Review: “Stillhouse Lake (Stillhouse Lake #1)” by Rachel Caine

Review- Stillhouse Lake (Stillhouse Lake #1) by Rachel Caine

A review by Amanda.

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I read this book for free as part of the Prime First program, offered to those with Amazon Prime memberships.

Gwen Proctor, new resident of Norton, Tennessee, used to be Gina Royal. Gwen’s former life ended the day she, and the rest of the world, discovered that her husband was a serial killer. An accident revealed the truth about Melvin Royal and everything turned upside down for Gwen and her two children. Not everyone was satisfied with the outcome of his trial; many people believe that Gwen knew about her husband’s heinous activities, or that she was his accomplice. Vile threats against Gwen and her children prompted her to run and hide with them, changing identities as needed.

In the four years since the discovery, Gwen has trusted no one. She has taken precautions against potential threats and only accepts help when absolutely necessary. Her first and only priority is making sure her children are safe even when it causes friction. When she realizes that her paranoia is causing more problems than it solves, Gwen considers putting down roots and trusting a few people. But then a woman is murdered in a fashion eerily similar to her ex-husband’s M.O., she discovers that she can’t protect them from everything, and that sometimes it pays to stay vigilant.

This book was thrilling in the truest sense of the word. The author offered a unique twist in a classic thriller trope, and raised several excellent questions that aren’t typically considered in the mystery genre. The perspective from the family of a serial killer is a complex one full of horror, rage, betrayal, guilt, and plenty of doubt. The story is told exclusively from Gwen’s point of view in present tense. This added a sense of urgency that complemented the fast pace and made it impossible to stop turning pages. The story is character-driven, with the mystery acting as a catalyst rather than the main focus. Readers will be immediately drawn into Gwen’s life. She is intelligent, fierce, driven, and very human. She doubts her decisions, questions her parenting abilities, and makes mistakes. She appears cold at times but doesn’t apologize for it. Her kids, Lanny and Connor, are balanced precariously between childlike and adult attitudes tipping back and forth throughout the book. The other supporting characters are richly developed. Even those who appear sparingly give a feeling of being actual people with histories that extend beyond the pages of the book.

There are several fairly graphic descriptions of violence and death throughout the book, as well as mentions of torture and rape, but nothing that seems gratuitous.

Rachel Caine is also the author of the young adult series The Morganville Vampires, as well as The Great Library series, the Weather Warden series, and several others. Stillhouse Lake will be released on July 1st, 2017.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Review: “Ride the Storm (Cassandra Palmer #8)” by Karen Chance

Review:

A review by Amanda.

This review contains spoilers from the previous books in this series.

Ride the Storm picks up right where the last book ended. Cassie is still chasing after Pritkin’s soul with Rosier, hoping to counter the deadly curse that has been cast on the rugged war mage. Cassie’s court had just been attacked, and losses and injuries are everywhere. Betrayal from those she has been trying to help has affected Cassie’s usual good spirits. Even vampire master Mircea is struggling to recover from the recent events. Cassie is yanked back and forth in time, shifting from Arthurian times, where they have tracked down a young Pritkin and are awaiting the arrival of his soul, to present day at Dante’s, where the attacks keep coming from all sides. Exhausting both the Pythia power and her personal energy takes its toll, with devastating consequences. An unexpected revelation from a trusted person in her small circle of allies has Cassie (and readers) questioning everything that has happened since the events set in motion in the very first book.

This book is an absolute whirlwind of action and exposition. The first half of the story is nonstop action, with a few too many back-and-forth shifts, making it difficult to follow. No rest for our protagonist means no rest for readers. It feels as though the author tried to fit two books’ worth of plot into one book. Thankfully, the story slows down a bit and the pace evens out by the second half. Long-awaited answers to burning questions come to light, and the romantic entanglement that Cassie has found herself in might finally be unraveling. While some long-standing issues get wrapped up, others, frustratingly, do not. Cassie heroically maintains her snarky and irreverent sense of humor despite the adversity. There are a couple of steamy sex scenes, although these are somewhat mild compared to previous books. I, for one, am looking forward to the next book with the great hope that we won’t be strung along for too much longer (at least in certain areas). While the convolution of the first half of this book did affect my overall rating, the second half still makes it worth reading.

If you would like to start this series from the beginning, book one is Touch the Dark. Karen Chance also has a crossover series, featuring characters we know and love (or hate), and exciting new ones. The first book is Midnight’s Daughter.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

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BOOK TOUR Review: “Freeks” by Amanda Hocking

A review by Amanda.

