Unmasked, Volume One (Unmasked #1) by Cassia Leo

Book Description:

Published: June 10, 2014

Format: Audio/Audible

I was born into this world unwanted.

I spent the first hours of my life unloved.

I spent the first eighteen years of my life with the parents who tried to shelter me from the harsh reality of my existence.

But you can’t un-write a sad story if the ending is literally written all over your face.

So I moved out and now I hide. I have a night job that pays the bills. Every night, I put on my mask and walk to work.

Then one night, I hear and see something that will change my purpose in life… forever: a murder that will bring him to me.

He says he wants to protect me. And, through a series of events I can’t fully make sense of, I find myself believing him.

But our nightly visits are always cloaked in darkness. I don’t know his face and he will never know mine.

I was born into this world unwanted. I will leave this world unmasked.

Review –

WTH !!!

This has to be the strangest book that I have listened/read in a very long time, I mean my mouth was agape at the end. I couldn’t believe it!  Still can’t.

This series has three parts or volumes and this first installment explores Alex’s past, the notion of beauty, the necessity of hiding, the consequences of secrets and betrayals. You can easily devour this first volume in one sitting  Enlivened by the author’s expert writing, you’ll be lured in by this sinister tale and fascinated by this 19-year-old girl whose actions are so unexpected that it keeps you guessing at what will surprise you next. Certainly the end was shocking in more ways than one!

A chilling mystery where desire, deception, secrets and betrayal mix in a deadly combination that leaves you wanting more.

Five stars.

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Complicated by Kristen Ashley

Book Description:

Published: May 2, 2017

Format: Audio/Audible

When small-town Nebraska sheriff Hixon Drake meets Greta Dare, the connection couldn’t be stronger, but the timing couldn’t be worse.

Dealing with the fallout of a divorce he never wanted and setting up a new home for his kids, Hix becomes that guy, that one he never wanted to be, and puts a stop to things before they can even start. Protecting his kids and himself is his only priority.

Greta, on the other hand, has found the place for her and the brother she adores that’s perfect for them – a sleepy little town in Nebraska. She’s learned from life that there are no hopes and dreams. The only thing to look forward to is peace. And that’s what she works hard to build for herself and her brother. Right up until Hix walks into her life.

Hix can’t fight the pull and stay away from Greta for long. And Greta’s finding it hard not to hope for something more with all the promise that is Hix.

But when the first murder that’s happened in over five decades rocks his small, sleepy county, Hix has got to learn to trust again, convince Greta to take a shot with him, and at the same time catch a killer.

In other words, things are definitely Complicated.

Review –

Complicated was a luscious standalone gem from an author that is new to me and I’ve heard can be  hit or miss. This one was definitely a HIT full of later life dreams come true.  The book is full of all sorts of interesting plot threads that radiate out from the two main characters.  They were likeable and lovable and they both had lives that marked them so their character depths were well-deep and many faceted.

On the surface, it could be reduced down to two divorcees- one recent and one a few years old finding a connection, but not expecting the connection or what follows when small town friends and family are also involved.  That was pretty good, but what took this one deeper for me was that the author took the time to tease out what killed the old relationships and what built this new one that was stronger and richer for the pair of them.  There are exes, conflicted children, interfering parents, and all sorts of small town stuff including their separate friends and places of employment.  The mystery is interesting and Hixon is the sheriff so he must deal with that, but it was interesting in the sense, too, of how it hit the community and the family of the victim.

This author seems to know how to make ordinary people with flaws and their simple, but flawed lives fascinating and story-worthy.   Hixon and Greta were a surprising pair in some ways.  But after a few false starts, they really make sense- the devilishly handsome family man county sheriff with the hair-stylist lounge singer once trailer trash woman with an adult brother with disabilities and a crazy-wacko mother.

Characters didn’t get lost in their heads or unnecessarily drama this up.  There are sections of character development and reflection as well as action which was a great balance.  These characters were mature (well, the ones who were meant to be portrayed as mature) and acted like it.  And while this was long,(over 18 hours on audio) it did not drag.  There is a lot going on and it all was natural to the story and equally engaging.

