but it just didn't happen. So, in the end, it's not a bad story, but it isn't a great one either. 

A Bad Day for Sunshine

A Bad Day for Sunshine - Darynda Jones

I like snark and sarcasm, I really do - or I thought I did until I had so much of it thrown at me that it started to get on my nerves. So, I suppose I should say that I appreciate some well-timed snark and sarcasm. What I found here is not that.
When I first started reading, I was struck by the similarities between Sun and Auri and another mother-daughter duo from a beloved early 2000s television series. The difference is Lorelai and Rory were actually witty. The outcome here is that all that snark just translated into a wordy story of about 400 pages where very little happens. People walk around and talk a lot, but if there was much in the way of actual investigation, I missed it. Of course, I'll admit that I started skimming around the halfway mark due to the lack of anything to keep me engaged, so I could've missed it. The biggest issue with so much sarcastic dialogue that's meant to be funny is that it makes it really hard to take anything seriously - like the fact that Sun is supposed to be working on a missing person case - a missing teenage girl no less, and there is certainly nothing funny about that.
A missing person, secrets in Sun's past, and even a kidnapped rooster should be plenty to propel a good story forward, but then we have the whole mess surrounding Sun's election to sheriff. I'm not sure why all that was necessary, but it's completely over the top and unnecessary. But then, that was just one more thing in a sea of things that rubbed me the wrong way.
From what I've been hearing about this book, I'm pretty sure that I'm in the minority here, but it is what it is. For me, the book was scattered, and the most interesting thing about it was the rooster. There are unanswered questions that I'm assuming will be built upon in future books since this is the start of a series, but I didn't find anything in this one to convince me to read further books in this series.

Seduced by a Steele

Seduced by a Steele (Forged of Steele #12) - Brenda Jackson

I don't know how I've missed the Steele's up to now, but they are certainly firmly on my radar now. The story is mostly just a witty, feel-good romance, and the characters are terrific. I will say that I felt like Sloan's parents were a little over-the-top as well as what happened with them toward the end, but that's just a small part of this story, which is primarily a romance. Mercury's arrogance is just enough to give him that sexy, self-assured aura without tipping over into jerkdom, and he and Sloan have great chemistry. The book is a pretty quick read, which is perfect for a weekender, or curling up to while away a rainy afternoon. I definitely enjoyed it, and now that I've met the Steele's, I want more of them. 

Milo Weaver Book 3

An American Spy - Olen Steinhauer

Well, I left book 2 in the Milo Weaver series with a so-so feeling and wasn't sure if I was going to continue. Obviously, I decided to try one more time, and my experience with this one made up my mind. The thing that stood out most was that Milo is barely included in this one, which is odd to me since this is supposed to be his series. However, that was not the clincher for me. In fact, I've never managed to quite warm up to Milo, and the lack of any real character development in this one didn't do much to change my feelings for him. One thing that did clinch it is that the story is repetitive. So much so that this book could've been a much shorter read without repeated play by plays of scenes that have already happened. It felt a bit like a sports play being aired from different perspectives, which would've been okay had it not happened so often. Then we have quite a lot of characters, some who would come in briefly only to pop back up much later, leaving me to flip back through the book to remind myself of who they were. Finally, the story was seriously convoluted, which is saying something, considering the genre. In the end, I think it's a safe bet that this series is not for me, and I won't be continuing with Milo Weaver.

Ellery Hathaway #3

All the Best Lies (Ellery Hathaway #3) - Joanna Schaffhausen

Ellery and Reed are back, and this time, the case is personal for Reed. Technically, All the Best Lies is a police procedural, except this pair doesn't exactly follow procedure. Whatever their methods, it makes for an entertaining and exciting read. In addition to the suspense of the case, the connection between Ellery and Reed increases. Now, here's where I'll say that technically, this book can be read as a standalone, but in order to get the full impact of the dynamic between these two, I would recommend reading the books in order. There's been a lot of push and pull between our main characters with good reason, but the chemistry has grown despite their hesitance. So, I suppose this one is a little procedural and a little romantic suspense, and Schaffhausen brings it all together in spectacular fashion in this third Ellery Hathaway book. The romance isn't the hearts and flowers of a traditional love story, but the feelings between Reed and Ellery come through loud and clear, and it's impossible not to root for them. The suspense in this one revolves around the murder of Reed's mother, and the author gives us a fair amount of red herrings to consider as things progress. In the end, I guessed some of the answers, but it kept me in the dark enough to keep the pages turning at a good clip. All in all, this is a good addition to the series, and the conclusion was perfect for these characters. I don't know if there is another book planned for the series, but I certainly hope so as I'm not quite ready to say goodbye to these characters.

