Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Concrete Blonde Review





Title:  The Concrete Blonde
Series:  Harry Bosch #3
Author:  Michael Connelly
Publisher:  Grand Central Publishing
Release Date:  Feb. 1, 2007

My Rating:  5 Riveting 's







Synopsis:

In this classic from a #1 "New York Times" bestselling author, Detective Harry Bosch thought he'd stopped the serial killer known as the Dollmaker. Now the dead man's widow is suing Harry and the LAPD for shooting the wrong man--an accusation that rings true when a new victim is discovered with the Dollmaker's macabre signature.

Review:

Four years after killing Norman Church, aka The Dollmaker, Harry Bosch is being sued for wrongful death by the man’s wife. As Harry defends his actions, another victim’s body is recovered and this one was murdered after the death of The Dollmaker killer casting doubt on Harry’s case. Harry knows it’s looking bad for him. Did he make a mistake? Or is there another explanation?

The Concrete Blonde is the perfect blend of suspense and police procedural with a touch of romance on the side. Part of the story plays out in the courtroom, revealed through testimonies and Harry’s minefield of thoughts as he filters through all the evidence and possible scenarios, both past and present, contemplating what he is missing. A compelling maze of twists and turns, the story is riveting – a true thriller from cover to cover. And while the investigation and case are top-notch, it’s the character development that I loved most. I finished this book feeling a more intimate connection with Harry – a feeling of knowing more about what makes him tick, why he acts and reacts as he does in both personal and professional situations. Hands down, The Concrete Blonde is my favorite of the Harry Bosch series thus far. Intense, emotional, fascinating from beginning to end. A Must Read!

My Rating:  5 Riveting 's . . . And that's the truth!

Cross My Heart . . . xxx
Sandra




Saturday, April 22, 2017

In The Middle Of Somewhere Review



Title:  In The Middle Of Somewhere
Series:  Middle of Somewhere #1
Author:  Roan Parrish
Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press
Release Date:  July 10, 2015

My Rating:  4 Slow-Burning 's







Synopsis:

Daniel Mulligan is tough, snarky, and tattooed, hiding his self-consciousness behind sarcasm. Daniel has never fit in—not at home in Philadelphia with his auto mechanic father and brothers, and not at school where his Ivy League classmates looked down on him. Now, Daniel’s relieved to have a job at a small college in Holiday, Northern Michigan, but he’s a city boy through and through, and it’s clear that this small town is one more place he won’t fit in.

Rex Vale clings to routine to keep loneliness at bay: honing his muscular body, perfecting his recipes, and making custom furniture. Rex has lived in Holiday for years, but his shyness and imposing size have kept him from connecting with people.

When the two men meet, their chemistry is explosive, but Rex fears Daniel will be another in a long line of people to leave him, and Daniel has learned that letting anyone in can be a fatal weakness. Just as they begin to break down the walls keeping them apart, Daniel is called home to Philadelphia, where he discovers a secret that changes the way he understands everything
.
 

Review:

Daniel Mulligan first meets Rex Vale when he travels to northern Michigan to apply for an English Professor position at a small college. Their chemistry is undeniable, but all they share is a brief kiss. A year later, Daniel moves to town and starts teaching while hoping to run into the man he’s never forgotten. As the story unfolds, Daniel and Rex begin the slow process of getting to know one another. Daniel is insecure with major trust issues stemming from a life of ridicule from his family in Philadelphia. He’s never measured up to his father’s expectations and believes his family hates him for openly admitting to being gay. Rex is a lumberjack of a man living a solitary life in his cabin in the woods - never letting anyone inside the walls he’s built around his heart. Better to live alone rather than risk being left behind once again. Both men are toting a heavy load of baggage, willing to share each other’s bed but not their hearts.
In the Middle of Somewhere is a hypnotic, slow burn love story. As the story plays out, layers are peeled back revealing each man’s past including events that shaped the people they are today. Daniel and Rex’s sexual chemistry and scenes are HOT – topping the sex-o-meter time and time again. I found the author’s style to be unique, words flowing in a mesmerizing manner that held me captive even with the slow pace. And that was my only issue with this book . . . it moves at a snail’s pace – heavy in inner monologues and rambling thoughts about anything and everything. At times, it took me out of the story and tested my patience. Having said that, I cared enough about these characters to read through those passages seeking answers to questions raised and hoping for some kind of hea for Daniel and Rex. Rich in details, In the Middle of Somewhere is a touching, heartfelt, sometimes funny love story. A Must Read!


