"Connected To Me" by Marc Kage



Aoi Kanemoto is Japanese, cute, shy, and a certified genius. Despite graduating top of her class at Caltech, she struggles to find a job in the fast-paced tech industry. Her family, although very loving, doesn’t understand her at all, and her little sister seems poised for success. But Aoi suffers from deep seated trust issues, that keep her from pursuing her dreams.

Then she meets Christian Sterling at a local ramen shop. An Afro-Hispanic foster child and fellow tech-head, Christian’s gentle demeanor and kind gestures cut through Aoi’s emotional barrier. But as they chat and grow closer, the shy girl’s anxiety causes her to flee the restaurant, before he can even ask for her number. Getting ditched is bad enough, but Christian has no idea that this chance encounter is about to turn both their lives upside down.

The next morning, Christian and Aoi are shocked to wake up in each other’s bodies. They have no idea how to get back! As Aoi discovers how lonely Christian’s life really is, Christian must confront Aoi’s strict parents, and help her find the courage to stand up for herself once and for all. And the more they learn about each other’s lives, the deeper they fall in love. But are they trapped in each other’s bodies forever? And if they do switch back, will their new-found romance survive?

This story's idea may be a good one, but it's in dire need of editing to ensure consistency of tense, timeline, and characters. An editor will also help remove unnecessary and repetitive words and rewrite clunky paragraphs to craft a more captivating read.  Example: "It was such a gigantic place, you would think its sign would be much larger than that. The building is large, towering large above the buildings beside it." I couldn't enjoy the book in its current form.

"Stone Dead in Rio Vista" by Peter C Bradbury


Something unique about this book (to me as a reader) was the killer's identity revealed early in the book. I believe it was in the second chapter. I thought, how can you keep the book interesting when I already know "who done it?" The best part of the book, in my opinion, was the killer: clever enough not to get caught and crazy enough to want to continue killing. But eventually, they pushed their luck too far and got their just rewards. There were some minor editing issues and some unnecessary paragraphs that slowed the narrative. Overall, I found it entertaining for the unlikely bad guy and how they eluded capture.

"Vanished" by Mark Bierman



Tragedy . . . heartache . . . how much more can Tyler Montgomery and John Webster take? This missions trip, the “healing” one, has only added fresh layers of pain. Construction of an orphanage in Haiti’s northwest . . . yes. But a doomed rescue operation, human traffickers, human anomalies, extreme personal danger . . . risk of death? They hadn't signed up for those.
Turning their backs on the crisis, however, is unthinkable, it’s just not who they are.

I started reading this book, and my feelings wavered. I understand explaining Tyler's guilt and grief over losing his wife and the mission's point, but Chantale's kidnapping is where I feel the story truly began. I continued, and at about 25-30% in, I finally gained traction. The plot exploded and hooked my interest. By 50%, it reeled me in. The struggles of captives Martine and Guilles, plotting their escapes enthralled. Eliana's defiance of Diego to help find and rescue enslaved children touched a nerve. Her brave acts held many consequences. The author's descriptions illustrated the action. I suffer from claustrophobia, and JanJack's journey through the mining tunnels nearly had me in a panic. Tyler's description of the river as an enemy while trying to escape angry villagers felt artistic. But sometimes, in the middle of a "fast-moving" scene, the lengthy description could put the story in slow-motion. The author did a good job portraying a genuine problem in child trafficking. I am rating this three stars because I would rate the first half two stars and the second half four stars. 

"Sahara Heat" by Maura Beth Brennan

 I have read other books by this author, and I am a fan. This one wasn't my favorite, not because of the story, but maybe because of how the author shared it. The main character tells a journalist who tells the reader. Still a good story, don't misunderstand my description. Sahara is quite the firecracker who knows how to get what she wants. I won't give away too many details because it's a short story, and I don't want to spoil it. Read it yourself and decide if Sahara invokes your sympathy, your amazement, perhaps, your anger? It will make you feel some of those and make you laugh. 


