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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.

Cold River Ranch #1

A True Cowboy Christmas - Caitlin Crews

Cowboys and Christmas, a yummy combination. This first book in the Cold River Ranch series features Gray and Abby, and is full of romance, family, and of course, plenty of angst. Abby has loved Gray for a lifetime, but it might not be enough to tear down Gray's walls. The story does have its dark side, but it's also full of wonderful characters and despite their differences, this pair is perfectly suited. The writing style and wonderfully vivid scenes keep the pages turning for a hard to put down story. I would've liked to have seen more holiday in the book, especially with Christmas in the title, but all in all, A True Cowboy Christmas is a great start to the series. 

Game Changer

Game Changer - Rachel Reid, Rachelle Goguen

Game Changer is well-written and the characters are interesting. I was impressed that even the secondary characters are engaging and often witty and fun. Considering its length, I was surprised that the story is fairly low on angst. However, I finished this one with a middle of the road feeling. I didn't dislike it, but it didn't leave a big lasting impression either. With Scott being so closeted, I would've expected at least some angst about starting a relationship with Kip, but these guys go from zero to sixty really fast, which leaves a lot of lag time in the story with quite a lot of steamy time. Now, I've got nothing against steamy goodness, and these guys can't keep their hands off each other, but after so much, it becomes repetitive and starts to seem like so much filler. We do finally get some angst as Kip wants more from the relationship, but again, it's fairly low level and it's pretty obvious how it will all play out. It is primarily a feel-good read, but I felt like it needed to be tightened up some. A little less time between the sheets and a little more spent on relationship building could've made a big difference.
For me, this was an entertaining read for the most part, but there's really nothing to set it apart from any other book like it. It runs the standard formula of a closeted sports figure meeting Mr Out and Proud. There are no hiccups that we don't see coming, including the sweet and hopeful conclusion. All in all, it's a solid story and I'll be interested to see how this author's work grows with future books.

The House by the Cemetery

The House by the Cemetery (Fiction Without Frontiers) - John Everson

The idea of a haunted house attraction that is actually haunted drew my attention and with Halloween approaching, it seemed appropriate for the season. The cover also sets the stage for a creepy and perhaps sinister tale. In that vein, I suppose this one does deliver, but it took a rather meandering route to get there. The story tends to slog along for quite some time, actually about the first two-thirds or better. There are the occasional creepy scenes, some of which are quite chilling. However, there are a lot of characters introduced, and many of them receive much more page time than needed. Character depth is one thing, but the time taken with some felt like so much filler. Then we have our main character, Mike, the handyman hired to get the house ready for the season. Again, even for a main character, we're given way more than we need for the story. I get it, he's a carpenter and working on the house, but I don't need details of bracing ceilings or laying floors to get the picture. Aside from that, I found Mike to be rather single-minded and well, not very bright. The lust angle is one thing, but I just can't imagine anyone being so completely ignorant of things as this guy. The story does eventually ramp up and we get plenty of Halloween creepiness and gore, but it was just too little, too late to save this one for me. Tightened up and trimmed down, this story could be a real chill-fest in that B-movie kind of way, but as it stands, it just doesn't do the job. 

Under My Skin

Under My Skin - Lisa Unger

I heard so many great things about this book and it started off well enough. Unfortunately, it started going downhill quickly and snowballed from there. I'm usually a fan of an unreliable narrator, but this one pushed that way past the limit. The story bounces from past to present, but not everything "seen" or "remembered" is reality. It's done by way of dreams, memories, and/or hallucinations that are all seen through a drug and alcohol induced haze. It's done in such a way that it's almost impossible to tell which is which, leading to some flipping back through the pages. I suppose that was intentional, but it mostly just caused confusion and irritation, especially when it became repetitive. Between that and the slow pace, I finally admitted defeat at about the fifty percent mark and started skimming. We finally do get the answers about Jack's murder, and even with skimming and a red herring or two thrown in, I was still able to figure out who did it. I didn't have the why of it all but in all honesty, by the time I finally got there, I didn't care enough about any of the characters for it to make much difference. The only character that I did like was Grayson, who also seemed to be the only sensible person in this rather convoluted tale. As I said, I heard good things about this one prior to reading it, and maybe it's just me, but it's safe to say that I was underwhelmed.

