Friday, May 25, 2018

Bring Me Back Review


Title:  Bring Me Back
Author:  B.A. Paris
Genre:  Thriller, Suspense
Publisher:  HQ
Publishing Date:  June 12, 2018 (1st publ. Mar. 1, 2018)
Purchase Link:  Amazon

My Rating:  3 Compelling Hearts

*Many thanks to HQ for a copy of this arc via Netgally.



Synopsis:
A young British couple are driving through France on holiday when they stop for gas. He runs in to pay, she stays in the car. When he returns her car door has been left open, but she's not inside. No one ever sees her again.

Ten years later he's engaged to be married; he's happy, and his past is only a tiny part his life now. Until he comes home from work and finds his new wife-to-be is sitting on their sofa. She's turning something over in her fingers, holding it up to the light. Something that would have no worth to anyone else, something only he and she would know about because his wife is the sister of his missing first love.

As more and more questions are raised, their marriage becomes strained. Has his first love somehow come back to him after all this time? Or is the person who took her playing games with his mind?

Review:
Bring Me Back is an edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller that begins with the mysterious disappearance of a woman, Layla, at a restroom stop in France.  Finn, her boyfriend, is frantic when he discovers her gone.  After months of searching, he gives up and returns home.  Fast forward twelve years and Finn is engaged to marry Ellen, Layla's sister, and yet Layla is never far from his mind.  After Finn and Ellen's engagement announcement appears in a local paper, an omen in the form of a tiny Russian doll appears on the wall in front of their house.  The relevance and implications are monumental as it's a link to Ellen's childhood.  Only she, Layla, and Finn know the significance of the Russian doll.  From this point, events spiral out of control as Finn begins receiving sinister and threatening correspondence from someone claiming to be "Layla".  Is it possible Layla has returned to reclaim her life . . . and man?  Or is someone playing cruel, obsessive mind games? 

Through alternating chapters of past and present, Bring Me Back unfolds through two points of view.  I was quickly drawn into this thriller and found my heart racing as the story and Finn's state of mind spiral out of control.  The first half is addictive as the dark and ominous tone, frantic pace, and urgent sense of time running out escalates.  I burned through pages looking for answers along with Finn.  The author does a great job setting up the characters, scenes, and plotline leading to an explosive first half.  As the story progresses, secrets and lies surface clueing readers into the fact that all is not as it seems.  A little more than halfway, I realized what was happening, but still felt a sense of urgency and trepidation as I read on to see how the author would weave it all together.  Approaching the end, events occurred that had me thinking back over the story, and I just wasn't quite able to accept things as plausible.  As a result, a story that began with great promise fell short of the mark in my opinion.  Bring Me Back is a compelling story that I admittedly read nonstop, but the direction the author chose to take the plot line didn't work for me in the end.  I think psychological thriller fans will be evenly split on this one.  Give it a shot and decide for yourself!

My Rating:  3 Compelling Hearts . . . And that's the truth!
Cross My Heart . . . xxx
Sandra



    

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Jar Of Hearts Review

Title:  Jar of Hearts
Author:  Jennifer Hillier
Genre:  Mystery, Suspense
Publisher:  Minotaur Books, St. Martin's Press
Release Date:  June 12, 2018
Purchase Link:  Amazon

My Rating:  5 Shattered Hearts

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


Synopsis:
A compelling story of murder, betrayal, and the secrets of the past…

Georgina, known as Geo, is a 30-year-old rising executive when her world comes crashing down. Her high school boyfriend has been identified and arrested for a series of serial murders, including Angela, Geo's best friend in high school. Angela disappeared without a trace at 16 and her body has just been found. Now Geo is under arrest for helping her then-boyfriend cover it up. And it's one of her other close friends from high school, Kaiser Brody, who arrests her.

While Geo is sent to prison for her part, Calvin escapes from custody and is on the run. Geo, now thirty-five, is about to be released from prison to try and start over. But someone has started killing people and dumping their bodies in her old neighborhood, with some of the markers of the missing Sweetbay Strangler—her old boyfriend Calvin. Is these killings some kind of message from Calvin? Are they some of revenge? Is she herself now in danger?

Everything turns on what really happened that tragic night back when Geo and Angela were high schoolers. Everyone thinks they know the truth, but there are dark secrets buried deep within other secrets, and it may be too late for anyone to survive the truth.