"Critical Points A Novelette" by Joshua Scribner



Garrett is adopted at a young age by caring parents. His life becomes great, aside from a repeating nightmare and occasional attacks from an invisible presence. Can he come to understand these things? Can he survive them?

There's a lot of punch packed into this short story. At each point that Garrett faced a life-altering decision, he'd chosen correctly. Eventually, the author revealed the opposite choices and their consequences. I found it interesting, and I wanted to keep reading to figure out the "presence" that kept attacking Garrett throughout the years. I wavered between three and four stars; I felt it was a solid four most of the way through. When nearing its conclusion, things moved a little too quickly, and the explanation of the glowing being confused me. The end felt abrupt. Wait? What? I need to know more. It kept me reading; the idea was outstanding and unique, and it left me wanting more. So, if there had been a sequel, I would have read it. 

"At The Edge Of The Stairs" by Phil Stephens



At The Edge of the Stairs is a gripping tale of a young woman's love that is so strong it transcends the barrier between this dimension and the next. It is the incredible story of Crystal Maiden Arabella and Abraham Gallagher. It follows Maiden's paranormal reincarnated journey to reunite with her lover almost twenty-three years after her death.

Crystal Maiden, or Maiden as she is called, is caught in a deadly house fire with no way out. The first fire department responder on the scene is a rookie named Abraham Gallagher. With no hesitation he and fellow fighter fighters plow through the dangerous fiery maze of the first floor. There, at the edge of the stairs, he finds Maiden injured and unconscious, but alive. As he carries her out of the house to safety and lays her on the ground, a strong emotion immediately takes hold of him. Over the next several days he visits her in the hospital and falls deeply in love, as does Maiden with him. Once Maiden has recovered, they plan to get married, but their plans take a tragic turn as Maiden is killed in a car crash two weeks prior to the wedding. As she lay dying in Abraham’s arms she vows she will reincarnate herself and come back to him…and she does.

This book's description drew me in; the cover photo did as well. The idea of a paranormal romance that overcomes death with reincarnation fascinated me. That said, the author would be well-served to have an editor go through the story with a fine-toothed comb. Point of view and narration style could use a little pick-me-up. It could be pared down, weeding out long and unnecessary parts. Or, perhaps it could be turned into more than one book where each section could receive greater focus. It has too many critical errors in its current form. For example, Chief Callahan becomes Chief Gallagher while Chief Callahan and Abraham Gallagher are having a conversation. 

"Ride Hard : Caballeros Book 2" by Sylvia C. Castillo


First of all, this book could benefit from the experience of an editor. The characters were over-the-top. Too much, overwhelming. The married couple's feelings are exceedingly perfect. It didn't flow smoothly; it felt abrupt, rushed. Dialogue mixed with internal thoughts felt disjointed. I didn't like professional people throwing "F" bombs - not that I think a professional person would never use the word. Still, I think they'd reserve it for private or personal situations and not in their work setting, especially when one of those is an elementary school. Some plotlines are touching and cute, especially Trinity's character- anyone who's dealt with a toddler can relate to her antics. Close-knit family and friends are lovely things, but I didn't find whatever the special ingredient is to capture my interest and make me want more. 


"Peace in the Storm" by S. Jackson Rivera


A cute romance with serious underlying problems that aren't portrayed so darkly as to overshadow the positive message in the book. A balance that entertains and keeps you reading. Jay and Gill are a couple with scars who overcome them to find a chance for love and happiness with a few comical misunderstandings thrown in the mix. I enjoyed this quick read and especially enjoyed how Incubus played in the ironic ending. 


"The Perfect Witness" by Iris Johansen


I forced myself to finish this book, hoping something would happen to redeem it and justify my time spent. I didn't like the main characters. The girl was nasty, and the guy had no depth. The implied sexual tension between a grown man and a teenager caused some problems. The interactions between people were flat and mechanical; the story repetitive and uninteresting. The whole book focused on preparing for an event that was anticlimactic and disappointing when it finally happened. 


