Ani's Book Abyss

Ani's Book Abyss

I like to read. A lot.

3 Stars
Thoughts: Crash and Burn
Crash and Burn - Allison Brennan, Laura Griffin

Crash and Burn

by Allison Brennan and Laura Griffin
Book 1 of Moreno & Hart

Average Rating:  2.75 Stars

My TBR List -- August Winner!
See Other My TBR List Reviews (link coming soon) @ Because Reading

Crash and Burn is a book about two ex-police turned private investigators, Scarlet Moreno and Krista Hart.  The backstory from the prologue gives us the events of three years ago when Scarlet is almost killed on a mission--somehow, she surmised that someone had set her up for dead, and in the meantime, there was no back up to come bail her out.  Rookie cop Krista is the only other officer willing to jump into the chaos to save Scarlet.

Gunfire ensues and we skip ahead to three years into the present when Scarlet and Krista have both left the LAPD to become private investigators in Newport.  The events of three years prior had bonded the two women, turning them from a senior and rookie cop partnership into best friends, practically like sisters.  At the present moment in this book, the two are struggling to make ends meet by taking every divorce and marital battle case they can get their hands on just to build a client base.

The book is formatted like an anthology, based around these two main characters where Crash is Scarlet Moreno's story, written by Allison Brennan, and Burn is Krista Hart's story, written by Laura Griffin.

To be totally honest, I picked up this book mainly because I'm a fan of Laura Griffin's Tracers series.  I have read something by Allison Brennan before, but couldn't really get into it, and was hoping that this second chance would fare better, especially with only half the book to get through before getting to Laura Griffin's part.




by Allison Brennan

This first part of the book is very abrupt and bite-sized, but still manages to run two story tangents within this little bit.

The Story:
Scarlet chances upon a traffic accident, which ends up landing her in the middle of some domestic dispute involving two rich young adolescents, one of whom might be a bit mentally unstable.  They both contact her to help them with something to do with the other, and Scarlet questions why and how she got herself into this situation when things start getting out of control--apparently between these two clients, there is stalking, death threats, and some crazy-crazy involved.

Meanwhile, she also manages to insert herself into a murder investigation involving a group of college kids.  The chaos begins after an attempted date rape drugging is thwarted by Scarlet's friend, Isaac, who is the bartender of Diego's, a local bar--Scarlet lives in the little hovel over the establishment.

That night after the little college group leaves, a gunshot is fired, waking Scarlet, and she soon finds one young man dead, one critically injured, and one of the girls who'd been at the bar earlier disoriented, drugged, and a possible rape victim.  The incident soon escalates when another girl is found in critical condition, dropped off at a hospital, with an overdose of the new designer date rape drug in her system--her boyfriend is dead in his own home with a knife in his back, and the other college kids who'd been at Diego's in the same group are missing.

The case is being investigated by Alex Bishop, a new detective in Newport, who seems to have gotten the wrong impression of Scarlet, either based on hearsay or something, because he is hostile towards her the moment they meet.

My Thoughts:
Again, this particular portion of Crash and Burn was quite short and abrupt.  While the investigation was done decently, the ending felt kind of like it was quite sudden.  I'm not really complaining, since with only a little less than two hundred pages to present Scarlet's part of the story, it was actually quite detailed and well-written.

In fact, I'm kind of surprised that Brennan was able to include two separate story lines in this bite-sized piece, and am kind of impressed that both had quite well-rounded conclusions following a well-outlined story.

The only complaint I have is that I would have liked to see more of the story on Bishop's side of things, and that this first part of the book could have been a little bit longer.  Instead, it felt incomplete and unsatisfying, even with the well-rounded ending of both cases.  We get little chance to get to know all the major players in this story, especially Detective Bishop, even though we are told quite a bit of backstory about Scarlet.

For instance, I would have liked to know why Bishop was so hostile towards Scarlet in the beginning.  What did he know about her that had him calling her a "disgraced cop" without preamble?  His antagonism against her is much more extreme than even I would have expected towards a private investigator, even knowing that, as a rule, law enforcement officers typically don't care for P.I.s.  And then what changes his mind later on?  And why did he bring up Scarlet's brother?  I didn't see what that had to do with anything.

There are a lot of unanswered questions.

And on top of that, the romance kind of happened as a snap action--one moment Bishop is still glaring at Scarlet, the next moment he's kissing her?  Is this just part of the story because we expect romance?  Because it felt out of place.

There was just so much more that could have been covered had this been a full length novel instead, really.

But it was still quite enjoyable nonetheless, and I'm reconsidering my impression of Brennan's work.

Crash receives a fairly meh 3.5 Stars.  But only because I can feel that it has a lot of potential to lead into a good story.




by Laura Griffin

Burn was... forgettable.  Truth be told, I'm a little disappointed.

The Story:
Amidst working a marital cheating case wherein the husband confronts her with homicidal tendencies, Krista Hard finds herself drawn into a missing persons case where said missing person's life may be in jeopardy.  An infamous criminal defense attorney offers her a job to locate one of his witnesses who has dropped off the face of the planet--the trial is coming up soon and he needs this girl to testify.  But as Krista investigates the disappearance of Lily Daniels, she soon realizes that there is something more going on with Lily.

Meanwhile, Krista also learns that she wasn't the only private investigator hired to locate Lily Daniels.  It's a dog-eat-dog world in a career as a P.I., and Krista is again reminded of just how hard things can get when people like defense attorney Drake Walker and rival P.I. R.J. Flynn do what they can to keep her out of the game.

My Thoughts:
There was a lot of potential to this short section of Crash and Burn if only because it's an exciting premise, and because it's written by Laura Griffin and I'm a big fan.  As is with most Laura Griffin books, Burn doesn't hold back anything, jumping straight into the action.  We even get private investigator politics, crossed with pissing contests, and gender inequality issues.

So much could have been covered just with those little factors and side tangents.

But unfortunately, the execution of the rest of the story kind of felt monotonous and unoriginal.  Burn gave me a sense of "been there, done that," and I can't help but to think that it could have been developed a bit better if it had been a full-length novel, just like Crash.  Instead, we get a bite-sized teaser of what might be forthcoming in the rest of the series as the authors try their best to introduce these two wonderfully crafted main characters.

Nonetheless, this novella-sized half of a book was written well.

The romance between R.J. and Krista had all the makings of a potentially likable "Bickering Couple Romance," between their rivalry.  But there were moments when R.J. went a little overboard on the teasing and the butting in--he reminds me of an elementary school boy who likes the tough girl on the playground, but shows his affection by pulling her pig tails and throwing staples in her hair, unapologetically.  Or taking her glue and crayons and refusing to return them, only to use them for his own means.  Or taking her project ideas and claiming them for his own.

Really, he's just that popular and cool asshole in school whom all the girls tend to fall for anyway.

And Krista is the tough girl who rises to the teasing, which just makes the boy want to tease her some more.

In a way, it could have been a cute romance until the ending came around and did something that I found a little bit distasteful.  In fact, I plain did not like the way R.J. decided to resolve their romantic conflict, as well as the issue concerning Krista's involvement in the missing witness case.  It pissed me off, and days later, it still pisses me off.

This book would have been a higher rating if not for that ending.

Meanwhile, the rest of the story was kind of exciting, but at the same time, entirely forgettable.  I still like that Krista is shown as capable and good investigator, if a little hot-headed and reckless.  I don't like that there were still so many loose ends, and that, like the first story by Allison Brennan, Griffin tries to cram too much material into the short, novella-length story.

For instance:  How does the little cheating husband with homicidal tendencies side-tangent resolve itself?  Did I miss it somehow?  It's a small tangent and I kind of forgot about it for a while, but it's still there and feels like a very big loose end.

Burn receives an even more 'meh' 2.5 Stars.  To be honest, I might have expected too much and felt the sting of disappointment when things didn't turn out the way I wanted it to turn out.  That's probably my fault.