This is an Audible exclusive release and I was thrilled to encounter a new pair of fantastic narrators in Lance Greenfield and Erin Mallon.  Sections were told by Hixon with Lance taking the lead and then sections by Erin.  Both were a great match for their particular character counter-parts and did a great job with the large cast of characters ranging from kids to older folk.  There are many emotions to portray and changes in mood that were transitioned well.  Humor, sadness, and firework-worthy passion was superb.

I really enjoyed this book and I call it “soft smut” because although there is plenty of HOT sex and STEAMY sexual chemistry, it isn’t all up in your face and along with the sex is a very believable storyline with engaging characters.

This was my first listen to a book by Kristen Ashley and I’ll be adding more of her books to my TBR list.

Five stars!

 

Dark Sacred Night (Renee Ballard #2, Harry Bosch #21) by Michael Connelly

Book Description:

Published: October 30, 2018

Format: Audio/OverDrive

LAPD Detective Renée Ballard teams up with Harry Bosch in the new thriller from #1 NYT bestselling author Michael Connelly.

Renée Ballard is working the night beat again, and returns to Hollywood Station in the early hours only to find a stranger rifling through old file cabinets. The intruder is retired detective Harry Bosch, working a cold case that has gotten under his skin. Ballard kicks him out, but then checks into the case herself and it brings a deep tug of empathy and anger.

Bosch is investigating the death of fifteen-year-old Daisy Clayton, a runaway on the streets of Hollywood who was brutally murdered and her body left in a dumpster like so much trash. Now, Ballard joins forces with Bosch to find out what happened to Daisy and finally bring her killer to justice.

Review –

“Harry Bosch, who just can’t stay retired, unwillingly teams up with a Hollywood detective who has reasons of her own for wanting in on his latest cold case.

It may be nine years since 15-year-old runaway Daisy Clayton was grabbed from the streets of Los Angeles and killed, but the daily presence of her mother, Elizabeth, in Harry’s life—she’s staying at his place while he helps her stay clean—makes it a foregone conclusion that he’ll reopen the case. On the night Bosch drops into Hollywood Division to sneak a look at some of the old files, he’s caught by Detective Renée Ballard, who was bounced from LAPD Robbery/Homicide to “the late show,” Hollywood’s third shift, after her complaint about aggressive harassment by a superior went nowhere. Bosch needs to find out who was responsible for what happened to Daisy; Ballard needs to work a case with teeth, even if she’s partnering with a reserve investigator in the San Fernando Police Department (Two Kinds of Truth, 2017, etc.) who’d rather work alone. Before they get what they need, they’ll have to wade through a double caseload as grueling and sometimes as maddeningly routine as you can imagine, from an apparent murder that turns out to be a slip-and-fall to an ancient gang killing whose repercussions flare to sudden life to the theft of some valuable Andy Warhol prints to a missing man who’s not just missing—not to mention Elizabeth’s sudden disappearance and Ballard’s continuing lack of support, and sometimes even backup, from her department. Not even the canniest readers are likely to see which of these byways will end up leading to the long-overdue solution to the riddle of Daisy Clayton’s death.

Fans who don’t think the supporting cases run away with the story will marvel at Connelly’s remarkable ability to keep them all not only suitably mystifying, but deeply humane, as if he were the Ross Macdonald of the police procedural.” Kirkus Review

Five stars!

After reading The Late Show last December I said the Michael Connelly had hit a home run with the new character of Renee Ballard and this book solidly confirmed it. Adding to it, she partners with Harry Bosch on a cold case and together they save each others lives and solve both cases.  Fantastic!!!!

Now, I have to wait another year for the next installment but I know it will be worth it!

 

 

 

Us Against You (BearTown #2) by Fredrik Backman

Book Description:

Published: June 5, 2018

Format: Audio/OverDrive

After everything that the citizens of Beartown have gone through, they are struck yet another blow when they hear that their beloved local hockey team will soon be disbanded. What makes it worse is the obvious satisfaction that all the former Beartown players, who now play for a rival team in Hed, take in that fact. Amidst the mounting tension between the two rivals, a surprising newcomer is handpicked to be Beartown’s new hockey coach.

Soon a new team starts to take shape around Amat, the fastest player you’ll ever see; Benji, the intense lone wolf; and Vidar, a born-to-be-bad troublemaker. But bringing this team together proves to be a challenge as old bonds are broken, new ones are formed, and the enmity with Hed grows more and more acute.