"Cold Cold Heart" by Tami Hoag


I hadn't previously read anything by Tami Hoag, but I am always searching for great new authors. Ms. Hoag certainly fulfilled my expectations. I loved COLD COLD HEART. Dana narrowly escapes a serial killer at the start and tries to focus on rebuilding her life while adjusting to 'after Dana.' 'After Dana' is disfigured, no longer beautiful, unfiltered, no longer politically correct, dark and suspicious, no longer sunny and optimistic. While sent to her childhood home to recover, her childhood best friend's disappearance resurfaces in the news. Afraid to face her demons, she becomes obsessed with remembering the details surrounding her friend Casey's tragedy and figuring out what happened to her. It leads her into the path of a different monster, and she must once again prove that where there is life, there is hope. Dana's actions and reactions while dealing with traumatic brain injury and PTSD were real and believable. Her friend's childhood boyfriend, John, also had these issues after fighting in two wars. Always a suspect for the disappearance of Casey, his highschool girlfriend, being forced to return to the town brought him back into the spotlight as Dana's return stirred up memories of the unsolved case. John was one of my favorite characters. I had figured out who was in the barrel before the author even revealed the barrel, and I thought I knew who was responsible for Casey's disappearance. Still, the author kept just enough doubt and suspicion to make me second-guess myself until the moment everything became clear. Good job; great book! 


"Champagne Kisses" Hot In Magnolia by Minette Lauren



A recipe for hot dates in Magnolia...
*** A beautiful widow with a farm, three wild little boys, and too much work to handle.
*** A bar owner armed with chivalry and a dream.
*** An accident that seems destined to happen.
*** And a summer too hot to cool things down.
After crashing her minivan into Hank’s Honkey-Tonk on the way to get groceries, single mom, Lexi Nash finds herself alone with a double shot of whiskey and an intoxicating man. Down on her luck, with a ranch that’s bleeding her dry, Lexi can’t imagine what the sexy bar owner, Noah Harding, sees in her. But, after one night out, they’re tumbling into her king size bed, rumpling her satin sheets, and already having their first test of wills. Widowed and wracked with guilt about moving on, Lexi pushes Noah away, thinking there’s no way he’s the staying kind of man she needs in her complicated life. Then she reels him back in when she realizes he’s just the guy she wants. But when Noah’s cousin rolls in with a surprise guest and the truth about Noah’s past, everything goes off the rails. Can Lexi and Noah get back on track or will they end up roadkill on the highway of love?

Noah and Lexi made a good pair in this prequel. Their chemistry blazed. The tensions and obstacles of their pasts made every moment action or emotion-filled. I read it in one day. It was entertaining, and the ending left the story open for more. I would read the books in the Hot in Magnolia Series to find out what happens to these two skittish lovers. I'd also like to find out if my suspicions of the road-side hero are correct. I would have given it five "cardinals" except for the fact that Hank was so slimy that I couldn't accept his turn of character without much cause.

***This book was an Amazon purchase

"Ghostly Interference" by Jan Sikes



Jag Peters has one goal in his quiet comfortable life—to keep his karma slate wiped clean. A near-miss crash with a candy apple red Harley threatens to upend his safe world. He tracks down the rider to apologize properly. Slipping into a seedy biker bar, he discovers the rider isn't a "he", it's a "she", a dark-haired beauty.

Rena Jett is a troubled soul, who lives in a rough world. She wants no part of Jag's apology, but even while she pushes him away, she is attracted to him. When he claims to see a ghost—her brother—can she trust him? And could her brother's final gift, a magical rune stone with the symbol for "happily ever after" have the power to heal her wounds and allow opposites to find common ground—perhaps even love?

I learned a couple of phrases that are apparently "Texas" based. For example - the use of the word "chunked" as a verb. I thought it was a mistake at first. I've never "chunked" anything. But, after seeing it a few times, I looked it up. Yes, chunked is a verb in Texas. :) 

I liked the twists on the traditional play: the female lead, Rena, is the bad-a** biker, and the male lead, Jag, is the nerd. Jag suffers through the sexual harassment of a female boss. He also lets Rena teach him to ride a motorcycle. 

