Book #31 of 2016: Trust Me by Margaret Watson

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Raine Taylor has one goal – justice for her murdered sister. She knows Genie’s husband strangled her and left her in an alley – Peter had been threatening to kill his wife for years. The police said there was no proof Peter Northrup killed Genie. So it was up to Raine to make him pay.

When Detective Connor Donovan answers a call about a trespasser outside Northrup’s house, he finds a woman running down the street. When he tries to stop her, he’s left holding her hoodie as she strikes out like a ninja then vanishes like smoke.

Connor quickly realizes Raine is his mysterious trespasser. Now he has to figure out why she was outside Northrup’s house at three A.M. Raine isn’t his usual criminal – she’s a schoolteacher who coaches a tae-kwon-do team of under-privileged girls. And he’s wildly attracted to her.

Raine needs to stay away from Connor. She has a plan to deal with Northrup, and she can’t get involved with a cop. But like two magnets drawing together, she can’t resist him. Can Connor help her find justice for Genie? Or will her sister’s killer claim another victim before they can stop him?

I received a copy of this book from the author, Margaret Watson, for an honest review. I was not compensated in any way.

Trust Me is a suspense police romance. It has a strong willed kickass female lead and a male lead who has trouble trusting, until he meets his match.

Let me start with the story. The writing is easy to get into and easy to disappear from reality. There is no heavy wording and the story had a good balance of steam and actual story. I got in very fast, but I found the middle to be slightly boring. I’m not sure if that was because I was sick at the time or the writing, but it took me a while to get through. About 75% in, I was back in the flow.

If you are expecting a female lead who needs saving in the end, you’re not going to get that. Raine is everything her character is supposed to be. She has an inner drive and physical strength that puts men to their knees. She has a sharp tongue, sharp brain, and possibly a sharper kick. I loved how it ended with her. I was hoping that she was going to shine brighter than she had in the middle, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Connor is an acceptable male lead. He has a complex where he thinks he’s an alpha, but there’s an undercurrent of a scared puppy. That isn’t to say he doesn’t show his own chops. He does, it’s just that Raine makes him putty (even when they are angry). I found him attractive enough and the perfect match for Raine’s own emotional issues. Together, they work well.

There is plenty of arguing and plenty of sexual tension to keep you reading their romance. I wanted a bit more tension centered on her sister’s death, but the overall story wasn’t bad.

Book #30 of 2016: Timebound by Rysa Walker

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When Kate Pierce-Keller’s grandmother gives her a strange blue medallion and speaks of time travel, sixteen-year-old Kate assumes the old woman is delusional. But it all becomes horrifyingly real when a murder in the past destroys the foundation of Kate’s present-day life. Suddenly, that medallion is the only thing protecting Kate from blinking out of existence.

Kate learns that the 1893 killing is part of something much more sinister, and Kate’s genetic ability to time-travel makes her the only one who can stop him. Risking everything, she travels to the Chicago World’s Fair to try to prevent the killing and the chain of events that follows.

Changing the timeline comes with a personal cost, however—if Kate succeeds, the boy she loves will have no memory of her existence. And regardless of her motives, does she have the right to manipulate the fate of the entire world?

 I love time travel fiction. I find them to be intricate, filled with action and intrigue, and have an historical element that feeds my inner history nerd without going full out boring with facts.

I found Timebound through Audible’s website and used my credit to try it out. I’m glad I did. No more than the first few minutes and I was excited for the future (past?) chapters in the book. I should say that I’m still giddy about it, even though the character/historical figure was only seen a few small times in the climax of the book. I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler since he’s mentioned right in the beginning, but I don’t really want to. I’ll give you hints though: American serial killer and Chicago World Expo. If you don’t know whom I am referring, suffice it to say that my demented part was very happy.

That said, even though there were brief moments of the serial killer, the book still had a lot going for it. The basics of the world’s time travel was explained and for a more exposition type of book, there was plenty of action and intrigue to keep me listening.

Kate is a character I could follow. She was adequately freaking out when her world was turned upside down. She had quite the mental breakdown and though I was yelling at the book when she made certain decisions, I can’t say I wouldn’t have done the same.  Her love for The Princess Bride was great too.

Trey is a sweetie pie and though I have no idea if he’ll stay with Kate in the end of the trilogy, I want him to be.  I’m a Trey fan. He’s lovable, loyal, and just a great guy. There is a love triangle in the making, but I don’t know how that is going to pan out and it’s full of timey wimey weirdness.

In all, I am in love with this world and am hopeful for the rest of the series. The idea that time is not linear is an awesome mess. Throughout the book, the Tenth Doctor was in the back of my mind explaining the big ball of timey wimey stuff.