Overall Thoughts

One of the things I DID appreciate about Crash and Burn was how realistic it was in portraying the life of a private investigator.  Not that I know what the life of a private investigator entails.  Granted, it was still chalk full of excitement, but our authors DO take pains to emphasize how not-so-glamorous being a P.I. really is.  Moreno & Hart have spent the past two years since leaving the police force trying to build a client base and a reputation, but even as they've managed to sustain a living with their agency, they admit that the majority of their cases involve jilted spouses, divorce cases, and the like.  The majority of their time is spent waiting for a cheating husband or wife to slip up so that they can take that money-making photo to show their clients.

There's a lot of waiting involved for these two women: waiting for a picture to be taken, waiting for their target to do what they need to do, waiting for a client to hire them...

And then there are more private investigators out there just waiting to pick up that first exciting case that attorneys would be willing to hand them.

While I don't like how things end up for Krista in Burn--where she does almost all the work, but gets no credit for it; where she just knows that she's going to get screwed over on her pay by a hotshot client she's not willing to antagonize--it's something that DOES happen in real life, whether you're a private investigator or not.

I'm hoping we'll see more action and less bite-sized snippets in the next few installments of Moreno & Hart.  While this book was pretty enjoyable, neither of the two stories included in it felt like it was fully complete.  These were teasers at best, and I'm hoping we'll get better with the next book.


2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Reading Assignment Challenge
Mount TBR Challenge
COYER Summer Vacation 2016



2016 Halloween Bingo | Ani's Book List

I'm so hyped about this Halloween Bingo!

A big thanks to Obsidian Black Death and Moonlight Murder for putting so much work into putting this activity together.  The Bingo card is so, so pretty that even if I hadn't already been considering joining the fun, I would jump on board.


(Bingo Card links back to original Bingo Card reveal posted by Moonlight Murder.)

As far as books are concerned, I don't typically read a lot of scary stories or horror, so I will definitely be stepping outside of my comfort zone for the next couple months... maybe.  But as it is, the books I've browsed and chosen for a lot of these categories sound very interesting.

I'm kind of in a reading slump at the moment, so I think this Bingo activity is exactly what I need for my reading life right now.

I've kind of filled some of the squares with books I'm considering, after doing a few days worth of research and googling.  With some vacation time coming up in October, I'm really hoping I'll be able to get through these twenty-five books as well as the four books I need to read for my 2016 Reading Assignment Challenge.  Some of these books are going to work for both though, so I think I'm good.

Below is a list of some of the books I'm considering, but everything is always subject to change.


Read by Candlelight or Flashlight -- A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn (library, hardcover)
This category felt almost like a freebie, since it's like an action square or something like that.  At the very least, if we DO need to choose a book that would fit into another square, this one is a mystery, so I think I'm covered.  Also, it's on my Reading Assignment list, so--two birds, one stone.



Magical Realism

-- Un Lun Dun by China Mieville (owned, paperback)
Also a book on my Reading Assignment list, as well as a book on my physical shelf that has been sitting for some time.



-- Dark Witch by Nora Roberts (library, hardcover)

Speaks for itself--'witch' in the title--and I imagine some supernatural elements to the story itself.  I might be taking some liberties, since I'm sure this book (as well as the rest of the trilogy) are far from spooky Halloween stuff.



Genre: Horror

-- The Devil's Footprints by Amanda Stevens (owned, paperback)

This one is a stand-alone tagged as 'horror' on Goodreads, so I'm going to go by that.


I have read Amanda Stevens' The Graveyard Queen series', the first three books, and they were pretty excellent, even if not as scary as they had the potential to be.  But the atmosphere of her settings are beautifully done.  So if anyone still needs a book for the 'Grave or Graveyard' or 'Genre: Mystery' squares, I would recommend the books in this series.



Black Cat

-- Voodoo or Die by Stephanie Bond (Scribd)

This book is on my Reading Assignment list.  The cover has a black cat on it, even if the black cat looks awkwardly photo-shopped on next to an equally awkwardly photo-shopped Voodoo doll.


Exhibit A:

Diverse Authors Can be Spooky Fun!

-- The Ghost Bride by Yangze Choo (library, hardcover)

I've been looking for an opportunity to read this book.  My BFF in real life and I have thought about buddy reading it, but that was at least two years ago.  What better time than now to dive in?



Ghost Stories and Haunted Houses

-- Ghost Story by Jeff Brackett (owned, Kindle) ???

This is still a tentative selection and may be subject to change.



Young Adult Horror

-- Coraline by Neil Gaiman (library, hardcover)

Let's just say, after going over my choices, I became very determined to read Coraline for this square.  But if it doesn't really fit, someone let me know.  I know that the lines between young adult, middle grade, and childrens can be bit murky.  But after establishing from others that Coraline is considered horror, I sort of jumped on it.



Scary Women (Authors)

-- The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (library, hardcover)

I wanted to use this book for the "ghost stories and haunted houses" square as well, so this is a tentative selection.  Now that I'm more aware of the many other possibilities for 'scary women authors' I might swap out for something else, and insert this one somewhere else.


Reads With (Booklikes) Friends

-- Ammie, Come Home by Barbara Michaels (bought, Kindle)

Let's just say, I am so totally pumped to start reading this book and am counting down the days!  Buddy Read with Murder by Death and others (click the link to check out the details and join if interested).



Grave or Graveyard

-- The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (owned, Audible)

Another one by Gaiman.  Kind of a gimme for 'graveyard', no?



Genre: Mystery

-- In Deep Voodoo by Stephanie Bond (Scribd)

Okay.  I am probably taking lots of liberties with the books on my list, but I'm not that into horror or really scary stuff.  But this book is both on my Reading Assignment list, and the first book in the two-book series--the second book being Voodoo or Die of which I've already listed above for the 'Black Cat' square.  So I chose to insert it here as my 'mystery' choice.


It's tagged as a cozy mystery, anyway.



Free Space

-- Beg for Mercy by Jamie Alden (owned, paperback)

Free Space book is a freebie, right?  :P  But this book can also be a mystery.  And to be honest, the cover gives me a semi-creepy vibe...  Also, Reading Assignment list...




-- We Have Always Lived In the Castle by Shirley Jackson (library, hardcover)

Another Shirley Jackson.  Very interested.  Could be used for another square if necessary.



Creepy Crawlies

-- The Adventure of the Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle (owned, Audible)

To be honest, creepy crawlies freak me out more than anything else on this Bingo card.  I didn't really have a pick for this square, and was giving up hope until the final selection listed was brought to my attention in the comments section of a Halloween Bingo related post (Thanks Murder by Death and Tannat!).  Because I browsed a lot of the recommendations being listed around Booklikes and only one had initially caught my attention--it being of unavailable status to me made me a little saddened, actually...


But now I'm all stoked for Bingo, filling in the last square I needed!



"Fall" into a good book

I typed in the word "fall" into Goodreads' search engine and came up with too many books for my own good.  I narrowed down to  two in particular that I am considering for this square.  Meanwhile, I added about six more books to my TBR during this activity.


-- Falling by Christopher Pike  -- This is a crime thriller that also has a 'horror' tag on it, so I'm curious.


-- The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe  -- No explanations needed.



Locked Room Mystery

-- And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (owned, paperback)

Another book that's been on my TBR and physical shelf since forever.



It was a dark and stormy night

-- The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle (owned, Audible)

Buddy Read with Moonlight, Obsidian, and others.



Set in New England

-- Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman (library, hardcover)

This book takes place in Massachusetts, according to the summary.  Please let me know if it doesn't actually work for this square, though I double checked with Google in case my geography knowledge is sketchy.  Mass. is part of New England.  Otherwise, if anyone else has other suggestions, let me know!



Full Moon

-- The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen (library)

Full moon on the cover illustration; 'moon' in the title.  Cute sounding Chick Lit with a bit of magic and supernatural elements.  I'm game!



Vampires vs Werewolves

-- Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop (library, hardcover)

I went ahead and checked out this book from the library hoping I could insert it into the Bingo card somehow (before the card was revealed).  I really liked the first book, Written in Red, so I'm looking forward to reading this one.




-- Someone in the House by Barbara Michaels (library)

This one is a tentative selection since supernatural is such a broad category and I could potentially find some other book I'm interested in that will fit.  But after browsing a good portion of books by Barbara Michaels I'm kind of interested in more of her books.