I can believe in spirits and ghosts and loved ones sticking around to help or returning to check on you. I liked that element of the story with Rena's brother. Their bond was touching. 

Rena and Jag's love story was sweet, but it took me so long to read it, like over six hours. I felt it could have been shorter. It seemed like there were periods where not much was happening that could have been stripped away and not changed the story. 

 Rena's back story made me cringe sometimes. It seemed every foster home and every adult or child she ever knew in those homes did something unspeakable to her: not just bad things, evil things. It felt too heavy on the negative for her to fall into bed with Jag as quickly as she did. 

This book blesses us with a happily-ever-after for many characters. I do love a happy ending.

***I won this book in a blog contest.


"The Acorn Stories" by Duane Simolke


Visit Acorn, Texas, for the German festival, a high school football game, homemade apple pie from the Turner Street Café, and the cool shade of a hundred-year-old oak tree. Meet dedicated teachers, shrewd business owners, closet cases, and concerned neighbors. See how lives become intertwined in moments of humor or tragedy. Just be careful, because in Acorn, the sky is always falling.

From romantic comedy to razor-sharp satire to moments of quiet reflection, these tales explore the humor, drama, secrets, and scandals of a small town.

I enjoyed this book. It's well-written and edited. The author created so many unique characters, and sometimes their lives crossed over another. I cared for some short stories and people more than others (just like you would in a small town- there's always that one neighbor... or three,) but it all entertained me. The deepest secrets and individual idiosyncrasies drew me in. The narration method meshed with the tale and the small-town setting. Everyone knew everybody's business. Each chapter focused on different emotions, traits, and reactions; merely being human. These highly believable settings and naturally developed characters could be anywhere in the nation. The author is talented; I found the style engaging, and I would read more of their work. 

***This book was gifted to me by the author.


"Unbound" by R. C. Butler: A Book Review by TMDG Reviews


More sex than mystery. Too much sex. The main character wanted to have sex with everyone. Men. Women. It didn't matter. It felt like filler that lengthened the work. Should be categorized as erotica instead of thriller/suspense. It didn't feel appropriate that her "IT slave" as she called him was allowed so much access to her investigation. The book could have used closer editing/proofing. The unraveling of the crime left me disappointed. I haven't decided if I want to read the next book. I don't prefer erotica based books. :(  The description did warn of graphic sexual scenes; I didn't realize the bulk of the book would be dedicated to those scenes. 


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"Lodestone : Book 1 Witch-Hunt" by Wendy Scott: A Book Review by TMDG Reviews


I loved some of the descriptive sections of this book. When Lauren exacted her revenge, and she blasted open the gate with one word, "OPEN!" When Sabrina and Deakon had to squeeze through the caves, it rang true because I am also afraid of confined spaces. The otherworldly creatures were fascinating. The tension between Micah and Sabrina throbbed, and I had to follow along to see if Sabrina would keep him from his chosen destiny. I kept reading as fast as I could. I wanted to see if Sabrina would destroy the Lodestone and how she'd do it. The ending satisfied me. I would read the next book in the series. 

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"The Perfect Couple" by Jackie Kabler : A Book Review by TMDG Reviews


The synopsis pulled me in. Check. The story started intriguing. Check. Gemma waits several days to report her husband missing; all the while paralyzed with worry? Hard to fathom. Spends many chapters repeating the same thoughts, wondering where Danny could have gone while nothing really happens. Annoying. I kept reading because I thought there was no way they'd pull it together and make this a good ending. And it didn't happen. I waited FOREVER to find Danny or learn what happened to him, expecting some WOW moment, and really... the first "truth" is stumbled upon so easily after a supposed genius master plan had been painstakingly crafted and implemented? He just opens the front door when someone rings the bell? And if the real villain had his new life all set up and ready to go - why would he go back after escaping once, sit and explain the whole thing? So we, the reader, would understand the motives and get all the information we needed to tie it up. It made no sense at all that the bad guy wouldn't have laid low and hightailed it out of there. If she promises not to tell anyone, he'll lay it all out and then be on his merry way? Trust her not to call the police and give him away? Blah. I was disappointed with this one.