As the big match approaches, the not-so-innocent pranks and incidents between the communities pile up and their mutual contempt grows deeper. By the time the last game is finally played, a resident of Beartown will be dead, and the people of both towns will be forced to wonder if, after all they’ve been through, the game they love can ever return to something simple and innocent.

Review –

Shockwaves from the incidents in Beartown, the first book, shake an economically depressed hockey town in this latest from the author of A Man Called Ove.

“Swedish novelist Backman loves an aphorism and is very good at them; evident in all his novels is an apparent ability to state a truth about humanity with breathtaking elegance. Often, he uses this same elegance to slyly misdirect his readers. Sometimes he overreaches and words that sound pretty together don’t hold up to scrutiny. This novel has a plethora of all three. Grim in tone, it features an overstocked cast of characters, all of whom are struggling for self-definition. Each has previously been shaped by the local hockey club, but that club is now being defunded and resources reallocated to the club of a rival town. Some Beartown athletes follow, some don’t. Lines are drawn in the sand. Several characters get played by a Machiavellian local politician who gets the club reinstated. Nearly all make poor decisions, rolling the town closer and closer to tragedy. Backman wants readers to know that things are complicated. Sure, many of Beartown’s residents are bigots and bullies. But some are generous and selfless. Actually, the bigots and bullies are also generous and selfless, in certain circumstances. And Lord knows they’ve all had a rough time of it. The important thing to remember is that hockey is pure. Except when it inspires violence. This is an interesting tactic for a novel in our cultural moment of sensitivity, and it can feel cumbersome. “When guys are scared of the dark they’re scared of ghosts and monsters,” he writes. “But when girls are scared of the dark they’re scared of guys.” Margaret Atwood said it better and with more authority decades ago.

Backman plays the story for both cynicism and hope, and his skill makes both hard, but not impossible, to resist.” Kirkus Reviews

The author gave us feelings of the highest highs and then dashed us back down to earth with the lowest lows. I was a nervous wreck for the entire book.  You will have to read the book (and why wouldn’t you) to know what I mean when I say that Fredrik Backman is a master storyteller and has a genius brain to keep everything straight when he wrote the accident scene near the very end of the book. I am in awe!

Five stars !!!!!

Find Her (Det. D.D. Warren #8) by Lisa Gardner

Book Description:

Published: February 9, 2016

Format: Audio

Seven years ago, carefree college student Flora Dane was kidnapped while on spring break. For 472 days, Flora learned just how much one person can endure.

Miraculously alive after her ordeal, Flora has spent the past five years reacquainting herself with the rhythms of normal life, working with her FBI victim advocate, Samuel Keynes. She has a mother who’s never stopped loving her, a brother who is scared of the person she’s become, and a bedroom wall covered with photos of other girls who’ve never made it home.

When Boston detective D. D. Warren is called to the scene of a crime–a dead man and the bound, naked woman who killed him–she learns that Flora has tangled with three other suspects since her return to society. Is Flora a victim or a vigilante? And with her firsthand knowledge of criminal behavior, could she hold the key to rescuing a missing college student whose abduction has rocked Boston? When Flora herself disappears, D.D. realizes a far more sinister predator is out there. One who’s determined that this time, Flora Dane will never escape. And now it is all up to D. D. Warren to find her.

Review –

A kidnapping survivor–turned-vigilante tries to save another young woman while the police do everything they can to save them both.

Flora Dane might look unscathed but she’s permanently scarred from having been abducted while on spring break in Florida seven years earlier by Jacob Ness, a sadistic trucker who held her captive for 472 days, keeping her in a coffin for much of the time when he wasn’t forcing her to have sex with him. Now back in Boston and schooled in self-defense, Flora is obsessed with kidnapped girls and the nature of survival, a topic she touches on a bit more than necessary in the many flashbacks to her time in captivity. The author  must walk a fine line in accurately evoking the horrors of Flora’s past ordeals without slipping into excessive descriptions of violence; she is not entirely successful. When Flora thwarts another kidnapping attempt by killing Devon Goulding, her would-be abductor, Sgt. Detective D.D. Warren’s interest is piqued even though she’s meant to be on restricted duty. Then Flora disappears for real, and Warren, along with Dr. Samuel Keynes, the FBI victim specialist from Flora’s original kidnapping, fears it’s related to the kidnapping three months earlier of Stacey Summers, a case Flora followed closely. Gardner alternates between Warren’s investigation into Flora’s disappearance and Flora’s present-day hell at the hands of a new enemy.