Ellery Hathaway #2

No Mercy - Joanna Schaffhausen

No Mercy is the second Ellery Hathaway book, one thing I've learned so far is that Ellery doesn't tiptoe into danger. Nope, she plunges headfirst, and for a woman who has seen her fair share of it, she takes the leap with little regard for her own wellbeing. Oh, and she takes Reed Markham with her whether he wants to go or not. Reed and Ellery have an interesting history and it's not one that would be conducive to romance, but there's an interesting chemistry between them. We only got a glimpse of it in the first book, but this one takes a closer look. In addition to that, Ellery and Reed are investigating a couple of older crimes, one believed to be solved and the other with little to go on. The cases are interesting in their own right, but these characters set this series apart from so many run of the mill mysteries. Both Ellery and Reed are likable. They're complete opposites on so many fronts, but they still manage to mesh even when they both fight it and refuse to admit it to each other as well as themselves. I'll be interested to see where these two go as the series progresses, plus the end of this one opened the door to another solid mystery to solve for this pair. All in all, No Mercy is a good addition to a series that I'll certainly be keeping my eye on.

Gabriel's Inferno #4

Gabriel's Promise - Sylvain Reynard

I did something with this fourth book in the Gabriel's Inferno series that I haven't done in quite some time. I finished the book, then I sat back and stewed about it for a while. Then I stewed about it some more. I enjoyed the first three books in the series, and while it took me a bit in the first book to warm up to the contrariness that is Gabriel, warm up, I did, and I liked this couple together. Julia has this way of giving in to Gabriel while somehow, still getting her own way, and there is no doubt of his dedication to her. That dedication takes on a new element with Gabriel's Promise. This pair is learning to be parents, and they're both completely devoted to baby Clare. Gabriel, Julia, and Clare are just the sweetest family, and of course, we get lots of extended family as everyone gathers round to welcome the new baby, which means some catching up with favorites from the series. Of course, there's a bit of angst with some secrets between our couple, but if you're familiar with the series, and you really should be before starting this one, then a few disagreements between these two won't be enough to do them in. Instead, we get some danger by way of a mystery character, one who may or may not be from Gabriel or Julia's past. This is where I ran into problems, and it's what brought about my stewing. What it boils down to is that the conclusion for this book is kind of open-ended, and it feels a little unfinished to me. Now, I don't know if there are plans for another book in the series. Honestly, I expected this to be the finale for this couple, but now, I'm not so sure. If there is another book in the works, the unfinished ending along with unanswered questions would make sense because the series has been a continuing story. But, if this is the last book, I feel like the author took the easy way out with the suspense angle here. I really expected so much more, especially after a certain big thing happened. It really had great potential, but it ended up being a little like a secondary storyline just to have the mystery included, and it starts to fizzle after that above mentioned big event. To sum it up, I loved getting to revisit this couple, but I wasn't sold on the suspense, especially with how it was left. 

Husband Material

Husband Material - Emily Belden

Husband Material is kind of a cross between RomCom and women's fiction, and I'm not sure it quite knew which it wanted to be. Dealing with the death of her husband, even five years after the fact, is emotional and heartbreaking, but it doesn't always come across that way. A lot of the book leans toward what I would call quirky and amusing, and there is certainly nothing amusing about grief at the loss of a spouse. The book is well written, and the characters are interesting, but I still struggled to get invested in the story, and I think it goes back to the serious subject matter with such an upbeat tone. I did start to come around about halfway through, and in the end, the story is worth the read, but be prepared for a slightly different take on what would normally be a very emotional read. 