My Rating:  4 Slow-Burning 's . . . And that's the truth!

Cross My Heart . . . xxx
Sandra

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Chill Factor Review



Title:  Chill Factor
Author:  Sandra Brown
Publisher:  Pocket Books
Release Date:  Aug. 1, 2006
Buy Link:  Amazon

My Rating:  4 Chilling 's








Synopsis:

Cleary, North Carolina, is a sleepy mountain town—the kind of place where criminal activity is usually limited to parking violations. Not so, lately. Four women have disappeared from Cleary over the past two years. And there’s always a blue ribbon left near the spot where each of the women was last seen. There are no bodies, no other clues, and no suspicion as to who their abductor might be. And now, another woman has disappeared without a trace.

It is to this backdrop that Lilly Martin returns to close the sale of her mountain cabin, marking the end of her turbulent eight-year marriage to Dutch Burton, Cleary’s chief of police. Dutch’s reluctance to let her go isn’t Lilly’s only obstacle. As she’s trying to outrun a snowstorm, her car skids on the icy road and strikes a man who emerges from the woods on foot. She recognizes the injured man as Ben Tierney, whom she’d met the previous summer. They’re forced to wait out the storm in the cabin, but as the hours of their confinement mount, Lilly begins to wonder if the greatest danger to her safety isn’t the blizzard outside, but the mysterious man right beside her.

Is Ben Tierney the feared abductor? Or is he who he claims to be...her rescuer from harm and from the tragedy that haunts her?
 


Review:

Like most Sandra Brown books, Chill Factor is high on suspense and rich in details with a setting that plays intricately into the story.  The list of possible “who-done-it” candidates is laden with red herrings and the stakes are high.  Like the road that snakes up the mountainside where Lilly Martin finds herself stranded in a cabin during a blizzard, the plot is twisted with s-turns and roadblocks.  If only she had headed down right behind her ex-husband, she would have been off the mountain before the storm hit . . . and she wouldn’t be trapped alone in a cabin with a man that she’s extremely attracted to – one that may or may not be a serial killer. 
Ben Tierney is a man of mystery.  Very little is known about him other than the fact that he’s an extreme sports writer and attracts women like flies to honey.  Lilly first met him on a kayaking trip the previous summer.  They both felt the jolt of chemistry that passed between them, but Lilly was still married to the very jealous police chief of the small, mountain town at the time.  They parted ways, each wanting but not taking more.  And now, they’ve met again – under much different circumstances.  Five local women are missing, presumed dead.  The town’s people are on edge, tempers are volatile.  The only “stranger” in town is Ben – does that make him the most likely suspect?  Should Lilly trust her heart or follow the evidence?

Chill Factor is intense with on-the-edge-of-your seat suspense filling the pages from cover to cover.  The character list is stacked with possible suspects -  damaged, fallible characters with motive, opportunity, and major issues of their own. The rugged, frozen winter setting plays heavily into the storyline as roads are impassable with no one getting up or down the mountain.  Brown is a master at throwing readers off the scent of the real culprit, but I managed to figure this one out early.  But with heart-racing, adrenalin-inducing scenes playing out through the block buster ending, it didn’t lessen my enjoyment.  My only minor issue was the lack of open communication between the hero/heroine with a couple of over-the-top scenes, but still another chilling story by this author.  Chill Factor is a Must Read!


My Rating:  4 Chilling 's . . . And that's the truth!

Cross My Heart . . . xxx
Sandra






Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Come Sundown Review


Title:  Come Sundown
Author:  Nora Roberts
Publisher:  St. Martin's Press
Release Date:  May 30, 2017
Preorder Link:  Amazon

My Rating:  4 Compelling 's

*Many thanks to St. Martin's Press for an arc of this book.  