Classic Horror

-- The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (owned, hardcover collection)

Two years ago, I told myself that I would finally read this Borders' Classics, leather bound collection of "Three Classics of Horror" I bought when I was still in college.  I started with Frankenstein.  I read Dracula last year, though technically I listened to the audio book with full-cast narration.  This year, it was going to be Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.




-- Scared Stiff by Annelise Ryan  -- This is the second book of the Mattie Winston

Mysteries, a cozy with a main character as a coroner.  I'm very interested!  There is a pumpkin on the cover illustration.  I'm going to try to read the first book soon so I can get to this book since I'm kind of anal about reading series in order.



-- Foul Play at the Fair by Shelley Freydont  -- This is a back-up for this category, the first book in the Celebration Bay series, for just in case I don't get around to the first Annelise Ryan book in time.



Set on Halloween

-- The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury (library)

This looks to be a short story set during Halloween.



Again, a few of these books might get swapped out, if only because I am half mood reader, half planner.  For sure, I will be covering a lot of new-to-me authors, as well as stepping slightly outside of my comfort zone.  I will admit that I specifically tried to steer clear of truly 'horror' type books and might have found some loopholes for other squares.



I didn't think I'd be able to cover every square on this card at first, but now I'm super determined to get through all these books, just on principle alone, having spent so much time searching for good book choices.


And also, the majority of the books I've listed, I'm extremely interested in reading.



Top Ten Tuesday: Overdue TBR From My Shelves


Top Ten Tuesday is an original and weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.


~~ Ten Books On Your Shelf (Or TBR) ~~

~~ Pre-Blogging Days & In Need of a Read ~~



Okay.  So the topic this week is actually:  Ten books that have been on your shelf (or TBR) from before you started blogging that you STILL haven't read YET.  It's a long topic name, so I took liberties.

Of course, that doesn't help me narrow down my bookshelves (or my non-owned TBR list), because I've got a 'To Read' shelf on GR of 1000+ books, and a combined physical and digital book shelf of 500+ books.  HOWEVER, I suppose only a small number of those books are actually from my pre-book blogging days.

Still, the list isn't all that small...



The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Dead by Sunset by Ann Rule

The Druid of Shannara by Terry Brooks
Running with the Demon by Terry Brooks
Prey by Michael Crichton
House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones

My TBR List -- August Winner!
My TBR List is a monthly meme hosted by Michelle @ Because Reading.
The basic gist of this activity is to have others help decide on which book out of three I'm selecting from my TBR pile I should read for the month via votes.  The posts will be published on the first two Saturdays (voting and winning book announcement, respectively), and the winning book review will be posted on the last Saturday of the month.
Click on the above links for more information.

See Other My TBR List Winning Book Announcements for August 2016
(link coming soon)


So according to the masses, the book I will be reading for My TBRL this month is:


Crash and Burn won with 50% votes!


Last week, the books I had everyone vote on were:

This month was a slow one for votes, and a close one as well.  And to be totally honest, I'm very happy with the results.  While My Lady, My Lord lagged behind, Crash and Burn and Endsinger had 4 and 3 votes each, respectively.  In a way, I was hoping for more votes, but I was also dreading more votes because I was afraid that Endsinger would tie with Crash and Burn and I'd have to read two books.

Then again, I need to read four books for my Reading Assignment anyway, so I guess it wouldn't have been so bad.

Again, thank you to everyone for voting!

Coming up next for the My TBR List:
  • 8/27/2016:  Review of the winning book, Crash and Burn.
  • 9/3/2016:  Next Month's My TBR List Voting
4.5 Stars
Thoughts: Deadly Obsession
Deadly Obsession - Maggie Shayne

Deadly Obsession

by Maggie Shayne
Book 4 of Brown and de Luca

**This review contains pertinent information that gives away the endings of the previous books.  Please do not proceed unless you have already read the previous books in this series.


A cold-blooded killer with a burning obsession...

Rachel de Luca has a bad feeling about the new woman in Detective Mason Brown's life, the nurse taking care of him after he's injured in the line of duty.  She'd like to think it's just jealousy, but intuition tells her it's something more, maybe something dangerous.

Mason knows Rachel's wary of commitment, and asking her to stay when he's in this condition would be the worst thing for their relationship.  Then they receive chilling news that drives everything else from their minds.

Mason's psychotic sister-in-law has escaped from custody, putting her sons — the nephews he's raising — in the crosshairs.  When his house is burned to the ground, he and Rachel are relieved that there are no bodies in the smoldering rubble, but now his nephews are missing and the clock is ticking.

As Mason and Rachel try to find the boys, she senses a new and unexpected danger stalking them. Soon, everyone close to Mason is in deadly peril — Rachel more than anyone...

As I had mentioned in my Pre-Review of Deadly Obsession, Maggie Shayne answered a question on GR stating that there was going to be a fifth installment of the Brown and de Luca series.  I haven't seen much else about this news aside from another GR question answered by Shayne, that gives a tentative release date for fall of this year.  And then there's the reference to an older book, The Gingerbread Man, of which I will probably be checking out from the library in the next few days, because READING MOOD.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to seeing what there will be in store next for this series, because as it stands, Deadly Obsession actually feels like a pretty well-rounded conclusion to the Brown and de Luca series, if that was what Shayne is going for.  If not, I suppose we'll be seeing even more stand-alone novels being pushed out centering around Rachel and Mason, and frankly, I'm not complaining.

If I had to describe how I felt about Deadly Obsession, I'd actually say that it was the most exciting, edge-of-your-seat installment of this series.  It doesn't really have a mystery, per se, since we already know up front who the serial arsonist slash killer is.  And we also get to see into said arsonist/killer's head, and it is definitely NOT a steady place to be.  There's a pretty twisted mind floating around the world of this fourth book and it's kind of scary.

As was the case with the previous books, the action starts out immediately, with Mason rushing into a burning building to save babies, thus cementing him in every woman's mind as the perfect, wonderful hero he's always been (aside from that one little set-back with his brother being an evil serial killer and how he covered up that evidence, and all).  Mason regains a bit more depth in this fourth book than I had seen from the previous installment, but he still comes off a bit carbon-copy, so I hope that the next book will be good for him.

Instead, Rachel's continued complexities makes me continue to love her more and more.  And I love that she doesn't react like a typical romance novel heroine to many different situations she is presented with.  And I'm also kind of glad that her jealous side is so transparent and childish when it comes to Mason's home care nurse, "Nurse Boobsalot," but that at the same time, she's quite level-headed about her feelings.  But being level-headed on the outside doesn't mean that she's not going to resort to childish name calling and unabashed web stalking of said new nurse who all but charges into Mason's home with the obvious mission of seducing him, even with Rachel standing right there.

And I find it even more amusing that even Mason's nephews have caught onto the home care nurse's seduction plans, while Mason's just all, "Well, she seemed so desperate for a job that I just couldn't turn her down.  What do you mean she's got a thing for me?"  Because it's kind of cool that he doesn't seem to notice or care... though, honestly a little unbelievable.  Because as Rachel points out, there's no way a hot-blooded man like him couldn't notice the centerfold model body on that woman.

I also loved this description of the first time Rachel sees and describes the nurse, Gretchen Young:

I looked out the front door as a nymphomaniac prostitute in a Nurse Goodbody costume got out of a little red car and Beyonce'd her way to the door.

"I thought it was June.  It's still June, right?  'Cause this looks like Halloween to me."

Jeremy said, "If she says 'trick-or-treat,' Dad, give her me."

"Oh, hell," Mason said.

I turned slowly, tearing my eyes off the breast-feeding-mother-sized breasts that were revealed by the open top of her white, button-down, skintight, micro-mini nurse getup.  Yea, it was that bad.

One of the things I found sweet was how the boys, Mason's nephews, realized that Nurse Gretchen was trying to seduce Mason, and decided to let the nurse know that it was no good because of how Mason's "crazy about Rachel," and so Gretchen's pre-occupation with Mason was a waste of time.  The entire tone Jeremy (the seventeen year old) took when speaking to Gretchen felt pretty protective of Rachel, and that was just all sorts of sweet and made me smile.