Mara has had an unusual upbringing. She and her mother travel the country as part of Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Sideshow. Mara’s mother, along with many of the other carnies, have special abilities that make the carnival life appealing, and even rewarding on occasion. Despite her heritage, Mara doesn’t have any supernatural powers. She helps out where she can and enjoys exploring whichever town or city they happen to be in, forming fleeting friendships that end as soon as the carnival moves on. When the sideshow receives an invitation from a former worker to set up in a small town called Caudry, promising an exorbitant payday, Mara and the rest of the carnival workers are happy to go.

Things in Caudry are odd from the start. Abilities falter, animal attacks ravage the camp, and people go missing. Local boy Gabe, who intrigues Mara immediately, is the only good thing about Caudry as far as she’s concerned. Mara and Gabe each have secrets that threaten their emerging feelings, and Mara will have to decide who to trust as she works to try and solve the mystery of who or what is plaguing the carnival.

Freeks is a new story by Amanda Hocking, author of the popular Trylle trilogies and the Watersong series. It is unclear at this time whether or not it is a standalone or the first in a new series. Mara is an interesting character with a lot of potential. She does things her own way, is loyal to her loved ones, and fights insecurities as much as any teenager does. Both her mother and learning their family history added layers to Mara’s character. The supporting characters, particularly the carnies like Roxie and Luka, were diverse, although I would have enjoyed seeing them developed more richly. The romance was predictable, an “instalove” situation that is so prevalent in YA novels. Gabe was a decent character, mysterious and protective, if a bit cliché. I had trouble feeling connected to any of the characters, even Mara. The mystery kept me intrigued and had me guessing until the end. The writing style is simplistic, which suits the plot. Fans of the Trylle books, Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, and C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls series may enjoy this book.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

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Review: “Mockingbird Volume 1: I Can Explain” by Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk

Mockingbird Volume 1: I Can Explain by Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk

A review by Courtney.

I bought Volume 1 of Mockingbird when I saw the cover of issue 8 had Mockingbird wearing a shirt proclaiming, “ask me about my feminist agenda.” I decided this was a comic book I needed to start reading and I needed to catch up, because I really wanted to read issue 8. I had previously read and enjoyed the Mockingbird one shot, which was released about a year ago, so I was hopeful this was a comic I was going to enjoy.

Mockingbird (also known as Bobbi Morse, and Agent 19), starts with our heroine in a Shield medical center, going in for her regular exam. We learn Nick Fury injected her with Super Soldier Serum and Infinity formula to save her life.  Bobbi is now considered high risk and the doctors of Shield are taking precautions and keeping a close eye on her. She is given a beeper and must come into the doctor’s office whenever they page her. Bobbi is shown in the doctor’s office in a variety of different clothes and we learn that the progressing issues are her adventures and this explains the different clothes. Bobbi is a multifaceted spy who does excel at kicking butt, but she also loves math and science and is incredibly snarky. Bobbi’s adventures revolve around saving people, and sometimes those people are her exes, whom she still has good relationships with.

This comic is told from Mockingbird’s perspective; which I love and thought was incredibly smart because it allowed me to get in her head. Bobbi is the sarcastic, witty, intelligent, strong woman I want to be when I grow up. It’s not often when I can identify with superheroines, but Bobbi is so confident, that you can’t help but want to be like her. I had also initially underestimated how funny this comic was going to be, but I was literally laughing out loud reading this book. The art was great, with a number of visually awesome action sequences, I have no idea how they were conceived because there is a lot that happens very quickly. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys comics with a strong female lead, because honestly, it doesn’t get any better than this. I was going to add this comic to my pull list, but as of this writing Mockingbird has been cancelled, so go buy all 8 issues while you can!

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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BOOK TOUR Review: “Girl Within Girl” by S.P. Aruna

BOOK TOUR Review:

A review by Domoni.

Katrina is a nurse in a psychiatric hospital.  She goes about her day helping the doctors help the patients. She notices things are off, but she just ignores them, even when those things are about herself.  Cherry is a photojournalist who wants to travel the world, take pictures of famous men, and sleep with them. The rougher the sex, the more she likes it. Anisa is a spy for the government. She will use her vast abilities to take out her targets; the perfect soldier. What do these three women have in common? They all exist in one body. Now they know about each other, and the government can’t have that. Things are falling apart, they are unravelling.  With the help of  young Dr. Paisley they run and hide, hoping to be saved and in the end be healed.

This was a strange take on The Manchurian Candidate. The Cia operates in a hospital where they use extreme electroshock therapy to erase people’s minds and reprogram them. The goal is to create the  most loyal, perfect soldier. It appears they have done that with Katrina. She is completely unaware of the acts her other personalities participate in. Even when she stumbles over evidence that makes her wonder, she is programmed to ignore it.  Until she meets and falls for the new doctor.

Dr. Sean Paisley is enjoying helping patients and really enjoying getting to know the nurse Katrina. Though when he follows the prescribed protocols on the patients needing shock therapy, he starts to feel like things are not right in the hospital. Somehow he locates a file on katrina, Anisa, and Cherry. He makes sure she sees the file before he is fired and this starts them on the path of learning the truth and running for their lives.