Synopsis:
The Bodine ranch and resort in western Montana is a family business, an idyllic spot for vacationers. A little over thirty thousand acres and home to four generations, it’s kept running by Bodine Longbow with the help of a large staff, including new hire Callen Skinner. There was another member of the family once: Bodine’s aunt, Alice, who ran off before Bodine was born. She never returned, and the Longbows don’t talk about her much. The younger ones, who never met her, quietly presume she’s dead. But she isn’t. She is not far away, part of a new family, one she never chose—and her mind has been shattered…

When a bartender leaves the resort late one night, and Bo and Cal discover her battered body in the snow, it’s the first sign that danger lurks in the mountains that surround them. The police suspect Cal, but Bo finds herself trusting him—and turning to him as another woman is murdered and the Longbows are stunned by Alice’s sudden reappearance. The twisted story she has to tell about the past—and the threat that follows in her wake—will test the bonds of this strong family, and thrust Bodine into a darkness she could never have imagined.
 

Review:

Come Sundown is a powerful, compelling story showcasing the healing power of love and the amazing ability of the human soul and spirit to survive and recover from unimaginable, mind altering pain and sadistic evil.  It’s also the story of family doing what family does . . . loving unconditionally, making and cherishing memories, surviving loss and pain, building a future on hopes and dreams.  Nora Roberts is a master at writing about close-knit families bound by strong emotional ties whether related by blood, friendship, or romance, and we see that once again in this book.  Four generations of Bodine women, working together with the heart, gut, and grit of the pioneer women who first came west, lay the foundation for this story.  A strong, rich support cast including family, friends, and co-workers cements this epic saga of perseverance and triumph, with the added bonus of a friends to lovers romance (times 3). 


Two stories play out in Come Sundown with one revealed through a series of flashbacks up until the point where the stories and timelines merge.  Two stories - One family - A span of twenty-five years.  The stories become one later in the book when prayers are finally answered, but is it too little, too late?  Alice Bodine was only eighteen the night she slipped away from home heading toward California.  After brief, spotty correspondence, she vanished like a ghost in the night and was later presumed dead.  But readers know that after three long years away, a weary, homesick Alice was homeward bound toting a backpack full of broken dreams when she made a fatal mistake.  Now she fears she'll never go home again as there's no escape route from hell.

I won't reveal any spoilers, but I have to say that Alice's story was the big draw for me in Come Sundown.  Brilliantly written, her plight is what takes this story to another level as it unfolds in tragic bits and pieces - so horrific, so raw and graphic, so physically and mentally devastating that it left me reeling time and time again.  Roberts's villains are often sadistically evil and cruel and this one is no exception, ranking high on the depraved, psychotic killer list. The theme of nature vs. nurture often used by this author is prevalent as true identities are revealed near the end.

After the opening flashback introducing Alice and cueing readers into her fate, the story moves to the present where we meet Bodine Longbow who runs the upscale Bodine Resort and her brothers who operate the Bodine Ranch - both offering guests an exclusive western cowboy experience.  This part of the story moved a little slow for me as it centers on the day to day operations while introducing readers to all the players.  It took me awhile to settle in and feel the connection between Bodine and Callen (her childhood crush and now love interest) who has returned home to work at Bodine Ranch.  The pace is slow and easy as the couple flirts around each other, exploring the sparks flying between them while figuring out where they're headed in the future.  The discovery of two brutally murdered women raises the stakes and intensity as the town now knows there's a serial killer in their midst.  From this point forward, I was on the edge of my seat, flipping pages trying to figure out the "who" and "why".  And after a connection is made to Alice - I couldn't put the book down. 


Come Sundown is a heart-wrenching story of devastating loss and unbearable pain, but at the same time it's a story of hope, perseverance, unlimited love and faith and like the awe-inspiring sundown that appears again and again - the promise of another day.  The vast western Montana landscape, rich in gorgeous sunsets and cold, snowy winters adds a beautiful yet harsh element vital to this story.  Like a curvy backroad, Come Sundown unfolds through a series of twists and bends before ending on a shocking reveal that I didn't see coming.  Another intense, spellbinding Romance/Suspense story by Nora Roberts.  A Must Read!