Book #29 of 2016: The Keeper by Rebecca E. Neely

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Nick Geary, jaded clan leader of human guardians the Keepers, is doomed to love a human woman who’s forgotten him, time after time, for thirteen years: Libby Klink, a skittish accountant who’s as terrified of her recent and strange intuitions as she is of her mundane existence.

When Nick is ordered by the clan’s guiding force to seek Libby’s help in defending the clan against enemy Betrayers, romance sizzles as the pair forms an unlikely alliance in their desperate search to discover the key to the clan’s salvation—which Libby alone holds.

But a haunting secret could cost Nick everything, and in a race against time, both will be forced to choose between their hearts and duty. Can their love, and the clan survive, or will the very forces that drew them together ultimately destroy them?

I received an ARC of this book through NetGalley for an honest review. I was not compensated in any way.

I am on the fence about The Keeper. There are parts I liked and there are parts that I wish were done differently.

The Keeper is the first book in a paranormal romance series. Keepers are a group of people (as human as they can be) who Keep humans. I don’t mean slavery kind of keeping, I mean these people help humans out. They are your good samaritan guardian angels that you briefly remember or can’t remember at all. Then there are the Watchers, basically they are angels who tell Keepers where to go and who to protect. And then there are the bad guys, the Betrayers. They cause the chaos.

Okay, now that that’s done, let’s start with the writing. I like Neely’s writing. It is simple and quick to get into. The writing isn’t Shakespeare, which is great because I want to relate. And, with Neely, I can relate with her writing style. The imagery is good and I could see everything she wanted to convey. She also did a great touch in using a sense that isn’t usually seen in books: Smell. I could smell what her character smelled. Awesome job.

However, I found the story to be lacking in bits. When there was action, it was good, but I wish there was more to the characters. Libby took the information Nick gave her very well. She didn’t seem to fight him and it was very much an insta-love relationship on her end. As for him, he’s been in love with her for a while. So, I can work on his end. Libby seemed a bit far fetched in that regard.

I also didn’t care for the physical changes that happen. Whereas I do understand, I just wish that a bespectacled heroine would stick around. I am going to give Neely big kudos on keeping Libby’s biggest quality though. As a fellow sufferer, it was great to see it being used for something other than debilitating. I would elaborate, but it’s a big thing in the book and I don’t want to spoil.

Over all, the story wasn’t the greatest, but I did like it. Sure, I would change a few things, but I think that goes with other readers and other books. The Keeper is a quick book and a fast read. It would have taken me less time if I haven’t been sick during reading it. For romance readers, you may like it.

Book #28 of 2016: Worlds on Fire by Lexi Ostrow

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Julian Michelson is a firefighter in a small town in Alabama. He’s been struggling for years to prove to himself that Word Speakers, people who can pull characters from books, exist. Why? Because he’s supposed to be one and he’s failed every step of the way and a war is supposedly coming.

Serena, a princess in fictional medieval Britain, is the epitome of a good girl. She lives to appease her father and her country. That is until she felt a strange voice in her head before waking up and seeing a handsome man through the flames of a fire in a strange world. Now she’s stuck in his world and is none to happy with him despite her fascination with the new world and her growing attraction for him.

Julian must make amends to Serena, his first and only Guardian, because if she leaves he can kiss his gift goodbye. A lust they can’t deny spikes between them as Word Speaker and Guardian and they must decide – are they in the fight together, or do they go their separate ways?

 I received a code for the Audible audio book from the author for an honest review.

Technically this book is set between the first and second book in the Guardian series and though you may not need to read this book to understand the main storyline, I found it does help understand the elusive unnamed brothers (otherwise known as Trench Coat and Leather Jacket). May I just add that everytime I read Trench Coat, I think of Castiel from Supernatural.

Anyways, Worlds on Fire deals with a Word Speaker with the polar opposite amount of abilities than Ciara Miller in the first book. Julian Michaelson is an alpha male. He has a hero complex, is a fireman, and wants to prove himself. He is compassionate and has a gentleman quality to him that made him endearing. He isn’t a typical He-Man-Alpha and I liked that. In contrast, Serena, his Guardian, is very much a girly girl. She is a princess which should say it all. However, she does have spunk and I also liked her as a character.

As always, Ostrow writes well and pulled me into the story quickly. I could see the characters interact and I loved the action. The book is a quickie for anyone with about four or five hours to spare. You can do it like me and take your time or just go for the long haul. And, the steamy scenes were steamy.