The world of the FBI, the terror of abduction and victim advocates blend into this tense and sometimes hard thriller. The author knows how to invoke  strong emotions, and readers will be forced to deal with tough questions that don’t necessarily have answers.

Five stars !!!!!

Soulless (King #4) by T.M. Frazier

Book Description:

Published: February 23, 2016

Format: Audio/Audible

Soulless, is part two of Lawless.

The finale to Bear and Thia’s epic love story.

Review –

Do not read this as a stand alone. You simply must first read them in order: King ,Tyrant and Lawless.  Call it sage advice.  Call it a moral imperative.  Call it because-I’ve-read-them-so-I-know-what-I’m-talking-about-trust-me-on-this-one-eh?  Call it what you want but please do not attempt to start this series at Soulless.  There is a reveal so utterly game changing that you probably really, really want to know why your mind is blown away so righteously.  Me- I can barely see through the chunks of grey matter siding down my forehead and between my eyes for what it’s worth.

 Lawless, left us dangling for our lives at a cliffhanger that was equal parts beautiful and sad.  I hate cliffies, but Lawless was Bear’s story and there was no way I was passing that up so there I was dangling away until Soulless dropped into my lap.  The King series builds book upon book.  To care about Soulless, you first have to understand King.  The dark story of a man lost on his own dark path and the young woman he saves along the way.  He has two friends, Bear and Preppy and together they have a brotherhood forged in blood and loyalty.  King walks his path with Doe and they both make it out alive. Bear is just starting his own tumultuous journey and when a series of events tear him away from his MC and reunite him with young, troubled Thia, both of their lives hang in the balance.

Soulless is the culmination of carefully planted seeds and plot twists that make me mighty proud of author TM Frazier.  My chief complaint regarding the first three books has been that there is so much good, gritty, dark substance that I revel in, but then, there is always a departure where the envelope is pushed too far and I am jarred out of my sweet reading spot because something completely odd or non sequitur occurred.

 It happened in every book and I shook my fists to the heavens each time.  It was akin to drawing a weird, awkward line through a masterpiece.  Never enough to turn me completely off- but enough that it absolutely bears mentioning.  Nevertheless, King was powerful stuff and the break out star Preppy captured my heart in every way, even though he is the most foul mouthed hottie I have ever run across.  The quiet force in the King series is Bear.  Bear is the son of the most awful MC President you could fathom. In fact, imagine the most depraved club president you can, then imagine him ten times more brutal and conscious-less, and only then can you begin to scratch the surface that is Chop. Walking away from the MC is by blood or casket in this world, so Soulless begins and ends with the conflict between Bear and his evil incarnate father, Chop.

Thia is Bear’s heart beat.  Drawn to her years before and reunited when she needed him most, their connection is tangible and wild.  He knows little about love, but knows he wants to care for and protect Thia.  The daughter of a deranged mother and murdered family, Thia is also searching for a home- a place where she is loved and safe.  Bear’s in every way, their bond is rock solid and the catalyst to THE BIG REVEAL.  They fight for, along side and on the behalf of the other- equals in their own way.  Thia was no whimpering willy, and she was not ridiculously courageous either.  She was just your average broken woman, trying to keep all the pieces together.  I seldom disagreed with her actions and I enjoyed her point of view.  Bear’s point  of view was so full of emotion and longing that I wanted to beat his father bloody for everything he did to ruin Bear.

It is a miracle that Bear survived his old man and was remotely salvageable as a man.  It is astonishing that these two people with royally messed up backgrounds survived at all.  Good thing they did, because their sexual chemistry is off the charts.

The best parts of Soulless lends itself to epic spoilers that I don’t dare ruin for readers.  There is a new female character that I am convinced will be prominent in the next book.  I’d like her to be a surprise, but she is a savage and the hint of her background that we do receive begs for more page time in the future!  Books 1-3 are all fast reads, so the journey to Soulless will pack a punch – but will be quick and worthwhile.  As expected, T.M Frazier did not break her pattern of “wait – what?” scenes and I spent about twenty-five pages more perturbed than I have ever been in my life.  But then I arrived at 99%- the epilogue… and all was forgiven. The who, what, where, and how- meaningless. 