My Rating:  4 Compelling 's . . . And that's the truth!


Cross My Heart . . . xxx


Sandra





Monday, April 10, 2017

The Chosen Review


Title:  The Chosen
Series:  Black Dagger Brotherhood #15
Author:  J.R. Ward
Publisher:  Ballantine Books
Release Date:  April 4, 2017
Purchase Link:  Amazon

My Rating:  4 Electrifying 's







Synopsis:

Xcor, leader of the Band of Bastards, convicted of treason against the Blind King, is facing a brutal interrogation and torturous death at the hands of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Yet after a life marked by cruelty and evil deeds, he accepts his soldier’s fate, his sole regret the loss of a sacred female who was never his: the Chosen Layla.

Layla alone knows the truth that will save Xcor’s life. But revealing his sacrifice and his hidden heritage will expose them both and destroy everything Layla holds dear—even her role of mother to her precious young. Torn between love and loyalty, she must summon the courage to stand up against the only family she has for the only man she will ever love. Yet even if Xcor is somehow granted a reprieve, he and Layla would have to confront a graver challenge: bridging the chasm that divides their worlds without paving the way for a future of even greater war, desolation, and death.

As a dangerous old enemy returns to Caldwell, and the identity of a new deity is revealed, nothing is certain or safe in the world of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, not even true love . . . or destinies that have long seemed set in stone.

Review:
With each release in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, one thing can be certain. Fans will get passionate and protective over their favorite characters - and will either love or hate the direction Ward is taking them. The Chosen is a perfect example as readers get vocal expressing their opinion. One thing I know - any book/series that can evoke that kind of emotion is going to be one h*ll of a ride and on my "read right now" list. There was never any question in my mind as to whether or not I would read it . . . seriously? I'm a fan who waited on pins and needles for this release just as I'm now awaiting the next one! I avoided all reviews and comments until I finished it and highly recommend (if it's even possible now) that you do the same. There are no spoilers in my review.

Like every other book in the series,
The Chosen is rich in details and multiple plotlines. Unlike some readers, I love it! Talk about more bang for your buck. I have no problem following the storyline as it shifts between characters, scenes, and plots. While I freely admit that Layla is on the low end of my fav heroine scale, I was intrigued to see where The Warden would take her and Xcor and what kind of h*ll they'd walk through to get there. Talk about an explosion that rocked the BDB world - when the truth comes out about their relationship, the consequences and repercussions are earthshattering. The reaction of some characters cost them everything.

Relationship issues, shocking revelations, nonstop action - all are prevalent in
The Chosen. So many characters face life-altering decisions and situations. It seems some are at a crossroad in their life - a bend in the road. Which way will they go? You'll get a lot of answers by the end of the book, but not all. I'm okay with that...it's part of what keeps me reading on. I have to say that given past history and ill feelings, I was a little surprised at the things Ward tied up and delivered with a neat little hea bow near the end. Some of it didn't ring true for me because it was such an about face for these characters who both hate and love with a passion. It's the reason I gave this book 4 stars instead of 5. Having said that, The Chosen evoked all the same emotions in me as previous books. Intense, on the edge of my seat suspense, passion, heartbreak, and nail-biting worry over who might not survive. Another Page Burning Must Read by J.R. Ward! More Please!

My Rating:  4 Electrifying 's . . . And that's the truth!

Cross My Heart . . . xxx
Sandra

Friday, April 7, 2017

Always Review



Title:  Always
Author: Kindle Alexander
Published by:  Kindle Alexander LLC
Released:  March 11, 2014

My Rating:  4 Fated, Always 's







Synopsis:
Born to a prestigious political family, Avery Adams plays as hard as he works. The gorgeous, charismatic attorney is used to getting what he wants, even the frequent one-night stands that earn him his well-deserved playboy reputation. When some of the most prominent men in politics suggest he run for senate, Avery decides the time has come to follow in his grandfather's footsteps. With a strategy in place and the campaign wheels rolling, Avery is ready to jump on the legislative fast track, full steam ahead. But no amount of planning prepares him for the handsome, uptight restaurateur who might derail his political future.