Theme Music

Theme Music - T. Marie Vandelly

Theme Music has a brilliantly chilling start that had me all geared up for an equally chilling tale. And it does deliver on that in a lot of ways. The setting and atmosphere don't lack on the creep factor scale. Even though the house has been updated and seems to be in a good neighborhood, the writing and tone of the story give it an almost gothic feel.
The author has quite the imagination, and it is shared with us in graphic detail. The problem with that is I too have quite the imagination and most times, I can imagine it worse than a book can describe it. So, I usually find that less is more when it comes to the gory details. The gore and graphic details run rampant in this one, and while I would agree that those details were probably necessary to give us a good visual of the scene, it becomes repetitive all too quickly between Dixie's imagination and crime scene photos. Speaking of, I'm still trying to figure out why the detective, who is now retired, would've still had any files or photos from the scene, or why anyone related to the family would be given access. Wouldn't those have been part of a case file on record?
Anyway, back to those repetitive details - am I the only one who started getting really worried about Dixie's gag reflex? Seriously, about halfway through, I was already tired of Dixie's need to throw up or actually going through with it. There are other reactions to fear and turmoil, and I wouldn't have minded seeing a few of those in place of the all too frequent vomiting - freeze, pass out, freak out, scream your bloody head off, just do something other than throw up.
Despite all that, we do get some solid suspense reading with Theme Music. Is Dixie crazy? Is she haunted? Was someone else involved? All of those questions are bound to go through a reader's mind at least once while reading this one, and the author does get tricky with some of the happenings. We also have the equivalent of a couple of decent red herrings to wonder about as things progress along with some pretty good twists, especially in the last quarter or so of the book. There is also a supernatural element, which I didn't mind and felt like it worked with the story.
In the end, this one had things I liked and other things that I didn't, landing me firmly in the middle. I do think it was way longer than it needed to be, and with a bit of trimming down on the repetitiveness, this could easily have been a more entertaining and even creepier thriller. As I mentioned earlier, the author does have a great imagination and based on many things in this debut novel, I will be interested to see what she does next.

Ellery Hathaway #1

The Vanishing Season: A Mystery - Joanna Schaffhausen

The Vanishing Season is an impressive debut from Joanna Schaffhausen, and an equally impressive series start. All too often lately, I've been sucked in by a great prologue only to be let down by what follows, but that was not a problem at all with this book. The mystery is suspenseful and kept me on my toes, the procedural part of the story was interesting and thought-provoking, and the characters were terrific - even the ones I didn't like. Our main characters, Ellery and Reed are both likable and even though I've never been in either's shoes, they were still relatable. Ellery makes for a great protagonist. She's stubborn, determined, and will stop at nothing to solve this case even when no one else thinks there is a case. Does she always make the right decisions? Not even close, and she's also a bit broken by her past and keeping secrets that could come back to bite her. She's got plenty of reason to keep secrets, and who wouldn't messed up by what she's been through. She lived through a nightmare and is still pushing through the other side. Reed is equally likable and also a little broken. His story tugs at the heartstrings as he deals with things in his personal life while also trying to help Ellery. I really liked Reeds chapters and the way his mind worked as they raced to find a killer before someone else could be taken. The mystery is laid out very well, and the author does give us a pretty good red herring or two as the story progresses. I did guess the killer's identity, but that didn't diminish my enjoyment of the story, and I will say that the author had me second-guessing myself more than once. All in all, this is a great start to the series, and I can't wait to see more of these characters. 

Forever My Duke

Forever My Duke - Olivia Drake

Forever My Duke ended up being just okay for me. Granted, I don't read a lot of Regency romances these days, but based on my experience with the genre, this one didn't bring anything new to the table. I expected it to be unrealistic, and it is. So much so, that it kind of felt like a bunch of people pretending to be from that era. It has a rather slow start, and once the story gets going, it's terribly clichéd. Despite all that, I did rather like Hadrian and Natalie and had this been set in a more current time period, I would've loved this couple. Natalie is a bit too progressive for the time, which is one of the many issues I have with the setting. In the end, the story was somewhere in the fair to middlin' range for me. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it either. I suppose I just wanted more than the typical.