Consumed

Consumed - J.R. Ward

The opening chapters of Consumed had me hooked. The book opens right in the thick of things with a fire, danger, and life-altering decisions. I was all set to settle in and be thoroughly engrossed in the story, and I was for a while. However, by about half way through, it felt like the story was rambling, and I was wondering where it was going. I was actually pretty tempted to start skimming, but past experience with this author made me stick with it. The story does have some terrific characters and there are some edge of your seat scenes as this group of firefighters work to save lives, but Anne's chase of a deadly killer that is promised in the blurb kind of stuttered to a start with trickles of info here and there. Once Anne becomes a target, the story had the potential to ramp up with some truly creepy stalker-type things happening, but even that was a bit disappointing. The romance between Anne and Danny kind of felt the same way. They can't keep their hands off each other one minute, then they aren't even speaking the next. I expected some angst in the romance, but Anne's hot and cold wore thin. I finally did make it to the conclusion, but it felt like everything came together in a rush. In the end, there were things I liked and things I didn't, leaving me in the middle of the road on this one. I did like several of the characters, so I'm undecided on whether or not I'll continue with this series. 

The Confession

The Confession: A Novel - Jo Spain

I walked away with mixed feelings on this one. The bare bones of the story is absolutely brilliant. In the very beginning, Harry McNamara is attacked in his home. It's brutal, grisly, and chilling. His wife witnesses the whole thing, and her reactions during and after are suspect at best. We also know from the beginning that JP Carney committed the crime. The question is why. At this point, the story had me in its clutches. Unfortunately, it started to lose me rather soon after that. The story starts to move back and forth between the days following the attack and the backstories of the characters. Some of that back info is important to the plot and reasons for everything happening, and some is not. A lot is not. We do finally get to the why of it all, but the book takes the scenic route to get there. Granted, there were things in the past that the reader needs to know for it to all make sense, but I really did not need every detail of every time Julie doubted Harry or every time she looked the other way, nor did I need to know every job that JP had during the years leading up to the crime. Fair warning, be prepared not to like anyone in this one. By the time I trudged through the considerable history of Julie and Harry's marriage and JP's troubled life, I couldn't drum up much empathy for any of them, except for the real victim in this deadly game. In the end, I would give a solid five stars for the beginning and conclusion, but the middle was way too drawn out and had too much downtime for me. So, I ended up somewhere in the middle on The Confession.

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle - Stuart  Turton

Think Agatha Christie meets Groundhog Day with the body hopping of Quantum Leap and you have the gist of this one. The story has a Gothic feel and for every question our protagonist finds an answer to, there's another question or predicament to deal with. We aren't given much information about the main character in the beginning, which is a bit of a double-edged sword. His confusion is conveyed quite well, but since we don't know any more than he does, it doesn't give the reader much in the way of a connection with Aiden. I was curious about why he was stuck bouncing around and becoming other people, but without anything personal, it's hard to find much empathy for him. The story is a little like being told about the events of one day from several points of view, but some characters were more distinctive than others so at times, the jumps from one person to another led to some confusion. For me, this one had its ups and downs, but it did keep me reading, trying to figure things out - sometimes trying to solve the puzzle and sometimes just trying to figure out what was going on. The author certainly has a way with words, and the book is loaded with some absolutely brilliant prose, so I would certainly read other works by him. 