Now, for the audio portion… I was actually surprised with Ostrow’s choice. The narrator is British and the accent was used when he narrated the book. This took a bit of time for me to grasp it (especially since Julian is from Alabama). However, his voice is nice and after the initial shock, I wasn’t deterred. His female voice is a bit of a giggly spot, but I imagine voicing a demure princess could be challenging.

All in all, it was a great book. It was definitely one of the favorites in the series and I am going to continue reading/listening to Ostrow’s work.

Book #27 of 2016: Captivated by Nora Roberts

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Screenwriter Nash Kirkland figured self-proclaimed witch Morgana Donovan would be a great “resource” for his next horror movie. The problem was, getting to know Morgana was becoming an obsession.

Was he truly in love, or was he just bewitched?

Morgana could accept Nash’s skepticism, and, fortunately for him, she found him outrageously attractive as well as endearingly sweet. But could an ordinary man handle being in love with a rather extraordinary woman?

I found this book (and the cover I posted here) in a thrift store. I have read quite a few of Nora Roberts’ books in the past and she is an author my mom and I share interest in. I have no idea if my mom has read the book, but I went ahead and bought it since I didn’t at the time.

Like with all Harlequins, the book was a fast read. I actually read most of it in one day during a train trip. It only took longer than it would have because of the driving I had to do and actual work.

I always find Roberts’ take on witchcraft uplifting. The magic is equivalent to the movie version of Practical Magic. It is hereditary, spiritual, and a personal act. There are no cauldrons or graveyard spells. The magic in this book is closely associated with the magic of modern day pagans.

There isn’t much about the two characters that grabbed me. Nash had emotional issues and did prove to be a more softer male lead. He had masculine traits, but didn’t scream alpha male. I liked that. He is artsy, but also a bit arrogant. Morgana had similar traits to Nash. She seemed soft as well, but feisty when it came to it.

There was no epic battle or looming epicness on the horizon. The book was a simple love story between a man and woman. It had magic, but the magic was used more like a way to explain the quick love. They were destined. And though I would prefer a relationship to provide ground work first, the destiny aspect isn’t the same as some other destiny romances I’ve read.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad book. It wasn’t amazing either. It’s just a simple romance with magic. Not my favorite Nora Roberts, but that’s fine.

Book #26 of 2016: The Summoned King by Dave Neuendor

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Indiana high school senior James Madison Young falls asleep while studying at the library. He wakes to find himself in another world, filled with magic, danger and romance. He has been summoned by court wizard Maynard to be the king of Kalymbria. Forced into marriage with the beautiful and magically powerful yet untrained Julia Roper for his queen, he must restore the lapsed Constitution in the face of opposition from a hostile Council of Advisors, and defend his new country from the evil machinations of the wizard Ruinga and her allied kingdom of Venicka. Rediscovering the lost art of enchantment may provide him with a powerful edge in his quest, if he can survive the assassins and conspiracies arrayed against him.

I received this book from the author for an honest review.

I don’t like giving low or upsetting reviews and I really wanted to like this book. However, I didn’t. It wasn’t because of the Christian YA Fantasy genre and it wasn’t the politics. It was the writing that pulled me away. Let me start with what I disliked and then go into what I did like.

The first thing that pulled me away was the way the book was written. The dialogue had no indications as to who was talking when. There were times I was confused to who was talking and had to guess by using the context clues. A good way to describe it is like this (not direct quotes):

I looked at her.

“Surely, you like yourself.”

“Not really. There’s only so much to like. I am plain, unhappy, and my stomach does this strange thing when I drink milk.”

“Maybe you’re just lactose intolerant. My mother is lactose intolerant. It’s very uncomfortable for her when we want to go to Dairy Queen.”

Do you see what I mean? Sure, this is easy to figure out who is talking, but in the context of the book, not so much. It also makes knowing how the characters are feeling during their conversations difficult. The lack of indicators prevented me from seeing the characters in action and their emotions. They came across as monotone which in turn made the story feel very boring.

I also didn’t care for the lack of character development. The main character and narrator, Jim, seems to have a solid base or at least some basic knowledge about all sorts of things. He isn’t a typical teenager let alone a typical teenage boy. He knows Krav Maga, he has Kindle books on inventions and how to make an electrical source for charging his devices, he has political books in his Kindle… he even has a roll (granted a single roll) of toilet paper. I wish there were more issues about him emotionally or freaking out. He took being King to another world very well. Though he did miss his family, I didn’t see it. There were no tears being shed at night or emotional outbursts of wanting his mommy (which I know I would have done).

From these alone, I didn’t like the book. I was bored. For me, the book felt like a first or second draft. There could have been more imagery. What made this world different from ours aside from the politics? What are the animals like? Little things like that make a world believable. The cultures seemed pretty basic and something from a textbook. There wasn’t something that grabbed me about their uniqueness.

