"A Sparrow Falls" by Vicki Olsen

 





 A story that took place in the 1950s on a farm that broke my heart. Sarah's introduction to the evils of the world fell at the hands of her older brother, and then her father. I wasn't sure how much more I could read about this poor girl's misery, and I couldn't believe the family had shunned the brother, but the father then committed even more horrible acts. The reader was led to suspect that Sarah's mother knew what her father had done and simply accepted it. It completely outraged me on her behalf, but at points, I felt annoyed with Sarah even after all she'd suffered - she wasn't an entirely sympathetic character. The author weaved more abuse tempered by small flashes of reprieves where Sarah found bits of happiness, until the conclusion where Sarah's life moved in a new direction. 
 A large portion of this story had to do with faith, and during the telling, Sarah couldn't handle things that happened, certain losses, and she turned away from God because of her anger. As she navigated her pain over the years, her gradual change of perspective inspired me.
 There were plenty of characters to dislike in this story; the brother, the father, the boys from town, the nasty girls. There were some to pity, Sarah's mother- although I couldn't decide if I wanted to pity her or hate her, Sarah's brother, Kenny, and poor Charlie Weeks. My favorite character was wise Cotton, the farmhand. Most were well-painted depictions, so I felt I knew the people, and the descriptions put me in the middle of the story. It felt like it could have been based on a true story. I would probably read the next book to determine if she takes control of her power and improves her life.

"See You Soon" by NC Marshall

 



There were things I liked about "See You Soon." The Prologue set up the reader to believe things would turn out a certain way for the main character, but when the scene played out in the context of the story, it threw a spin on it, and I didn't know what was happening. I enjoyed the disappearance of a long-lost friend who cried out for help and how that setup played out. I liked how the villain's identity remained withheld until the end. However, I was not fond of the antagonist's thoughts scattered through the book, seemingly like journal entries, and one stint from their viewpoint came up while Emma read her missing friend's diary. That confused. Ali's diary was on a hidden thumb drive taped to the back of a furniture drawer as though it held something essential; I felt that was strange. It revealed a small piece of Ali's life, but nothing that advanced the plot. Multiple viewpoints expressed near the end of the story felt like a lazy way to dump all the information required to solve the mystery. If we had seen these people doing the things we were "told" they did, gradually throughout the story, it would have built the suspense and added enjoyment and understanding to the tale. The author had me convinced one person was guilty through most of the book (although the circumstances that caused the main character to believe it was him weren't strong enough in my opinion) and surprised me that it wasn't the case, but the big reveal of the mastermind fell flat because I hadn't remembered who the actual character was. They weren't fleshed out enough to seem significant. The reasons behind their actions also didn't ring true because the reader wasn't allowed to know them or get inside their mind. Although I liked many aspects of it and think it had the potential to be a great story, I'm not sure I'd go as far as recommending it.



"In Her Shadow" by Mark Edwards

 







Mark Edwards has become one of my new favorites. I find myself looking for another of his books to add to my TBR as soon as I finish one. "In Her Shadow" didn't disappoint. Jessica's sister's death - long-ago ruled an accident- suddenly crept back into the forefront of her mind because her young daughter claimed her dead auntie spoke to her. Was it the girl's imagination? Had Isabel actually returned to tell them something about her death- it wasn't an accident? Strange happenings around the house convinced Jessica's mother, Mo they were susceptible to the paranormal, and Isabel's death must have been murder. After all, they'd been haunted before when Jessica and Isabel were children. Mo stubbornly thought Isabel's husband, Darpak must have killed her because Darpak and Isabel kept secrets in their marriage. It turned out that a lot of people kept secrets, some bigger than Olivia's secret relationship with Isabel's ghost.
This story boasted extremely well-written characters, especially Olivia, Jessica's four-year-old daughter with a knack for predicting the future and handling the return of her aunt that she'd never met.
A line of suspects paraded within Jessica's suspicions, but the author never committed to Isabel's death being a murder. I had to ride the tidal wave until he revealed all the secrets in the perfect timing to figure out what had happened to Isabel, and if she'd truly come back to her loved ones. I strongly recommend this book!