Review:
The cover and title of Jar of Hearts seduced me into taking a closer look, and the gripping, heart-stopping story held me captive until the shocking end . . . and beyond.  It's been several days since I finished this dark, chilling story, and I still can't let it go.  Hillier's writing is magnetic.  It sucked me in and held me in a trance as I burned through page after page - in fear of what was to come and yet helpless to stop reading.  For me, that's the mark of a great author and book.

At the age of thirty, executive Georgina (Geo) Shaw is arrested while in the midst of conducting a boardroom meeting.  After years of looking over her shoulder, the past comes calling.  It took fourteen years for her lies and deadly secrets to be discovered and five more for her to pay her dues to society.  Everyone believes they finally know the truth of what happened that fateful night when Geo's sixteen-year-old best friend disappeared.  Do they?  Or does the tragic truth remain hidden in the chaos of Geo's mind?  Can she keep the past buried and make a fresh start?  I'm not going to risk spoilers by going deeper into this story.  As intriguing as the synopsis is, it doesn't prepare you for the horrendous madness to come.  My advice is to dive in blind and swim for your life.  It's one hell of a ride. 

Hillier does an amazing job with the pacing and execution of the overall story arc in Jar of Hearts.  Brilliantly written, a frantic, sinister tone of impending doom heightens, page by page, from beginning to shocking end.  For me, the strength of the story is in the heart-breaking details of lives forever shattered and altered by an appalling split-second betrayal that can't be undone, and in the slow unmasking of broken characters - their splintered hearts and souls stripped bare as ghosts of the past overpower them, demanding to be set free.  This gut-wrenching, heart-stopping story is dark, graphic, and at times, a little too real.

Through twists & turns, Hiller takes readers on a journey that is unapologetically raw, gritty, and tragic.  While I did foresee one of the plot twists, I was in no way prepared for the shocking ending.  I've reread it three times now, trying to determine in my own mind if Geo's state of mind and circumstances at the time justify her actions in the final heartbreaking scene.  While the ending is jarring, brutal, and abrupt, it's clear now that it's also predestined.  I greatly appreciated the addition of an epilogue which gives readers some closure and hope.  Jar of Hearts is a stunning, gutsy story that will haunt me for some time.  A Page-Burning, Must Read!

My Rating:  5 Shattered Hearts . . . And that's the truth!
Cross My Heart . . . xxx

Sandra



Thursday, May 3, 2018

The Girl In The Moss Review

Title:  The Girl In The Moss
Series:  Angie Pallorino #3
Author:  Loreth Anne White
Publisher:  Montlake Romance
Release Date:  June 12, 2018
Purchase Link:  Amazon


My Rating:  5 Up-All-Night-Reading Hearts


*Many thanks to the publisher for an arc of this book via Netgally.



Synopsis:

A shallow grave exposes deadly secrets as bestselling author Loreth Anne White brings her thrilling series of romantic suspense to its shocking conclusion…

Disgraced ex-cop Angie Pallorino is determined to make a new start for herself as a private investigator. But first, she and her lover, newly promoted homicide detective James Maddocks, attempt a quiet getaway to rekindle a romance struggling in the shadows of their careers. The peace doesn’t last long when human skeletal remains are found in a nearby mossy grove.

This decades-old mystery is just what Angie needs to establish her new career—even as it thrusts her and Maddocks back into the media spotlight, once again endangering their tenuous relationship.

Then, when Angie’s inquiry into the old crime intersects with a cold case from her own policing past—one that a detective on Maddocks’s new team is working—the investigation takes a startling twist. It puts more than Angie’s last shot at redemption and a future with Maddocks at risk. The mystery of the girl in the moss could kill her.

Review:
The book gods were smiling on me when I was pointed toward the Angie Pallorino series and author Loreth Anne White.  After receiving an arc of The Girl In The Moss, I picked up the first two books in the series and fell down the rabbit hole on a thrilling binge read - only finding my way out after finishing all three books.  My only regret . . . there isn't a book four. 

Ex-cop Angie Pallorino is struggling with her distressing new reality.  Even her lover Det. Maddox has given her an ultimatum, drawing a line in the sand that leaves the future of their relationship in her hands.  Angie's at loose ends, floundering to keep her head above water and desperately searching for anything that will give her life purpose again.  Just when she thinks there's no hope, a phone call lures her into looking at a cold case in a small town harboring deadly secrets.  In her search for the truth, Angie risks everything . . . her future, her relationship, even her life.  What she eventually discovers kept me turning pages long into the night. 