The interactions between the characters have always been pretty excellent, especially within this newly minted little family of uncle, nephews, and Rachel, plus the dogs.  I wouldn't mind seeing more of them in future installments being all "happy, warm family" with each other.

And again, despite the fact that we already know what's going on--with the psychotic arsonist, and Mason's sister-in-law being a danger to them as well--the book was every bit a page-turning suspense to find out how things would pan out in the end.  As with the previous books, this one was probably damn near perfect in spite of the switching POV narration.

The events were fast-paced and straight-forward, and I didn't really feel like there were too many tangents taken that would sidetrack from the main conflict.  We get to see more of Jeremy as an individual rather than just a kid in the background in Mason's life.  We get to see more of twelve-year-old Joshua as well and some bits of youthful wisdom that really makes you think.

But all-in-all, the story flew by pretty quickly and you're left with a gaping hole and thoughts of, "Oh.  It's over?  Already?"  And then we proceed to pout and await the next installment.

Oh, but also, there's a very obvious mistake in the story line that apparently didn't get caught:  Mason's partner, Rosie's wife is named Gwen in this book, when in previous books she was named Marlayna.  I thought there might have been just a typo at first, but she is referred to several more times as Gwen in this book, so it seems like it was just one editing mistake that should probably be fixed.

Otherwise, damn near perfect.


2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
COYER Summer Vacation 2016 -- Bingo Board Three | Square R10 -- Thriller
Can You Read a Series in a Month? Challenge



4.5 Stars
Thoughts: Innocent Prey
Innocent Prey - Maggie Shayne

Innocent Prey

by Maggie Shayne
Book 3 of Brown and de Luca

To save innocent lives, they'll have to risk their own.

Self-help superstar Rachel de Luca and Detective Mason Brown have finally given in to their overwhelming attraction to each other, but neither of them is ready to let physical passion turn into full-blown romance, so they carefully maintain an emotional distance. Then a judge's daughter disappears, and Mason has a terrible sense that it's connected to the most recent case they solved together: the abduction of Rachel's assistant.

The discovery of a string of missing women—all young, all troubled—seems like a promising lead. But there's no clear connection between the missing girls and the high-profile young woman Mason is trying to find. He realizes that once again he'll have to rely on his own well-honed instincts and Rachel's uncanny capacity to see through people's lies in order to catch a predator and rescue his captives. But can they do it before Rachel becomes his next victim?

About halfway through the book, I sent my BFF a recommendation for this Brown and de Luca series telling her that she really needed to start reading these books.  I think they would be right up her alley with a nice balance of crime thriller to romance, and not too much explicit sex (which would be much more to her liking than any of the other more racy romantic suspense books I've recommended in the past).  There's the blind bulldog, Myrtle, and a lot of family interaction between Rachel, Mason, and the teenagers.

Actually, there are no explicit sex scenes whatsoever in these books, which really dampens the heat level of the book in my personal opinion, but it doesn't usually stop the chemistry between our main couple from being good.  I mean, I don't need sex scenes in my romances to make them good romances, but the relationship between Rachel and Mason so far has been based on some invisible bond the two share that I'm not entirely feeling.  It shows that they work well together, and they banter like the best couple in the world.  We don't really get the explicit sex scenes, but the two talk about screwing like bunnies a lot throughout the book.

But there's still something about their romance that seems to be missing a little bit of sizzle.

And no, I don't mean that the books need sex to spice up the sizzle of the main couple's romance.  I've read plenty of other books where the couple convey a great deal of chemistry without sex sprinkled into the mix.  Heck, I've watched a lot of television series and movies where the couple are completely chaste and still seem to exhibit more chemistry than Rachel and Mason have been projecting since the first book.

I just feel like they're missing something.

But that's beside the point, because I really just LOVE this series for so many other reasons outside of the slightly lukewarm romance.  And I say slightly lukewarm if only because I can see where their romance is a great development.  Rachel and Mason make a great couple!  They're an excellent partnership.  They ARE having sex all the time, and they act so naturally around each other that its wonderful!  Again, I'm just not really feeling the sizzle.

But aside from that and some of the cheesy dialogue at the end of the book (as well as a few little quibbles here and there), this book was damn near perfect.  Okay, maybe it wasn't damn near perfect; I still don't like the switching POV narrations.  But I loved the book and I love how the series is developing from Rachel's connection to other organ donor recipients... to something much bigger and badder.

Her self-named "NFP" powers, the acronyms for "Not Fucking Psychic" powers (**snort**), are taking an interesting direction, and somehow managing to convince me of the connection from other stuff introduced since the first book.  And I'm buying it!

I love that the scope of these books are expanding into other potential directions and possibilities.  I love that we get to continue seeing Rachel's character developing with each book.  She has so far gone from a cynic--even about her own self-help books--to a "maybe I'm starting to believe the bullshit I dish out" type of attitude.  And it's great, because even with that, she still maintains her crass personality, the consistent cussing, and an underlying innocence that probably could only be okay on a thirty-something because of her reborn eyesight.

I enjoyed the premise of the main conflict in this particular book as well, and much more so than the first book; although the second book has a much more intriguing criminal mystery.

As per usual, all the characters are great, even with the introduction of new characters, and more book time by recurring characters.

And then there's the snark and the awesome that is Rachel de Luca.  I mean, sure, she goes a little overboard in her mind meanderings throughout the narration sometimes, but I've come to expect it and I love her all the same.  Myrtle is awesome!  The kids are cute.  Mason could use a little more tweaking because he's coming off as Mr. Perfect with the proper romance novel hero flaws--he had so much more depth to his personality throughout the first two books, and he kind of fades into the background in this one.

And I also miss Amy, Rachel's assistant who doesn't really make an appearance at all in this third book.

But mainly, I just loved reading this.  A lot.


2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
COYER Summer Vacation 2016 -- Bingo Board Three | Square C1 -- Paranormal
Can You Read a Series in a Month? Challenge



4.5 Stars
Pre-Review Thoughts: Deadly Obsession
Deadly Obsession - Maggie Shayne

Deadly Obsession

by Maggie Shayne
Book 4 of Brown and de Luca

Pretty much binge-read entire series for Can You Read a Series in a Month? Challenge.  But considering that it was only four books of less than 400 pages each plus one novella, it wasn't much since I average more books than that monthly.  But this series was pretty awesome, so I'm not complaining or anything... except that I am because author Maggie Shayne has stated that there will be a new installment of the Brown and de Luca series that is supposed to be out this year, but I've seen no peep of any such thing yet.

Anyway, this series was awesome (as I already said).  I don't know if I liked this fourth book more than the third book, but the romantic chemistry between Rachel and Mason was definitely MUCH better than the previous.  The plot was less of a mystery and more of a suspense and crime thriller since the culprit is revealed at the beginning anyway, but there was plenty excitement had by all.

And Rachel's snark as well as Myrtle's awesome dogginess is definitely a bonus!

Proper full review to come!  And the rest of the reviews for the other books in this series will be posted soon, too!


2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
COYER Summer Vacation 2016 -- Bingo Board Three | Square R10 -- Thriller
Can You Read a Series in a Month? Challenge



4 Stars
Thoughts: Wake to Darkness
Wake to Darkness - Maggie Shayne

Wake to Darkness

by Maggie Shayne
Book 2 of Brown and de Luca

Stranded with a murderer...

Rachel de Luca's uncanny sense of perception is the key to her success as a self-help celebrity.  Even before she regained her sight, she had a gift for seeing people's most carefully hidden secrets.  But the secret she shares with Detective Mason Brown is one she has promised to keep.  As for Mason, he sees Rachel more clearly than she'd like to admit...

After a single night of adrenaline-fueled passion, they have agreed to keep their distance—until a string of murders brings them together again.  Mason thinks that he can protect everyone he loves, including Rachel, by taking them to a winter hideaway, but danger follows them up the mountain.

As guests disappear from the snowbound resort, the race to find the murderer intensifies.  Rachel knows she's a target.  Will acknowledging her feelings for Mason destroy her...or save them both and stop a killer?