"The Bone Jar" by S W Kane

 






THE BONE JAR jumps right into a disturbing death- an elderly woman found dead in an abandoned asylum. As far as they can gather, the lady is near a saint. She volunteers in a care home after a long nursing career. A real who-done-it, why would anybody want to hurt this woman? Why did she go to the old asylum? Or did someone kill her and dump her body there? Near the body, a cell phone leads to another dead person. Did he have anything to do with her death? Or was he a witness? The web is intricate in this story, and the characters are complex. A fascinating setting, the asylum holds so many secrets. The players aren't always who you think they are. There are many twists in store, and the ending proved to be a nail-biter. The person least likely to be a hero pulls it together. I enjoyed this book! 

"Girls of Glass" by Brianna Labuskes

 






This book had my interest as it began, but it started jumping back and forth and around in time so much that it confused. The characters weren't very likeable or relatable. They all seemed to have the same voice. The descriptions were long and overshadowed the content. For example, when Alice met Charlotte in a diner, I wanted to know why. I didn't want to read long, detailed paragraphs describing the waitress, the cook, the guy at the counter... None of these things mattered at all to the story. The book could have been much shorter. For so many words, too many things were left to your guess. The truth veiled by a sheer curtain that was never removed to give you a clear understanding. The ending plot twist could have been ingenious, but instead rang convoluted, disappointing, and left me liking the detective even less. 


"Never Look Back" by Mary Burton

 




Melina had a tough childhood, no doubt, but should she be grateful to the woman who dumped her on the side of the road? After all, she could have been tied into those circumstances with the drifter criminal forever, but instead she landed in a loving home with doting parents. It all lends credibility to her career in law enforcement following in her adopted father's footsteps. 

While helping her friend who runs a mission locate missing prostitutes she stumbles upon a serial killer and narrowly escapes his clutches. This introduces Jerrod, an FBI agent who has hunted this killer for many years.

 When another little girl who resembles Melina gets left in a car wreck, it pries open Melina's past and reveals some genetic truths that are horrifying. It also leads to a second serial killer. 

I liked this book. The only problem was that the story about the first serial killer was dropped for so long while they moved on to the second one that I found it jolting returning to the first killer. 

Overall, it was a satisfying thriller with multiple storylines and connections between the key characters. The romantic angle was a bit muted, but I was glad the two found comfort in each other when they had so much darkness in their lives. I prefer the suspense and thriller over the romance genre, so it didn't make much of a difference to me. I found myself exclaiming out loud a few times near the end. Definitely worth a read.


"Killing Faith" by B.J. Woster





I had high hopes for this story based on the cover and description but found too many things happening that I just couldn't believe. Melissa's superior sends her to another country alone without any back up from that country's police department to bring down a criminal that no law enforcement agency has been able to ensnare. She has absolutely no idea what she's doing. She's dragging around a priest who's as helpless as she is. They meet the priest's twin brother, and they float around trying to outsmart the bad guys. Throughout the entire book, the priest moans about not wanting to be a priest anymore, but never explains well enough why or if he will do something else. The ending was the most unbelievable of all. I don't want to give details that will spoil the book for others, but, really? This is how the notoriously vicious bad guys are brought to justice? Two senior citizens? The story wasn't for me. 



"Trust No One" by Debra Webb

 Trust No One (Devlin & Falco Book 1) by [Debra Webb]



Wow! This book has so many secrets, lies, and mysteries. Highly entertaining, it kept me turning the pages and wanting to return to the story as soon as possible. Sometimes it seemed a little overwhelming, though, trying to keep up with who did what. At first, I thought Sela's point of view could have been left out because I felt it gave away the ending too quickly, but kudos to the author for misleading the reader in that as well.  The conclusion satisfied, a sort of justice served equally to all bad guys who participated in a crime that triggered the murder of Mr. Abott and his mother-in-law. But would this work? Would the mastermind get away with it? Read it and find out!
I will look forward to reading future books featuring Detectives Devlin and Falco. 