Lies

Lies: The Gripping Psychological Thriller That Will Take Your Breath Away - T.M. Logan

Lies. They're everywhere, especially in the life of Joe Lynch. Joe is truly one of the good guys. He loves his wife, dotes on his son, is perfectly happy in his teaching position - as far as he's concerned, everything is as it should be. Then one afternoon changes everything and Joe is on the wrong end of a twisted game of cat and mouse.
Poor Joe can't catch a break and every time he thinks he's making some headway, he's hit with something else, and there's no one he can trust. In fact, the story is filled with unreliable characters and no one is beyond suspicion. I did figure out the ending, in part, but I certainly didn't piece together the other part of it. There's also another interesting little tidbit that adds to the edge of your seat conclusion.
The story is fast paced and the twists keep coming for our unwilling hero. There are some things that stretch the believability scale, but this is fiction, so some leeway can be given and it's not completely over the top. All in all, Lies is a solid debut from the author and I'll be interested to see what he comes up with next.

Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating

Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating - Christina Lauren

The awesome pairing that is Christina Lauren has done it again with this friends to lovers romance. The story is a wonderful combo of silly, sweet, sexy, and laugh out loud hilarity. Everyone should have a Hazel in their life. That one friend who's full of spunk, completely inappropriate, absolutely lacks a filter, and loves those close to her with all her heart. She's a hot mess all the way around and such a fun character. Broken down, this one is typical of most friends to lovers romances. Josh and Hazel are just friends, free to be exactly who they are and just have fun together until something changes. But the way the story is delivered kept me turning pages for the next bit of crazy this pair would get up to. The attraction is obvious, at least to the reader, and the chemistry between them is off the charts even when neither of them realize it. On the surface, the off-the-wall Hazel and oh, so sweet Josh seem like complete opposites, but inside, where it counts, they are absolutely perfect together. With a few fun twists and even a little bit of angst, this one is another must read from these authors. 

Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace - Mindy Mejia

Leave No Trace is an interesting enough story and maybe my definition of a thriller is different than the author's, but I didn't find one here. There is suspense and quite a lot of dangling carrots throughout that hint at answers, but the pacing is very slow and those answers take their sweet time coming. I realize this is fiction and certain allowances can be made, but this one requires more suspension of disbelief than what I would consider reasonable. To make matters worse, I didn't find Maya particularly interesting. She's rather bland as far as a protagonist goes, other than the sheer number of times she manages to be hurt by Lucas in his many attempts to escape. And that's just one  thing that stretched the imagination. I can't imagine a speech therapist being left alone with a dangerous or violent patient even once, let alone repeatedly. The only saving grace in this one for me was Josiah. His chapters are very well done and are quite compelling, but about halfway through, I realized I was just plunging through hoping for another of his chapters. The author does have talent, but this one missed the mark for me. 

Cowboy, Cross My Heart

Cowboy, Cross My Heart - Donna Grant

Cowboy, Cross My Heart is the second book in the Heart of Texas series, but it works as a standalone. There are several years between the events in the two books, and we're given plenty of backstory. This one is loaded with sexy cowboys, instant attraction, some suspense, corruption, danger, steam, and romance. All of these combined should've made for a riveting story, but it ended up being just an okay read for me. I liked most of the characters, and I enjoyed Brice and Naomi's romance. There's also some witty dialogue and general silliness among the Harper family. Then, we have our bad guys, and that's where my problems started with this book. The suspense and danger covers some serious subject matter, but the people involved came across feeling more like caricatures. There just wasn't much depth to that part of the story, which was sad because it could've made this one a gripping story. In the end, the story was okay, but I wasn't left with a need to continue with the series. 