Wake to Darkness definitely has more suspense than the first book in this series, as well as a very intriguing murder mystery to go with it.  Sleep with the Lights On was all kinds of creepy and exciting and fun; but if I'm honest with myself, I really DID enjoy this second book a little bit more than the first.  And I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that we already know our protagonists and have a grasp on the kind of characters they are.

This Brown and de Luca series is just the right amount of series-format plus stand-alone installments to keep a reader hooked, while at the same time giving us new material to enjoy per each book.


Wake to Darkness employs one of my more favorite plot devices, as the blurb states, stranding our heroes on a mountain in the dead of a wintery snow storm.  Of course, I hadn't quite expected the Snowbound device to be executed the way it had been presented, and unfortunately, I didn't take to it as well as I would have in other cases.  I'm not entirely sure I'm a hundred percent behind the fact that Mason chooses to take his entire family on a vacation when there's a killer out there hunting them--and to bring them to a resort where there are lots of other people, innocently trying to enjoy their own holiday vacation as well...

Of course, setting that little quibble aside, the rest of the book was fueled with suspense and that same eerie intrigue that comes with an exciting murder mystery and more of Rachel's "woo-woo" paranormal stuff.  The fact that we put a new spin on the organ donation angle carried over from the first book made for a great premise to follow:

Rather than Mason's brother killing from the grave using the evil within his donated organs (which I'm still a little iffy about THAT particular concept, with the "cellular consciousness" thing also carrying an evil gene, or something like that), the recipients of the donated organs, instead, are the murder victims as someone is running around hunting and removing said organs.  Instead of seeing the murders take place from the eyes of the murderer, Rachel's connection to the organ donation recipients forces her mind into the bodies of these people as they are being murdered.

The creepy factor is WAY up there this time!  O.o

When the finale rolls around, however, the first book and the second book collide, and the reasoning behind all the killings make a whole lot more sense--without that iffier premise from the first book, the killings from the second book would have had to have been way different.

And you know what?  I really DO appreciate how both books are stand alone mysteries, and yet the premises come together in the bigger picture of the long run.  It makes me wonder how the rest of the books in the series will give us newer, fresher cases to follow while at the same time referring excellently back to actions and events from the previous books.

As I did for the first book and the novella, I immensely loved Rachel and all the characters, some more than others and some less than others.  Rachel and Mason make a great team as partners in investigation, with Mason's police detective skills and Rachel's "uncanny sense of perception" that she had developed during her twenty years of being blind.  I DO love Rachel's sense of sarcasm, although I feel like she got a bit exhausting with some of her "Inner Bitch to Self" conversations inside her head--it was cute the first few times, but after a while it started getting a little old.  Nonetheless, I still loved following her narration a lot.

The romance was not as satisfying as I would have liked, if only because our main couple are great together as an investigating partnership, but have yet to really exhibit any kind of emotional or physical chemistry despite the blazing lust generating off of the two in spades.  I just can't seem to connect the romance, and I find the sudden inner monologue declarations of love a little premature.  Their chemistry was better in this second book, but still not to the level I would have liked, so I'm hoping to see more from them in the romance arena in the next book since they all but declared themselves to each other, even if not in so many words.

Of course, there still wasn't a clear conclusion to the romance by the end of the book.

Finally, the last thing I wanted to mention was the murder mystery, because I really DID enjoy this one and loved the premise to death.  A serial killer taking out all the recipients of Eric Brown's donated organs?  My only spoiler sport attitude about that was: How did the killer know which victims to target, because all of this information should be of the utmost confidential kind?  Even the police had to go through a lot of red tape and paperwork just to get an okay to view that information.

Otherwise, it was definitely an intriguing premise, even if not executed in the best of ways.

I kind of figured out who the killer was after Rachel was attacked the first time.  It was kind of a given and made the most sense to me, even if it didn't really.  If that makes any sense to anyone else at all.

Wake to Darkness was lots of fun and excitement.  And then there was also Myrtle, the blind bulldog Rachel adopted from the first book--such an adorable and awesome little mascot for these books!


2016 Reading Challenges:

Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
COYER Summer Vacation 2016 -- Bingo Board Three | Square C6 -- Romance
Can You Read a Series in a Month? Challenge



My TBR List -- August 2016 Voting


My TBR List is a monthly meme hosted by Michelle @ Because Reading.
The basic gist of this activity is to have others help decide on which book out of three I'm selecting from my TBR pile I should read for the month via votes.  The posts will be published on the first two Saturdays (voting and winning book announcement, respectively), and the winning book review will be posted on the last Saturday of the month.
Click on the above links for more information.


Join This Month's My TBR List -- August 2016
(link coming soon)

I decided that I like the idea of using the My TBR List meme each month to help me decide which books to read for my 2016 Reading Assignment.  It was about this time last year that I started having trouble deciding which book to pick from my quickly dwindling pre-chosen list of books for this reading challenge.  It also didn't help that a lot of books I thought I would read at the beginning of the year became books that I either dreaded reading or lost interest in as the year progressed.

Anyway, this time around, as stated, is the August Reading Assignment edition of My TBRL.  I've chosen three books from my 2016 Reading Assignment list (three different kinds of books from three different genres), and as an added bonus, these are also all books that will qualify for my Mount TBR Reading Challenge as well.  So I'm kind of killing two birds with one stone here since one of my biggest ongoing goals is to read books that I already own, whether digitally or physically.  This time around, all of these books are in my library as e-books.

It's a start.

Thank you to everyone in advance for voting!



The Books


My Lady, My Lord by Katharine Ashe
-- Book 1 of Twist series


The Bluestocking
Lady Corinna Mowbray has three passions: excellent books, intelligent conversation, and disdaining the libertine Earl of Chance.

The Rake
Lord Ian Chance has three pleasures: beautiful women, fast horses, and tormenting high-and-mighty Corinna Mowbray.

Neighbors for years, they've been at each other's throats since they can remember.  But when a twist of fate forces them to trade lives, how long will it be before they discover they cannot live without each other?



Crash and Burn by Allison Brennan & Laura Griffin
-- Book 1 of Moreno & Hart series


Trial by Fire...
Three years ago LAPD Detective Scarlet Moreno and rookie cop Krista Hart were nearly killed during a botched sting operation.  Now, they’re best friends and partners in the Orange County private investigation firm of Moreno & Hart.  But their routine assignments are anything but safe...

Scarlet Moreno has her hands full with a cheating spouse case when the bartender at her favorite pub becomes a murder suspect.  Worse, the detective in charge of the investigation threatens to arrest Scarlet for obstruction—even when she tries to give him valuable information.  Scarlet risks her PI license and her life to find out the truth, absolve her friend, and track down a killer—with or without the help of the arrogant, mysterious Detective Alex Bishop.

And Burn...
Krista Hart is burned out on catching deadbeat dads and philandering husbands when a big-time criminal defense attorney hires her for a choice assignment: find the sole witness to murder the day before the trial.  The case could be a boon for Moreno & Hart, but the witness is in hiding, someone is following Krista, and her own client is withholding information.  The last person she wants help from is sexy investigator R.J. Flynn, but he claims he’s willing to share intel—for a price.  If she can solve this case, it’ll elevate Moreno & Hart above being divorce voyeurs, but first she has to survive, with her life and heart intact.



Endsinger by Jay Kristoff
-- Book 3 of Lotus War trilogy


The flames of civil war sweep across the Shima Imperium.  With their plans to renew the Kazumitsu dynasty foiled, the Lotus Guild unleash their deadliest creation—a mechanical goliath known as the Earthcrusher, intended to unite the shattered Empire under a yoke of fear.  With the Tiger Clan and their puppet Daimyo Hiro in tow, the Guild marches toward a battle for absolute dominion over the Isles.

Yukiko and Buruu are forced to take leadership of the Kagé rebellion, gathering new allies and old friends in an effort to unite the country against the chi-mongers.  But the ghosts of Buruu’s past stand between them and the army they need, and Kin’s betrayal has destroyed all trust among their allies.  When a new foe joins the war tearing the Imperium apart, it will be all the pair can do to muster the strength to fight, let alone win.