Spoiling an ounce of Soulless would be such a disservice, the best I am willing to do is give you a warning.  This is a violent series and both primary couple’s road to their HEA’s are paved in blood and bones.  It is dark, but deliciously so.  You will laugh, cry, cringe and have your mind blown, so if you are game, give it a chance.  If you are looking for well dressed, polite young men courting their crushes with sweet tea and cupcakes, this is not the series for you.  The only character in this series who dressed well at all wore a bow tie, pressed shirt and slacks- and was perhaps the most visceral dangerous of them all.

Thank you TM Frazier for another mind-blowing experience.  Five stars!!!!!!!!

The Reunion by Samatha Hayes

Book Description:

Published: February 9, 2018

Format: Audio/Audible

They were all there the day your sister went missing…Who is lying? Who is next?

Then–In charge of her little sister at the beach, Claire allowed Eleanor to walk to the shop alone to buy an ice cream. Placing a coin into her hand, Claire told her to be quick, knowing how much she wanted the freedom. Eleanor never came back.

Now–The time has finally come to sell the family farm and Claire is organising a reunion of her dearest friends, the same friends who were present the day her sister went missing.

When another girl disappears, long-buried secrets begin to surface. One of the group hides the darkest secret of them all…

Review –

Have you noticed that there seems to be an abundance of children going missing crime/psychological thrillers on the market at the moment, and wasn’t convinced that author would be able to put an original spin on a well used subject, but somehow she does.

The book begins with the disappearance of teenager Eleanor, while spending the day at the beach with her brother, sister and their friends. Fast forward twenty one years and her family are still no closer to knowing what happened to her all those years ago. Dad, Patrick is now suffering from Alzheimers, and daughter Claire decides that a reunion of friends and family could help her dad with his memory issues. As the group of friends are reunited they find themselves plunged into a further nightmare as shocking secrets are slowly revealed.

If I’m honest I thought the first half of the book was very slow, the time is spent introducing an array of characters and building on the mystery and suspense surrounding Eleanor’s disappearance. None of the characters were extremely likable, but that said it did not stop me enjoying this book. The author manages to ramp up the tension by creating characters that are almost impossible to trust.

The Reunion has some great twists and misleading clues to make this an intense and a heart pounding  read. If I had anything negative to say it would be that a few things were left unanswered by the time I reached the end, but never the less it still made for an intriguing read and I gave it five stars!

 

The Keeper of Lost Causes (Department Q #1) by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Book Description:

Published: August 23, 2011

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Carl Mørck used to be one of Copenhagen’s best homicide detectives. Then a hail of bullets destroyed the lives of two fellow cops, and Carl—who didn’t draw his weapon—blames himself. So a promotion is the last thing he expects. But Department Q is a department of one, and Carl’s got only a stack of Copenhagen’s coldest cases for company. His colleagues snicker, but Carl may have the last laugh, because one file keeps nagging at him: a liberal politician disappeared five years earlier and is presumed dead. But she is not dead … yet.

Review –

Five Stars!  This book was fantastic !

Five years after Danish stateswoman Merete Lynggaard vanished without a trace from a ferry on a  crossing, Carl Mørck takes it upon himself to reopen the case as the first to be worked in the new Department Q. Despite the possible presence of an eyewitness, Merete’s unreachably brain-damaged younger brother Uffe, the mystery has long been dismissed as unsolvable by the Copenhagen police, who think Merete must simply have slipped off the boat for reasons unknown. But Carl’s in an unusually strong position to pick it up again. Banished to Department Q, his own personal cold-case unit, after a shooting left one of his best friends dead, another paralyzed and Carl himself with an incapacitating case of survivor’s guilt and rage, he can choose his cases, control his budget and call on police departments throughout Denmark for help. And he’ll need plenty of help, because the disappearance of Merete, who against all odds is still alive, held captive by a sociopathic family mad for revenge against the inoffensive minister, is only one of the problems he’ll face. His colleagues produce painful new leads on the shooting that annihilated his own team; he’s determined to put the moves on police crisis counselor Mona Ibsen, whose agenda emphatically doesn’t include his romantic overtures, because she’s married,and he can’t help growing suspicious of his remarkably talented new assistant, especially since he bears the name Hafez al-Assad. The trail to the truth is filled with authentically tedious loose ends and dead ends; the climactic confrontation with the monstrous kidnapper is very violent; and the final scene is unexpectedly touching.