"Satin and Cinders" by Jan Sikes

 Satin & Cinders by [Jan Sikes]



This extremely short story is heart-warming and tells a tale of devotion. After many years of longing and admiring her from afar, a Stallion risks giving up his freedom in order to experience the comforts of the barn and the companionship of Satin. Well-told, it offers a peek into the heart and mind of majestic animals.


"Garnet's Love Story" by P. L. Van Bibber

 Garnet's Love Story: Book One Of Pearlene's Gems Series by [P. L. Van Bibber]





The idea behind the plot of the story was good, and the message endearing. I liked the adoption of the girls and their names. However, the writing needed proofing. Two main characters' points of view shared in the same paragraphs/chapters confused. The interactions, conversations, and dialogues between all characters were formal and awkward. The "misunderstanding" that kept them apart for a year didn't ring true when the office busybody discussed all personal things and wanted them to be together but didn't mention the man's history? Characters could have been fleshed out more. I wouldn't know the difference between any of the many sisters, besides the stated facts of different professions. The relationship between the main characters went from cold to instantly in love. Again, it had promise, but it needed a bit more to be a four-star read, in my opinion.


"Hit and Run" by Alan Gorevan


Hit and Run by [Alan Gorevan]




 "Hit and Run" is a fast-paced thriller that keeps you reading! Jack Whelan emerges as a confident character, but he doesn't stay that way long. Passed over for promotion, and losing a considerable bet sends him to his therapist, and this catapults him into a world of trouble. His girlfriend's slowly-revealed true nature astonishes. So much happens in such a small time frame that you don't have time to second-guess anything. Jack's redemption satisfies. A highly entertaining read! One of my favorites this month!


"Wall of Silence" by Tracy Buchanan

 Wall of Silence by [Tracy Buchanan]



Fitting Book Cover. 
 
The story is told alternately from Melissa's point of view, who doesn't have a clue what's going on, and Lily's point of view who knows precisely what happened and where all the secrets are buried. I liked that. The author gives very little help along the way, but I had my suspicions. I don't like it when I figure out the plot too quickly. No chance of that here. I just wanted to keep reading and reading. All the details come out pretty close to the end, and it wasn't what I thought it was. Refreshing.

I didn't care for the use of 'Facebook chatting' to hint at certain information, and some of it, I skipped over. 

What a wicked web we weave when first we practice to deceive! "Wall of Silence" has so many shocks in store for you! I recommend it!


"Wildthorn" by Jane Eagland

 Wildthorn by [Jane Eagland]




A fabulously enticing book cover!

Louisa Cosgrove wants to be a doctor, and she feels her father supports her in this ambition. When he dies, she learns that her brother will never allow her to follow her plans, and ultimately, she doesn't only lose her dream but also her freedom when somebody has her placed in an asylum. But who? Why? She has her suspicions, but this story will keep you guessing until the end.

There were parts of the story that I felt too defeated for Louisa, and I had to force myself to continue on just hoping something good would finally happen, and she would catch a break. I especially hated Weeks, a caretaker at the asylum. There were plenty of characters to dislike there. I didn't care much for any of Louisa's family either. Perhaps Grace held some redeeming qualities.

The way Louisa introduced her feeling for her cousin was a curve, and I was certain it would turn out to be the cause of her hospital commitment, but there were surprises still to come.



"White Out" by Danielle Girard

 

White Out: A Thriller (Badlands Thriller Book 1) by [Danielle Girard]




I liked the cover; it matched the story well. 

The plot built pretty slowly, but there were enough pieces of the puzzle to keep you wondering what was happening. Not one person with memory loss, but two! Iver Larson, a local bar owner had his demons to deal with from PTSD and alcohol. A dead girl in the dumpster outside the bar was troublesome for him when he couldn't remember where he was or what he did at the time of her death. Lily Baker survived a car wreck and couldn't remember a thing. Luckily, the two are eventually drawn together to help one another. I enjoyed reading this one and figuring out exactly how things fit together.

One thing that bugged me was Lily's amnesia. She thought she was a drug addict before the accident, but she didn't have symptoms. Even if her mind didn't remember, wouldn't her body have the symptoms of withdrawal if she stopped taking drugs?