The traitor Kin walks the halls of Guild power, his destiny only a bloody knife-stroke away.  Hana and Yoshi struggle to find their place in a world now looking to them as heroes.  Secret cabals within the Lotus Guild claw and struggle; one toward darkness, the other toward light.  And as the earth splits asunder, as armies destroy each other for rule over an empire of lifeless ash and the final secret about blood lotus is revealed, the people of Shima will learn one last, horrifying truth.

There is nothing a mother won't do to keep her children by her side.




Let's Vote!


**For BookLikes members reading this in the BookLikes dashboard view:  Click here to generate the voting box on another page if you would like to vote.  I don't know why the voting box doesn't show, though it appears in blog view just fine.

**For everyone else voting via BookLikes blog view or at the Book Abyss's Blogspot home:  You may ignore the above tangent.  The voting box shows just fine.

Again, thank you for stopping by and voting!



Previous My TBR List months at Ani's Book Abyss can be found at the Bookish Memes page.

2.5 Stars
Very Brief Thoughts: Dream of Danger (novella)
Dream of Danger (A Brown and De Luca Novella) - Maggie Shayne

Dream of Danger

by Maggie Shayne
Book 1.5 of Brown and de Luca

She didn't want to need him.

Murder brought self-help guru Rachel de Luca and Detective Mason Brown together.  Their shared secrets drove them apart.  But now they're together again in this riveting novella that begins where New York Times bestselling author Maggie Shayne's Sleep with the Lights On ended.

She may have been blind for twenty years, but Rachel's always had an uncanny gift for seeing through people—and she distrusts her assistant's new boyfriend at first sight.  Amy isn't interested in Rachel's misgivings, though.  She's too eager to celebrate Thanksgiving by introducing her family to the new man in her life.

Then Amy doesn't show up for the holiday...

Desperate to find her missing friend, Rachel has no choice but to turn to Mason.  Their investigation into Amy's disappearance takes them ever deeper into danger—and reignites the attraction that they've both sworn to resist.  Now it's a race against time as these reluctant partners fight to stave off passion and save a life.

This short novella was enjoyable, but felt kind of pointless and open-ended, like it would have been better off as a full-length novel with more material.  That being said, I DID still enjoy it if only because I'm kind of in love with Rachel's voice and narration, and I'm kind of in love with Myrtle, the adorable blind bulldog.  The mystery/suspense/thriller part was a little 'meh'.  And Mason really just did not even feel present.

There are hints that there might be more to Amy's kidnapping, which I suspect may be addressed in a later book.

4 Stars
Thoughts: Sleep with the Lights On
Sleep With the Lights On - Maggie Shayne

Sleep with the Lights On

by Maggie Shayne
Book 1 of Brown and de Luca

Rachel de Luca has found incredible success writing self-help books.  But her own blindness and the fact that her troubled brother has gone missing have convinced her that positive thinking is nothing but bull.

Her cynicism wavers when a cornea transplant restores her sight.  The new eyes seem to give her new life, until they prove too good to be true and she starts seeing terrifying visions of brutal murders - crimes she soon learns are all too real.

Detective Mason Brown's own brother recently died, leaving behind a horrific secret.  In atonement, Mason donated his brother's organs, though he's kept the fact quiet.  Now he wants to help Rachel find her brother, but when he discovers the shocking connection between her visions and his own brother, he suddenly has to do everything in his power to save her from a predator who is somehow still hunting from beyond the grave.

Sleep with the Lights On was a book I had been looking forward to, because it had a premise that reminded me of the 2002 Hong Kong movie, The Eye.  It's probably safe to say that while the premise is somewhat similar, the story itself is completely different.  In the movie, our main female character gets a cornea graft from a woman who had psychic powers and could see when tragedy was about to happen.  In this book, however, it seems that Rachel's visions and nightmares stem from the evil, psychotic mind of a serial killer after receiving his cornea tissue.

At first, my feelings about this book had been slightly wary throughout the first couple chapters.  I recall there being a very distinct 'WTF' moment roiling through my thoughts.  There was eye popping involved, there was blinking involved, there were even moments wherein I actually said out loud, "Da fuck is going on here?"  Some stuff was creepy, other stuff was just... strange.

But then the story just sort of jump-started, and everything was smooth sailing from there.

Sleep with the Lights On was highly enjoyable, lots of fun, immensely creepy, and I could not put it down because I was THAT hooked!  And while I had found the two main characters, Mason Brown and Rachel de Luca hard to like at first impression, it doesn't take long for them--probably about two chapters--to become the awesome characters I ended up loving.  Especially Rachel!

I'll admit, Rachel's snarky sarcasm was a little rough and difficult to take at first, but then you get more of an in-depth look at this woman, and you see all the layers and layers of Rachel de Luca, and you realize how much you really DO like her because of all those layers and because of all that snark.  Her sarcasm was fun and the directions in which her mind wanders brought me endless amusement.  But what I found extremely endearing about her had been her moments right after the surgery wherein she just seems to bask in her newly acquired sight and just seems to enjoy herself.  I absolutely loved her reaction to everything she sees for the first time, or her excitement about seeing certain things for the first time since she went blind at the age of twelve.

It was one of the things that really made Rachel such a complex, interesting character.  Because while she projects a false persona to the public, claiming to be hiding a cynical and bitchy reputation underneath, even further into the layers of Rachel de Luca is so much more to discover.  She falls in love with a blind bull dog despite not wanting a dog in the first place.  She shows how much she truly loves and cares for the people around even though she continuously acts bitchy around them.

A lot of her actions are quite sweet and cute, to be honest.  Then add that dry sarcasm and her straight-forward personality that doesn't take any bullshit and we've got a great main character with a lot of story potential to look forward to.

Detective Mason Brown took a little bit more time to like, if only because I'm so used to reading formulaic romantic suspense where our heroes are always so straight-laced, and righteous, and broody.  I had a bad feeling the moment Mason chooses to cover up his brother's heinous crimes.  I had difficulty connecting with something like that.  But then something that Rachel says towards the climax of the book changed my feelings about Mason Brown.  And I realized that I actually loved that our main detective hero isn't a hundred percent Mr. Justice-Seeking Captain America Built On Perfection.  I actually really, really appreciate his weakness being so front and center, and his person being flawed enough not to be the ideal perfect hero.

I love that he continues to let his one big mistake (and I honestly believe it was a big one), to eat at him.  I'm not sadistic or anything.  I'd love even more if he can resolve his problems.  But it just feels more realistic that he doesn't absolve his guilt even though it still feels like he made a reasonable choice.

And in this way, I ended up loving both of our main characters because they come off so real and so human.  In the same sense, the rest of the characters in the book give off that same vibe as well--realistic, human, and so much potential for storytelling with the rest of the series ongoing.

After that little revelation, it took me less than a second to decide that I really, really love this book.  And most importantly, I love Rachel's snark.  It adds character and personality to typically straight-laced romance novel heroines.  I love how much gray area there is in the events of this book.  I love all the side characters: Rachel's sister, Sandra and her family; Rachel's assistant, Amy; Mason's partner, Rosie...

I also liked that the romance was a little on the sidelines.  I mean, sure there was instant attraction and lust and the good stuff.  And sure, I sometimes like my instant gratification of our couple falling in love within the span of one book and having their Happily Ever After™.  But there are more books to go in the rest of this series following these same characters.  I think I'm going to be content with the slow development of this couple's romance, so I'm more or less satisfied with the fact that Rachel and Mason don't bond immediately, and no words of love are thrown around willy-nilly.

And finally...  I really, really loved Myrtle, the little blind bulldog.  Books with animals in them, when written well, always add points to my overall experience.  And Myrtle was wonderfully adorable and all sorts of hearts and stars and bunny rabbit, rainbows, and sunshine lovely!

There were things I DID NOT LIKE, of course.