The Other Woman

The Other Woman - Sandie Jones

This one had me in its clutches the whole way. Right up until the ending. The storyline isn't anything I haven't seen before, but Jones kept it interesting. Emily is in a relationship with Adam, who appears to be a momma's boy. Adam's mother, Pammie, is controlling and conniving to the extreme and Emily gets the brunt of it. While I did feel for Emily's circumstances, I didn't care much for our heroine. Granted, Emily has never been in this type of situation, so she struggles to deal with it all, but she comes across as whiny a lot of the time. The more I read, the more I wanted to shake some sense into her and tell her to stand up for herself. That aside, the author does an excellent job with building the tension and it is a compelling read. Some things stretch the believability scale, but I kept turning those pages to see what devious thing Pammie would do next and waiting for her to get caught up in her mess. In fact, the story was riveting and I was prepared to sing its praises, until the big twist at the end. I expected part of it - a small part of it, but I have to say I was pretty disappointed with the conclusion. I love twisty stories, but this twist made little sense to me. Too many things just didn't add up. To give details would also give spoilers, so I'll just sum it up with this was a well-plotted and gripping story that let me down in the end.

Not Her Daughter

Not Her Daughter - Rea Frey

Not Her Daughter is well-written and the story has a building tension that keeps the pages turning. The story is written in dual points of view, alternating between our kidnapper, Sarah, and Emma's mother, Amy. We also get before, during, and after chapters to give some perspective into the characters and their frame of mind. All of this should've added up to a high-praise review. However, there were a few things throughout the story that niggled at me. Amy is unlikable from the start, which is kind of the point, and Sarah makes a rash decision to kidnap Emma, thus freeing her from a bad home life. Why Sarah chose kidnapping over calling authorities is explained, but suffice it to say that her emotions and mental state weren't exactly where they should be. Okay, I can get with that. My problems started from there. I don't want to give spoilers, so I'll just sum it up with either Sarah is extremely lucky or everyone involved is completely inept at their jobs because her name is never brought up. Not once. The ending, while unexpected, was unsatisfactory at best. I understand that this one is in the works for the big screen and maybe it will work better in that format, but for me, there were just too many things that required a suspension of disbelief. On the whole, the story had great potential, but fell a bit short of that wow factor.

The Devil's Lieutenant

The Devil's Lieutenant - Shervin Jamali

The Devil's Lieutenant is a fast-paced, quick read, coming in at about an hour's read time. The story is pretty straight-forward and nothing that hasn't been done before, which didn't leave much in the way of surprises. There are a couple of interesting twists, but again, it's almost impossible not to see them coming. The chapters hop back and forth through roughly fifteen years of Michael's life. That time jumps wouldn't be a big deal, but given the length of the book, that style was more a disservice to the story than any benefit in my opinion. The biggest drawback for me was the lack of depth. Taken at face value, the book is an entertaining read and a decent way to while away an hour or so, but I came away wishing there were more to it. Be forewarned: the story is graphic and there are parts that hard to take. 

Down With Love

Down With Love - Kate Meader

Down With Love is everything a good romantic comedy should be and then some! We have lovable characters, and engaging and witty story, and lots of reasons to smile, chuckle, and even laugh out loud. When you pair up a divorce lawyer and a wedding planner, sparks are bound to fly. In Max and Charlie's case, those sparks are not just of the fiery, you make me furious kind. They've both been burned by love in the past, and while those issues are addressed, that part isn't the focus here. We do get a bit of angst, but it's low key, keeping this romance lighthearted and sexy. To sum it up, this is a wonderfully written combo of sweet, sexy, and downright hilarious. 

Desperate Girls

Desperate Girls - Laura Griffin

Desperate Girls is a bit of a mixed bag. We have some courtroom drama, a bit of action and suspense by way of an escaped murderer set on getting revenge, some hot and steamy romance, and a little more suspense with an interesting twist. This is my first read by Laura Griffin, and I have to say I was impressed. The story moves at a good pace, there are no big lags, and the flow is good. Brynn is a strong female lead, which I always enjoy, and Erik is the very definition of a protector. They have great chemistry and just fit so well together that you can't help but want to see them together. The big bad in this one is about as bad as they get, and the tension builds as he tries to get to Brynn. I would've liked to have seen a bit more from Corby given his intelligence level, but it was still an entertaining read. We do get an intriguing twist at the end - one that I didn't see coming until it was right there. All in all, I enjoyed the book and will certainly be watching for whatever comes next in this new series.