That said, there were things I liked.

I love politics in books. I find them intriguing and a great format for causing conflict. Neuendorf does do that in this book. The politics are all about corruption. Another thing I found interesting is the direct comparison to the American government today. The Council of Advisors instantly made me think of Congress today. Basically, the Kalymbrian king is appointed (like the POTUS). The Council (our Congress) have a hereditary ascension. Yes, Congress does not have that, however it is difficult for a Congress member to leave unless the people vote for the opposing person. There is no time limit to their office position.

I don’t know if Neuendorf planned that, but I found it clever. I also found Jim’s reasonings to be clever. Even if I also feel that it doesn’t reflect a typical teenager. Again, I just wish there was more development about him to help me believe that.

The one thing I was really worried about was the Christian outlook to the book. I’m not Christian. In fact, I am what I consider a Gnostic Pagan. I believe in the teachings and a God, just that I don’t believe Christ was God. I believe he was a person and a person cannot be God. I also have nature based Pagan beliefs. As you can imagine, I was worried.

I had nothing to worry about. Though Christ is an important figure to Jim, his morals and beliefs being important motivators, he wasn’t one to instantly try conversion. Yes, he had some moments of verbal diaherra, but I took that as a modern person’s viewpoints in a medieval world. Even I would have said that the people were backwards. The Christianity in the book is not a direct conversion. Neuendorf isn’t trying to convert in his book. He is trying to show a world and give a solution through a knowledgeable character and their personal beliefs.

I was by no means offended or scared into a belief system I don’t follow. For that, the book is open minded and I do say that if you can work past what I disliked and you aren’t Christian, this is still a fantasy you could read. In fact, I wouldn’t mind trying again if Neuendorf decided to revisit his work and expanded on it. It has great potential. It’s just that right now, I don’t care for it and I don’t feel it is a completed piece.

Book #25 of 2016: Doctor Death by Lene Kaaberbol

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From the New York Times bestselling coauthor of The Boy in the Suitcase, a gripping historical thriller and poignant coming-of-age story set in nineteenth-century France.

Madeleine Karno is an ambitious young woman eager to shatter the confines of her provincial French town. Driven and strong headed, Madeleine is set apart by her unusual occupation: assisting her father, Dr. Albert Karno, in his job as a forensic doctor.

The year is 1894, and a young girl is found dead on the snowy streets of Varbourg. Dr. Karno is called in to determine the cause of her death, but before he can examine the body, the girl’s family forbids the autopsy from taking place. The only anomaly he manages to find is in the form of a mite in her nostril. Shortly after, several other dead bodies are discovered throughout the city, and Madeleine, her father, and the city commissioner must use the new science of forensic evidence to solve the mysterious cases before they all become the next victims of a deadly disease – or of a heinous murderer.

 I found this book through my library’s eaudio system. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I love listening to books. I do it in the car and when I’m doing chores. It keeps me awake during those god awful hours of driving and it keeps me going during the boring labor.

I really liked this book. The mystery kept me thinking of different things and I didn’t realize who the killer was until near the very end. The book isn’t police procedural, but could be considered as such for the time period it is set in. I found the book to be more about mankind and the struggle for freedom of all sorts.

Madeleine Karno, our heroine and narrator, is an intellectual. She would rather look inside a microscope and draw out her specimens than to draw out sceneries. Instead of needlepoint, she would rather use that needle and thread to sew up a person. Miss Karno is a woman above her time. She values logic over love and finds her phyiscal needs to be distracting and almost debilitating. Despite this, she is a feminine woman. She is strong and the circumstances of the mystery is what gives her that nudge into acceptance in the scientific field.

Well… almost acceptance. At least to a point where she may have her father allowing her new passion. She may not have the acceptance from the greater public though.

This fight of nature and nuture combined with feminine and masculine is seen throughout the book. I could probably write a mini essay on how this book is not only the beginnings of a feminist movement, but also solidifies the idea that both genders are equally strong even in their weaknesses.

Okay, the writing is good. Which is a must because so much could have been lost in translation, but I didn’t feel like it was. I was pulled into the scenes and I was seeing what Karno and others were seeing. I was experiencing the passion of the young girl who started it all. I could see the motivations of the killer, though I feel that there is clear mental stability issues. I was upset to see that the second book wasn’t translated in English yet.

If anyone knows when or how I can find out, please tell me!

In all, the book feels like what I’d suspect the time period felt like for a woman who wanted more than to be barefoot and pregnant. Actually, it hit home even for me today in that regard. The mystery was good and made me cringe at the ideas that had popped in my head (so glad it wasn’t the case). I would recommend it.