Anyone who follows my reviews know I do not really care for first person POV narration.  In some cases, it's not so bad and I love it.  And to be honest, if Sleep with the Lights On had been written entirely in Rachel's first person narrative, I would have been quite happy--Rachel's voice is excellently amusing and strewn with very natural side comments and wandering tangents and, best of all, THE SNARK.  But the book itself is actually written in an alternating first person with Rachel, to a third person for everyone else, mainly following Mason.

I just don't think I'll ever understand the point of alternating first person to third person.  Why not just write the entire book in third person?  You'd still be able to incorporate Rachel's sarcastic streak, even if not as in-depth.  And I can kind of see that this alternating format gives you the best of both worlds when it comes to being able to see Mason's side of the story as well as Rachel's every conscious thought.

Still, it's a little jarring, because confusion happens.  In fact, there was a very, glaringly obvious part in the book where Rachel is narrating in her POV, then the narration switches to third person for about two or three sentences, then switches right back to Rachel's first person POV.  I had to reread that section to be sure it wasn't just me.

The other thing I didn't really like about this book was the whole concept of an evil serial killer's donated organs creating killers out of the recipients via cellular consciousness.  But I suppose this is a controversy that has been going on for a long time already, in which recipients of donated organs might end up with some of the traits from said organ donor.  It's an interesting subject to explore, but that just kind of comes back to the whole debate about nature versus nurture and if there truly is an evil gene embedded in certain people's DNA make-up... and that just opens up a whole can of worms for many people to argue about.

I look forward to seeing said controversy in the rest of series if we're going in that direction, because this subject has not been fully explored in this particular book by itself.  Would have been nice, but I think Sleep with the Lights On was more concerned about resolving the whole serial killer issue first and foremost, I suppose.

So in a way, the entire "cellular consciousness" thing wasn't really all that disagreeable to me, to be honest.  Probably just the way the serial killer angle of it all was handled seemed a little questionable.

But otherwise this book was darn near wonderfully perfect.  I suppose I'll just have to get used to the alternating POV if I want to continue reading the rest of the series... which I fully intend to do.


2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Reading Assignment Challenge
COYER Summer Vacation 2016 -- Bingo Board One | Square Y3 -- Thriller
Can You Read a Series in a Month? Challenge

Top Ten Tuesday: Loaded Gift Card Shopping Spree!


Top Ten Tuesday is an original and weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.


~~ Ten Books You'd Buy Right This Second If Somebody Handed You a Fully Loaded Gift Card ~~


This week for Top Ten Tuesday, the topic is one that will probably become an overly extended list if I don't cut myself off somewhere.  Because, let's face it, as a book nerd, there are no books I do not want to own... okay, maybe there are.  So let's rephrase:  There is no end to the books I would love to own and buy if I had all the money in the world!


Because as this mythical fully loaded gift card does not mention a limit, there are way more than ten books that popped into my head almost immediately.  In fact, let's not really talk just books, because there are series of books that I would buy right this second.

So let's just...

First are books I've already read, but would like to own in hard copy, preferably paperback.



Blue Lily, Lily Blue | The Raven King


by Maggie Stiefvater
Winter | Stars Above
by Marissa Meyer

I've already read these books, I already own them as Kindle books.  But I want them as physical copies as well.  I already have the rest of the series' books.  These are the only ones left.  I do not own Stars Above at all and had checked it out from the library.  Charge it all to my imaginary fully loaded gift card please!  Now!


FBI/US Attorney series
Just the Sexiest Man Alive | Practice Makes Perfect | Suddenly One Summer
by Julie James

I've loved Julie James' books ever since I started reading the FBI/US Attorney series about three years ago.  They are witty and mature and sexy and lots of fun.  I currently own them as Kindle books, but I wouldn't say 'no' to spending that nifty loaded gift card on a full set of paperbacks for all of the above books.

Next are books I haven't read but would love to own.


Sevenwaters series
by Juliet Marillier

I already own the first book in this series.  I'd love to own the rest of the books if only because I love Juliet Marillier's fantasies.  I haven't read any of these books, but if I'm honest with myself, I've loved everything I've read of hers so far, so I have a feeling I'll love these just as much.  And also, that first book is based on a fairy tale, so I'm all for that.

That said, I kind of just want to go ahead and buy all of Juliet Marillier's books with that nifty gift card.



Steele Street series
by Tara Janzen

I've already read the first six books (of which I own all in paperback) in this series and would like to finish the rest--these last five books.  I already own three of the above books, so I'd love to get the last two to add to my collection.  This is an absurdly fun series with some of the most mindless plots.  But I love them!  Believe me, I would not hesitate to buy the remaining missing books from the series if money weren't an issue--as it is, I'm looking at used book sales and the like... or just free money is cool too!

Finally... THIS!
Come on, you all saw it coming, right?  Why DON'T I already own this set?  It's so pretty that I would buy the entire set just because I want to look at it and preen and tell people I own such a gorgeous set of books and make all my Harry Potter fan friends jealous.



I've listed more than ten books, obviously, so I'm stopping here.  Because these are the books that I always end up looking for whenever I go book browsing at used book stores or Barnes & Noble.  These are the books that came to mind first when I was taking that fully loaded gift card and going on an imaginary shopping spree.



Monthly Reading Wrap Up -- July 2016

Work life was crazy and busy this month with a higher hospital census than the past few months.  On top of that, we've been preparing for our laboratory inspection, so life has been hectic.  Because of this, my days have been filled with trying to snatch time to read just to wind down when possible, and trying to make time to write reviews and participate in readathons... etc.  A lot of times, I get home from work and just crash because I'm so tired.

So while I had planned on having a lot more reading accomplished this month, I feel like I've been pretty productive in light of all the work-related things that have been going on.

And also, YouTube has been a bit tempting.  I recently picked up an obsession with watching some Chinese based music programs.  Specifically, I just finished doing a marathon watch of the entire I Am a Singer season four, produced by Hunan TV.  Basically, well-known and well-established singers and artists are invited to compete with each other, and they are judged by 500 audience votes.

Lots of great music from some of my old favorites.

Anyway, back to bookish news...

COYER Summer Vacation 2016 is still ongoing and everyone is having fun.  As of the end of this month, all participants have contributed over 500+ reviews to the challenge, and there is still one more month to go!

I always hope that the next month will be better, but at this point in the year, we'll just hope for more free time to do some leisure reading.  At this point, I'll just be happy to make good progress on my reading challenges, since it's entirely possible my Bookish Resolution challenge will be a flop.

Happy Reading everyone!



July Reads



Books Dropped/Put On Hold



Currently Reading




July Reading Stats


Total works read: 12

  • 12 full length novels

Average rating: 3.42 Stars

  • Highest Rated:   3 books // 4.0 Stars
    • (1) Kalahari by Jessica Khoury
    • (2) Wife for Hire by Christine Bell
    • (3) The River Knows by Amanda Quick
  • Lowest Rated:  Icebound by Dean Koontz // 2.5 Stars

Series I started reading:

  • Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries by Ashley Gardner
  • For Hire by Christine Bell

Series I completed:

  • Corpus by Jessica Khoury
  • The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Series I have made progress on:

  • Arcane Society by Amanda Quick / Jayne Ann Krentz
  • Harmony by Jayne Castle

Favorite reads: There were a lot of really good reads this month, including all of Jayne Ann Krentz's work (whether as Jayne Ann Krentz, Amanda Quick, or Jayne Castle).  Of all of these books, the one I enjoyed the most is also one of the books I remember little about, The River Knows.  Thus is a JAK book, I suppose.

Disappointing reads: My biggest disappointment really was the lowest rated book, Dean Koontz's Icebound.  I have always been a fan of Dean Koontz, but Icebound just wasn't one of his best.



Reviews & Notable Posts


Reviews Written




Other Posts



Coming Up In August


Tentative TBR


Other Stuff

In the month of August, I'm dropping the need to read books just because I need to read them.  Of course, this being said, yes, I am still going to read my assigned reading for the Reading Assignment Challenge and I am going to read the series I chose to read for Can You Read a Series in a Month? Challenge.  But otherwise, I'm going to try to read more books where my mood dictates.