Easy isn't even in the top thousand words to describe Kane Dalton's life after his father, a devout Southern Baptist minister, kicks him out of the family home for questioning his sexual orientation. Despite all the rotten tomatoes life throws his way, Kane makes something of himself. Between owning a thriving upscale Italian restaurant in the heart of downtown Minneapolis and managing his long-term boyfriend, his plate is full. He struggles to get past the teachings of his childhood to fully accept his sexuality and rid himself of the doubts brought on by his religious upbringing. The last thing he needs is the yummy, sophisticated, blond-haired distraction sitting at table thirty-four.  

Review:
Always is such a refreshing change of pace in that both men in this relationship are openly gay vs. the typical hiding in the closet trope. One has a family that accepts it, one doesn't. The story opens very near the place where it ends - in the present, but the story is revealed by way of Kane telling the story that started 40 years ago when he first met Avery. It's a love story - one so pure, so true, so fated that it will steal your heart and breath. Everyone, no matter their gender or sexual preferences, should know this kind of love.

Avery, a lawyer and uprising politician, meets Kane, upscale restaurant owner, when he dines in Kane's restaurant. Their hearts and souls instantly know they've met the one. As their story unfolds, you'll cheer for them, celebrate with them, and cry with them through all their highs and lows. Sparks fly every time they're near one another, so yeah . . . lots of sizzling love scenes. As I mentioned, I found it so refreshing and endearing that they took their relationship public right away - even into the political ring in spite of the fallout. This book is Avery and Kane's life journey together.  It's a "rub your hand over your heart" love story.   I managed to hold off the tears until near the end when I ugly cried. Have tissues ready. A Must Read!
 

My Rating:  4 Fated, Always 's . . . And that's the truth!


Cross My Heart . . . xxx
Sandra

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

IWSG: Merry-Go-Round & Round & Round...

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is a community of writers who share ideas and encourage other writers. It's a great place to express doubts and concerns as well as offer and receive tribulations and guidance from other writers. IWSG posts the first Wednesday of every month. I think you'll find it to be a great writer's resource that's well worth your time. Be sure to stop by and visit with some of the other IWSG writers/bloggers at IWSG Members.

A great big thank you to our awesome April Co-Hosts:
Christopher D. Votey
Madeline Mora-Summonte
Fundy Blue
Chrys Fey


Everyone says Build Your Brand!  It's an absolute must if you want to connect with readers and gain a following with name recognition and book sales as an end goal.  They also say don't wait until you have a book ready to market!  Start making social media connections early and often - even as you start writing your book.  Webpage, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, and so on and on and on . . . it's a spinning, out of control Merry-Go-Round.  How in the world do you manage it all on a regular basis and still have time for writing a book (along with all that pesky real life stuff)?  I understand the concept and the necessity, I just don't get the how.  There are days I feel like I'm on a merry-go-round that's wildly out of kilter.  I need to get off, slow things down, and gain control again.  But, I also want to go for the bling - the golden ring.

And while researching the efficient use of social media in regards to building an author brand, I found my efforts up to this point may be for naught.  Talk about feelings of inadequacy.  To do it "right", I'd have to start from scratch or come up with a plan to switch course - which will eat up more writing time.  It's a vicious circle.  My merry-go-round is running at warp speed, and it feels like all I can do is hang on for dear life.  I'm too stubborn (and yes, dedicated) to quit, but there's only one of me.  How do I get it all done?  I realize many established authors pay a professional Virtual Assistant to handle social media . . . and I will certainly consider it in the future.  But it's not an option for me at this time.

Insecurities?!  They're like a bad dose of medicine right now, choking me on the way down.  I'm normally a glass half full kind of girl . . . but I suddenly find myself thinking "half empty".  It's wearing on me mentally which affects me physically.  While I fully intend to grab that gold ring, I need some sound advice and a plan. 

So, tell me please . . .  how do you do it all?  I know many of you are masters at riding the social media/author brand merry-go-round while juggling everything else.  Share your best ideas before I'm tossed off on my behind.  My sanity is at stake!