Readers should avoid all spoilers and prepare to be sucked into this complex thriller where lies, secrets, jealousy, and deceit abound and any one of several devious characters may be a killer.  White's vibrant, descriptive writing style sets the stage with an ominous atmosphere, heavily layered with impending doom.  With heart racing, I burned through the pages and, like Angie, just when I thought I had all the answers, I realized all the puzzle pieces didn't quite fit.  The story and danger wasn't over yet.

Once in awhile, you read a book with just the right combination of plot, setting, characters, and edge-of-your-seat suspense.  You know what I mean - a stunning, riveting thriller that grips you by the throat, makes your heart pound in your ears, and keeps you up all night reading . . . one that carries you on a killer roller coaster ride, refusing to let you off until you reach the final page.  The Girl In The Moss is one of those books.  It held me in its clutches through twists and turns and loops and just when I thought I had all the answers, it kicked into another gear and drove me even higher.  What?!!  Are you kidding me?  Needless to say, I loved this book!  It goes on my 2018 Favorites Shelf just as White shoots up my list of must-read authors.  An intense, shocking thriller that is an absolute Must Read!



My Rating:  5 Up-All-Night-Reading Hearts . . . And that's the truth!

Cross My Heart . . . xxx
Sandra







Wednesday, May 2, 2018

IWSG: Spring . . . Season of Possibilities!



Spring has finally Sprung - at least here in the south.  Winter held on to the bitter end, but we're finally enjoying springtime temperatures and planting weather.  Trees are green, new life surrounds us, and anything seems possible.  No other season fills me with hope & promise the way spring does.  And that leads me to May's IWSG Question of the Month:  It's spring! Does this season inspire you to write more than others, or not?

My question is:  How can you NOT be inspired by spring?  Everything is new and fresh and so alive.  It's a time of new beginnings.  Hope springs eternal.  The land blossoms and so does life.  O Spring . . . How I love thee!  You are indeed my favorite time of year.  

So, my answer is yes, spring inspires me to write as story ideas are everywhere, vying for space to sprout like seeds (& weeds) in new ground.  My only issue this fertile time of year is finding time to nurture my ideas into my next first draft.  As spring struts her stuff, I'm usually found in my yard and gardens.  It's the beginning of the growing season in the south - one of the busiest times of year for us.  While spring inspires me to write, it's not my most productive writing season.  However, I've learned the hard way to always have a notebook & pen on me for jotting down those fleeting ideas as they occur.  They are, unfortunately, fickle things and once gone, they're often gone forever (unlike Cadbury Eggs that return next year).  I guess I could blame it on "getting older", but let's not go there.  Whatever the reason, if it's not in writing, it ain't so . . . and quite possibly will never be remembered again!  lol  

So - while I'm influenced and inspired by spring in all her glory, it's not my best writing season.  How about you?

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is a community of writers who share ideas and encourage each other. 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 know 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 big thank you to Angie Hodapp for the great article titled  "Declutter Your Query".  It's really good information to have!
Also, please join me in thanking our awesome May Co-Hosts:
JQ Rose, C. Lee McKenzie, Raimey Gallant, & E.M.A Timar!



Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Scarecrow Review


Title:  The Scarecrow
Series: Jack McEvoy #2 (Harry Bosch Universe #19)
Author:  Michael Connelly
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Release Date:  May 26, 2009
Purchase Link:  Amazon

Main Characters: Jack McEvoy & Rachel Walling

My Rating:  4.5 Blood Red Hearts



Synopsis:
For Jack McEvoy, the killer named The Poet was the last word in evil. 
Think again, Jack.
Jack McEvoy is at the end of the line as a crime reporter. Forced to take a buy-out from the Los Angeles Times as the newspaper grapples with dwindling revenues, he's got only a few days left on the job. His last assignment? Training his replacement, a low-cost reporter just out of journalism school. But Jack has other plans for his exit. He is going to go out with a bang — a final story that will win the newspaper journalism's highest honor — a Pulitzer prize.
Jack focuses on Alonzo Winslow, a 16-year-old drug dealer from the projects who has confessed to police that he brutally raped and strangled one of his crack clients. Jack convinces Alonzo's mother to cooperate with his investigation into the possibility of her son's innocence. But she has fallen for the oldest reporter's trick in the book. Jack's real intention is to use his access to report and write a story that explains how societal dysfunction and neglect created a 16-year-old killer.
But as Jack delves into the story he soon realizes that Alonzo's so-called confession is bogus, and Jack is soon off and running on the biggest story he's had since The Poet crossed his path years before. He reunites with FBI Agent Rachel Walling to go after a killer who has worked completely below police and FBI radar—and with perfect knowledge of any move against him.
What Jack doesn't know is that his investigation has inadvertently set off a digital tripwire. The killer knows Jack is coming—and he's ready.