I love this series, even though I read the first two out-of-order, I can’t wait to read the others and I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves foreign crime fiction/drama.  This one has it all!

 

 

Hunted on the Fens (DI Nikki Galena #3) by Joy Ellis

Book Description:

Published: May 18, 2014

Format: Audio/OverDrive

A VICIOUS CRIMINAL IS TARGETING DI NIKKI GALENA AND HER TEAM. ONE BY ONE HE WILL HUNT THEM DOWN AND DESTROY THEIR LIVES, UNLESS SHE CAN STOP HIM FIRST

DI Nikki Galena faces her toughest challenge yet. Can she save her team and herself from a cruel and determined adversary who will stop at nothing to harm Nikki and her colleagues? First she must work out who wants revenge against her or one of her detectives. Full of twists and turns, this is a crime novel that will have you turning the pages until the stunning ending.

And what is the connection between the series of attacks on the police and the mystery of woman found dead in a seemingly impregnable locked room? Find out in this tense and exciting detective thriller.

THE DETECTIVE DI Nikki Galena: A police detective with nothing left to lose, she’s seen a girl die in her arms, and her daughter will never leave the hospital again. She’s got tough on the criminals she believes did this to her.

HER PARTNER DS Joseph Easter is the squeaky-clean new member of the team. But his nickname “Holy Joe” belies his former life as a soldier. He has an estranged daughter who blames him for everything that went wrong with their family.

THE SETTING The Lincolnshire Fens: great open skies brood over marshes, farmland, and nature reserves. It is not easy terrain for the Fenland Constabulary to police, due to the distances between some of the remote Fen villages, the dangerous and often misty lanes, and the poor telephone coverage. There are still villages where the oldest residents have never set foot outside their own farmland and a visit to the nearest town is a major event. But it has a strange airy beauty to it, and above it all are the biggest skies you’ve ever seen.

Review –

The storyline  drags you in, and you find myself rooting for the characters all the way through.
​DI Nikki Galena and DS Joseph Easter just make the best partners ever. I love the way they interact, have banter but are a shoulder for each other when it’s needed.
Another of the characters I really enjoy reading about is Cat. I loved her.

This book is a real page turner and as soon as you start it, it’s obvious that nothing else is getting done. Read, read and read or listen, listen, and listen. Because all the way through you need to know what is going to happen next, then you are hit with another twist, which then stops you from putting the book down.

This book sends the team on one hell of a ride, their toughest case yet. Someone is out to harm them all in one way or another, the only problem is we don’t know why. We get an idea of who they think it could be from early on, but the thing is have the team got it right, or are they chasing the wrong leads.

This series a must read for anyone who likes to follow  brilliant  detective thrillers.

Five stars!

 

Cath Me (Get. D.D. Warren #6) by Lisa Gardner

Book Description:

Published: February 7, 2012

Format: Audio

Charlene Grant believes she is going to die. For the past few years, her childhood friends have been murdered one by one. Same day. Same time. Now she’s the last of her friends alive, and she’s counting down the final four days of her life until January 21.

Charlene doesn’t plan on going down without a fight. She has taken up boxing, shooting, and running. She also wants Boston’s top homicide detective, D. D. Warren, to handle the investigation.

But as D.D. delves deeper into the case, she starts to question the woman’s story. Instinct tells her that Charlene may not be in any danger at all. If that’s true, the woman must have a secret—one so terrifying that it alone could be the greatest threat of all.

Review –

Alternating between the third-person narration of D.D.’s investigation and Charlie’s feverish first-person narrative, and throwing in more subplots showing abused women fighting their abusers, the author brings the ingredients to a rolling boil until she’s finally cut Charlie off from her police defenders, disarmed her and backed her into a corner awaiting her killer.

Very suspenseful and “edge of your seat” reading or listening. Simply fantastic.

Five stars!!!