The book had some good moments and some not so good moments. I did not like it for the first half. The characters felt cliche and the events rather implausible. The sex scenes were detailed but the wording was juvenile. As I pushed through the book, I was more interested and invested in the storyline. Though the ending was very abrupt and I don’t know if I would wait around to read the next book in this series, it did somewhat redeem itself to me. This book would appeal to fans of rough erotica and those who enjoy the 50 Shades series.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

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BOOK TOUR Review: About the Book
Title: Girl Within Girl
Author: S.P. Aruna
Genre: Erotic Thriller
Katrina is never alone. She is bound to others inside her, tighter than any Siamese twins could ever be: Cherry, the freewheeling photojournalist, Anisa, the covert spy-assassin, and others as yet unknown, all sharing her body and mind as she goes about her work in a psychiatric hospital. But she is starting to unravel, and her sole hope is the handsome Dr. Sean Paisley, the only one who can make her whole again.
Girl Within Girl is a dark erotic thriller that wanders through a sensual maze of mind control and torture.

S.P. ArunaAuthor Bio
Half French, half Khmer (Cambodian), I’m a woman whose head is filled with fantasies and intriguing stories, and who wants to share them with others.

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BOOK TOUR Review: “Carmine” by Alan Janney

Review:

A review by Domoni.

She wakes up alone, naked, and with no real memory inside a Walmart. She knows her world has changed. She knows she is a variant. Kidnapped and experimented on, she is stronger than a human. The other changed beings flock to her. She is only 18, but she is strong and they need a leader. She doesn’t remember being Katie Lopez. But she will be Carmine and she will protect them. America is divided. The humans fear the variants, they are hunting them. Some of the strongest infected ones want to use their abilities to rule the country. Carmine just wants peace, for variants and humans alike. Her kingdom of New Los Angeles will be a land where those who work, will eat. Those who follow the rules, will be protected.

I really enjoyed this story. The way it was written was unique and captivating. From the first paragraph to the end, I was pulled through the story and didn’t want to put it down. Carmine is a great character. She has depth and complexities. Her personality and conflict make her more interesting. Watching her battle who she is and what she was created to be while grappling with a past she does not fully remember gave me a deeper connection to her story.

The variants have a strange need to be lead and bond closely with the strong person in charge. Carmine has amassed a large following and given them a purpose outside of the destructive force they were created to be. This makes her a target of the other strong changed ones. She has many enemies and allies she did not want. One of those allies is The Outlaw Chase Jackson, who just happens to be Katie Lopez’s boyfriend. Though Carmine does not remember him, the pieces of Katie that survive in her crave him. His undying devotion to Katie also makes him hard for Carmine to resist. He is stronger than her in his abilities and this evokes the inner warrior drive in the variants who follow Carmine, which can be a problem. It is hard to decide how you feel about someone when all of your people want to kill him, and you kind of do too.

All of the characters are well developed and the decaying city of Los Angeles is crafted well. It is easy to fall into the world created by the author and embrace the battle for basic rights. This book is an easy to read stand alone story that has captured my attention enough that I will be purchasing and reading all of the Outcast series and learning more about The Outlaw and this world he lives in.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Carmine by
Alan Janney
Genre:
YA
Dystopian/Adventure/Romance
Sparkle Press
Summary:
She wakes as society crumbles
She wakes up with no memory
She wakes up a queen
The girl once known as Katie Lopez wakes up in an abandoned Wal-Mart with no memory, possessing only the vague sense that something has happened. Where is her family? Where is her boyfriend? She has a faint recollection of him, a ghost of a memory. The world, she discovers, is staggering from the weight of rampaging mutants, victims of a bizarre surgery gone wrong. Once intended to bring about a utopia, now the victims threaten societal meltdown. Much to her surprise, the girl with no memory discovers she is their queen.
Buy Link: Amazon
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BOOK TOUR Review: “The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman” by Brady Stefani

The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman by Brady Stefani

A review by Domoni.

When Courtney was seven years old, her grandfather, the person she adored the most, tattooed her and then tried to drown her. Two weeks later, crazy and raving about aliens, he kills himself in a bathtub. Now Courtney is 15 years old and still struggles with the trauma from her childhood. She is terrified of the dark and has nightmares about aliens, except when she’s awake they are still there. Her parents are divorced and Courtney’s father isn’t really interested in much; Courtney’s mother has no time or patience for what Courtney is going through, so she has her committed.  Medication and a summer at Dad’s, and Courtney is feeling better and has seen no aliens, until she goes home and it all comes back. Courtney needs answers and when she meets the girl she thought was her imaginary friend, she may finally be on the path to find them. Is Courtney crazy like her grandfather, or are the aliens real and does her bloodline mean she is destined for more?