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"The Jewel" by Charles Breakfield and Rox Burkey : Book review by TMDG Reviews


Haddy and Otto's sweet love affair and devotion to their child is touching. Haddy's deep sadness over not bearing future children breaks a heart. Otto's commitment to his family and making Haddy's wish come true is heroism at its finest. This short fairytale-like story contains a little action and romance. Hope and a second chance will lead you home. I enjoyed it.

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"Blindsided" by Erica Hilary: Book review by TMDG Reviews


Blindsided me! I LOVED this book. I am partial to this genre and read it most often, and I'd vote this as one of the best books in its category I've read all year. Color me impressed by this author. She balanced each character's emotions perfectly, slowly revealing the deep, dark side of a narcissist. Several times, I caught myself saying, "NO way." Yes, he did, and so close to getting away with all of it. You must read this book and experience the setup, spinout, and satisfying conclusion of this novel! 
Erica Hilary made the list of new favorite authors. I look forward to more of her work.

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"A Splendid Ruin" by Megan Chance


 I weighed all points and decided I enjoyed it more than I disliked it. So, three stars instead of two.  May's "family" was truly diabolical. However, I waited for something to happen for the first fifty percent and almost gave up reading. Hints and suspicions gave way to wondering why May couldn't figure anything out for herself. Nothing. Until she landed in the asylum. Okay, so something happened, and I was interested again. May started to evolve from her naivety and toughened up. Then, the earthquake's survival, day after day descriptions of the disaster distracted from May's path to vengeance. That's okay. I waited for her revenge to happen and satisfy me for my persistence in finishing the read. Alas, payback didn't happen the way I'd thought it would, and the anticlimatic justice left me a bit disappointed.  


"Rescuing Lord Inglewood: A Regency Romance" by Sally Britton: Book review by TMDG Reviews


From the beginning, I thought I'd love it; it seemed so promising. Esther saved Silas's life, and the plot thickened. How could she start as brave and generous but turn so immature? I didn't love it, and I didn't hate it. It didn't draw strong emotions from me, other than the annoying, childish tendencies of Esther. I felt a little sympathy for her at first because of her circumstances, but at about the point she fell in the water and sealed her and Sila's fates, I couldn't forgive the tantrums any longer. I finished the story, and there's a twist, but I'm not confident I would read another book in the series. 

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'I've Got My Eyes on You' by Mary Higgins Clark: Book review by TMDG Reviews


I have always enjoyed Mary Higgins Clark's work. She never fails to entertain. "I've Got My Eyes on You" is a good story. It's set up well; a teenager throws a party when her parents are out of town - a believable situation, a tragic death. I felt so badly for the young neighbor with special needs who first encountered the deceased girl. The buildup and tension were satisfactory; I love suspense. The reason why I only rate it three stars - I had figured out who the killer was/was not far sooner than usual, and the writing seemed less sophisticated than the author's earlier style.

***This book was a library loan.

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"Loving a Rebel: The Preacher's Daughters (Glory, Montana Book 1)" by Linda Ford: Book review by TMDG Reviews


Flora is as rebellious as her adopted parents can handle, always dressing like a boy and riding off alone. She was bound to find trouble. A nefarious man follows her one day, and she gets lost in an incoming snowstorm, trying to lose him. Fortunately, she finds shelter. Unfortunately, spending two nights in a single man's cabin can lead to one ending - happy or not - her preacher father will insist they marry. Flora refuses to marry unless it's for love. Kade is a patient man willing to woo her into marriage. This is a sweet story, and I was glad that there was an alternative to a shotgun-wedding. For a while, I worried Flora would be too stubborn for any of it. Their dialogue through the beginning of the book kept me on the fence whether I would finish the book or not, but I'm glad I stuck it out. Their connection blossomed, and I found the innocent love refreshing. I enjoyed how each helped the other overcome something from their pasts. Some discrepancies gave me pause, but in the end, I overlooked them. The character that seemed phony was the villain. Even though the narration was mild, his personality seemed too cartoonish to be dangerous. 

I would read another book in this series.


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