Review:
Jack McEvoy is a seasoned L.A. Times reporter known as the reporter who brought about the demise of a serial killer called The Poet.  Unfortunately, the Times is being forced to trim their budget, and Jack's being replaced by a young, cost-effective, social media savvy reporter and worse yet - he's forced to train her in his last two weeks on the job.  In the course of doing so, Jack receives information that leads him to investigate a "trunk murder" in which a sixteen-year old supposedly confessed to the crime.  Jack knows this could be his last hurrah - a chance to go out in a blaze of glory while sticking it to the newspaper that is letting him go.  Jack stirs the pot, uncovers some stones, and soon finds himself isolated and in the bullseye of a tech-savvy serial killer - one thus far unknown to the FBI.  When things escalate, Jack calls his ex-lover FBI Agent Rachel Walling for back-up, and unintentionally draws the killer's attention to her also.  The story that unfolds is intense and chilling.

I decided to read The Scarecrow because it's part of the Harry Bosch Universe, and I'm reading all the books in order according to the Universe.  While Harry Bosch does not appear in this book, there's a connection that avid fans will recognize.  While my love affair with Harry continues, I've also come to greatly appreciate the other main characters in books that are part of this world like Mickey Haller & Jack McEvoy.  Each character is unique, intriguing, and flawed in some way, some more than others.

The Scarecrow is a chilling story in which the identity of the cold-blooded, cunning serial killer is known early on through his own pov.  This in no way lessened my reading experience as I stayed glued to the pages with my heart racing until the very end.  As always, Connelly is meticulous with details, all of which bear noting as all will prove important by the end.  While I wasn't surprised in this one, I was kept on the edge of my seat all the way.  Connelly's expertise as a writer and storyteller continues to amaze and delight me.  Another Must Read in the Bosch Universe!  I'm so happy I didn't skip this one!

My Rating:  4.5 Blood-Red Hearts . . . And that's the truth!
Cross My Heart . . . xxx
Sandra



Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Chateau Review


Title:  The Chateau
Series:  The Original Sinners #9
Author:  Tiffany Reisz
Genre:  Erotic Thriller
Publisher:  8th Circle Press
Release Date:  June 5, 2018
Purchase Link:  Amazon

My Rating:  4.5 Magnifique Hearts

Many thanks to Tiffany Reisz & 8th Circle Press for an arc of this book.



Synopsis:
As the Jack-of-All-Wicked-Trades for a secretive French military intelligence agency, 24-year-old Lieutenant Kingsley Boissonneault has done it all—spied, lied, and killed under orders. But his latest assignment is quite out of the ordinary. His commanding officer's nephew has disappeared inside a sex cult, and Kingsley has been tasked with bringing him home to safety.

The cult’s holy book is "Story of O," the infamous French novel of extreme sado-masochism. Their château is a looking-glass world where women reign and men are their willing slaves. Or are they willing? It’s Kingsley’s mission to find out.

Once inside the château, however, Kingsley quickly falls under the erotic spell cast by the enigmatic Madame, a woman of wisdom, power, and beauty. She offers Kingsley the one thing he’s always wanted. But the price? Giving up forever the only person he’s ever loved.

Review:
Another masterpiece in The Original Sinners series!  The Chateau awards readers with an opportunity to bear witness to the making of the future King of New York's underground BDSM dungeon (aka Kingsley Edge) with a raw, edgy, intimate view through the looking glass into the heart and soul of one 24-year-old Lieutenant Kingsley Boissonneault.  Kingsley's new assignment is to discover what happened to his commander's nephew after he disappeared within a sex cult.  Is he being held against his will?  The only way for Kingsley to get answers is to go "undercover" by gaining admittance himself.  What he discovers there may be the answer to his prayers or an elaborate illusion, but either way it has a profound effect on his life and future as he's stripped bare in more ways than one. Finally forced to face his past including disconcerting feelings for the "blonde monster who smells like winter", the one who gave him a taste of heaven and left him perishing in hell, Kingsley must make a choice.  What will he have to give up to have it all?