"Unhinged" by John Podlaski

Unhinged: A Micro-Read by [John Podlaski, Nicole Patrick]

 


The author did an excellent job recounting moments of fear and shock that anyone can probably relate to and compare with an instance in their life. I wanted to say childhood, but I have had a few heart-racing moments like that in adulthood as well. The setting of the drive-in theater with the scary movie playing was an excellent choice. I enjoyed this quick read and found the characters entertaining.


"Here To Stay" by Mark Edwards

Here To Stay by [Mark Edwards]





I loved this book! Even though Elliot seemed over-the-top nice, I wanted him to do something through the whole book to get rid of the in-laws. Admittedly, what he ended up doing wasn't very rational, but oh, how it satisfied. Unfortunately, there were more secrets, deceptions, and duplicities to uncover. I pray a sequel comes because where it ended just wasn't enough for me. I need to know what happens next.


"Spirit of the Book" by D.E. Howard

Spirit of the Book by [D E Howard]







Ellie's story didn't turn out to be what I'd expected. The beginning of the book shared her mother's story; it formed the foundation of why she moved into her apartment. I would have preferred to start where she found the magic book and learned about her mother gradually, or perhaps I didn't even need to know about her mother. I'm not sure leaving it out would have affected the story at all. My favorite part of the book was Sayid and Farley's tale of long ago and the curse that landed him in the book. I very much enjoyed it, the sacrifice Ellie made to help him escape, and the conclusion.


'The Black Fox: Run for your life. (A Lambeth Group Thriller)' by Gordon Bickerstaff


The Black Fox: Run for your life... (A Lambeth Group Thriller) by [Gordon Bickerstaff]





I enjoyed Zoe's character- her strength, intelligence, and loyalty. The race to figure out what lurked in Gavin's subconscious thrilled. The many twists and the difference between what he thought was happening and what was genuinely happening surprised me. His character seemed a little weak and, at times, annoying, but his wits prevailed in the end, and he was redeemed. The action and battle of strategic forces entertained


"Treacherous Love: A Short Story of Misdirected Passion" by Karen Black







A reverse on the typical story of domestic violence, 'Treacherous Love' features a man trying to hold his family together while suffering physical abuse from his spouse. Ethan tolerated far more than I thought he should. I felt sorry for him up until his son was injured. Instead of being the end of their marriage, Rochelle got the upper hand and further manipulated Ethan. The ending surprised, and it didn't say what consequences Rochelle faced but I don't think she'd have the upper hand anymore. I enjoyed the story. 


"Breathless A Short Story" by Yvette M Cailleiro





I found the characters of this book interesting and loved the twist on the usual fairytale. Silena's weakness in using her magic selfishly makes her human and relatable. Her curse harms not only herself and William but innocent and unsuspecting women. This tempers your sympathy for her character. A good balance between sympathy and dislike. The author mentions a full-length novel coming to complete William's tale, and I look forward to finding out if and how he breaks the curse. Well done!



"The Wedding Pact Box Set" by Denise Grover Swank

The Wedding Pact Box Set: (hilarious rom com) by [Denise Grover Swank]




I will review each of these books in the set individually:

THE SUBSTITUTE:

Megan and Josh's comedic beginning turns into a sweet story, but Josh has ulterior motives for helping her, and it's fun to watch and see if he chooses his business or the girl. When it comes down to the wire and all is revealed, it's worth it. P.S. Grandma is a hoot! 


THE PLAYER:

This was my favorite story in the book. Blair seems hardened and practical and she's marrying a man she doesn't love because it appears the logical choice. Her one true love reenters the picture and stirs up her emotions and intends to stop her wedding. She has to decide if she'll take another chance on the man that broke her heart or stick with the guy she could live without.  

THE GAMBLER:

This was my least favorite story of the book as far as the two main characters were concerned. I liked Libby's role in the other two books, but I didn't enjoy that she set out to marry a man on purpose because she wanted someone else to step in and stop her wedding. I didn't feel a love connection between Libby and Noah. My favorite redeeming part of this book was the two grandmother's antics. They were hysterical.

THE VALENTINE:

I guess Blair was my favorite character in this series. I truly enjoyed seeing her softer side emerge months after the wedding. Her fear of loss during this installment over a misunderstanding touched my heart.