This is an interesting book that had me guessing the whole way through. Courtney is swept up into a conspiracy that is as old as time, or is it just delusion? Who can she trust, can she even trust herself? Courtney is a well created character that evoked many emotions from me. I felt for her and it hurt my heart when her interactions with her cold mother broke her down. Courtney feels so alone and the only person she was close to who understood her is dead. She isn’t allowed to even talk about her grandfather and if she mentions her dreams, experiences or fears, she will just be sent back to the psych ward.

One constant from Courtney’s childhood was her imaginary friend Astra. As she got older, she saw her less though. Until she is in the psych ward and meets Agatha, who she knows is the girl she’s seen her whole life. Agatha doesn’t know who Courtney is, but she knows about the aliens. Agatha wants to help Courtney find out what the truth is.  She also wants to know if Courtney has a part in her dreams of the apocalypse. Agatha is a strong character and I love the depth the author put into each one of his creations. I was invested in her as much as Courtney and enjoyed learning more about each girl.

The world created for this story was in-depth and easy to picture. I could easily imagine the abandoned mental hospital and the monastery the girls visit on their path to the truth. With simple yet vivid imagery, I was pulled through this story in a smooth and quick read. I did not want to put the story down once I had started. I liked that I could not predict what would happen or how it would end. I would gladly read more from this author.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman by Brady Stefani banner

The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman
by Brady Stefani
Genre: YA Psychological Thriller/Scifi
Release Date: June 7th 2016
SparkPress

Summary from Goodreads:

Fifteen year old Courtney wants to be normal like her friends. But there’s something frighteningly different about her—and it’s not just the mysterious tattoo her conspiracy-obsessed grandfather marked her with before he disappeared. She’s being visited in her bedroom at night by aliens claiming to have shared an alliance with her grandfather. And imaginary or not, they’re starting to to take over her mind. “Mental illness is a slippery slope,” her mother warns her.

The last thing Courtney wants to do is end up crazy and dead like her grandfather did. But what about the tattoo? And the aliens trying to recruit her? With her new alien-savvy friend Agatha and her apocalyptic visions, Courtney begins connecting the dots between the past, present and future—of her bloodline, and the ancient history that surrounds it. Is she going insane, like her family claims her grandfather did, or is she actually a “chosen one” with ancestral connections to another world? Either way, Courtney has a mission: untangle her past, discover the truth, and stop the apocalypse before it’s too late for everyone.   

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Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman was featured in Redbook Mag! Check it out HERE!

Advance Praise:

“A must read sci-fi book.”

– Hypable, Hypable.com fandom reviews

“A wild ride through portals to other worlds… This debut novel fuses a serious issue—the stigma of mental illness—with sci-fi to chronicle a girl’s unusual coming of age.”

– Kirkus Review

“This novel has a breakneck pace and Stefani’s writing is fluid and perfectly suited to this most extraordinary tale that blends coming of age, adventure, science fiction, and post-apocalyptic genres— and it all works beautifully.”

– Readers’ Favorite, Five Stars

“As the father of two teenage girls, I can tell you that Brady Stefani must have some sort of supernatural helmet that helps him think and write in their language. But The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman is much more than a novel for teens. This fast-paced adventure kept my attention, blazing back-and-forth from reality to an alter-world so close by that it’s creepy. Here’s a page-turner that captures a lot about childhood struggles through an imaginative story filled with surprises.”

-Jim Schaefer, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and writer for the Detroit Free Press

“Stefani’s The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman is a thought-provoking and emotional journey through a young girl’s mind as she struggles to understand who she is, where she came from, and who she is supposed to be—all while deciphering between reality and the tricks our minds can sometimes play on us. Stefani beautifully demonstrates how difficult life can be for anyone who thinks or acts a little differently, and reminds us that, more often than not, the things that terrify us the most are the things trying to save us.”

-Jessica Stevens, author of Within Reach

About the Author

brady stefaniBrady G. Stefani has a bachelor’s degree in creative writing, and a graduate degree in law. During law school, he spent time as an involuntary commitment caseworker for the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, where he interacted with patients suffering from severe thought disorders, including numerous patients presenting with subjectively real memories of being visited and abducted by alien beings (commonly referred to as alien abduction phenomenon). It was through his study of these patients, along with his own struggles with anxiety and cognition, that Stefani became aware of just how deceiving, mysterious, and powerfully resilient, the human mind can be.
In an effort to provide awareness of mental suffering, and spread hope to all those touched by it, Stefani is focused on writing YA novels that explore the experience of being different and the other-worldly places our boundary-less imaginations can take us. Alienation is his first novel. But with two works currently in progress, the journey has just begun.
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