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

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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?


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.

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


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

IWSG: When It Rains, It Pours but Remember - April Showers Bring May Flowers!

This month's IWSG question brings to mind the old saying, "When it rains, it pours!"  If you're wondering what that means it's simply when difficult or unsettling things happen in a short amount of time as in bad things come in threes.  Is there any truth to it, or is it simply an old wives tale?   Who knows, but it often seems to happen that way.  However, I believe it's the way you embrace your problems and deal with them that determines the ultimate outcome.  I think happiness and productiveness are enhanced by striving for a positive attitude - a "Yes, I can!" state of mind.  April showers bring May flowers, right?  And I do enjoy sunshine and flowers.  Remember, there's always a bright side if you open your eyes, heart, and mind and allow the sun to shine in! 

So how does that pertain to this month's IWSG question?  When your writing life is a bit cloudy or filled with rain, what do you do to dig down and keep on writing?  The same thing you do for life problems . . . gut up, dig deep, find your happy writing place, and WRITE!  Life happens.  Writing also happens if you allow it. You're in the driver's seat.
What you make of it is up to you.  Have you hit a roadblock you can't seem to get around?  Someone cast a cloud over your work or rain on your book publication dreams?  The negativity can be a real downer - allowing doubts about your own writing abilities to mess with your head.  Take any constructive criticism that can be gleaned from the negativity and cast away the rest and continue writing.  Continue following your writing schedule and chase your writing goals.  Whatever is raining on your writing parade and life will pass.  Clouds will clear, the sun will shine, and you'll write again.  April showers bring May flowers!  Never forget it, and keep on writing!

What do you do when cloudy skies threaten to rain on your writing parade?

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.

Many thanks to April's co-hosts:  Olga Godim,  Chemist Ken,  Renee Scattergood, and Tamara Narayan! And a big thank you to Janet Hise for her great article on research!  Great tips and very timely for me as I research my new project!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Then She Was Gone Review

Title:  Then She Was Gone
Author:  Lisa Jewell
Publisher:  Atria Books
Release Date:  April 17, 2018 (originally released in paperback 7/27/17)
Purchase Link:  Amazon

My Rating:  4 Dark, Sinister Hearts

*Many thanks to Atria Books for an arc via Netgally.

She was fifteen, her mother's golden girl. She had her whole life ahead of her. And then, in the blink of an eye, Ellie was gone.

It’s been ten years since Ellie disappeared, but Laurel has never given up hope of finding her daughter.
And then one day a charming and charismatic stranger called Floyd walks into a café and sweeps Laurel off her feet.

Before too long she’s staying the night at this house and being introduced to his nine year old daughter.
Poppy is precocious and pretty - and meeting her completely takes Laurel's breath away.

Because Poppy is the spitting image of Ellie when she was that age.
And now all those unanswered questions that have haunted Laurel come flooding back.

What happened to Ellie? Where did she go?
Who still has secrets to hide?

Then She Was Gone is a riveting, spellbinding, heart-wrenching thriller that I couldn't put down.  The story touched my heart and sent chills down my spine.  Every parent's nightmare is a missing child, especially one that vanishes without a trace like a ghost in the wind. The worry, stress, despair, helplessness, hopelessness, blame/guilt, and heartache are devastating, often destroying families - just as it shatters missing fifteen-year-old Ellie's family.  Not ever knowing the reason for Ellie's disappearance, if she's alive or dead, still haunts her mother, Lauren, ten years later.  And then she meets a nice man, Floyd, and his lovely, brilliant, precocious nine-year-old daughter, Poppy.  Finally, Lauren begins to embrace and reconnect to life again . . . and yet, she senses that something is "off", something she can't quite put her finger on.  As the story and their relationship progresses, odd coincidences begin to surface.  And once again, Lauren's world is thrown off-kilter.  I won't discuss details and suggest readers avoid spoilers and experience this first-hand.

Through multiple points of view and switching between past and present, this heart-breaking, sinister story unfolds.  While I saw where the story was headed early, it in no way lessened my reading experience, and I soon discovered unforeseen twists.  Held captive in the dark, atmospheric setting by an ominous premonition and presence, I experienced goosebumps and was forced to absorb blow after blow just as the characters do.  Jewell sets a dire tone early, maintaining it throughout with chilling scenes and characters - each building upon the last until they all collide, and the truth is revealed.  Tears were streaming down my face as I read the last page.  Then She Was Gone is brilliantly written and delivered piece by agonizing piece.  I'll be seeking out more of this author's work.  A Must Read!

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

Cross My Heart . . . xxx