Every once in awhile, I read a book that leaves me feeling a little like an intruder - a peeping tom so to speak.  The Chateau is one of those books.  While it's most certainly a wickedly sadistic, erotic story, it's also a hauntingly beautiful yet agonizing tale of a man's discovery and finally acceptance of self and a truth he'll never escape.  What can he live with and/or without, and what price is too dear?  Life is about choices, and Kingsley must make the one that will eventually clinch his fate.


Reisz is nothing short of magnificent when writing about any of The Original Sinners characters as she strips them bare, whips them to within an inch of their life, and then offers them everything they ever wanted . . . for a price!  The Chateau is another work of art, brilliantly written and delivered with the perfect blend of angst, mind-games, passion, and erotic, sadistic sex.  Magnifique!  A Must Read!

My Rating:  4.5 Magnifique Hearts . . . And that's the truth!

Cross My Heart . . . xxx
Sandra

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Storm Review


Title:  The Storm
Series:  Irin Chronicles #6
Author:  Elizabeth Hunter
Publisher:  Elizabeth Hunter
Release Date:  April 17, 2018
Purchase Link:  Amazon

My Rating: 
Story: 4.5 Amazing Hearts
Cover: 5 Breath-Taking Hearts

*Many thanks to the author for an arc of this book.




Synopsis:
On the darkest night of winter, can he bring light to her wounded heart?

Scarred by loss, Irina warrior Renata has held the world at a distance. Fighting the Grigori and protecting humanity are her goals, but her heart remains frozen to the bonds of family and love. Only one scribe, Maxim of Riga, has managed to see through Renata’s armor.

On the darkest night of winter, in the halls of her ancestral home, Renata is forced to face her past. Can a fierce storm and a stubborn scribe coax her back to life, or will she retreat into duty forever?

Bonus Novella: SONG FOR THE DYING

When a letter arrives from a remote scribe house in Latvia, Leo and Max must return to their childhood home to face the father and grandfather who raised them.

The past is inescapable, but can it be overcome? Is it possible to build a future of happiness from a foundation of pain?

The Storm and Song for the Dying are novellas in the Irin Chronicles, a romantic fantasy series by Elizabeth Hunter.  The Storm was originally published in the Amid the Winter Snow anthology. Song for the Dying is an all new novella.

Review:
The Storm is a raw, beautiful, tumultuous love story set in Hunter's Irin Chronicles world.  Within minutes of opening the book, I found myself once again surrendering to the author's lyrical, hypnotic voice - a siren's song luring me back to this world and characters I love so much.  Beautifully written, The Storm is another masterpiece in one of my favorite fantasy series ever!

The wait for Max & Renata's story is finally over.  Through a series of flashbacks, readers are privy to the dance and battle of wills that have occurred over the past eighteen years between Irin Scribe Maxim of Riga and Irina warrior Renata.  And now, at the top of a mountain in the middle of winter, their paths have crossed once again.  Max is half frozen when he knocks on the door of Renata's ancestral home, knowing in his heart it is do-or-die time - his last chance to convince Renata to accept him as her mate and make a home with him.  If she refuses again, he'll walk away.  Renata is as determined and strong as ever in her convictions to resist this magnificent male.  Both still suffer from the long-term, devastating aftermath of tragic pasts.  What will happen when Renata is forced to face hers? 

The Storm
is a compelling, action-packed story that held me captive. 
Hunter's settings are always so rich in imagery - teasing the senses and transporting readers across miles, straight into the heart of characters and stories.  The Storm is no exception.  The story may be short on pages, but it delivered all I could ask for and more.  A plot  that flawlessly weaves past and present while cracking the door for the future, complex characters carrying baggage from past tragedies along with a burning desire for one another, and a setting to get lost in, one that will take your breath away.  All that and seductive, passionate love scenes . . . who could ask for more?  Another Must Read in this fabulous series!

Song for the Dying is the second novella in this book, and it's also a heart-touching story that will bring tears to your eyes.  I'll just say that Max and Leon are called back to their childhood home and must finally come to terms with their past.  Another magically written, Must Read addition to the series!  Perfection!

My Rating:  4.5 Amazing Hearts . . . And that's the truth!
Cross My Heart . . . xxx

Sandra