And so my reading list for August is only as tentative as the Brown and de Luca series, because I honestly don't know what I'm in the mood to read.  Even my Reading Assignment books for this month are still up in the air, but I'm hoping that the My TBR List poll will help with that.  In the meantime, I will busy myself with the above mentioned series, of which I am already very much enjoying the first book.

With that, there really isn't anything else to mention.



2016 Wrap-Ups 


See Also: 2015 Reading Wrap-Up posts (scroll to bottom of page)

Monthly Reading Wrap Up -- January 2016
Monthly Reading Wrap Up -- February 2016
Monthly Reading Wrap Up -- March 2016
Monthly Reading Wrap Up -- April 2016
Monthly Reading Wrap Up -- May 2016
Monthly Reading Wrap Up -- June 2016

4 Stars
Brief Thoughts: The River Knows
The River Knows - Amanda Quick

The River Knows

by Amanda Quick

To date, this is probably the Amanda Quick book with the most riveting mystery I've read--in my personal opinion, of course.  I know a lot of other people might disagree.  But I enjoyed every moment of this book and was actually quite in love with how the entire story unfolded.  And I am always ever in love with how quickly books by this author jump right into the action, the excitement, and the intrigue.

When played right, the secret reveals in certain books work really well.  And this was one of the instances I liked in particular.

The only unfortunate thing is that, like all the other Amanda Quick books I've read, The River Knows is not really all that memorable.  I barely remember some of the little details, though I know there were certain scenes that made me laugh or feel happy about.

I barely remember character names within days of finishing the book even though I know I liked the characters.  Louisa was the standard Amanda Quick independent, feisty, resourceful heroine with a heart of gold.  Anthony was the standard romance novel broody alpha male with motives... although if I were to be honest, he really wasn't as broody as I'm making him sound.  In fact, I actually kind of liked his approach to the developing romantic relationship he had with Louisa.  And I actually kind of liked the way some things happened for this couple, in contrast to how most romance novels develop the love story.

So I DID really enjoy reading this book and when I was finished, I gave it a high rating because of how much I enjoyed it, and how much I liked the way the story progressed, and how much I liked the characters and their interactions, and how much I liked the romance despite Amanda Quick's formulaic signatures which I have come to expect and will resignedly, but willingly wave on.

Here's to another non-Arcane Society Amanda Quick book that I thoroughly enjoyed.  May there be more before I get tired of the same stories; although I am also a fan of "tried and true" for those times where I just need an enjoyable book of which employs said tried and true formulas, written well, with readily likable characters to keep me entertained.

I now decree Amanda Quick as one of my go to, absurdly addictive author for when I just need something to read to make me happy!


2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
COYER Summer Vacation 2016 -- Bingo Board Two | Square O7 -- Romance

3 Stars
Quick Thoughts: The Hanover Square Affair
The Hanover Square Affair  - Ashley Gardner

The Hanover Square Affair

by Ashley Gardner
Book 1 of Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries


London, 1816
Cavalry captain Gabriel Lacey returns to Regency London from the Napoleonic wars, burned out, fighting melancholia, his career ended. His interest is perked when he learns of a missing girl, possibly kidnapped by a prominent member of Parliament. Lacey's search for the girl leads to the discovery of murder, corruption, and dealings with a leader of the underworld. He faces his own disorientation transitioning from a soldier's life to the civilian world at the same time, redefining his role with his former commanding officer and making new friends--from the top of society to the street girls of Covent Garden.

I sat down at my desk and started surfing other's book blogs before I remembered that I hadn't quite written this book's review yet.  As much as I hate to say this, The Hanover Square Affair was not the most memorable book.  In fact, my reading experience was quite an uphill-downhill, and then up again and down again kind of experience.  Even while reading the book, I started getting sidetracked and forgetting what was going on.  And then after finishing the book, I even forgot to brainstorm this review.

So, to be short and brief on this one--for real this time, since my "short and brief" reviews always end in rambling sessions--The Hanover Square Affair was enjoyable during the reading of it.  There was excitement and I DID find myself sort of caught up in Captain Gabriel Lacey's curious investigation.  The mystery was quite serviceable.  But a lot of other moments seemed to run in side tangent, or drag on and become almost boring--these scenes I tended to forget about after a while and had to work to recall events that were brought up at later times in the book.

More than anything, I had no rapport with the characters; and when I feel detached from the characters, I tend to stop caring about what happens to them.  Maybe the good Captain Lacey was the only character I really did find myself caring about, but I also found his passionate behavior a little extreme and hot-headed.  I'm not saying that's a bad thing--he's a uniquely created main character and I like that he comes off different than other main male heroes I often see in many other books.  To be honest, I really don't have much to complain about Captain Lacey at all, and if I were to pick up the next book in this series, it would be because of him.

As it is, I really DID enjoy following Captain Lacey's narration a lot.

But I still stand that I found the rest of the characters in the book to be like mere background noise.  Even Grenville, who's eccentric and intriguing personality would merit some interest on my behalf didn't quite sit well with me.  I liked him just fine.  I also kind of liked that he's fairly honest to Captain Lacey about his motives.  I just maybe think that, since you don't get to see much in his perspective (since this book is written in first person from Lacey's POV), that you don't really get to know Grenville as more than just a bored, wealthy benefactor to Captain Lacey without much else going for him aside from his biographical eccentricities.

I would love to see more from Grenville's point of view, to be honest.

The rest of the characters had their own characterizations.  But those characterizations felt flat and boring.


2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Reading Assignment Challenge
Bookish Resolutions Challenge
Mount TBR Challenge

COYER Summer Vacation 2016 -- Bingo Board One | Square E9 -- Mystery



3.5 Stars
Quick Thoughts: Dark Light
Dark Light - Jayne Castle

Dark Light

by Jayne Castle
Book 5 of Harmony

Reporter Sierra McIntyre's stories on Crystal City's ghost hunters--and their mysterious guild--have earned her tabloid a bit of respect.  And they've allowed her to clothe her dust-bunny companion, Elvis, in rock-and-roll style.  It helps that she has mega-rez intuition to fall back on...

Especially when she interviews Ghost Hunter Guild boss John Fontana about the disappearances of retired, homeless hunters.  She doesn't want to trust the physically and psychically powerful man, but her senses--and Elvis--give her the green light.  To uncover the conspiracy within his own organization, Fontana proposes... marriage.  And though it's purely a business arrangement, there's nothing pure about the attraction that sizzles between them...

There were many things I really liked about this book despite the common formula that Jayne Castle uses on a regular basis.  I like the new paranormal talents that continue to be introduced with each book.  I like that the world of Harmony isn't static, and that things are continuously being discovered from alien history, to human history, to new and unknown abilities.  I like that the characters are always likable and easy to follow.  I like that the romances are steamy and sexy and fun.  I like the wit and humor.

And in Dark Light, I also very much liked our main couple, Sierra and Fontana.  Of course, as per usual, Fontana is the typical broody, alpha with some back story issues.  Sierra was a bit hard to like in those first few paragraphs if only because reporters tend to be some of my least favorite character types--but she turns out to be lots of fun, laid back and righteous, and witty in her own way.

I liked the other characters introduced, even though we'll probably never see them again.

And I loved Elvis, the diva dust bunny, companion to Sierra, who loves his little Elvis cap and sunglasses, and loves to play new games.  To be totally honest, as much as I like the main human characters in these books, they are always overshadowed by the dust bunnies.  I don't think there's anything I don't love about dust bunnies and it makes me so happy to see them incorporated so naturally into the story.

Finally, I like how Jayne Castle is starting to officially incorporate the Arcane Society into the Harmony books.  As soon as it was mentioned that Sierra's ability was of a psychic nature that she uses without the aid of tuned amber--the stone that helps the Harmony characters use their psi abilities--I had a feeling we were talking about the same types of psychic abilities from the other aforementioned series.  And then it was confirmed, so I'm happy about that.

So it looks like we'll have more to look forward to in these books as the world becomes more extensive.


2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
COYER Summer Vacation 2016 -- Bingo Board Two | Square Y8 -- Futuristic


currently reading

Progress: 800/1485minutes
The Gingerbread Man - Maggie Shayne
Working Stiff - Annelise Ryan