"Hope: Hope is the Light when Darkness Descends (Catwalk Book 2)" by S. Q. Orpin

Hope: Hope is the Light when Darkness Descends (Catwalk Book 2) by [S. Q. Orpin]




This book probably felt longer than it was because it contained an enormous cast of characters, a long list of entanglements, turmoil, and complications. I didn't find it difficult to keep track of the people, but I found it difficult to connect with them. I didn't feel like Kyle and Casi loved each other. Their hot and cold, I love you/I hate you attitudes, Casi's horrible decisions, and their immature passive-aggressive non-fights with borderline cheating afterward followed by long-winded apologies and declarations of their undying devotion put me off. A lot of the dialogues were speeches unloading information and drawn out explanations of how a character felt or why they did something or shouldn't have done something. I also found it disturbing that Casi would tongue kiss her husband's brother, and that they would all be okay naked around each other. How did Casi become qualified for a marketing executive job? There were so many things crammed into the book and mostly glossed over matter-of-factly that it didn't impact me as much as if there were fewer tragedies and traumatic instances that were more deeply written. I began to think most people in the story had personality disorders. How do you find this much dysfunction in one family? I don't even want to tell you how many of the same women the brothers slept with. Without giving spoilers, it held endless near-unbelievable drama dealing with addictions, exceedingly promiscuous sexual escapades, and maladjusted family relationships.


"Don't Make a Sound: A Sawyer Brooks Thriller" by T.R. Ragan








The description sounded like a book I'd enjoy, and as I started reading, it intrigued me. The multiple layer storyline worked well at first, but I figured out who Malice was and how it related to Sawyer's story too quickly. I found it a little weird that several characters were stereotypes of abuse victims. A lot of quotes from therapists as to how abuse victims should or would act as opposed to the characters' actions showing us the effects of abuse on victims. As the book approached its conclusion with crazier and wilder secrets emerging, it felt rushed and unbelievable. Things didn't play out naturally. Although the ideas were promising, I found the execution lacking. I still may give this author another shot.


"Apollo's Raven (Curse of Clansmen and Kings Book 1)" by Linnea Tanner






I started reading this book and thoroughly enjoyed the evolving curse, the evil banished brother trying to overthrow his father, and Catrin's forbidden love for Marcellus. It consisted of more politics and war than the star-crossed lovers' budding romance, in my opinion, which confused me at times, and there were many gruesome scenes I could not fully read, but others may not be put off by the things that make me squeamish. Something that bothered me was Rhiannon's treatment of Catrin and that she chose to take Agrona's side (whom she proclaimed she didn't trust) against her daughter. The way Catrin connected with the raven fascinated me. I grew invested in Catrin's and Marcellus's fate and wanted to find out if they'd remain true and stop constantly doubting each other. Their actions at the end of the book answered my question, and I'd like to read the sequel to see if their relationship becomes more steadfast and sure and discover what happens with Marrock. I feel Catrin will have to face him eventually.


"The One Enlightened (Chronicles of the Diasodz Book 2)" by Yvette M Calleiro

The One Enlightened (Chronicles of the Diasodz Book 2) by [Yvette M Calleiro]




The One Enlightened is the second book of the Diasodz. I read the first, but I enjoyed this one more. Complicated levels within the battle of good versus evil developed. That was the best part of the story, in my opinion. It was detail-focused; I found myself skimming over the repeated inner thoughts of Sofia and Ar'ch about how they did or didn't feel for one another at the beginning, the minutiae of everyday routines, and sometimes the exercise sessions. The book reads very formally. It took me eight hours to finish the entire thing. I think a lot of the detailed sections could use shortening. Some of the story/history was repeated by different people.
Characters in this installment were a plus. New people to love and hate. Nolan and Valerie's secrets came to light and played an essential role in moving forward. I want to find out what happens with Drake and what Sofia's future holds. It has been hinted she will have to make a choice, and I need to know what that choice is. Whom will she save? Whom does she love the most? As the end of this second section of the series neared, so many things sprang up that left me wanting answers. That's great when reading a series.
I look forward to reading more.